Assimilating into Parisian Life

Our first 2 weeks in Paris has been full of excitement and surprises

Sacre Coeur
Exactly 2 weeks ago, our lives changed forever.

Our plane touched down into Paris about an hour early, and the rest of the day went much more smoothly than we expected.  The gentlemen from Eelway Paris were waiting at the baggage claim as promised and collected our checked baggage.  They also agreed to take our carry on luggage for a small additional fee and so we were luggage-free for the rest of the day until our 2pm rendezvous with our new landlord to move into our new apartment.  The luggage would be delivered later that evening.  By the time we got out of the airport it must have been 10:30am, so we decided to Uber straight to the Eiffel Tower.  It was a crisp, sunny day and it felt like Paris was welcoming us with gorgeous weather.  After grabbing an unimpressive Pasta Bolognese and Croque Monsieur sandwich at a nearby bistro, we took a few photos in front of the tower and headed to our appointment.  We didn’t have to time to go up to the top, but hey, we live here now.  Surely we will go back in the next few days right?  (2 weeks and we haven’t gone back)

The apartment was a little disappointing at first.  The photos in the website made it look so bright and brand new, but in reality it doesn’t get much light at all and needs some work.  But now that we have settled in and Sina has worked her magic, it works quite well for us.  The only thing we feel like we miss is a clothes dryer.  My theory is that these buildings were not designed with exhaust systems for dryers and so we have to get used to crunchy clothes for a while.

The neighborhood, Bonne Nouvelle, is perfect.  The streets are filled with lively cafes and shops and it is mostly a local crowd.  It’s amazing though how one or two streets can make such a big difference in this city.  2 blocks to the left is prostitute-central with Chinese women walking around Strasbourg St. Denis.  The laws have changed in Paris around prostitution and the women are not allowed to call after you, or just stand around waiting.  They have to be walking around.  Who comes up with this stuff?  At one point we were actually considering an apartment literally right in the center of hooker-ville.  Of course we had no idea!  Thank goodness we decided on this one instead.

We are right in the middle of a two week holiday from school here in Paris.  Last week we signed Luka and Taj up for an arts and crafts camp here in the city.  We figured it would be a good way to start immersing them into the French language before they start school on November 5th and everything is in French.  Unfortunately, they found the one or two kids that spoke some English and befriended them so they could avoid having to learn any French.  The teachers also seemed to be excited by the prospect of practicing their English with the girls, so our plan was totally botched.  Tomorrow they start French lessons instead of arts and crafts camp.  Let’s see how that goes.  Sina is worried that the girls will leave Paris without learning French.  Being the optimist in the family, I’m not convinced yet.

So far, I am really loving life in Paris and have decided to really dive into a new life.  I joined a gym around the corner which is full of Technogym equipment from Italy, and my plan is to go each morning, 6 times per week.  So far, so good!  I have also been going crazy taking photos all over the city (photography is a hobby of mine), and took a photography class one morning here in the city.  An old industry friend of mine took me to an authentic French Bistro for lunch one day and we had an equally authentic 2 hour French lunch!  I’ve always said that I don’t like living in big cities but being in Paris has re-energized me.

Paris Day 1One of the amazing things about this city is that the entire city is beautiful.  In most cities, one can find little pockets of cool, charming neighborhoods.  In Paris it feels like the entire city is one endless cool charming neighborhood.  Every single building looks like something out of a story book and every single street is lined with local shops, cafes, restaurants and pastry shops.

Living here does have its challenges, and everything requires several trips and several conversations to figure out how it works.  2 weeks later and we still haven’t figured out how to get a prepaid sim card for our phones.  Sina has already mastered the art of “Amazoning” in Paris though.  The local mail man already knows us and has been duly warned that he will be making many visits to our apartment door.  Returns seem to be equally painless as they are in the US, so Amazon will not miss us at all over the next year it seems.

The neighbor from upstairs came downstairs one day to let us know he had received a piece of mail for us.  We chatted politely in the doorway for a few minutes but then it became painfully obvious that he was not going to leave anytime soon, so we invited him in to sit down for a few moments.  2 hours later, Sina and I were making faces at each other as if to say “Is this for real?” or “How do we get rid of this guy?”  Nice of him to stop by and all, but we had a long list of things to do to get settled in.  We certainly felt like the rude foreigners that didn’t want to adapt to the French social norms but man, this guy really liked to talk!

I have to say that so far in general, most people have been very nice here in Paris.  Of course once in a while we have come across someone rude but I think that’s true in any city.  The only problem is I wish people didn’t speak so much English, and surprisingly there are many people who also speak Spanish!  It makes learning the language more difficult.  But I for one am determined to learn it.  I am going to continue Rosetta Stone (I’m about half-way through now), and then there happens to be a language school one block away from here.  I am hoping that Sina and I can become proficient enough that we can start introducing it at home and help the girls along.

