Blogversary

WordPress wished me happy birthday today, making this terrible toddler three years old now.

I remember I started this blog as a New Year’s resolution in 2016 when I was nearing graduation from my undergrad and had absolutely no idea what I wanted to do with my adult life, but figured I might as well document the way there.

Three years later, I am back in the same place, but without even having a job offer or not on the Spring horizon to give me a hint. Or, as in 2017’s case, a place in a masters course or not. I got the job; I’m currently getting the masters (in (marketable) literature), but Spring 2018 has no answers in sight. I’ll have to wait until right up until the end of this course in the summer to know what my next steps are. Where I’m going. What country I’ll live in. What I’ll be doing. Who I’ll know. If I’m—for once—staying put.

It is that time of year spent reflecting on the past, and I’m curious how a deeply strange 2017 will inform a 2018 and beyond.

I started 2017 in Paris, but was living in the small French town Pézenas near Montpellier teaching English as a foreign language.

Then I moved back to Flagstaff for three weeks of training to mentor youth on environmental work with the Arizona Conservation Corps, ending up eventually assigned to a full summer in the hellishly hot Verde Valley.

Then I moved to Dublin, started my masters, lived in a hostel, lived in a six-person two-bedroom apartment in Temple Bar, lived in an adorable cottage next to the biggest metropolitan park in Europe, Tindered way too hard for a little too long, started seeing someone, started tutoring writing online, started barista-ing at Starbucks, joined a community choir, also joined a chapel choir. In short, 2017 ended overbooked, and so 2018 starts.

Working on this fancy MPhil in literature and all (it comes with a lace border hand-stitched by Long Room elves, whereas MAs normally only get a lace-it-yourself kit, and BAs, of course, get a slap in the face), I accidentally confuse real life for literature all the time. Right now, light deprived in Northern Europe, I can’t help but feel like I’m in some kind of nighttime limbo between 2017’s day (France and Arizona were so sunny) and 2018’s. I may not be able to see what’s coming in the dark, but it is a sleep full of vivid dreams. Hopefully, at least one of them will turn out a premonition for tomorrow.

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The First Couple Weeks Back in Europe

…have been really fucking intense. Like, Jesus Christ, has it always been this bad? No cheeky tongue-in-said-cheek artsy-ass way to convolute it: the past few weeks have just been an adventure.

My original plan coming back to Europe before starting school in Dublin on September 11 was to go and WWOOF (organic farm labor in exchange for food and housing) near Paris for about a week and a half, move to Dublin, get a phone/housing/bank account/etc etc, and start school. I found an orchard just a train ride out of Paris that looked quite lovely, and the host and I set up the ten-day arrangement for mid-August.

Starting at the Chicago Airport on my way to Paris, things already went awry when I had paid for two checked bags that somehow didn’t show up on my ticket (calling Kiwi did nothing, by the way), and I dealt with it simply by weeping at the check-in lady until she let both on the plane.

Then, at the orchard, I was (somehow) surprised to find that the host was a single old man retired from a career as a lawyer. Without thinking, I had just assumed it would be like the last three times I had WWOOFed where it had always been a family with at least one other WWOOFer. A little nervous about this set-up, I went along with it for four days that, I found, just got creepier and creepier. The man complimented me consistently on everything from my French to my personality to (especially) my looks. One night, I couldn’t get away from him to go to sleep because he wanted to talk to me about how a smile like mine was a gift to the world for fifteen minutes straight. I had read his reviews on the WWOOFing website and they had all been very positive, so I stayed thinking that it was probably just me being overly sensitive. However, one day, he took me with him to the grocery store, and, when he asked me if there was anything French I particularly missed, and I said the Trésor cereal, he bought it and said I could maybe thank him with a kiss. When I recoiled a little, not sure what to say, he said “no, maybe not here” and then gave me a big speech in the car ride home about how it was more important to give than to receive. Upon talking to the boy I had dated in France this past year—who now lives in Brussels—about it, he told me I needed to leave, and that I was welcome at his for the next seven days before I left for Dublin.

