Umbrellas and candles…

Yesterday was my last French class and we had to do a ten minute presentation about where we live. Yeah. Public speaking… in French.

What I imagined I was saying: “Dublin has been a around since the time of the Vikings. A beautiful and vibrant city, it is filled with history and culture and boasts, arguably, the friendliest people in all of Europe. It is a city of great literature, wonderful art and lovely nature. Yes, it rains a lot, but that means we get rainbows.”

What I probably actually said: “Dublin be old of the vikings. A city beauty and live with much the history and people of the very smiles. It is a place of more books and good the paintings but also to pretty the plants. Rain more, yes. But we be have much bows of rain.”

“It nice, the Dublin.”  😉

I really do struggle to learn this baffling but beautiful language. (Well, beautiful when someone other than me is speaking it.) But it’s hard, and the French, perhaps justifiably, are not charitable when it comes to their language. That can be frustrating when someone like me, who does not have an ear for languages, is nonetheless really trying.

Perhaps my biggest frustration is the accent. Not only am I trying to learn a new language, but I am expected to master the French accent as well. Now, I have a bit of a problem with this. I know a lot of French people who speak excellent English – with a French accent. I don’t understand why I have to get the accent right when they don’t.

True story – a couple years ago I was leaving the office for the weekend and in saying good-bye to a French colleague I said “Bon week-end.” And, I kid you not, he corrected my pronunciation of “week-end”. Seriously?!  I don’t think I could have rolled my eyes farther up into my head.

When I get responses like that, I’ve learned to “fight back” a teeny bit. I say “J’essaye”, which means “I am trying.”. Which I am. Really hard. And I have made progress. My daily class this month and back in November really helped my comprehension and conversation, though I still have a really difficult time understanding what people are saying when they speak to me – everyone talks so fast!

Some key phrases that help me in these situations:

  • Je ne comprends pas – I do not understand.
  • Désolé, mon français est très mauvais – I’m sorry, my french is very bad. 
  • Lentement, s’il vous plaît – Slowly, please.

I’ve also learned some french phrases that I kind of love:

  • ça m’est égal – this means “I don’t care” but it’s the formal more respectful way of saying it.
  • je m’en fiche – this also means “I don’t care” but it’s familiar, reserved for special people who are driving you nuts, like friends and family.
  • je m’en fous – and when you really need to kick it up a notch, this means “I don’t give a shit”. Everything really does sound better in French.
  • mon petit chou – literally “my little cabbage” but this is a term of endearment in French. I would love to be someone’s little cabbage.
  • tomber dans les pommes – literally “falling in the apples”, this is the french term for fainting.
  • chanter comme une casserole – I think this one is my favorite. It literally means “to sing like a saucepan” and it’s the phrase used to describe a god-awful singer.

Oh, and my two favorite words in the entire french language are parapluie (umbrella) and bougie (candle). I love how they sound and I often say them just because I find it fun.

I will continue to strive toward fluency in French and I will, to be sure, continue to struggle. But I love this language too much to not try. Or should I say “essaye“?

 

 

 

Paris, part deux…

Earlier this week, an interview I did about my month in Paris last November was published on the website Bonjour Paris, rather synchronously, as I spend a second extended sojourn in the City of Light.

I have been back in Paris for two weeks and will be here for four more. So far, it’s been fairly awesome. And here are some of the reasons why:

  • My view of the (top of the) Eiffel Tower from the skylight in my bedroom. Most nights, I watch it twinkle at the top of the hour before I go to bed.
  • The fresh flowers and bottles of wine my Airbnb host left for me as a welcome gift.
  • Being here for the May 1st holiday and buying myself some Lilies of the Valley, as tradition dictates.
  • The way the tree outside my living room window sways in even the slightest breeze.
  • The picnic at the Parc du Champ De Mars last Sunday with friends.
  • Having an office to go to in Neuilly-Sur-Seine.
  • Making a restaurant reservation over the phone, in french.
  • One of my best friends in Dublin flying to Paris just to celebrate my birthday with me.
  • The classical music concert at Saint Chapelle with that friend.
  • The “Ça va?” I get from the waiter as I walk by the cafe where I am a regular.
  • Writing jokes in french as part of my language class assignment, and getting laughs from my classmates when I read them out loud.
  • The magical thunder storm on Friday night. I opened my windows wide and just listened and breathed in the air.
  • The dinner party last night where our host made “french mex” (it was delicious!).

Now, I’m off to add enjoy this beautiful day and add to the list.

Bon dimanche à vous!

 

 

 

 

Goodbye to the Hill…

The other night I met my friend for a drink at The Hill pub in Ranelagh. The Hill is famous. It has been a part of Ranelagh since 1845. It even appeared in a book by Irish author Lee Dunne, called, Goodbye to the Hill. Every Dubliner, not just those living in Ranelagh, know it. Which makes it very convenient when I am telling taxi drivers or delivery people how to find my house – I literally live right around the corner from it.

