Dear Friends,

This post, similar to goulash, is going to have many different things thrown in, so if you need a minute to get a cup of coffee or tea or rum punch, please go ahead.

1) I live at 117 rue de belleville, in the 19th arrondisement (arrondisements are neighborhoods). On my block, there are three cafes, a jeweler, two chocolatiers, one florist, two cellphone companies, a travel agency, a Monoprix (smaller-scaled Kmart), a boys’ school, a pharmacy, a hair salon, an eyeglass shop, an open air market and a bakery. Everything one could possible need is on this street, but the most essential force of the block is leaving tomorrow. The baker. Why couldn’t it be the butcher or the candlestick maker who needed a break from city life?

He told me today that he’ll be away for three weeks, and that someone else will take his place. After that sad announcement, he gave me a free pain au chocolat (buttery croissant with chocolate chips melted inside).

* Why is he smiling at my pain?

* A moment of silence please…for all the baguettes that have come before.

2) When you come to visit, don’t worry about inhaling all the pastries, gelato, warm bread and butter, cheeses, chocolates, because the subway stairs and all the fruit vendors (even inside the station) will get you back on the right track.

3) When you walk down the rue de belleville pass the McDonalds on the way to Republique, the neighborhood noticeably changes into more diverse ethnic groups: Algerians, Malians, Tunisians, Vietnamese and Chinese. There are many restaurants and markets catering to the different groups, and the street often feels like a bazaar. It’s interesting to note that there are two Chinatowns in Paris… the larger one is in the 13th arrondisement.

* There’s an incredible Hello Kitty obsession, but who knows why?

4) Though people may discriminate, mannequins don’t. They don’t discriminate against each other, they often laugh together in Old Navy commercials in the U.S; they don’t discriminate in store windows where they stand side by side and smile at all and sundry; and they certainly don’t discriminate against ugly clothing. On my way to Belleville, I had to stop and capture the essence of hideousness that graced the cream and brown mannequins in this “capital of fashion.”

* Check out the stylized cornrows on this black mannequin.

* This mannequin looked at me defiantly as if to say, “Yes, my clothes are ugly, but I’m getting paid. Are you?”

That mannequin’s sass is a perfect segue: remember that I’d mentioned that I’d applied to schools in France, Spain, Singapore and Japan? Well, one of the schools from Japan and one from Singapore set up interviews with me this week. I have no idea what to do if offered a job in either country, since my dream’s to stay in Paris… But as you know, the pickings are slim here. I’ve been told that being an au pair would be a great option, to improve French language skills, thus making me more marketable. However, I have no desire to be an au pair.

My brother told me on the phone today to “follow my gut.” Friends, if I follow my gut, I may end up on the baker’s vacation, with a restraining order against me.

It appears that my letters from Paris (my new favorite city), may soon become letters from Singapore or Japan. The salaries are comparable… 1) Singapore is sleepy and Tokyo’s alive 2)Japan may have a radiation problem (who knows?) but rich culture and the “lure of the unkown” 3) Singapore has a nice quality of life (never lived in a complex with a gym, pool and tennis court before) 4) They’re both expensive as heck, but they’d both pay enough to save money and move on in a year or two. 5) Neither has cities that are Paris (!), but there are jobs there.

What would you do, if you were me?

I prefer when life’s decisions are along the lines of “liquid , kohl or gel eyeliner?”

Bises xx,

Valerie

p.s At the park, I finally saw why they say, “to get all your ducks in a row.” Who knew?