"Be yourself. Life is precious as it is. All the elements for your happiness are already here. There is no need to run, strive, search, or struggle. Just be."
~ Thich Nhat Hanh
the gift she gave me
Regretful second. Never fully take it in.
Pending responsibilities at home.
Selfishly hoping. To see a change. More worldly? More interesting? Maybe just happier. I don't know.
Nowadays how am I? Too judgmental about the wrong things. Give the right people a chance.
The ill-advised. I don't have time for anymore. My resolution. About being alone. Forgot what it was like. I missed it. I need it.
Train was delayed. Group of Americans. Running. A month ago. Me. Terrified. Nervous. Ready for a change. The girls are gone. Back in the states. So I sat alone. Watched the Parisians. Curse loudly. Gaze blankly. I liked it that way. Strangely enough.
Sitting alone. Staring out the train window. Sophia Coppola sketch.
I found what you gave me. It had that quote on it. My nineteenth birthday. I cried. Applicable to the moment.
What I've learned here. This sentiment. To live alone. To create alone. To learn alone.
To experience and enjoy alone. And to be satisfied.
This past month in Paris has been amazing! I have learned so much about the planning and history of Paris. I feel like I mastered the metro system and can get anywhere with it, although once I’m on the street I’m not quite as skilled with some of the smaller streets. I now know more of Paris now than Washington D.C., which is close to where I live, but I don’t frequently go anywhere outside of the National Mall. Before this trip, I found the idea of traveling alone nerve-racking, but now feel more confident about doing so. I am so grateful to Professor Smith and everyone else on the trip for a great experience and many, many memories!
Well hello again!! It's hard to believe its been already a month since my last post. I've been so busy working, seeing old friends and family, and getting back into my yoga practice that time has just flown by. But I'm finally ready to deliver my very last blog post. I've thought a lot about writing this last post. It's time to put the final period to this incredible chapter of my life. So let's start with my last 6 days in Paris...
Those last six days went by so fast its almost all a blur but during those six days I spent my time walking the city with my friends and slowly packing in the evening.
Some of my favorite memories of those last days were finding and walking the promenade plantee with Michelle.
The promenade is a beautiful and tranquil above street level escape from the hustle and bustle of the city. The path is about three miles along and is surrounded by lovely gardens of flowers. I loved it and only wished that I had set out to find it sooner as it would have been a place I would have defintely frequented.
What I was looking forward to most was the Gay Pride Parade in the city that Saturday. Since, I had never before been to one I was especially excited! So Saturday afternoon we joined the parade at Saint Michel and followed it all the way to Place de la Bastille. It was so much more than I expected it to be! It was quite the sight to see how this parade was taking over the city. The parade was practically one big dance party in the street. There was so much happiness and everyone was so friendly.
sorry for the shaking in the video - I did my best ;p
Michelle and I at the end of the parade at place de la Bastille
I felt very fortunate to still be in Paris to see the parade!! It was quite the memorable event. The next day was Sunday, my very last full day in Paris. My last full day was quite relaxing but it did feel weird waking up knowing that today would be a days of "lasts" a.k.a. last metro rides, last times stroliing the streets, last time seeing the Tour Eiffel, last time talking to my landlord, last time sleeping in my bed, and the last time making the hike up those stairs.
The first thing I did that day was head towards Michelle's apartment to help her get to the train station. Michelle was leaving Paris for Germany and I wanted to see her off. After a tearful goodbye and a promise from me to visit her in Canada, I left Gare de l'Est and made my way back home to finish cleaning my room and packing. It really hit me on the metro that I was leaving. While I wish I could say that I was really sad, I can't really. By that point I was just so excited to get home and I felt as though I had made the most of these past 6 months that I could leave Paris without regretting a thing.
I think it's really difficult to try to have some understand just what its like to be so far from home for six months and immerse yourself not only in a culture that's completely foreign to you but to also adapt to the lifestyle demanded of living in such a cosmopolitan city like Paris. It's something that I truly believe you can only grasp from experiencing it first hand.
