Three Years On, Part IV: Where is home for the immigrant?

A few days ago I began my fourth year in Paris.  I wanted to use the milestone to share some reflections on how I have changed and ongoing tips on how to make the move yourself.  This is the final article in a series of four.  Here are the first, second, and third.  

“It will be nice to be home for a month, right?”  My friend smiled, expecting an affirmative rejoinder.  I smiled too, as I knew what he meant, but I gently replied, “The US is home for my family, but Paris is my home now.”  He nodded, though his countenance said, “I want to talk to you more about that sometime,” and I’m sure my smile betokened a willingness to do so.  But I haven’t fully articulated through those thoughts, even mentally, until recently.

My recent month Stateside was full of activity – one sister got married at the start of it and another one had a baby at the end of it and all the while I carried on running my businesses while catching up with old friends.

Home.  In the seven years I lived in Kansas City it wasn’t long before I felt that warm sensation upon returning there from a trip.  Home was near family.  Home was where my friends lived.  Where my business was growing.  Where my staff worked.  Home where was where my bed was – where I had a fireplace and where I could quietly cook breakfast.  But as I look at these characteristics, even now, I realize I am describing comfort.  And yes, a component of home is comfort.  But that’s only part of it.  That’s the present.

Home.  There’s also the past.  You need to feel a rootedness and a belonging.  But that was a tenuous position for me in KC.  Yes, I finished an undergraduate degree there and built a productive company.  But it was self-made.  Perhaps that desire to connect with the past was why I loved St. Louis so much.  Not only did I have relatives buried in that city, but in the one year I lived there I felt the comfort of knowing that when a branch of my family had emigrated from Europe (from England, Ireland, and Alsace), that they settled in Southern Illinois and the St. Louis area.  Yes, Kansas City was in Missouri, but the St. Louis side of the state was actually tied up with my family history too.  Rootedness and community – people who know your name, your habits, your history, and your family.  That’s home too.  That’s the past.

Home.  Home is the future too.  I have some truly lifelong friends in KC that I cherish time with whenever I visit.  As I built my life in that area all sorts of ideas were mooted as I considered a lifelong stay.  The University of Missouri at Kansas City had a fully funded Ph.D. in Entrepreneurship that would have offered a leisurely career in academia, but it didn’t excite me, and given my experience teaching a couple semesters as an adjunct in an MBA program, it was clear that the hierarchical setup in a university setting wasn’t for me.  I considered politics (a sure indication of the naive 20-something) because I held (and still hold) practical nonpartisan civic planning principles that I think have wide appeal.  I thought about buying into businesses, and went so far as preliminary discussions with some principals of those companies.  But none of it inspired me in the visceral manner that Paris did.

Home.  Knowing you are where you belong now, with roots in the past, and a future to look forward to.  That all comes together for me in Europe, in Paris, deep in my bones.

* * *

Two weeks ago I visited the Museum of Immigration out on the edges of the 12th.  It’s a remarkably ugly building, but the exhibits and information are good, particularly in explaining the flow of different immigrants to France – some for reasons of war and violence, others for economic betterment.

As I took in the mountain of data I considered my own case.  I wasn’t fleeing war, as so many are in Europe these days because of incoherent US-led actions and policies that managed to destabilize the Middle East and North Africa.  I wasn’t seeking a better life economically.  Indeed my experience at the time of just selling a business should have encouraged me to stay.  I had moved to a US city with no connections, and with some of my own funds, a couple investors, and a co-founder, built a company from nothing to one that successfully sold and transitioned to a new owner.  I could simply wash, rinse, and repeat if I chose, with little interference and regulation from the US government.

There was also my family’s disapproval.  They, who had already considered me an absentee uncle and brother would be even more aggrieved.  But that was in part my fault for not successfully explaining to them before how differently I weighed my own personal desires and ambition against family and community pressures.

When I immigrated to the United States in 1988, I was already a citizen, but the move wasn’t my choice.  In 2013 I came to France as a noncitizen, but entirely by choice.  And like many immigrants before me, I jumped through legal hoops while setting up the infrastructure for my own businesses to be based in my new country.  I didn’t come here to “get a job.”  I came here to build a life.

