There Is No Place LIke Home. Unless It’s The Other Home.

I have been back in Texas for exactly a month now.  It has been great  re-connecting with friends and resuming a (minimal) level of productivity.  It’s nice to wake up and have a purpose for my day, other than simply wandering, slack-jawed, around the most beautiful city on earth.  That said, I am very much looking forward to flying back to Paris this Thursday for a 10-day visit with my sweet husband and the city I have grown to love.    As I have mentioned previously, my ex-pat experience  has been a constant state of embracing one home and missing the other.  I am always happy to be in Paris, while simultaneously missing my first home in Houston.  And when here in Houston, I luxuriate in the comforts of home, while pining for Paris and all of her allure.

After a month in Houston, here is a sampling of what I am loving and what I am missing.

LOVE:

1.  Being close to my family

Having all three kids in my time zone feels like a luxury, and how nice to say goodbye to my family  in Austin without tears!

2. The quiet of my bedroom

A month of not hearing car horns, car alarms, drunks, or crazy people outside my bedroom at all hours of the morning.  Guess what I hear?  BIRDS!  I had almost forgotten about those little creatures!

3. Familiarity

Good Morning America as I make breakfast, NPR in my car, knowing where to go to get anything I might need.  It’s such a relief not to feel like a total  idiot every single day.

4. Friendliness of Strangers

I know many French people think we are shallow and phony because we tend to smile at people we don’t know (and sometimes even people we do), but to me it’s a way of acknowledging that everyone around us is sacred and worthy and struggling.  Is it so hard to smile at  people we may never see again?

5.  Customer service

It’s a beautiful thing.

6.  Regular gym attendance

Yes, I walked much more in Paris, but not at a pace that elevated my heart rate.  Unless I was worried that the boulangerie was about to close, of course.  And yes, I did join a gym in Paris, but for some reason it was much more difficult to get myself there.  Maybe because there were always 999 things that sounded more appealing on any given day?

7. Well- stocked grocery stores open all day every day

You know how I feel about that.

8. No cigarettes

If it weren’t for my next door neighbor, who smokes on our shared front porch, I wouldn’t have inhaled any second-hand smoke in a month.  Ahhhhh.

9. The livin’ is easy

SO much easier, in almost every way.  The daily challenges of Paris can be wearisome.

MISS:

1.  My husband!

2. The eye-popping beauty that is everywhere you look in Paris

Buildings, streets, bridges, the Seine- they’re all so beautiful, and I never get desensitized to it.

3. Hearing French

Yes, while the language contributes to much of my Paris frustration, I never tire of hearing it spoken around me.

4. Walking

Walking, walking, and walking some more.

5. The bread and butter

You knew I would sneak that in somewhere, didn’t you?

6. Sitting at cafes for as long as I want

7. Riding the bus

8. Gorgeous fresh produce grown locally, still wearing the soil it sat in the day before.

9. The stimulation

Everything is a mystery to me in Paris.  What did that guy just say?  What is that thing in the street for? How does she walk in those shoes? What is that green drink everyone seems to be drinking?  Constantly trying to figure out the world around me, and how to make a dinner reservation over the phone, while exhausting, is also very stimulating.  My life in Paris is never dull or ordinary.

IMG_2837

If you want to see anything special from my upcoming trip to Paris, let me know and I will try to get it on here for you.  I suspect that the unusual snow of last week will be gone, but I would be thrilled if I could capture  the magic of Paris in white.  The pictures on Twitter have been amazing.

Last Saturday I happened to hear a radio clip of David Sedaris reading from his book Me Talk Pretty One Day.  The segment included his account ( I wish it were fictional but it’s probably true) of being on the Paris metro with four Texans who were discussing (loudly) the relative merits of Paris and Houston.  I found the segment in an archive of This American Life (which I also miss when I am in Paris, even though it’s available on the computer, because I never think to listen to it there).  Here it is:

David Sedaris

It was July, and Hugh and I were taking the Paris Metro from our neighborhood to a store where we hoped to buy a good deal of burlap. During the summer months, a great number of American vacationers can be found riding the Metro, and their voices tend to carry. It’s something I hadn’t noticed until leaving home, but we are a loud people.

