The Past, Poverty & Perspective

Thanks to David’s dad and his generous gift of Chèque Lire, I got yet another French as a Foreign Language book at Decitre today, in an attempt to improve my faltering French since I can’t afford actual classes. The first chapter was about traveling, and more specifically, Quebec. The second chapter was about rencontres and had an excerpt from Nadja, by André Breton.

I’ve obviously taken a break from studying to type this in English, not because I wanted to, but because I couldn’t stop thinking about studying in Quebec and being a French major in college, circa 2002, when I first read Nadja. There are a few things I wish I had done differently back then – studied in Europe in addition to Quebec, for one – but I don’t regret the choices I did make.

I suppose now I’m just longing for the student life because things were so much easier then. I knew what was going to happen for the next few years and I had hope for the future. That’s not to say that I don’t have hope now, it’s just that life is different now. I’m different now. I know I will have a job for two years, but beyond that… I have no idea. I would still like to move to Quebec or at least leave France for a while, but that’s going to cost a lot of money and it’s too hard to think about the future with the current state of the economy.

Being poor has really gotten me down lately. I was poor in the US too, but now that I’m further away from friends and family in a country where prices are twice as high and salaries twice as low as what I’m used to… let’s just say it’s a never-ending challenge. It’s frustrating to be so close to foreign countries and not be able to visit them and learn about their history, culture, and especially language, firsthand. I would give anything to see the world, but instead I’m worrying about paying the taxe d’habitation. I’m not even sure yet how I’m going to afford both of my siblings’ weddings across the ocean next year. I doubt David can come with me since we can’t even afford repairs on his car right now.

My habits have changed too. I used to read so many books and study languages constantly. Now I have very little motivation or dedication to do so. Apparently I’d rather check all of my accounts and worry about paying bills than learn something new. My mind keeps wandering whenever I do try to read or study. I can’t concentrate on anything anymore (as evidenced by my blogging while I was supposed to be studying French. ::sigh::) Maybe it’s just because I’ve been out of the university mindset for two years, but I really miss being productive and accomplishing something.

I realize it’s all a matter of perspective and that there are definitely many, many people in the world in worse situations than me. I have my health, my job, my families, my apartment, my car, my boyfriend… I just wish I could feel that there is more to life than worrying about money and dealing with all of the ridiculous bills that France throws our way. And I absolutely hate having to leave David out of my family’s functions just because of a lack of money. I feel like I’m being punished, but I don’t know by whom or for what. I do feel like it will last an eternity though.

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  • http://www.australiatoitaly.blogspot.com/ Leanne in Italy

    Don’t worry Jennie, sounds like you are in a little rut at the moment which is not so strange. I too have been pondering my job which pays next to nothing and is not secure. I have found out rather then have whole winter work I have only half winter so will have to live with bel ragazzo and the family for a few months as we too cannot afford tickets to go and visit my family in Australia.So I hear you!

    Leanne in Italys last blog post..Off the tourist track in Rome…just a bit

  • http://www.australiatoitaly.blogspot.com Leanne in Italy

    Don’t worry Jennie, sounds like you are in a little rut at the moment which is not so strange. I too have been pondering my job which pays next to nothing and is not secure. I have found out rather then have whole winter work I have only half winter so will have to live with bel ragazzo and the family for a few months as we too cannot afford tickets to go and visit my family in Australia.So I hear you!

    Leanne in Italys last blog post..Off the tourist track in Rome…just a bit

  • Pamela

    Being poor stinks, but the best things in life are free! I’m sure you could look for extra side jobs, like babysitting and tutoring. You could put up flyers and maybe online. Then you’ll be too busy making money to be worrying about it. I know French don’t seem to see working more as a benefit, but you can embrace your American hard-work ethic!

  • Pamela

    Being poor stinks, but the best things in life are free! I’m sure you could look for extra side jobs, like babysitting and tutoring. You could put up flyers and maybe online. Then you’ll be too busy making money to be worrying about it. I know French don’t seem to see working more as a benefit, but you can embrace your American hard-work ethic!

  • http://www.correresmidestino.com/ Zhu

    I feel a gap with my friends in France too… I don’t make much in Canada (between us, prob. just a bit over 20000 CA$/ year) but at least I work and I can still afford a few luxury, like some clothes and going out a few times a month.

    My friends in France can’t even find a job and they have great degrees etc. I feel bad for them… and I know how high is the cost of living. My parents in France can barely get by these day. It’s sad.

    Zhus last blog post..Beijing Memo

  • http://www.correresmidestino.com Zhu

    I feel a gap with my friends in France too… I don’t make much in Canada (between us, prob. just a bit over 20000 CA$/ year) but at least I work and I can still afford a few luxury, like some clothes and going out a few times a month.

    My friends in France can’t even find a job and they have great degrees etc. I feel bad for them… and I know how high is the cost of living. My parents in France can barely get by these day. It’s sad.

