Sunday, May 17, 2009

It's really the end.

Over the past two weeks, people have been gradually leaving Montpellier to go back to their respective homes. It's a tiring schedule, really - each night is another goodbye party, another small sad feeling, another day ticked off the calendar. When classes ended, I thought I would have plenty of time relaxing around here to feel...complete? Ready to leave?

And I thought was ready, sort of. I love Montpellier but I felt the need for something new again, needed something past the endless perfect days: picking around the marche aux puces with Lia and Julia, laughing at the weird things people have for sale, laying on the esplanade or elsewhere with Chelsea or Nell (hi Nell! now I know you read this, you creep) discussing the absurdity of the night prior, emptying a bottle of Leffe and talking ethics with Alex, dancing to dance music with Matt...I'm going to miss it so much, but I guess there always comes a time to pick up and move on. I know everyone I met here - even the weird strangers (oof, there were a lot) had something to teach me. I haven't yet figured out exactly what yet, but I feel something.

Or at least I did while packing today, finding train tickets from various excursions, movie tickets for the Cinema Diagonal, fun little drink toppers from our favorite weird hippie bar, the box from my cell phone from when I first bought it...and that sad, helpless feeling knowing this great important thing was essentially complete suddenly surrounded me. It's hitting me suddenly, how this great plan to study abroad that I had dreamed about and planned for so, so long just ran its course.

I'm trying to feel vaguely happy about feeling sad, if that makes sense. I know it hurts because it's the end something incredible, some kind of crazy adventure. I know that feeling of watching the things you don't want to lose in the rearview mirror as they grow smaller and smaller behind you.

Friday, May 1, 2009

This is the part of the story when

You know those days where the rest of the world is effortlessly sunny and productive and there you are, in a shadowed corner of your bedroom, wishing it was raining and windy and dark so the outsides could just begin to try and match your insides? This morning it was like that.

I just realized the date on the calendar - May first - and realized that one year ago exactly was a Friday, if I remember correctly. It was a weekend, at the very least, and there was a big loud noisy smelly thrilling party and everything from that semester was just accumulating and it felt significant. I knew who my friends were, who I loved, where and how I wanted to move forward. And this year, this May first...I woke up with a storm cloud over me. Here it's just days, here I know once I get off this computer that both makes and breaks my life and step outside, it will be better. It's Montpellier, and the sun will be out, and beautiful hipster teenagers will be roaming the streets, and old men will be on bicycles, and on and on until I name every typical Montpellieran into oblivion.

Last night, I was eating dinner with my host mom Michèle, her friend Sophie, and the other girl here who is staying for 3 months, Mariko (I shouldn't call Mariko a girl, I guess - she is twenty-eight, lives in Tokyo and has a husband. She works at a clothes store and is always adorably dressed and cheerful) and it was fun. I actually spoke more than a few words, and Michèle commented on how much better I was speaking, and I was happy. And it's true, I feel like I can speak to people without thinking too hard about the translation.

Yesterday I took my last examen final - hooray! - and I saw words I was writing down that I didn't know in January, or even later than that, and it felt good. The french university workload is laughable compared to overachieving American standards, but I like to think I learned a lot regardless. At the very least, I can fake a French-person-speaking-English accent quite well.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

sunday, sunday

the rain today further underlines the fact that there is nothing to do on this day of the week in montpellier. stores are closed, and while normally i would take this chance to go for a meandering walk or a laze on the esplanade, the inclement weather renders this impossible.

it is quite nice to listen to, though, and makes the world outside my ceiling-window (i would say sun roof, but I don't know) an impressionist painting.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

I've been around.

The address of this blog - the jillsinfrance part specifically - has been a lie for fragments of the past two weeks. I have not been in France. To be more precise, the not-France part of my stay was Prague, Istanbul, and London, and all three were lovely (prague-london was broken up by a lovely stay in Paris with my mom). The point is, though, I was travelling and yes, it was what you'd expect it to be, it was the excited faces people make when you tell them you'll be studying abroad: yes, it was really, really, great. I know this is a travel blog, I know I need to be writing about my travels, but when I try to fit the last fifteen days in one panoramic shot...impossible. There's not enough words, not enough pictures to show you, not enough quirky events to recount to make up for the feeling. And I guess that's the challenge for travel writers: to take that undefinable feeling and describe it, illustrate it, deliver it to an audience of hundreds or thousands. I'll write about the cities soon, promise.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Senior year? ...Excuse me?

