At the Post Office, originally uploaded by bexadler.

Today I went to the post office to ship the last of my winter clothes and excessive shoe supply to Switzerland. It went much better than my first trip to the post office a few weeks ago, when I went with my friend Lacey. She speaks decent Chinese, but it still took us a good 30-45 minutes to send one box. First, we had to buy a box and then have all of the things we wanted to send inspected by the postal worker. Then fill out a bunch of forms, etc., etc. It was difficult with the language barrier. I was especially annoyed when the dude pictured above walked in with his addressed rice sack, secured shut with a piece of string, and was able to send it. Meanwhile, we had to go through this hullabaloo of unpacking all of our things and putting it in an official post office box that cost 14 yuan. Anyway, we were successful in the end, as we always are, despite the struggle. It is for this reason, however, that I have been dreading going back to ship the last of my things.

I finally got up the courage to go today, though. And it was easy as pie! What?! I know. The secret of this easy and successful trip to the post office was that the only clerk on duty was a man who speaks English. The gods were obviously shining down on me today. I went in there wearing a tank top and shorts because I tend to sweat bullets when I have to try to speak Chinese so I wanted to try to stay as cool as possible. But, alas, it was for nothing. I was in and out of there in 10 minutes flat. It was most definitely the easiest interaction I have ever had in China with both a government agency AND a Chinese person. I feel like that man deserves a huge raise and some baked cookies.

By the way, I know how much everyone hates that Americans (or English speakers, in general) expect the rest of the world to speak English. It is definitely annoying and sad that the rest of the world is losing their culture and language because of American songs and movies taking over the airwaves. I get it. But, dear god, if it doesn’t make my life easier sometimes. Anyone who lives in China, knows how difficult the Chinese language can be to speak and understand (even among the Chinese themselves). I have tried and failed miserably to learn this language. But I understand their annoyance at all of the foreigners who do not know how to communicate in Chinese, especially coming from a likewise proud and ethnocentric country where people talk about foreigners constantly and say things like “Why don’t they just learn to speak English?!” It’s not that easy folks.

Anyway, this is all to say that my departure date is getting close. I am both excited and totally freaked out about moving to Switzerland. First, I am totally stoked to be moving to a country where I speak the language! No more needing a note, like a 5-year-old, to go buy a train ticket or visit the doctor. YES! It’s also going to be awesome to be in a beautiful country (with a beautiful man, to boot!), where I can breathe clean air and go running without my hypochondria convincing me that I am getting lung cancer, asthma, or emphysema. However, not having a job is freaking me out beyond belief. Not knowing whether I will have enough money to survive through my 3-month stay (the length of my visa if I don’t find a job) is incredibly unnerving. I have been self-sufficient too long now to go back to being that irresponsible 25-year-old who has to borrow money from her younger sister to buy a plane ticket back to America. I will not do it! (OK, maybe I will, but I really don’t want to have to.)

So keep your fingers crossed for me! And send any job leads my way 😉

xoxo,

Becca

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I know how much everybody hates these stupid quotation memes, so I try not to post them very often, but this one seemed apt for what’s been on my mind lately.

I have been living in China for more than a year now, as most of you have probably figured out. You may have also noticed that it has brought out the deepest level of cynicism I have ever found in myself. As you may remember, a little more than a year ago, I could not stop waxing on about how wonderful life is. I had embarked on a grand adventure and was working my way through some of the countries I had wanted to see for as long as I could remember. I was spending my days at leisure, rock climbing, hiking, and running – the three things I love to do most in this world. And then, well, I came to China.

China began as another big adventure. It was a place I had never ever dreamed of visiting, and a place as far from my own culture as I have ever been. The food, the language, the culture, the smells, the everything is completely different here. And for a time it was interesting and I wanted to try it all.

But then the being crowded, and the pollution, and the lack of trees or birds, and the arbitrary rules, and the this, and the that really started to get to me. No, it started to grind at me – in a way I never thought possible. I mean, let’s be honest, you’ve all noticed that China and I haven’t exactly been BFF, right?

I have stayed on here because I wanted to gain some valuable teaching experience and build up my resume. And I wavered back and forth all winter about whether I should come back for another year because I DO love my job here. But I have decided that I will not be staying here after the semester finishes.  It really kills me that I have lived abroad before, but that I just cannot seem to adjust to China and love it the way I have loved my other homes abroad. It has been, by far, the most challenging place I have lived (or visited, for that matter). Yes, at times I have loved it, but at most times I have hated it. And I mean REALLY hated it.