The Hill has always personified the traditional old Irish Pub to me. While they only served little airplane bottles of wine, they poured one helluva pint of Guinness. The only food they served were tiny bags of peanuts or crisps. The bar was usually lined with regulars – male and well past seventy years old.

Since moving into this house, I’ve always brought my out-of-town guests to The Hill for a proper pint – and they’ve always loved it. I’ve developed a fondness for The Hill during my time in Ranelagh. It’s always been scrappy and unprententious – and rather empty. Part of its charm was knowing that I could walk in, even on a Saturday night, and there’d be a table (okay, several) available. Not being one for crowds, or even people, I loved this. But it’s hard to imagine how the owners made any money.

Perhaps not surprisingly, when I was there earlier this week I learned that The Hill is under new ownership and is now going to be a gastropub specializing in craft beers. I am not sure how I feel about this. I like that I can now order an actual glass of wine. I like a nice craft beer as much as the next person. And it’s still The Hill, so I think it’s safe to assume that their Guinness pour will remain unchanged. The kitchen isn’t operational yet but within a few weeks, they will serve what I’m sure will be lovely gastropub food, that I’ll probably enjoy more than the tiny packs of peanuts that made up the old Hill’s menu.

But as my friend and I were chatting, I noticed first one, then another, then a few more bearded, hair-gelled, skinny-jeaned hipsters walk in and make themselves at home – something I doubt they would have done during the previous Hill’s incarnation. It was all I could do to resist the urge to tackle them and take a razor to their stupid, pretentious faces.

I’m sure that I will drink and eat at this new Hill. I imagine I’ll still bring my out-of-town guests there. But I can’t help feeling that this change may not be for the better. Ranelagh has, I think, suffered quite a loss.

 

 

 

 

Return to La La Land…

April has been a whirlwind of a month so far. I got an unexpected but very welcome new job that required me to spend the last two weeks in Toronto and Los Angeles and now I am back in Dublin for just one week before I head to Paris for six weeks – it’s all very jet-setty and very exciting, but also very exhausting.

The travel to Toronto was a huge positive for me. Going to Toronto basically means going home, and I was lucky enough to get three days in Buffalo between time in Canada and that place with the earthquakes and sunshine where I used to live.

Los Angeles.

Los Angeles and I have always had a troubled relationship. I’ve lived there twice. The first time, I fled after less than a year vowing never to return. But then I did. And that second breakup took eight years. My first exit from Los Angeles was, quite literally, spurred by violence. A huge earthquake shattered not only the city in which I was living, but my also dreams.

My second stint in LA was a more codependent relationship. Despite carpe-ing my diems and leaping without regard for a net, my time in LA was filled with anxiety, disappointment and more shattered dreams – though, thankfully, no earthquakes worth mentioning.  But when I left LA that time, I was moving toward something rather than running away. I had my sights set on Europe, on Dublin.

That was nearly four years ago. I wasn’t sure how it would feel to return to the City of Angels for which my feelings are decidedly un-angelic. And it was weird. From the moment I stepped outside LAX and breathed in what I can only assume was smog and sunshine, it was weird. For the entire first day, I felt like an outsider looking in. And then in the subsequent days, things began to feel familiar again. My hotel was not far from my old neighborhood. Streets and restaurants and even billboards were the same. And the weather was typical. But that familiar feeling of not belonging returned as well.

It was interesting, and even nice, to return to Los Angeles for a few days. I enjoyed the work that I did while I was there and was very happy to hang with some very dear friends. And I forgot how much I like iced tea and tacos. But if I ever had any fleeting moments of doubt as to whether I made the right decision in leaving LA and moving to Europe, then these few days solidified things for me forever. I know that I belong in Europe. I can feel it.

Though seriously, iced tea is awesome.

 

Trump Change…

I arrived in Dublin in November 2012 – the day before the Presidential election to be exact. And I learned very quickly that asking someone who they voted for isn’t considered rude, as it is in America – it’s just making conversation. Not surprisingly, it was definitely a popular topic of conversation as soon as anyone heard my accent. Taxi drivers, hotel clerks, waiters – everyone was very interested in who this American had voted for. And I was happy enough to engage in the conversation. Being a staunch Obama supporter and knowing that the Irish generally feel quite positive about him, I didn’t think I was in danger of getting into any fierce political arguments.

Now another American Presidential election is upon us. And, here in Ireland, both friends and strangers alike are keen to talk to me about it again. But this time, instead of inquiring about who I am supporting they pretty much just want to know – WHAT THE FUCK IS GOING ON?! The election has gone in a direction that no one predicted. The entire world seems to have been blind-sided – and you all know why.

