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September 25, 2011


One year ago today I arrived in Paris, eyes still a bit wet from a soggy goodbye to the Dude, back aching from carrying seven months' worth of duds and tummy grumbling for my first pain au chocolat made with 75% butter (as God intended).

Two days later I headed to the Gare de Lyon so I could hop a train to a little town in Burgundy that French people (even Burgundians) had never heard of: Digoin. It was an overcast, drizzly afternoon when I alighted from the train and spotted the petite Prof d'Anglais who was tasked with meeting me.

Just like that, all my confidence in my language abilities deflated like a soufflé gone wrong and I found myself completely incapable of speaking coherently in my second language. She asked me if my trip had gone well and I answered, "Saturday." When she asked me what I liked to eat for breakfast I told her I needed some toilet paper and a towel.

She took me to the supermarket, where I was at a loss to distinguish between brands I wasn't familiar with. I picked up some laundry detergent and to be sure I was getting what I thought I was, I asked the cashier, "This for big people, for adults also?" The baby on the label had thrown me off. I tried to pay with my American debit card and it wouldn't go through, the first evidence that the town's grocery stores were bent on making my life difficult.

The professor took me back to the school's apartments and unlocked the door with a flourish, exclaiming, "Welcome to your HUGE apartment!" The walls in my 10' x 10' cell were a bright cerulean blue and it smelled like burnt dust. I glanced around with horror at the prison-issue wool blanket and the gray desk and furniture with bright teal trim. I gave her the biggest American smile that I could muster. Trying to be industrious, I began to unpack, but unwisely reached first for the portraits of my family and my Dude and dissolved into long, ugly sobs.

Once I had arranged my affairs it was still only 7:00 or so, and I was at a loss for what to do to fill my evening. With no phone and no internet I felt completely cut off from the world, and began to wonder if I had made a colossal mistake.

 Year-Ago-Neenuh had no idea how much of a not-mistake she was making. Happy France-a-versary.


  1. Perspective--it's a concept! Have missed your posts. Glad to see this one--it's been too long.

  2. Oh my. I'm celebrating, too. Our first days in France are so similar. Oooooooohhhhhh man I miiiissssss it soooooo!

  3. I just read this out loud in a foreboding tone to Nicolas, who chuckled throughout, though even if he understood all the jokes he couldn't fully understand what a horror it is to come to this country equipped mainly with non-reliable Franglais and a hopeful heart! I almost cried at the end. What a wonderful year, and such a horrid beginning!