A Different Perspective

How often we go through life and make assumptions before really taking a step back to look at the other possibilities. I can say that I see myself doing this quite frequently especially since I am experiencing so many new things. Like a lot of things in life, first impressions are important BUT not always correct.

Today I had the pleasure, and yes I really do mean pleasure to babysit for a family in the center of Paris. It may have been my day off and I may have had to get up at 6am this morning, but I figured that if nothing else it would give me a chance to see a different Parisian lifestyle.

Once again an opportunity was presented so I took it. Also I had one of those “I feel like my grandmother Cress” moments and saw a way to make a few extra dollars to be stashed away for a rainy day.

Quickly enough, I realized that I had based my outlook on Paris simply on my perception of one family’s lifestyle. Today that perception changed.

I’ve realized that,

Living “in” Paris is not the same as living 10 minutes outside the center

Not everyone gets the pleasure of enjoying their weekends off like I previously had assumed, hence the fact of why I was babysitting on a Saturday

Not all french kids are brought up spoiled and fortunate as it may have come across in the beginning. I think this has to do with the area I am currently living in as well, as it’s a wealthy community.

As much as having the ability to buy fresh produce, cheese and baguettes from the market is amazing, it actually isn’t feasible for everyone to do.

The best part of my day was by the far the least expected when I had initially made the choice to babysit.

It came when I realized how much of an impact simply making a child smile can be. When the child begs you to stay and wants you to come everyday and be their “nounou” simply because you played soccer with them and showed interest in their happiness; That’s better than any kind of money can buy.

I’ll be honest, I saw that there was a family needing a babysitter and since I was free, I figured hey! It will be a good way to get some extra cash” when the end of the day came, the money didn’t matter.

The fact that I had made a child happy was more than I could have asked for.

It’s not about having time, it’s about making time.

Every day on my way in and out of Paris I pass the many homeless people along the streets and I simply pass them by like the many others do. I bypass them all, as if they don’t exist not because they are any less important, but because I hate the realization that there are people out there living in such hard situations. The sad truth is that they’re are people in need and even if I want to pretend there isn’t, nothing will change unless I make the choice to do something about it.

I’ll admit, there’s been plenty of times when I could have given someone change and I didn’t, and I have no excuses as to why I chose not to.

Today I did something that I haven’t done in a long time; too long to be exact. I chose to make a change.

I woke up this morning without a plan for the day which is an uncommon feeling  for me as I`m a constant planner. I did my daily Facebook check and found a notification for an event that I has been invited to a month or so before, but had completely forgot about. I`m not one to make rash decisions, in fact it usually takes me a day or two to make a final choice but this was different. Within 30 minutes of waking I was on my way to the local grocery store to pick up supplies to make as many sandwiches as I could.

I got some pretty strange stares from the family because to them, the best help you can give is money. Money can do a heck of a lot don`t get me wrong but it almost seems like the easy way out.  Anyone can give a few bucks away but not everyone is willing to give time.

Not even a year ago I would have done things the easy way and donated and not thought twice about it. This is where its truly evident how much this year abroad has changed me as a person.

I showed up to the meeting place which ended up being a Swedish church in the north of Paris. I had no idea what to expect , only that I was giving my  Sunday to helping as much as I possibly could.

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I ended up chatting with a few other giilrls while creating sandwiches with baguettes and cheese. Then I heard an Americana accent so I turned around and said my go to phrase “you’re Canadian or american am I right?”

988474_10206255761856188_8985002146296347539_n Sure enough he was from Portland Oregon! We did our introductions and I found out he was on vacation for two weeks visiting the city, enjoying the couch surfing activities and apparently helping out the locals. I was shocked to say the least, that here was someone on vacation in Paris at that, and donating their free time to wander the streets of Paris for hours giving away as much as we could.

I almost felt guilty questioning why this man was spending his time doing what we all should do. Why is it that being a good citizen has become something so uncommon? I’m not going to lie, I feel amazing after once again stepping outside of my comfort zone but it’s almost pathetic that it’s taken me this long of being in Paris to volunteer my time. 10989125_10206254892794462_5182212868713125330_n (1)

This whole experience today was life changing, to be honest. It opened my eyes to a global crisis that I bypass every single day. It’s impossible to help everyone in need, but even just by donating a couple hours of your week, you can make a small change in someones life.

