Sunday, August 29, 2010
Shopping. The simple, sometimes perfunctory, sometimes fun, often gratifying act of searching for and purchasing goods for yourself and/or your family. We have been doing some back-to-school shopping for Raelyn and Nola. We have discovered that although the exchange rate keeps the clothing from being a true bargain, there are amazing children's clothes at great prices, better quality, and that are more fashion-forward too. Much to my surprise, I do not understand how to shop in Paris (yet!). I am a great shopper. Most people I know are probably aware that I'm a little too good at it. However, if you were to ask any Parisian who happened to be in my midst as I shopped over the past week, they would likely have a different opinion of my shopping skills and knowledge. Apparently, there is an unspoken and unwritten code of French shopping rules and ethics that venture above and beyond the one rule that I have read about: Always, upon entering a store, greet the owner/employee/cashier with, "Bonjour Madame/Monsieur." I've got that rule down. I even kid myself that I say it so well they can't even tell I'm a foreigner. That bubble burst quickly when my lack of manners in other areas pertaining to shopping quickly indicated that I was not at all French. First, I asked Soren, who was returning an item that did not work out, to request the original receipt back (in case we needed it later to return anything else). I was pleased with myself that I remembered to think of this and knew that Soren, even if he butchered the request a little bit, would still get his point across through pointing, miming, and all the other tricks he's been using to communicate in French. The cashier's response to his request, which he actually spoke quite eloquently, was an abrupt version of essentially, "No! We are keeping it." And with that, the cashier stapled our original receipt to the return receipt and filed it away. There was no customary exchange of goodbye pleasantries after this either (no "au revoir", or "bonne journée"). We felt dismissed so we just slinked away wondering why in the world it was so important for a modern, computerized store to hang on to our receipt. Target always gives us our original receipt back. As luck would have it, Raelyn later decided that the coat we purchased on that original receipt was a bit uncomfortable and she would like to return it. I had to explain that the coat was a keeper, like it or not. Guess what she said? "Target always lets us return things with our credit card and not even the receipt." I miss Target right now. Fast forward a week later when I did not have Soren along as my usual crutch and I was venturing into the underground shopping world of Les Halles with the girls. This was not a planned shopping outing. I had taken the girls to the Les Halles park but the day had grown somewhat humid and the best part of the park was under construction and not at all accessible. The parts of the park that were available were a bit too young for the girls' interests. So, even though I recalled from my previous Paris trips that the shopping forum that lay below us was not my first choice of shopping destinations (to me it feels like I'm in a metro station that happens to be a shopping mall- too crowded, too smelly, too windowless), it seemed like a decent idea at the time. My first mistake (second actually, my first mistake was venturing down to the forum in the first place) was that I got too brave and did not keep my own boundary limited to window shopping. We went into a shoe store. The girls need new shoes and they are trying to decide what to get. I see a shoe and I pick it up, turn it over, and look for a price. I hear someone talking behind me. They keep talking. Next, I feel a nudge. It's a customer poking my shoulder. She is trying to get me to pay attention to the store clerk who is fervently trying to tell me, and now gesturing to me, that I need to put the shoe back where it belongs on display. I am so caught off-guard that I completely forget my French manners and don't say "Je suis désolé," because, in my moment of embarrassment, every word of French that I know has completely left my brain. It would have been easier if I did not know how to apologize in French, then maybe I could have had my own personal sense of humor about it. But knowing I know the words for "I'm sorry," and not being able to recall them when I most needed to felt terrible. My only move at that point- get out, and fast! So we did. Of the shoe store. My third mistake was not getting out of the Les Halles completely at that point. Instead, I let Raelyn talk me into going into H & M. They are a cookie cutter operation. If I can shop at an H & M back home, I can shop at an H & M in Paris right? Wrong. More unwritten rules to be broken here too. Raelyn was in the dressing room. Nola and I were sitting outside on the bench facing her dressing room door. The dressing room attendants were busy with customers so I fetched Raelyn another size of what she needed. Upon returning to the dressing rooms, I see that a line of customers had formed. They were waiting for an available dressing room. Since the attendant had previously checked us into a room, I passed by the line and walked the item to Raelyn's door. Upon which, the attendant rushed to me and spoke animatedly while pointing to the end of the line. I was determined not to get flustered this time. In my best French, I politely said, "Pour ma fille, Madamoiselle," and motioned to the door where Raelyn stood behind. How could she think that the tiny leggings that I am holding in my hands were for anything but my daughter? But no, apparently, this did not matter. The attendant continued to gesture towards the back of the line. I was resolute and said, "Je suis désolé. Je parle seulement anglais. Pour ma fille." I again gestured towards Raelyn, who by now, had opened the dressing room door. I even took a step towards her to hand her the leggings. In English, the attendant explained, "No madame. Because there is line. You must wait." Do they want to sell my kids some clothes or not? Apparently, marketing strategies and keeping the customer happy are not prime motivators at this H and M. Do they really expect Raelyn to stand half-naked in the dressing room for who-knows-how-long before I get to the front of the line to pass her the leggings? So I improvised. I told the attendant, "Non, merci." and sat down on the bench with Nola while Raelyn began to get dressed. "Quick!" I said to Raelyn, "Take the leggings!" The attendant had turned the other way as she was helping the next customer in line and her back was turned towards us. I then realized that I did not want her to turn around and see me empty-handed for surely she would know what I had done. I had Raelyn hand me the other pair of leggings so as not to arouse suspicion. Then it occurred to me that I would have to explain to my daughters why I was breaking the rules. Drat! I decided that a rule cannot be broken if it isn't written down.
