I’m broke. Mad broke. Paris is no joke when it comes to expenses, as this city ranks as one of the top ten most expensive cities in the world. Throw in the fact that I’m merely a humble student and you have a recipe for economic disaster. My funds are drier than the Gobi desert. I’m not poor, but I feel like I’m living on the proverbial edge here.
When you see all the photos, postcards, stunning views of the Parisian skyline and all the monuments and attractions, it seems like you’re looking at a different world. In the U.S., we have all those things as well; they’re just not all located in one city. Now when I got here, I wanted to see all those sites, but I knew that they were mostly free. I knew I didn’t have to pay to snag a great picture of the Arc de Triomphe or Notre Dame. It’s the other interests that take their toll on my wallet.
In fact, every time I spend money here, I cringe at how much I spent in U.S. dollars. The exchange rate is terrible here for dollars, about 1.00 Euro for 1.68 U.S. and its not getting better (for me) any time soon. Whenever I go to the atm, I need to keep in mind how much money I have in my account and divide that number by 2 and take out less than that number. So if I want to take out 30 Euros, I need to perform a rough calculation in my head, as that is about 50 U.S. dollars. This is the part of Paris that you don’t hear much about, sort of like that ugly cousin that no one talks about at all your family reunions.
There are tons of cafés, boulangeries, restaurants, and boutiques lining the streets determined to coax you into spending your (and your parents’) hard earned money. I try to resist. But with every walk past a patisserie or a café, my resolve weakens. I like to walk everywhere in order to discover something new. Along the way, I get hungry. That Coke for 2 Euro is ok every now and then, but buying one all the time is killing me. Paris has a fantastic metro system that goes all over the city, and I take it everywhere. Of course, it’s a pain to pay for. I have a NaviGo card (which is akin to the SmarTrip card used in DC) and it’s pretty cool. It works well, but it costs about 56 Euro (~$85) for a one-month pass using the NaviGo and this option can only be purchased within the first week of every month. The only other options are a two-week pass for about 18 Euros (~$29) or single one-way tickets. One thing is clear: stay here long enough, and Paris will break you, as it’s currently trying to break me.
But I’m not going down without putting up a fight. I live right across the street from a metro station and there is an entrance that isn’t adjacent to an attendant window. I’ve been jumping over the gate for over a month now and I haven’t been caught yet. When I want to explore the city, I try to go with some friends and I get close enough to them that I can pass through the gate with them without paying. Thursdays are long for me since I have two classes from 10 am to 5 pm. I bring a small lunch to eat during the hour-long break in between the two 3 hour-long classes. Every other day, I go home immediately after class to get something to eat. It’s hard trying to resist a croissant or a Coke, but I manage.
I need a job. It’s hard to get a job since I don’t speak French fluently. Many jobs available are for an English student to babysit some children and talk to the kids only in English (so the kids can learn English). That’s ok, but a lot of the ads require babysitting all day on Wednesdays, as children don’t have school on Wednesday. Yeah, crazy. I have class Wednesday, so that doesn’t work. I’m constantly checking Craigslist for any part-time and or odd job I can do, but I’ve got nothing. I had a break though a few days ago; a woman posted an add on Craigslist about babysitting some kids for a few days during the week and the times lined up well for me. I responded to the ad, and she replied saying she’d call, but I haven’t gotten a call from her yet. No dice. I can’t keep relying on donations from family and friends forever. I need my own hustle. This isn’t all fun and games; it’s a struggle. I’m prepared to sell one of my kidneys right now. Besides, I can live a perfectly healthy, normal life with one. I just need to set up this transaction…