    Zhus last blog post..Beijing Memo

  • http://maladroite.blogspot.com/ maladroite

    Ugh, I hate money stresses… I started working as a lectrice September 1st, and was told that I would be paid at the end of the month. The money has yet to show up in my account, and I was told by the secrétariat on Monday that this was because not all of the lecteurs had their paperwork in on time in order for us to be paid at the end of September. I had my papers in the first day I arrived! Living off the (few) dollars I made in the States this summer has nearly killed my bank account. It makes me livid that the university chose not to pay those of us who were responsible.

    I’m definitely a worrier, and money is my number one worry- but I feel like my financial worries are greater in the US (or at least, because of the US, since my student loan bills follow me here!). I also had a “surprise” $200 dentist bill that I have to deal with from this summer. While the taxe d’habitation might be ridiculous, I feel like I have fewer worries here in terms of surprise costs- though I don’t particularly love paying the equivalent of $7 for a tiny bottle of “cheap” shampoo!

    maladroites last blog post..

  • http://maladroite.blogspot.com maladroite

    Ugh, I hate money stresses… I started working as a lectrice September 1st, and was told that I would be paid at the end of the month. The money has yet to show up in my account, and I was told by the secrétariat on Monday that this was because not all of the lecteurs had their paperwork in on time in order for us to be paid at the end of September. I had my papers in the first day I arrived! Living off the (few) dollars I made in the States this summer has nearly killed my bank account. It makes me livid that the university chose not to pay those of us who were responsible.

    I’m definitely a worrier, and money is my number one worry- but I feel like my financial worries are greater in the US (or at least, because of the US, since my student loan bills follow me here!). I also had a “surprise” $200 dentist bill that I have to deal with from this summer. While the taxe d’habitation might be ridiculous, I feel like I have fewer worries here in terms of surprise costs- though I don’t particularly love paying the equivalent of $7 for a tiny bottle of “cheap” shampoo!

    maladroites last blog post..

  • http://off-thebeatentrack.blogspot.com/ India J

    Jenny, I was extrmely moved by your post – I am constantly being approached by people seeking English tuition or seeking translation and/or interpretation services; would this type of work interest you at all?
    From what I’ve read on your blog, I’m quite aware that you are over-qualified for this type of work – it could, however, be a short term solution though…
    I’d be more than happy to help out by passing on contacts if it would be of any use to you :)

  • http://off-thebeatentrack.blogspot.com/ India J

    Jenny, I was extrmely moved by your post – I am constantly being approached by people seeking English tuition or seeking translation and/or interpretation services; would this type of work interest you at all?
    From what I’ve read on your blog, I’m quite aware that you are over-qualified for this type of work – it could, however, be a short term solution though…
    I’d be more than happy to help out by passing on contacts if it would be of any use to you :)

  • http://www.ielanguages.com Jennie Wagner

    @Leanne: Yeah, I do feel like I’m in a rut. Maybe when I actually start earning my salary and can save some money, I’ll feel better. I hope things work out for you too!

    @Pamela: I do have some side jobs, but they are actually very exhausting and not worth the money sometimes. I spend hours and hours to plan a private lesson, and only get 15 € out of it. I’d rather have that time back to do what I want to do in life. :(

    @Zhu: The cost of living is so high here. I don’t know how people stand it! I used to pay $250 a month for rent and utilities together, so paying France prices is still a shock.

    @maladroite: I’m so sorry your university hasn’t paid you. That is so unfair. I hope mine doesn’t do the same! I actually had no surprises in the US in terms of bills. Maybe it’s because I’m from an economically depressed area (Flint, MI), but everything is ridiculously expensive here and it drives me crazy!

    @India J: That’s very kind to offer, but I actually tend to pass on the extra jobs to the English assistants because they make less money than I do and they really need the extra cash. I can give you their contact info so you can tell the people who ask you about lessons/babysitting.

  • http://www.ielanguages.com Jennie

    @Leanne: Yeah, I do feel like I’m in a rut. Maybe when I actually start earning my salary and can save some money, I’ll feel better. I hope things work out for you too!

    @Pamela: I do have some side jobs, but they are actually very exhausting and not worth the money sometimes. I spend hours and hours to plan a private lesson, and only get 15 € out of it. I’d rather have that time back to do what I want to do in life. :(

    @Zhu: The cost of living is so high here. I don’t know how people stand it! I used to pay $250 a month for rent and utilities together, so paying France prices is still a shock.

    @maladroite: I’m so sorry your university hasn’t paid you. That is so unfair. I hope mine doesn’t do the same! I actually had no surprises in the US in terms of bills. Maybe it’s because I’m from an economically depressed area (Flint, MI), but everything is ridiculously expensive here and it drives me crazy!

    @India J: That’s very kind to offer, but I actually tend to pass on the extra jobs to the English assistants because they make less money than I do and they really need the extra cash. I can give you their contact info so you can tell the people who ask you about lessons/babysitting.

Why is Jennie no longer in France?

I created this blog in September 2006 when I moved to France from Michigan to teach English. Many of the earlier posts are about my personal life in France, dealing with culture shock, traveling in Europe and becoming fluent in French. In July 2011, I relocated to Australia to start my PhD in Applied Linguistics. Although I am no longer living in France, my research is on foreign language pedagogy and I teach French at a university so these themes appear most often on the blog. I also continue to post about traveling and being an American abroad.

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