From Paris to my parent’s house

The thought of living with my parents again essentially sent a shiver down my spine but I knew that it was the right thing to do. Tomorrow marks exactly one week… One week, back at my parent’s house; one week, without smoking; one week, since I left Paris and one week, since I’ve had a drop of alcohol; one week, since I’ve seen anyone that isn’t a family member or family friend.

Looking on the bright side of things -the highlight of moving home is definitely the food! Home cooked meals, no washing up to do, no grocery shopping to do – just relaxing on the sofa watching Netflix until its ready. On the extra plus side of coming from a traditional Chinese family – traditional Chinese food! Just tonight my mum was wrapping up some sticky rice in lotus leaf (Lo Mai Gai)! Yum.. Dim sum just isn’t the same in Paris.

The only downside however is the constant nagging:

“When are you going to get married?”

“Do you have a boyfriend yet?”

“When are you going to make some money”?

I guess the English countryside isn’t all bad though.

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Shot! Shot! Shot! and other drinks..

I have been wondering a lot lately about my life and the people that I surround myself with, and I find increasingly that I am becoming very skeptical of my friends.

When I turned 27 this February, I knew that things had to change. After having done a Languages degree and then a Masters which basically led to a ridiculously badly paid job as an ESL teacher I knew that I needed to turn things around this year.

The thing that I have noticed quite evidently is that my friends are very young. In terms of age, I’d say that most of my friends are around 24, 25 or even 26 so the age difference is not enormous. What makes the difference is the way that we think. Whilst I worry about my future, thinking about what career path I want to take, do I want to get married, how many kids do I want; my friends are talking about how trashed to get, tinder, and the next party to rock up to it.  For a while now I have been wondering why I feel so negatively about my life in Paris and I came to the realisation that it is because I don’t actually do anything.

Outside of work, everything that I do revolves around drinking. My flatmate (yes, the one with the peeing cat) is a manager at a heavy metal themed bar and she works every night from 8pm to 2am and at the weekend from 10pm to 5am and she seems to be perfectly content with her life, she sleeps all day and drinks all night. Even though she is 38 years old! She doesn’t seem to have a care in the world. A few years ago, when I was a student I was the same. I took a part-time job as a waitress and I would work almost every night from 5pm to 2am and then go out for quick drink with my colleagues before staggering home at 5am… 7am.. 11am.. But nowadays, when I have a big night out I almost have the feeling of guilt. I mean from the amount of alcohol that we take in – it definitely takes at least 24hrs to recover. However, I find that my friends are happy to do it over and over again – night after night.

The other thing that I have noticed is that even the friends that have a 9-5 office job also just want to drink. I feel like whenever we meet its always for drinks “Aller, on va prendre un verre sur la terrasse”. Everyone complains about how poor they are so they can’t possibly join the gym or go on a day trip or eat at restaurant but somehow when it comes to splitting a bottle of wine or buying a round of shots – wallets fly open. Why is it that no one asks me if I want to go to the cinema or if I want to go to see the Paul Klee exhibition at the Georges Pompidou or if I want to go for a run. Every single proposition that I have had in the last 7 years is for drinks or to go out. Is alcohol the only way that we can have fun nowadays or is it simply a numbing agent to distract ourselves from pointlessness of our lives?

A day in the life of a poor ESL teacher

8.00am I woke up in my freezing flat to sound of people pounding down the stairs. Yup my thin wall is adjacent to the staircase of an old Parisian building in the 11th arrondissement. I got up to make a cup of tea and saw that my flatmate’s cat had left its usual piss puddle in the middle of the floor so I proceeded to clean that up.

8.30am All dressed and ready to go after a quick tea and 2 sad little knacki sausages for breakfast. I headed to my metro “Charonne”. I headed on to line 9 in the direction of “Pont de Sevres”. I got on to the metro forcing my way in between all the other poor souls heading to work and crushed by the invasive piles of Spring tourists heading to Trocadero to see the “magnificent” Eiffel Tower.

9.15am I arrive at Franklin Roosevelt to pick up my day sheet and get the teacher’s manuel from the staffroom.

9.30am My first lesson was with a shy lady who I had never met before because this isn’t my usual school. The lesson did not get off to good start. She told me that she felt ill today and was not in a particularly good mood. I thought to myself me neither but let’s just get on with it. The topic of conversation today: The Environment. Absolute torture – an hour and half of

Student: “What does it mean “living things?”

Me: “Urghhh.. things that are living… to live… alive.. you.. me.. animals..”

Student: “What does it mean “heat”?

