Saturday, November 28, 2015

tis the season

Christmas cheer has descended upon the City of Light. The rues and storefronts have been strung with lights and decorations, and the Marché de Noël is in full swing along La Défense and the Champs-Élysées. I’m currently sitting in a decked out Starbucks in Saint-Germain-en-Laye trying to recall all the things I want to write about since it has been a while since my last post. Saturdays are the only days where I am able to shut off my alarm and sleep as long as I want, so waking up today I felt like having a relaxing day catching up on blogging, studying, and reading instead of venturing out into the city.

The mood since the Paris attacks has been fairly normal. I’ve talked to a few French people just asking what the general attitude was among the French. While I think it’s safe to say people are worried, at the same time you just have to carry on and go about your normal life. You can’t be afraid to step out of the house. You just have to be vigilant (every time I use this word, I think “Constant vigilance!” Harry Potter fans will understand that reference.) and just keep on keeping on. People have asked me if I’m scared, and the answer is no, I’m really not. I can’t really put a finger on why I’m not afraid, but I guess it’s a good thing. If I was too afraid to be in the city, then I might as well just come home to America. But I’m not going to do that. I’m not going to come home and live in fear, and I’m certainly not going to let anything steal my time in Paris from me. I just have to hope that the city stays safe, and that the collaborative efforts of the governments fighting ISIS will be successful.

A week ago, I came to Saint Germain for the first time. It’s a suburb (or banlieu) further out than my town from the city center, but it’s so quaint and charming. As soon as you exit the RER, you see the Château de Saint-Germain-en-Laye, a beautiful building that sits on a large park that must be just gorgeous in spring when everything is in bloom. If you walk to the end of the park, there is a great view that overlooks the city of Paris. You can see La Défense and just make out the top of the Eiffel Tower. I will definitely be visiting the park again when it gets warmer. After walking around the park, I started wandering around the winding streets and went into a couple of little shops. 

I ended up at Starbucks to work on some French, and by this point it had started to rain on this already cold day. I was wearing my warmest coat and thought…this is not going to get me through this winter. So I hopped back on the RER and headed to Les Quatre Temps in La Défense in search of a parka.

The winter chill really only began a few weeks ago, and it will get colder still. And if you haven’t gathered from my previous posts, if I want to go anywhere, I walk. The rail system here is really good, so most people in the city don’t own cars. Many in the suburbs own them, but it’s really not common for someone my age to own a car. There’s really no need, because even if you did own one, you really don’t want to be driving in the city. Much more convenient to walk, because with the RER/Metro/Trains the entire city is easily accessible. When I first arrived, the weather for the first couple of weeks was amazing. It was warm and beautiful with clear blue skies, so having to walk anywhere was no problem for me. But it’s now November 28th. It’s cold and it rains a lot in Paris. I don’t have the luxury of staying inside on a particularly cold or nasty day, or the luxury of driving a car and only being outside long enough to walk from a parking lot into a building. I was laughing to myself the other day thinking about the few times where it was raining so hard in Lynchburg, the staff that left LUO at 4:45 would just stare out at the torrential downpour not wanting to walk the 50 feet to their car. I was one of those people. If that had been Paris, you just suck it up and walk. If it’s freezing and/or pouring rain, the kiddo still needs to get to school, I still need to go to French class, and the walk from the house to the school to the RER station is 0.8 miles. I use the RER and 2 different metros to get to class so it’s a lot of walking through different stations, then it’s a short walk from the last metro to my language school. I definitely get my exercise, that’s for sure. No complaints here though. Keeps me skinny.

