I decided on my walk home from a late dinner with Mercedes that my favorite part of the day in France is night. After I put the five year old to bed, Mercedes and I left at around 8:30 for an evening rendez-vous in the center of town, which I had never seen before. We wound up at a chic creperie and dined on ham, egg, tomato and mushroom crepes with a bottle of excellent cider and polished it off with one chocolate dessert crepe for the two of us.
SGL reminds me of Boston in the sense that everything tends to close quite early in the evening, with the exception of a few upscale restaurants and bistros here and there. Scattered across the sidewalk enjoying the relatively warm evening were elderly couples, young couples, and of course, because it's a Thursday night, young men smoking and swallowing gulps of wine out of green bottles.
But never the less, all was tranquil. The town is quiet for the most part unperturbed in the evening, and you'll not find the ribble rabble of all the young rebels the way you would in Paris, a city which brims over with life, because it is the rich and chic who live here. This is not to say that Paris is not an affluent or chic place, but rather to say that Paris is a city with many souls, whereas SGL, from what I can tell, can be taken at face value.
I still, however, love the night. I love the night because it is the time of day where I can reflect on what has passed during the previous hours, where I can sit here and write my meditations. I love the night because after the hustle and bustle of children from 4:30 to 8:30, I can repose--alone--in my room or go out with friends. Alone time is sacred for me because I need the time to process my environment and reflect, and in the night, I can do so. I love the night because Paris is illumined and alive and lovely.
Today was an improvement on the previous few days. I had to go to pedagogical training in St. Ouen-l'Aumone, and even though it was inefficient and pointless, it was such a relief to spend time with people my age, and even more reassuring to know we're all confused about the same things. There are 20 assistants teaching English to elementary school students in the department of Val d'Oise, and of those 20, 3 are young men, which makes for many a female. I'm lucky to get a long with most of them. After we finished training earlier than expected, we migrated en masse and hopped on the RER back towards Paris.
There are two girls from Canada--I'll just call them les Canadiennes--who are hilarious and lovely. One just finished a masters (I'll call her Canada 1) and another worked in PR (Canada 2), so they're a few years older than I am. Since they knew each other for a while before coming to France, they share a minuscule apartment in the 2nd arrondissement in Paris which costs a pretty penny, but as they emphasize, is worth every cent. There's also a girl I'll call Jersey, a recent college grad like myself, who finished her studies at Grinnell and is taking time off from school. After that you have Manchester, who's 20 and still a student from England; Santa Cruz, who was an assistant last year in Grenoble and is very sweet; Birmingham, whom, I think, was quite hungover this morning and whispering sardonic as all hell comments to me as we sat through the most asinine DVD, bless her soul; and Heidleberg, a lovely girl, and the only, as you can guess, German language assistant in our group.
On the RER, Canada 1 and 2, Jersey, Santa Cruz, and I were all chatting about what a waste of time training was (it's particularly true, I'm sorry to say...) and how we should all socialize, with which I am in total agreement. The difficulty, however, is that I don't have much free time. I've traded, willingly, some free time for financial security here in France, so the result is that I have Friday evenings and weekends free. As for school vacations...don't know how that will work yet.
The family is very accommodating and they've made it clear that they want me to go out on weekends if I like, but being an au pair is difficult work. You have to have an immense amount of patience because the children fight all the time, the little ones don't want to do homework or take a bath or eat, and you don't get much down time. Mercedes and I were discussing this and sharing observations over crepes. The experience only serves to reinforce the fact that I do NOT want to have kids of my own anytime remotely in the near future. Nevertheless, she and I were talking about taking advantage of the free time we have, which is more so true for her than it necessarily is for me. She's 24, and because the economy of Argentina is much less stable, it's more difficult and even more expensive for Argentinians in general to get to Europe. Whereas she's finished her studies and works in the tourist industry, and will most likely go straight back to work when she returns, I know that if I continue on the path I'm on, there are many, many more trips to France to be had. So while I have exchanged free time for financial security, I know that if I do a grad degree here next year, life will be quite different.
For now, though, I wont worry myself with the details. I'll just enjoy the evening.