It’s night number two in Paris, France.
What does one say about their first trip to another continent, their first solo voyage? There is almost nobody I know, I don’t speak the language, and I have never been in a city this big before. You can all probably imagine the mix of emotions, from lonely to awestruck; however, it’s home for the next six weeks and it is going to be fine, just fine.
Wait, six weeks? When did ten days turn into six weeks?
Sometimes we plan a course of action, knowing that it is not exactly right, but making the plan is part of getting to the correct conclusion. For months I’ve planned to arrive in Paris, and travel throughout Europe for the next six weeks: Italy, Greece, Spain – warm southern countries full of colour and history. Something nagged at me though – I never did book my Eurorail pass that was going to facilitate me moving around without a plan, and I never even made a plan for where I was going to start.
People fascinate me: the way we communicate, the way we interact, the way we need friends and family more than anything else in the world. I’m a people watcher, an eavesdropper, I like these short vignettes of peoples lives. One of the things that fascinates me most is the way that people all over the world are the same. We speak different languages, we eat different food, we have different customs and cultures, but at the end of the day we share moments of joy, sorrow, inspiration, defeat, love, frustration and every other emotion possible with those in our lives.
It occurred to me that if I came to France for six months, and didn’t leave speaking the language, I would be missing out. Missing out on an opportunity to to see into another culture, to truly experience another way of life. Missing out on eavesdropping and seeing the details that make up ordinary existence. Coming to France isn’t just about baguettes and brie, it’s about the lovely, colourful, and passionate people who live here. But to get that experience, I really need to step up the language game.
And that’s how five days of French immersion classes turned into five weeks. Like I said, I’m not really surprised. I like to have projects, challenges to wake up for in the morning. I like there to be purpose in a day, and somehow, moving from hostel to hostel just doesn’t seem nearly as exciting as surviving six weeks in Paris while trying to master the language. As soon as I realized that this was what I was going to do, it was like slipping on a pair of leather gloves. This was what was supposed to happen from the beginning, I just needed to open my eyes and see it.
So remember, the next time I’m in tears, exhausted because I have spent all day trying to communicate in broken and confused French, that I said this seemed exciting. I said I wanted to tackle this project. I thought this was a good idea.