The worst part about this experience, though, is that it has brought me back to a bad place within myself. I spend so much time alone with absolutely nothing active or constructive to do, which gives me lots of time to criticize myself, my choices, and my life. It also makes me acutely aware of how lonely it is to be alone in a country where there are so few people with whom I can communicate on any real level. It also makes me yearn for all of those things that I set off to do when I first left for New Zealand almost two years ago. Being here makes me feel like I have somehow lost sight (again) of what is important to me – being outdoors, spending time meditating, and making sure every day is a day where I think to myself, “I love my life!” Of course there are other things that are important to me, but these are the things that were the center of my life for a whole year, and they were the things that made me happier than I have ever been before. EVER. I want that back.

While I would love to set down roots somewhere and build a real life with friends and a family of my own one day, I know that that somewhere is not China. Alas, I am not a tree, at least not yet, thus, I am free to leave. I have not bought my plane ticket to wherever I will be off to next. I am currently searching for work and will then know where the wind will take me. For now, it is enough to know that I will go.

Tony and Angela both left this afternoon. I also took my two huge bags to my friend Mihir’s house, where I’ll be squatting for a few days before my grand escape. All that’s left here is piles of paper and the few clothes hanging on the drying rack.

And me, of course. It’s so lonely in this tiny apartment all by myself and it’s making me a bit crazy. Just one more day here and then I’m off to Mihir’s though, so I guess I won’t have too much time to lie in bed being depressed. Actually, tomorrow I plan to clean up this apartment a little bit, throw out the rest of the food that I don’t plan to eat at Mihir’s and finish packing.

I can’t believe it’s finally almost time for me to leave. Paris really is such a beautiful city and I’ll be sad not to have the Eiffel Tower only a few blocks away, and history at my doorstep. I really will miss it here, but I cannot wait to be back in Sacramento where I feel comfortable.

I’m looking forward to not feeling like an ugly duckling when I show up in a t-shirt and flip-flops. It’s going to feel great to have my feet free of the confines of these horrid shoes. Oh, and running in the spring. I can’t wait to run again. I’ve become extremely lazy in my last weeks here.

I’m sure you’re all sick of hearing me talk about coming home, it’s just there isn’t much else on my mind these days. I did finish two books this week, which is a plus. That puts me at nine for the year. I’m a bit behind schedule, but I’ve already got six books waiting for me on the hold shelf at the Sacramento Public Library. Cannot wait.

See you all in six short days!

I started packing last night and two things occurred to me. First, Tony and I still have a hell of a lot of stuff. How did this happen? I’m going to ship one more box of stuff (mostly books) home and then hopefully everything will fit in our four suitcases. Tony has to go light because we bought him a cheap ticket home and they only allow you to bring on 25 kg of luggage. Considering he had 50 kg on his way here, we have quite a bit to shave off there. We’re currently trying to stuff it all into my baggage.

The second I realized is that I move an awful lot. In fact, by the time Tony and I move into our apartment when we get back to Sacramento, I will have moved 14 times in the last 9 years (the time since I moved out of my parents house). That means I move approximately every 8 months. And for the first time I’m really tired of it. As I was thinking about this, I turned to Tony and asked if we could settle down for awhile when we get back. Of course he said it’s no problem. I’m going back to school and he wants to go back to school too, so it’d probably be best if we just planned to stay in Sacramento anyway. But it was really a huge relief to get it out there and say it.

The only problem now will be finding a place that I won’t mind living in for two or three years (or more, who knows?). I really, REALLY want a place with out own washer and dryer. And I super want a garden so I can grow my own vegetables and herbs (plus, I want a worm bin and Tony says I can’t keep it in the house). The hitch: I don’t think they have this in the price range of “poor” and “poorer.” But it’s possible. I’m scouting out craigslist daily.

In other news: After having my freelance website for more than a year, I’m finally finished with it and willing to share it with the general public. I’d really appreciate any feedback you can give me. And I’d like to apologize for always asking you all to do this for me. It’s just nice to get some feedback when you have something new, you know?

I’d also like to thank those of you who have already given me your critiques. It really helped me to make the site better and work out some bugs. I also need to thank Tony for being my own personal graphics and logo designer, and Chason for being my own personal copy editor. I really appreciate everyone’s help. Hopefully this site will finally start to pay off and I can find some writing gigs when I get home.

