I arrived. I arrived here in the heart of France, its governmental and cultural center, a precious jewel of Europe and the world. Paris is divine. I don’t know where to start, but I think it makes sense to start with the beginning.
The First Day
In the beginning, there was darkness and airplane food. It went better than expected.
When I landed at Charles de Gaulle Airport, the sun was shining and it was in general a beautiful day. Several people I’ve talked to have commented on how nice and sunny it is now, compared with just a week or two ago when apparently it was rainy and cold. The sun made it easier to find my way to my host family’s apartment, but that still took a lot of time because I have a tendency to go down the wrong path, or to take the right path but in the wrong direction. To get into town, I took a bus, and I was extremely pleased when the bus driver responded to my “Bonjour” with another “Bonjour.” Every time people keep to French with me, it makes me feel at home.
My bus stop was called Étoile/Champs-Élysées, and when we turned onto Avenue Champs-Élysées, I looked straight ahead and immediately recognized the Arc de Triomphe. I had to catch my breath. It was immense. When I got off the bus and got my bag, I stared up at the arch for a long, long time. The size, the size... Of course, now that I’ve seen it, I can’t imagine it being any bigger or smaller, but until you see the real thing – until you can walk around it and look up at it until you strain your neck – the photographs you’ve seen simply cannot do it justice. But then it was time to find my home, and I was already late.
After many twists and turns and mistakes, I managed to arrive at the correct door and punch the code it (which I won’t be disclosing). That took me to a courtyard with several more doors, which made me confused, and just when I was half-expecting to see a cake somewhere with the words “Eat me,” a woman came out. She was the building manager, the guardienne. I said to her, after thoroughly thinking my words through: “Je cherche l’appartement de la Madame Valérie.” She nodded and took me to the most obvious door and showed me in. “Merci,” I said.
The elevators here are unimaginably tiny, and it’s easy to get in the way of the automatic door – beware. I was released onto the fourth floor (the ground floor being 0, keep in mind), and I knocked at the door, and that’s how I met my host mother, Valérie. She welcomed me in and showed me everything I would need – bathroom, bedroom, shower – and then she let me set up. She is really, really nice and I do feel at home here. She has a son, too, called Jean, and he’s super friendly and super intelligent and has a good sense of humor. They both do. I think I really got lucky with this, because there are some people in this program whose host families don’t pay much attention to them at all. I don’t like being isolated, though, so I am happy where I am.
Valérie is a psychologist, but she works from home. What that means is that her clients come here for their appointments – the doors of the entrance are kept closed, and there’s a chair and magazines for them while they wait. Honestly that’s a great idea. Jean is a student, of course, and next year he starts le lycée, which is equivalent to high school. He helped me get a Navigo pass, which is an extended metro pass, and he showed me the immediate area and how to get to the metro stop. Trés, trés gentil. There’s a church just down the straight that is probably centuries old. And on every road, no matter how brief or narrow it is, you can find bakeries, pastry shops, cafes, and grocery stores.
At night, I had dinner at home. Table set for three in the kitchen. Chicken and couscous, and fruit for dessert. I also made sure to give them my gifts from Texas. And that was that -- I felt happy.
The sun went up and the sun went down: The first day.
More Blogs From This Author
<p>I'm going to be a junior at Indiana University, where I will eventually, definitely, probably major in computer science. Despite such a technical degree, there is a lot outside of that sphere that interests me as well. I love to write and am trying to get good at fiction; I enjoy playing the bassoon (but I loathe practicing); lately I've been getting into epistemology (i.e. How can we know anything?); and I also like acting and hope to produce or star in a movie some day...some day. Ah, and yes, I love speaking French!</p>