2 weeks in France. What does that feel like? It feels like I’ve been here so much longer and at the same time, hardly anytime at all. Studying abroad is not traveling. 4 months in the South of France sounds so romantic. While it is full of adventure, it’s not romance. Just the language is. It’s life. I’m living here, integrating myself into the French world. I can’t find any negatives so far, but it’s not all lavender and épices Provençal. There are adjustments and stressors and messy moments. My motto when I travel: It’s totally fine. Whatever happens, just roll with it. The incompetent bastards at American Airlines lost your luggage. Totally fine. You have no idea what the hell the store clerk is trying to tell you. Totally fine. Some gypsy woman canes you on the tram. Totally fine.
Obviously this needs to be translated when traveling.
English: Totally fine
French: ça va/ C’est pas grave
Spanish: esta bien
Italian: va bene (va benz if you speak Maria Malizia).
Even though I try to have a relaxed attitude and an open mind when I travel, and even though I’ve studied French for a long time and I’ve been to France before, there are still experiences that make me go “je ne get it pas”.
It’s been long enough here to where the adjustment period is ending. I’m comfortable in Montpellier because it’s a really cool city (although the French keep telling me how small it is…). Montpellier is in the way south of France, west of Marseilles but on the same latitude. It’s a young town because of the universities here and there is also a big international mix. So people tell me it’s not a “true” Southern town because of all the foreign influence.
The main center of Montpellier is called Place de la Comédie. Comédie is a huge open plaza lined with outdoor cafés, restaurants, and shops. There is a theater at one end and a mall at the other. In front of the theater stands the statue/fountain Les Trois Grâces. If you have to meet someone, you meet at the Trois Grâces because it’s in the center of everything. The Comédie has a slight egg shape, so the French like to sit around at the cafés and “faire l’œuf” (do the egg). This means to sit at the cafés and people watch. The chairs at Café Riche, the oldest café in the Comédie are arranged to face the plaza, instead of facing towards the person you would be sitting with. How French of them.
Even though we are still in winter, it is warm enough during the day to sit and faire l’œuf because the sun does not have a cloud to hide behind. Rain rarely affects Montpellier. It averages about 40-45 degrees during the day, getting colder at night. I’ve come to realize that 0 degrees is really really cold for both my housemom and me. For my housemom, Caroline, 0 degrees Celsius is about as cold as it gets here in Montpellier. For me, 0 degrees Fahrenheit is about as cold as it gets back home in Central PaPa.
Anyway, a bunch of streets branch off the Comédie, which then branch off into smaller streets, which look like the narrow stone streets with the hanging metal streetlights that you would see in a book of pictures of France.
This post doesn't really say too much about the experience so far, but I wanted to create a little background for what is to come.