Me: “Urghhh.. Hot: the adjective, heat: the noun. You know the opposite of cold”

11.00am The bell rings, and I breathe a sign of relief.. First torture over, time to head to my next lesson. I sign the sheet and leave the Champs Elysées heading back on to line 9. BOOM.. I’ve gone on the wrong direction of course, I jump off and walk up the stairs and over to the opposite platform feeling like a complete idiot.

11.35am I arrive at my school in Porte de Saint Cloud. Pick up my day sheet. Ok I have 2 more lessons.

12.30pm My student arrives, I’m wondering why the hell do I always end up teaching at lunchtimes don’t these people eat. The topic: “Making new business contacts”. This student a little more happy to share than the last and we spend a pleasant hour and half speaking her job as an accountant at Canalplus.

2pm Finally.. lunchtime. Awkward time. I need to print off the exercises for my private student after my day at xxxx. One of the other teachers has already arrived at the school even though his shift begins at 5pm – I wonder to myself if I am really that hopeless and its not the job but me or he is just overly enthusiastic- who knows.

2.45pm My final student arrives – it is a 14 year old boy. I wonder to myself why I always end up being lumped with teaching the kids when I never signed up for this. We spend an hour and half practising the present perfect. It was almost mechanical.

3.30pm I’m done for the day, at least for my day job. Off I head on the metro again, this time I’m going to Guy Moquet in the north of Paris. I arrive at Moromesnil to change for the line 13 – my most despised line on the Paris metro system. I attempted to push onto the metro but it was impossible. I waited for 5 minutes and was finally allowed on. I got on and ended up squished against a man holding a pizza box and I thought to myself that pizza must be damn good if he is willing to go into paris just to buy one.

4.05pm I finally arrive at Guy Moquet and get up my student’s apartment. She looks stunning today but extremely bored as usual. A 20 year old business student from La Reunion that needs to pass the BULAT test to get to 3rd year in her course. We have a light banter about last week as it was the school holidays and then went straight on to the past paper. I realise that I didn’t actually print off the answers so I ended up doing the test with her. The 2hrs was surprisingly pleasant and I was pleased as I would finally have some cash.

7pm She pays me and I leave her flat thinking my god I haven’t had money since last week, I’m definitely going to treat myself to a kebab, a can of coke and a packet of marlboro lights. And that’s what I did.

All this to say that life in Paris truly is what the French say “Metro, Boulot, Dodo”

 

The flatmate problem 2.0

elvis chat qui pisseI live with a cat that pees on the floor all the time. Is that normal? And there anything that can be done about it?

I can’t believe I made another bad decision and decided to live with another friend. And not to mention that damn cat. I really disagree with people who keep cats in tiny apartments. The cat is not even castrated so it howls all the time! Plus the peeing problem, I have no idea how she sleeps in that room.

 

March

March has been an interesting month in Paris.

I am starting to freak out a little bit again. Firstly, the realisation that nothing has really changed since last year. Well.. in terms of professional development. I started this blog a year and 3 months ago and I feel like I am not any closer to discovering what I want to do with my life. Since moving back to Paris, I have worked in 2 language schools, the first was Wall Street English and now I am working for another (whose name I cannot disclose apparently). The thing about working in the ESL sector is that it is not a real career. Well… it is and it isn’t. Obviously, there are some teachers that I’ve met who have been working for 30 years in the business and they enjoy it immensely and love living abroad and most them of them are almost retired and then there are the younger souls like me who are kind of lost and feel like ESL teaching a sort of stop gap.

The major problem with teaching at a language school is that it’s a major rip off for the teachers because it isn’t really a school, it’s a business – therefore teachers usually end up getting paid a fifth of what the student is actually paying the school. The other annoying thing about teaching in a language school is the schedule. Maybe not in all language schools but for mine in particular, the schedule is sent to us every night at 5pm so it’s impossible to really plan a week or a month in advance because I’m not really sure when I will or will not be working and then there are many tedious gaps in the schedule ranging from 45 minutes to 3hrs!!

The other thing about language schools is that they don’t always have business during the school holidays etc. since most of the students are businessmen who wish to go on holiday with their kids during the school holidays so there is literally no work in some periods which can make it very difficult to live.

However, there obviously has been some pros to teaching English. I have discovered and learnt a lot of the English language that I wouldn’t have been able to explain properly if I hadn’t have taught it. And the sense that sometimes students are finally understanding something, I think that is always a nice feeling.