Working on European time has both advantages and disadvantages.  I don’t feel rushed in the mornings and after the gym I have a few hours to work without many interruptions before the US and Canada starts to wake up and things get busy.  It’s nice to have that time in the morning to do something personally fulfilling and to work more productively.  The downside is that there are emails and phone calls until I start ignoring them around 11pm, but I have been taking at least an hour or two in the evenings to have dinner with the family and read to the kids.  I haven’t taken any business trips yet, but that will start back up after next week.

It’s hard to believe we have only been here for two weeks.  It feels like at least a month has gone by!  My parents were here over this last week which was a nice surprise for us and the kids.  They are heading back to Miami tomorrow and it’s back to work in the morning.  We are missing our dogs and cats back home, but we installed a webcam so we can at least see our dogs asleep in their room each day.  We certainly don’t miss having to clean up all the pet hair everyday, but they are part of our family and it’s hard to be away from them.  I think we haven’t even begun to scrape the surface of the impact life in Paris is going to have on us, and I am excited to see what’s to come.

Paris: The Adventure Begins

Off to Paris
As we head to Chicago to catch our flight to Paris, I thought I would take a few minutes to begin telling you about the crazy week we had preparing for our 1 year move to Paris. If anyone is preparing to move abroad for a while, maybe we can offer some words of advice.

Tip #1: As you begin to clean out the refrigerator and freezer of items that have been in there way too long, don’t just feed it all to the dogs. I have a suspicion it may have been the tuna, but it could have easily been the chicken or steak… but I had to clean up doggy diarrhea off the laundry room floor a few times over the last 24 hours.

Tip #2: If you are married to a fashionista and therefore will be traveling with the maximum baggage allowance permitted by the airline, plan ahead. I spoke to the manager of the Charlottesville airport a few days ago and let them know a few days in advance that the Kamlanis would be arriving on Saturday with 12 bags weighing 70 lbs. each and 4 carry ons. A huge thanks to the United Airlines team at Charlottesville-Albemarle airport. Esme the supervisor, Anne and Randy all know us by name now and allowed us to drive the bags to the airport at 9am in our 2 cars and check in so that we could then go run a few last-minute errands and go home for an hour before taking an Uber back to the airport. Unfortunately today there was a UVA football game so we had to pay twice as much for our Uber.

Tip #3: Think about how to make your arrival as easy as possible. In Paris I found a service called Eelway which offers a service to pick up our checked bags even before they hit the belt at the baggage claim, and deliver them right to our door at our apartment in Paris. Do not wait until the last minute though, as they need a signed customs document for each piece of luggage, as well as pictures of each bag. They ask to receive all of this information at least 48 hours in advance, but they also ask for pictures of the luggage tags. I’m not sure how that is supposed to work… since nobody can have their luggage tags from the airport more than 48 hours before check in. I didn’t end up sending in the forms until we were about to take off for Chicago (which is already 7:30pm in Paris), so I’m not sure if they will receive the forms and get them into the hands of the team at the airport in time for our arrival tomorrow morning. I guess we’ll have to see when we get there.

Tip #4: Think outside the box. Our apartment in Paris is likely to be quite small even though it looks great in the photos. I doubt however that there will be sufficient storage space for our 16 suitcases. We will most likely have to try and sell our suitcases on Craigslist or Ebay after we settle in, and then look at buying new or used ones when we come back. If I make it back to Charlottesville after the winter, I’ll think about bringing back a couple of suitcases with me full of winter coats and other cold weather clothing.

Tip #5: Check school schedules. We didn’t realize until relatively recently that there are two weeks of vacation for French schools starting on October 22 nd which means there is only 1 week of school left after we arrive. Not to mention, in France the school week is 4 days. On Wednesdays there is no school and kids are given the day to explore extracurricular activities and enrichment. This is a really nice idea so that kids can be home with their families after school instead of using the time after school for art, music, sports, dance, etc. During the 2 week holidays, there are also numerous options for the kids to keep busy. We have signed up Luka and Taj for an art camp during the week of the 22nd and they will start school after the break on November 5th . This will give them some time to absorb the language before starting school. Since our kids have been in Montessori school since the age of 2, we found a 100% French speaking Montessori school in Paris. This way the lessons and materials will be familiar, yet they will have a great opportunity to learn French quickly.

Tip #6: Learn as much of the language as you can in advance. I have used Rosetta Stone before to try learning German so that I could keep up with Sina and the kids at home. I also tried learning some Hindi before our trip to India in November 2017. In both cases I only got about halfway through it before I either ran out of time or lost interest. I’ve been doing French for the last few weeks now and I’m about 30% through it. Maybe this time since we’ll actually be living there I’ll stick with it.

Tip #7: Load up on necessary Amazon purchases well in advance of departure. I left too many things for the last minute and was worried that not everything would arrive. I have heard that there are a lot of pickpockets in Paris. Apparently if you walk down the street while talking on your phone, someone may run by and snatch the phone right out of your hand while you are using it. In preparation I purchased the Blackrapid wander bundle, which attaches a wrist strap to your phone, making it more difficult for a would-be phone thief to successfully run off with your phone.

Tip #8: Sina makes fun of me for this, but I like to start adjusting to the new time zone in advance. So for the last 2 days I’ve tried to go to sleep a little earlier and waking up a little earlier as well. This works out well since by the time you board your flight overseas you’ll be tired enough to sleep through the flight and then wake up fresh in the morning upon arrival.