I’ve always been an optimist, but it’s only recently I’ve realized that immigration – of whatever kind or character – is a supreme act of hope, not just for the “better life” which is, seemingly the only reason ever mentioned in news stories about immigration, but because it is such a big ask to make and create a new home.  Getting a new job, a new house, learning the ins and outs of a city – these things are not so hard.  But building another home – tying those long, colorful, and winding threads of past, present, and future into a coherent tapestry, that’s hard.  That’s perhaps why those of us who weren’t born here love it so much, because we don’t take any part of this experience for granted.

As the year ends, I would challenge you to consider whether you are truly living at “home.”  And if not, why not?  2017 is waiting to challenge you.

The photo is from my own instagram feed, from the day I officially moved out of America, December 10, 2013.

Unexpected Consequences: Instant and Ongoing Decluttering

I’ve mentioned before on this blog that the Four Hour Work Week is a major influence on my life and was a big part of the “how” portion of the massive quality of life upgrade that was my move from America to Europe.  In the book Tim puts forth a notion called “mini retirements” in which instead of working and saving until some mythical age to sell everything and move to Thailand (for example) why not do that now for a few weeks and see if you actually like it.  There are other reasons to take mini-retirements, including not assuming you’re in control of your health or when you die, but what I want to focus on is Tim’s insistence that you dump pretty much everything.

Stuff.  It can define us.  And Americans in particular have so much room that nothing stops us from buying more.  We even define our “national holidays” by sales of stuff.  We even have a very healthy business category of self-storage, which is an embodiment of our hoarding mentality.  Alas, that industry is now kicking off in Paris (and probably greater France as well).

Tim’s points were simple: get rid of everything that doesn’t have a particular or sentimental value.  You can always buy another couch, or plates, but maybe you can’t buy that one pan Grandma taught you to cook with.  Dump the other stuff, keep that.

I decided pretty quickly that my “must keeps” consisted of roughly 100 framed prints that had mostly been painstakingly transported from Europe over the years and adorned all the spaces of my then-home in America, as well as the 4000 books that I had collected over many stops of library book sales and used and new bookstores over the years.  I spoke to a friend in Canada who had a large amount of space in a new home he had recently moved into, who also happens to homeschool his kids.  He would get a teaching and parenting resource for free, as well as for his own enjoyment, and I would have free and safe storage of my treasures.  We agreed on a 5-year term, after which time we could discuss what was to follow.  I knew after 5 years in Europe (I’m 2 in now) I would either have a place to ship the books or have a long term plan about what to do with them.

So books and art sorted.  I rented a large truck about 6 months before I left the USA and drove the books to Canada.  As a note, if you do this, the Canadians will ask you for a value, so they can tax you…on stuff you already own…because hey, you might choose to sell it!  So, cynically (and in keeping with American, and what I would find out, French traditions), I assessed the 4000 books at a value of $.01 each and the art at $1.00 each, to a value of roughly $200, which I still had to pay tax on.  Small price to pay honestly, but it does add an extra 30-45 minutes to your border crossing.

I then proceeded to dump all the furniture I had painstakingly picked out during my “I’m a grown-up now with a real salary” phase when my college furniture found the curb.  These were the delicious dark wood headboards, the plush suede couches, the tasteful (and useful) ottomans.  I even had a lovely Victorian double-sided desk.  All gone: happily mostly sold to friends and friends of friends, and what was still left over went onto craigslist.  For the very last items (what was I doing with my own power drill?), I left them with my sisters to sell on their own or keep.

That left me with roughly 20 resealable tubs into which I mostly, but not exclusively, put items of real sentimental value.  Stuffed animals I had as a child which I kept in really great condition and which I wished to pass on to my children or to my nieces and nephews.  A report on birds I wrote as a ten-year-old.  A drawing my sister made for me.  That kind of stuff.  Some dear friends have been kind enough to keep those tubs in a spare room in their home.  I plan to keep reducing the quantity of tubs in that room every time I visit, loaded with goodies from Europe for my gracious caretakers.  And each year that passes that I don’t miss the stuff in those tubs, it makes it that much easier to get rid of when I do see it again.

In truth, limiting myself to the four full-sized pieces of luggage I ended up bringing to France was an enormous task that I totally underestimated.  I flew American Airlines to France in December 2013 and at that time the policy was: 1st bag free, 2nd bag $100, and bags 3-10, $289 each.  Hard to believe, but this is actually the cheapest and fastest way to move your stuff.  I checked into freight, believe me, and either my calls weren’t returned, or my emails weren’t returned, or it was prohibitively expensive when I did manage to get a price sheet.  Same for UPS, sea-freight even.  And then you have to go to Le Havre to pick it up.  Yeah, skip that.  Pack it with you.  It’s really cheap, comparatively.

