So it seems that since returning all I’ve been doing is running in circles, head cut off, and just screaming for some time to breath and possible try to re attach my head – I hear they’re necessary, after all. And while abroad was breathless and I was continuously on the move, it was simple. And so I think I get it now: I’m not screaming for time, I’m shouting for simplicity. In fact, I’m doing so at the top of my lungs. Here, things are cluttered – socially, there are ties we have to uphold, appearances that “need” to be made; emotionally, there are those people who you don’t realize make you emotional until you see them after 5+ months and all you can say is “dammit, really?”; physically there is a haggardness thanks to the countless appearances and emotions and school and pressures that make you look as though you’ve fought a war and trudged to class all in the same day. And with rush finally ending this weekend – some could say this is a social war in itself – I’m hoping to find the time to take a breath and rescrew my head to my flailing body. Until then, the chicken metaphor still stands. You’d think after years of overinvolvement my motivated, ambitious, “must do everything” self would’ve learned…alas, the cons of being so Type A.
I, for one, can say that I wasn’t ready. After the long drawn out goodbye to France, I’ve been home all of 3(give-or-take-a-few)hours and already find myself itching to do something. Anything. How was boredom so evitable in France but so quick to find me on my floral duvet in my room in NY? I never thought I’d say this but Lilli’s crazy cultural sheets and sayings may have some truth to them: there’s a huge come down from study abroad. I guess all I keep asking myself is, “what now?”
I guess first and foremost there’s the ever-so-pressing issue of NYE: the frazzled rush to find plans, the dodging of jet lag, the futile attempts not to compare anything you’re doing here with what you could be doing across the pond in say, Aix-en-Provence, France. Then there’s the issue of having 5 days at home and 6 valises of laundry to do before repacking and heading down south (“to the land of the pines/I’m—” Sorry, small tangent). Next, the strangeness of adapting to (again) only having one cell phone. I found it very strange to not turn on my very crappy, yet reliable, portable français upon deboarding the plane today at JFK. It’s going to be strange not to pay as I go and I’m sure I will grow wistful as the soundwaves reaching my ears start to lack that obnoxious ding-ing noise that it makes when it wants to alert you to an SMS or phone call. And finally there’s the most important of all issues: what is the fate of this (a)blog? After all, I’d be lying if I said that keeping it hasn’t been entertaining, but I’d also be lying if I continued an abroad-blog from, well, not abroad. I’ve loved the comments that I’ve received – whether it be from parents, family friends, friends, or just bored readers with nothing better to do who ended up getting a good laugh. I guess we’ll see…considering the number of people who incredulously listen to the events of my day to day and marvel at the fact that MTV hasn’t yet called me for at least an hour episode of True Life because “how does this stuff even happen to you anyway?” Thus, I’m sure there will be more stories to tell. But I would like to say thanks for it while it’s on my mind – for reading and for following along.
Well, judge me for this (or not) but I’m going to go stow away my french phone for mon prochain séjour (because there’s going to be one!) and then watch some Vampire Diaries. The “what now?” now applies to Damon’s evil doings, Stefan’s search for humanity and the Bella-esque heroine who doesn’t bite her lip and actually speaks. Oh, I am coming down and hitting reality fast.
I have to continually remind myself of this idea – that it’s better to have experienced, to have seen, to have learned, to have met, to have known someone than it is to not have had that chance at all. But with the series of goodbyes and au revoir’s over the course of the past week and a half, I’m still not too sure this is making it any easier – only showing me that the pit in my stomach is a sign that the past four months were worth it. I had the chance to meet the most amazing people: 31 people at AUCP who, each in their own way, made this experience unforgettable; a host family – complete with live in host brother – who, upon closing the door to my 3rd floor apartment for the last time, really felt like an extension of my real family; a certain fun loving, green/blue-eyed boy who made me laugh simply by looking at me and saying “thanks for it” and who made me realize that having no emotions means you miss out on, well, life.