So the key to not being miserable while making the trek all over the place in any weather condition is all-weather gear. I invested in some really good rain boots and snow boots before I came. I’ve only needed my rain boots so far, but they’ve been a life saver. No need for me to avoid puddles or be worried about walking all over the place with wet feet. Nope. I’ve noticed that the French don’t seem to wear wellies when it’s raining. Standing on the platform in my Hunter boots, I feel like I stand out, but I don’t care. I’ll keep my warm, dry feet; they can keep their cold, wet ones. My nice snow boots are going to be awesome once winter is full blown and the rain is freezing. The problem though was my coat. I didn’t have much room to pack more than 3 coats. I brought a trench coat, a black winter coat, and my Burton jacket. Last week when I wore my black winter coat in Saint Germain, I realized that I needed something water resistant and something the wind wouldn’t cut through. And while my Burton is warm and all, it’s not really ideal if I want to stay super warm, but I’m going out on the town with friends. I wanted something a bit nicer that I could wear everywhere, but would keep me sane when having to walk around in the elements. So I went to La Défense and found a black parka filled with down feathers and a big hood. After a week of wearing it around, I can honestly say that the €99 I spent on it was totally worth it. I literally can’t believe how warm it is, and with the rain we’ve had this week, I can just brush the water right off. Money well spent. Parka, rain boots, and umbrella are necessary if you ever visit Paris in the fall or winter. Take it from someone who hates winter, rain, and the cold. I will own this season. I will not be defeated.  

Sunday after church, me and a friend took advantage of the beautiful weather to visit the Marché de Noël. The Christmas markets are full of booth after booth of artisan goods and foods, places to eat, and there are even stalls of donkeys at the one in La Défense. I bought some Christmas presents here and then we went down to the market along the Champs-Élysées, which is much bigger since it runs down both sides of the street all the way to the temporary ferris wheel that has been set up in Place de la Concorde. We wanted to go on the ferris wheel, but at 12 euros for a ride, we were both feeling cheap and decided to skip it. There were some carnival rides and even a temporary ice rink as well. Yesterday, I went back to the market in La Défense with another friend, and I tried vin chaud (hot wine) for the first time. It was like a hot sangria with cinnamon, and was really good. I still need to take a stroll down the Champs when it’s dark to see the lights, but I have a month to make that happen before the markets pack up for the season. I’m also hoping to make it to Disneyland Paris before Christmas as well because…well, hello, it’s Christmas at Disney. I don’t need to explain why.

The only other thing that has kept my mind occupied is the French language. In the last two weeks, we’ve learned future and past tense, so I am finally able to start saying things like “I’m going to go study in Saint Germain” (Je vais étudier à Saint Germain.) or “I just learned passé composé” (Je viens d’apprendre le passé composé.). But passé composé (past tense) is super complicated. Ce n’est pas facile. On top of that, the French articles have been my biggest challenge. There are so many, and they are of the utmost importance: la, le, les, du, de la, de l’, aux, à, des etc. etc. Use them incorrectly, and what you’re saying won’t make a lick of sense. I’ve stopped resorting to asking “parlez-vous anglais” when I go somewhere, unless what I need to ask is completely beyond my ability to communicate, or they start speaking back to me and I have no idea what they are asking me. For the most part, the French I hear in the classroom and with my host family I am able to understand. Sometimes, that’s not the case, but I can usually figure out what I’m hearing. In class, I’ve done pretty well on both my tests so far, so my ability to read and write at the beginner level is definitely coming along. What’s still super difficult for me is hearing really rapid French, and trying to comprehend it, and also forming the words on the spot to respond in a conversation. If I’m alone in my room and relaxed, I can typically figure out how to form a basic sentence that would answer a question or explain what I am doing. But in the moment if I’m put on the spot, it’s like everything I’ve learned falls out of my head. My language teacher keeps telling me not to stress, because it will cause me to shut down. She hasn’t been wrong about that.

PS, at this very moment, Judy Garland’s “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” is playing over the speakers, and it’s everything in me not to start singing along. Fun fact, that song was written for one of my all-time favorite movies Meet Me in St. Louis. That’s right. That song wouldn’t exist if it wasn’t for that movie, and if you haven’t seen the movie, you need to see the movie. Moving on…

The only other significant thing that happened was missing Thanksgiving with my family. My mom is an amazing cook, so missing out on her perfectly brined turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes and cranberry relish was a big bummer. But thankfully, I got to Skype with them for about 3 hours after I got out of class and even got to watch some of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, so I was there in spirit. 

