First of all: boy have I failed in keeping you all up-to-date on what I've been doing. I am truly sorry. The good news is, I've still got lots of stories that I'm going to be sharing with you! I have photos and words, and I'm working on getting caught up, but it may take the next 8-10 days to completely catch up.
But in the meantime, here's a very quick summary of what's been going on the past...month...or so...(again, yikes, I'm terrible at this apparently), and what you can look forward to:
- saw the end of Stage 14 of le Tour de France in Lyon
- Avignon, France, in the land of lavander
- hellos --> Max arrives!
- Max's and my adventures through five countries of Europe over the past two weeks: Grenoble, Paris, Amsterdam, Munich, Salzburg (where I write to you from right now) & Zurich (tomorrow)
And now, some reflection. I figure I'd better go ahead and write this now while leaving Grenoble is still (somewhat) fresh on my mind.
I knew this summer would be life-changing, exciting, and memorable, but I had honestly no idea what I was getting myself into. This summer was the most challenging, wonderful, terrifying and 'pushing' experience of my life thus far. I say 'pushing' because I felt pushed to my limits on a daily basis - pushed in my ability to communicate in French, pushed to conform to cultural norms that I only sort-of understood, pushed to my limits to navigate life sans my usual support system. And I can honestly say that all that pushing, however painful and difficult it was at (many) times, has pushed me into becoming a stronger version of myself. I feel more comfortable with conversing in French than I ever have in 7 years study of it; I feel more sure of myself and my ability to be truly independent than I ever have, as well. And with all of that growth, I feel that so much of it is woven into the hot, busy streets of Grenoble. I love this town, and I love its people even more. The French have a reputation for being extremely rude and cold, but let me tell you, I found that to be nothing short of completely false. There may be some people, Parisiens in particular, who tire of ignorant, rude tourists, but what I have found is that French are some of the kindest, warmest people; they may be much more guarded than a girl raised in Texas is used to, but they are more than willing to help if you need directions, don't understand a word, or see a completely foreign food. They appreciate familiarity, and the closeness of their quartiers (neighborhoods). And this social infrastructure is one of the many things I will (and do already) miss about Grenoble, France, and the French people. Speaking of which, I'm coping Abby and giving you three lists, each which have been forming in my mind the entire summer, to sum up things "going back to normal" (whatever that means).
Things I will miss:
- French everywhere. This absolutely goes to the top of my list because having grown up in the States, and Texas in particular, it is a rare thing to run into a francophone on the street, much less see it on a sign. My first, very sleep-deprived and delirious evening in Grenoble with my host family, I was surrounded by 5 native French speakers, and even in my horrendously-sleepy state, I remember being in awe that french is just their language. what they think and speak and dream in, all the time. That idea blew my mind - I knew people like that existed but I had never met any and so it was kind of like seeing a unicorn, on that first night, something I'd always dreamt of but never witnessed. I already miss conversing in French on a daily basis. I love the way it sounds like a song, how it feels in my throat and on my lips. If I was in love with French before I left, I'm head-over-heels, never-going-back with it now.
- The boulangeries. Fresh bread every morning, afternoon, and night. Fresh pastries that cost next to nothing but taste so expensive. The fact that there is one on nearly every other street (and in Grenoble I can tell you where most are, when they close each night and which days they're each closed).
- French children, speaking French. They're precious and I'm obsessed.
- Outdoor cafés.
- Bisous aka kissing on the cheek as a salutation. The French do it once on each cheek and I think its absolutely lovely. I apologize in advance if I forget that's not normal in the US at any point.
- Cheap, delicious sandwiches. Cheap, delicious wine.
- Long, tranquille dinners. No rush. No shoving food in mouths then running away. Lots of talk, laughter and food.
- Grenoble water, straight from the mountains.
- Mountains. Thunderstorms rolling in over the mountains. Looking at the mountains. Hiking in the mountains.
- Parc Minstral. 'our' park. Playing soccer. Running. Having picnics.
- pain au chocolat. succès. tarte de framboises. réligieuses. éclairs. crêpes.
Things I will not miss:
- Dog poop on sidewalks.
- Only being 55-70% sure of what's going on/people are saying to me at all times.
- Everything, everything being closed on Sundays and by 8pm on weekdays and between 12-2/whenever-people-feel-like-coming-back-to-work-after-lunch.
- Having to rely on public transportation 100% of the time. I have been late more times this summer than probably the rest of my driving-age career combined.
- Being foreign in general.
- Having exactly zero air conditioning.
- Not being allowed to shower after 10pm because the pipes are too loud in the apartment.
- Horrible service at restaurants. No really, I don't actually want to order within 30 minutes of sitting down. And please, take an hour after I eat to bring the bill.
Things I cannot wait to have back in my life:
- Barbecue, sweet tea and things that are spicy.
- Chips and salsa
- Having Ethel there at my beck and call, just waiting for me to drive straight to where I want to go, leaving as soon as I'm ready, and not having to pick up a single other person on the way if I don't want to.
- Understanding the words coming from people's mouths without intense concentration, five repetitions or having to say "Desolée, je suis une étudiante américaine. Lentement, s'il vous plaît."
- Being able to go to the store in the tshirt and nike shorts I slept in and have that be completely socially acceptable
- My phone being useful 100% of the time. Need to call my mom at the store? No problem! Need to know the name of a movie I saw 10 years ago while walking across a parking lot? Go ahead! Want to check the weather on the bus? Go for it!
- Living in the same time zone as 95% of the people I talk to on a daily basis.
- All of my electronics being compatible with all of the electrical sockets at all times, sans adapters.
- Family & friends. Near me, with me, all of it. I was blessed with an incredible group of people in Grenoble, many of which will return to Aggieland with me, but the rest of you - and you know who you are - I have missed you so much, have missed your presence in my daily life. I can't wait for all the catching up we have to do.
Well, I'm off now to go hiking in the Austrian Alps (I'm going to miss that, as well, saying ridiculous things like that so casually) with Max. We head to Zurich for the day tomorrow and then head back home to greatest country on earth on Saturday! That being said though, part of me will always remain in Grenoble, and in the beautiful country of France. I don't know when I will get to return, but mark my words, I will. I will return and I will also explore so many new places - that's one thing this summer definitely succeeded in, reigniting my deep desire to travel, explore and experience the world. And in the coming years, I plan to do just that.
à bientôt, Grenoble, mon cœur.
& to my loves in the states: I will see you all very, very soon!
all my love,