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Toujours

14 Nov

I am just so in shock right now.

I am hurt, sad, angry, but most of all I am mourning. It doesn’t feel real, it feels like a terrible nightmare that an Atlantic ocean’s distance could allow me to ignore. Because I’m here in Boston, & it’s sunny & I have to start getting ready for work soon, like any other day. But I can’t pretend it didn’t happen–because it did. It’s all over the news, it’s all over the internet, it’s all over social media. And my heart keeps breaking over & over again.

Paris, I have no words, only tears for you right now.

If you have been following my blog for a while, you will have noticed that I have a bit of an “obsession” with the city. Yes, while I love to speak French, own anything Eiffel Tower related & reminisce about that enchanting place–this obsession is much deeper. It’s love. Love I actually cannot describe because I have never felt it before. Love for a place, a technically inanimate object, but for me, I am always able to personify.

Love that is built around experience & atmosphere.An atmosphere that you will never be able to understand unless you’ve been there too.

(First visit: a school trip in 2007 with EF Tours, which is actually the company I currently work for!)

It’s funny, because people always have such polarized opinions about the city. They truly either love it or hate it. They either come back saying the French are rude, the streets are dirty, & they just don’t understand what all the fuss is about or they come back feeling exactly like me. 

Personally, I believe that there are only two types of people: those who love Paris & those who haven’t fallen in love with her yet. 

Like in most literature, Paris has been referred to in feminine pronouns, which is something I have always believed myself. She is undeniably beautiful, but at the same time, she has a sense of pride & sharp wit that can take some time to warm up to.

Parisians themselves, can be a bit like this. They can be “rude” or “rash” but I have always really admired them; they’re proud. They don’t suck up or kiss ass & defend themselves when they’re right. On top of this their culture is centered around so much passion. Passion for good food, passion for quality clothing, passion for fine perfumes, passion for love-making. They truly believe in quality over quantity. This is something I feel can be lost in my own culture at times. Indulgence is for the rich & presentation is not always important. In Paris, I feel that these are things that can be available to anyone. 

Of course, I only realized these things after experiencing some culture shock.

(Second ‘visit’: Spring semester 2012 I studied abroad in Paris)

I have been learning French since I was 8-years-old & after my first trip abroad to the city it was clear where I wanted to go when the time came to study abroad. People asked me, why don’t you go somewhere else? And I considered that, of course, but at the same time, in 2007, I had only gotten a mere taste of Parisian culture, I wanted more.

Paris has a funny way of seducing you like that.

Of course after a few months of the initial “honey moon stage” of culture shock wore off, we were soon at each other’s throats.
“Why doesn’t anyone smile?”

Why do people stare at me all the time/why am I the only blonde here?”

“Why do people glare at me when I speak on the metro?”

“Why do shop employees follow me around in stores?”

“Why do they just let their kids do WHATEVER they want?!”

“Why do people want to debate politics with me?! & Attack me for being American?”

“Why do men feel it’s okay to grab my butt casually on the streets?”

“Why is customer service so obviously NOT a thing here?”

“Why do the Scammers near Eiffel/Sacre Coeur always target me?”

“Does my host mom hate me?! She keeps scolding me!”

Oh yes, this love story was definitely not perfect. There were so many ups & downs & I felt a lot of disconnect. Luckily with 3 of my 5 classes being completely en Francais & my host mom speaking virtually no English, my French was rapidly improving.

*Pro tip: in Paris (& also MANY other cities) simply just attempting the language will get you a drastically different experience*

Parisians are proud, they love their language & culture, they also have to deal with being the TOP tourist destination in the world. Millions of demanding, rude, loud, dirty tourists who sometimes have no respect to their culture or language visit them in droves year round. So if someone has been rude to you on your trip to Paris, please think about what it might have been that you were doing. 

(Third visit: In 2013 there was no other place I would rather celebrate my 23rd birthday. I was living in Prague at this point)

Another great class I was taking while studying abroad was an Anthropology class that compared French & American culture. Soon class by class, each of my previously culture shock questions were slowly answered. I learned to distance myself from my American perspective & instead tried to understand things from a French viewpoint. It’s not easy to do but it certainly helps when you have an awesome host brother & friends to explain along the way.

And slowly but surely, my generalizations turned into understanding & acceptance. 

