Monday, June 06, 2005

Leaving France, heading to Russia

The end of my adventure is in sight. In a few days I'll be home again, surrounded by friends and family and the familiar countryside that I've known for 21 years. I'm trying not to let it depress me too much.

I've had such a wonderful time here. It's been so exciting and I've had very few mishaps along the way. Though I still feel like "l'étrangère," I have become really attached to my life here. I feel very much like I was "meant" to be here, if you'll allow me a little bit of New Age philosophy. Doors were opened to me when I knocked. Opportunities presented themselves at every turn. My life here was like something a novelist would invent.

I started out my year on Quai St. Vincent. My room had a romantic view of the river Sâone and the Old City so I could sit by my window and ponder the differences between my culture and the French one. My host family's apartment itself was a spacious converted monastery dating from the 16th century, providing a good atmosphere for dinners and evening get-togethers.

Though I wasn't looking for love, it quickly found me in the form of a dynamic and intelligent young Gabonese student named Rodrigue. He lived four hours away by train, but our "coup de foudre" proved to be the push he needed to move to Lyon, something he'd been wanting to do anyway. The ensuing relationship (8 months and counting...) would teach me about African culture with an intensity second only to actually living in Africa.

With the blossoming of a love story came the wilting of a welcoming household. My stay at the Araignous' permitted me to ease into my life here and provided me with a little insight into French family life, but the wasted expense on food that wasn't being provided and a family that was rarely there finally outweighed the good. On the last day of November, I walked out of that apartment with the two suitcases I had come with and started a new chapter.

I moved into a studio apartment on Rue de l'epargne ("street of savings," seriously) with a panorama of Lyon. My nearest metro stop is Sans Souci, "No worries," and I can walk to the nearby Boulevard of the United States by taking a left down the Avenue of Europe from the Road of Eternity. If my life really were a novel, people would laugh at how cheesy the choice of placenames was.

I soon after started work at my dream internship at the second-largest regional newspaper in France. The name of my paper, "The Progress," also has a metaphorical effect, certainly much more than other French papers, who have names like "Liberation," "World," or "West-France," would have. 
To this day I have no idea how I got this internship. I frequently ask myself exactly that; usually when I'm about to interview some French person in French and then write my article on it in French. Ça craint. But I tell myself that difficulties I encounter are of the "whatever doesn't kill you makes you stronger" type. It's the bootcamp of newspaper journalism. From now on, unless I'm in any physical danger, I will always be able to say "this isn't as bad as the time when..." 

For the holidays, my brief stint back in the States was an opportunity to see normally distant extended family. It was also an opportunity to look at the northeastern United States with the eyes of an adult. Would I want to go to Graduate school there? Would I want to work there? Would I want to live there? The next stages in my life demand the answers to these questions and the visit allowed me to explore the idea.

My life back in France was calling, however. My best friend, Kaci, an American I had met on the program, had just broken up with her boyfriend and was in need of emotional support. The details of how she found out that the scoundrel was cheating on her are also so unbelievable as to only be found in a novel, but since they actually happened, you all will just have to guess.

My classes at the ILCF were going so well that I graduated into one of the highest levels for second semester. Luckily, most of my friends from the first semester were there too and many students in the class, including me, were the only one of their nationality, which made for a very interesting cultural mix.

As Spring vacation approached I became restless to leave Lyon, but my plans kept falling through. At the last minute I was invited to Italy with three friends from the Centre Oregon program. The trip was a taste of a voyage within a voyage that I was looking for. It gave me a vacation and some fun times but mostly allowed me to appriciate the stability I have in Lyon.

The life I've lived since has been calm and more or less the experience of living abroad that I was wanting. I've been able to experience a lot here, and I hope you all have enjoyed reading this blog, the novel of my life. But the best novelistic touch came this spring when, while shaking my rugs out the window, I looked down at the ground. Being five floors up, I was sure I was mistaken, but when I went downstairs to look, there they were. A patch of wild Shasta daisies, blooming up right next to my apartment building. I haven't seen them anywhere else in France. Maybe I, too, have made my mark here.

Look for the next exciting edition: Shasta in Russia

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