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