Kisses,

Me.

It’s been about a year since I started selling off all of my things in preparation to move to France. Now, only five months after being in Paris, I’m doing the same thing. And I’m tired. Over the past few days I’ve been boxing up my few movies and books so I can ship them back home. I’ve also been deciding what I can give away before I leave. Doesn’t it feel like I just did this?

Also in my preparations to leave I’ve been thinking about how great it will be to be back home with my friends, and drinking wine at our pseudo book club. How fab it will be to be able to buy any book I want in English. What it will be like to go out for Mexican food any time of the day. And…well it made me just want to go home and stay there. I’ve been thinking a lot the last few days that maybe I don’t want to leave again. I mean I like the idea of Germany, but I’m worried it will turn out to be another big failure. And anyway, my life at home is pretty great. Why would I want to leave it again?

Of course, I didn’t say this out loud because I’m usually the type of person who says what I’m going to do and then I do it. Plus, I’d already talked Tony into it.

But then, today when Tony and I were waiting for an elevator, he turned to me and said, “Do you really want to do this again in a year?” It was as if he knew exactly what I was thinking at that exact moment.

“I’m not so sure it’s a good idea. What do you think?” I said.

“Nah, I’m tired of Europe. If we go anywhere again, let’s go to Hawaii.”

“Hawaii. Yeah, OK.”

I’m so glad I didn’t have to be the one to call off our moving abroad again. All I want is to come home. This whole experience has really embittered me about France, and pretty much the whole European continent. I’m sad because I used to really love it here. Maybe it’s just because I’m getting older; I’m just set in my ways and enjoy being where it’s familiar.

Of course, we could always change our minds once we get back home. We may remember Europe as being this big magical place and we may want to come running back. Not likely, but it could happen. I’m still learning German just in case. But Hawaii does sound nice. And it’s a MUCH quicker plane ride home if we hate it.

Return to sender updated: March 10.

When I was working at my last newspaper job I always had the same first thought in the morning: I hate my life. Every morning I would wake up miserable and I’d turn to my boyfriend and say, “I hate my life.” I never had enough money. I was working all the time, commuting 45 minutes both ways and stressing out all the time. I was making my boyfriend miserable and complaining all the time.

After enough months of it, I finally changed things in my life to make me happier. Most of you already know this part, but I’ll put it in here just to clarify: I quit my job and began freelance. I sold my car. I said yes to an opportunity to move to Paris. And I began waking up in the morning and saying how much I loved life.

The last six months I spent in Sacramento were probably the happiest times I’ve ever had.

But for some reason I left it, thinking I’d be just as happy here in Paris. I thought life would be easy. After all, I was going to be getting free rent, a car and 800 euros a month for only 20 hours a week of work. Essentially it’d be an easy year to figure out what I want to do with my life.

Ladies and gentleman, I hate to inform you that it has been NOTHING like that. First off, my boss has cheated me at every corner. Before I came here she told me she wasn’t even sure she would have enough work for me to do and I’d probably have to find a second job to keep me busy. Not true. I work between 45 and 55 hours a week. AND I’m only getting paid 600 euros a month, rather than the 800 I was promised.

My boss is the biggest stress case ever and she makes me more stressed than I’ve ever been in my life. And her 8-year-old is the devil. And for what? This is a shit job that I don’t need. It’s never going to go on my resume. It’s never going to matter. The only reason I haven’t quit is because nobody else will hire me because my boss never got me my work visa like she promised.

When I first got here I was totally miserable, but now I’ve gotten used to the hours and the brat, and even my boss’s constant demands. And actually things have gotten better since the beginning, mainly because I told my boss I would have never come to France if I had know I’d be working in these conditions. Then I said I was going back to America when my visa expired. After that she was really nice, still demanding, but a lot nicer about it. She also promised to cut back my hours and pay me more. That was two and a half months ago.

I’m still working insane hours and still not getting paid more. I brought this up to her right before Xmas vacation and she said she’d like to just give me a bonus before I leave rather than paying me the extra 200 euros a month. She said we’d talk about it. That’s her way of avoiding it.

Anyway, basically what I’m trying to get at with all of this is that I’m back to waking up every morning saying I hate my life.

I hate my life. And I want to change it. But I feel responsible for these kids. I feel like I made a commitment to be here and I should stay.

But at the same time I feel like I don’t owe this family anything. They’ve done nothing to help me while I’ve been here. They’ve done nothing to make my life easier. And most of all, they’ve done nothing to hold up their end of the bargain.