And so I’ve seen that goodbyes, in any language, just plain suck. But I’ve also come to learn that the deeper the pit in your stomach, the harder it is to fight back the tears as you walk away from the car and the more you find a smile creeping onto your face simply at the mention of a word that makes you think of “that time in Aix,” the more worth it those relationships are. It’s the stories, the too many bottles (or boxes!) of rosé, the Thursdays where you got sucked into the abyss of RoMarc’s apartment and didn’t wander out until 5am – all the while wondering “how did we stay that for that long?”; the games of “Never Have I Ever” where you really never have had a ménage-a-dix with an entire fraternity; the massive 4 scoops of gelato ice cream on the Cours Mirabeau simply because “well, we had a hard day, right?” It’s Crêpes A-Go-Go every Tuesday or seeing half of the AUCP at Book-in-Bar at any given point, at any given hour, on any given day, probably drinking tea and eating a scone; it’s talking ourselves into random purchases because, well, pourquoi pas?..then again, it’s justifying just about anything with pourquoi pas?! It’s been an envie d’ailleurs and an envie de revenir; swearing to a Sober Oktober only to jump right back into a glass of wine because, bien sûr, you can’t say no to Martine and Didier.
And as I sit here at my computer, I can’t even pick apart my memories because they all seem too fresh to harvest – to separate and put into words, into descriptions on a computer screen – they just seem like yesterday. So my stories, my mini-escapades will stay as one big film reel of souvenirs for a few days more…I have an 8 hour plane ride, after all, to sort through them. But I do see now that it’s true: It’s better to have loved. Every song ends, but we can still enjoy the music. We do things for the rush, the thrill, the story. If for nothing else, we do it for the experience. And I’m happy to have had this one, no matter how hard it is to leave.
I’ve always said that I would never want to be the last roommate to leave the house on The Real World. And so when I realized yesterday that I would be one of the last AUCP’ers to leave Aix this weekend (only to return and be toute seule aussi!) I suddenly began to sympathize with Snooki and all the last ones who came before her. Regardless, being last has made me start thinking about goodbyes. And a hard, sad, tear-filled goodbye it will be. But I can’t help but think its not all bad. That pit in your stomach means you’re saying goodbye to something that was worth having, worth cultivating, worth smiling and crying at at the same time. Now, coming from me, these sentences must be shocking. Afterall, I’m the person who truly believes that emotional separation from other members of the human race is the best way to avoid sadness – and trust me, goodbyes are made easier.
But I’ve come to see that this belief is, well, dumb. I adore the people I’ve met here. In fact, I owe most of them huge thank you’s for opening my eyes to the world around me. I’ve (re)learned that you can, and should, let people in and that being dark and twisty can also be coupled with lots of bright moments filled with laughter and smiles. And from this lesson, I’ve gained the most wonderful souvenirs of the people who have been here in Aix with me. I’ll even go so far as to say this: I don’t HATE christmas and I have emotions. God that was difficult. But I now find myself in the same place as when I got here: eyes teary, next to my desk, sweatpants on, bags half-packed, squinting at a screen writing this entry bc (after 4 months of trying) I still have no internet in my little bedroom corner of Provence. Save for this time, I’m crying for a different reason, my desk has had many nights of studying upon it, and my eyes have seen the most amazing 4 months that I never even imagined.
So I may be leaving…but only for a short while! And with this weather, maybe not at all. If European blizzards have nothing to say about it, I’m off to Paris tomorrow, Switzerland til Friday and then Aix on Monday! And while it’ll be weird to not call Audrey or Laura or Jamie or anyone else to boire une verre on the Cours with me, I’ll have my family here and I guess some French kid to keep me company 🙂
And it’s when you look at things from far away that it’s easier to appreciate them. For me, it’s taken being far away from Tulane to realize just how many great things there are about it: the city in general, but more importantly the people that make it the wonderful, living, breathing thing I’m so in love with. Now, this is not a bearing on France – this place is wonderful and has done well by me – but I’m coming to see that there’s just something about a Tulane Student state of mind that is just impossible to recreate anywhere else and in any other group of people. And it’s for that that, while it’s going to be a tearful good-bye to Aix and the people who have lived it with me, I couldn’t be more excited to go back to a place where – no matter how tired you are – Thursday means F&Ms, Friday means Happy Hour, Saturday means any and all of the above and Sundays bring a day of PJs coffee, Favori’s, home work and the return to being a real human being for the next 4(ish) days (no matter what).
I feel the need to start with these next 5 words that will make you smile, because they were an integral ingredient to my current – dare I say – happy mood. “I really like being with you.” It’s simple, it’s not over done, it’s not even overly clingy! They’re just five words that, let’s face it, we all love to be surprised with. Whether it be from a boyfriend/girlfriend, a friend, a new acquaintance, it’s nice to know that we’ve done our job of being fun and likable without even realizing it, or without even particularly trying.