Since I constantly obsess over my future (yeah, even in France), of course I was up at the bright and early hour of 7AM Eastern Standard Time (a cushy 1PM here in Montpellier) to register for classes that I meticulously obsessed over in the hours before I went to sleep for the past two weeks or so.

Thanks to my most excellent senior-status registration time, I just signed up for Readings in French, The French-Speaking World Outside Europe, Early French Literature, Humanities II, and just for kicks, Folk Music in America. It's weird since I'm technically not taking any English classes for the first time in my undergraduate career (career is such an odd word, I feel, to describe the things you do in college, but anyway..). But fear not! I will be TA-ing a 200-level creative writing class, and I'm super excited about that.

Which reminds me, I really haven't been doing as much writing as I've wanted to this semester, which just shows how hard it is to motivate myself without a real deadline in mind. But then again, it's a beautiful day and there are always free benches at the park. And I can put off my homework just a little longer..

Monday, March 30, 2009


Within moments of finding my seat on the Montpellier-Barcelona voyage this weekend, a shabby, brown-toned sort of train, my seat-mate sat down next to me and asked if I spoke English. I nodded, and minutes later found myself typing out a text message to his anglophone girlfriend as he dictated. I made sure to remember it, because it was hilarious and sad at once: "Hello baby love. Yesterday was a good day but today is a bad day. Tonight you will sleep in new york and I sleep in Barcelona alone. I make a big kiss. I miss you. Call me when you arrive."

I don't remember his name, but we talked half-english half-french for most of the (six hour?!?) ride there. He was in his forties, he liked working at farms because he liked smoking cigarettes in the morning on the field, he told me. He had a recent cardiac problem that prompted him to sell his things and make his way, via train, to Morocco. A girl across the way, knitting, had heard I was from New York (I've given up trying to explain that Long Island or upstate is not New York City, but the state of New York, so I just stick with that). She was from New Jersey, had studied sculpture at SVA and was now living in Barcelona and trying to find a job, any job, that would let her stay there. Nearing the end of our trip, another man fell into our little party in a corner of car six - he was from Queens, but had been in Spain for ten years.

Seriously. Jersey? Queens? I can't escape the tri-state area, and I kind of like that.

But anyway, that weird train trip was a good indication of the exciting weekend I was about to have in Barcelona, one of my favorite cities I have visited thus far, I think! The only Catalan I remember is café amb llet - or café au lait on this side of the border. I saw Gaudi's architecture, an epically coreographed fountain show, a spring festival in a park, another Arc de Triomph, Las Ramblas, an amazing market with people and meet and fruit and chocolate and just food spilling out its seams. I loved Barcelona!

And now I only have about five days of rest before I start my next ridiculous eurotour, courtesy of Paul Valéry's two-week long spring break: Prague, Paris, London, Istanbul. Oh, quelle vie.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Wish you were here!

My host mom went out of town for a few days to visit her son, which means I've had the apartment to myself for the past twenty-four hours or so. If I could write here a postcard to wherever she is (she told me it was about a ten-hour car ride, but I forgot to ask in which direction), it would go something like this, I think...

Coucou, Michèle! The house phone still rings even though you aren't here, and I don't think I'm going to pick it up. After you left, I immediately exercised my right in raiding the food you left (Thanks, by the way, though the actual cooking of said foods is still a mystery) and leaving articles of clothing in various rooms at free will. I've made a permanent campsite on the living room couch, with the balcony window open to let in some air and sounds (which have been, today, skateboarding teenagers, cars, and a national strike in progress). I didn't come home for dinner last night. I have not answered the door for strangers. See you in a few days!