Monday, July 31, 2006

The trip home, in more ways than one

One week ago today I was picnicking and hiking in the Pyrenees, and today I am trying to convince myself that even though I have been back for five days it really is ok if I spend "one more day" in recovery mode ( i.e., reading a book) before I plunge full-speed and full-force back into my "normal" life again.

During the entire month that I was in France I thought, and told everyone, that I was coming back to the States on Wednesday the 26th of July. Because of the time change, I would leave in the morning of that day and arrive home in the evening of that same day. And since we get a half-day off from work right before we leave, I was planning on doing lots of things Tuesday afternoon - taking a MILLION pictures of friends, doing some shopping, collecting messages to bring home to a friend in the States who knows people where I was in France, etc. So Monday, which is a day off for us where I worked in France, after the morning of shopping for the picnic in the Pyrenees and before the afternoon picnic in the Pyrenees, I checked my flight plans...only to discover that I was leaving TUESDAY morning, not WEDNESDAY morning!

Mild panic ensued, but I DID go for the hike in the Pyrenees anyway, and also, with the help of my great friends, DID manage to get the major things done that I needed to so that I could make it to the train station in time for my 6am train on Tuesday.

But it was weird, you know? To think I had one more whole day, to think that I didn't have to say my good-byes yet, and then to discover that I didn't have that day and so had to say some good-byes earlier than I had thought and wouldn't even have the chance to say some of the good-byes that I wanted to say.

So I made it to Boston, but the flight from Paris had taken off so late that I missed my connecting flight. They put me on the NEXT flight out of Boston, but the computer wouldn't print the boarding pass, and even when the airline person FINALLY got a flight coupon printed out, and called the boarding gate to let them know that I DID have a valid ticket and WAS on my way, the security people wouldn't let me through without a boarding pass; the flight coupon wasn't enough. Even though they would have let me on the plane had I made it to the gate because the lady had called them to let them know I was coming, security said that I "couldn't" get on the plane without the ACTUAL boarding pass, so they sent me BACK to the desk to try AGAIN to get that printed, and while I was standing there they paged me for the flight because it was ready to take off...

erg erg

So I stayed at the Hilton. And slept in a big clean bed with a PILLOW. :) :) And took a shower WITHOUT having to wait in line, and WITHOUT my flipflops on, in a shower that was big enough to move in and in which I could control the water temperature. :) And ate salad and rolls and jumbo shrimp for dinner in the hotel restaurant and FROZE from the air conditioning. Two weeks of 100+ degree weather does weird things to your body. :) And realized that I would have rather been back in France, even with the summer heat, eating French bread and a homemade salad with my friends.

And when my body woke me up at 3 the next morning, even though I didn't have to get up until 4:30 to catch my flight, I realized that my jumbled half-awake thoughts were in French and I was glad of it, but also wondered, sadly, how long that would last, now that I was back in the States. I am glad to be back, but part of me misses the adventure, and the new friends, and the CONSTANT LEARNING that I was immersed in - of language, of culture, of geography, of politics, of human nature, of myself.

I realized with a shock, part way through my dinner in the hotel restaurant in Boston, that I had communicated effortlessly with the restaurant and hotel staff. I had forgotten how EASY it can be to speak, and listen. My French is good, don't get me wrong, but since I was TRYING so hard to improve my language skills during the month that I was in France, I listened really carefully when people spoke to me, and concentrated on the words they used and how they said what they said and how I should respond. Years ago I passed the point of having translate things in my head from English to French before I say them, but I am not to the point of being able to say, effortlessly, anything that I want to in French. There were times, during this last month in France, when I felt limited by my French, or lack thereof. A few times it was wanting to better serve the clients in the place where I worked, but mostly it was when I was wanting, so badly, to know my friends better, and to be able to share more with them of who I was, but feeling limited by my vocabulary and my inability to discuss the abstract things that make us who we are. So I had WORKED to learn and to express myself more and more clearly, and it was WORK.

And now, in this hotel in Boston, I had listened and spoken without giving it a second thought, or even a first thought, for that matter, without concentrating on catching meaning, without planning in advance how I might need to respond to a possible question. So NOW I see the difference, and NOW I want that ease - in French. That just means next summer I'll have to stay longer. :)


Heather from One Woman's World said...

Man. That was a cool post. It made me nostalgic for some reason. I really liked a lot of things you had to say in there. Picnicking in the Pyrenees! HOLY Crud, I've done that too. Where exactly were you staying?

Janell said...

I hate it when I think I have more time than I have. Whever events go out of the expected sequence life always gets really weird.

It sounds like you had a lovely time regardless of the abrupt end!

Yup, you'll definitely have to go again next year =)

jeremy said...

That explains why you were so worried about the cheese. ;)