It's a kick and also an energy sapper. I'm talking about every single daily thing that is encountered. I do love it, though. Each experience is a lesson in language and culture, and I also enjoy the dual challenges of accomplishing the bureaucratic intricacies to success and doing so in French. If I wasn't going to love it, then why do this at my age? For example, trying to buy shoe inserts to cover the areas of the shoe that are causing blisters was an interesting exercise in pantomime. Buying laundry detergent, trash can liners, and most toiletries required more specific vocabulary than I have, so smiling, pointing and using really long explanatory phrases (which is my nature as a lawyer anyway) really went a long way. I'm quite proud of the end results.
Living the reality of Paris residency in the first few days is like moving into a new apartment anywhere in the western world. I have visited the neighborhood hardware store, the neighborhood grocery stores and the neighborhood drugstores three times each already. And let's not forget the cellphone store. I have visited no museums. This is the major difference from every single one of my many prior visits to Paris. And that's just fine.
However, dealing with a seriously leaking valve on the toilet in my apartment and ensuing flood of the bathroom floor all night last night wasn't quite the "reality of living in Paris" that I had in mind for my fourth night here. Ugh, getting up every couple of hours to bail out a full bucket of leaked water wasn't helping the jet lag recovery.
But, last night was last night. And today, I got to stand in line for an hour and a half to get a Navigo card for the métro. Will I need it? I'm not at all sure. Could I have just gotten individual tickets or a Navigo Découverte card for tourists? Yes, I suppose so. But, all this is part of the immersion. I'm stubborn that way. Anyway, during that time spent in line, watching probably thousands of travelers with luggage pass by me at Gare Montparnasse (or pass through me - I noticed that personal space wasn't respected much around there) on a Friday afternoon, I got to imagine where they were headed - a country house, the suburbs, another country? All by train! So exciting (yes, I still suffer from extreme naiveté and excitement over the most minor things). When it was my turn, I was over-ready, with passport, apartment lease and student ID card. I've found that being over-ready is what works. Being under-prepared and you lose in this game.
I am very excited about my Navigo card!
To which I can now add a Vélib subscription! At least that's done online, until I have to activate it (en français, bien sûr) at a Vélib kiosk when I'm ready to take my first ride in Paris traffic. And like the Paris American (or American Parisienne) that I am, I'll be the one wearing a bicycle helmet.