The Scary Parts

I’m sorry, T.S. Eliot, but February has always been the cruelest month to me.

Tom and I are both in the throes of depression (which I have much more experience with coping with–his is related to how sedated he gets when he’s taking three Claritin/day for the cold urticaria), which multiplies the inertia we’re each having about meeting people and doing things.  It’s hard to separate “there’s nothing to do here” from “nothing that would normally appeal appeals at the moment.”  And Metz truly is a small, small town, with a tiny little club and music scene, a carousel, one cinema, and cuisine at either $3 a pop (sandwiches) or $30 a pop (anything else).

The other thing I want to be frank about is that moving to France has been expensive in ways we didn’t expect.  In addition to plane fares and the frequent surprise!fees related to immigration, the cost of living here, even in a small town, is surprisingly high.  Georgia Tech shafted us a bit regarding rent: we are living in a crappy dorm for a local French college, in a two-bedroom suite, because none of the normal grad student rooms have double beds.  Thus one bedroom per twin bed, which we have shoved together in ways that are most assuredly not allowable in our lease.  So because we had to have two bedrooms to get two twin beds, and one of those bedrooms is “for Sophia,” we have to pay for one of the rooms in the suite.  This is about 320 euro per month–about $425.  Since we are also paying “rent” for the storage of our stuff in Atlanta, our rent here is barely less expensive than it was in Atlanta.

Groceries are also bafflingly expensive–bread is super-cheap, and everything else is about half again as much as we would expect to pay in Atlanta.

The bottom line is that we are using up the last of our life savings by May.  For someone like Tom who has scrimped and saved practically since birth, and for someone like me who is not quite as pathologically careful with money but who has also saved a substantial chunk, this is terrifying.  Especially when we don’t really have a guarantee of what comes next, so there’s no guarantee that our finances will end up back in the black.  This is also hard on our marriage: it’s easy to blame each other for difficult financial circumstances; we’re both bad at trust–in each other, in God, in our potential to end up making more money than one grad student salary between the two of us; and we’re living in Europe.

Frankly, that last bit is why I’m saying anything at all: I’ve had lots of friends say, “Wow, that’s so cool!  I wish I had the money to [live abroad/come visit you/live a life of European luxury.]”  And I’ve explained briefly that we don’t have the money to live a life of European luxury–this is just where Tom has a job that is making him money and giving him good experience for the future.  We are just as flat broke as our just-out-of-college friends in their first jobs, and quite honestly, probably even more flat broke.  But the illusion that we must have a lot of money to get this opportunity is extra-isolating when every bill makes me want to cry.

Finally, I have decided that as broke students, five months is the worst amount of time to spend in a foreign country.  Long enough to want to settle in; not long enough to justify the expenses of even cheap decorations, a couch…a car.  Maybe not even long enough to justify local cell phones; we’ve already survived two months without them.

Long enough to start making friends; not long enough to make really good friends.

Long enough to need a community; not long enough to feel comfortable in one.

Disclaimer: This is not a plea for money.  It might be a plea for Skype calls, emails, postcards, and small care packages.  You can write me at the following address:

Sophia FISHER
Log D 210-2
Residence A.L.O.E.S.
4 place Edouard Branly
57070 METZ
France

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