Now, when you’re bringing that much stuff (my aforementioned 4 pieces of luggage…I won’t even share the absurd limits of carry-on that I stretched), you find a way to bring too much, so I want to encourage you to spend one month packing these 4 pieces (or fewer).  You’ll take more stuff out as you work on it every day and keep asking “Do I have to have this?”  I know when I showed up to the airport that I was at least 5 pounds over on each bag.  But I knew how to get around this: the skycap.

This profession doesn’t exist in Europe, oddly, though it is exactly the sort of profession you expect to exist there.  They are (for my Euro friends who might be reading) men and women who stand on the curbside to help those who wish to “skip the line” get boarding passes and check bags there instead.  For this “convenience” you are expected to tip – anywhere from $5-$25/bag.

That morning that I left Kansas City the skycap picked up all 4 of my bags and gave a slight grunt for the last one, the heaviest.  “Where ya goin’?”  “Paris.”  His eyes widened as he looked back over the bags, quickly calculating how much it was going to cost me.  “I’m moving.”  “Ah.”  He started weighing the bags, and I watched each bag on the digital readout.

53 lbs

57 lbs

52 lbs

61 lbs

“They are all over.”  He was reminding me of the 50 pound weight limit I was already aware of.  Overweight would add $150 to each bag.  I nodded, putting on a guilty and downtrodden look.  I wanted my silence to speak.

“I can take care of this for you, if you make it worth my while,” he said after a beat or two.  I tried not to beam and high-five myself, as this was the exact response I was banking on.  I took out my last bit of American currency I was carrying, a $50 bill, and put it on the counter.  I still said nothing.

Given that he was about to save me $600, he was expecting more, I’m sure, but he probably realized that $50 was good pay for 5 minutes and a few key strokes that indicated that yes, these bags weighed no more than 50 pounds.

We were operating in that shadow economy, and little did I know that this was precisely the kind of hustle I needed to survive and thrive in my new country.

So, to sum up:

  1. Get rid of mostly everything.  Try to come up with creative, trade-based, non-recurring monthly cash flow ways of storing the rest.  You need to spend as little as necessary in your new country when you first get there.
  2. Take a long time to pack what you are bringing, in order to have a critical instead of a stressed and harried eye to look it over with.
  3. Don’t hesitate to leverage American idiosyncrasies to bring what you want.
  4. However, do be pragmatic and take the time necessary to figure out what you really need vs. what you can buy when you get there.

A giant move out of the country can be the impetus for that Spring Cleaning you always aspire to do (and which my sister Clare does roughly every 3 months) but never get around to.  Which is yet another reason to move abroad.

And when you do get here, the housing in Paris is small enough to prevent you from restarting that life of stuff you left behind.  When you shop, you constantly ask yourself, “where would I put that?” which is a practical question that you don’t have to answer in always too big America.

* * *

For a great video to share with kids or anyone who cares about our planet and the absurd and unsustainable way of life in the First World, check out the work that these guys have been doing.

Photo from jsmjr.  Labeled for reuse.  What a cute dog.

You can(‘t) go home again

“What do you miss the most?”  My friends smile, anticipating a favorite dish, a favorite place, or a particular time of year.  “Well, you guys, of course,” I say quickly, hoping to deflect the question from my true answer: “Nothing.”

Of course there are things that are wonderful that one could miss – but I “miss” them in the same way that I “miss” anything from a place I have been to – like missing dim sum in Hong Kong or missing walking the beaches of Sydney.  But I don’t miss anything in the “think about it all the time” way that I think they probably mean.  But in fairness to a country that played host to many happy years of my life, I miss walks in the Huntington Gardens in California.  Food trucks in Austin.  Baseball in Saint Louis.  Hot chicken in Nashville.  The squares of Savannah.  BYOB restaurants in Montreal.  Autumn in New Hampshire.

Next month will mark the beginning of my third year in Paris and I’m “in between.”  America is no longer “home” for many reasons but I still can’t believe I really get to call this place home.  I’m Parisian in my bones – in a way I always have been – and I marvel every day that I get to live in my dream city.  I’ve often been alone on a quiet street and stifled a laugh as I took in that crooked winding view of centuries.  Two years on, I still have “pinch me” moments.