These five words topped off what could be one of the more fulfilling days I’ve had in Aix thus far – being that I felt successful having just finished a full semester of classes, all in French! Felicitations AUCPers! I then wound my way to Crêpes-A-GoGo (milles mercis à Florian) where Christy, Jamie and I celebrated the real beginning of the real end of our time here in Aix. What better way than with crêpes? I then found myself at Belle Epoque for 2 hours as I had my last farewell martini(s) with Prater who leaves France on Sunday for the good ol’ US of A. (See you at Mardi Gras, kid!) And as I sat there in BE, topping off two martini blancs with a café (espresso), I realized that it’s a million little things, little smiles, little phrases, little successes that create those days that seem, just, well, great. And for me, today was – inadvertently – just that.
On to finals! Womp womp. That was a downer.
So not that this realllly fits, but I only have “one day more” of classes. And that makes me think of this. *sigh* Oh mental affiliations…enjoy!
Wow, that sounded way more final than I meant it to. But nonetheless, it is true. I am in my last week of classes here in Aix and being the considerate friend and blogger that I am, I decided to give all of you study-holics and insomniacs who are in finals mode a new way to procrastinate that doesn’t include Robot Unicorn Attack or likealittle.com (it’s just creepy). A new blog post! (applause)
So before the final week of classes began, I had my final trip. And what better way to end 4 months of Euro-fun than AMSTERDAM. In an effort to keep this blog readable for all ages, I’ll omit many of the morally questionable events of the weekend (not that there were any, Mom and Dad but hypothetically). I arrived with my fellow voyagers, Audrey and Laura, around 4 on Friday. We made sure to profit from the free drinks policy on the plane (Author’s note: US, please try to adopt this policy. Flyers would be MUCH happier and I’m pretty sure this would’ve avoided the Jet Blue worker freak out circa Aug/Sept 2010) and even created a flight sensative drinking game: most important rule being that when Ali freaks out, Ali has to drink. Mom, I”ve been flying without Dramamine these past few months and so the freakout have been plentiful. They lessened as the flight went on grace à our little game. Lesson learned: All these years of sleep-inducing Dramamine should’ve been replaced by white wine, rum, vodka or – most recently tested – gin. Who knew?
After arriving on Friday, I could officially start answering the question “Whatcha doin’?” with “Nothing, chillin’ at the Holiday Inn.” The 10th grader inside of me felt a great deal of pride being that since the first time I heard Chingy utter this phrase, I had – for some reason – a huge urge to use it in my day to day life. Mission accomplished. We then left our Holiday Inn and went to a coffee shop to, ya know, get some coffee. When in Rome, right? There we rendez-vous’ed with our, for lack of better phrasing, French entourage. Cultural lesson here, readers: We Americans are used to very specific directions when trying to meet up or get somewhere. And after an entire semester of reading chapter after chapter of Raymond Carrol’s “L’etrangete Francais” I thought it was all bull$hit. Turns out, she may have been right on this one: directions can be culturally based. Example: “Meet at the church.” People, this is Europe. If you didn’t know, there are churchs everywhere. The Europeans of days past were verrry adament about churches on every street just as we seem to be determind to place a Starbucks on every street corner. Thus, meet at the church gets a little confusing. Still, we managed to get by and find our way through the cobbled and snow covered streets of the ‘Dam.
Saturday: huge ititerary (how badly did I butcher that spelling?) With only 48 hours in Amsterdam, Audrey made sure to wake us up at the crack of dawn to really take advantage of our time. Her shrill, morning-person voice still echoes in my ears…at least she followed through on her promise of coffee within 5 mins of waking up. Nonetheless, we started early and got a lot done! First stop: Van Gogh museum – which turned out to be a great way to pass time in a culturally educational fashion because it was blizzarding outside. Then IAMSTERDAM sign, then a park (see Facebook for photos) and then the Heineken Brewery, all while trudging through the continually falling and ever so slippery Amsterdam snow. The rest of the night went in typical Amsterdam fashion – coffee shop, Red Light District, general loss of morals and my soul. No big deal.
