I arrived back in the states two weeks ago but I have had an incredibly difficult time trying to write this blog.
My last few weeks in France were amazing. We spent a weekend biking through the Loire Valley visiting the famous châteaux (castles) of France. Then we spent another weekend at my host mom’s brother’s house in Chamaret. That weekend it was very hot and we spent most of the time enjoying his pool and getting a tan. There was a final year-end class repas (dinner party). And the night before I left, my host parents let me have a going away party with my friends. It was a whirlwind of tears, hugs and promises to meet again.
My host family is moving to Paris this summer, so they have been stressed and busy with preparations of buying an apartment and renovating it, finding schools for my siblings, and my host dad has been spending more time in Paris than in Toulouse. The night I left, it was their going away party as they too are leaving Toulouse.
The plane ride was long. Everyone on the plane thought I was French. I suppose my speaking only in French to the flight attendants is what fooled everyone. I didn’t mind.
While all year I was almost dreading the thought of coming home to Lansdale, it was so exciting when it finally happened. I loved being reunited with all my family and friends. My parents, grandparents and closest friends all met me at the airport. Hugs never felt so good. That night and the next day, our house was full of friends as my parents threw a welcome home party that lasted the entire weekend.
A few days after my arrival, my host family came to Lansdale. We had an awesome few days of showing them around Philadelphia. We went to the art museum, the Liberty Bell, the top of City Hall, Waterworks, and of course, we introduced them to a Philly legacy: cheesesteaks. It was weird but wonderful seeing my two families together, laughing and bonding and enjoying each other’s company. There was talk of when we will visit them in Paris. When I was saying goodbye to my host family again, my host dad said it was a “miracle” how our two families have been brought together.
But I did not say goodbye to all of them. My host brother Augustin is staying with us for a few weeks. So far besides Philadelphia, I have taken him to King of Prussia, Costco (he was amazed), Red Robin, and zip-lining at Spring Mountain. He has a Phillies game, fishing in Martha’s Vineyard, visiting Washington D.C. and the 4th of July in Cape May still to look forward to. Augustin and I now have my whole family enjoying espresso after lunch.
I have another adventure coming up shortly. I received a merit scholarship through the AFS (American Field Services) to do four weeks of community service and Spanish language study in Costa Rica.
Three of the four weeks will be spend on environmental projects. One week will be at ASODECAH: Environmental School and Agroecological Farm learning about conservation, organic farming methods, and sustainable development. Another week will be at Carara National Park protecting and maintaining the delicate area where the tropical dry forest meets the tropical humid forest. The third week will be in the wetlands of Palo Verde National Park where you can find all kinds of wildlife. One other week will be spent making repairs/improvements to a local high school in the town of Liberia and I will get to stay with a host family that week. I will be in Costa Rica for the entire month of July.
The work in Costa Rica is going to be hard and nothing like my stay in France. But I am really looking forward to it. I am excited to do the community service as I have been so blessed that I feel the need to “give back” a little and I am motivated to learn about another culture and another language.
So Augustin will stay a while longer with my family when I leave for Costa Rica. I arranged for another friend, Antoine from France to stay with friends of ours for a couple weeks. It has been great to see him too.
This coming school year, my parents agreed to host the French student going to North Penn through the IFC. His name is Paul and we went to school together in Toulouse. So for ten months, the tables will be turned and hopefully Paul will love America as much as I love France.
My friend Estelle is coming to stay with me for two weeks in November, and I am in the works of planning visits with some other friends as well.
I think the reason I have had a hard time writing this is I don’t want to bring closure to my exchange experience. In fact, I just want to keep it going and maintain the relationships I have developed over the past year. I can’t let go. It’s not over. France is part of me now.
I don’t want promises to meet again to only be promises.
Vive la France!