Wednesday, August 25, 2010
We ventured back, earlier in the day this time, to Paris's Catacombs. I'll let the photos do the talking.
I really don't need to convince myself any further, but this article is the icing on the cake.
Today marks three weeks since we arrived in Paris for one year. Shhh, don't tell anyone in Paris that piece of data, we want people to want to invest in getting to know us. If they know we are leaving in one year, why would they bother? Oh yea, cuz we really are that cool. (I take the liberty of applying self-affirmations to my whole family as you can see). Anyhoo, the past three weeks have felt like a long vacation, and London just felt like a vacation from our vacation. During the 2+ hour train ride back to Paris (when I tried to not think about being submerged under the English Channel the same way I try to zen-out when on Bart in the TransBay Tube) I caught up on the news of the day by reading a discarded London newspaper. I read about British teen students who had just received their test scores that help determine their placement at University this coming year. There are too many eligible candidates and too few available spaces at Universities across the U.K. So student advisors, more so than ever before, are recommending a "gap year" where former students gain life and work experience prior to attending University. (This is not a very attractive solution presently since unemployment is high and jobs are scarce. I'm thankful that I am not a recent graduate facing this dilemma.) It occurred to me then that my family is taking our own "gap year". I found myself feeling comforted by this notion. Here's why. For the past year, I have privately questioned the wisdom and logic of plucking our kids out of their very nice life in the U.S. that includes being surrounded by loving family, close friends, great neighbors, a supportive school, a nice house, and an appealing city. It's one thing to want to shake things up as an adult for your own personal reasons, or to move away because your job is being transferred or because you want to be geographically closer to the grandparents. These reasons seem logical to me. But to impose an elective shake-up of this magnitude on our kids when the simple, honest answer to their repeated question of, "Tell us again why we are moving to Paris?" is, "Because we can," seems indulgent to me. When I put our upcoming indulgent year in the context of a "gap year", my own privately repeated question of, "Why are we moving ourselves to Paris?" is easily answered. I actually started fantasizing about having Raelyn and Nola not register for school at all and simply let life abroad continue to be their teacher. Already in our first three weeks , they have been exposed to new concepts, ideas, and ways of being. Some are more drastic than others. Here are some examples: Living without a car and walking everywhere or taking public transportation. Mustering the courage to utter a few polite words in another language that they have yet to learn and master. Exposure to the metric system. Reading maps. Shopping almost daily for food because our refrigerator isn't large enough to hold but a few meals worth of food. Trying new foods. Realizing that Sundays are meant to be a day of rest and exploration because we can't shop since stores are closed (so retro!). Performing daily mathematic conversions in their heads to figure out how much something really costs because when you're spending your U.S. dollars here, it's pays to shop smart. Remembering to scrape the plates clean over the garbage can because there is no luxury of a garbage disposal. Telling time, military-style. Living with fewer things within less space. Sharing a bedroom. Sleeping on square instead of rectangular pillows. Walking vigilantly down the street so as not to step in dog poop. And there is lots of dog poop (which is increasing by the day as Parisians are flocking back to the city from their vacances). Of all these life experience gems, so far, my favorite is this: Raelyn and Nola were playing on the play structure at the park across the street from our apartment building. A girl about Raelyn's age approached her and said something in French. To which Raelyn replied beautifully, "Je suis désolé. Je parle seulement un petit français." To which the girl responded with a smile, "English?" Raelyn grinned and nodded and they played happily for quite some time after that. That's all the proof I need to know that our gap year is off to a very rewarding start.
