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Today it’s eleven months after I arrived in Paris.

I’m safely back home in my adolescent bedroom, which is crammed with my adult possessions. Like the Princess and the Pea, I sit on top of my queen mattress, which is on top of a double mattress, which is on top of the double bed my mum bought for this room when I first moved out (climbing into bed is now a perilous exploit).

I’ve been applying for jobs online, finally ready to grow up and settle down for a while. I might teach again but, assuming everything in Melbourne goes to plan, it will probably be a career-break in a few years, rather than a continuation of a long and not-so-prosperous teaching career.

Consequently, not only is it the end of this journey, it’s the end of this blog. A big thank-you to everyone who read – I hope that it’s been useful, or at least entertaining, for people considering giving TEFL a try. Although I’ve loved having a regular writing project, I don’t think it’s appropriate to keep updating Jolie à Paris when Jolie is no longer à Paris. This was originally supposed to be a TEFL blog and, although writing while I was backpacking was a bit of a stretch, writing about my life in Oz is probably a stretch too far.

That being said, if I start a new blog, I’ll let you know.

So, 11 months, 23 cities, 76 students and 372 classes later, and I feel like I’m back where I started. A 24-year-old Aussie girl who has just returned to Melbourne.

Find a room, find a job, find l’amour, drink wine and be merry – should be a piece of cake, non?

Ice cream

Streets, the ice-cream brand, seems to have a different name in every country. In the UK, it’s Walls. Other names include Algida, Eskimo, Frigo and Heartbrand.

But I think I’ve found a winner:

  • 2 heartbeats magic*

Congratulations Bulgaria :p

 

* Grammatical question of the day – what’s wrong with this phrase?

Reflections

In January I was at a party at Louise and Julia’s (former BTL teachers) – Louise had just finished a six-month diploma, during which she had been living like a hermit under all her books, and was celebrating the end of her imprisonment.

As we were playing drunken Jenga, I realised how happy I was, and it surprised me.

Now that my time in Paris has drawn to a close, I’ve been very reflective. I keep trying to pinpoint when the scales tilted but, try as I might, I can’t find the moment when my giddy excitement and calm contentment started to outweigh my loneliness and frustration. I also can’t figure out whether the change was circumstance, or me.

In August I was desperately trying to find a UK visa for which I was eligible, and even went to London and back one day for a job interview.

Now I keep thinking about all the good times I’ve had, and wondering when I can come back.

Although I haven’t had a romance here, I’ve had romantic moments – sitting on the Seine on a balmy July night and watching the sun set with a guy I liked, eating a home-cooked three-course meal by candlelight with another . . . even though neither one led to anything more, they were wonderful moments.

And maybe I haven’t made any close friendships, but I still grin at memories with the friends I have made: racing down the conveyor belts at Châtelet with Simon, a French friend; talking to Mr Frog; going out with Manuela (former flatmate for 17 days); dinners with other teachers in Belleville; and, of course, party after party at Louise and Julia’s. Even my classes put me in a good mood.

True, the recent issue with Bénédicte and my deposit was frustrating, but it doesn’t actually change the fact that she did give me somewhere to stay. Because of her I was dry and safe and warm, and all of the things that I was thankful for before our conversation are still there.

And although it’s often frustrating trying to deal with the French way of (not) doing things, the French way of doing things created this marvellous city which continues to sweep me off my feet.

I’m truly grateful for my time there. Admittedly, it wasn’t the fairy tale I’d imagined, but I like that – it means that the dream of Paris is still ahead of me.

And that dream gives me a reason to come back.

Bénédicte’s verdict

I am so angry!

She isn’t giving me my security deposit back.

Yes, I understand that I broke a chair. Yes, I understand that I burned some bedding. But I expected that to add up to €100. Maybe €150.

I’ve asked her several times how much money she would like for the bed. I tried to replace the chair myself, but it is out of stock everywhere. I asked her if I could pay her for the chair, and she told me that she would have to work out how much I owed, including the bed.

Then I told her that I was leaving Paris. Upon giving her my one month’s notice, I asked how much she would like. Again. And she said she would get back to me.

Finally, I managed to speak to her again today.

Bénédicte, je veux te rappeler que je pars Paris ce samedi.

Oui, okay.

Je pars vers 19 heure, donc je voudrais savoir combien tue veux pour le fauteuil et le lit, et aussi si tu prefers que je te paie, ou de le prend de ma caution.” (I’m sure there are many things wrong with this French, but she makes me nervous.)