We often take for granted the things that most deserve our gratitude

We as humans complain, its natural.

Au pairs, myself included complain a lot. Once again natural, especially in our circumstances. It could be the smallest thing but yet we still have to let the world know that it’s bothering us. I don’t know if it’s the cold weather bringing me down but lately I’ve noticed a higher level of negativity towards not only my job but life in general. When I sit down and actually lay out exactly what I do have in my life, not only physically but emotionally as well, i’m beyond blessed.

I’ve decided to create a list of the things I take for granted to really show how fortunate I am to be in the situation I am in currently.

1. I have a safe roof over my head which I actually look forward to coming home to.

2. There is always more than enough food to eat and a variety at that.

3. A job that may not be what I want to be doing for the rest of my life but for now this is what I have chosen.

4. A beyond kind and caring host family. I may be 21 but it’s still nice to come home to a family that considers you their daughter and treats you as one of their own.

5. I get paid always on time or in advance which is something that the majority of my fellow Au pairs are having issues with.

6. I wake up in the morning and I’m alive and breathing.

7. Technology. t’s crazy how much I rely on it for the majority of the things I do throughout the day. I can call my family in Canada in the matter of a minute, or message my friends with a few swipes of my finger.

8. I have an abundance of clothes to wear and to keep myself warm. If you’re friends with me you’ll constantly hear me complain that I have too many clothes and I’m not going to be able to take them all back with me to Canada or I will have to take another suitcase. I’ve decided that the clothes that I don’t absolutely need I will donate before I leave instead of creating more stress than I need.

9. I’m not cheap, I’m just frugal. I’m fortunate that this was something that I acquired from my grandmother Cress, who can make a dollar last longer than anyone I know.

10. I have a voice. If you know me well enough I’m not the type that let’s things pass me by and always speak up when I am not happy with something. I know for a fact that my other grandmother Chute gave me this attribute and couldn’t be prouder.

Hearing the stories of my friends and their current situations within their families really makes me appreciate what I have. I’ll admit, there isn’t a day that goes by where I don’t want to pack my bags and head home but what I’ve learned in the past is that running away from a problem never solves anything. I’m fortunate enough to have a close enough bond with my family here where we can openly discuss issues that come about no matter what problems arise. I’ve come to the conclusion that living a life of perfect happiness may be acquirable but unrealistic, for me anyways.

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I’m in France, essentially living the dream and how many people can say they’ve done that?

The power of friendship & a trip to Versailles

I’m going to be honest and admit that these past couple of months abroad have been tough. The cold temperatures make it hard to find the motivation to even just step outside, let alone do anything. When you’re an Au pair your “free” time consists of during the day when your child is in school and then at night when the parents arrive home from work. Let’s just say there hasn’t been a night during the week I have left since before Christmas. I swear it must be the cold that makes me just want to relax every night with a hot tea and a good book.

Flashback to September and I was finding any excuse possible to leave the house. Having a schedule where your free time is limited to a block of hours a day has been extremely tough to find time to see my friends. We’re all in different french classes, love in towns on the complete opposite side of Paris and end up babysitting on different nights. Of course with technology in today’s age we’re constantly communicating but it’s still not the same as physically being together and spending time together.

This past Sunday all of  my three best friends here in Paris finally found a day where we all were free. It only took a month but better late than never! We all were coming from different directions so we decided on meeting at the entrance but I got lucky and found Katie on my walk from the train to the castle of Versailles!

Katie and I started our tour around the castle with our free audio guides might I add. Thank goodness for them because I learned A LOT, and I mean a lot. When it comes to learning about history typically the information goes over my head but this was short, sweet and fairly interesting.

Courtney and Julie met us in the hall of mirrors until deciding that we all really just wanted food; priorities. 

The day started off beautiful only to turn to rain at the exact time we were heading out to the gardens. Just our luck, but it didn’t stop us from attempting to see as much as we could.