Monday, August 23, 2010
London turned out to be a great last-minute excursion for 5 days. This city had never held much appeal for me. I have never been enthralled with royalty, I have never been a bland meat n' potatoes gal, nor does classical British (Gothic, Roman, Tudor, etc.) design and decor catch my fancy, and I have never heard of the weather being highly desirable. And shopping? I can do that anywhere, who needs London for that? Or so I thought. First, I learned that as far as British royalty goes, in my personal opinion, Buckingham Palace, although palatial I suppose, is not very pretty. It's just a big ol' building with a big ol' gate surrounded by lots of concrete. There are no flowers, bushes, hedges, trees, or landscaping of any sort to soften its gray, stony appearance. I think the Windsors can afford at least a few plants. I'm sure the guards can water them, they don't seem to have much to do besides standing there and occasionally marching from one spot to another. I'm sure they'd be glad to break up their boredom with an additional task and getting in touch with nature. Maybe their tall black hats could be used for planters? Soren had set my expectation that the food offerings would be classically British and I was pleasantly surprised to find that healthy, delicious meals were always easy to find. Not a Fish & Chips nor Bangers and Mash passed these lips. We ate salads, sushi, pasta, and more. One day, we purchased the 24 hour bus tour (thanks Jane!) and yes, we were those tourists on one of those iconic double-decker tour buses. It was a great way to see the sights. What we lost in depth by not venturing inside certain sights due to tired and hungry kids, we gained in efficiency by viewing the whole of London from the confines of our topless upper deck with the wind in our hair and a comical (and surprisingly not cheesy) tour guide. This experience provided me with a newfound appreciation for the architecture and design of both the old buildings and the city itself. I love how after the great fire London was rebuilt around it's original medieval plan and the little medieval lanes still exist between contemporary highrise buildings. We had only a bit of rain, nothing that kept us indoors or under umbrellas for long. And we did see a bit of sun. And the shopping? Well, I did a lot of damage. A whopping seven pounds for a scarf. We thought Paris was expensive. Compared to London, Paris is a bargain-fest! Shopping in London helped me get more in touch with my inner French girl in that I only want to buy what I truly love and what will stand the test of time. My closet space is limited for the year afterall. And it helps too if I need it and not just want it. But I lucked out, I not only felt a need for a scarf (every stylish European woman under 80 is wearing a scarf and if everyone is doing it, then the fashionista in me translates this into need), the scarf that I fell in love with was only 7 pounds. I've been well-trained by Soren to know that really equals around 11 dollars. Still a bargain in my mind. And it also relieves my guilt about spending anything on a scarf when I have several left behind at home-home in the interest of not bringing too many to Paris. Although my mom, who helped me pack, probably has a different opinion on this matter. And Harrods? Wow. Wow, wow, wow. But I felt more in my element browsing around in Selfridges. Also a wow. Both overwhelming. I am definitely not a Harrods gal. I guess that explains why I'm happy with my 7 pound scarf. (My blog isn't letting me post photos for some reason so I'll trouble-shoot that and get some London photos up soon).
Tuesday, August 17, 2010
We had been invited by Annie & Claude (mentioned in "Our First Social Outing" post) to come to their B&B in the champagne region in a town called Gye-sur-Seine. We were looking forward to this outing for a few reasons; spending more time with their daughter Nathalie & her husband David, exploring other regions of France, and renting a car. Well, Soren was excited for that anyway. Me, not so much. I don't plan on using my international drivers license at all during our year abroad. But I digress. Anyhoo, Nathalie's baby decided to pretend that he was going to make an early entrance into the world two days ago so Annie called to apologetically explain that they had to postpone their invitation to us. So, we went into Plan B mode which was to book a trip to Nice instead. This was our original plan that we had had in place and canceled upon our invitation to the B&B. Just before purchasing our train tickets to Nice it occurred to me that Raelyn would probably be miserable having to sit on the sidelines due to her cast while Nola frolicked in the hotel pool and ocean. Nice and the Cote d'Azur will have to wait until next summer when Raelyn is cast free and can swim again. So, Plan C, which seems to be where we're netting out in the alphabet of plans these days became a 5-day excursion to London. We made the reservations last night and we leave on the train in 2 hours. I'm really glad we can't drive to the U.K from Paris. I have never been to the U.K. before and the only time Soren has been to London he was struck with food poisoning. So, it will be a new exploration for us all. My fears? The food. My excitements? Being in an English-speaking country and going to the newsstand to purchase English magazines and newspapers. Oh- and in case you were wondering, Nathalie's baby decided he was nice and cozy in her tummy afterall and she has been sent back home on bed rest. Annie called to let us know this an hour ago and reinstate her invitation to come tomorrow to the B&B. Oh well. We're happy with our Plan C.
