18 February 2011

Glimmers of Things to Come

I was sitting at my desk eating the world's smallest granola bar (all they sell here) and listening to the click of my alarm clock (the one that tells you that you got up twelve hours ago), and I realized it's been a while since I've blogged.  The reason for that is pretty simple:  Travel plans.

We get one week off in February and two weeks off at the end of April and beginning of May, and everyone tries to make plans before their friends become unavailable and the prices go up.  This means that in the month of February I went from not having any plans to booking a massive amount of plane, hostel, train, and bus tickets.  We're ALMOST done, and I am really excited to have time to do homework before midnight again.  I've learned that you really earn the money you save through the hours of research you do on cheap tickets.  I don't think it's minimum wage (at least not in CA), but it's still worth it.  (I told my mom this week that I feel like a part-time travel agent.)

Anyway, that has consumed my life to the point where I've forgotten to be excited about my trips.  As someone who absolutely detests spending large amounts of money, I've had to chant "You're only in Europe once" constantly.  I realized today that I'll be in Barcelona one week from tomorrow, and my reaction was to stare blankly at the wall and wonder if we'd finished all of the necessary reservations.  The new challenge:  recapturing the excitement of getting to travel!!!  (Feel free to help.)  ;)

My inspiration for the title of this blog was a Tennyson poem that mentions "Yet all experience is an arch wherethrough / Gleams that untraveled world..."  I've already experienced living in France for a month.  I remember leaving the airport in Paris, getting onto the metro, and staring avidly out into the dark morning, when every glimpse of a graffitied shack or a light in a house made me excited.  I remember walking off the metro with my giant rolling suitcases, pausing when I reached the sidewalk, and then casting my gaze every which way as I rolled off down the street, glorying in the lampposts and the billboards.  I get to do that in Barcelona, Rome, and Florence in ONE week.  In a monastery and a castle in Ireland, in Scotland, in Venice, in two months.  Praise God from whom all blessings flow!!!

07 February 2011

Des Petites Histoires (Some Little Stories)

            I’ve decided to dedicate this blog post to stories.  Most will be from a few weeks ago, thus ones that have been memorable enough to last a few weeks in my overworked mind (which I am very proud of).  Here goes.

-Let’s start with a quick one.  January 8th.  I had flown out from San Francisco early that morning and was now anxiously sensing the end of my layover in D.C.  I remember standing with my giant backpack and pea coat, scanning the people around me and thinking “Some of them must be French!  Real French people!”  (I do that every time I’m in an airport and I pass an international gate.  In my defense, I’ve studied the French language for years in classrooms in America, but the only non-English-speaking country I’ve visited for a reasonable length of time is Mexico.  Imagine my excitement when I discovered that it isn’t all just a giant con designed to waste my developing brain, there really is a country full of people that speak that language!)
            Anyway, I was staring at people and mentally questioning their country of origin when I heard it.  The Marseilles.  Yes, the French national anthem, wafting through the sweet French-breathed air through the co-pilot’s harmonica.  I saw him standing near the door to the plane entrance; he alternated between that one song and Frère Jacque, and then chortled softly to himself.  I suddenly knew this was going to be all right.

-The night I met my host mother is definitely in my mind to stay.  We’d taken a bus from Paris to Rennes, where I’d learned the details on my host family.  We pulled into the university parking lot, and all forty-two of us rolled our massive suitcases (two each) into campus, past the staring French students and into a large foyer.  The host families stood on one side of the giant room and watched us roll up and dump our things on the ground.  Then we stood whispering to each other and guessing which one we would get.  If anyone is familiar with the Orphan Train, that was us.  (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Orphan_train)

            My host mother was intimidatingly small (yes, that’s right) and fashionable.  And brusque.  We drove off with little talk and had a few short conversations (in which I sounded like I’d begun learning French a week previously), and she said something about leaving for work for the weekend and a friend who we would visit (who I later realized would be staying with me).  Then we pulled up to a house and were welcomed by a nice-looking middle-aged woman, and I was in the middle of attempting to describe my eating habits (I’ll eat anything, a medium amount) when my mother had the realization.

She had left her scarf at the university.  She ran to the car and searched the seat, ran back inside and collected me, and we were off (frighteningly quickly) to search after I said I understood.  It was a Hermes scarf.  If you don’t get it, Google the phrase.  I had seen Princess Diaries enough to know that if Queen Clarisse used one to tie Mia’s posture into submission, it was probably valuable.  I sat, clenching the door handle slightly.

Anyway, then we didn’t find it, went to the apartment (WOW), where she found it, and approximately two hours later I discovered how quirky my family is and it was all good.  For proof of this, I will just say that the bathroom is my favorite room here (STOP judging me!  Now!)  and that I hope to post pictures of it later.

-Then there was tonight after orchestra. I take a bus with the orchestra-lent cello (being dramatically less expensive than my Stradivarius-poser), so I was just getting off with the clunky case when two girls with half-empty beer bottles ran up and asked me a question.  Generally I’ve found it’s a good idea not to let people who’ve had a questionable amount to drink know that I’m a foreigner, so when they asked me if I played the cello I said “Oui” really quickly and mhmmed for a minute while one girl told me she’s been wanting to start playing and asked about prices.  Of course there came a point where I had to open my mouth, and they immediately began guessing my nationality, going from German to Danish to other countries I didn’t know the French names of.  Finally they gave up and I told them, and after a couple minutes of language-learning conversation, one girl told me in faltering English, “But you really don’t have a strong accent.”  They went into the Irish pub near my apartment, and I waited until I got into the stairwell before questioning what had just happened and rejoicing in this unusual compliment.  I’m still grinning about it now.

In other news, I’ve been booking planes, trains, and hostels for my week of February break with a couple friends.  I think it’ll be really exciting when I calm down from the total cost tally (even though we’ve been VERY dedicated to keeping it economical).  Barcelona, Rome, and Florence, I’m coming!!!