Going to the United States has become a rather elaborate production.  As part of my visa requirements, I have to spend at least 270 days a year in France, so you can’t go back for too long – but if you’re going to cross an ocean, it’s 3 weeks’ minimum for me.  I’ve also hit upon the strategy of visiting my friends and family during “non-holiday” periods so I don’t have to share them with other commitments they have.  I’ve also find this makes for finding absurdly cheap flights (I just booked the cheapest Europe-America flight of my life recently).

I haven’t yet chosen to ditch 7 years of medical/dental/accounting services and technology and occasional travel stateside means I don’t have to.  The PPO (insurance plan) I once had in the United States cost $135/month and covered me for pretty much everything for years.  The “affordable care act” in America has not only cancelled that plan, but the closest current equivalent costs $570/month.  So I just pay cash to see my old doctors for my annual checkup, etc.

Dental insurance remains extremely reasonable ($35/month in my case) so it’s cheaper to retain it solely for your cleanings twice a year.  Just those two cleanings will cost more in cash than the entire annual premium for your insurance – and that’s assuming you have no other problems.  Do the math.

I couldn’t help but laugh at the times I would put a car into park and then stare mutely at the dashboard, wondering if I hadn’t forgotten to do something.  Not driving for months and months makes you a bit cagey when you do finally slip behind the wheel again.

***

The more assertive variation on the question “What do you miss?” is “When are you coming back?”  This led to a very long and fruitful exchange with a close friend in which I enunciated advantages I have now that effectively prevent me from returning to the United States for the foreseeable future.

  1. Physical health – I finally gave in and got a fitbit to document what I’ve always suspected: I walk a moving average of 10 km/day.  I do this at various speeds, up and down stairs, on cobblestones or grass, all around this city.  Not only did this regime of walking contribute to my losing 30 lbs/13 kg when I moved here, but it has established a new weight standard which would be impossible for me to retain in most American cities.  During my recent visit to Kansas City, I experimented by refusing to take and elevators and as often as I could remember I parked my vehicle as far away from a store entrance as possible.  I even tried not to use carts to carry my purchases.  With these “extreme” measures I couldn’t even get close to 4km/day as an average.  I’m simply healthier here in Europe.
  2. Access to Europe – I used to treasure an annual trip to Europe to see places new and old.  But now that I live here, all of Europe is at my doorstep, for pennies, either by flight, train, bus, or ridesharing (think uber but for long distances).  When living in America I experienced a variation on these sorts of fun possibilities only during my two years in New Hampshire, when Boston, Philly, NYC, and even Montreal were just road trips away, and in some cases, by train or bus too!  On this recent trip I had some business up by Chicago and elected to take the train (Amtrak) but perhaps had forgotten that there’s only one departure a day and when it gets delayed, it really gets delayed.  An engine on the train coming to Kansas City blew up in Arizona and they had to run another engine out there from California.  It delayed my journey by 7 hours and Amtrak had to pay to transport me to and from a hotel and put me up in it so I could connect to the bus to Rockford in the morning.  Not too shabby a recovery from the taxpayer-supported Amtrak, but a far cry from the dozens of departures and arrivals all around Europe every day.
  3. Constant challenge of language – Every day I make progress in French, but my work and life brings me into contact with the whole world.  During the summer I had a date with a Brazilian girl who didn’t speak English and we laughed our way through our makeshift Spanish and an occasional assist from Google Translate.  Expressing yourself in a foreign language is one of the most difficult, fun, rewarding, humbling, and interesting experiences in life.  You get opportunities like that every day here.
  4. A built life – Next year I transition from my visitor visa to one that puts me on the path to citizenship.  I continue to maintain that the EU passport is simply the most valuable passport obtainable by the average person in the world.  The only ones more valuable are the Vatican and Swiss passports – and they are very, very difficult to obtain for various reasons (as an aside I was recently asked at a dinner party what I liked most about having an American passport and I replied that it was the knowledge that Navy Seals will come for me if Somali pirates ever commandeer a vessel I’m on.  I’m sorry, no country can top that!).  I’ve started something wonderful here, and it would be nuts to leave it – especially when I’ve gone through all the hard stuff.  Indeed, as I looked over the list of requirements for my dossier for my new visa – which will be far more difficult to obtain than the visitor one – I said to a friend, “Is this it?”  The list had 28 requirements.  I realized after 2 years I am simply unfazed by the French government.

So my answer to my friend was, “Why would I come back?  I’m healthier and happier than I have been for many years, possibly more than I have ever been in my life.”

