Finally, I am here! And there is SO much to report!
First, packing 7 months worth of stuff into 1 checked bag, 1 carry-on and 1 personal item is IMPOSSIBLE. It cannot be done. The process took me nearly ALL DAY Sunday and involved multiple rounds of sorting through everything on the bed and removing “non-essential” items. At the end of the day, I’m pleased to report that I did it. Yes, my checked bag was 51 lbs and combined my other two bags probably weighed about the same, but I didn’t have to pay any extra to get my stuff to France, and that was my goal.
I thought packing was difficult, but it turned out my troubles were just beginning…
Tuesday, Jason took me to the airport in plenty of time. I hopped on the plane, next stop Philadelphia, then on to Paris! … Or so I thought…
Evidently, there were storms near Philadelphia. We ended up circling for about an hour. Unfortunately, I only had about 1 hr 25 minutes between flights. They assured me in Atlanta that this would be plenty of time. It wasn’t. I missed the connector, so instead of a 6:20 direct flight to Paris, I ended up on an 8:25 flight to Frankfurt. C’est la vie, I suppose.
I arrived in Frankfurt without incident, but after going through customs (lugging 50 lbs of luggage) I had to go through German security. That was a debacle in itself, but at least I made it to the gate in plenty of time to catch the Paris connector.
Oh, and did I mention that I had planned on meeting another girl in Paris on Wednesday morning and the two of us were supposed to take the 12:37 train to Compiègne, where our school contact would pick us up at the station? Yeah, thanks to Philadelphia-area storms, I didn’t actually arrive in Paris until 1:15 PM, which meant (1) emailing Catherine to plead that she wait for me and contact our school to let them know we were running late (luckily, she did), and when I LANDED in Paris I was faced with the additional shock of (2) there is only someone available until 3 pm to let us into our rooms at the school, so going to Compiègne would have to wait until Thursday. Of course, this meant I now had to find a place to stay that night, in Paris, with no cell phone, no free wifi hotspots, and no research done in advance.
AND ON TOP OF THAT – the airline lost my check bag. “Welcome to France, Rebekka! Our gift to you? Go deal with airport customer service, in French, about the lost possessions you’re relying on for the next 7 months! *insert evil laugh here*”
As it turns out, however, it was a pretty good gift! For one thing, the airline customer service girl was actually pretty nice. We had the entire exchange in French (a real confidence booster for me!) and she was very helpful, not only with my French practice, but also with my bag situation. In a nutshell, she promised that my bag would be sent on to Compiègne after it arrived in Paris. Hooray!
Now, if you’ve been to Paris before, you may remember how difficult a city it can be to get around, using the metro, with lots of heavy luggage. With my two carry-ons, it was a challenge. If I had been lugging around my 50 lb suitcase as well, it would have been near impossible. The thing about Paris is – there aren’t many elevators. There is no Americans with disabilities act here, and some buildings, even buildings with several stories, have only stairs (they are old buildings, after all). And the metro? Lots of people, lots of stairs. Zero elevators.
Also, because my flight was delayed, I had the opportunity to meet new people (namely, Catherine’s friend B) and stay in Paris for the night! B was nice enough to let me crash at her studio apartment in Montmartre (in case you’re wondering, the entire apartment was smaller than mine and Jason’s bedroom in the USA) and we all had dinner at a delicious French restaurant around the corner. It was a fun night, and one that never would have happened if I had caught that 6:20 flight.
This morning, however, I said goodbye to Paris and continued on to Compiègne. I really think I’ll like it here. The people seem really nice, and (so far) most of them don’t speak English. This can be challenging, but it’s also a great opportunity for me to strengthen my French! My room at the lycée is small, but totally sufficient (pics to come in a later post). And, the toilet and shower are right across the hall from my room, we have free laundry facilities on the same floor, there is a TV room just around the corner, and the communal kitchen has a stove, oven, full-size fridge, and even a microwave! Also, this floor is reserved for assistants, so we are separated from the high schoolers!
I haven’t had much of a chance to explore the city yet, but that is on the agenda for tomorrow! I did visit the French version of Wal-mart tonight (called Carrefour). It was… interesting… very un-French!
Well, it’s finally almost here. This time next week, I’ll be on a plane, somewhere between Philadelphia and Paris, France. I’m so unprepared… Does everyone feel this way 1 week before a 7-month move abroad?
I pulled out my BIG suitcase this afternoon. How am I supposed to fit 7-months of clothing, necessary toiletries, jewelry, scarves, coats, books, and anything else I might need in 1 checked bag, 1 carry-on and 1 personal item? I feel like I should do a few packing run-throughs before attempting the real thing, but the prospect of pulling out that much stuff tires me out before I even begin! Still, time is a-wasting and I really should at least start making a list or something….
In happier news, we had one final pre-France shindig at the house last weekend! (really, it was a joint going away party & 30th birthday party for Jason’s roommate, Tom.) There was beer, hunch punch, and a variety of un-healthy American snacks to help satiate my American appetite during the months I’ll be away. Also, I was given some excellent going-away gifts, including this gem, personally created for me by Jason:
Many thanks to everyone who stopped by, I love and will miss all of you during my time away!!!!!
Now, before its gets any later, I suppose I should take a look at the 3 emails that have come through from the TAPIF program over the past few days…