Ten Years

Ten years ago today I hugged my parents goodbye, got on a plane, and left for France.

What was supposed to be a seven-month once-in-a-lifetime experience turned into a life.

When I think about that trip over it’s really pretty astonishing I stayed, since I was actually really sad and nervous to go. Weather was bad in Texas that day, but I had been spending the month at my mom’s condo in San Antonio and had gotten very comfortable there—not to mention there were poodle puppies. My flights got rerouted twice and I eventually was on a tight connection through Chicago and London, arriving four hours later than I was supposed to in Paris. Here’s that story told in a jet-lagged state from the lycée computer room.

I magically still managed to meet up in the Gare de l’Est with Zandra, who was identifiable only by her sparkling smile and the orange ribbon on her suitcase. I called my responsable at the school from a pay phone with an international calling card to warn her I was on a later train. She picked me up at the little train station in Bar le Duc, took me to her house to send an e-mail home, and then dropped me off at the internat to sleep. I woke up in the night and cried, wondering what craziness had taken over me to go so far away from home to sleep in such a cold, hospital-like bedroom.

It is not one of my best memories. Somehow in the following weeks things turned around and I fell in love with this country and this language. Sometimes I take a step back from the day to day and marvel at how I somehow live a normal life in France after all this time.

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Why would you move to France when you could live with these faces?

 

Ten years means:

  1. Boris and Otto are no longer puppies but progressing practically into thoroughbred old age.
  2. Ten years since my mom dropped everything and changed careers (sort of), moved to a new city, and introduced us to San Antonio.
  3. Three different French cities
  4. Four different French teaching jobs
  5. Six different French housing situations
  6. Extensive travel both near and far on my own and with new friends, family, and a partner
  7. Eight cartes de séjour (in 2006 the year-long visa and the OFII didn’t exist yet) and a new nationality
  8. Four absentee ballots (not counting the 2016 primaries)
  9. A huge stack of bulletins de salaire that I’ll keep till I die—and a ton of other files in hard copy
  10. Numerous expat friends who’ve come and gone, or stayed when I’ve gotten lucky

And of course a thousand other things, but ten seems like a nice, round number, doesn’t it?

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Boy was that exhausting.

I swear it wasn’t as tiring the last time. This time I think I even slept for 3.5 hours due to 1) taking benadryl (thanks for the tip mom) and 2) being bullied by the flight attendant into switching with some old lady so she could sit with her friend but I ended up at the window seat. But more surfaces to lean on turned out to be better.

Had some real trouble staying awake on the train though. Not sure generally how I feel about being back, actually. Poitiers is very pretty (and a little rainy) so far. Roommate M picked me up and took me to centre ville to get a bank appointment and a cell phone. Tomorrow I think I’ll buy some real pillows and maybe some other crap. Brain is not really functioning right, maybe will do some real thinking tomorrow.

Pre-departure post

My wonderful dad already spent bunches of his frequent flyer miles on a plane ticket for me for Christmas for two full weeks, hurrah. AND because it’s frequent flyer miles, I “have” to fly first class on my flight back to France. Am pretty excited about that. As for tomorrow, I am just about ready to leave, but tonight we’re going to Biga on the Banks and afterward will probably watch the next episode of Mad Men. Then I’ll go to bed, hopefully not sleep too well so I can sleep on the plane tomorrow, and leave for the airport around 9:30, which is when all the fun will start (well, no, not exactly).

Too much stuff

Have realized I may just not be able to take everything with me that I want. When I was getting ready for my first year in France, I packed really light, having heard that no one ever wishes they’d brought MORE stuff. WRONG. I wished I’d brought more stuff. And now that I know more or less exactly which stuff I’ll want, it’s too much. But not by a whole lot—I think it’ll be fine.

Future girl roomie says she can pick me up at the station on Tuesday (did I mention future girl roomie is a podiatrist? think is hilarious). I have my clothes picked out and my suitcases 90% packed. In my head it sort of feels like I’m already there, but I will be sad to leave here. I always like living at home (a little weird, yes) and get sort of attached to it.