On the first of our two trains, I listened to a quartet of college-age Texans who sat beneath a sign instructing passengers to surrender their seats and stand, should the foyer of the train become too crowded. The foyer of the train quickly became too crowded. And, while the others stood to make more room, the young Texans remained seated and raised their voices in order to continue their debate, the topic being which is the better city, Houston or Paris?

[LAUGHTER]

David Sedaris

It was a hot afternoon, and the subject of air conditioning came into play. Houston had it, Paris did not. Houston also had ice cubes, tacos, plenty of free parking, and something called a Sonic burger. Things were not looking good for Paris, which lost valuable points every time the train stopped to accept more passengers.

The crowds packed in, surrounding the seated Texans and reducing them to four disembodied voices. From the far corner of the car, one of them shouted that they were tired and dirty and ready to catch the next plane home. The voice was weary and hopeless, and I identified completely. It was the same way I’d felt on my last visit to Houston.

I don’ t know if David Sedaris still lives in Paris, but I’m pretty sure he doesn’t live in Houston.  He clearly has never had a Sonic burger.

Au revoir, mes amis!  Next stop- Paris!

14 Comments

Filed under homesickness, Paris, Texas, Uncategorized

14 responses to “There Is No Place LIke Home. Unless It’s The Other Home.

  1. Mary Laurie

    Hi friend….I write this after spending a three day weekend on Kiawah with Callie and seven of her friend for her thirteenth birthday and yes I am insane. I think of you daily when I open my wallet and see the receipt from Andre for shoes you purchased for my poor underlyshod children (I think I just made up a word which, of course, I say with sarcasm). I have a Christmas card to you on my desk…that I need to send along with a check. The past month has been wonderfully crazy with holiday, boarding school visits, birthdays etc. Now that I know you are on your way back to Paris, I am so sorry it has taken me two months to get these things off to you. But you will have a note and check upon your return. Have a great time and give Mark love from the Ceces who all think he is really “cool”. Love, ML

    • Please, Mary Laurie! You paid for every single thing I ate or drank or did for the whole week you were there! Please don’t worry about the silly shoes. I hope she has liked them!
      Kisses for all the Ceces!

  2. Interesting how the French feel we are phony in our friendliness. Every time I see someone, I do my best to recognize them with a hello. And this quote from Jean Paul Sartre runs through my mind as I acknowledge them, “To ignore some one is to deny their existence.” Now it probably came from his days on the unfriendly streets of Paris.

  3. T C

    So happy to hear that you are going back and to be with your hubby! Enjoy and take it all in very slowly!

  4. Oui! You!!! I’d live to see you when you’re in Paris. Got room for a lunch???

  5. Well I only live in England, so visit Paris often but how I identify with your conflict between loving Paris and loving your home town and culture with all the emotional ties it has. I thought I would like to live in Paris (and still have a hankering to do it) but five weeks there taught me to appreciate the green hills of my home and my family, yet being at home I constantly miss the smells of Paris,….the distinct smell of the metro, fresh bread on the streets, garlic and coffee wafting from the cafes and what is that disinfectant they use in public loos? I miss the sound of the language and the sights of Paris just the general atmosphere…..sorry just got back and missing it already!!

    Love Denise

    • Hey Denise! Thanks for the nice feedback. I’m glad my experience resonated with you.You are fortunately that you can visit Paris easily from your number 1 home!

  6. Julie Little

    Looking forward to seeing you and fulfilling two desires. Walking to an outdoor cafe (of sorts) and lingering over coffee outdoors in our mild Houston winter weather, which is something I love about Texas.

  7. Kim

    No mention of Taco Cabana? That would be my number one thing I’d be longing for as I sat in a cafe in Paris. Probably.

  8. Margaret

    Have you read Adam Gopnik’s essay on trying to join a gym in Paris? Too hilarious.
    Your pictures of Paris are so gorgeous. Are you using a special camera? I’ve been using my little Canon point’n’shoot when I take students on study tours, but I’m wondering if this is the year I should get serious about the quality of my pictures. I’m afraid I’d have to take a class or something.

    • Margaret, I am pretty sure I have read it. I do love Adam. As for my camera, I too have a Canon point-n-shoot which I love, but because I am lazy, most of my blog photos are taken with my iPhone!Thanks for the compliment, though!

Hollah back y'all!

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