July 5, 2015

My personal reading list

One of the great perks about blogging is the more you blog the more you read. However, often I don't have time to read the entire article and just skim through it, then add it to my reading list.

My Facebook page looks more like a news agency hub than a friends' page but the info is mainly on the subjects I am passionate about so I enjoy curiously flicking though the posts. The best contributors to my morning blogroll must be my cousins in the US. Thanks ladies, you aways make for an interesting and eye-opening read!

Eventually, when I get through my reading list, I tend to pin some of the articles I like and keep them for future reference. You never know when something might come in handy.

Of course, I also use Pinterest for more frivolous inspirations such as my dream flat in Paris or my other imaginary life in sunny, surfing California, not to mention my love for shoes and the colour pink.

Today, I thought I'd give you some reading material to keep you busy on a hot, sweltering Sunday:
https://www.pinterest.com/expatwithkids/articles-i-like-expats/


July 2, 2015

Let the sun shine in

It is my yearly pilgrimage... our trip towards the South. It takes me two days to get here and over 1200km of highways but the sun and hot weather are worth every minute's driving.

It is guaranteed sunshine for two whole months; this weekend I even get a special bonus, it seems, the thermometer will be climbing up to 45 ºC... all I can say is bring it on!

Madrid used to be our home and we have left a big part of our heart here, we therefore decided to make it our base. Neutral family territory, so to speak, is always a good solution and every Swiss would agree with that.

It is our home away from home where we still feel very much integrated with the local network, we celebrate our birthdays here, we invite our friends from France, Italy and Switzerland to spend a mini-vacation, we trick or treat in Spanish at Halloween and usually go on an Easter egg hunt. Our neighbours know that August 1st is Swiss National Day when all the lampions around our house go up, the red table clothes and white-crossed napkins decorate the garden table and Swiss flags are hung at the entrance.

Today is the first day of our long summer holidays. I am enjoying the feeling of being in my home and ready for a tinto de verano!


The Osborne sherry company erected large images of bulls
starting in 1956 to advertise their Brandy de Jerez
When you spot one of them along the highway, you KNOW you're in Spain!


Pit stop in San Sebastian, 
a costal town that lies on the Bay of Biscay, 
20 km from the French border.
It will be the European Capital of Culture in 2016.

June 28, 2015

Could it become home?

For the first time, I am happier to stay than to leave. It is the time of year again that I face with mixed feelings. Happy because summer has begun and holidays lay ahead, sad to see my friends move on to their next destination in the expat life cycle.

However, this year feels different. Maybe because none of the children's friends are leaving, mainly because they have actually left in past years and are now coming back to visit us which is a positive twist to the endless farewells. Maybe because - after living in this city for four years - it is finally beginning to feel like home.

Paris is a wonderful city to visit but anybody who has actually lived here, knows that it is not all "la vie en rose". For starters, you need to deal with the Parisians! I dare say I have managed to conquer even that hurdle.

For the first time, I am saying my "Au Revoirs" realising that as I am envying those moving on, they might actually prefer to be in my place, wanting to keep living in the cultural capital of the world with its sublime architecture and food that makes the Gods smile.

I am at peace with staying in town this year, realising that there aren't many cities I'd trade for, at least not in Europe. I have found my purpose, my place and my rhythm. I am good at making new friends AND keeping the old ones and have decided to make the best of both worlds. I trust that the emotional investment required to deal with grief is worth the effort.

As Joseph Parry said: "Make new friends, but keep the old; Those are silver, these are gold."



June 25, 2015

Today I touched the sky

Today must have been one of the most memorable mornings since my arrival in Paris four years ago.

A few weeks back I signed up for a yoga session on a Parisian rooftop. How could I resist, right? Imagine working out facing the Eiffel Tower? These are the moments I adore living in Paris and I say to myself: "All my friends leave sooner or later but I always have Paris."

So, checking my weather app which promised 20 °C and sunshine, I headed to the Maison Blanche restaurant on THE most fashionable avenue in Paris for a Zen break and a targeted session perched high up on the Théâtre des Champs-Elysées roof.

A rooftop both cut off from the rest of the world and in the heart of Paris, overlooking a stunning view and just too cool for words.

