Au Revoir

So here is my prerequisite farewell post.

In less than two weeks, I ship off to begin a 10-month adventure in France. I am delighted that all my preparation during the past year (and even before that) is finally paying off and that I’ll be able to check off one of the top things on my bucket list: “living abroad.” There are so many things that I want to experience while I’m in France, and of course, I am very hopeful that my time away will be extended.

I’m saying goodbye to this blog because I’m leaving DC; but also because I’m at a different place in my life.

I started this blog after my ex, Floyd, moved back home. And I end this blog — five years later — knowing that I have successfully released myself from that period of my life. As reflected in the changes in the content and frequency of my posts over the years, I’ve slowly started to lead a full and fulfilled life. During the past few years, I have “come into my own” as a career woman, as a single girl, as a daughter, as a friend, and as a human being. I know that my journey is far from over, but I feel that the past 30 years of my life were full of much laughter and that the tears were always, eventually, dried by greater knowledge and understanding of the world and my true self.

I enjoy blogging. It is a great form of expression and I know that it (along with old-fashioned journaling...) has helped me get through a lot of the struggles of my late-20s. Yet, I haven’t decided if I will start a new blog in France. I’m hoping that I won’t have enough free time to maintain one. But I also know that there are more than enough expat blogs out there to keep folks entertained regarding the minutiae of living in another country and culture.

So thank you, my “devoted fans” (i.e., my friends) and also the random visitors who’ve stopped by.

Au revoir. Bon courage.


Destination: Poitiers, France

May was a good month. I obsessed over the opening of PAUL USA in DC, celebrated my 30th birthday surrounded by friends, and took the perfect trip to France with my mother.

I am happy to report that I am still an ardent francophile. I was so worried that my trip off the beaten track would reveal a shallow schoolgirl crush on France. To my relief, I fell in love with my future hometown, Poitiers.

Poitiers is simply the perfect place for my French language immersion. It's relatively small and compact, with lots of students which gives it great energy. And it is beautiful. Lots of cute, narrow streets, lovely churches, and historic architecture. There are great parks and a river, and it's ideally situated between Paris and Bordeaux---with the Atlantic Ocean (La Rochelle) a short TGV ride away.

The main campus of the university is on the outskirts, about a 10-15 minute bus ride from centre ville. I am hoping to score university housing in a dormitory to save cash (yes, it's time for me to dig out my shower shoes and robe...).

I was blown away by how nice, open, and welcoming everyone was. I feel so fortunate to have been able to make connections before I arrive. During my trip, I had lunch with a girl who will be my language exchange partner, met a guy who is active in Poitiers’ green scene, and spent many, many hours with my Couchsurfing savior who made most of my Poitevin introductions possible (he held a dinner party at his house for every night I was there). And I can't forget the awesome German girl I met who will most likely be my first visitor in September.

Before I left, I paid my deposit for the university program and even got my first taste of the French administrative thought-process (a.k.a., bureaucracy).

I know that many challenges await me this fall and spring. But I am looking forward to tackling them all with patience, love, and humor.

I am over the moon with excitement about all that awaits me in France. I have a little under 3 months until my departure date (late August). Of course, I am anxious to leave for France, like right now. But I know that I will appreciate having three more paychecks in my bank account when the time comes to backpack across the EU or perhaps, enroll in a second year of study...

There is so much for me to do before I leave: visa appointment, possession purge, training my work replacement, and of course, making lots of final memories with my beloved friends in DC.


Bon Voyage

In about 9 hours, I depart for France. I am unbelievably excited about being in la belle France again. And I am even more excited to be able to share with my mother my first visit to Poitiers. It will be a different experience of France than on our last visit together over 4 years ago.

I have a bunch of fun things planned for the few days we spend in Paris: brunch along the Canal Saint-Martin, la nuit des musees at the Louvre, and a watercoloring session at the Jardin du Luxembourg.

But the real fun awaits us in Poitiers. I have 3 rdv scheduled with local folks: a Frenchman (who may not speak English…), an American woman, and a Taiwanese woman (who is taking a career break to study French, like me). And I’ll be visiting the university campus and language program. I had intended to get a lot done during this trip (opening a bank account, getting a cell phone, securing housing leads, etc), but now it seems that it will be a trip focused on simply getting to know the city. And that is fine with me. I can’t wait to get a sense of Poitiers, its rhythm, its layout, the beautiful parks, and even all the grimy, hideous parts.