Paris was everything and nothing at all as I expected it to be. Over these past six months I did things I had not before believed myself capable of doing, found myself in situations I never thought I would find myself in, and saw things I would never have imagined.
Back in my room, after things were sorted and all was set to go home, I decided to go ahead and take one last stroll around the neighborhood and take a last glance at the Tour Eiffel. That last night was also the final game of the Euro Cup match: Italy vs. Spain. Place de Trocadero was crowded with fans shouting and proudly wearing their teams' gear. Needless to say the place was overflowing with people and the excitement was more than palpable. After taking it all in for the last time I headed back home to get to bed and bring down my suitcases. Since I really didn't want to struggle taking two 50 lbs suitcases down six narrow, winding flights of stairs, I left my suitcases in my landlord's apartment that night so I could just grab them in the morning.
After having barely slept that night, I woke up with the same exictement that I woke up the morning I was leaving for Paris. I was going home!! So after taking one last look at my chambre de bonne, I locked it up, descended the stairs for the last time, made my way across the courtyard to my landlord's apartment and just as I as I tiptoed my way over to my suitcases I found a lovely note from my landlord wishing me a safe journey back hope and all the best of luck. It was so sweet of her and I felt really lucky to have lucked out with such a great landlord. After dropping off my key in her mailbox I haulled my two suitcases down the street to hail a taxi for Charles de Gaulle. The taxi ride to the airport was really comfortable, the taxi driver was Portuguese but grew up in Paris. We had a nice chat and I learned a lot about what Paris taxi drivers do when they are not shuffling Parisians back and forth. And then just like that I was back at CDG. After checking in, I boarded my flight to London Heathrow and as the plane took off I made sure to say goodbye to Paris. After a two and ahalf layover in London Heathrow, and an almost seven hour flight I finally landed back in D.C. 6pm US time. Which for me meant that that was 12am Paris time and while I was tired I couldn't wait to meet my family at the arrival gate. And as I walked towards that gate, I became aware of how fast my heart was beating as I got nearer to the doors. When they did open, I saw my entire family waiting for me on the other side and then without warning, I felt the tears running down my cheeks as I hugged my parents again for the first time since I left. It was such an incredible feeling to see my parents again. I am so grateful to them for all their support throughout this whole experience.
Since being home, it has actually been really easy to settle in back home that it almost feels like Paris never happened. I guess that is the lovely thing about coming back home - you never feel like you left. I am however, aware that I am looking at everything with a fresh pair of eyes and appreciating even the smallest of things like going for fro - yo runs with my friends or just driving again and listening to the radio.
What I think I have taken away from this experience is a fresh perspective on my life.
I am less than a month from returning to UMW and while it is really bitter sweet that this is going to be my senior year I am so excited!! One of the best things I have taken away from this experience is a greater appreciation for the teaching method of American universities.
I feel as though I could say so much more about Paris but I will refrain and bring this post to an end.
My final conclusion on Paris: If you are lucky enough to have lived in Paris, consider yourself very fortunate to have lived in a city so rich in culture and history and so much beauty. Take advantage of every opportunity and experience and live without regret. As Hemingway said, Paris is definitely a "moveable feast" that leaves a lasting impression. For me, while Paris was amazing I do not see myself living there in the future. I would love to maybe visit again but what I have realized is that Paris is just not the city for me but, I certainly do not regret making the decision to go because I would never have known that otherwise.
Thank you to all that have lent their support and encouragement to make this experience possible!!
Also, I am hoping to add an extra page to this blog focusing on my final opinion of the MICEFA program as promised to help those of you that may be considering choosing the program.
For class yesterday, Professor Smith surprised us with a day trip to Disneyland in Paris. Disneyland has some similarities with Disney World in Florida, especially Main Street, USA. There are a lot more thrill rides though, especially considering that it is a smaller park, which I really liked. We went on Crush’s Coaster which was the best ride EVER and needs to come over to the United States.
The increase in number of thrill rides may be due to the fact that the park is much newer than the ones in the United States. Disneyland Paris is 20 years old. Paris was chosen out of all the options in Europe to have Disney, partly because the government had the power to easily build the theme park. The park was built in the suburbs of Paris and required metro transportation. Both the park and the public transportation caused economic development in the surrounding area.