Then she dropped the bombshell – she was going to keep the entire deposit. All €450.

I gasped, “mais c’est €450. C’est beaucoup.”

Oui, je sais que c’est beaucoup,” Bénédicte shrugged, and went on to explain that:

1.      She had not been able to replace the chair, because it was out of stock, so she would take the money for that

2.      She didn’t know how much it would cost to fix the bed (the bed is okay, but the lights that I left on are now stuck in the frame so she can’t change them)

3.      She wasn’t going to replace the mattress (which isn’t damaged – it was just the blankets that I damaged), but when she did it would cost more than my deposit

4.      She had expected me to look up the cost of fixing the bed and, because I hadn’t given her a figure, she had to keep the deposit

5.      As I’m leaving earlier than planned (originally it was June) and I hadn’t found anyone to replace me, this was going to cost her the money she was expecting to get

I take issue with points 4 and 5.

4.      She didn’t tell me she expected me to find the cost for the bed. To try to replace the chair yes. The bed, no. At least, I don’t think she did. Admittedly, my French still isn’t too good, but I’ve been asking her how much I need to pay since December, so I think I would have picked up on it if she did tell me.

5.      Although I originally intended to stay until June, this wasn’t a guarantee, and in our initial emails to each other she just told me that we each needed to give one month’s notice*, which I did. It also isn’t my job to find someone new, though I did put up an ad in the BTL teachers’ room.

Again – I’m so angry! I feel sick and I’m shaking as I type. I don’t know why I bothered giving her notice – I should have left without a word.

I feel like I’m being punished for doing the right thing (not the accidental breaking of stuff, but the giving notice). It’s like when I resigned from BTL – I honoured my contract by giving two months notice, to be sentenced to 49.5 hours of work in January, and 35.5 hours of work in February.

It’s not fair! (Cue me stamping my foot.)

I know I’ve had bad luck here and my absentmindedness has caused a few problems, but this is the first time I’ve had any issues with a landlord. I’m not malicious. I’m respectful and clean and I don’t smoke. I’m very happy to socialise, but I can also stay out of the way if I must (which I think I’ve done quite well here). It’s not like I came here and intentionally trashed the place – I forgot to turn some lights off. I sat down too quickly (and I’m not heavy – a chair shouldn’t break when I sit on it).

Part of me is mad that she isn’t giving the money back, but mostly I’m furious that she didn’t tell me until now. And I had to chase her about it. The least she could have done was let me know last month when I told her I was leaving – then I could have considered this in my holiday planning.

Lately I’ve been thinking about my time in Paris and how grateful I am for the experience. The one thing that has consistently dampened it has been living with Bénédicte, which is quite stressful at the best of times (she seems to be very tightly wound, and she takes over the apartment when she’s home, stomping up and down the hall. I just feel tense when she’s around). However, I’d reached the point where I was grateful to her as well – she gave me a room in a beautiful apartment in a good area for a good price. Maybe it wasn’t what I’d imagined, but because of her I have been safe with a roof over my head.

I wanted to leave on good terms and, two days before I leave, I feel like she’s poisoned any chance of this. I want to be grateful. I really do. I want to be the bigger person and appreciate what she’s given me and release her with love and do everything that a generous and spiritual person would do, but it’s so hard!

I just want to throw myself on the ground with my fists balled and my face red and kick and scream. I want to have a tantrum and a cry.

I know it’s uncharitable, but I hope she learns English and finds this and reads it and feels bad.

Grrr!

*Quote from email: je voulais juste rajouter, en ce qui concerne le congé de la chambre, que nous nous donnions 1 mois de préavis chacune. If I’ve misinterpreted this, I’d appreciate it if one of my French readers would clue me in.

Men and their shoes

I left BTL after my last class today and a man on the street stopped to look me up and down.

I blinked, bemused, and turned around the corner towards Saint Lazare.

Pardon Mademoiselle?

I turned and he was behind me – 6’2”, wiry with glasses and greying brown hair. “Hi,” I said.

Vous ne parlez pas le français?

Oui, un peu, mais très mal.”

“Okay,” he switched to English. “I work in fashion and I saw your beautiful shoes.”

I looked down to remind myself of which shoes I was wearing (no, I’m not much of a shoe person. Yes, I think many of them are beautiful, but they aren’t usually ones that I can comfortably walk in, and I’d prefer to spend my money on moisturisers). They were black suede heels with patent-leather toes and heels – a gift from my mum from Myer. They were lovely, but after 18-months of wear and tear I wasn’t expecting compliments for them.

