It’s with melancholy that I acknowledge that this will be my last “Far and Away” post for the Miscellany News. It’s almost as if my time abroad is nearly over.
Wait! It is. Yesterday, as we sat in a shamelessly hipster coffee shop (the tip jar toted a sign that implored patrons as to whether or not they were “feeling tipsy”), a friend informed me that we have only five weekends left in Paris. I nearly spit a bite of my Speculoos cupcake in her face.
It’s not as if I’m incapable of keeping track of time: I tend to a meticulous iCal that reminds me of the due dates of important assignments as well as the release dates of new series on Netflix (all seven seasons of Gilmore Girls now available – hallelujah). Nonetheless, there’s something difficult about admitting that my stay is concluding.
Maybe it has to do with the fact that I’ve been anticipating this experience since early adolescence: I decided at thirteen that I would find a way to live in Paris one day. To acknowledge that I did so is to acknowledge that I’m growing up. My next major milestone, I guess, will be graduating from Vassar and getting a job or grad school acceptance letter. (If you’re anything like me – an anxiety-prone liberal arts student – these thoughts are less than comforting).
I’m not there yet, though. At the moment, I’m sitting in Starbucks writing this draft – and that’s something I can take comfort in. Speaking of Starbucks…
On Patronizing American Companies Whilst Abroad
Before I came to Paris, I imagined visiting Starbucks or Chipotle while abroad as about as distasteful as blending a caramel Frappuccino and burrito together for lunch. As you might guess, though, I’ve since changed my mind (as I have a tendency to do). Living in a foreign country – even one with most of the amenities I enjoy access to in America – proves an often alienating experience. Most of those near and dear to my heart are thousands of miles away, and something as mundane as going to the pharmacy for cold medicine can turn into an hour-long ordeal. To mediate feelings of isolation, I find comfort in incorporating aspects of my routine at home into my one here. That means that I harbor no shame for visiting a Parisian Starbucks. In fact, I relish in the experience. I will admit that recently visiting Chipotle accompanied by a Gingerbread latte proved a little much, though. My stomach concurred.
On Weekend Excursions
My love affair with fast food apparently isn’t limited to France.
The Vassar-Wesleyan Paris Program gives its students a weeklong vacation in October, which coincides with La Toussaint, a Catholic holiday falling on November 1st. Two days before the break I had been looking forward to with feverish anticipation, I got a fever. I nevertheless decided to visit Madrid that weekend as scheduled. At 4 AM on Friday morning, I left for the airport optimistic, armed with six packets of tissues and enough cough syrup to sedate a small village.
By Friday afternoon, I lost my voice completely. My laryngitis and wracking cough provoked my travel companions to observe a barrier of several feet between us whenever we interacted. Happily, I was able to enjoy Spanish tapas – once. I spent the rest of the weekend taking pitiful snapchats of my swollen face and venturing to a nearby McDonald’s for nourishment – the only place nearby with an electronic menu through which I could order without speaking.
On Being a (Good?) Host
Luckily for me (and maybe unluckily for those forced to spend time with me), my voice came back. I spent the rest of my break in Paris recovering, and I got to know the city much better as a result. In fact, by the end of this week, I’ll have served as a tour guide twice for visiting friends.
On the one hand, I dread hosting; I’m not sure I ever learned how to do so properly. When I had friends over as a kid, my mom’s idea of being a good host was offering them pizza or brownies even if they had eaten, and subsequently leaving us to our own devices. I’ve also never shown my city to anyone before. I’m from Poughkeepsie, which most of my Vassar friends don’t have an interest in getting to know outside the occasional Acrop visit.
In spite of having lived and hosted here, I wouldn’t call Paris “my city” yet. Having the ability to identify good bars and restaurants and to navigate the metro with ease (except for the time I broke my glasses at Pitchfork Paris – but that’s another story) has nonetheless instilled in me a sense of ownership over my experience here.
Speaking of friends, I was happy to celebrate my recent birthday with ones I’ve made here so far. Birthdays are fraught for me: while I feel compelled to commemorate my own out of social pressure and respect for tradition, I’m usually uncomfortable doing so. I’ve never liked being the center of attention, so experiencing an entire day during which I’m on a pedestal proves stressful… I usually cry at least once.
Happily, my 20th was an enjoyable (and tearless) day. It fell on a Monday, the fourth day of my Parisian weekend (I have class only Tuesday-Thursday). I commemorated it by spending time with friends, visiting le Musée de l’Orangerie, and eating too much sushi. There’s a lyric from a Francoise Hardy song I like that translates in my understanding to, “At twenty, one feels like the king of the world.” I’d have to agree.
On… Wrapping Up This Post
I’m not sure I’m ready to leave Paris, but unfortunately, I don’t have much say one way or another. I can say definitively that I look forward to returning to Vassar. I’m excited to a) take classes again that challenge and inspire me, b) be surrounded by friends and faculty who take a genuine interest in my well being, and c) eat copious amounts of Babycakes red velvet cupcakes. At this point, it’s only a matter of time.