Le retour

After yesterday’s teaser, I figured it was time for a more substantive Life Update. I’ve been avoiding the topic of our return as long as possible, but now that 2019 is upon us, it’s time to face the fact that Colin and I will be back in the U.S. next month. I’m not thrilled about that development (as yesterday’s post probably made clear…), but c’est la vie.

When we set out on this grand aventure last year, we definitely expected to love Paris, but we never expected to love Paris so much. I had steeled myself for a difficult transition, a year of feeling overwhelmed and out of place. And while I would say that both of those things are true – I do often feel overwhelmed and out of place here – they don’t characterize my life in the way I was afraid. I feel more at home in Paris than anywhere I’ve lived before, despite the complications of being a foreigner abroad.

That was true even from our first hours here. I remember collapsing on our new bed in our new apartment after our red-eye trans-Atlantic flight exactly 11 months ago and hearing the Sunday morning church bells – from Notre Dame, Hôtel de Ville, and the countless other churches nearby – ring out across the city. I can hear the bells of Notre Dame! I remember thinking happily. That was the first moment I fell in love with Paris. I’ve been falling more and more in love ever since.

Okay, but I know you’re wondering—if you love Paris so much, why are you leaving? To be honest, this is something Colin and I ask ourselves often. The short answer is that immigration to France is difficult and expensive, surviving on one income is harder than we’d hoped, and finding work opportunities for me from abroad would be a special kind of challenging. On top of that, people are expecting us to come back—Colin’s boss, for one, plus our families.

Distance from family is actually an interesting topic, though. When we left last February, that was the #1 reason we thought we wouldn’t stay. We couldn’t imagine living so far from our parents, grandparents, niece and nephew. But after having been here a year and seeing how other people manage, it seems less significant an obstacle. Transatlantic flights can be comparable in price to domestic flights, so if we lived here longer, we’d just commit to flying back to the States a couple times a year—which is about how often we see our families anyway. And between FaceTime, Skype, and WhatsApp, we still talk to everyone as often as ever.

So, uh, what comes next?

In the short term, we’ll be leaving France on January 31, when our lease ends (our visas expire a few days later). We’ll spend a few days with our friend Ben in London (where this year began!), which is conveniently not part of the Schengen Area and so not under the jurisdiction of our visas, and then the three of us will take a trip to Morocco—because we want to ease the transition away from Paris with a mini vacation, because Morocco is not in the EU, because it’s warm in the winter, and because it’s inexpensive.

Then, in mid-February, we’ll fly back to the States.

And what then? What’ll you do in the States?

Well, Colin has a job in St. Louis (a continuation of his research in Boston and Paris) that will keep us there for at least a while. Since we’re not returning to Boston, I won’t be returning to my old job, so my own career is in a state of flux. Anyone want to pay me to do something? I’m open to suggestions.

I grew up in St. Louis so the city isn’t unfamiliar to us, but culturally it will be quite a shock. Boston or Paris it is not. I used to dream about moving back one day, but now I can’t imagine it.

Do you think you’ll come back to Europe?

Absolutely, one way or another. We will definitely return to Greece for Colin’s fieldwork, which he’ll continue every summer for as long as he has grant funding. As for whether we’ll come back longer term, who knows? Luckily Colin’s position as a researcher means that we could probably find a way back through fellowships or sabbaticals if we wanted to.

But what am I going to do without my weekly Practice Makes Parfait?!

I’m not going anywhere! I have loads of photos and stories that I haven’t shared yet, and to work towards my dream of living in France again one day, I’ve already scouted out French language meet-ups in St. Louis, so the embarrassing blog fodder should continue. Just call me a glutton for punishment.

Sigh. I’m sad that you’re leaving.

Not as sad as me. But the upside: I hear there’s good barbecue in St. Louis, and you literally can’t find an apartment as small as the one we have in Paris, so we’ll have room for visitors! We might not have any furniture, though, since we donated it all before moving abroad. If you visit, it’ll be BYOB: Bring Your Own Bed.

Paris, je t’aime toujours.

2 thoughts on “Le retour

  1. So, Claire. How’s St. Louis working out for you? We live in Kansas City and are in lockdown. But the sun is shining and a few daffodils are blooming and this Virus thing will, eventually, end. We hope. Sending you the best.


  2. Thanks for the note! Spring is in the air here too, which definitely brings some lightness to these stressful days. I’ve even been contemplating blogging again, now that I have extra time on my hands. Take care!


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