The park itself combines the American elements that you see in Disney land, but there are also some French elements. They had an arcade in Disneyland Paris (the Liberty Arcade), which a more Parisian architectural element. However, the new and colorful buildings mimicking American architecture, along with the costumes and food, allow for interesting stereotypes of Americans to be formed by those who have not been there.
Tasked with the job of completing an unforgiving scavenger hunt, we ambitiously set out to differentiate our photography from the other teams. Thus was born Hipster Haiku - Paris édition. Tragically, the haikus I wrote on the metro were not posted with the pictures that Katie and Lauren took, so I am taking the opportunity to post them now.
Yesterday, we went of a scavenger hunt for class. We were given a list of 40 things that we had to try to find within Paris. You can check out mine and Phoebe’s pictures at: http://www.flickr.com/photos/81940946@N05/sets/72157630732049850/.
Today, we went to DISNEYLAND! I’ll try and write a blog about that tomorrow, but I want to show some of the pictures I ended up taking because I saw a lot of things from the list and ended up trying to see how many I could get. Redonculous? Yes. Pathetic? I prefer to think not.
#2 beautiful door
#10 Statue of Liberty
#12 live fish-Nemo? I didn’t take a picture of him though
#18 beautiful lettering
#26 mansard roof
#27 riveted architecture
#28 crazy intersection
#29 egregious PDA
#30 street performer
#33 market display
$34 amazing thing made out of chocolate (I also had a Magnum bar and Ben & Jerrys)
Yesterday, Professor Smith took us on a day trip to Brussels. When we first got off the train, we saw a market with really cheap clothes and some rides. I think the rides may have been because Saturday was Belgium’s national holiday. Luckily for us, most of the places in Brussels seemed to be open despite the holiday, while, in Paris, many restaurants were closed the day after Bastille Day.
We wandered the streets of Brussels until we could find a place with waffles that Professor Smith considered to be good enough for our visit. I tried speculoos with mine, which I can only describe as tasting like a graham cracker spread.
Then we went to the Margritte museum. I had never heard of Margritte before (I am not an art expert), but he had some really awesome surrealism pieces. I also liked the layout of the museum and how at the beginning of each floor there was a timeline of what was happening in his life. It helped to put some context of his life with his work
Afterwards, we ate some fries and mashed potatoes. Then, we went to a few chocolate shops and got to try some Belgium chocolates. We wandered the streets of Brussels, discussed its planning and how it is different than Paris because Belgium’s power was much earlier and is evident by the narrow streets and less grand buildings (although there were still some!). We finished the day off with more fries and waffles. As we walked back to the train station, my belly was pleasantly very full.
I left for Barcelona on Friday afternoon, departing by train and arriving on Spain's Mediterranean coast around six hours later. Our first night in the city consisted of getting settled in the hotel rooms and then going out to a local bar. It was a night like all the rest, just in a different city.
Saturday was an interesting day. We bought all-day tour bus passes and proceeded to ride the tour buses all around the city. Bringing my camera on the trip was a wise decision, and I took a lot of good photos in Barcelona. It wasn't an incredibly immersive experience, but we only had one day and we made the best of it. Barcelona is a beautiful city, and one that I want to revisit at some point soon. The buildings were artistically constructed, the streets were fairly clean, and the tour bus drivers were good at their jobs. My group didn't get around to the pricier, more popular attractions purely because we were on a budget and under time constraints. In one day, we took a whirlwind tour of the city and explored it as we saw fit. And thanks to timely applications of sunscreen, I came out of the experience without excessive sunburns. (For at least one member of the group, the city will be remembered as "Burncelona.")
I am constantly reminded of how much I love the food here in Spain. I ordered paella at a restaurant in Barcelona after we visited Park Guell, and it was very good. I didn't like how the shrimp was prepared, but it was merely a minor annoyance in an otherwise satisfactory dish. I'm definitely going to invest in a cookbook before I leave Spain. I want to make this caliber of food a part of my daily routine.