Sunday, March 26, 2006

Two years in Paris!

We left Berkeley two years ago on March 25, 2004, to move to Paris. For the first month and a half, we lived in a temporary furnished apartment offered by John's company. It was not the best of times for us because we didn't have heat for the first weekend (it was still winter-cold!) and had to sleep in our coats. 18-month-old Maylin had difficulty adjusting to the time change -- took a full two weeks of suffering to get past that. It was raining all the time -- and I had to get groceries everyday for our tiny fridge, with Maylin in her vinyl-protected stroller. Cooking was challenging with minimal kitchen tools and strange appliances to get used to. There was a stove, but the microwave and convection oven was a two-in-one affair -- pretty handy once you get the hang of it, but too small to bake a whole chicken. We had a washing machine to do laundry, but we had to hang our clothes all over the apartment to dry (as we learned how many dryer-less Parisians do).

I knew almost no French vocabulary, but since my pronunciation was pretty good (from singing classical French art songs) people expected more of me -- sometimes they looked at me like I was stupid. It was a hard time for my ego. Plus, we started out in a snobby neighborhood which didn't help. Most of Rue Faubourg-St. Honore, the street of our former residence, is lined with designer boutiques -- high-end everything. But the part we were on was very narrow and very noisy, with drunks yelling at night outside, and sirens going off frequently because our building was directly across from a police station.

Leo had a tough time finding ivy to do his business in, as was his habit in Berkeley. John discovered a beautiful garden hidden in the plaza of a large commercial building, a few doors down from the police station. He and I took Leo there several times until we couldn't handle the treatment we were getting. Security guards would run out and warn us that no one or no animal could trespass on the grass.

Poor Leo. He didn't even have any business to do for awhile because he wasn't eating. For at least a week. He was so traumatized by the move. He didn't know what was going to happen next after the big plane flight, living in a tiny apartment, not seeing any ivy, no other four-legged companions.

Towards the end of our stay there, waiting for the shipment of our belongings to arrive, I had an asthma attack for the first time and John had to call an S.O.S. doctor to come in the middle of the night to see me. I was fine when he arrived, but it was very scary for me beforehand. Normally, I don't have serious allergies, but since arriving in Paris, springtime can be miserable. We discovered that aside from the normal springtime allergy triggers, we also had mold and mildew growing in a corner of the apartment where there was a radiator leak we had overlooked. Plus, the very cheap carpet in our very cheap apartment was too good a receptacle for Leo hair. I'd vacuum and vacuum, but his hair would just get woven in deeper. I couldn't win.

It was not a good beginning, but I did get to start taking private French lessons at home through John's company, and we had some very helpful American expat friends who moved over a month earlier and already knew French. Who knows how many times they may have saved us from disaster. We are grateful to them!


andy said...

happy 2 year anniversary in paris! =)

Caroline Jou Armitage said...

Thanks, Andy!