I moved into an apartment in Pézenas, France this week. Finding a French apartment has been one of my biggest stresses/excitements since I was accepted into TAPIF, and it turns out that none of that (for months and months and months) was actually necessary: my school had an apartment for me on campus, free of charge, furnished, with a roommate who (for the first time in my roommating-life) is even tidier than I am. He also doesn’t speak English, so my life is officially French-speaking tout le temps. It’s all a little bit of a dream, and I just keep waiting for something to go wrong over my dinners of wine and cheese and chocolate.
Right now, though, I’m just trying to savor this moment of starting, with the apartment and with this country as a whole. I’ve set things up to reflect the life that I hope to come in my time here, nest myself in a way that will be conducive to the person I hope to grow into with this space. By my bed there is a stack of poetry with my film camera on it–an aesthetic choice that also prompts hobbies away from the internet. My closet’s usual dresses are also accompanied by my running shoes, and I just so happen to live across the street from Pézenas’s track. My bedside table has a few hundred Chinese flashcards in it.
I think that the desire to dream up new lives for ourselves is one that is intrinsic to space. I’m reading Invisible Cities by Italo Calvino (in French, so I’m sure plenty of it is lost on me) right now, and it’s all about the different images we project onto cities when we are merely their visitors. I’ve never been able to go somewhere new without imagining which house I would want to make mine, which coffee shop I would frequent the most, which bench under which tree I would read on in the spring when the weather is nice. It simplifies the comprehension of a place when done through the process of experiencing it ourselves, real or imagined.
The whole reason that I’m here right now is because of the imagined life I gave myself from the pages of my French textbook in high school when I was disillusioned with the reality of life in Phoenix, Arizona, and now I find myself here as more than a visitor, ready to try on the costume of resident for a bit. With only twelve hours of work a week, my goals for this life right now are lofty–in pretty much every discipline I could pursue–but the mixture of that imagined life in this tangible space right now is rare and exciting and fleeting. My time here has not yet entered the realm of reality, but I’m enjoying the approach in this beautiful town, imagining what the plunge is going to be like.
P.S. I’m paranoid I have bed bugs.