When I return, I’ll have about three weeks to finalize my paperwork before my visa appointment with the French Consulate. I am crazy-worried about getting my visa application ready as I still haven’t figured out my housing situation. Even though I’m a bit old, I am interested in finding a homestay/au pair situation since it would give me an intimate window into French family/home life. At the same time, living alone or with roommates would be better for my social life and for hosting friends and family. I’ll have to figure this all out soon…

So all is well. My 30th year is truly off to a good start. I spent the last hours of my 20s and the first hours of my 30s surrounded by amazing friends, and I’m still on track for France. And for that I am thankful.


April Update

April has been a good month. Here are a few details of what’s on my plate these days:


I continue to gear up for my birthday trip to France in May and my “career break” in France this fall. At the beginning of the month, I received the disappointing news that I was not selected for TAPIF (the embassy program to teach English in France). So, I’ve moved on to what feels like “plan z” – applying to study French at the University of Poitiers.

I am happy that I can now focus my energy into researching one program and one city. And I am even a bit relieved that I will be going as an independent student. I will have so much freedom in terms of housing, extracurricular activities, and my length of my stay—that I would not have had with a structured program. And yet, I am envious of university study abroad students and the folks who were selected for TAPIF who will have the ready-made safety net and social circle provided by going through a program. So, I’ve started to activate my network and seek connections with people in Poitiers to get advice and tips to make my transition as smooth as possible.

I have become a little obsessed with spending every bit of my free time studying French and researching all the things I need to do before I depart, like obtain a visa and securing housing. Even though a stack of paperwork and chores await me this summer, I must commit myself to taking time out to enjoy another summer in DC with my friends--because if I get what my heart truly desires, I won't be back next year.

My journey to chase my dreams is definitely tinged with anxiety about the unknowns (and the red tape!) that await me in France. And yet, I know that it will be all worthwhile once I am settled in Poitiers, celebrating the minutiae of life. I am feeling anxiety, for sure; but also, an abundance of glee.


As a side note, PAUL is opening up a location in DC (http://www.paulusa.com/) . I fell in love with PAUL’s sandwich chaud saucisse last August. My two travel partners can attest that it is simply heaven… I actually went by on Monday to ask about a part time job – though I’ve been stalking the location ever since I heard about it last fall. I didn’t know it at the time, but I met the PAUL USA CEO (former President of Starbucks France…). He was super-nice and helpful, and encouraged me to come back and chat with the manager. Even if they don’t hire me, you better believe that I’ll be there on opening day to sample everything in sight.

Mon Anniversaire

One week until my 30th birthday. I feel ready for 30. My twenties were awesome, crazy, fulfilling, annoying, and at times, a little intense. Given that I’ve chosen to kick off my 30s following my dreams in France, I am certain that my 30s will truly rock.


March Update

Another month is coming to a close. My slow march to La Belle France continues and I am thankful that I still haven’t encountered any curveballs along the way (knock on wood…).

I continue to have a few lingering doubts about my decision. I know that it is the right choice in my heart. But I worry that it isn’t the best or most rational choice for my overall, long-term wellbeing.

Going to live in Latin America to learn Spanish would be more practical career wise. Reapplying to Peace Corps would be less selfish. Choosing a country that is less expensive or living in France for only a month would make more financial sense. Using my savings as they were intended – to buy a home and officially settle down in DC after 11.5 years – would make me feel less transient and more like a responsible adult.

Yet, as I talk to more and more “established” people, I am getting the reassurance that I need. For example, my new mentor loves the idea of my “academic vacation” and has silenced many of my career worries (and even offered me a job for when I return). And my mother, after a 2-week educational tour of Ghana, is even more enthusiastic about my plan for France. I think she finally understands my desire to challenge myself and immerse myself in another country and culture. Amazingly, I think she is considering a similar experience for herself through the programs at her church.

I have worked hard and sacrificed a lot (but perhaps not enough in the grand scheme of things…) during my twenties to save and invest and plan for a future when I’d be able to follow my dreams. Now, it is almost time to cash in. There is anxiety for sure, but most of all, there is satisfaction and glee.


February Update

Hmm… I just came by to quickly reply to a comment left by Organica (from Vietnam!!) and decided to type up a little update for the blogosphere.

