Four years ago yesterday -- that is, August 5, 2004 -- I stepped off of the morning United flight from Dulles to CDG. I went up those crazy 1960s criss-cross stairless escalators in Terminal 1, marveled at the horrendous architecture and unfriendly layout, and waited two hours for my baggage. Peter K and the Embassy driver Jean-Pierre were still there, patiently awaiting me, and we went off to the 16th arrondissement and my new 'home' on the Rue Crevaux.
I was very excited about the prospect of my new job in Paris as a political officer in our Embassy. If I recall correctly, I didn't know anyone with whom I'd be working, but had heard some of the names. I was also extremely happy to be beginning my Parisian experience -- as Parisian as it can ever be when one is working in the bubble of an Embassy. Paris, and France, were new to me. I had spent the past few months studying the language, reading history and culture books, reading the news sites on-line, reading expat memoirs, trying to prepare myself for what to expect.
I had been warned by someone who had worked in the POL section years before that - hey, living in Paris is a dream. Working in the POL section, full of such smart, ambitious people -- it's a snake pit. I thought: okay, that's going to stink, but I'll just have to see. My French culture books told me the French, in particular the women, would be standoffish, that clerks in the stores where I did my daily business would (hopefully) be polite -- if I acted according to the correct codes, that is -- but no more. Most importantly, I was determined to avoid the psychological trap of seeing Paris through rose-colored glasses where romance was concerned. It would inevitably be disappointing.
Four years ago yesterday, I had never:
-- Seen my apartment, where I built a life, in the 16th arrondissement.
-- Seen the inside of the U.S. Embassy in France.
-- Met some of my best friends and wonderful colleagues (the snake pit had been replaced by a truly astounding team of people who WERE all exceptionally bright . . .but also collegial, funny, smart, kind. It was truly amazing to me with a section comprised of that many people that there wasn't a rotten one in the bunch).
-- Been to a Certain Unnamed Italian Restaurant (CUIR) as we'll call it from now on.
-- Laid eyes on my husband.
And as of four years ago tomorrow, I had done all of those things.