This is where it all begins -- not in completing the three thousand and four forms required to study abroad or in figuring out how exactly to fit everything you could ever need in one suitcase or even in saying goodbye to family and friends.
For me, nothing was really real until I heard that click -- when my host mom, Christine, unlocked the door of her perfectly tiny, French apartment to find me sitting there, waiting.
I froze, she froze and there was a moment of “oh my freaking goodness, this is the worst decision of my life.” That is, until she exclaimed “bonjour!” in the friendliest way one could and I remembered it was all going to be okay.
Forever cursed with the inability to create smalltalk in English, I was on a whole new playing field trying to do so in French. Dinner was awkward, the tour of the apartment was weird and the walk around town was in near silence.
But that was day one.
| Nothing feels quite as French as opening
up my windows each morning to hear
the chatter of children hurrying to school
and the sounds of the local market
being set up for the day.
I have now been living with Christine for just over a week and I wouldn’t have it any other way. Not only does she insist on getting me my oh so necessary hot chocolate every morning but every night comes complete with the most amazing Mediterranean food and even more amazing conversation.
One night we spent almost three hours talking about religion, the next, French versus American government, the next was anything and every Cannes Film Festival -- she was obsessed and I love it. A French-English dictionary has become our regular dinner guest as Christine frantically flips through it searching for the perfect word.
She’s a ball of joy and though my limited French knowledge prevents me from understanding her verbatim, I have learned enough to hold and understand a conversation, albeit poorly on my part, with a full blown, cannot-speak-a-single-word-of-English French person. Because laughter is the same in every language; the disgusted face I accidently made when she had me try fish, it’s universal.
I had spent so much time thinking about the vocabulary and the grammar and the topics we were going to talk about that I forgot that she’s probably wondering about the same things. This 50-something year old woman and I weren’t that different -- we both just want to learn and laugh while doing so.
This is when that foreign apartment and this tiny city became my home.
Faith Schweikert is a Summer 2015 CEA MOJO in Aix-en-Provence, France. She is currently a second year at the University of Virginia.
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