How did I end up here?
At the mere age of 19, I packed my suitcase and moved to France, having only visited the country once before. When I was ten, I spent a few hours in Saint Jean de Luz near the border of Spain. So what drove me to become an au pair, move to a country I had never met but only studied (barely) the language in high school? Thaaaaaat’s a long story, and one that this blog tries to capture. I could write for ages about what drove me to move to this beautiful country. I will try to break it down bit by bit.
A Jumbled, Beautiful Mess of Cultures
I am a Spaniard/American. Period. There is no more to this, no “but where were you born? Where were you raised?” Where I come from is a question I have struggled to answer my whole life. I was born and raised in a Spanish/American home, even though that home was based in the United States. Ever since I was little, my mom would only speak to me in Spanish and I watched movies in Spanish (even though I begged multiple times to watch them in French). I was being raised in the United States, but my mom made sure that I would be able to communicate with my family back in her country. More than that, my Spanish grandfather always made sure to remind me when I would visit during the summers, that no matter what anyone told me, I would always be a Spaniard. I think he saw that I was torn between two countries and struggled with it. In Spain, I was the American. In the United States, I was the Spaniard. But no matter in whatever “home” country I find myself in, I speak and integrate culturally as if it were my one and only. When answering to “where are you from?” with only one country, I feel like I am cheating on the other one. In the end, I was raised on the road. I’ve been to about ten schools (I feel that somewhere along the way I lost track) and have lived in four states. “Home” to me in the USA is Portland, Oregon. In Spain, it’s Madrid. A few years ago though… I decided, by my own choice, to settle down in Paris, France (for the time being).
First of all, I have always been fascinated by the language. French is the language of love, but I did not know this during my childhood when I must have accidentally switched one of the films I was watching in Spanish to French, because as my mom tells the story, I would beg her unconditionally to watch films in French. She would sometimes find me in my room, babbling in some language. When she would ask me what language I was speaking in, I would say I was speaking French. I was also obsessed with the story of Madeline and her adventures in Paris. The 1998 film was one of my favourites growing up. When I entered high school and had to pick a language to study, I took on French, so by the time I graduated, I knew I needed to visit France. At the age of 19, I finally packed my bags and visited the country that had always captivated my mind.
I came to the country as a fille au pair (a live-in nanny, who normally teaches a language to the children of the household). I came with a limited vocabulary and the very basics of grammar (bonjour, ça va ?, ca va, je m’appelle…). I didn’t know much about French culture (besides what we had learned in class and what I had read in books and seen in films) but decided that I would do whatever it took to learn the language and go to University. In 2019, I got my licence (somewhat equivalent to an American bachelors degree) in History at Paris I Panthéon-Sorbonne. I’ve also finished my first year of my masters in History of International Relations at the same institution. What should have just been a year abroad as a fille au pair has become a new, unplanned but wonderful life.
This is my little space to share my adventures, my insights as a foreigner living in Paris, my photography and whatever else comes to mind.
I thank you for reading and following me along on my adventures!
Bisous, besos, kisses,
P.S. No Longer Kikalavil
This website has evolved throughout the years. It used to be under the name Kikalavil. How come? Kika is what my sister used to call me when we were little. Lavil is a mix of both of my last names. This blog was born under the name of “La Vie Est Belle” (I chose that name before I had even chosen to move to France!), then to Diary of an Expat, and then Kikalavil, the name I had used everywhere else on the internet. With time, I have evolved as well and no longer feel like that name captures who I want to be nor who I am, hence why I have changed everything to just simply be my name.