A sexy Latin yoga teacher greeted me with a big smile and with a huge smile back I asked him to take a photo of me in pose with Paris and the Eiffel Tower to my feet... literally! During the lesson Carlos kept on telling us to close our eyes and breath. Why would I want to close my eyes with this view. I was not going to miss a minute of this bliss.

Looking down the side I could spy straight into Givenchy's ateliers and got a glimpse of a model strutting through the room in a sublime black dress. Was it part of next week's fashion show collection?

This morning I made peace with living in Paris, because this experience was so unique. When Paris shows itself from its good side, it really is stunning. I felt as if l were touching the sky reaching for a little piece of heaven right next to the Tour Eiffel.


Good Morning Paris


Yoga with a view


The exclusive Maison Blanche restaurant


Peeking into the neighbours' windows


Blue skies and sunshine all around!


June 24, 2015

What a difference it makes

The kids' school is big on the Service and Action program where students are encouraged to participate in community and service-based activities. It is up to them to select and reflect upon what constitutes a S&A activity.

A few weeks ago Expat daughter asked me if I had any cosmetics and candles to spare; she was organising a raffle at school. Her aim was to raise awareness for San People - in particular the children - living in Namibia. She wanted to sponsor a child at the Naankuse foundation. Her donation would help keep the Clever Cubs school running, fund school fees, buy uniforms, purchase educational items and transport the older children to the mainstream schools in the capital.

With a bit of logistical help, she and her three friends managed to present the raffle prizes on an table in the school lobby and push some less enthusiastic kids to listen to their plea during a week. The had a precise goal: to raise enough money to be able to sponsor a child for one year. Anybody crossing their path - student, teacher, staff or parent was to listen while they explained the foundation's mission and the details of the Clever Cub School. I bought a few tickets for the home-made cookies and actually won!

It is amazing to see how - in one week - four determined young girls from England, Finland, Norway and Switzerland, studying in France, can make a life-changing difference for a child in Namibia. They are now exchanging photos and curious to learn about each others worlds.


June 20, 2015

The Swedish connection

A few farewell-tears were shed yesterday and many bon-voyage-hugs were given but there was a happy note to the day as well.

I have gotten so used to the expat approach of meeting new people, i.e. you meet, you greet, you smile and by the end of the conversation you go by your instincts to determine if this will work out or not; you make a conscious decision to take this friendship a step further or not.

Don't get me wrong, I do not calculate my friendships but after moving so many times and having to say goodbye even more times, you develop a system of self-preservation. You figure out pretty quickly if you are on the same wave length. Also the person you are chatting with is often an expat and applying the same approach, consciously or unconsciously.

Lately, however, I have realised that there are people I have known for four years now and through circumstances we have only started interacting more frequently in recent months. Two of them - I am afraid to say - are leaving Paris this summer but one is staying.

We both have made a point of meeting each other for dinner, for a drink and communicating via Facebook or SMS more frequently lately. Yesterday we decided to spend a girlie Friday morning together and met on a sun-drenched bistro terrace for a cappuccino. A visit to the YSL foundation to admire his scandalous Spring collection of 1971 was the icing on our cake.

We walked out into the sunshine after an hour's tour and both knew - implicitly - that this friendship was going to work! Yves Saint Laurent will forever be liked to Sweden in my mind!





June 17, 2015

Travelling to Muscat

Tonight my friend's Facebook status read:

"Travelling to Muscat, Oman. A goodbye to all the lovely people I met in Kuala Lumpur. Thanks for the time spent together. See you around the world."

My heart has just jumped a beat and is reaching out to her. I am standing right next to her in my thoughts and am feeling the emotions with her. If I close my eyes I can see her standing in line to board that plane which will whizz her off to a new adventure: however, her heart is telling her to turn around, walk away and stay in the country she has just so nicely settled into.

I know what it feels like when your brain is walking forwards yet your heart is running in the opposite direction. You want to hug all your friends one last time, pretend this is all not happening, wishing you where not closing yet another chapter of your life to begin a new one. You know the game too well by now, but it gets the better of you every time when you make that last final step onto the plane to a destination which you will be calling home as of tomorrow!

It is not natural and looking at our kids it certainly does not seem fair to put them through all this emotional turmoil BUT at the same time it is such a rewarding experience. Nevertheless you need to have sat in that plane chair yourself to feel the emotions and fully understand the reasoning of a nomad life such as ours.