Sunday, August 15, 2010
Yesterday we set out to visit Paris's underground graveyard, simply called, Catacombes. This is a huge complex of subterranean caverns stacked floor to ceiling with skeletons, (real ones!), about 6 million of them. Upon exiting the Metro station and crossing the street, reality set in that the crowd of people lining the sidewalk were in line waiting to enter the Catacombes. The line looped around the entire block. We took our place at the end of the line and quickly surmised that the wait would be too long. So we bailed and came up with a plan B. Plan B was to walk the surrounding neighborhood in search of the bedding store we had seen an ad for (so as to fix our bed crack). We had also remembered a yummy creperie restaurant in the area and we had successfully built up the excitement factor for our Plan B by promising a yummy crepe to the girls. Mother Nature, in the form of rain, dumped on our plan B, making walking without jackets and umbrellas pretty uncomfortable, especially when we didn't know exactly where we were gong. After ducking for cover under awnings and still getting pretty wet, the girls were growing hungry and cold and the creperie was nowhere to be found, so we ducked into the Galeries Lafayette to dry off and warm up. Picture ducking into Sun Valley Mall. Picture again, Sun Valley Mall, and its food offerings. You get where I'm going with this? Instead of sitting outdoors on cane chairs alongside a Parisian boulevard enjoying a sweet crepe and the accompanying people-watching, we wound up at the equivalent of a Cinnabon that served undrinkable cappuccinos, cramped in a corner on uncomfortable bar stools. This was not my idea of fun. I did not come to Paris to hang out at and eat in Sun Valley Mall. I was pretty soured upon our day at this point. Enter Plan C. Finding a movie theater that shows movies in English became our next mission of the day. We succeeded and headed to the theater near Paris's beautiful Opera to catch a showing of "The Sorcerer's Apprentice". Afterward, we wound our way back to our neighborhood in search of a restaurant with outdoor seating. The rain had stopped and we were intent on dining al fresco. We came upon a quaint little square surrounded by restaurants with outdoor seating on all sides. The only one with a bit of available seating was the Korean BBQ joint. Diners were eating from their own individual woks with flames underneath. Nola especially liked the idea of eating with a flame underneath your food. Turns out, it was a very delicious meal and we were treated to live music by a wandering musician. By now, I was feeling satisfied with our day; my needs had been met and Sun Valley Mall was just a small speck within the context of an otherwise dandy make-it-up-as-you-go-along kind of day. (My apologies for the sideways video).
Thursday, August 12, 2010
Ladies, the polls are now open. Cast your vote for EuroMan right here on this very blog! Candidates entries were not formally submitted. Candidates credentials were based on subjective criterion. These included, but were not limited to; wearing a scarf, smoking a cigarette, hair that is perfectly coiffed, carrying a man-purse, crossing one's legs, wearing a sweater over the shoulders, riding a bike, wearing a hat, and/or possessing that indefinable "ooh la la" quality specific to the European male. Winners will not be notified. They probably already know they possess the ooh la la stuff anyway.
Wednesday, August 11, 2010
|Paris really is the city of love.
|Rats really do live in big cities. And they die there too.
|There is something beautiful to view every time you turn around.
|The French really do have that "savoir faire".
|A woman's work is never done.
|There really is a boulangerie on every block.
Parisians really do treat their dogs like people.