We ended the tour with a trip the gift shop for the essential postcards! I’ve sent one home from each new city that I have gone to so far so i’ll be able to see what I’ve seen and done when I get home. Versailles is new city number 3 of the year I’d like to point out, which means another goal crossed off the list for this year! I’m also 1/3 through my first french novel which is another thing I want to accomplish before the year is up!

Without struggle there is no progress.

Not only is it the phrase that gave me strength to be the woman I am today but it will be on me until the day I die.IMG_1017

We often reflect on the hard times in the past and see them as negative, which is the obvious response when we experience things we’re not particularly happy or fond of. What about if those experiences shaped who we are today and are the reason for the current lifestyle we live. I know that would change my thoughts on my past completely.
Would I be living this life in Paris today if I hadn’t of gone through what I have in the past few years of my life? Probably not, actually no there’s no probably about it.

I’m here in this city because of those times but now I no longer see them as being bad or unfortunate for happening. At the time yes, when things wouldn’t go as planned and life seemed to change directions every single day, I felt a sense of failure almost. Failure in the sense that I didn’t know what was next; unprepared even.

I’m 21.

I’m not perfect.

I’ll never be perfect,

but i’m me.

I need to continue to remind myself this each and everyday. Being a perfectionist I always feared doing the wrong, but what truly defines the wrong when you are the only one who can decide where your life goes. I definitely am not eager to come across failures in my life but I do believe that with every negative comes an ever larger positive. Of course as anything it all takes time. Did I wake up the next morning after deciding that I needed a fresh start and know exactly what I wanted to do? Nope, but sooner than I thought life worked it’s way out and lead me here.

As my mother tried to instill into me when I was young girl, and still to this day reminds me of, “life is not perfect”. Of course I took the hard way and didn’t listen but I learnt from it and I truly believe that much stronger from the struggles I’ve faced. As much as we want our plans in life to pan out the way we foresee them, sometimes obstacles may open more opportunities that wouldn’t have had.

Staying Positive when negativity arises

Everyone’s initial thought when they are told that their flight is cancelled is going to be a let down, disappointment and pure frustration because we’re human, we have emotions. I’ve currently been sitting at this airport for the past 7 hours with no intentions on leaving anytime soon. I’ve been told when my next connection flight will be which is unfortunately over a day later than planned but there’s a good chance that I’ll be spending the night in this airport along with the other frustrated passengers.

Of course this messes everything up with my arrival in Paris as I now will be coming into CDG a whole day later (the day i’m supposed to start work). I guess this means my first day of work is going to consist of a not so good performance from me. Sorry P. More than likely I’m not going to sleep and on top of that there’s the jet lag, but staying positive is the key. Seriously though what will negativity do to this situation?

1. It’s not the ladies fault sitting at the desk that this plane had mechanical issues making me miss my connection.

2. I get to stay longer in an airport with TIm Hortons, boo yeah!

3. I’m creating interesting memories because no one wants to hear about a boring story.

4. The longer i’m around Canadians the better. I’ve met so many people just by sitting here waiting for our flight.

5. There’s a good chance I will be staying all day in Montreal tomorrow in a hotel so once again, a story!

Surprisingly I haven’t been “bored” yet. Now everyone’s description of what that means is obviously going to be different but i’ve been able to find things to keep myself occupied. How long this will last is another question, but until then i’m going to keep the positive vibes flowing. All I can say is thank god for free wi-fi. I’m able to blog, keep in contact with my family and actually have started a few introductory courses of my nutrition program i’m starting in march!

With every unexpected situation you have two choices. You can complain and be negative about the problem or take it as a opportunity to create memories to last a lifetime. Okay, maybe spending 2 days in an airport isn’t quite a memory but it’s defiantly the first time that I have had any issues with travelling.

What do you do when you’re stuck in an airport?

FLIGHT BOOKED

After watching the price of flights to Paris rise over the weekend, I stuck it out and listened to every article that I found online about the best time to book flights being on a Tuesday. They were completely right in my case anyways. The one way flight to Paris in August with a 4 hour layover in Frankfurt was $530 last week, then spiked to $700 over the weekend and then today it was back down to $530 this morning. Let’s just say, I BOOKED MY FLIGHT ! I finally convinced my father that a one way ticket is just as cheap as buying a return so a one way it was!

