Update from last week: I bought an umbrella. It’s violet. It’s pretty. It casts a protective purple shadow and made this week’s one rainy day enjoyable and easy to deal with.
Now, I’m sitting in the sunlit apartment at the kitchen table — so long Starbucks, we have wee-fee. This Sunday will bring a métro ride over to Montmartre for a gathering of all the au pairs in my agency. I am also doing laundry, which after a short cycle (« cycle court » , who would have thought?), I will hang to dry in my room. From talking to other au pairs, it seems French families avoid using a dryer if they can. So for the rest of today and tomorrow until I get around to putting it away, my laundry will be taking up most of the space in my room, stretched out on a fold-out rack in front of my one big window that faces the center of the city.
So, a Sunday of laundry and a work party. Not too shabby, but also not that extraordinary. I have no plans to adventure toward unseen monuments or to get lost down winding streets. That could likely happen anyway, between hanging up the laundry and making my way to Montmartre. But it’s not on the itinerary.
Which brings me to why I was having trouble figuring out what to write today. After another week of walking around, ducking into bookshops, and asking in French after a bottle of cheap sparkling wine (« pas très cher, c’est pas grave si c’est pas le vrai Champage » ), I have realized that somehow, I have fallen into a routine. I get up, run, eat breakfast, work. Between drop-offs and pick-ups of children, I take the train to a new part of the city, do an errand, or just walk down a street until it ends to see what I find. I still make a point to do something new at least every few days, hopefully more than that. I try to get up early to leave more time for discovery, but just like at home, it is easy to keep snoozing when I have no set plans, no deadlines, no 9 a.m. brunch dates.
So, what did I do this week? Looking back, the thought came out: well, I did stuff, but it was a pretty normal week.
Wait, what? Normal?
It doesn’t seem possible. This is still Paris, right? How can anything be normal here for an outsider who struggles to understand what people around her are saying? Who has not been to every district, let alone every major monument? Who half the time does not know what she is even doing here?
When I walk down the street, I still register that I am in a city more beautiful than I have ever been in before. When I see a famous building, or an ancient statue, or the place where the heroes of generations have died, I always feel something. But here, that happens so much, constantly looping together with all of the beauty and all of the mundane, that it becomes almost normal to be in a state of awe at different points throughout the day. Walking randomly down a street past an ordinary flower stand whose colors inspire, or having a conversation with a bathroom attendant at the Jardin du Luxembourg after having forgotten to pay, but it’s « pas de problème » , no problem — it is all, like I said, so much. But apparently you can get used to so much.
This post is starting to get preachy, and I know that I swore to avoid that as much as possible, and I still know I can never really describe this place for what it is. But as of this week, I have started to feel normal here. Or here has started to feel normal to me.
Now … is my laundry done yet?