All is well. Work is work. Life is good. My social scene has begun to perk up with the impeding spring. France as my destination of choice was made official in January. I am just waiting to find out if I’ll be in France as a teacher of English (TAPIF) or a student of French. I’ll know my fate sometime in April. And at that point, I’ll have to start organizing for my departure in earnest.

I booked two tickets for France in mid-May. It is basically a trial-run trip with my mother. I want to make some face-to-face connections with folks in the country in hopes that it will make my transition less overwhelming. If I don’t get the teaching gig, the trip will center on a visit to Poitiers, the location of my top choice language program.

I really hope that I am accepted into TAPIF. It would be great to be a part of an actual program. I’d get a paycheck and have health care setup for me. Though I know that I’ll face drama regardless as a foreigner, there would be a few less hassles under TAPIF than as an independent, adult student. And yet, I’ll have more freedom as an independent language student...

For whatever reason, I’ve decided to give my heart to France. I hope that she’ll be kind.

So, yes, all is well. I’m still on track.


The End of the Road

Wow, I think this is the longest that I have ever gone without posting on this blog. I can tell you that things continue to go well in my life (thankfully) and that I'm still on-track with my plan to be living in Europe before the end of the year. I doubt that this blog with come with me. And I must admit that I don't have the pull to publish as I once did. Instead, I'd rather write in my journal or chat with a friend.

I'm definitely not the first person to disappear from the blogosphere. Nor will I be the last. It has been a fun, worthwhile experience but I sense that I'm getting toward the end of my short stint as a blogger.

So that is all for now. I just wanted to post before the end of the month and let it be known that I'm still here. I will definitely craft some final post, when the time is right. Until then, expect haphazard posts on France and how I'm trying to make my last few months in DC truly memorable.


Here is my obligatory end of the year post. I gleefully say goodbye to 2010. It has been an awesome year and I can only hope that 2011 is even better.

2011 is the year of Hippo Q. in Europe!! I don’t want to get my hopes up too high as it is quite possible that I end up still in DC next year. But my mentality during the upcoming months is that of a person who will be living out of her suitcase and frugally spending her euros this time next year.

2011 is the year that I’ll turn 30. I have no idea where the last 30 years have gone, but I can say that I’m feeling good. My twenties were such a crazy time of self-doubt, low self-esteem, longing, naivety, uncertainty, etc. For sure, I can’t say that I’ve figured everything out already, but I definitely feel that I’m about to start a new chapter of my life (my 30s) in a better place—though with declining eyesight, achy knees and hips, and fine lines.

My main resolution for 2011 has been reiterated numerous times on this blog. I want to live/work/study in Europe starting next fall. And I am determined to achieve that resolution. The rest of my resolutions/plans are related.
  • Soak-up my last few months of ulcer-inducing Hill life. I am looking forward to the new Congress. There have been so many changes on the Hill and I can’t wait to dig in and fight against the craziness that will come from the other side.
  • Enjoy my last few months in DC. There are so many things that I haven’t done in DC. I want to check out TR Island, the National Cathedral, and the National Arboretum. In reality, I just want to spend time with my friends. DC is such a transient city and I’ve watch so many of my friends leave. I never imagined that I would depart DC as well.
  • Intense language/culture studies. This will be postponed until I know if I’ll need to focus on Germany or France. I am excited about the possibility of living in either (or both) country. My fingers are crossed that it all works out. I’ll have a decision by February.
  • Reduce the clutter. I’ve already made some progress in this. A friend is coming over to take a few things this weekend, and I hope to start asking around if there are any new arrivals to DC who might appreciate free/cheap stuff. And from there, it is all about Craigslist and the Salvation Army. Whatever is left will just be donated to my shared house.
  • Go on some dates! Since my Europe epiphany in August, I have been reluctant to consider going out on dates. But I don’t see anything wrong with a little bit of DC fun this spring before I ship off. And yes, I said this spring. I honestly don’t leave my house in the winter. It will be perfect practice (and help me lose a bit of the desperation vibe) for when I meet the cliché EU lover.
  • Cut my hair. Sometime before I depart. I will cut my hair down to my 100% natural hair. My hair hasn’t grown out enough to do the cut now but I’m thinking that I’ll have enough length (and nerve) by the summertime.

Best wishes to everyone for an amazing 2011!