“When did you get them?” he asked.

“Oh, over a year ago in Australia.”

“And that’s where you are from?”

“Yes.”

“And what brand are they?”

I had no idea (have since taken them off and checked – Annapelle). “I don’t know – I know where I bought them, but it’s a big department store.”

“Okay,” he nodded with a smile, “and are they comfortable?”

I frowned in confusion – where was this going? “Yes . . . as far as heels are concerned.”

“Oh, you don’t like high-heels?”

I shrugged, “as long as I don’t have to walk.”

“Then you only wear high-heels for work?”

“Yes,” I nodded, “I need to wear business dress.”

“And you think that means heels?”

“No . . . not all the time.”

“Then why are you wearing them today?”

I shrugged helplessly, “I don’t know, I felt like it?”

I’d taken a departure from my usual teaching uniform today and was wearing a knee-length red winter coat over black pants and a black woollen turtleneck – as I’ve been feeling a bit plump lately, I was after the sleekness that top-to-toe black can provide. I must say the end result wasn’t bad. I wore the shoes because they went with the outfit, they make me feel pretty before my feet start hurting, and, as I’m not taking them with me when I leave Paris, it was one of my last chances to wear them.

“Because the weather is nice?” he prodded.

“Yeah, because it’s a beautiful day.” Agreeing seemed to be the quickest option.

He nodded and smiled again, “well I just wanted to say that your shoes are beautiful.”

“Okay, thank you,” I grinned and turned back towards Saint Lazare.

Bad French Husbands

Denise is my last student on a Friday – 1:30-3:00. As I leave BTL right after her class, I sometimes see her on the phone or collecting her things on my way out.

Today I saw her on the phone, shopping bags in tow, on Boulevard Haussmann as I was walking to Saint Lazare. I waved with a smile, and she waved back and approached me.

“Hello! My husband is . . .” Denise paused as she searched for the word.

“Late?” I supplied.

“Yes – late! My husband is late!” she cried indignantly.

“Oh, he’s very bad!”

“Yes,” she nodded furiously, “very, very bad!”

Ahh . . . to be married to a French woman.

Happy Australia Day!

Okay, I know it was yesterday, so happy post-Australia Day!

Last night Mr Frog and I went to The Frog and Princess, where we drank two carafes of Australian cabernet, and every glass started with a toast to “Australie!” I felt very patriotic.

Afterwards we visited Les Deux Magots for a hot chocolate, which is now in the running to be the best hot chocolate in Paris . . . but more on that later.

So I leave Paris on February 26th and I’m opening the floor to you – what do you think I should do before I leave?

True, I am coming back a couple of times in my upcoming travels, but this is the last time I’ll be here for an extended period for who knows how long.

So, what should I do? If there’s anything on which you want the inside scoop, leave it in the comments and I’ll organise an outing and an entry before I leave.

Shopping online in France

€59 for this?! It's a folding chair!

So Bénédicte was in my room again. When I was in the UK over Christmas, she discovered that I had broken my chair.

After a long lecture upon my return, we put the subject to rest until the weekend before last. She had found the chair on the Maison Facile website, but it was out of stock when she visited the store. So she asked me if I could find one.

At €59, I was hoping to find it cheaper, but eventually just decided to order that one online. Last Wednesday the €65 transaction, including postage, went through without a hitch. On Thursday I received an email, titled Urgent! Your order No. TFQY708 (this was a little odd, considering that my order number was WHXA188).

It turned out the website was out of the chairs as well (you would think that this would be mentioned somewhere on the website, or that a notice would have popped up when I tried to buy it), and the email invited me to look at their other chairs.

This would not do. I emailed back, saying I don’t want another chair; I would simply like a refund of the €65. Please inform me of when this is possible.

As I hadn’t heard back the next day, I tried giving them a call. But it turns out that Maison Facile’s call centre has a 90 minute lunch break, so I’d have to wait.

Today, Monday, I still hadn’t received a reply, so I tried calling again.

Maison Facile,” a woman answered the phone.

Bonjour,” I answered, “I ordered an armchair last week and received an email saying that it was out of stock, so I would like to organise a refund.”

“Okay, do you have your order number?”

I gave her the one in the email I received, “TFQY708.”

After three tries (I usually avoid the phone – my French still leaves much to be desired), she found the order. “Ahh, you are Madame Martin?”

