This was an experience. An experience too big to compress into a single blog post, so I shall present you with...vignettes? Yes! Oui! Vignettes-- snapshots of my week abroad.
There was a point, probably around day 3, that the loneliness I felt so acutely upon arrival abated. I walked outside for an hour or so, lost in a tangle of Parisian streets. I stopped and asked for directions, spitting out French I had Googled not long before. Je suis perdu! I am lost! Help! Really, I meant: take me in and teach me French. Bake me cookies. Tell me it's going to be okay. And promise you have a strong Wi-Fi connection.
I was pointed in the direction of the Seine river and so there I walked, my own dumb iTunes playlist on repeat. I listened to Harry Nilsson's "Everybody's Talkin'" for a spin too many. The words resonated, I felt stupidly like the song was meant to be playing at that moment. But it was just the shuffle of my iPod, just the luck of the draw.
Everybody's talkin at me. I don't hear a word they're saying. Just the echoes of my mind.
I looked up at the river in front of me. I looked at the streets I had just walked and then, finally, I felt it. That passion (and cheap airfare) that had inspired this trip in the first place. I was here. I had found myself in France.
How have I found myself in France?
I stopped and sat on a bench and I scrolled through the days on my calendar, tracing my finger over yesterday. How do I get back? What is French for how do I go back to yesterday and appreciate it then? I wanted to mess with the hours, fuck with time. Find a way to go back, and erase any second that I hadn't been there, living in the moment.
I couldn't, though. That time had passed because it had to pass. I had to feel it. Because loneliness is a part of traveling alone and it was hard, yes--but it was worth it.
I noted this and then I walked to a cafe, ate a chocolate brownie, drank four coffees and threw up. (Helpful hint: buy Lactaid before you go, because you'll never want to have to learn the French for anti-lactose medication.)
Another French vignette, you beg? Does vignette rhyme with baguette, because BOOM SEGUE, I ate a lot of food! French food!
Every time I went to buy or eat something in Paris, the conversation went like this:
Me, wildly hoping for a connection with another human being--and no, I wasn't lonely! You were!: Ce va?
Them: Ah, FRENCH FRENCH FRENCH FRENCH WORDS!
Me, panic-stricken and alone: Uhhhh....
Me: Je ne pardon bleu cheese ma'pelle Dior!
Them, in disgust: American.
It was tough, this language barrier. Eventually I just pointed at stuff on the menu and made noises with my mouth. I tried to cough up the Rs, chew on them. I tried to sound French. But I was more like Helen Keller, if Helen Keller could see and had borderline questionable IQ. Or perhaps I was like a toddler just learning a new language. I shouted animals' names in French until finally, I was served a duck's head on a platter. It tasted good and I only made one quacking noise to myself.
And…that was France.
Next up: how I conquered London and strained US-Ukraine tensions in the process...