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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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:
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?
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!