Monday, August 9, 2010
Last winter, when Soren was in Paris, he was invited to dine at the home of his grandmother's cousin, Annie, & her husband, Claude. They have a daughter, Nathalie who is married to David. They too were at the dinner. At that time, they told Soren to keep in touch and to contact them when we move to Paris. Soren did, and yesterday, David & Nathalie invited us to their home in Creteil which is a suburb 15 minutes outside of Paris. Due to ongoing train track repairs, it was not possible for us to get there without a car so David picked us up at our apartment in his little Renault. David speaks about the same amount of English as Soren does French. This means that communication is choppy, lot's of "ums &uhs" while searching for words, and lots of butchering of verb tenses, all while heavily accented. Lots of chuckles in between the butchering. It's very charming in my opinion. David has a great sense of humor and is very playful and lighthearted so there were no uncomfortable silences. Only when he left the room to get the champagne and tarte de pomme from the kitchen was there a moment where Soren was grasping for something to say in French to Nathalie. Nathalie does not speak a word of English. It was hard to tell if she is shy or if it was purely a language barrier issue. She probably wondered the same about me. She seems perfectly nice and she is pregnant with their first child, a boy, due in September. And did I mention the champagne? At 3:00 in the afternoon. Pretty nice. They live on a lake and we walked around it. By this time, the day had grown quite humid which, when combined with our jetlag, the tarte de pomme, and the champagne, contributed to our sluggishness. Upon arriving at an amazing park across the lake that had approximately 10 separate play structures, the girls had energy for one spin on the whatchamacallit and then they were done. Back at David's apartment we had one brief music jam (he is a jazz musician and music teacher) and off we went, chauffered back to our apartment. It was a lovely afternoon. And I said about two and a half things in French today so only onwards and upwards from here.
So I realized why two twins are pushed together to make a king size bed. It's a very practical thing to do given the size of doorways, hallways, stairways, and elevators here. No way you could fit a king size mattress through any of these passages successfully. I am still curious how they manage to cuddle comfortably. I imagine it goes something like this, "Honey, tonight we'll spoon on your side of the bed, okay?"
Sunday, August 8, 2010
So here we are in our beautiful French aparment. Its decor does make me feel like I am living a Parisienne life albeit a bit more fluffy, floral, and overdone than the more contemporary, modern Parisienne I like to consider myself to be. Those kinds of modern apartments are available, and we did view our fair share, but it was not meant to be as none of them were in our price range. I couldn't resist- after one day here I flitted around our new home and edited various objects; candlesticks, vases, and pot-pourri dishes which have a new home up high in the kitchen. Out of sight, out of mind. Don't get me wrong, I am not complaining. I really do like it here. For 1000 square feet, there is an open feeling within the main living space, the bedrooms are good size, and even better, there is a lot of storage which is very rare for a French apartment. Our apartment has lots of tall windows and even though I could do without the heavy floral curtains, each window has a window box on the exterior. I have always loved window boxes. The catch; I have to keep these potted flowers alive- oh, the pressure! Not to mention the beautiful pink orchid on the dining table. I have never managed to keep one of those alive for long. The one complaint I do have however, is the crack that runs down the middle of our king-size bed. I never understood why Europeans push two twins together to form a king-size bed when clearly, entirely intact king-sizes do exist. Do Europeans not like to cuddle? Are they not aware of the chasm in the middle of the bed? How do they make this work for them? I figured that the way I will make it work for us is by purchasing and egg crate to lay over the mattress thus disguising the crack underneath the foam. Simple. That is, until I tried to find one. I went to our local Monoprix (picture a 2-story Target) and they had a mattress pad. One. That's it. For a twin size bed. Even if it was a king-size, it would have been too thin to mask the crack. My French skills are not even close to being intact enough for me to feel brave enough to inquire if they have any in the size I am seeking. So, with my problem-solving skills now in full-force, I logged onto the European Amazon.com, specifically the France site. My search for egg crate brought up some random items, none of them resembling anything close to an egg crate. A ha, I thought. I need to use the free translation website to find the correct search term in French. I translated every possible term I could think of that related to egg crate, mattress pad, bedding, etc. I have come to realize that the French must say "yes" to crack because I can't find a darn thing to help me cover up ours.
Friday, August 6, 2010
We have been exploring our neighborhood in le Marais these past couple of days. Learning where to shop, where to eat, where to exercise, etc. It is a stylish yet laidback and unstuffy neighborhood with lots of little hip fashionista boutiques (which I have yet to enter). There is an outdoor market every Thursday & Sunday. We purchased the most delectable mangue (mango), pamplemousse (grapefruit), and pêches (peaches) there. I say "we", but it was actually Soren doing the purchasing and speaking. I am shadowing him so that I can learn to do this on my own. I got a good chuckle when he asked for duex pomplemousse and walked away with douze (12)! Good thing the girls like to eat them. We searched yesterday for what is proving to be the elusive peanut butter. It is a staple for our family and we must have it. We finally found some in a market near the Jardin du Luxembourg. Skippy. Hello hydrogenated oils, not nice to see you again. It came home with us anyway. We stumbled upon a carnival in the Jardin des Tuileries where the girls rode bumper cars (4x!) and went in the Funhouse. (See video.) We rode the Metro yesterday to the US Embassy that was heavily guarded and we could not enter without an appointment. Nevertheless, the gate guard gave us very helpful info such as English speaking doctors, school info, etc. We toured two health clubs near our apartment. They are definitely not as nice as ClubSport or Oakwood, but they'll do the trick. The French are very peculiar about the workout towel. If we pay in full for the year upfront, then we get a workout towel everytime at no charge. Otherwise, we bring our own or pay 10e each time for a towel. Maybe we just won't sweat. Last night, along the Seine, a block from our apartment, there was a gathering of mostly locals swing dancing to American 1950's music while others were picnicking along the banks of the river. It was really fun to stroll along with our people-watching skills in full gear. Today's tasks: go on my first run here, continue unpacking, and find cell phones. The girls want to go back to the carnival.
