Trip "home," booked. French oral exam, aced.

Not that I've taken any of my exams all that seriously, but naturally, the night before one of my two more 'real' exams, I couldn't sleep.

Somewhat because I felt like my eye had come down with conjunctivitis a minute before I turned my light out. (Absolutely psychological as there was nothing in my eye every five minutes I got up to check.) Somewhat because I realized I only had six hours until the alarm would buzz to ring in the early morning— a stressful thought that never makes falling asleep any easier.

And somewhat because I had just booked my 21st birthday present from my parents: A flight back from Israel.

I mean, and the flight to. Just that one comes out of my own bank account. I’m well aware I’ll be on a diet of plain baguettes for the next two months in order to make this trip affordable.

I had been falling between booking a trip to Greece or Croatia for my seven days of no housing in Paris. Greece—namely Athens and Santorini—has forever been at the top of my must see list. But minus that a few friends canceled on our Greece plans and that I’ve exhausted all notions of tackling Europe through tourist goggles (if only abroad problems were real problems), I felt no desire to book a new Europe trip. 

And so the idea to go to Israel, rather, came to mind... yesterday morning. I could stay with my camp best friends—the two I spent my first summer in Israel with, five years ago. 

I spent the whole day only thinking about Israel. Only talking about Israel. And by the evening, the flight was booked, the trip was set, my grand idea had fallen into place.

It'll be the first time in four months I’ll walk the streets without second though of wearing my Mogen David, without concern as to how many days until I’ll eat kosher meat again, without hiding, outwardly, my identity as a Jew. And  in so many ways, I really do feel as if I'm going home. 

It took me five weeks, my first summer in Israel, to develop a connection to Israel. Sure, I don't know street names or hang out spots. I know the two places in Ben Yehuda that I like getting schwarma at 2 am, but I can’t tell you the restaurants I enjoy eating at or the bars I like to go to. I don’t have a favorite city, and my favorite spot is in the middle of nowhere desert—by day, riding bikes through, and by night, hiking our way into, blanketed by the shield of white stars lining the evening sky. I know I love Friday nights in Jerusalem—of the passion of  those praying in the synagogues overflowing with congregants. Of the families eating their shabbos meal as you walk along the quiet streets after shabbos sets in. Of the richness of my Aroma’s iced coffee. Of my frustration with the beggars scattered around the Old City and outside of temples asking for “tzedaka”—a Jewish term for charity. Of now knowing to avoid the Armenian Quarter, given I had a lot of money stolen from me during my last trip in Israel. And of the red bracelets I always buy, that, without fail, break a month after. 

And so the new adventure is set for just under two weeks from now. I’ll be in London for five days beforehand to stay with my grandparents. But as for today, I’ve got a French oral exam to gear my focus towards.

Although, seeing as I’ll be describing a photo for 12 minutes, I’m really not all that worried. I had a lengthy French conversation with Madame this morning in which she tried convincing me that my American friends visiting this summer should bring her Neutrogena face wash. The fact I could skirt around her request at such an early hour is proof enough that I'm prepared to describe an image for my exam.

I initially decided to walk to the building. Paris is quiet at 8 in the morning; the rhythm of the city slow as work has yet to begin. The air is warm, the morning breeze blowing gently. Walking to the exam building would take me through the Jardin du Luxembourg. And on such a beautiful, albeit early, morning, why not?

Although after 10 minutes of walking, a bus marked Luxembourg came into view. And that's when I changed my mind and hopped aboard instead.

I got to the exam room 40 minutes early—enough time to make up for a semester of always showing up late. Madame Morio was one of the examiners testing me and I prayed she wouldn’t bring it up.

Which she didn’t. I chose my image quickly and, deciding I didn’t need the 15-minute prep time to organize my thoughts, got straight to my presentation. After five minutes of chatter without so much as an interruption, Madame cut me off. I could go on for hours, she said. I had done well.

And so supped up on a 50 cent coffee (I KNOW, 50 CENTS? UNHEARD OF!) graciously bought for me by a classmate, I left the room. I’d continue, today, with climbing to the top of Notre Dame, eating lunch on the top of Galerie Lafeyette, getting a fire- hydrant burn over my WHOLE ENTIRE BODY (I look ridiculous) and ending the evening at Chabad with a group of wonderful friends I’ve made over the last few Shabbats.

After 5 pm tomorrow, exams will be finished.
I'll have made it through junior year and summer break will have officially begun.


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