Mere hours before I leave Paris and I don’t want to go. I’m comfortable here. I’m getting a handle on speaking french well, for a change, I have great friends who do great things, I have a knowledge of the city that allows me to traverse the streets without getting lost. It wouldn’t be so hard to find a reasonable apartment and just stay on, hoping that my french would improve enough by leaps and bounds that I could find some work under the table somewhere.
But the idea of testing one’s limits means stepping outside the boundaries of comfort, yes? And so this means that later tonight, little miss me will be on a bus heading north to holland. It seems so funny to me that I’m nervous about heading to a country where it’s entirely probable that the general populace has a firm grasp on the ability to speak english, and I want to stay in a place where I miss every third word or so when trying to communicate.
Well we all have our own levels of insulation, I guess. Presumably that is part of mine. How many conversations have I opted out of because, “desolee, je ne parle pas francais” Or when I’m really avoiding communication I say it in english. Way to distance yourself from a culture on the whole.
I’ve just realized that this time around, I never went anywhere near Notre Dame, Le Sacre Coeur, La Defense, Le Louvre, L’arc du Triomphe, La Tour Eiffel, Champs Elysees…none of the places that one can easily look at pictures of online. But there’s something about having pictures of them taken by oneself. I just had no interest in seeing them. That’s not totally true, there was one day when I started to wander towards Notre Dame and was overtaken by a horde of tourists all squawking and clicking and realized they were headed in the same direction as me, and so I bailed like the coward I am when faced with legions of lookeeloos. Besides, that wasn’t exactly why I was here this time. I wasn’t here to be a tourist, or even a visitor. I wanted to feel what it would be like to live in Paris. To some extent, being that I never had a job I had to wake up for, or bills to pay beyond the day to day expenses, or deal with the unending hell that is french beauracracy.
The only problem with being a traveller who lives somewhere for a month is the aquisition of stuff….There are things I have that have sentimental value, there are things that have practical value…there is a fire hulahoop, there is a mess of flyers and maps and business cards from restaurants where I may or may not have eaten something yummy. There is makeup that I’ve never used but brought for some reason, empty books that I hope to fill with oodles of adventurous tales…Socks that need mending, or tossing, if only they weren’t red and awesome. Pants that are comfy, but rarely worn. A vest that I’ve never worn, a bikini I bought for Spain before I went on a retreat and suddenly required a bikini about 2 sizes smaller than this one and hesitate to get rid of just in case I get to Iceland and want to take advantage of the giant blue hot spring lake place and having a bikini that swims on you while swimming is better than..a tanktop and a pair of booty shorts? Ok, so the bikini goes, the vest goes. The cards and flyers go, the makeup gets mailed home (makeup is damnably expensive, you don’t just toss that stuff..unless it’s old, of course). The fire hoop is tied to the pack, the pants are left on a bus stop bench, the leg warmers slowly unravel until they are tied to a telephone pole, photograhed for posterity and left to surf the breezes.
And slowly, the load becomes lighter. It becomes easier to shed the excess, to sort out those things necessary from those things held onto because of sentiment attached to them. It’s not the things that create and hold the memories of adventures and people and love and places, they are merely reminders. The experience is captured and needs only acknowlegment to come tumbling forth, to remind us of those times, those places, those unforgettable moments of joy. When we didn’t think about where we would be tomorrow, or what got us here, we just live.
And so I do.