I booked the bus. Unsure of what to tell my WWOOFing host, I said I was going to Brussels for the weekend and just needed to take all of my things with me because I owed my friend a lot of books and instruments. He believed me for a few hours, but then got suspicious and demanded over and over that I tell him the truth. When eventually I said I was going to Brussels for good, he yelled at me that I was a coward and a liar all the way from packing up my things to carrying them all the way across his gravel driveway in the pouring rain to the gate out of his property. It was insane. If you are thinking of WWOOFing, it is absolutely wonderful (usually), but BE CAREFUL and make sure you will not be alone!

This past week in Brussels was nice, but certainly intense in its own way due to spending more time with my ex-boyfriend than we probably ever did while we were actually dating. I had nothing to do (why I had wanted to use this time for WWOOFing in the first place) and picked fights. Alcohol is cheap in Belgium, and we probably drank a little too much. Then, two days ago, the Fella got in a bike accident that sent him over the handles of his bike and into the street. Although he did not go to the doctor and says he’s getting better, he’s been in pain and unable to move his right arm since.

I almost fell for a housing scam in Dublin yesterday.

Currently, I am sitting in the Paris Beauvais Airport for the next nine hours after having already been travelling for eleven hours straight because, due to a string of unfortunate events, I missed my flight to Dublin by fourteen minutes.

I hate to believe in luck and, if there is such a thing, I know that I have an obnoxious amount of it. But I still can’t help but wonder if I am momentarily cursed, and when it will lift (I had just gotten in a car accident and, separately, a flat-tire on the freeway the week before coming to Europe).

I keep beating myself up for being here, and, as always, reading about what’s crumbling to pieces at home.

I hope these weeks have not been a reflection of what this year is to hold. I am incredibly, beyond excited to live in one of my favorite cities in the world, but, after all this, I am honestly feeling discouraged and a little out of my depth.

Olargues and Bédarieux

For my last week in France, my fella decided to show me the village Olargues, a village officially listed as one of les plus beaux villages de France, with a stop by Bédarieux on the way home. I seem to be having some luck with forecasted rain and surprise sunny, perfect days, as was the case when I went to St Guilhem le Désert for my birthday Thursday, and again in this instance. We wandered some streets, explored some castle ruins on a hill, sat on a bridge, had coffee at the most adorable organic marché/café in Bédarieux. Despite my hesitancy, we hitchhiked home in the perfect weather, and it was just magical walking along the road in the sunshine between rides.

Pour ma dernière semaine en France, mon gar a decide de me montrer la village d’Olargues, une village connue officiallement comme une des plus beaux villages de France, avec un arrêt à Bédarieux en route chez-moi. J’ai la chance récement avec les prévisions météorologiques pour la pluie qui résultent en les journées ensoleillées et parfaits, comme quand je suis allée à St. Guilhèm le Désert pour mon anniversaire juedi, et encore dans ce cas. Nous avons balladé quelques rues, exploré quelques ruines d’un château, assis sur un pont, pris du café à la bio-marché/café la plus adorable à Bédarieux. Malgré mon hesitation, nous avons fait l’auto-stop jusqu’à chez-moi en le météo parfait, et c’était simplement la magique en promenant la rue dans le soleil entre les trajets.

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Gordes, France

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For my last little trip in France this year, I stayed in Avignon and went to the provincial towns of Aix-En-Provence and Gordes. While Avignon was closed for Sunday, Aix-En-Provence was closed for Labor Day, and Gordes had pouring rain, Provence absolutely blew me away with how beautiful it was. Gordes, especially, was unlike anything I had ever experienced with every wall in bloom, its view over the countryside, and hidden waterfalls all over the place. I just spent the day going from little archway to little archway for cover from the pouring rain and reading a chapter from my book (which, right now, is a French translation of Hemmingway’s Paris Est Une Fete). It was small, there wasn’t much to it, but my five hours there almost didn’t even feel like enough.