It’s a strange feeling seeing them and the house and the lake and realizing I’m thousands of miles away and can’t just hop in my car and drive to see them. But a positive thing about being an expat that I’ve noticed lately is how comfortable I feel in Paris now. I still am learning the language (obviously), but after being here now for a full 2 months, this has become my new normal. It’s normal for me not to drive anywhere, it’s normal to not understand most of the conversations happening around me, and it unfortunately feels normal to not be able to call or text my friends and family all the time. I literally am in my own world across the pond. I can’t believe Christmas is almost here, and by that time I will have lived in Paris for 1/3 of my time here already. As much as I don’t want to wish away time, I’m super excited for spring in Paris. I want to be able to walk through all the gardens and spend my days outside. But winter is the red-headed stepchild of the season family, and all the wishing in the world won’t make it pass by faster. Oh well. I’ll make the best of it while I can, and use the winter to visit indoor places. Around May or June, I plan to visit Normandy to see Omaha Beach, and ideally I’d make one more trip to London to visit the Harry Potter studios before coming home.

That’s all for now! I hope all my American friends and family had an amazing Thanksgiving and are gearing up for Christmas. I love this time of year (despite it being in the winter) and I so badly wish I could be home with my family.

À bientôt!

Monday, November 16, 2015

friday the 13th

Friday started out as a normal day. I took G to school and headed to my language class. We had a class field trip to Musée Bourdelle, and afterward I was really craving a burrito from Chipotle (judge all you want), so I stopped at La Défense on my way back home. I sat there happily eating in a corner, and watching a viral video that had been circulating about some young girl demanding free college in America get owned on live TV. I walked upstairs to Starbucks and got yet another delicious gingerbread latte, and laughed as I posted a pic to Instagram that my name is now "Jessie" according to the barista who misheard my name. I refrained from making a satirical comment about my red cup this time, and hoped that people were finally letting it go. I headed back home, showered, cleaned a bit, made G's dinner, and finished getting ready (I was having a fantastic hair day btw).

As I walked to get G from school, I messaged 3 of my friends to see if they wanted to meet up in the city that night. One friend, J was headed to a movie then maybe out afterwards, another had no money to go out, and another had just been told she had to babysit that night. Poor J later ended up having a terrible night on top of an already terrible day by getting locked out of her apartment and decided not to go anywhere. She recounted the entire story to me yesterday, and creepily enough, had such a bad day she had been texting a friend joking that with her luck that day, if she left her apartment she'd probably die by some awful accident. The movie she was planning to see was very close to the area where a lot of the incidents occurred, so thank God for her bad day and friday-the-13th luck. I really really wanted to go out Friday night, so I almost messaged the friend with no money to tell her I'd buy her a couple drinks, but for whatever reason I just decided to be lazy and stay home to watch movies in my room. I think it was a combination of not having definite plans and the gross weather that night, and just not wanting to be out in the misty, muggy rain. I've really wanted to check out an area called Bastille that so many people have told me to go to on a weekend with friends. So had someone been able to meet up, that would have been my suggested place to go. Bastille is in the 11th arrondissement and is about a 15 minute walk (less than a mile) from the Bataclan Club. With the metros being stopped and the chaos and curfew that ensued, I would have been stuck in the heart of the city and probably would have walked to J's apartment all the way in the 7th arrondissement (would have taken like an hour). All that to say, thank God for crappy weather, bad luck days, and being broke. All my friends are safe. None of my friends from church were hurt either.

It was J that replied to the group message asking if we were all ok and telling us what happened. Her friend in the US texted her asking if she was all right, and then she let us all know. Then I started streaming the news and the FB messages from my US friends and family started pouring in. At this point, it was just chaos and no one really knew what the motive was or who was behind it. But I appreciate all the love, prayers, comments, and messages from so many people wanting to make sure I was ok. Facebook had this handy safety check thing to mark yourself safe. A pretty cool feature that just popped up on my newsfeed.