Possession Anxiety

My excitement about next year has started to morph into anxiety. There is so much that I need to do to prepare. Foremost, I must reduce my possessions to only the essentials that can easily fit into two large duffel bags (is that wise or even possible?). Everything else will be sold or given away to friends or Goodwill. I feel that I haven’t accumulated that much since my last purge – in preparation for Peace Corps – but I still have so much stuff. Where did it all come from?

I’ve been a packrat since I was a child and I have a way of assigning emotional value to the most mundane of household objects. It is one of the reasons that my mother’s basement is full of crates of my childhood junk. I feel that I am better than I once was but I still have trouble parting with stuff.

Thankfully, since the beginning of the fall, I’ve cut back on my purchases – not only to save money but also to avoid accumulating anything else that I’d have to throw away next year.

In the last month, I have started to give away/recycle/trash some of my clothes and desk items, but I haven’t made a significant dent in any of it (don’t get me started on my six, unpacked boxes of kitchen items, wft?!).

It is not going to be fun. But it has to be done. I don’t want to saddle my mother with any more boxes of my things and it is not worth putting any of it in storage. So I have to decide what is irreplaceable or would be expensive or a hassle to replace.

The truly tricky thing is figuring out what I should keep to bring with me. I know that my lifestyle will be that of poor wannabe expat, but I am not sure exactly what I will be doing and where exactly I’ll be living. And I won't know for months.

As a side note, over the weekend, I received my mother's full buy-in regarding my scheme to live/work/study abroad. I don't know what I expected but she didn't blink an eye when I told her that I was very open to staying longer than a year -- and that it all depended on my professional prospects and if I found a husband (i.e., if I could get a visa). And she was not suprised when I said that I want to raise my kids abroad. I brought this point up again today to ensure that she understood the implications. She does and she supports me.

It is great to have a mother who listens and lets me make my own decisions. I am very thankful to have her. And I can’t wait to host her (and all my awesome cheerleading friends!) wherever I am next year and thereafter.


Another Update, Plans for Abroad

This week marks the 4-month anniversary of my pursuit of French proficiency and professional opportunities in Europe. I have one more application to submit by Friday, and then, I will be officially done with Part One of my plan. I can’t believe how much time, effort, and money I devoted to learning French and to perfecting my applications. I am so proud of myself. My fingers are crossed that one of the programs I applied to will work out (I’ve already been contacted for an interview!). But given the economy, I know the applicant pool is crowded and the programs are highly competitive.

Now that it’s almost 2011, I’ve started to think about how I will celebrate my 30th birthday. For sure, I will drink and dance with friends in DC, but I also want to do something just for myself. I’m leaning toward going to see Thomas Fersen at La Cigale in Paris at the end of April (during the spring recess!! But that may not matter if I don’t have a Hill job…). I have become obsessed with Thomas Fersen, along with a handful of other French singers (Camille, ZAZ, etc) thanks to Alliance Française. A-M is contemplating Spain this spring and another potential travel buddy is talking about Eastern Europe. So I would probably go alone (it is a bucket list goal...), and if I'm not selected for the programs I applied to, it will make sense to visit Lyon, Nantes, and Avignon – the locations of the French language schools I’m considering.

So, thankfully, I’m still on track to fulfill my dream of living/working/studying abroad starting next summer/fall.

My mother arrives in DC on Saturday and I look forward to her visit. I am anxious to share with her, in person, all of my hopes and dreams for the future. She needs to understand that I am very open to living in Europe for longer than a year—and what that means in terms of the sort of career, family, and lifestyle I hope to have. We need to talk about downsizing my possessions and about my finances. It should be an interesting conversation, and yes, I think that we’ll discuss it over a French meal.


A Thought

"I arise in the morning torn between a desire to save the world and a desire to savor the world. That makes it hard to plan the day." (E.B. White)

Hat tip to A-M for sharing this quote that sums up my life's struggle. I wish I was the type to just savor life. But I feel that I am called to a life of service: helping children and protecting the environment.

I think it is reasonable that I should want to a year (or two) to savor life in Europe. But eventually, I must return to a life of sacrifice (i.e., minimalism, anti-consumerism, etc) and hardwork that I believe will allow me to make a difference in the nation and the world.


Giving Thanks

I am thankful every day for the progress that I have made in my life during the past year. I am feeling happier, smarter, sexier, and more confident than I have ever felt in my life. Perhaps, I have "found myself." Thanks to the breakup with Floyd, thanks to phenomenal friends, thanks to the unconditional support of my family, and thanks to all the annoying challenges that life sent my way.