And this is truly only something that could happen after spending a significant amount of time in another country & also being actively open to walking in someone else’s shoes. It’s not easy, it’s not always comfortable, it maybe feels strange, but I promise at the end you realize just how much we all have in common.

Which is hard because Americans & Parisians are so different, maybe even opposites. Which CAN lead to miscommunication & disagreements. The best analogy I heard in my class in regards to how Americans & the French generally form relationships:

Americans: like a peach, soft & easy to confide with. Makes vague future plans (oh we should totally hang out!) & asks how you’re doing (Good! And you?), but has a hard, hard pit for a core. Very difficult to get in the inner circle of trust.

French (& a lot of other European countries I’ve noticed): like a coconut, hard shell & tough to approach at times (How’s it going? Everything is shit, piss off!). But once you get past the shell, the center is soft & not mention extremely loyal. Every time I travel, I have been amazed again & again of the hospitality of my international friends–even if they’re not my ‘best’ friends! They feed me, let me stay with them, etc. …American friends on the other hand, not exactly the same.

(Fourth visit: stopping by my old school 2 years later in 2014)

Once I got to really know Paris past all the infatuation, it truly did become a deep love. A love that was so strong that it actually began to cloud future relationships.

Upon moving to Prague, I actually really didn’t like it for the first few months. It wasn’t what I expected. Most people had no style, cuisine was so much different & a fun night out was not in some swanky cafe but in a smokey pub. & It wasn’t even Prague’s fault! It’s just that deep down I knew I felt like this because Prague wasn’t Paris. 

I even wrote a post on here “breaking up” with Paris because I felt that it was making me so miserable in Prague. It was like an unhealthy relationship with an ex that was ruining it for me with all future romances.

It sounds cute how I’m wording this but I am 100% serious. This is truly how I felt about this city. So much that when I was beyond broke living in Prague, with limited opportunities for travel, I chose to visit Paris not once but twice. I literally could NOT stay away!

It’s because I don’t just love the city & everything about it–I love who I am when I am there.

I have a level of confidence & courage that I don’t feel anywhere else. I feel comfortable with my body, my directness & sass–things that I don’t always feel at home. I feel a bit invincible.

An example of this would be while studying abroad whenever me & my friends would go out, guys would make a beeline for me (it’s the hair) & I would ask them to buy me a shot (guys don’t even really do that in France!), they would agree & then I would say Non, est pour mes filles aussi (No, & for my girls too). The guy would give me a bit of a wide eyed look, glance at my friends Meaghan & Sam & nod.

Like WHO did I even think I was?!

I am a whole other person in that city, & Paris, it’s all your fault.

(Fifth visit: It was my mom’s second time in the city, but on 10/8/2015, during our Euro Trip, I purposely made us have a 23hr layover here)

Paris has shaped me as a person, & is ingrained in my character. My room is decorated in all mementos & I have literally made a point to travel there once the past four years in a row. And every time I’m there, the feeling comes back. The nostalgia & familiarity of the streets, the beautiful phonetics of the language rolling off my tongue, the scowls & groans on a late metro, the beautiful well-dressed men walking the streets, the delicious food nourishing my palette & I feel home. 

It’s a different home than Prague, a different home then Boston & a different home than my original town of Sutton. But it is definitely a home. 

It is the toughest act to follow, the day dream that is always in my head, the city that strengthened my bond with some of my best friends. Paris is the city where I first found myself & to that I have a fierce loyalty. A loyalty that will always have me sharply defend the stereotypes & plan lengthy itineraries for anyone wishing to travel there.

There is a French word that has always resonated with me: toujours. It means “always” or “every time”. It conveys an idea of permanency; something that never changes.

It’s a difficult & scary concept for me to understand, because I feel I am always changing & have especially changed the most after being in Prague. The idea of staying in one place, making long term binding plans, makes me nervous because after you fly away once, you never want to clip your wings. I have no idea where I will be in 10 years, 5 years, even 1. And I feel foolish or trapped when I’m forced to predict such things. 

Especially with love.

I know that someday I would like to be married, but the fear of permanency makes me apprehensive. But then I realize, I already am in a permanent state of love…with Paris.

And that’s what gives me hope, I say “Paris, je t’aime toujours” (Paris, I love you always) & I know down into the core of my heart that I always will feel this way. And if I can ever hope to find someone else who I feel this type of love for–then they are the one. 