Thursday, August 5, 2010
So, we've read a ton about the French and their bureaucratic ways; red tape galore and no deviations or exceptions to their regulations and rules. We learned today that we will probably be no exception to this norm. We went to the mairie, or town hall,to register the girls for public school. Last winter, when we declined their acceptance to the private bilingual school, we knew this decision was based firmly in our desire for Raelyn & Nola to have an authentic cultural and lingual experience. Naturally, we thought the public school could best provide this experience. And it will, if we can actually manage to get them enrolled. Enter red tape. Our desire to have the girls repeat the grades they just completed (3rd & 5th) so that their experience would not be marred by undue struggling in school (due to what we've heard about the French curriculum being more advanced than the U.S.) and to have Raelyn return to the U.S. and start fresh as a 6th-grader next year seems a natural demarcation to us, one that we put a lot of thought into to make sure she'll have the right fit both here and back home. We even had to come up with a term to describe this "fit" because Raelyn was having a hard time relating to the notion of being held back. Soren created the term "appropriately inserted" which, we believe, has a differnt connotation than "held back" does. Raelyn agrees (our brainwashing worked in other words). In addition, we want the girls attending the same school for comfort and ease both for us and for them. Just like in the U.S., 6th grade is the start of middle school or, college, as it is referred to here. Anyway, the girls are both young for their grades (by U.S. standards) and again, our thought process seems so logical to us, so well-suited to their needs and we really have become invested in making this happen. Not so fast, say the French. They must be enrolled in 4th & 6th grade here based on their dates of birth. Even if they had just completed 2nd & 4th grades in the U.S., their dates of birth places them in 4th & 6th grades here. But that's not the only glitch. The elementary school in our neighborhood or premiere as it is referred to here, is filled to capacity. It also does not provide the adaptation classes that we had thought all public schools provide for non-French speaking students. So where will Nola attend premiere? And will Raelyn attend premiere or college, and where? That will depend upon the result of our phone call to the inspecteur who, we were told, is the person with whom to speak to that will let us know if there can be an exception to the space issue as well as the grade issue. However, the inspecteur is on vacation until August 30 as are most residents of Paris. School begins September 2nd. Must. Remember. To. Take. Deep. Breath. Now. My need to know what to expect and how to plan is being challenged right away. I asked for this life challenge didn't I? What was I thinking? Oh yea, personal growth or some sort of BS like that which in this very moment, I have concluded, is overrated.
In the past year, I have been routinely amazed at the ease with which our planning for Paris has transpired. The new occupants of our WC home, Sallie & Joe, just happened to fall into our laps after we mentioned to a friend that our ideal tenants would be a retired, cat-loving couple. Our Paris apartment was discovered shortly after declining the girls' acceptance to the private school and realizing that we did not want to be limited to living only in that neighborhood near that school. Within a week of that difficult decision, we just happened to find an apartment in one of the most central and desirable neighborhoods in Paris that is in our price range and has everything we were looking for, including non-French landlords that speak English and want to do anything to make us happy, including purchasing a clothes dryer. Two weeks ago, our Paris babysitter just happened to materialize the day after Soren and I realized that finding one was going to be a priority upon our arrival in Paris. We didn't have to wait long. The next day, our friend Lori texted me the info of her church's childcare employee who just happened to be moving to Paris to study abroad for the year. And finally, as we were unloading our boxes curbside at SFO early Tuesday a.m., we notice that we are parked behind a sleek, black Porsche with a license plate that read, "au voir". Coincidence? Nah, just another little synchronicity like all the ones preceding it that confirm for us that we are following our path correctly and that the universe is saying, "Right on Kaplans!"