Last night, I spent a few hours writing in my journal about my priorities for my life. I feel that I now have a better grasp of what will make me happy in the long term in regards to a husband, family, career, lifestyle, location, etc. I am feeling optimistic about my future. And I am grateful for that.

This year, in particular, I am thankful for the persistence of my inner voice that has reminded me of my childhood hopes and charged me to chase my dreams.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!


Two Meetings

Yesterday, I had lunch with Floyd. He had been suggesting that we hang out since the summertime. I figured it either it was to 1) let me know that he was getting married; 2) ask me for a second chance. The former would have been expected as it is always the result of dating a guy who doesn’t believe in marriage: Suddenly discovers that he does want to get married (just not to you). The later, while flattering, just makes me squirm.

I felt that it was important to have lunch with him given that he has been rather supportive in my pursuits to go abroad. But sure enough, he wanted to meet so that he could tell me that he is dating someone that he hopes to get serious with.

I find that quite amusing. Without a doubt, it has yanked the bandage off the emotions I thought had dissipated with time. To be honest, I am truly over him, but I am not over our relationship—or at least, I miss the carefree, in-love Hippo I was during that time. Now, I am happy, for sure, but a little jaded and definitely more guarded.

I know that his heart was in the right place in wanting to tell me in-person. A random meeting with him and his new love would have been awkward. I wish that I was able to tell him in response that I am also in a loving relationship.

Well, actually, I am in a loving relationship...with myself (possibly the most important relationship of all). Amazingly with Floyd gone, I have learned to love me.

Life Goals
A day later, I met a woman that I admire for coffee. I wanted to get her advice and encouragement about the career and personal options I am considering for the next few years. The most striking thing that she noted was how important this time in my life is; how it is very important to be building a foundation in my career and personal life now. And that I need to make important decision about what is important to me in regards to a family life and my career. She shared with me a few stories of her friends who are facing 40+ and made bad decisions.

Our conversation helped to put things into perspective, but it has also increased my anxiety about making the right choices during the upcoming years. My heart and fancy scream France, but maybe I should listen to my brain and be a bit more measured about taking that risk.

My twenties have been a time of following the rules and working hard. Thankfully, all my efforts are paying off. I would hate to make a misstep now that would destroy all that I have built, or that would make it harder for me to achieve all of my dreams in the future.

My mother will visit me in December. I look forward to seriously finally opening up to her so that I can get her advice. Then, I'll need to take time to reevaluate my priorities so that I can chart a path that is realistic but also respects the vision of my life that I had as a little girl.


The Election & My Hill Job

The past two weeks have been interesting.  My personal life is good.  My applications to for international work programs are still in the works.  But there has been a marked increase in anxiety, tension and sadness at work.

The elections are going to change the landscape on the Hill next year—not just from a policy perspective but in terms of the circles of friends that I've made on the Hill.  I am very fortunate that I should be able to continue my job next year but some of my friends won't. 

It is shocking that so many Members of Congress who have devoted their careers to helping out their constituents and making America better--won't be here next year.  So much institutional knowledge goes with them.  So much tireless service disregarded by the electorate in a misguided wave of anti-incumbent fervor.  The wave has stripped the Democrats of their reign in the House--a reign that has lead to major legislative accomplishments for our country including health care reform, Wall Street reform, credit card reform, and education loan reform.  For some reason, the American public--at least the ones who voted--decided to ignore all that in favor of a party that doesn't have any ideas and whose sole purpose is to serve the rich and corporate America.  Their "Pledge to America" is a plague on America.
Okay, off my soapbox now.  Oddly enough, the changes to come have gotten me fired up to work even harder in the new Congress.  It will be a fascinating time for the House and I remain grateful for the privledge of being a part of the fight -- even if only for a little while longer.


Musings on Voting Early in D.C.

I just spent my lunch hour registering to vote in Washington, DC. Yes, I recognize that DC doesn’t have full representation but it is my home. And after spending over a year back in the city, it seems silly to be registered in MD or even GA--though, I haven't decided if I will change my GA license...

I’ve heard that folks get called for jury duty almost immediately after registering to vote. Well see if that is the case for me. I hope not.

It feels nice to have exercised my right to vote—given all the folks who fought to give that right to women and people of color.

And I encourage everyone who is reading my blog to vote early or next Tuesday. This is an important election. And I'm sure you remember the lesson from the 2000 election: every vote really does count.