“. . . no.” I repeated the order number.

She tried again, “you are not Claude Martin? Because that is the name with this order.”

C’est bizarre,” I said, “because that is the number that was emailed to me.”

She searched again under my name, and found the order (the number was WHXA188 – clearly they’d been copying the same email to everyone who ordered this product). “Okay, you just need to send us an email saying that you want to cancel, and you will have a refund in 15-30 days.”

Slightly irritating since I ordered the chair less than a week ago and the money hasn’t even been taken from my account yet, but I’ll take what I can.

After sending my email, I tried another website: Multi-Affaires.

The chair was only €39 here, but the reason I originally chose Maison Facile is because I can’t see any way to actually buy the chair on Multi-Affaires. Check out the link– there’s a title, a picture, a price and a description, and even an icon that I can click to see my shopping cart, but no button to actually buy it.

If anyone else can figure out how to do it online, please let me know, because the call centre wasn’t much more helpful.

Allo?” a woman answered.

Bonjour,” I replied, “est-ce que c’est Multi-Affaires?”

Oui, how can I help you?”

“I’d like to order an armchair.”

“Okay, did you see it on the website?”

“Yes, it’s the fauteuil moon noir,” I said. After spelling it, she seemed to recognise the product.

“Do you have an order number?” she asked.

“No, I would like to order it now – I tried on the website, but it was impossible. There was no . . .” I paused as I searched for vocabulary, “logo to click.” Really don’t like the phone – gestures make life so much easier.

“Are you sure?”

“Yes, I have the website in front of me. There’s a title, a picture and a description, but no link to buy it,” I ran my cursor over the different parts of the page as if this would help her understand me.

“Okay, I will look.” She went quiet as she looked at the website. After a couple of minutes she said she would look into it and call me back.

An hour later and she still hasn’t.

I’m not impressed with French online shopping to date.

 

Update:

The next day they called me back to say that their website was broken, and they would contact me when it had been repaired. One week later, I called them to discover that not only was the website still not working, but the chair was out of stock.

So I’ve agreed to give Bénédicte money for the chair. She’s just adding up how much I owe her for the bed . . .

Defiance

Screw poverty.

I’m sick of going out with friends and drinking water while they have wine. I’m sick of eating out and making my meal choices based on what I can cover with two restaurant tickets. I’m sick of feeling like I’m missing out on part of the Paris experience because I never go to cafés. I’m sick of being hungry but not wanting to spend my money on food.

Screw that.

I’m going to spend everything I have. I’m going to eat good food, see amazing things and buy presents and souvenirs. I don’t care if my funds run out before I’m finished. I’ll couchsurf. I’ll hitchhike if I have to (just don’t tell my dad).

I’ve realised that if I do only end up with €600 this month, I could live on that. €450 for rent, €95.50 for my Navigo . . . that leaves me with restaurant tickets for food and €50 spending money. That’s do-able – but what’s the point?

I know these are selfish problems, and that there are people who have far less than me, and that I should be grateful, but I just seem to want more. If I didn’t want to travel, I’d be fine.

But I do. I want things. I have an insatiable urge to travel. I love to eat. And I’d really like to have some beautiful things to take home.

So screw being poor. I’m going to start indulging in luxuries again. Who cares if I run out of money in the process?

I’ll get it back when I have a real job.

 

Update:

I had a new private student start today! After a two hour class I went for a walk and bought myself a chocolate eclair, so I’m feeling much better.

I’ve also decided that, if I have any money left when I come back to Paris before flying home, I’m going to go to a bakery and buy one of every cake. :)

Being sexy

After returning from Brighton, there was a parcel of presents waiting for me! My parents had sent it from Oz in early December, but the snow meant that it didn’t arrive in time for Christmas.

"I'm not bad; I'm just drawn that way."

Hyacinth the hippo

Of the gifts in the box, I think my favourite might be a 2-inch Jessica Rabbit pin (though there was also some Hershey’s Chocolate Syrup lip gloss that I can’t stop eating), courtesy of my sister.

Last April I dyed my hair red. I’m also rather curvy, so when I upgraded my hair some of the guys in the office started calling me Jessica Rabbit. I was extremely flattered – she’s so sexy!

As I’ve been feeling a bit hippo-like since the holiday (a cute, happy hippo, though. Like one of the ones from Fantasia), I now have the pin sitting on my desk to remind me of my mantra – thanks Rhiannon :)

I haven’t worn it to class yet . . . I’m not sure how my students would react.