I have this feeling I’ll get to France and it’ll feel like my year in Austin never happened (except that I still have to finish my masters report). But the visceral need to stay in France has faded, and I do have this (backup?) plan of applying to east coast private schools for next school year to teach French. Am taking no bets on which country I end up in—I honestly have no clue and no desire to know yet.

It looks like my dad, with his mass of frequent flyer miles, will be able to get me home for Christmas. After last year, when I was bored and depressed the two weeks in January before I went back to work, I’m taking all the time at home that I can get.

BUT Zandra (who is still one of my most favorite people in the world) is going to be doing an M1 in Avignon this year and I hope to make it down there in October. The SNCF site first was telling me that the only way down to Avignon from Poitiers was to go through Paris, which sounded like balls. But there is one train a day to Avignon from a little train station outside Tours, which is way simpler and a little cheaper. Just have to decide soon and get paid at the end of this month.

One thing that’s been occupying my mind the past week is my freaking human subjects research application. Realized the IRB would not really like it if I used my own students and so asked my boss if I could use hers (she said yes). But it was all sort of last-minute with professors e-mailing me back magically at 9:30 and 10:30 pm. Still need an approval letter from my school but will send that in next week. Hopefully it’ll all go through.

Things I have forcibly enjoyed since returning:

1) using the word forcibly in questionable ways
2) eating grade-A Texas barbecue
3) being served Shiner…
4) … straight out of the bottle! (as in, no accompanying glass) and having no one think that was weird
5) drinking good beer in general
6) the excellent, excellent Tex-Mex at Rosario’s
7) Bobo (and soon Otto)
8 ) being paid $70 by Half Price Books for them to take a bunch of old books, VHS, and CDs off my hands
9) Chewy granola bars

In TX

Sadly, College Station. Frere and girlfriend dropped me off at Boston Logan in the middle of the night so I could catch my 5:30 am flight out on Sunday. It was very nice of them. He rented a zipcar. It was a mini cooper. Because he knows I like them.

I landed in San Antonio where Mom and Dad had just bought iPhones. They took me out for ice cream and (later) a really excellent dinner at Rosario’s where I also had a sangria margarita (not as sweet as it sounds, and very yummy).

Then Dad and I drove to College Station today, with Boris in the back seat.

We first stopped at DPS to get my drivers license renewed. That’s right, I’m going to have a horizontal license. With a photo where I don’t look 16. It was weird being at DPS though. Someone sitting behind us in line could not help talking about his life in detail to his neighbor and I felt like a bad person but really, it sounded like such a depressingly College Station life. Also Fox News was on. So we tried not to watch. But then the woman who renewed my license was really nice and let us make her laugh which was completely un-French.

I dawdled all afternoon.


(So did Boris.)

Zandra called. I started my American Villages application for next summer (am going to make a serious effort not to lose it in the move to Austin). This week I have to empty the house of my belongings. Anyone want an old prom dress or two?

I miss France. The good news is, I am so ready to move to Austin. And to go to ACL.

Back

I’m in Boston chez le frère. I am also quite crévée. Excuse the franglish, I’m slightly in mourning over the fact that I won’t have to use it for another nine months (except, um, in class).

It’s really weird to be back. I cried a lot this morning while I finished packing up in the Y’s apartment but after that I’ve been generally okay. I had a good few conversations with the Irish woman next to me on my Dublin-Boston flight. I caught up on Project Runway.

I miss everyone back in France but in reality I didn’t get to see anyone all that often toward the end since it was summer, so it’s not really that big of a change. I think I just miss the comfort of being in France. Being back feels almost like normal and I think that’s what’s weirdest about it. Am in slight denial. Refuse to change my facebook time zone.

Am sort of thinking that the school year will probably go fast and I’ll be planning my summer back in France before I know it. And that, after all, once I get the degree, coming back to France is a pretty logical step even if I hadn’t already decided to do it. It’s not like I’ll have a job here either. (Well, I guess I shouldn’t count on anything.)

I think it was a good idea to come to Boston first though. I showed Frère two episodes of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia. I just love to share the joy.