Saturday, the city was pretty much shut down. I didn't leave the house, and at some point it was confirmed that ISIS had been behind these carefully coordinated attacks. I've of course heard of ISIS. I remember hearing about the attacks in Paris back in January revolving around Charlie Hebdo when 12 people were killed and 11 injured. When I first moved here, I noticed that when you walk into the Les Quatre Temps mall from the metro or parking garages, they check your bags every time. I also went into a Wal-Mart type store inside the mall called Auchan, where they check your bags again. I had brought this up to my host family, and I remember her telling me it was because of the January attacks. 

I didn't know that in July ISIS had threatened to "fill the streets of Paris with dead bodies." And after what happened on Friday, I came across this article yesterday where ISIS has claimed "this is just the beginning of the storm." I don't claim to be an expert on what's going on with ISIS. Before Friday, I knew of course they were a threat around the world, but I didn't pay close enough attention to the severity of the situation. Before I came here, I lived in the safety of my little bubble, and maybe in some ways tried to block out the terror happening around the world because little old me can't do anything about it. I'm literally dependent on the safety that our government and servicemen and woman provide to protect our freedom. So right or wrong, I find that it is more peaceful to allow myself to be a little ignorant about the details instead of living in perpetual fear. But being so close to an ISIS related attack, I can't really ignore what is happening anymore. They are here and they hate me. I'm American, I'm Christian, I don't believe in their cause, I am a walking target, and they have vowed not to stop. 

One of the more disturbing and eye opening articles I read was one from
Al-Adnani called on supporters to launch attacks wherever they could. “The best thing you can do is to strive to your best and kill any disbeliever, whether he be French, American, or from any of their allies,” he said.
“If you are not able to find an IED (improvised explosive device) or a bullet, then single out the disbelieving American, Frenchman, or any of their allies, smash his head with a rock, or slaughter him with a knife, or run him over with your car, or throw him down from a high place, or choke him, or poison him. Do not lack. Do not be contemptible.”
The statement continued: “If you are unable to do so, then burn his home, car, or business. Or destroy his crops. If you are unable to do so, then spit in his face.”

Yes, I knew these people were dangerous. But there is something about being here, seeing these places where some of these attacks happened for myself, and reading that it's not over, that really hit close to home. So why am I not on my way home to the safety of America? Because America isn't safe. ISIS is everywhere, they are sleeper agents of a deadly community that are continually plotting about who and where to terrorize next. They hate America. I'm no safer there than I am here. Perhaps that's not entirely true, since I'm in the capital of France where so many specific threats have been made, and America is quite large and it is much more likely to be safe. But I'm still not convinced. These radicals are everywhere, and they do not care if they are killed in the process of killing others. So what's to stop them from walking into some random store or mall in some random US city and opening fire? Nothing. We are living in a scary time, people. It really makes you stop and think about what's important and those you love, and what is totally unimportant (like a damn red cup). Take nothing and no one for granted and leave nothing unsaid. 

I keep thinking about the one picture from Friday night that struck me most. It was one of the first photos I saw, so the attacks were still ongoing. It was outside one of the restaurants (I can't remember which one), and in it were 3 or 4 bodies covered in bloody sheets outside on the pavement. Yes, there are many photos from the other night that are like that. But this one, I don't know why, was just different for me. They were all girls, and as the news claimed, most of the victims were in their 20s and 30s. I could tell they were girls because of their shoes sticking out from under the sheets. All short boots with heels. And I sat there thinking...these girls got dressed up for a Friday night in Paris. They were out enjoying a meal or drink with friends, laughing, talking, and in one terrifying moment, they were just lifeless corpses on a cold street. In the chaos, their friends and family probably had no idea in that moment where their loved ones were. No idea that the picture they could have come across was actually someone they knew under that sheet. Their phones were probably near, and ringing off the hook with someone on the other line praying and praying for it to be answered. Is that a morbid thought? Yes, but what happened was meant to provoke terror and to throw people into the reality of the situation. This picture did that for me. 