Today I mourn for those lost, those affected & those who love the city just like me. But Paris is proud & Paris is strong. Je suis une americaine, mais aujourd’hui je suis une parisienne. Nous sommes tous parisians.

& I will never stop thinking of you ❤

JG

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My First Week Back Home

19 Jun

So, it has been officially one week since I moved from beautiful, exciting Prague, Czech Republic back to boring old Sutton, Massachusetts. Much like when you first move abroad, when you move back home after being away for a while you experience a form of culture shock. ‘Reverse Culture Shock’ to be more precise. So, how have my adjustments been so far? Well, read on to find out!

1. Food is so sad tasting & hurts my stomach all the time

All my life I have had an extremely sensitive stomach. I was diagnosed as Lactose Intolerant at a young age & doctor’s always suspected I had some Gluten & Thyroid issues. Although my Lactose Intolerance eventually subsided, usually at home I had to be careful of what I ate or tummy aches were sure to ensue. 

Not in Europe. In Europe I found I could eat almost anything (even extreme no-nos like ice cream or the whipped cream atop my beloved Svichkova) & be perfectly fine. I think my entire time in Prague, my stomach didn’t hurt once after eating like it does at home. Even when my friend Alex, who is on a strict no-dairy no-gluten diet, came to visit, she drank beer & ate dumplings. & She was fine. 

It’s no secret that most food in America is pumped with chemicals, fillers & preservatives. Things that are actually banned in the rest of the world. So I’m not surprised that my stomach has been hurting since I came back. Food just tastes so bland to me now. Most of what I’m eating comes from a box or was frozen. & Food at restaurants taste generic. Like it was just sitting back there in the kitchen waiting to be ordered. I really miss how fresh food tasted in Europe. & How it didn’t kill my stomach every time I ate it 😦 

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2. Being Broke: Works in Europe not In USA

As of right now I have $5 to my name on a credit card. Yup, that’s it. And I have no idea when I will be getting money next. In Prague, this was such a normal occurrence, I wouldn’t even bat an eyelash. $5 is actually a lot of money in Prague. If you know how to use it. You can still go out to get a few beers, buy a few groceries & have a good night. 

In Sutton $5 will do nothing. It will barely put a gallon of gas in my poor car that is sitting in the driveway with its gaslight on ‘E’. $5 will barely get my a sandwich at Panera Bread or whatever place my friends want to meet up & talk. $5 Means I have no social life right now. So if you want to hang out with me, sorry, you’re going to have to come to me. 

& Unlike Prague there’s no cool parks for us to walk to & drink a few beers.

3. Job Hunting Is Not That Scary

I’m sure it really would have been 1 year ago when I was fresh out of college. Because I had none of this coveted ‘experience’ that most job applications request. However, upon coming home I realized just how much of an asset I would be to ANY company. I have certainly been through a lot my past year in Prague, maybe even more than applicants much older than me, & in an interview I’m not afraid to tell you that.

So far I have applied to 7 jobs or so. And I really had to hunt around. Because I do not want something that will make me completely unhappy, bored or unfulfilled. If you recall older posts were I firmly fight for the belief that I can choose happiness over money or, both. I firmly believe I am qualified for everything I’m applying for & trying to articulate that my age is not synonymous with inexperienced.

(ps: I have a phone interview with one position in 1hr & should hear back from another one later today!)

4. No One Has Changed

When you think about it, it really has only been 1 year & people usually don’t change much in that amount of time. So yup, as expected, everyone is still doing what they were doing a year ago & probably what they will still be doing in one year.

Everyone’s on a different path, I guess. 

5. Except Me

While I am much more worldly, calmer & open-minded after living in Prague, I have to admit I am most proud of myself for how low maintenance I’ve become. 

I barely wear makeup, have not done anything with my hair, & really only dress up when I have somewhere to go. Plus I have no phone, no iPod & didn’t freak out when I had no computer for a few days. This shows personal growth. I am a lot less self-conscious of my appearance & could really care less if I have a phone at all. I love being disconnected. It’s like going to live in the woods or something, I feel free. 

I am not like everyone else in my generation with my eyes permanently glued to my phone. I would much rather look at what is around me. I don’t want to text or call people, I would rather speak to them in person. 

Currently conflicted between my ‘New Jessi’ hippie self with grown out dark roots & getting my hair highlighted & trimmed to go back to ‘Old Jessi’…we will see. 

