Thursday, October 24, 2013

Two Down, Two to Go

Mercredi, 23 octobre.

I don't know about you, but to me it feels like, recently, this blog has turned primarily into a way for me to unload all the information I've been accumulating from museum brochures and to post all the travel photos I don't want to upload to Facebook. And although I've had a lot of fun sharing my adventures, I think it's about time that I waxed a little more philosophical.

I realized today that my two-month anniversary of arriving in France (and the halfway point of my semester) had come and gone without me even noticing.

I arrived on 17 August, just over two months ago. I remember anxiously peering out the windows of the airplane, hoping to catch a glimpse of my future home. I remember standing in baggage claim with Molly and the other W&M students and exchanging curious glances with the other American students on our flight. I remember sitting on a hot bus by the train station, staring out at the graffiti and city streets and wondering if someone had made a mistake and sent us to Detroit on accident. We spent our first afternoon wandering around the neighborhood around our dorms, loudly exclaiming how excited we were to be in France ... and secretly wondering if we all hadn't made the wrong decision.

First day of exploring = many discoveries and many selfies!

Slowly but surely, we discovered Montpellier. We visited centre-ville for the first time and were relieved beyond words to realize that there was, in fact, a world beyond Triolet! We discovered shortcuts and bakeries and picnic destinations, eventually leaving our maps at home as the street names became more and more familiar. It's kind of funny to look back at how differently I viewed the city ... and at how wrong I was about so many things! The train station, whose surroundings seemed so dingy when we arrived, is actually a stone's throw from the beautiful historic center of Montpellier. The other Americans that we were nervously sizing up at baggage claim are now the people we hang out with all the time. Oh, and I totally couldn't see Montpellier from the plane while landing. (Rookie mistake.)

France has definitely been full of surprises: some more pleasant than others. It's been hard to adjust to the prices here; everything -- from food to clothes to shampoo -- seems more expensive, even before converting from Euros to dollars. People don't smile or say hello in the street (although guys have no problem cat-calling at any girl who walks by). There's a frustrating amount of dog poop on the sidewalk. And, perhaps unsurprisingly, the city itself is not as picture-perfect as the postcards -- or, in my case, the Google Image results -- make it seem. The ornate buildings in Place de la Comédie and the quirky slanting streets of the Écusson do not extend outside the historic center. And even those postcard-worthy sites aren't quite what the photos suggest. It's a city, after all: there are homeless people and cigarette butts and you cannot walk a block without seeing a wall covered in graffiti. And yet, it's somehow better than I could have EVER imagined.

Before coming here, I had some ideas in my head of what life in France would be like. But I could never have imagined picnicking at the Place du Péyrou at sunset. Or walking along a narrow street and suddenly catching a glimpse of a cathedral. Or getting a bird's eye view of the city during les Journées du Patrimoine. Or feeling so comforted by the sight of the tram after a long weekend in Paris.

Sometimes this place is even better than the postcards make it look. 

It's these little, simple things that I do without thinking that really make me love it here. They make me realize that over the past two months, Montpellier has truly become my home.

Speaking of home, I'm surprisingly not homesick. Maybe I'm one of those people who adapt quickly? Or maybe France is simply that great? Or maybe I just don't understand the definition of homesick? But I really think I haven't felt it yet. Granted, there have been some less-than-fabulous days -- like when I spent 12 hours searching for my house key, or when the toilet paper dispenser at school fell on my head each time I went to the bathroom! And of course, it's been a little difficult to look at all the photos of all my friends and sorority sisters having fun without me. But despite the occasional twinge of regret that I'm missing out on prime CW cider run weather, I never find myself wishing that I were back in the States. (Exception: my phonetics class, during which I would usually prefer to be almost anywhere else.)

I know that when the time comes, I will be happy to return to Northern Virginia and be reunited with all my favorite things (in particular, blueberry cake donuts and Taco Bell). In fact, you'll probably find me at the airport waving an American flag and shouting the national anthem. (Or perhaps Toby Keith?) I'll be overjoyed to see my family and friends and will, hopefully, be able to look back on my semester in the knowledge that I'll be coming back to this beautiful country sometime soon.

But at the moment, I can't picture myself ever wanting to ever leave France. So I'm sure you can only imagine how terrifying it was to realize yesterday that the long séjour stamp on my Visa is halfway to its expiration date!

Okay, so there are still over eight weeks left. Eight weeks that will be absolutely filled with classes and papers and exams and jampacked with day trips and adventures. Eight weeks during which I will finally travel out of the country (Luxembourg and Belgium, here we come!) and will get to take my mom on a whirlwind tour of France. Eight weeks that will be spent visiting as many beautiful towns, exciting cities, and -- when the time comes -- CHRISTMAS MARKETS as humanly possible.

Eight weeks in which I will continue to eat my weight in baguettes and to fill up my phone's memory with photos of picturesque alleys ... and, of course, more selfies.

Hooray for awkward selfies in Montpellier, Marseille, AND Paris!

1 comment:

  1. I am smiling big as I read and reread this latest post!