Monday, September 19, 2011

Une année après

I am publishing this post several months after I left Paris and over one year since I arrived...

It is 9:54PM the day before I am supposed to leave Paris for good.  I have been thinking a lot about what I wanted to write in this post.  I want to describe everything that I felt in as much detail as possible so future A.J. won’t forget, but I know that that is impossible.  Some things are just beyond words.  But like always I am going to do my best.

Sorry to sound overly dramatic but I think it was Bob Cratchet who said that “life was full of meetings and partings.  That is the way of it.”  This year, for me, that quote took life.  I have met so many people, most of whom I won’t see again for an incredibly long time if ever.  Obviously there are those few who I will stay in contact with, but they will go back to their own lives just as I will mine.  

It is inevitable that I will forget most of what I experienced this year.  I’ve walked down Rue Poteau every day for the last eight months and I still couldn’t tell you what the stores on it are.  Sure, we have that cheese store next to the florist shop (you have to make sure you inhale at the right place, because if you don’t you get a good whiff of camembert instead of lilies…), and that butcher shop that sells horsemeat.  There is a Monoprix and a Franprix.  I’ve gone to the Tobac a few times to recharge my phone credit.  But the further from today I get the more I am not going to remember. 

Today I spent a good portion of the day in the apartment feeling sad for myself.  Aliya left early this morning.  She woke me up around 6:00AM to say goodbye.  I have loved living with her but her goodbye was a bit strange.  Maybe I didn’t hear her right because I was still kind of sleepy but I’m pretty sure her goodbye was “I love you, I hate you.  You’re part of my family.”  To be fair, I shouldn’t have expected anything else from her.  I guess it wasn’t actually a goodbye.  It was more of a see you later.

I went out and bought a new suitcase because I have too much stuff here.  I spent a lot of the afternoon packing.  I really didn’t feel like doing anything and I almost didn’t.  I knew though, that if I just stayed in my apartment when I went home I was going to kick myself for not seeing my favorite areas of Paris one last time.  So I took the Montmartrobus up to Sacré Cœur and walked around.  I needed to do some touristy shopping for myself and naturally I had put that off until the last day.

For the last few days the weather here has been pretty temperamental.  Yesterday I wanted to go up the hot-air balloon in a park here in Paris, but when my friend and I got over to the park it was too windy.  Today, when I got up to the top of the mountain I was pleasantly surprised to find it one of the clearest days in Paris.  From the steps of the church you have a perfect view of the rest of the town, minus the Eiffel tower.  I put my headphones on and just took in the view while listening to “Complainte de la Butte” by Rufus Wainright.  The song literally is talking about windmills and the hill that I was sitting on.  I sat there for a good three minutes, just thinking over what I had done and what had been done to me this year. 

I’ve done some pretty incredibly things.  I’ve had copious amounts of fries and waffles in Brussels, heard a ghost in the dungeons of Edinburgh, saw my first prostitute in Amsterdam, gone salsa dancing in a bull fighting ring in Spain, had wienershniztel and strudel in Germany and Austria.  I went on the Sound of Music tour in Salzburg, had a monkey climb on my head in Morocco, had the best pizza of my life in Florence, saw the largest public square in Europe in Bordeaux, went to the arena of the first Olympic games in Olympia, and went to the birthplace of democracy in Athens.  I’ve been invited into the homes of French people, had dinners on terraces overlooking the city, and had my first sip of alcohol under the Eiffel tower.  I sang for over five hundred people and presented in French for twenty.  I survived SciencesPo and France.

Looking back on it, I already don’t remember the bad.  Only the good sticks out to me.  The

I apologize.  I am finishing this on June 14 on my way back to Santa Barbara to go start work at the Family Vacation Center.  I know that my time abroad has been indescribable.  My grandmother prints out all of my blog posts.  She said that I’ve written over one hundred and fifty pages already.  I know that that can’t begin to describe the kind of things I’ve gone through.  As I said, I’ve done some incredible things.  Yet as I sit on this plane writing this I feel a kind of emptiness.  I’m not sure what the cause of it is.  I do have regrets about my time abroad, but I also have done things that most people in this world can only dream of doing.

I am so fortunate to be able to have had those experiences.  I know that I owe it all to my family for letting me take a year off from school, rely completely on them and go off and do what I want.  I think that now the reality of my future has set in.  I have nine months of school left.  Then I am going to be forced to make decisions that aren’t real.  I am going to have to seriously decide what I want to do.  Sure I can brush off those decisions and do something fun like going to work on a cruise for a few months, or going to try to get a job at ClubMed for a six-month stint, but I will never escape these choices.  France has made my future real. 

I am incredibly proud of myself.  I don’t want to appear arrogant, but I believe that what I have done is admirable.  I don’t believe I am unique and that no one else could have done what I did, but few people on this planet have, or even try.  I love everyone that I met in Paris.  In fact, there isn’t a single person who I met there that if they called me and asked to go out to lunch or dinner or even stay at my place I would try to find some excuse not to see them.  I met some of the most genuine fun to be around people I have ever heard of.  I miss them terribly.

The group of people in France I met were so odd.  There’s the one I had a huge crush on when I first met them and still to this day makes me feel like a bad person for not being as nice as they are.  There is the crazy Canadian I lived with who (and this may not be reciprical considering the morning I woke up to her yelling at her sister and her sisters friend how I never clean and how I can be inconsiderate) I would love to live with again.  There is the gayest straight man I have ever met who, despite my first impression of him has grown to be one of the best friends I’ve made in Paris.  There is the crazy British/Irish girl who, despite her demeanor when she has had a few too many is so ridiculously funny and nice and sweet.  There is the amazing welsh little blonde who has a smile and laugh that can light up the room.  There is the crazy San Franciscan who knows what she wants and isn’t afraid to get it all the while never forgetting peoples feelings.  There is the petit Seattle-ite who has promised to take me out and show me what there is to do there when I inevitably end up some awkward odd wheel out with my Dad’s side of the family.  There is the other petite Seattle-ite who’s time was cut short in Paris (not in life), but who has the most sarcastic, funny, witty sense of humor.  There were the string of roommates, from the gawkey awkward scary-smart Australian to the laid back, hipster Mexican/American/French kid. 

Then there were the French I met.  It took some time to crack their shells, but once I did, they let me in whole heartedly.  The choir guys and girls were always happy to see me there.  I’m not sure if it’s because I am one of the only guys (apparently in the history of the choir) who can sing tenor somewhat well, but every time I walked in it was as if I could do no wrong.  The French kids in my courses (with the exception of one kid who I sincerely hope fails out of school and realizes that life is more important than grades) were so supportive and friendly, especially when I told them my plight in regards to the administration. 

Then there is my French host family.  Michele is literally a second mother to me.  Jerome and Georgina are like family.  I know that I am going to remain in contact with them for the rest of my life, assuming they want to.  I cannot wait to come back and see how big Lucas has gotten and how he plays with his new baby sister (she is due this month!). 

I loved my year.  Had I finished this post closer to my arrival back in the states I honestly don’t know if I could say that.  But now I can.  With time, the bad goes and the good stays.  I think that is human nature.  That is why we can forgive, get over things, and always be optimistic.  We can overlook peoples flaws and look forward to the good times we know we will have with them again.  We are able to see past all the terrible and remember the great. 

I remember the first time I cried in Paris.  I was sitting alone in my room at Michele’s house.  I didn’t know how I was going to survive the next nine months.  Looking back I know that it can be summed up to three words.  Friends, food and France.

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