Trump.

In much the same way non-Americans ask me to explain “why” each time there is a mass shooting back home, they now ask me to explain “why” each time Trump opens his stupid mouth and says something that, up until a few months ago, would have been unbelievable. And my answer is the same. I have no effing clue. I can no more explain why a scary number of Americans love Trump than I can explain why those same Americans love guns.

It has been very interesting (in the same way a car wreck is interesting) to watch the rise of Trump from a distance. Even six short months ago, it all seemed like a joke. Sure, Trump was running but there’s no way people could be stupid enough to believe his racist, sexist, mono-syllabic bullshit. Now, he is all but guaranteed to be the Republican nominee. WTF? This is scary. And not just for America, but for the world.

Because, whether the rest of the world likes it or not, the person who is President of the United States is a matter of importance and significance to everyone, not just Americans.

And Trump as President would be a scary, scary proposition for the entire world. This is the man who promises to build a wall along the Mexican border to keep all the rapists out. This is the man who wants to ban Muslims from entering the United States. This is the man who advocates war crimes. And, oh yeah, he apparently has a big penis.

Please do not ask this expat to explain what is going on in her country because she can’t. I have no words of explanation for this. I cannot begin to understand how this has happened. Or what could happen.

I cannot even fathom an America where Donald Trump is President. I have no idea what that America would be, but it certainly would no longer be my America.

Making my world work…

Earlier this month Facebook declared February 4th Friends’ Day. And even though it was a fairly obvious publicity stunt, I liked the idea of it. After all, friendship is something that should be celebrated. As Mr. Zuckerberg wrote in his post announcing Friends’ Day: “Friendships make the world work.”

I’ve never been one who made friends easily and this was a real worry of mine as I started my expat journey. When I moved to Dublin nearly three and a half years ago, I knew that I was going to have to put myself out there and make some friends and that made me very nervous. (I wrote about it here.) But I knew that making friends was going to be the defining factor in whether I would have success as an expat. One can get along just fine without a significant other (lord knows, I’m a prime example of that) but can you imagine living a life without friends?

Last weekend, a friend that I made during my month in Paris came for a visit – and she brought a friend that I instantly hit it off with. So, two new friends! Making these friends was a nice surprise for me. When I went to Paris, I didn’t make a concerted effort to  meet people or make new friends – that wasn’t the purpose of my time there, and my stay there was temporary. So making these friends was an unexpected bonus but one for which I am very grateful.

And this weekend, I was out with a bunch of the first friends that I made in Dublin. They are people that I met through my first job here. I’m no longer at that job, so I don’t see them every day anymore but we all manage to get together every so often and have a nice time. And I really look forward to those nights. Not only because  I know it will always be a good time but because those people, those first friends I made, are very special to me.

Though they probably don’t realize it, they are the people who made me feel that I hadn’t made the worst decision of my life in leaving everything and everyone I knew and moving to a city I’d never even been to before. They are the people who made me feel like I belonged even though I was an outsider. They are the people who formed the foundation of the life I was starting to build in my new city. I don’t think they have any idea how important they were to me in those early days but I am forever grateful that they became and still are a part of my life.

After more than three years as an expat, the friends that I have made, in Dublin and beyond, are quite simply, awesome. They are people I share interests with. People who make me laugh. People who help and support me. People I like being around.

And they certainly play a huge part in making my world work.

Bonne Année…

New Year’s Eve. Not my favorite holiday to say the least, and I am definitely not a fan of resolutions.

Last year, I came upon an alternative to resolutions and their inherent failure. Instead of making (and breaking) them, this past year every time I accomplished a goal, or did something I was proud of, or even did something that was just a lot of fun, I wrote it on a slip of paper and put it in a jar. I just finished reading what I wrote on those scraps of paper. And you know what? It was a good year. A fairly awesome one, actually. It wasn’t perfect, of course. But in my third year as an expat, I did my best to embrace the uncertainty that is ever-present in my life and take advantage of the freedom that uncertainty gives me.

The biggest way I took advantage of that freedom was in moving to Paris for five weeks to see what it would be like to live and work there. I knew it would be incredible. Of course, what I didn’t know was that my beloved Paris would come under attack by terrorists, with 130 lives snuffed out in the blink of an eye. I’ve written about how the terrorists attacks made me angry but not afraid. And being in Paris during that time has made me more determined than ever to (forgive the cliché) carpe diem.

I am lucky enough to be ringing in 2016 tonight, something that those 130 souls who went out in Paris on a Friday night probably thought they would be doing as well. It really is just luck – nothing more than that.

So, for those of us lucky enough to be celebrating a New Year tonight – I wish you happiness, health and as an old Irish saying goes:

“May your pockets be heavy and your heart be light.
May good luck pursue you each morning and night.”