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Pour ma dernière petite voyage en France cette année, je suis restée à Avignon, et je suis allée aux villes provenciales d’Aix-En-Provence et Gordes. Bien que Avignon était fermé pour dimanche, Aix-En-Provence était fermé pour La Fête du Travail, et il pleuvait à Gordes, j’ai trouvé que Provence était incroyablement belle. Gordes, en particulière, n’était pas comme rien que j’aie vu dans ma vie avec tous les murs fleuris, la vue sur la paysage, les cascades partout. J’ai passé la journée sous des arches, protégée de la pluie et lisante mon livre (qui est, à l’instant, une traduction française de Paris Est Une Fête d’Hemmingway). La ville était petite, il n’y avait pas beaucoup de choses, mais les cinq heures que j’ai passé là m’ont donnée l’impression que ceux étaient presque pas assez.

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35mm

As a Christmas/New Year’s/Getting-In-To-Grad-School gift to myself back in December, I got a Pentax Spotmatic film camera off of Le Bon Coin and I absolutely adore it. Here are a few pictures from around the region, namely Pezenas (my town), Castelnau-Le-Lez, Mèze, and Montpellier. (These are pictures of the pictures taken by my digital camera woops).

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Reflections on France from a Trip to London

“If you were to cut my life in half, you could read it by the rings it would contain. You contain them too: who you used to be is enclosed in who you are. Your old heart is not erased. It’s encased in another heart, another axon-dendrite shell stacked, shellacked atop the old. We are a wasps’ nest of selves, each embedded in the next.”

“Everything’s Rings” in Letter to a Future Lover by Ander Monson

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Big Ben

Back during Easter week, 2014,  one of my best friends K and I went to London during my year abroad in Aalborg, Denmark. I remember one afternoon while we were walking along Regent’s Canal, we found a giant chalkboard asking people what they wanted to do before they died and, during the brief visit where I found myself falling deeply in love with this city in England, I, for whatever reason, wrote that I wanted to live in France.

It is rather amusing, then, that this next time in London was part of my current job where I, incidentally, get to live in France.

The trip was through the high school’s English classes; I went in order to fill in for a teacher who got sick at the last minute. The group was me, one of the English teachers I work with, a philosophy teacher who didn’t speak English, a history teacher who didn’t speak English, forty-nine varying-levels-of-obnoxious French teenagers, and Jaques, the world’s funniest bus driver. We left on a Sunday and, after hours of broken bus catastrophes, highways, ferries, and bathroom breaks where teachers lit their students’ cigarettes (God France is weird), we made it to London to see Big Ben,

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The London Eye

the bridges, the Globe Theatre, and the TATE Modern where I exhausted-cried at a Monet while the students all napped in a dark corner of the showing of an artsy film. For lodging, we stayed with British host families which, for me, meant Mr. (a silent man) and Mrs. Pope (a Brexit supporter, subtle racist, and all around charming old woman) with Jaques and the philosophy teacher, all of whom I got to try my hand at translation for the first time with (before the next morning where I got to do the same on a slightly more passionate scale concerning a problem between some of the teens and their host family; I was the only English/French speaker present and got to get yelled at in multiple languages). The next day we went to the Imperial War Museum (which is incredibly important and I cannot recommend it enough), the Natural History Museum, Borrough Market, and Camden Market (where I failed to convince the other teachers to pierce their noses like me). The third day, we went to The British Museum (aka, England showing the world “look at what we got to steal back when we ‘owned’ the world”), Covent Garden, and The National Gallery. There was a train strike going on during the whole time, so we spent hours and hours and hours on the bus otherwise. And then we came home.