Yesterday, I went to church then decided to go to Place de la Republique and the Bataclan to see for myself the state of things. I took a lot of pictures. Here are a few:

There will always be an enemy threatening our safety and freedom. We need to stand together and not be afraid. Pray for Paris, and pray for humanity.

Monday, November 2, 2015

my week off in Paris and London

11 days since my last post. Sorry about that! I'll try my best to fill in the gaps with all the things I've done. Last week was my week off and I started off in Paris and finished out the week in London. In Paris, we had some nice weather, so after classes in the mornings, me and my friend A took some walks and visited a few places. I finally made it to the top of the Eiffel Tower when we went last Tuesday, and that was incredibly beautiful. We waited in line for about 2 hours and had to walk to the first 2 levels instead of taking the elevator. I'm not super great with heights, so as I started to climb, with nothing keeping me from plummeting to my death except the tall bars on either side of the stairs, I eventually couldn't look at anything except the stairs in front of me and try to forget how high up I was. But the views were spectacular. Once you get to the second level, there is a separate line for the top. We had to wait about 30 more minutes and finally were in an elevator headed to the summit. The elevator ride was straight up and terrifying because it's made of glass, and the top was super chilly and windy and I had to put on my brave face to get close enough to the edge to take good pictures. But we did it and felt like we accomplished something we had been wanting to do, and the day ended up being really clear and beautiful. Once we reached the bottom, we walked out to the lawns and watched the light show (my phone was dead so I couldn't record it). 

The rest of the week was full of studying as much as I could. After my vacation to Londres, Angleterre (French for London, England), I really need to start utilizing the language more often. So Thursday, I headed for the Eurostar station to board the train from Paris to London. Getting there was quite the adventure, and I almost didn't make it.

The RER in Paris doesn’t start running until 5:30 AM. I woke up at 4:45 (horrible, HORRIBLE time to wake up…no alarm clock should ever be set to a time starting with a 4 or 5), the water in the house wasn’t working (no idea why) so I couldn’t brush my teeth (gross). I left the house at 5:40 with my suitcase in tow, and walked to the train station. I waited less than 10 minutes for a train to Saint Lazare station, and I’m thinking “great, I’ll get there in plenty of time.” You don’t need to arrive crazy early at the Eurostar station, but I wanted to get there with about 30 minutes to spare. So I get to Saint Lazare and walk a little ways to catch the RER E to Gare du Nord. It was my first time on this RER and it was a little confusing compared to what I’m used to, but I figured things out and was on my way. Time is getting a little close at this point, since the Eurostar I booked leaves at 7:13 AM and at this point it was 6:40. I expected to go through customs in London, so I thought I’d have time to grab a little breakfast before boarding. Nope. I get there and what do I see? Oh…customs is here. I scan my ticket thanks to my handy Eurostar app on my phone, and get in line. It’s now about 6:55 and the line is long and is going very slowly. Ok, I’m starting to get nervous. I finally get to the front of the line and have them stamp my passport leaving France. Then I get in another line? What is this one for? Are you kidding? Another line to get my passport stamped? Yep, one that shows I’m “entering the UK.” 7:05 AM. Line is barely moving, and I overhear the girl in front of me say she’s on the same train and we’re both starting to panic a little. Finally, some Eurostar workers come over and ask if anyone needs the 7:13 train. Umm yes… “Did you fill out a customs card?” Umm no…. crap crap crap. I run over, and the only pen there doesn’t work. Are you freaking kidding me? “Does anyone have a pen?!” Old guy next to me hands me a pen. I haphazardly fill out this card, and run back to the guy that was helping me, and he ushers me into a line with no one else in it, typically reserved for Business Premier class. The guy at the counter is giving me a hard time, asking why I’m going, why I’m coming from Paris, the address for where I’m staying, when I’m coming back. Finally, he stamps my passport, now I have to go through security, and of course there’s a line. Thankfully, Eurostar dude is ready for me and ushers me to the front of the line. After collecting my belongings, I’m literally running and dragging my suitcase onto the platform, and made it with barely 5 minutes to spare. After reading for a little while, I passed out for the entire trip after this whole ordeal. Good grief.

