Monday, December 8, 2008
I am back in the place where I spent six months of my life living and learning in the French way. Yesterday evening I saw my French family and I feel so connected to them in a spiritual way. I feel connected in the sense that the familiarity of my everyday routine of being a student in Paris did not really come back to me when I saw them, but there was such a strong bond of familiarity, it was like I knew them from another life. Another life that happened so long ago, that sometimes feels like it never happened, but that I could not deny was what brought us together. *Carmen, my French sister, was 13 the last time I saw her and now is 19. I can’t believe it…I feel like when I left her house yesterday I was ripped away from her too soon before we got to catch up on how her life has been for the past six years since the last time I saw her. I cannot believe it’s been six years. It feels like ten or twenty. Because the sense of familiarity that I have, while there, still feels very distant.
Why don’t I feel like I’m back at home? Why don’t I feel the same as I did when I was here for the first time? Maybe it’s because I’m older now. Maybe it’s because my life has changed so much. Maybe it’s because my responsibilities aren’t the same, because I know so much more now, because so much has happened to me since, because I’ve changed so much since. Maybe it’s because the people who shared the experience of studying abroad in Paris with me are no longer here; maybe it’s because so much in Paris has changed that it no longer feels like a familiar city. Maybe it’s because of a lot of things.
But I know right now that I miss my French family. I wish I could have spent more weeks with them so that I could remember how it felt like to be a new American student living with a French family who welcomed me with open arms and treated me with so much love, adoration, and respect. I love my French family and for making me feel loved despite our cultural differences, for treating me like family despite that we began as complete strangers. I love my French family for making me feel like a part of Paris and for making this place home for me for six months of my life when I was only twenty years old. I love them and miss them and want to love them forever.
Thursday, December 11, 2008
I left Paris today. Just as it was all starting to come back to me. The feeling that my footsteps have trodded this city. The feeling of taking the metro everyday, the familiar smell blowing from the vents in the street, finally finding la Rue de Fossés Saint Jacques and walking into the old EDUCO building (#26) as if I were a student there again, pausing in the square in front of the old EDUCO building and remembering how it used to feel to be there, passing by the patisserie with the red awning on the left, right next to the EDUCO building, and remembering how I used to buy sandwiches there with *Kris and all my EDUCO friends before or after class, walking down the street and remembering how to get to la Rue Soufflot, feeling the feeling of walking down la Rue Soufflot and seeing the restaurant Crêpes à go-go where I think we had crêpes for the first time, spotting The Phone House and remembering that *Christina and I met two African guys there who introduced us to the nightlife of Paris, walking down le Boulevard Saint Michel all the way to le Boulevard Saint Germain and remembering the time I walked for an hour from my house to EDUCO because of the strikes that affected the subway (that lasted quite a while), spotting the store Troifoisrien (3 Times Nothing = a dollar store) on Boulevard Saint Michel and remembering how I passed by it one, two, multiple times, passing by Gibert Joseph and remembering how I came to buy my school supplies there…
So much, so much came back to me today, it was really amazing. I woke up in Paris but tonight I sleep elsewhere. I know I used to live there. I know I have a connection to that place. I know that I was a student there who worked hard and took advantage of everything the French education system had to offer me as well as the wonderful city life that Paris had to offer. I know that there was a time that I hung out with a bunch of Cornell, Duke, and Emory friends and we walked, traveled, and pioneered across all the different neighborhoods of Paris. I know that there are memories that I revisited on this trip and more that remain to be re-awakened, such as the times when I would visit *Hien in his apartment right across from La Sorbonne and he would cook for me and we would eat and have passionate discussions on his balcony under the summer sun, his balcony which was so close that it felt like it was almost touching the roof of the Sorbonne. I know that it was all real. And I hope that I can go back to it again and feel like I did when I first came to Paris, with my heart open and ready to discover the world that was all around and inside me.