 

 

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The Natural History Museum

Despite England and France, traditionally, having a reputation of inhabiting a dichotometic sphere, what I will take away from this trip is actually its hand in validating my homing sentiment for my current French life. Surrounded by the French, I ended up speaking more French on this trip than I have in my entire time in France thus far, and, for the first time, I was able to understand French humor across the hurdle of the language barrier. I even acted as a translator (many times), which I still don’t entirely believe are within my capabilities. I was reminded that French is not just a hastle getting in the way of my day, as it so often feels here, but a language that I LOVE speaking. I got to really get to know some of the students at Lycee Jean Moulin (they invited me to eat lunch with them at Burrough Market and told me about their hopes for adulthood; they taught me how to skateboard outside The National Gallery; they argued with me about if I was cool or not for an hour while waiting for the ferry from England to France (I am, it turns out, not cool);

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Harrod’s Department Store

they took turns singing to the whole bus on its microphone while we drove around London), and grew to see them as more than just the blank stares that make my job, from time to time, a bit miserable. I got welcomed into a kind of “teacher’s club” over misery-drinking and student-complaining at the end of some rough days in a way that I don’t entirely feel that I am gruff-and-hardened-enough for yet, but that validated the fact that I am, indeed, a teacher now. Above everything, I even had a few brief moments of homesickness for my life in Pézenas: the things I do here, the people I know here, the day-to-day that I pass here. Like the impressionist paintings I got to see in the beautiful London museums, I got to see the beautiful painting that the loose brushstrokes that my close-up life in France come together to make from the distance of England.

It is strange to look at everything that has happened between that 2013 visit and this one to the same city, especially in terms of the (weirdly unglamorous) filling in of the gap between aspiration and achievement. London has not only reminded me that, before I died, I got to pass some time in France, but that I really, truly am getting to live here as well.

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Trafalgar Square

Ça Va Bien

img_1190Usually I try not to use this blog as a means of personal journaling. Of course I talk about myself and my life, but I try to hang these anecdotes on their associations to the outer world, whether it be about travel or politics or literature or music or that general, grand theme of growing up that I just cannot escape in my writing.

 

Today, though, I just want to say things are good.

In the classroom, I taught a lesson on the elections that turned into an hour-long Q &A about activism, systematic racism, capitalism, and the prison-industrial complex. History teachers came to sit in on my subsequent lessons later that week. Teaching, it turns out, is what I should be doing. Even if being an assistant is (fucking) frustrating (most of the time) because teachers have a tendency to take over my lessons or tell me to teach weird subjects, being in the classroom is such a natural act.

img_1274I’m forcing myself to leave the apartment and interact with new humans through Tinder, which, with all its bad reputation, is rendering some truly unique experiences that, in all their strangeness, I truly value. I went on a bike ride with a man who works for vineyards from Béziers to the beach– which is 20km each way, and uphill on the way back–and left, exhausted, amid a torrent of mockery, saying “j’ai besoin de faire des rélations” (I have to go have sex) instead of “j’ai besoin de faire des leçons” (I have to go lesson plan). I made an Irish friend that I talk to most days. I almost went to a lake with somebody to only try and navigate the French of telling them that I was afraid they were going to try and murder me there, originally using the fact that they were a little late as grounds to never, ever have to meet them.

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The American assistants I met in Montpellier my first week in France while I was living in a hostel there have turned out to be some truly wonderful friends, and I visit them at least once a week in Montpellier (this week it will be for Thanksgiving, and I cannot wait!). Saturday, they came to visit me in Pézenas and gave me a whole new perspective on how beautiful my small town can be through going to the Saturday market, picnicking, and café hopping with me all day.

I’ve hung out with my adult students outside of class (the camp counselor in me has gotten over itself) and made friends with some 70-year-old and up, English-speaking ex-pats.

I like to wander around this town and look for the best-smelling flowers that have grown outside of their fences.

My Instagram is doing well.

I like to have time to myself and write.

I like to read and go to cafés.

I just, finally, like being here.

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