So why am I laying this all on you now? Well, I kind of just needed to work through this because I’m going to have to talk to my boss tomorrow. I’m coming home in May, instead of July like she wants me to. The main reason for this is that American Airlines won’t let me use my ticket after May because I used frequent flyer miles to buy it. But the other reasons are that I hate it here and I need to get home and get settled before school starts.

I told my boss today about the flight situation and she told me that it’s “mandatory” for me to be here in June because her son has his baccalaureate to take at the end of June and she needs someone to help with the younger son. I know the BAC is a big deal in France, but I think four months notice is plenty of time for her to find someone else. Despite me pointing this out, she continued to say it is “mandatory” and that we agreed on me being here for June. (This is only half true. She told me school ended the first week of June, when really it doesn’t end until the first week of July, meaning I’d be stuck here until July 4.)

We had this discussion just before I left today so I had plenty of time to brood about it on my way home. And what I thought was, “Fuck you, nothing is mandatory for me. I can change my plane ticket any time I want to and I can fly right back to where I came from. I don’t have to do anything for you. I don’t need you. You need me. You’ve done nothing for me. You haven’t lived up to your promises, so why should I? What do I owe you? Nothing. Nothing at all. So why don’t you think about that before you start threatening me with ‘mandatory.’ You can say you’ll stop paying me. You can say whatever you want, but the fact remains that I DO have options. I can change my life if I want to. So just tell me one more time why I should stay here two extra months.”

Am I right?

I think I’m right.

So anyway, I have to say all that to my boss tomorrow and I’m a bit scared. She’s super scary for sure. And Tony doesn’t want to leave Paris. I’m sure I’ll still stay until May because she really has no other option than to keep me around, but it may be hellish if I don’t agree to stay the extra two months.

Ugh. I hate my life.

I’m on vacation this week. That means I slept in until 2 p.m. today and then spent the balance of the day surfing the Internet, watching French cartoons and basically lazing as much as possible. It also means I can’t sleep. I’ve been browsing through blogs, chatting with Tony and stalking just about everyone I know for the past few hours, and yet here I am, still online.

The only really productive thing I managed to do today was writing my Statement of Purpose for my grad school application. I know I haven’t really ever mentioned this before, mostly because it’s a recent development that I might be going back to school.

Early last week I found out Tony and I will be leaving Europe much earlier than we’d planned. For the past year we’ve been talking about spending at least two years here, if not more. But, for a number of reasons, it now looks as though we’ll be coming back in May, only six months from now. One of the main reasons we have to move back is because Tony received one of those doomsday letters from Sac State saying he didn’t really graduate because he’s missing one of the classes required to receive his degree, meaning he has to go back to school in the fall.

Initially I was a big sobbing mess, feeling as though my grand escape had been foiled somehow. I felt as though I’d told everyone I was going to do big things and instead I’m ending up right back where I began. But after about ten minutes of feeling sorry for myself, I began working out a new plan.

I popped open my computer and began researching other possibilities. For some time I’d been thinking of returning to school to get my teaching credentials. This desire has since been compounded by me learning, in my few months here, one of the best ways to move abroad is with a student visa.

As I continued researching I found out you can’t do a study abroad option if you’re only registered in the credential program. You have to be registered as either an undergrad or a graduate student. I found a graduate program at my old alma mater that seems to fit me perfectly, so I’m applying for it. This means both Tony and I will be going back to school in the Fall if I’m accepted. While I’m working on the prerequisites for the graduate program I’ll be learning German and applying for the German study abroad program, which specializes in teacher education (one of the main focuses of my graduate program).

Although it’s a change in plans, it’s not a step back. I can now not only live abroad, but also receive my graduate degree while doing it. Hopefully it will also mean that I’ll have financial aid and scholarships so I won’t have to work three jobs as I did as an undergrad.

Now that I’ve worked out a new direction for myself, I’m really glad that life forced me to change my path. And I’m excited I’ll be home again for a bit longer. I’ve decided to think of this stay in Paris as a trial run for the big move in 2009. I’m just glad I’m not one of those people who is afraid of change. If I were, I’d probably be in a loony bin by now with all the changes I make every day. There’s something to be said for those of us with adaptable personalities.

All I have to do now is cross my fingers that I’m accepted into the program. I’ll be meeting with the advisor at Sac State on the Monday I’m back in town. I hope he has some good insight about my application before I turn it in…