When I made it to London and everything I see and hear is in English, it was like that moment when you step into a hot shower on a cold day and waves of sweet relief just pour over you. My host family will soon be speaking only in French and will expect me to do the same. I know this will be good in the long run, and I know I need to get over my fear and just not be afraid to make mistakes, because well…I’m going to make a lot of mistakes. I was so overwhelmed by the French language and everything coming at me that I actually cried in class the other day. Not sobbing, but my teacher who I love and who is so so sweet sat down in front of me during an activity and told me she was there to help and just to ask questions when I’m lost and not feel stressed. Her kindness is what made me tear up, but French is just such an intimidating language. I did well on my first test, so I know there are things that I get. But it is one thing to read and write the language and utilize what I’m learning, in which case I feel like I do really well, and a completely different ball game to hear it and try to comprehend. We do oral comprehension exercises. During these, my teacher will play a CD and we have to try to comprehend and answer questions on a worksheet. Wednesday, she played the dialog 4 times, and I didn’t catch more than a few words. It was so fast, and maybe part of it was me in my own head, but I started tearing up and getting so frustrated with myself because I just couldn’t make out the words they were saying. And then realizing that hearing only French was going to be my life soon, it was overwhelming and terrifying. Everyone in my class who is not American speaks some level of English. French is the third language most of them are learning, so that too is intimidating. I know I just need to get over the fear.

In London, I did not have more than a couple of days to really explore the city, so I had to prioritize places I hadn't been before and realize I wasn't going to see much. Thursday, I didn't have much time, but I did get to go to Harrod's, which was an enormous department store that took up an entire city block. I bought some English Breakfast tea in a Harrod's tin here.

I did a Big Bus tour on Friday, which is really cool because it does a loop around the city and you can hop on, hop off at any of the sites, and then just walk back to the same bus stop, show your ticket to the next bus and get back on. They run constantly every few minutes, so this was a great way to travel. Plus, the top level is open so you are outside and can really get great views of the city. I started Friday with Westminster Abbey, and I wish I could have taken photos in there because it was incredibly beautiful. I did sneak a couple of photos at the end, so forgive the quality here. The first is a view down the main area of the church, and the second is the Coronation Chair that has been used in every coronation for the British throne since the 1300s. That was so cool to see. 

The rest of the day on Friday I rode around on the Big Bus and enjoyed taking photos of the city. Most of these I posted on Instagram or Facebook, so be sure to check them out! Saturday, was a beautiful day in London. I went to King's Cross and satisfied my Harry Potter nerdiness by getting a photo at Platform 9 3/4. They have a little store right next to it with Harry Potter merchandise, so I may have gotten a few items for me and my sister (you'll get them at Christmas!). 

Then I headed to the British Museum where I spent about 3-4 hours taking in the amazing items there. The thing I was most excited to find there was the Rosetta Stone. I wasn't sure it if was there, but it was and it was so awesome to see it first hand. I even bought a mug to commemorate it haha. They also had a festival going on for Halloween called Days of the Dead, so they had a lot of short shows and displays around the museum, so I had my love of Halloween satisfied. 

After the British Museum, I walked around for a while, and then headed off to see Les Miserables at the West End (their version of Broadway). This is located in Piccadilly Circus, which is an incredibly touristy and crowded area. But the show was absolutely incredible and better than I could ever have hoped. I had an amazing seat and the theater was gorgeous. I walked away with another mug and a cozy shirt that says 24601 on it. If you don't know what that means, clearly you need to watch Les Mis.

The next day I headed back to St Pancras station and took the Eurostar back to Paris. To be honest, I enjoyed the things I saw in London, but I also couldn't wait to get back to Paris. There are several reasons for that, but the reasons aren't the point.

