Leaving…!

12 Dec

Now that I’m leaving in a week, I’ve gone from being totally ready to get home (especially since it’s the holidays) to getting a bittersweet feeling more and more as the flight home gets closer and closer.  Everyday I’m finding more things I’m really going to miss.

Things I’ll miss:

Living in history.  I pass the coolest, oldest places just walking to the university.  And I always see something new.  One of my favorite things to do is just walk around the narrow, winding streets of the old town and seeing the shops and homes built right into the Middle Ages.  And the best finds are tucked away and easily passed over.

La Place de la comédie.  The center of the city, in the middle of the old town, I make excuses to walk through there whenever I can.  It’s full of life, full of old buildings, full of cafés, accordion music, shops; basically, it is France in a nutshell.

Taking field trips not to the science museum but to thousand year-old castle ruins and historic cities.  Last week, my medieval literature class went on a field trip to a couple Cathar castle ruins west of here near the Pyrenees and stopped in Narbonne.  We had only really read one story about the Cathars and didn’t really learn much school-wise on the trip (our prof is a really laid back French-American), but the trip gave us eerie mountaintop ruins with gorgeous views of the Pyrenees, probably the quietest I’ve ever heard (if that makes sense; being on top of the mountain in the ruins, no one else was there except our small class, and just miles and miles of open countryside and rolling hills), and a day full of hilarity.  So, why not?!  Also, we learned a new phrase from our prof: “bon, bein, donc, voilà, quoi?!”  It literally means nothing.  Nothing!  All of those words are filler words, and together it just basically means, “well, there ya have it.”  Haven’t used it yet, but maybe it’ll be my parting words to my host family, “Well!  Bon bein donc voilà quoi!  Au revoir!”  Actually, that’s probably not a great idea.

Wine.  I don’t really need to explain this one.  New addition: vin chaud.  My hypothesis behind vin chaud:  so, they were drinking wine, and it started getting a little chilly outside.  They knew they couldn’t keep drinking the cool wine when it was getting so cold, so, they looked at the fire, looked longingly at their wine, and one smart aleck piped up, “Screw it, let’s heat it up!”  And they did.  Voilà.  Bravo, French wine-addicts, bravo.

Fromage cru.  Non-pasteurized cheese is sooooo good.  Paranoid American health standards, you’re lame.

Good bread.  Croissants, baguettes, pain au chocolat, delicious.

The graffiti.  At first, I thought the graffiti was awful and destructive, but now I really like seeing quality artistic graffiti.  Some of it is really impressive.

Christmas markets.  It’s like a party nonstop in the center of town.  The stands are so cute and abundant, the shopping’s great, the food’s delicious, the hot wine is hot and wine, and it seems like everyone comes out to the market–it’s just a sea of people.  There are Christmas lights everywhere, a huge “tree” made of lights, occasional singing performances, and even a tiny bunny hill put up right in the middle of the Esplanade (our pedestrian boulevard, basically) where kids can put on some skis, march up the walkway, and get pushed down the little slope by ski school teachers.  They imported snow and everything.  Ah, France.

Shakespeare.  The pub that we’ve made our home away from home and destination for many trivia nights.  Mari and I got a cider beer (our favorite) there yesterday afternoon and couldn’t stop saying how we wanted to transport Shakespeare home to Minneapolis.  This bar will be hard to beat.

Exposure to different sports.  My family was very nice and brought me to both a Montpellier soccer match (against Lyon who is very good, and we only just lost right in the last minute) and a handball match (Montpellier is very good and rocked Nîmes), and I’ve watched rugby plenty on TV.  These sports games live are very different than in the US.  At least with soccer and handball, there are small sections of hardcore fans for each team, but then the rest of the crowd is fairly calm.  Leaving the handball match last night, my dad asked me about how raucous games are in the US and told me that “the French are too timid for that.”  He’s right, while watching the game, I kept thinking that the noise in that arena was about equivalent to a middle-school basketball game back home.  Handball at least tried to make it into a show with flashing lights, loud ominous music, and even cheerleaders, but it didn’t quite work.  There were soccer hooligans, of course, and they brought tons of flags, drums, and even torches; but they were a very small part of the crowd.  Everyone else was pretty composed.  It was strange, to say the least.

The Americans calling our city Montpillz.  Best nickname ever.

The warm weather.  It’s in the 50s right now, last week it got into the 60s and was tshirt weather.  It’s December, I’m listening to Christmas music, and it’s too warm to wear a jacket.  I asked my host mom today if this warm weather is normal, and she just looks at me a little shocked and says, “This is cold!”  haha I don’t think they would survive one day in Minnesota.

Palm trees, flamingos, and constant sunshine.

My Montpellier friends.  I was really worried about this before getting to France, but I’ve made some really great friends in my program and I’m really going to miss them.  They’ve made the stay and European trips so much more fun.  Luckily, we’re all in the midwest, and one of them even lives just in Minnetonka.  Montpellier reunions in MN or Chicago will definitely be necessary.

Living in France.

Things I won’t miss:

Living by pourquoi pas:  Literally meaning “why not”, it became our motto to live by (à la “you only live in France once”).  But it actually means pants getting snugger and the wallet getting a lot lighter (sorry Mom and Dad).   But then again, it also means taking day trips to castles and weekend trips to Croatia, so maybe I actually will miss living this way….

Getting harassed on the street and tram stops.  I am so sick of French men (sometimes drunk, sometimes not) thinking it’s okay to harass women whenever they feel like it.  I have been slapped on the butt and told “fuck you” among other things.  And don’t even think about speaking English too loudly, it apparently gives them the right to harass you.

Having bread as a huge part of my diet.  Sometimes I think that some French dishes are just excuses to get to the bread.  (but I will miss it, kind of hard to beat French bread)

Not having soap in the bathrooms.

Scratcher.  This is what I named the animal living in my ceiling.  Yep, there’s something up there.  Apparently, a few months ago, he was hanging out in my parents’ room and waking them up in the middle of the night scratching and running around.  Then, in October, he got bored and cozied up into the part of the ceiling right above my pillow (I sleep up in a loft, so it’s literally about two feet from the ceiling).  It’s like having a soundtrack of someone snoring.  From his noises, I’ve decided he’s definitely something bigger than a rat–maybe a squirrel??  I have no idea.  Also, what does he eat up there (he has been up there a long time)?  Nevertheless, he wakes me up and I’m afraid he’s going to somehow get through the crack in the beam, but I hope he’s enjoying himself up there.

Having my name used all the time.  I knew that it was French, and I knew that it meant “clear” (hence, Eau Claire, “clear water”), but I did not realize how often they say “c’est clair,” which means “it’s clear/evident”.  Especially in my classes.  In the US, I think I hear my name so often since it rhymes with so many words it’s ridiculous (think about it), but I don’t want to think how many times my name is actually used here.  I’ve learned to ignore my name completely.  Also, apparently I can’t say my own name correctly, so that’s kind of a bummer too.

Living in a world full of black clothing.  Forget about wearing colors, if I wear brown I feel like I’m standing out.  You may think I’m exaggerating, but everyone wears black all the time.  Especially now that it’s cold out, everyone’s jackets are black.  C’est fou!

P.S.

My brother had all of his Silly Bandz laid out on the table on display in the hall.  Either he has put it in safe keeping away from the other kids, or else the little punk has traded Minnesota.  He doesn’t know what he’s missing.

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