If you ever get the chance

On our last night together, we bawled like babies. We all had dinner at our favourite restaurant, and one we had self-described as our place. We laughed and yelled and told stories until we forgot about the deadline we had at the end of the night when we would have to get on metros going opposite ways. And when that time came, we all held each other, not so much upset about leaving each other, but more so upset about knowing that the moment had ended. We all had no doubt that we would return one day, but we knew it wouldn’t be like this: morning walks to class, but first stopping at Huré for breakfast. Little tastes of home at Breakfast in America. Drinks at Margens while talking about upcoming french tests. Cooking dinner in our apartments and buying vegetables at a small stand down the street. Grocery shopping on foot, lugging it all back in totes, and laughing when the eggs break in the Metro. Going to museums for class, and having exams about world-famous paintings that were less than 30 minutes way. Laughing about people and customs and culture and about how absolutely silly and touristy we looked at times. And, the curious, amazing, warming feeling we got when people asked us why we were here, and we could respond, “Oh, we live here”.

And, as I sit on a completely full plane heading in the direction of Denver, I can hear the women behind me talking. They must be in their late 60’s or 70’s, and they’re smiling and talking about how happy they are that they finally got to go to Paris. And in their conversation, they don’t even seem to believe it themselves.

Paris! They say, and the word makes them light up. They talk about everything they’ve seen, and for how long they’ve wanted to see it.

I finally got to go to Paris.

This post is short. And it’s short because I’m still not sure how I feel about being back. I don’t know how I feel now, or how I will in a few weeks, or even a few years. So when someone asks me, “What was your favourite part about studying abroad?” I’ll probably say, “How could you possibly ask me that?” Not because I don’t know what to say, but I wouldn’t have nearly enough time to say it all. There are so many things to remember. So many tiny, embarrassing, amazing, hilarious, stupid things to remember. I went more places than I thought I would. I met more people than I thought I would. And at the end, I found out that the people I met and the experience I  had won’t just disappear at the end of the semester, even if we felt like leaving would be the absolute end of everything. To say that I’m thankful for being about to go is an understatement. There are no words to describe how it feels to leave a place you feel safe and throw yourself into a new one, one where you know nobody, know almost nothing, but are absolutely willing to learn about it all.

And, maybe not being able to say it makes it that much better.

So, if you ever come to Paris, make sure you go to the bright blue crepe stand off of Saint-Michel. There’s a man there named Paul who will give you a free crepe if you tell him that his stand is your favorite.

If you ever find yourself riding the 6 line on the metro, all the way from Bel-Air to Raspail, make sure you look out the window. Parisians love to paint on their walls.

If you’re every in Le Marais, go to a restaurant named Au Cœur de Le Marais. It’s the one with the bright pink awning, and the man who owns it was born in California and will talk to you about the states for hours. Also, he makes an amazing mojito.

Concept stores are your best friend. Until you start packing to go home.

If you ever find yourself in the Latin Quarter at night, go to a place called Margen’s Pub. It’s where I learned that the people I met this semester don’t have an end of the semester deadline.

Don’t worry if you get off one or two stops early on the way to Champs Elysses. It’s worth the extra walk.

If you’re ever by the Centre Pompidou, walk down Rambeteau until you find a place called Strada Cafe. They’ll relive you by speaking English with you, and a man who lives in the neighbourhood has a big golden retriever and doesn’t come in often enough.

If you ever have the chance, go to Paris.

The most terrible and beautiful and interesting things happen in life. For some of you, those things have already happened. Whatever happens to you belongs to you. Make it yours. Feed it to yourself even if it feels impossible to swallow. Let it nurture you, because it will.

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