The caveat is, of course, family.  My nieces and nephews continue to grow by leaps and bounds and I measure their skill in their improvements in art and coloring, parcheesi, and sports.

On more than one occasion I’ve heard someone say, “I have to live here, because I love my family.”  I get that, I truly do.  But ultimately I moved because I placed my happiness first.  Of course I’m happy when I am with my family – but I know that part of the reason I get to contribute to their lives, bring them presents from all around the world, and share great stories with them, is precisely because I’ve built and chosen an intentional path for my life that doesn’t defer a dream life to some unknown future that no one has guaranteed that I will live to obtain.

There’s no right answer here and I’m not proposing that I have the right one.  I can only say that I can spend more quality time with my family now – and treasure it more deeply – because I know our opportunities are so precious and limited – and because I am well and truly happy, and that speaks volumes to children.

***

There’s nothing more satisfying than waking up every day knowing in your bones that you are on the right path.  And while two years isn’t yet enough for me to claim “Parisian” status yet, it does feel like home.

***The picture is of one of the fountains in one of the many lovely squares of Savannah, Georgia.***

My worst week in Paris

This is the “Part II” to my “finding an apartment in Paris” article, though it’s really more of an appendix.  Future parts will discuss what to bring with you when moving here.

They say that whether you are a native of France or the lovestruck visitor of Paris (comme moi) your first apartment in the City of Light will always be the worst.  It gets better from there.  There’s a number of reasons why.  You don’t know the arrondissements.  You don’t know how you will feel about your commute.  You won’t know how you feel about your space.

One thing I did know, three months into my stay, as my landlady tried to charge me more for my already too-small space, was that I was done paying 800 euros a month for a studio (between $1000-$1100 USD, depending on the state of the world economy at any given time).  In a week I had settled on a very cool art studio that the resident artist had added a number of bedrooms to.  It was very cool and the price – 650 euros – was great.

She, Sophie, my new potential landlord, was a bit flaky in setting up the appointment to see the place but I chalked it up to the “artiste” in her.  A writer and teacher at heart, I’m able to shush my inner businessman who (rightfully) whispers “accountability!” at necessary times.  But we got along okay at the first meeting and we shook hands on a move.

It was 30 days before my move when I gave notice to my then-current landlady.  I didn’t tell her all my grievances.  They had been kind and I was determined to leave on good terms. I found out, in drips and drabs, just how much had been missed in the handshake agreement that had sealed the deal.  Each new discovery, via email or text, was not in itself a dealbreaker but cumulatively it worried me a lot.  I think I was too excited about moving to the 11th and so close to Père Lachaise, as well as saving almost $225USD a month, so I didn’t really blink as I discovered:

1) I would need a security deposit equal to one month’s rent (pretty standard here).

2) I would need to do one hour of chores per week or pay the cleaning lady 15 euros each week (no big).

3) I was not allowed to receive bills or bank statements – what???  So I could get personal mail but not bills?  This would also complicate the immigration process – but the concierge of my current place agreed to – for 30 days – collect my mail while I figured out an alternative.

4) I was to sign a contract and agreement, 7 pages long, all in French.  I figured I would just have to hash that out with her after moving in.  I wasn’t going to pay for a translation nor was I going to sign something without fully understanding it. But all of these (what should have been blatantly waving red flags) paled in comparison to what I dealt with on February 28th, my worst day in Paris and the beginning of a tough week.  Please keep in mind that I use “worst” and “tough” purely in the First World sense.  At no time was I without the basic necessities of life nor was I being waterboarded, and incidents like these do great wonders for one’s sense of gratefulness.

I had asked two colleagues from Paris Foot Walks to help me.  I had four suitcases and two backpacks to take literally across town (17th to the 11th).  We would be able to stay on the (mostly for locals) Line 3 and just have one change at the very end.  Additionally, the metro stations at the starts and ends of the journey were roughly 500 meters or less from where we needed to be and all the bags had roller wheels.

The day started auspiciously enough.  I had woken up on time and lugged the bags down to the fourth floor where my landlady generously allowed me to use the building’s elevator to get down the final four floors.  My friends arrived on time and were treated to some excellent pastries and coffee from my soon-to-be former landlord.  We made our way in and out of the Metro – up and down quite a few steps – huffing and puffing and laughing – and grateful for the assistance of the (always polite) Parisians around us.