Bon voyage mon amie. Mon coeur s'envole avec toi ce soir!


June 16, 2015

It's a paaarteee!

When Australians open their house for a party they really open their house FOR A PARTY!

Sunday afternoon and I was looking forward to a nice contained French-style BBQ to wish four leaving families a happy farewell. Turns out I was in for my first experience of Australian hospitality!

The children - at least 20 of them! - were already waiting at the Embassy entrance to show us to the terrasse. One of the boys welcomed me with: "Welcome, the paaarteee is on the seventh floor." Immediately I looked around searching for George Clooney! What a brilliant welcoming. Even the elevator spoke English to me!

We made our way to the top of the building to discover a band playing on the terrasse, the BBQ sizzling and the salad buffet rich with a variety of salads any 5-star hotel would have been envious of.

We had been told - true to Aussie style - that there had been a bulk order made for meat and we were to contribute our beverage of choice and one of the following: salad, dessert or bread and one type of cheese. Sounds straight forward to me...

Apart from the abundance of food there seemed to be an endless flow of people between the terrasse where the music along with the sunshine and the superb view were to be enjoyed and the buffet on the lower level where the drinks were stored in eskies?!? I filled my cultural gap by learning that the term "esky" is commonly used in Australia to refer to portable coolers. Snags is Australian for sausages it seems.

The fact that you are not actually allowed to grill on your balcony in Paris and that the live band was to be heard throughout the entire arrondissement didn't not bother anybody in the least. We were, technically speaking after all, in Australia. So, thank you my friends for staging a brilliant paaarteee I will never forget! Bon voyage and come back soon to paaarteee!



June 11, 2015

It hit me today!

Just yesterday I was eluding myself into thinking that we might get away without difficult goodbye scenes or teary faces. This end-of-school-year, it seems none of the kids' best friends are leaving. Not that some of them have ALREADY left, but this June we might just hang on to those whom will stay in Paris... at least until next year.

Then, today I joined the last tour organised for the schools' parents by lovely Mona and it hit me. This year it was me standing to lose her safety net. It is not one special friend in particular, it is the community of mums that arrived the same year I did. We mixed and mingled over the years, in the beginning mainly because we needed to accompany our kids to their playdates. A quick chat in the school courtyard, a coffee on the go or a little phone call to double-check our child was being picked up. The conversations began to get longer, become more personal and once in a while we'd rant and let our frustration be heard knowing we were understood.

Coffees became lunches, lunches became dinners. We were 18 very loud ladies at our last dinner in a trendy restaurant on the Seine river enjoying each others company and just being ourselves!

When did we all start feeling so comfortable in each others presence? When did we stop noticing the language barrier, the culture gap or religious diversity? When did we start becoming friends? It happened without us noticing... until the time came to say good-bye.

So here I am silently shedding tears over a group of fantastic ladies (they know who they are) that will be leaving me behind.

As one of my friends so nicely said today: "These past four years have been a gift!" Merci to each and every one of you!



June 9, 2015

Seven Ages of Friendship

Having been thrown into Expat lifestyle at a very young age, my daughter is learning fast how to cope with the strange balance of friendships that develop. Every year one best buddy leaves, every year there are new bonds being forged, not to replace the old ones but to maintain a complicity and intimacy that gives her the emotional stability that lacks in our geographical solidity.

When asked by her English teacher to adapt "The Seven Ages of Man" by William Shakespeare into a different category of her choice, this is what she wrote:

Seven Ages of Friendship

All the world’s thine companion,
And all the friends and enemies are mere relationships.
They have their positives and their negatives.
And one friend in their life, plays many parts.
Their acts being of seven ages, at first a distant pupil.
Few words exchanged in the past.
Then the aquainstance,
Working together at school, like two swans.
And then the young friendship, blossoming into something new,
Acting like best friends. Then, the close company,
Whispered secrets in the hallways,
Never lonely at lunch or break.
And then the gatherings at each others houses,
The boys always pretending to be knights,
With their swords and shields, fighting away.
The sixth stage follows
Into a promise that would always be kept.
Everlasting friendship would always be remembered.
That ends this strange eventful history,
Upon the two they will always be remembered,
Sans lies, sans jealousy, sans insults, sans quarles.



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