I remember, sentimentally now, the weirdness of first arriving in France. But as much as I settled in and made a life here, some of that awareness of being in a foreign place always stayed. The longer I was here, the more I realized that I was isolated from France by my perception of it. In the same way that the English words "strange" and "stranger" are related at their root, so are their French counterparts "etrange" and "l'etranger"- the latter is the word most often used for "foreigner" in France. Anyway, in English, I always though the words were kind of charmingly chosen, in the style of curious and curiouser, as Lewis Carol played with the same concept of the weirdness of a foreign place in Alice's journey through Wonderland.
And the fact is that for all France was curious to me, I was curiouser by virtue of being an American in a small French city, and for choosing that life. I had a funny accent, funny habits, funny music. I may have looked sideways at France, but it grimaced right back. These past three months, I would say, my eyebrows have raised less and less at the things that were different, and when they did, I would laugh to myself. I will miss this feeling. Not that my own country doesn't make me raise my eyebrows all the time.
Which is why I'll keep this blog up, though it may be updated infrequently. If you want to keep reading you can follow my new quest to settle into Atlanta again, earn a living, and get over whatever culture shock I may experience.
When I got back from Hong Kong, my main shock was the shock of space. There was so much room, so much less of a crowd. But ultimately, my reaction was confidence, because America was so much easier to navigate. It is easier to not be a continual stranger in a place. It is easier to have a sense of it, to understand all the signs, to know instinctively the protocols. In two days, I'll be through with the expatriate life for a while. I would be lying if I said I weren't looking forward to that. And to Mexican food.
When I first started this blog, I listed some challenges I planned to take on in France. Here are my final stats for the season:
1. Train Travel - I loved it, the way you'd expect me to. My last train ride will be tomorrow to Paris.
2. The Jura Mountains (the Alps too) - I got to know the Jura really well, and hiked the Alps a few times.
3. French Language - I improved.
4. 30 or so middle schoolers - It was closer to 100 middle schoolers and high schoolers.
5. Breads and Cheeses - Delicious. I will miss them.
6. Isolation, Irony, and perhaps Fear, definitely Poverty. - There was less fear than I thought. But the rest of it I got in spades. Froverty, Frirony and Frisolation were definitely themes of my time.
7. Fripsters - THEY'RE EVERYWHERE. Hip, pretty, and clad in only black and white every night to go out.
8. The Continent - 6 months, four countries, including France. Not too shabby. I feel like I had a good run.
I just posted my England pictures on flickr, and when I get back to Atlanta, I will put together a general highlights album from my travels within France.
Today is my last real day in Besancon, and for all that it's been strange and hard, I have a knot in my stomach just thinking about how long it will be before I see this place again. I am ready to leave, ready to go home. But I still feel like I am losing something, if that makes any sense at all.