24 June 2008

I'm not jetlagged anymore

I've been home for twenty days, and I find myself sleeping in. Uh-oh. Ok, so maybe 9 am isn't sleeping in for most people, but for me it is. It makes me feel like such a slacker! Last week I housesat for some of my favorite people in the world. At first it was really strange, sleeping in my friend's room without her there. I even dreamed that the parents had asked more people than just me to watch the house, so all during the first night I had woke up thinking that I had heard someone open the door. After that, though, it was a fantastic way to roll back into my old life.

I had a lot of time to myself, most of which I spent trying to upload photos to Facebook. I mostly succeeded, and now all of my good (well, I mean, you know) photos of France are there. I still haven't finished Berlin, Prague, Dublin, or London. Silly Facebook sometimes just decides that I'm not allowed to create any more photo albums.

I haven't even been home a month and already France is beginning to fade in my head. I remember everything, don't get me wrong, but I also nearly feel like I was never even there. I've even asked myself a couple of times why I was so shy (pride) to speak when I first arrived there. This morning I went to buy some new running shoes, and just as I was walking to a bench to be helped my mom made a passing comment about how my old shoes made it far, but only as far as the other side of the world. Of course this ended in me explaining to the guy helping me that I had been in France. He asked the second of the only two questions people ask me when they find that out, "So are you fluent now?" (The other is, "So how was France?")

I shrugged. "I can get by. Maybe in conversations about philosophy and politics I'll lag behind a little, but I can handle myself pretty well."
"Cool." He sounded really amazed, and it made me think of how very few people in the States actually learn languages except to fulfill college requirements. I personally believe that every college student in America should spend at least a semester abroad, if not an entire year.

You know all the cliched reasons: it looks good on a transcript, you learn a lot about yourself, you made lasting friendships...blah, blah, blah. Transcripts don't matter very much when you've been in the working world fifteen years and you still don't understand why that dumb secretary can't ever remember to put certain files in a single drawer. And you change. You could learn a lot about yourself, even more, by climbing a tree in a field and journaling every day. Oh, and those lasting friendships? I can count on a single hand how many of my friends from the program will be talking with me longer than this summer.

Going abroad made me realise how small I am, and how no one, not the French, not the Americans, ever really listens to one another. So much talking and no listening. We lie too, about understanding things said to us. Something about not wanting to make the moment awkward by making the person repeat what they had just said. But why not make it awkward? Why not make some people uncomfortable? Isn't that what we're here for? To learn and teach? Grow into the people God created us to be?

I think that of all the things I wish I had done differently, I wish I had tried harder. I wish I had been able to better connect with Elisabeth, even though our personalities were so incredibly different. I wish that I had reached out more to the French monitors working with our group. I wish I had requested to be in the advanced level classes.

You can see that I have a lot of wishes, but I've also realised that I don't really see them as regrets. Regrets have sadness and a lack of satisfaction, I believe. I'm not sad. I did what I went to do. I learned that speaking out may take courage, but whether you get the response you wanted or not, you have to do it, otherwise you'll never get any response at all. Asking questions will always be hard for me, in English and in French, but now at least I know that in English, I can backpeddle just as fast as the best reporter in the world.

No worries, no fears, no more waiting for someone else to be amazing before me.

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