We arrived at my new place-to-be.  One of Sophie’s employees answered the door and she came out.  She had a look of surprise on her face.  “Well, you come tomorrow!” she said.  It was February 28th.  “Well, that’s fine,” I said.  “I’m not going to sleep here tonight, I just need to drop off these bags.  I’ll come back tomorrow.”  “Non, non, it’s just not possible,” she replied with the typical French shrug which said, “I don’t give a merde” about your situation.

I kept my composure.  My colleagues very astutely just kept silent.  She was going to be a landlady for at least the next 6 months, so handle this well, I thought to myself.  I explained that we had come across town – that these bags were not light – that my friends were able to help me today and not necessarily tomorrow – and that I was due to be out of my old apartment first thing tomorrow morning.  I also referenced a text I sent her last week saying I was coming Friday.  To my chagrin she pulled it up and pointed out that I said I was coming to drop off money on Friday, not drop bags.

Now, as an American I would have proffered one of two responses, in my experience as an erstwhile landlord:

a) Okay, you’re here a day early, but you’re going to be here the next six months and you’ve got 1300 euros in your pocket, so I can do a favor for you this one time.

OR

b) If your stuff is here I must charge you rent for today, pro-rated.  Is that okay?

Either of these would have been acceptable, but instead I got the French “sorry, I cannot do anything.”  She said she was in the middle of a photo shoot, she had no room, people always take advantage of her, etc.  But what you need to understand is that I picked this place precisely because it was ENORMOUS by Parisian standards.  If she had room in one place, surely it was in my room which anyone could reasonably expect was cleared out less than 24 hours before my arrival.  It was unoccupied when I had previously seen it. After 5 minutes of fruitless back-and-forth we agreed I would arrive at 09h00 the next day.  The door closed and the man not usually at a loss for words was.

Josh immediately and kindly offered storage at her place, about 14 blocks away.  A wheel had kindly broken off on one of the pieces – cobblestones are murder on cheap luggage, and while I did have 3 Samsonites, that was not one of them – which made the trudge just a bit more challenging.  Two of the three in our party were American and while we tried not to see this incident through the “customer is always right” lens, I was still shocked at such unaccommodating behavior.  “I’m not,” said Danyell, who was married to a Frenchman.  “My mother-in-law is the same.  Typical French.”

We agreed, in between huffs, puffs, and stops, that if I could not even leave my luggage there the day before I moved in that all that awaited me was more unpleasant surprises.  We got to Josh’s, where four more stories and the corresponding stairs awaited us.  I laughed bitterly as I lugged the luggage up those flights, marveling that what I imagined would be such an easy day instead had gone wrong in every conceivable way.

One of the new views from my new apartment

One of the new views from my new apartment

Danyell had to run off to another job, so I didn’t get to take her to lunch for all her troubles.  We parted and Josh and I grabbed some lunch and discussed the problem further.  She had some room and very kindly consented to let me leave my luggage there for a week while I scrambled to find a new place. I swung into action and had a place the following morning, for one week.

It was in Le Pré San Gervais, which is at the very edge of the 19th Arrondissement.  When I say edge, I mean outside of.  It was outside Paris city limits by about 1 km.  Good, I thought.  Let me find out what it’s like to live in the burbs for a week.  Gk, who owned the room, wanted 700 euros per month for a very sunny and lovely room – but for someone living and working in Paris – it wasn’t tenable, by my standards, for a long stay.  I paid for one week. It was at the edge of Paris transport, and door-to-door, with Velib, bus, and metro, it would take at least 30 minutes to get to one of the “center” stations of Paris, like Chatelet, Opera, or Republique (see, even right there in my list I can see how Right-Bank biased I am).

I loved the size of the room and the quiet of the building, as well as being on the 1st, not the 7th, floor, but I wasn’t going to pay that much and not even live inside Paris proper. Still, in my week “in exile” I came to appreciate just how spoiled I had become (and would remain – my new apartment was in the same neighborhood as my old one – 20 minutes by foot, or 10 minutes by Velib, or 5 minutes by Metro to the Arc de Triomphe, a beating heart of the city).

The happy ending to my alleged “worst week”?  I picked up my keys that Thursday and moved in over the next three days.  I had plenty of time to adjust to my new views.  Danyell and Josh valiantly joined me to “finish what they had started” a week ago.  I avoided moving into a place that had featured numerous warning signs and a disastrous move-in day.  I found out I had friends who were more kind and generous than I could have imagined or even deserve.  But most importantly, I had upgraded my housing while decreasing my cost of living – which is a feat in any city, not just this one.