BUT, the thing is teaching is not my calling. I work for a pretty small school so it is mostly face to face private lessons; I do, however, occasionally, have to work at other centres where there were groups and I despised it so much! And working with kids! I have no interest whatsoever in pursuing a career in teaching or in ESL but I have met a bunch of great people and I have learnt a lot but I am still no closer to feeling like I have found something I want to do for my career or even see myself doing in 5 years. I just don’t know what to do..

February

I just had a very awkward conversation with my mother. It was pleasant but disturbing.

Since I’ve come back to Paris, I’ve had this feeling that I should be doing something with my life. Well.. I actually if you have read any of my earlier posts, I have been having this feeling for quite some time. February can be a magical month for me and a excruciatingly difficult time as well.

The first reason being my birthday. Every year, my birthday lies on the last week of February (obviously since birthday’s can’t be changed), and as I grow older I realise that life is definitely not easy. Last year, I turned 25 I realised that I am so much closer to 30 than I am.. well.. to my youth. The thing is about my 26th birthday is that I am clearly much closer to 30… When I turned 25 I was still in the middle – I remember thinking to myself 5 years left before I have to get serious.

This year, my birthday has freaked me out a little bit. I am nowhere near where I would like to be; I don’t even know where I would like to be. Because for most of my early twenties, I spent it raging away in bars and nightclubs and feeling the freedom of getting away from my traditional Chinese roots and I guess my parents let me do that because they knew that I’m still young. But as I get older and as I approach the big 3 0, several questions keep looming over. So, here we come back to the awkward conversation with my mother this evening. She said to me: “When are you moving back to live with me in England?” and “What so good about Paris? You have no family there, is friends really enough? Things would be different if you had a family.” And then she proceeded to remind me that I need to find someone to marry soon – specifying also that he needs to be a nice Chinese man. This, I found quite shockingly, sometimes, I wonder why Chinese parents still insist on the importance of race. I mean, I have been brought up in the UK, I lived in an all white town, went to an all white school and up until the age of about 18, everyone that I knew outside of my family was white, and this has never been of importance to them. But somehow when the question of marriage is involved it’s always “a nice Chinese man”…

I have a cousin who is married to a white guy. Actually, previously, she was married to a Chinese man and they had a huge traditional Chinese wedding etc. But somehow, that marriage broke down and she married someone else… But the funny thing is, no one knows when she got divorced or when she started seeing her current husband or that she even got married until they started a family. It seems also that this subject is rather taboo. No one has mentioned it. It just slided into fact.

Now, I just wonder… How bad could an interracial relationship be in the eyes of Chinese parents?

Colocation issues

One of the things that I have noticed since my move back to France is how irritating it is to share a flat with someone; especially a friend.

I have been living in a flatshare with one of my good friends since June and I have to say we are having a terrible time. I am to blame really as we actually tried to live with each other back in 2012 and we quickly moved out of our shared flat after 1 year and this situation is even worse than that one.

We also have a third flatmate who actually lives in Prague but is renting us the flat but at the moment she is back and here with her boyfriend so we are basically 4 people in an apartment. This woman (not my “friend”) is particularly irritating, she is extremely messy and loud but she somehow also is a clean freak. The situation right now is pretty ridiculous… and I actually spent 4hrs this morning cleaning the kitchen. The thing is, we tried to get a cleaner but apparently my flatmate didn’t have enough money to pay for one so we made a deal that I would pay for the cleaner to come every 2 weeks and she would put a small amount of money whilst she cleaned the flat, the week the cleaner wasn’t there but the only thing was that she not only didn’t keep to this deal, when I confronted her about it she basically said that she swept the floor and thought that that was fair. I don’t know where that logic is from but she is a serious nutcase. So now, we’ve gone back to us cleaning the flat ourselves but to be honest, I don’t see it lasting and shes hardly doing anything.

The irritating thing is, is that the flat is really well located in the 10th district of Paris and it is an excellent space, the downside is having to live with her. What I despise about Parisian apartments is that the walls are exceedingly thin and I can literally hear her every movement. Sometimes I want to be alone in the flat but it hardly ever happens because she never leaves! It’s incredible how much she spends in the flat and doesn’t realise that she is the one making mess in the flat and should do the cleaning!

Anyway, I know this whole post is a massive rant over my “coloc” issues but I promise it will get a little more exciting.

Les concours

So, on Saturday, I did some entrance tests (les concours in French) for a Translation school I’m trying to get in to and I can honestly say I bombed the test! What a disaster. I think I’m not really supposed to share the details about the test but well, what’s the harm anyway. 

So, there three different tests, one after the other with a 15 minute break for collecting and dishing out the papers. 

