Friday, December 18, 2015

Necessities ... or at least that's what we're going to call them!

My Gien "Paris-Paris" tea cup that I like to use for coffee

We're moving -- literally and figuratively -- at a whirlwind pace! The movers came all the way from Prague yesterday afternoon to estimate the volume of our belongings and the real-estate agency showed our apartment to a French couple this morning. When the woman asked if we would sell our oversized Ikea closet in the master bedroom, I suddenly realized that they're going to take our apartment. Soon it will be the French couple's new home and we'll be ... what? Praguers? Come to think of it, what do you call people who live in Prague? That's another thing I'll have to learn.

In the meantime, there are still a couple of items that Stéphane and I are determined to acquire before we leave France. Our emotionally fraught excuse is that x, y and z are absolute necessities. These souvenirs will remind us of our days in Paris.

For me, it's Gien's "Paris-Paris" breakfast set, a limited edition Hermés scarf that helped fund the restoration of the palace apartments at Versailles and a couple of "Chateau Baccarat" wine glasses conceived by Bruno Quenioux, a famous French sommelier. While they may be somewhat pricey, all of these items are practical. They're small, easily packed and will fit in any apartment in Prague.

Stephane's items are ... how can I say this diplomatically? They're absurd and ridiculously large. At least those are the words I kept hissing at him in the antique store in Hautvillers after he spotted a champagne riddling rack that he proclaimed he couldn't live without. Ok, perhaps my Swiss husband wasn't quite that dramatic, but there was no changing his mind. He was equally stubborn about the necessity of an antique safe that he found at the St. Ouen flea market a couple of weeks ago. It weighs so much (more than 550 pounds) that it's impossible to use the tiny elevator to transport it to our 5th floor apartment. Yet, Stéphane was so determined to possess this treasure, as he has started calling it, that he negotiated a settlement with our gardienne. In exchange for our dishwasher, she's keeping Stéphane's tresor in her first floor apartment until we move. I also suspect that it's because Stéphane doesn't want me to spend our last days in Paris ranting and raving about his nonsensical purchases. Out of sight out of mind is probably the wisest strategy at this point.

Unfortunately, Stéphane's irrational approach to recent purchases has proven to be contagious. No sooner had I finished my outburst about the riddling rack in Hautvillers than my eyes landed on a large antique milk cart with two aluminum cans. Inexplicably, I found myself offering it to Stéphane for Christmas.

Will we find an apartment in Prague that can accommodate two people who may or may not be speaking with each other, a wooden riddling rack, a fireproof safe, a milk cart and some other frivolous but completely necessary French items?  That's the question that's currently keeping me awake at night.

What was I thinking? Stéphane's Christmas present is a bulky milk cart! 

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

From Paris to ... Prague!

Things have been kind of quiet on my blog lately. I've been in countdown mode, a naturally occurring phenomenon that manifests itself around year two or three, at the very latest year four, of every expat posting. That's when it also becomes more difficult to answer the questions "How much longer will you be in ______?" and "Where do you think you'll go next?". For anyone who isn't a career expat, it probably seems inconceivable that I rarely have a clue as to when I'll be packing up my life and moving on. For me, it's part of the territory. The stability of waking up in the same city for five consecutive years is what Stéphane and I long ago agreed to exchange for the experience of living in other countries.

But, I'm not going to lie. Even though I've been a trailing spouse for a long time, the uncertainties of the past year were starting to take their toll. Whenever I opened my laptop to write a blog post, I found myself studying Google maps instead. Where, I wondered, would we end up next? Africa, Asia, back in Switzerland? Rather than feeling excited at the prospect of starting a new adventure, it seemed that we were playing Russian roulette. I was happy in Paris. Would I be as happy someplace else?

About the time I finally convinced myself to stop worrying about things that were out of my control and enjoy my visit with family in the United States, Stéphane called with the news that we're moving to Prague.

Now that I've returned to Paris and have had several weeks to adjust to the idea, I've started to enter the "leaving" phase of the expat life cycle. My time orientation has shifted from the present to the future. Before I've even wiped the sleep from my eyes in the morning, my brain is flitting from question to question: "Where will we live?", "How will I communicate with people when I don't know any words in Czech?", "Will I find new friends?".

I'm excited, scared, tired and unsure about how it's all going to come together. Returning to blogging seems like a good idea. It's what helped me through the first months in France. Perhaps it will be a welcome distraction as life in Paris becomes another memory.

Let the countdown to Prague begin! I'll get my very first glimpse of the city on December 31, 2015.

Prague in the winter. Photo credit: Daily Mail