While wandering through town at sunset, I was struck by the need to write. To check in, here. To say hello, and that everything is splendid. Every other trip I’ve written about in this space has been short: a few days, or my first time in Europe- for three weeks. But this isn’t just a trip. It’s an adventure. I’ve been here, studying French in the French Alps for just shy of a month. I have a routine. I’m in tune with the rhythm of this place (more or less!). Most of all, I feel completely at peace.
There has been good, bad and wonderful while I’ve been here. The bad is short, but made me realize the distance from home fairly suddenly, when my cat was hit by a car. When I read those words, my heart fell. My eyes flooded, and before long, I was wandering to a new friend’s apartment searching for a hug. Boy, I miss that girl. She always knew how to make me smile. I love you, Magic.
Besides a touch of altitude sickness, everything else has been great. My classes can be tough, but I’m adoring this struggle. I’m relishing in those awkward moments where I search for a word, or do charades to explain what I’m trying to say. It feels right. I don’t think I’ve ever loved making mistakes as I do here. Tripping over my words, stumbling. Français is my job, currently. Even with my incredibly limited vocabulary and basic français, it’s magic. Everyday, I hear more. I understand even just one more word, one more turn of phrase.
By no means do I expect to be fluent, but I’m slowly becoming comfortable with the language. Comfortable with buying groceries, asking for vegetables at the market, and communicating with those around me, in this foreign tongue.
So often, I find myself walking. Sometimes, it’s en route to school. Others, I let my feet guide me and my eyes wander. I marvel at the cobblestones or the mountains as they turn pink at sunset. Every time, I see something new. Just the other day, I realized I have at least 3 chocolatiers within a two-minute walk of my front door, and that I haven’t set foot in any of them. That’s something I need to remedy soon.
Speaking of chocolate, one of my weekends here, I popped up to Switzerland. I’m still in disbelief that the phrase Switzerland for the weekend can be part of my life for a little while. Anyways, I went to visit Jenn. My darling friend, who lives with her husband Ryan en Suisse. Oui! C’est vrai! (Ahem. Sorry. We’ve been doing affirmations in class.)
We spent the weekend wandering through markets and visiting Chateau de Chillon, while not cooking and eating. We ate so well that weekend. From divine macarons and a selection of exquisite chocolate to homemade tomato sauce and incredible pancakes. Flavour, in each bite. My belly was happy, and my heart was full of beautiful scenes and great conversation. Thank you, Jenn and Ryan, for that weekend.
It’s funny. As much as I have so much to say, I’m also just starting to experience it all. I don’t know where to start. The biggest tales are still unfolding, memories yet to be lived. Right now, it’s the moments that shine through.
When a man stopped me in the street, asking about a bus, and I could answer him. I could speak to him, and even though I got one or two things confused, I answered all of his questions. He did say “thank you” rather than «merci», but that in itself was kind. He let me speak en français, even with my glaringly anglophone accent.
The jeune garçon, zipping by on his scooter, saying “Ding-dong! Ding-dong!” Even the French folks ahead of me were surprised, joking about getting the door.
When l’homme qui m’a vendu la fromage sold me exactly €10,00 worth of cheese. Speaking of cheese, all of the dairy is seriously good here. Like… totally. And all of a sudden I sound like an awkward teenager (well…. I am. A bit. Okay, more than a bit. Okay, I’m going to stop talking now. Okay, like yeah. Like totally.) That’s how good the dairy is. It makes me lose my real words. Don’t even get me started on the yaourt. I’m mildly obsessed. Scratch the mild. I’m obsessed. Especially yaourt nature avec confiture myrtilles sauvages stirred in. Yes. Oui. Get on that.
Skiing in -25°C in the Alps. Each time the chairlift pulled us over a peak, we had another sunrise. I must have seen 5 sunrises that day. I was spoiled, even if I was frozen to the bone. Not to mention, with ice crystals in the air, we skied through a few clouds of glitter. The whole world was sparkly. It’s hard not to romanticize a glittery world, where the Alps are every direction you look, raw and strong as they cut into the sky.
In stark contrast, skiing this past weekend meant taking off excess layers, and a few moments of reclining on chaises soaking up the sun before continuing our run. Besides the altitude sickness I got from the 2000+ meter change through the day, it was beautiful.
With that, I’m here. Ma vie en France has just begun. I flew out here on January 30th: the day that marked four years since my celiac diagnosis. Four years since my life changed in a huge way, allowing the possibility of health. This past 30 janvier, I changed my life in a huge way. Both of those changes have been huge, incredibly fulfilling ones. I’m grateful for both the one that was handed to me, and this one, that I chose and chased.
Dream big. Happy Leap Day, my friends.