Archive for June, 2011

A la prochaine!


My treatment of this blog over the last two months could be accurately categorized as abject neglect. Despite the egregious lack of conclusion to this saga, there must be something about being home, no longer living the adventure, that makes me feel sheepish and unjustified for writing a blog. Who wants to read this suburban Maryland girl’s blog?

But then I figured I owed it to you. Over the past 9 months, I have heard so many nice things from you guys that I deemed it utterly unfair to omit the final chapter.

It has been 45 days since I left Marseille. In the time since I have been rocketed back and forth between various levels of relief, culture shock, maladjustment and burritos. As previous posts pointed out, the first few months of my time in France were rough. I didn’t know very many people, and I spent most of my time in my chambrette watching endless episodes of Mad Men. I know what you’re thinking: “But Emily, Mad Men is an excellently written drama, and although it is occasionally heavy-handed in its attempt to draw distinctions between a romanticized bygone era and our own, it is overall a well-researched evaluation of mid-century American life and a totally respectable use of your time!” But it turns out that there was a whole city that I was sitting down and missing by thinking about my own bygone American era, spending hours on GChat and missing my friends instead of going out and making new ones.

Fast forward a bunch of months and I realized my error. It became a lot easier to make friends once the weather got nice, as people in Marseille become a lot less grumpy when the sun is shining. So I was able to meet incredibly interesting people from all over the world, slice my hand open at illicit streetside bonfires, and spend days on end lying in the sun and talking about the world over a bottle of rosé. The downside of this newfound wonderful life was, then, its short lifespan. Just when I began finding my place in Marseille, it was time to go, and although I wanted to go home and see my friends, I knew they’d probably still be there when I got back, though I didn’t know when I’d have another chance to be poor and free in the South of France. This crisis was evidenced in an earlier post as well, where I suggested that there was a concrete reason for me needing to leave France and return to real life.

That was maybe not true. There was no single thing that was drawing me inescapably back to the US. When people asked me what I was looking forward to, most of my replies were food (Chipotle, pad thai) and customer service (restaurants open for 4pm meals, pharmacies open on Sundays). But then I began to ask myself, “Who needs burritos when you can make all of your meals out of REAL butter and cheap produce? You crazy…” Hence a moment of panic. In which I was struck with the terrifying feeling that I was leaving the party early, going back to nothing in particular, and giving up my youth in the process.

Since I’ve gotten back, I’ve talked to fellow alumni of the program, who proclaimed themselves soo ready to come back to the States, and when I couldn’t identify with that, I began to fear that I’d made a mistake. Then I had to go to a doctor without insurance. Then I had to pay $15 for a bottle of olive oil. Then I couldn’t find a good crusty baguette. And on and on and I thought I was going to go crazy and I’d only been home for two weeks!

The good news? Even though I still don’t have a job, and I miss baguettes desperately, I am glad to be home. Sure, there are things about the States that I will never like (Tea Party politics, shitty bread), just like there are some things in France I will never be able to stand (banking, real estate). But then I realize that I am 21 years old, and if France and I are meant to be, then we will. My stock in Paris has gone significantly down since I realized how many amazing cities France has to offer where you get sneered at for having a slight American accent, but we’ll always be homies. Anyone’s who’s so much as talked to me, pretty much ever, will recognize that my obsession with French language and culture is important to me, to the point of being super annoying and talking about France all the time. And in that way, this is not the end of an era, but the beginning, I think. After six months in Paris, I was ready to rejoin the life that had continued without me in New York, but after seven months in Marseille, I know that I’m never really going to be done with France, nor is it going to be done with me.

And to that end, I will continue to post French-related items from time to time, providing scathing commentary where appropriate. My only regret is that I’m pretty sure it’s too late for me to make wildly inappropriate jokes about Dominique Strauss-Kahn and his upcoming role in Maid in Manhattan 2. Shucks.

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