Sunday: Anne Frank house. Truly one of the best experiences I’ve had since in Europe. We went the four of us and I’m pretty sure not more than 4 words were uttered upon entering the half-museum, half-memorial to the writer of one of the most celebrated journal’s of all time. I found myself holding back tears, many times without even knowing I was about to cry, upon re-reading the lines of the Diary I had read so many years ago. I found it only fitting to finish the visit with a copy of the book that came from the Annexe itself. But to me, the best part of this visit was the way that they made the issues relevant today. Interactive features that created ties to present societal issues of persecution and prejudice help the legacy of Anne Frank to live on in a capacity that isn’t just a remembrance, but a precedence and an applicable example. In this way, Otto Frank’s dreams and wishes have been acheived: tolerance will forever be relevant and in this way, we can use Anne Frank – her words, thoughts, wishes – today. I will always find it amazing how much relevance history has (and always will have) in contemporary society not just from a political and economic standpoint, but from a moral point of view as well.
We left Amsterdam Sunday afternoon – tired but well-toured; praying for sleep but instead receiving a death-defying flight home. I swear, I was preparing in my head for where I would exit in the case of a water landing. Still, we arrived – safe and generally sound – just in time for our last week of classes here at AUCP. And speaking of, I now have my last art class. Author’s note: Art classes generally tend to be more trouble than they’re worth – especially if you’re someone who just really isn’t an artist and, honestly, just took the class because you didn’t want to take anything that would involve using your brain. I now know for next time.
Hope this provided sufficient procrastination! Now get back to work – most of you have finals to take and I don’t want to come back and hear you crying about how you failed. Good luck little Smarties! À bientôt!
#15. Here, Facebook vousvoyer’s you. I’ve never felt so respected by a piece of technology! For those of you who don’t know the in’s and out’s of the innate hierachal system of the French languge, there are two different ways of addressing someone in the “you” form – “tu” and “vous.” Tu is used for your friends, people you know well. Vous is for people who you need to show respect to – professors, parents, etc. Make this distinction and learn it well, it could have some prettttty big potential for a malentendu if you accidentally “tu” when you should’ve “vous”ed. So, faites attention!
#16. Balls are the closest thing you’ll get to a sorority/fraternity formal here in France, but there’s really something to be said for a nice Greek sponsored tab at a local trashy bar while you’re wearing a cocktail dress. While Saturday was fun, I’ve never appreciated being a PiPhi as much as I do now.
#16.5. I should add something here: men in uniforms are a plus. This is something we should really consider instituting back in the US for formal events – ahhem fratstars – beacuse honestly, everyone looks better in a military-esque uniform. Marines with French accents? D’accccccord.
#17. The French are, in general, “be-ers” while Americans are “do-ers.” Let me clarify (as per usual): in our class discussion today, which was the most sophisticated use of FranGlais that I’ve ever heard (and I’m fluent in this mixture, so that’s saying something) that the French can just be. And for any of you who have seen me on a stressful day, all I really want to do “is JUST BE.” Let me drink my coffee, read my book, stare into space IN PEACE! Here, that happens. Sure, you may end up 30 minutes late to an appointment but you could, if you wanted to, eat each individual flake of your perfectly buttered and baked croissant without once glancing at your watch to check the time. Unimaginable, right? And while there’s a fine line between peace and just being plain slow (something else I can’t stand), it’s kind of nice that that’s an option here. Par contre I am a New Yorker and if being here has taught me anything it’s that I cannot tolerate things done slowly when they can be done in 15 minutes or less. Guess being in France has taught me more than just language: I am aware, now, that I would be hard pressed to find somewhere other than NY to spend the rest of my life. To be honest, I’d probably stroke out before the time I hit 40 if I had to pretend that I could mosey through the streets at a glacial pace. (Really people, just a littttttttle faster!)
#18. This place has the potential to make even the Grinch like Christmas. I am that person that is insanely annoyed when radio stations play Christmas music before Thanksgiving is even over, but with my lack of connection to the outside world – this has happened far less frequently than at home. (Damn you 106.7 and your incessant need to spread cheer and good will to man!) Also normally around this time of year, I would be cursing the forced Hallmark happiness that surrounds me as I state to any and all people with ears that I hate Christmas.And it’s true – I do. But with all of these lights and little chalets lining the Cours Mirabeau, it’s hard not to feel my heart growing a few sizes. So while I still remain your lovably green and fuzzy idol of all that is anti-Christmas cheer (sorry, Jesus), it’s getting harder by the day. Someone even called me out and said that I do like Christmas and am lying to myself. I’m currently planning my revenge by taking all of her Christmas presents on the night of the 24th. Watch out, Sage!
#19. AUDREY AUDREY AUDREY AUDREY AUDREY and something else about AUDREY. Now when she reads my blog, she’s mentioned and involved 🙂 But really, she is. I just haven’t had the opportunities to really write about it. Yet.