I live in France now. When you live in France and you fly west, over the big blue ocean, you start dreaming of all the STUFF that you can buy over there for a third if not half of what you pay for it in Paris. Forget that it’s stupid stuff and takes up major room in your suitcase, you NEED it and you will bring it back at all costs – and sometimes, if you are given the “That’ll be an extra $100 for your overweight piece of luggage” you still think you have saved a bunch of money by bringing all this crap back. Now that being said, I didn’t bring tons of stuff back, I wasn’t charged overweight, and brought just a few items like toothpaste, toilet paper (I’m in love with Charmin), makeup, lots of English books, (including my Bible and devos- not stupid) and many clothes.
The Charmin is such a luxury. Without going in to detail, I use it for the obvious as well as blowing my nose. I love the feel of it. It beats the pink stuff here, which is all I can afford, because the white stuff is just too expensive. The pink is – ug – well, it’s not soft at all! Love love CHARMIN!
There are certain items in your life that bring you comfort and happiness and it’s interesting phenomena as to why these things are important. Just last night I was really wanting my flexible spatula that I use to pick up, ever so gently, fried eggs. The apartment kitchen only has a very nice, stainless, and inflexible spatula, and I don’t like it. I also love saran wrap. But dare I bring the industrial size with me that belongs in restaurant kitchens? I don’t think so. So, I bought just one roll at Wal-Mart and threw out the box. (There’s a stainless serrated holder for foil and saran wrap,in my apartment kitchen, so that’s a plus).Since I cook quite a bit, there are things that need to be wrapped well, and plastic wrap is my favorite thing to use for such purposes!
My clothes were really special. After seeing the prices of clothes in the shops in Enghien, not to mention Paris, I decided I’d hit Nordstrom’s and Macy’s once I arrived in Saint Louis, thinking that the prices would look like Wal-Mart after living here. And I was right, especially the sale racks, so I stocked up on some wonderful sale items even before Christmas. Such good quality and inexpensive skirts, tops, sweaters, and eureka, was I happy!! Then I bought some pencils at The Body Shop and became disappointed in them, so I may be relegated to buying others here and I’d rather not as they are so very expensive for just one eyebrow pencil.(Although I just read L’Oréal owns Body Shop.) Hmmm. There are things I miss, especially services, which I cannot even begin to enjoy here….like my hair cuts and color, pedicures and having my eyebrows done. Where the heck am I going to get my eyebrows done without paying like 50 thousand euros? And the pedicures?! Where are the little Vietnamese places that soak your feet in warm water with real cut lemons, then massage your legs for half an hour while you sit on a chair that KNEADS your spine gloriously, and then places hot towels on your legs after the massage and then paints your toes bright red? (And all for under 20 dollars). WHERE?!?! Oh mon dieu, there is just no way. And MUSIC! and TALK RADIO! Oh, the radio stations? I’ve listened to nothing but classical music since I’ve been here, and talk radio is, of course, all in FRENCH, and it just doesn’t compute. It lulls me to sleep. I could have downloaded more of my music on iTunes, but there never seemed to be enough time while in my little home in St Louis. On the go, here, there and everywhere. So, I’m back to listening to an aria in German from this station that always plays German artists. I’m used to it now, but I do miss my particular music. I could turn on the TV but once again, it’s not computing. And the Mousline with Fiber ad? Really now, a “Sound of Music themed family ” with all of them, including the children, singing something in French about the benefits of fiber in their cereal…..?? Well, I think that’s what it is about.
We have learned to live without what we had in America, and to put it mildly, it’s just more SIMPLE. Simple is good. You see what is important besides the stuff you were attached to back in America, and I have to stay, we are spoiled and are addicted to a lot of STUFF.
The couple I work for, they will be leaving in a few months to return to America, to the North East. They have a small baby and have expounded on the vast differences in the prices of baby items in Paris and how they are so tres cher that many who live here actually get on the EURO-STAR, get off in London and buy their baby things, especially the high-end items as bouncy seats, car seats, and strollers and bring back to France. The Euro-star is not cheap travel by any means, so that ‘s how much a savings it is. And in America? “Practically free, they’re so cheap!!! One stroller here in France, a good stroller, not the highest end, is 600 euros ($780). That same stroller is less than $150.00 in the states. Babies, are very expensive to raise here. You don’t even want to know the price of baby shoes.
So these nice people are going to the land of plenty, where everyone has a car and no one walks anywhere any more, except to the mall, to buy more stuff to put in their big houses with the big closets. It is all well and good and sometimes, you come to a place in your life where stuff matters more than other things. Or, it takes the place of other things. It is comforting and is pleasing to know that your hard-earned money goes very far in certain countries. I wish them well and think how it’s such a juxtaposition that they are leaving here to go there , and we left to come here for very different reasons. They have incredible and stable careers, both are on sabbatical with the baby and do not have to work and want to enjoy the glories of easy living and a life of plenty. We have no jobs (in America) and came here to work and leave our STUFF behind.
I have so little now in the way of possessions. Even after bringing back a few things that make me feel happy and secure, if I had to, it could all be put in carry on luggage and taken out of here – just as I came. My legs carry me to places I could have only dreamed about and my visuals are many, varied, stunning, and thought-provoking. Intricate and beautiful architecture, the 16th century church which I see from my balcony, historical treasures, a virtual United Nations riding the trains, even the shop windows in Enghien. Don’t the shop windows make me sad because I cannot afford their luxuries? Not really, because there is such beauty in the way in which their contents are arranged that even looking is a joy.
Yeah, the stuff you bring back from America, from anywhere, is sometimes more out of habit, then of need. It combines with nostalgia and comfort those things that we think we can’t live without. They are sometimes small and insignificant and sometimes large and necessary. It’s what makes one shop successful and one storefront empty and bare. It’s the immigrant with the beautiful smile selling Adidas in the north side of Paris and it’s the woman sitting on a cardboard box in the metro with her hand out so she can feed her kid. It’s all things. It’s what makes the world go ’round.
“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but store up for yourselves treasures in heaven where moth and rust do not destroy and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. ” Matthew 6: 19-21