After months of paperwork, preparation, and packing, I’ve finally arrived in France (!), where I will be a language teaching assistant for the next seven months.
The long-anticipated day of departure passed with only a few hiccups. It was a rather long day, which is to be expected, beginning at a too-early 4:30 am on Wednesday morning, when the shuttle picked me up and whisked me off to an almost empty SeaTac airport. From SeaTac, my plane took me to Houston, then from there, straight to Charles-de-Gaulle airport in Paris.
On the leg from Texas to Paris, I met a friendly Parisian, who gave me advice for finding an apartment in France, helped me find my baggage in the airport, escorted me to the train station, and directed me to the right line for on-call tickets. My train arrived, and carted me and my thousand pounds of luggage away to the beautiful city of Lille (only about 45 minutes away from Paris by TGV, the fast train in France).
As Thursday morning continued, I began to feel pretty tired, but mostly, just lucky. First of all, here I was, back in France, having been given the opportunity to live here again. Second of all, I was meeting friendly and helpful people left and right, which is always reassuring when you’ve just moved to a new place, be it a different neighborhood, town, or country. On some level, all at once, I knew that everything was going to work out.
From the Lille-Europe train station, things began to get a little more tricky. For starters, I exited the train station, expecting to walk straight out into the typical scene surrounding a train station entrance, taxi lines, cars, and buses clogging the street, piles of luggage blocking the sidewalk, and crowds of people elbowing their way inside. Instead, I somehow found myself in a mall, which is apparently connected to the train station. Because what jet-lagged traveller doesn’t appreciate the good ol’ overstimulated environment of a shopping mall? Eventually I found my way out of the labyrinth, only to be welcomed by a slow drizzle, which I should have expected, but somehow didn’t really prepare for (the weather in Lille is somewhat akin to that of Tacoma).
By this point, my shiny feelings of luckiness were waning, and a new sentiment of needing to put my suitcase and duffel down somewhere dry was taking over. I almost succumbed to the temptation of hailing a taxi, and booking it to the nearest hostel, but instead asked for directions to an address (where I was supposed to meet the friend of my Couchsurfing host). And once again, a ridiculously friendly and helpful local not only gave me directions, but took me to the address. From there, my host’s friend helped me lug my bags to the apartment, while giving me a few tips about the local metro, pointing out good cafés, and giving me brief histories of various monuments. The shiny feelings were coming back.
After a much-appreciated shower and power nap, I met my Couchsurfing host. [Note: if you’ve never participated in/ heard of Couchsurfing, I highly recommend it. The hosts are fantastic, and it’s an excellent way to meet locals of the city where you’ll be staying for whatever length, be it a few days or a year.] The two of us wandered around for a bit, talking mostly in English, and then, after what was one of the longest days of my life, I crashed.
While the thought had occurred to me, in an abstract and vague sort of way, that I was in France, it wasn’t until the next morning, when I woke up to the sound of church bells clanging, and police car sirens blaring that I truly felt that I was back.