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6. I Am Not In A State Of Constant Depression…Yet

The first stage of culture shock is excitement. You are excited to go to the new place & this lasts about 2 weeks. But my reverse culture shock hasn’t really been typical. I experienced no jet lag (I know right!), & was never really super excited to come back.

Yeah, it’s been cool seeing everyone, it’s been nice sleeping in a comfy bed & swimming in the pool. But I mean, I think I would have been perfectly fine staying in Prague. 

Because I didn’t have any huge exciting expectations for my return home, I guess I haven’t been too disappointed with sitting at home doing nothing for the past week. Although, I know how I am. I crave routine.

So, in order to prevent a post move depression I will throw myself into my job (once I get hired) & also, the gym, a healthy & constructive way to channel all this emotion. I got this covered. 

So that’s what’s been happening in my life these days. Sadly not as exciting of a read as previous posts. But I’m sure as time goes on & I find my place here, you will hear some more of my crazy adventures!

JG 🙂 

The End Is In Sight

1 Apr

I knew this day would come. Deep down, I really did. I just wasn’t sure how I would feel about it. And now that it’s here, I am still not exactly sure how I feel. 

I just bought my one-way plane ticket home. 

And it was really upsetting, because now a little clock is ticking in my head. Now months, weeks, days, hours, minutes & seconds can begin counting down until this is all over. Until I leave this place, which has been my home for the past 8 months, to return to my actual home.

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I can remember when I bought another one-way ticket. It was around one year ago. 

I had decided in March 2013, just 2 months before my college graduation, that I wanted to move to another country. I could get my TEFL teaching certificate, find an apartment & experience a whole new life. It sounded like a fantasy. It sounded like the ultimate left turn when everyone else in my graduating class of 2,000 was turning right. But I just knew I wanted to do this.

After researching like crazy, I decided on Prague. 

Why?

Well, because it was pretty, it was cheap & I had never been there before–so why not move here?

I begged & begged Mama G. I promised I would get a job, make a life & work hard. I promised it just wouldn’t be one long vacation of partying. And she finally said yes.

And we booked that ticket.

Unless you, yourself, have done it, I really cannot describe the feeling of pure adrenaline of buying a one-way ticket.

It just has such a feeling of finality. You are not going in a circular journey that begins with eagerly boarding the plane & ends with a bummed out feeling of having to return back to reality. It’s a straight line. There is Point A aka: wherever you are right now, & there’s Point B aka: where you want to end up. There’s no turning back.

And this is how I feel right now.

I know what you’re thinking: why even come back?

I have asked myself that too, actually I ask myself that every day. It was one of the reasons I put off buying this ticket for months.

I can say it’s because I owe $600 a month on student loans,

I can say it’s because I miss my family & friends so much,

I can say it’s because I am sick of living here,

But none of these are quite the whole truth.

In all honesty, I don’t know. 

I mean I already have an apartment, an amazing boyfriend, a ton of friends & could easily renew my visa & find a new job…it would have actually been verrry easy to stay right here. 

But that’s not what I want to do in this stage of my life.

I want to keep moving. 

Image(Above: July 30, 2013, my last girl’s night out in the USA with Mama G)

I had a wonderful experience here. It was the hardest thing I have ever done, but also the best thing. I have been put through the emotional ringer & become truly independent. 

Moving back home will be extremely hard, because I am leaving so many great people behind.

It will be hard like packing up all you own to get on a plane to fly to a country you have never been to before, where you know no one to start a new life….but hey, I did that already.

I just feel like it is time to close my chapter on Prague for now.

Who knows, maybe someday it will be re-opened & more will be added.

Or maybe this will just be a precursor of memories to look back fondly on, as new adventures elsewhere are being written.

But I believe that this experience was all a chain effect of life milestones I will never forget.

If I had never traveled to Paris, I would have never had the courage to keep my training wheels slightly on while studying 5 months in Paris, & if I had never studied in Paris I would have never in a million years found the courage to move to Prague. 

And this is something that I will always remember.

Paris may have showed me the beauty of Europe, the culture of food & art…but Prague, you showed me who I was. What I was capable of enduring & what I was capable of surviving. Prague made me a grown up.

So now I am not going to dwell on this receipt of a plane ticket to Boston on June 10th, but will instead look forward to the 70 days I have left in this wonderful place with these wonderful people 🙂

Na Zdravi! 

-JG