The first test was a Résume-synthèse so basically a short summary on a two page text in English and trying to shorten the text into 150 words and in French. In theory, I suppose it doesn’t sound too difficult but when I was there; I was totally panicking. After reading the text about 3 times, I realised that I didn’t know some of the essential vocabulary to actually write the summary, then after trying to get round the whole lack of vocab situation, I could not for the life of me contain the summary in 150 words. So, I basically handed in a terrible terrible terrible summary in terrible terrible terrible French. So, that will teach me. The text in itself was an news article on the environment etc. except that I am really not the type of person to keep on with the current affairs unfortunately, let alone read newspaper in French so I’m kind of thinking “GOD, how unprepared am I for this god awful test” and I feel sorry for the professor who had to read it. 

Anyway, moving swiftly on, the second test was a lot better since it was a French to English translation. I thought that I really did this one justice. Not much else to say, another article taken from a French newspaper about the RER so all-in-all this part kind of picked me up after the first test.

BUT, here’s the killer. The last test was taken from a portion of the article from the first test! GREAT. An English to French translation where again I still didn’t know the essential vocabulary, so i ended up handing in a ridiculous translation in French. So yeh, my chances aren’t that high for getting into this school but I can only blame myself really for not keeping up with current affairs and working up a better vocabulary. So  now, the waiting game. We are supposed to hear in two weeks but I’m not to confident that it will be a positive response, actually I’d probably say I’ve got about a 10% chance of getting in, but I’m okay, I can always find a job and try again next year. But finger’s crossed. 

Perceptions

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about perceptions after taking an online course entitled: On Strategy: What Managers can learn from Great Philosophers. So in the first lecture, we learn about “The forgotten half of Change” which is perceptions.

 After my cousin left, I had just arrived home back in the sticks of Cambridgeshire and I think I had pretty much decided on going back to Paris – well I had pretty decided on going back to Paris before I left Paris, but anyway, I finally decided to just suck it up and tell my mum that I was going and there was nothing she could about it – not like she was paying for me or anything.

I think the most annoying thing about my mother is that, she sees me in a certain way, even though I’m constantly changing (growing up etc, I am a 25 year old woman who lived in Paris for 5 years – paying my own rent and education), but her perception of me is still this young girl that she needs to make decisions for and that is fine – I guess that’s called parenting is all about. But I feel like asian parents have a particularly over-bearing way to do so. Anyway, she wasn’t happy about it and couldn’t understand why I wanted to go back and asked what I could possibly do there – apparently, all she thinks I can do is wait on tables and I got the same reaction from my dad (well, he’s generally much nicer and less irritating) but he also said to me “Oh, I hope you’re not going back just to wait on tables.”

I can’t get my head around this idea – I mean sure, while I was studying, the easiest job and the easiest way to make money was to become a waitress but this was always on the side of my studies and it was never meant to be my  full-time profession. There’s nothing wrong with working in the restaurant business, most of my friends do but that’s certainly something I’d consider.

I’m so sure there are plenty of jobs out there, some even catered just for English speakers like teaching English as a foreign language is a prime example. One of my friends actually got a job writing about apps just because she was a native English speaker. So yeh, after 5 months of wining about unemployment and being stuck out in the middle of nowhere applying for jobs that I’m over qualified for or under qualified for, I am going back to Paris on 13th May. 

I can’t wait for the French job search to begin. More soon.

Ex

I haven’t been writing for the last few days because I’ve been pretty busy. My cousin from Hong Kong was still in London so she wanted me to go out with her. I’ve spent an okay week but then I got a sudden rush or sort of need to check my ex’s Facebook. My cousin is 31 years old and a month older than my sister who has just gotten married. Apparently, when you are over 30 and single, times get kind of desperate.. at least in Chinese families. My cousin spoke a lot this week about her love trials etc and it just made me miss my ex so badly. I’ve been doing pretty well this last month. I haven’t even checked his Facebook or felt depressed but yesterday, I couldn’t stop going through his pictures and looking up for advice online about getting over an ex etc. I am feeling pretty lame right now and almost embarrassed but at least I didn’t try to talk to him. I’m proud of that fact.

On the job front – still nothing and my parents and my brother are really starting to get on my nerves. I’ve been looking up Eurostar tickets. I’m seriously considering just picking my stuff up and moving back to Paris. I can’t stand being asked when I’m going to get a job or when will I be getting married. Does life really have to be like that? Being born, going to school, trying to get into uni, finishing uni, getting a “real” job, getting married, having kids, growing old, death. I think everyone needs to stop planning my life out for me and just let me live it. JEEZ