Thursday, 14 June 2012

Finally a chance to catch my breath...

The past four days have been a whirlwind of starting work and moving into my apartment! Needless to say, I’m finally figuring out the Metro system.

The job:
I arrive every Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday at 1pm and leave at 930pm when we close. Without any training or even an explanation on how things work, I was thrown into my first shift. I hadn’t even signed anything yet – still haven’t actually... Very different than at home! A very casual agreement, I chat with customers, fetch things from the back room and organize gifts on the floor. 

M. Dupuis is very nice. He is a round man with glasses and grey hair, probably around his early to mid 50s. On Monday he and I closed the store together and he made a point of ensuring I knew where all the dangerous parts of Paris were. I then promised him I wouldn’t find myself near them and he seemed pleased saying if I ever had a problem he would be happy to help. The tone changed after that, and he started describing all the parts of France I had to see, giving me a list about a kilometer long. 

Mme Dupuis is a bit more strict. She, is a big woman with a big presence. She has red hair and tends to command a level of respect from all her employees. She loves that I speak English and has had me translate a few things for her when filling out the order sheets. She finds my French mistakes funny and my pronunciation of some words odd, but in a ‘aw you’re a nice little Canadian girl’ kind of way. Or at least I think that’s how she sees it.

My favourite part of the job is talking with customers. They come from all around the world. I had a nice chat with a couple from Calgary, a man from Minesota and mother and daughter from Indonesia. I find that I speak almost equal amounts of French, English and Spanish - yes Spanish, my high school Spanish teachers would be so proud! All the different langauges swirling around me are nice but do make me more prone to mistakes. On Tuesday I was chatting away with a sweet old woman from the south of France and she asked me for an apron. I tried very hard to sell her a magnet – and it wasn’t until she pulled me over to the rack of aprons I understood. Completely embarrassed I apologized to her and brought her over to the till with her apron AND magnet!

One of the women I work with is from Serbia, and while French is her second language she speaks it as if it is her first. She has a masters degree in Economics from Sorbonne and stayed in Paris because she met her husband here – it seems a lot of people meet and fall in love in Paris. There must be some truth to calling it the most romantic city in the world! She and I have wonderful long chats and she seems to be very interested in my university degree. Throughout the day, she helps me along with developing my French, correcting little mistakes as I go. It is great to have someone who understands how communicating in your second language can be a bit nerve wracking at times but she understands. Apparently everyone she speaks to asks if she’s Italian! 

The apartment:
It is my own little corner of Paris. At 20m squared, which is just under 200 square feet, it is very tiny! The apartment is on the 2nd French floor - the 3rd floor in Canadian terms - and my view is all the white roof tops that seem to be connected. I usually leave the windows open to get a nice Parisian breeze. It is conveniently situated right next door to a Patisserie. This is both fantastic and far too tempting as I get a whiff of freshly made bread and pastries every time I walk through my building door.

I live in the Bastille neighbourhood - or the 11th arrondissement - which is known for being full of young people between the ages of 20 and 30.  They all seem to live in the cafes, restaurants and the streets. I am actually sitting at one very lively café as I write this sipping on a café au lait. 

All in all it has been a crazy past few days, but I am finally able to catch my breath. I feel much more at home and as soon as I am wireless in the apartment things will be perfect – although I don’t mind the excuse to come to a café every day to check emails! 

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