Sunday, October 26, 2014

better late than never?

I've been in France nearly three weeks now, so I guess it's time for a post. First of all- wait, three weeks?! That feels kind of crazy on multiple levels. I have seen and experienced something new every day, and my brain is racing to take it all in, process it, and commit it to memory forever.
So, my last few weeks, hopefully without too many boring details but enough to satisfy my lovely family whom I promised regular updates to ;)
  • After a teary goodbye with my boyfriend, followed by sitting at the gate on the phone with my dad getting play by play updates of the overtime minutes of the New Orleans Saint's game (Thanks Dad!)- I was boarded and ready. Or as ready as I could be. Several hours in when everyone else was sleeping and I was still wide awake on movie #3,  an AirFrance stewardess appeared offering a late night snack- Bluebell Icecream! A sweet little farewell from the South.
  • Arriving at the house around 10am, I was shown my room and given a tour of my new home. I'd seen pictures of the bright, spacious interior and of course Google stalked the outside- but actually seeing it was surreal. And a little much for my weary mind to handle. D suggested I stay up to fight the jet-lag, but I think S sensed I was near cracking and suggested I go and rest for a while. I was grateful for her suggestion and as soon as I shut the door it all hit me, and I let myself cry for a few minutes. The physical and mental exhaustion, emotional turmoil of my final few weeks in the US, happiness to have finally arrived after a few minor setbacks, fear of the separation from my family and friends, the official "real"ness of it all- it was altogether overwhelming. After a nap and lunch with D and S, I felt much better and we walked to the city center together so that I could see some of the town on our way to pick up their two younger girls from school. Just like with the house, I had seen photos of the town but seeing it with my own eyes was incredible. Winding cobblestone streets, and amazing old architecture. Boulangerie's, cafes, and flower shops. D and S waving to friends and neighbors along the way- I'd arrived in the perfect little storybook French town.
  • The very next afternoon, I had my first Adult Intermediate French class. I hadn't been in a classroom in years, and was nervous to go back. It was like the first day of school jitters all over again. Seriously. I should have picked out an outfit the night before. D walked me in and explained my sudden appearance to the professor-classes started a full month before my arrival- as I stood awkwardly at the front of the class, totally the new kid. I found a seat and pulled out my new notebook, ready for whatever. Except for the rapid-fire questions the professor began asking me (en Français, of course) about myself. Shit. With barely 24 hours in the country, my brain was definitely not functioning on that level yet. But I got it together and she moved on and much to my relief, no one was laughing at me. By the end of class I had, as a result of some intense and exhausting concentration, understood much more than I'd expected and felt relieved that all those years of study were maybe still in my brain somewhere after all. Not quite so confident when it was time to do my homework (my homework! ha!)- but's a work in progress.
  • Last Friday I went to Paris to spend a few days with one of my best friends, Nadalee. I was there Friday-Tuesday night and it was, well, PARIS! The same Paris that I fell in love with last summer. Except in the way that 1) It only took me 18 minutes to get there and 2) It was the first of what will be many trips this year- I swear that made everything look a little different somehow. Maybe I was paying more attention this time. So much walking, and I loved every minute of it. We got tickets to the Opera, and afterwards walked around Bastille. One particularly late night was topped off with a 5am stop at a cafe for crêpes, a bottle of wine, and people watching. Because why not? Especially when it's a Nutella&Banana crêpe and a bottle from le Côtes du Rhône. And Paris. By the last few days I was wandering around alone while Nadalee was at work, and it was way less intimidating than I thought it would be. I explored some of the historic covered passageways (les passages couverts) and found all kinds of great, quirky little shops full of sweets, books, old postcards, vintage toys, so much! Tuesday evening I took the train back to the station where I'd left the car, and drove home entirely proud of myself for finding the way home in the dark.

My first few solo outings were spent exploring the town and hoping that no one would speak to me, because I was so self conscious about my French. The first time I went to the morning market alone and braved speaking to a produce vendor was a proud moment. Same with buying a train ticket to Paris. Little things, but so exhilarating. As time goes on, I'm sure I'll do all those things and more without a second thought- but for now it's all thrilling and I wouldn't change a thing.


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