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, one which I have stayed in for the last three years. 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. What should have just been a year abroad as a fille au pair has become a new, unplanned but wonderful life.
Kika comes from what my sister used to call me when I was 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, to finally growing into Kikalavil, the name I have used for everywhere else on the internet.
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,