A tip for booking flights! Don’t base the prices of flights just by looking at one search provider. I used several including, fligthhub, studentuniverse, statravel and finally came across ebookers. Ebookers was $70 cheaper for the same flight so DO YOUR RESEARCH!

I feel so relieved and less stressed now that I just did it without even thinking twice. I am so frugal with my money so to be able to just spend that much money on something must mean this trip is of importance to me. I’m sitting here at my desk wanting to share my excitement but sadly there is no one around, so I guess writing it will have to do for now!

What else have I been up to? 

  • I got in contact with Condor to discuss the baggage rules and it’s only $85 extra to bring a second checked suitcase of 50lbs so I have decided that I am going to do that because there is no way that I can pack for 4 seasons in one bag along with the gifts for my host family. Last weekend I went out and bought two 28 inch suit cases; one blue and one hot pink which i hope will be enough space! Anything is better than the little 25 inch one I was attempting to use before.

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  • I have enrolled and received confirmation of my french lessons which I needed to do in order for my host family to be able to take my contract to the DIRECCTE in order to get stamped.
  • I BOOKED MY FLIGHTS
  • oh yeah, I graduated college, no biggie!

Now I guess I just have to wait (hopefully no longer than 2 weeks) for my contract to be approved and then wait again for them to mail it back to me here in Canada. Next step after that is to gather all of my necessary documents and stuff them in an envelope and send to the french consulate in Montreal. They finally got in contact with me and for some reason I don’t have to make an appointment, yet everyone else I have talked to has had to which kind of scares me. I guess it should be fine because I do have proof of the consulate in Montreal stating that it is okay to mail my documents so I will use that for reference.

What you will miss about Canada when you go abroad

I didn’t realize how much I missed so many little things until I came back for this Christmas break. The first four months of being abroad, I focused manly on becoming accustomed to the Parisian lifestyle and neglected to even think about what my life used to be like. It’s not that they aren’t as advanced or that we’re behind in the world, it’s just the difference in the two cultures which are actually quite different.

All I can say is god, I love being Canadian.

1. Dollarama.

I don’t think i’ve ever taken something for granted as much as I did the poor old dollar store back home. I miss those little knick knacks that you can get for a measly dollar whereas in France everything is so much more expensive.

2. Tim Hortons. Say goodbye to timbits and highly addictive coffee if you plan on going abroad, at least to France that is. A café allonge which Is their largest coffee is about the size of a small at Tim Hortons making it very expensive if you’re a coffee addict like myself.

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3. Cold water. I don’t know about you but I like my water with ice cubes in it and good luck finding any of those here. Water is either served still or sparkling and more often than not in a wine bottle.

4. Snow. I complain about it all winter when I have to be immersed in it but now that I’m away from it I realize that it really is a beautiful thing.

5. The people This has been a huge challenge for me since being in France. Canadians are nice, simple as that. They want to talk to you and take pleasure in having a lengthy conversation instead of the Parisians which consider a “bonjour” sufficient. I find that the Parisians tend to be stand offish which makes me miss home even more.

5. Hockey. Whether you’re just a spectator or grew up playing the sport it part of being a Canadian and it’s something that has been a big part of my life. Sorry Europe but soccer has got nothing on the good old hockey game.

6. Country Music. I ‘m almost ashamed at the fact that I went 4 months without listening to a single track of country music. Luke Bryan has been missed that’s for sure.

7. The Outdoors. Canada has never looked so beautiful after being away trapped in a small city. Paris is gorgeous don’t get me wrong but nothing beats the natural beauty that this Country has.

8. We’re Polite. The first thing I noticed when I came back to Canada was how often we actually do say “sorry”.

9. You will learn to live with the cold.  When people learn that I’m from Canada they instantly think that I should be immune to the cold but the fact of the matter is that we just know how to deal with it.

10. Our lingo. I don’t know how many people will call me out on how I say “out and about” or “milk in a bag”. Here is a list of words you will only understand if you’re Canadian. Click here. 

Of course I’m biased to Canada because I have grown up here but after travelling to other parts of the world I really believe that I am from one of the best places on earth. No matter where I go in life I will always be proud of where I come from.