Tip #9: Make sure all devices are fully charged up and entertainment is downloaded. Luka and Taj have recently gotten hooked on ABC Mouse. It’s a great educational app with reading, math and science. After each activity they earn tickets which can then be used to make virtual purchases in the online for their avatar. Tickets can be used to buy all kinds of clothing from dresses to wigs to sunglasses, or they can head over to the virtual furniture store to buy cool things for their virtual rooms. There is also a virtual toy store. The only problem is that the app does not work offline! This has evoked significant disapproval from both Luka and Taj. With your ABC Mouse subscription, you do have access to a few other apps for math and reading that can be used offline, but the reading app only goes through Kindergarten level. For me, my Bose headphones recently stopped working in one ear, so I decided to try out the Apple Airpods. I have to say they are pretty nifty, particularly for doing conference calls while driving or just everyday activities. No need for any silly (and expensive) headphone adapters. But I just realized while on this flight that I will not be able to use them to watch movies on the flight from Chicago to Paris! I think Airpods can only be used with Apple devices. While the sound of the airpods is excellent normally, it isn’t nearly as good in the airplane as the Bose headphones were. Given the amount that I travel, I may have to think of other options.

It all seems so surreal! It was rough saying goodbye to all our furry babies this morning, our 2 dogs and 6 cats. Roger, our Goldendoodle is 9 years old and Velvet, our Husky mix is 11 years old. I really hope nothing happens to them before we get back in August. We would all be devastated if something were to happen and we weren’t there to be with them. Let’s hope for the best. We set up a streaming security camera in the doggy’s room so we can sneak a peak at them anytime we want. That worked well for us while we were in Spain over the summer. The girls were sad to say goodbye to all of their teachers and friends yesterday, although at the same time they’ve enjoyed the extra attention they’ve been getting from everyone leading up to their departure.  We will land in Chicago in about 20 minutes and then have some fun in the airport for about 4 hours before we head to Paris! Having fun on the plane and in the airports is one of the keys to making travel with kids just a little bit easier. These days there are so many restaurant options and things to do in airports that it’s easy to stay quite entertained. Ok, time to practice some more French until we tear up the Chicago airport!

Next Stop: Paris?

After spending the summer in Mallorca, coming back to the United States was not easy.  While we missed the comfort of being in our own home and of course we missed all of our pets, we suddenly found ourselves feeling like we no longer belong in Charlottesville.  During a conversation with Sina last week, I mentioned that Peter (the founder of Kognitiv) and Mergim (a friend within my company) are both moving to London and she said “Maybe we should be moving to London too.”  I don’t know how serious she was, but it stuck with me.  Maybe we SHOULD be moving to London.  Why the hell not?

We started to seriously think about the possibility of moving to London.  We looked for Montessori schools and there were a few options.  The first problem was that almost every school had a uniform.  What gives?  Is that just a British thing?  Montessori is all about celebrating individuality.  How can you have a school uniform?  Given our family’s love of fashion, that just wasn’t going to happen.  Neither Sina nor I have ever been excited about the prospect of living in London.  Both of us believe that our happiness has a direct correlation to the amount of sunlight exposure we have, and Sina correctly pointed out that constant rain puts a damper (pardon the pun) on one’s wardrobe options.  Most importantly, as we are focused on exposing Luka and Taj to new cultures and languages, London probably isn’t the best option.  It is a very diverse, multi-cultural city, but the girls would not learn a new language.

Maybe we should go to Paris?  It’s a 2 hour train ride from London, so I could easily go meet with Peter and Mergim… It’s quite central and I can easily get anywhere in Europe for work, we could all learn French, and well, it’s PARIS.  As we started to think more about it, the uneasy feeling that we both had about London quickly disappeared and was replaced with a feeling of excitement.  For the last several days we have been writing to Montessori schools and AirBnB renters to check out our options.

As luck would have it, the house sitters that took care of our house and pets over the summer while we were in Mallorca fell in love with Charlottesville and decided to move there!  They do not have a place to live yet, and after speaking with them it appears they would be more than happy to stay in our house for a year.

This week in Toronto I ran the idea by Peter and one or two others to ensure there were no objections, and it appears I have the green light from work.  So all of the pieces now appear to be falling into place.  The only concern that remains now is a financial one.  We really cannot afford to pay our mortgage in Charlottesville and rent an apartment in Paris at the same time.  Not to mention, it is a given that we will spend more money, on clothes, food, traveling, etc.  Plus, we would lose 40% of the tuition on the girls’ current school.  It’s going to add up fast.

But the girls are not getting any younger and it has always been our dream to take them and live in different countries, and learn new languages.  If we put it off, it will never happen.  After selling my company 2 years ago, it feels like it’s time to start achieving more of our personal goals.  Best of all, we can do that while still making significant contributions to the company and growing professionally.  As of now, I think it’s a gamble worth taking.  Sina and I are going to discuss it this weekend and hopefully we will have a decision by Monday.