I've discovered something in the last couple of weeks, and maybe I'm just hitting the next stage of being an expat where I'm starting to get homesick, but I've been incredibly emotional and actually pretty lonely. Yes, I'm making great friends, and when I get to go places with those friends, I have a lot of fun. But when I'm forced to visit all these incredible places alone, that isolation and loneliness becomes something I can't ignore. This whole opportunity is one that I am so incredibly thankful God gave me. I am not at all sorry I am here, I don't want to quit now and come home to America just because it's hard (although, it has crossed my mind). I am constantly in awe of the things I get to see and do, and I am completely aware that I am getting to do something that so many people dream about and will never have the chance to do themselves. I can only imagine the long term impact this will have on my life and on me as a person. But let me level with you for a moment. There are many times, if not all the time, when I visit a museum, some monument, or am simply taking a stroll along the Seine when I would give anything to be able to share it with someone I love. The people I am meeting here are great people, but they have only known me for a month. I miss my family and best friends in America more than I can put into words, and I wish so badly I could have just one person here from home. Someone that knows me very well, someone I have history with, someone who knows exactly how to encourage me on the most difficult days when I don't feel like I am capable of doing this whole experience.

I can't really explain what it is like to quit my job, leave my home of 11 years, put all my belongings into storage, leave everyone I know and move to another country for a year. I realize now that so much of who I am has been shaped by my job as a Training Manager, the friends I have in my life, the family I am part of, paying my bills, owning a home and a car (driving a car for that matter), Gospel Community Church, being involved in community groups, all of that made me feel like myself. I feel like I am having an out of body experience, and while I am still the same person, I miss going to a full-time job and earning a salary, I miss the environment I was in, and I miss the people.

I will make the most of this experience and I will visit as many places as I can because I certainly do not want to look back and feel like I wasted my time here. But monuments, museums, beautiful sites...they aren't what make life worth living. I love traveling. It makes me so happy and makes me feel like my soul has come alive, but it doesn't make my life worth living. What makes my life worth living are the people God has placed in my life. My friends, my family, the one I miss...they are life. Loving those people and being loved by those people, that is life. Our relationships with other people are what encourages, builds up, loves, and cherishes us. The Eiffel Tower, the Louvre, Big Ben...yes, I am so so so thankful I get to see those places, but they don't love me. They can't speak words of life and encouragement. They can't pick me up when I feel down. I know this and can say this because I have stood at all 3 of those places and many more in the last month and I promise you that every single time I have stood there and thought..."I wish I had someone here to share this with." That thought permeates through everything I do most days. For this reason, I have held back tears at almost every place I've gone the last two or so weeks. Being an expat is not easy. I have not talked to my parents more than a few times, I haven't spoken to more than a handful of my friends because it's hard when I am so many hours ahead. I've emailed, but it's not the same as seeing someone's face or hearing their voice.

I know this is just a different season of life and that one day soon, which will probably come sooner than I realize or will want in the long run, I will be back home in the States and will be able to act and speak the way I was brought up, and most importantly, will have my support system once again. I will be within driving distance of anyone I long to see and will be in the same timezone if I want to make a call. Knowing that these months will slip by quickly, and that in the grand scheme of my life, this will only be a drop in the bucket of time, I do intend to make the most of it. But for those back home, I love you all and I miss you all terribly. If you think about it, say a prayer or even better, send me a FB message and chat with me for a few minutes. You have no idea how encouraging that would be. Thank you all for reading my posts as well, and encouraging me to keep writing. Being able to write is a cathartic outlet that makes me feel connected to everyone and reminds me to keep track of everything I do and feel, so I can look back one day and see the stages of my time here.

This week is back to my normal schedule. I am picking up G in about 40 minutes from school, and then we'll come back, eat dinner, and do homework (both of us). Again, thank you all for keeping up with my time here. I can't believe it's already November, and I'm super bummed I'm going to miss Thanksgiving. I will try not to scroll through my newsfeed that day because seeing everyone's turkey and stuffing and other goodies might be the worst thing ever haha.

À bientôt.