I'll have dinner plans for when I come back, whenever that will be.

The French intern and I are the first to get to work, now that he decided to start arriving 30 minutes earlier. It's nice because it gives us time to chat before the others arrive.  And so this morning, our discussion centered on the French way of saying "I love you." The French use “Je t'aime" for both I love you and I like you. My argument, that had gotten us to the conversation of Je t’aime in the first place, had been that the French have, in comparison, quite a smaller range of vocabulary.

Which is when our boss walked in. Exactly at the point that the French intern said "I love you." Which, taken out of context, clearly explains the look we received as our boss strode through the office. 
________________________
Madame's been out of town this week, spending three weeks of vacation time in between her countryside home in France and a rented home in Spain. I've had the apartment to myself-- neither a pro nor con. Although, I'll admit, I like the freedom of being able to walk from the bathroom (on one end of the apartment) to the sink (on the other side of the apartment) in my underwear, if I so please.

I’m only paying rent this week, rather than the additional costs for my weekly four, home cooked meals. The plan had been to fill my last week with friends, and so it had worked out that I wouldn’t be eating dinner in.

Monday rolled around and, as I left work, it was the only day I had planned. It's Thursday now, and everyday's been filled with a friend to spend the evening with. As will continue for tonight—as I enjoy my last dinner with Joh—and tomorrow, where I'll cap off my six months with Shabbat at Chabad.

Really, quite fitting.
_______________________
It's 9.50 euros to access the Montparnasse Tower viewing point-- my Monday night plans with Julia and her friend. Parisians despise the building-- a jarring scar in the otherwise skyscraper clear horizon. But it's the view that makes the tower worth it; 360 degrees of all of Paris, the Eiffel Tower included.

I went for kosher sushi in St. Germain, the following Tuesday, with Judith (a French friend I had met at a party a friend, Deborah, had invited me to my first weekend during the summer)-- ending the evening with drinks at a chic restaurant/ bar in Odeon.

Judith had told me of a Jewish soiree Wednesday evening, and, come Wednesday, Eric and Audrey had too texted me to texted me an invited. But I hesitated to accept given:
a) the entrance fee cost 10 euros. And that’s just under my week budget. (So I compensated by buying a bag of pasta. And for the meager price of 1.48 euros, that bag provided dinner for Wednesday, in addition to lunch Thursday and Friday and leftovers for 5:30 am breakfast this Saturday.)

b) Jews are cliquey-- and when speaking another language, it’s harder to break through.


But the French let their guard down if you’ve got a hand to ease into their tight knit group. Eric introduced me to a range of individuals, and within 30 minutes we had both branched off-- him with his friends, me making new ones. I spoke with a girl named Arula for quite some time-- a girl about a few feet shorter than me, who moved in closer every time she wanted to talk. Judith found us, beelining her way over to say hello. She was accompanied by her friend, Ilan, a 22- year old law student who, as another man I met later that evening claimed, beared an uncanny resemblance to Richard Gere. Which I had scoffed at, turning to look at Ilan-- until I stopped. Because the man was right—Ilan had Richard Gere’s eyes.  

And then Ilan asked me how much I had drunk.

The evening continued, surrounded by such a spectacular range of prospective, Jewish husbands (of course when I only have two nights left)-- all apparently enamored with my, what they all like to tell me, Canadian laced French accent. Several expressed interest in my life back in the states-- half responding that they had already visited D.C, the majority of whom had loved the district. Of course I invited them all back to visit, offering my shared, one bedroom apartment as available lodging.

Eric and Audrey drove me home, later that night. They're my first, real Parisian friends-- having met the two back in May during Chabad, Shabbat dinner. I had bumped into Audrey, the following Sunday. She had been on her way to meet Eric for coffee, inviting me to join. It was then at the party Deborah had invited me to, a few weeks later, that I bumped back into Eric, spending the evening chatting-- him leaving me with a rundown of Jewish events I could join him for. And it was from there that it all spiraled and my summer social life had begun.

_______________________
Eric drove us through Place de la Concorde, the grounds just opposite the Jardin des Tuileries-- the Louvre’s palace gardens. It was a full moon last night, the moon’s vibrant white light highlighting the clouds around.

My SuperShuttle driver, the day I had landed in Paris, had taken a detour to drive through Place de la Concorde. But then, all I could muster was a little more than merci, given my French vocabulary only barely extended past the basics.

That had been six months. Six months ago, when I had arrived, hopeful of improving my French, of immersing myself in the European life I had grown up without. I had no idea what was in store, six months ago; How my semester would affect my summer—if there would be a summer—how my experience who influence my future. Paris had been foreign. The experience, new. And what it all would hold, unknown.

Six months ago, Paris was the beginning.

I recall so vividly my frustration of possessing complete French comprehension but little ability to articulate. That too was six months ago. The French intern told me this morning, that I’m a lot easier to understand now-- and I feel it; in context, I speak without thinking. I rarely stumble if I can’t think of a word. I don’t worry about speaking to strangers and words I’ve never learned, somehow come to me. I think I’ve got the 17 years of my mother speaking to me in French, to thank for that.

I’m proud of having reached my goal of returning home speaking French. I am proud of where these six months have taken me-- grateful for all that has shaped each step along the way.

A friend had asked me what of the experience would I bring back. It was over Skype, and at the time, I had fumbled, trying to explain how different the two lives are-- how I don’t know how Paris me translates to D.C. me. But the real answer was that I wasn't sure what parts of me had changed, although I recognized that in the time I’ve been abroad, there must be some level that has.

Life abroad has taught me the meaning of possibilities: the possibility of adapting and the ability to achieve. I recognize the process of adjustment-- aware of the wavering periods of comfort and the eventual passing of doubts once all settles down.

I come back with a refreshed notion that the world is ours to choose from; My dream remains to pursue a career as a feature writer, yet the future is an open book and my years post grad don't necessarily need to lock me into work in the states.

I’ve reinforced my belief in the strength of connections in leading us all to where we’re supposed to be. I understand the importance in the constant changes within our lives-- and I want to believe that all that’s meant to be won’t fade, rather follow.

I understand more than ever, how nothing-- the good, the bad-- lasts forever. I’m conscious of the importance of appreciating the moment rather than wishing to extend the moment into the future.

And so in response to the question my friend posed-- what will I bring home-- the answer is simply, me.

When taken out of the context of the familiar, forced to rebuild in the surroundings of the foreign, you apply the parts of yourself that are you. The parts of me I’m aware of both here and at "home," are the parts that are real-- to me. The hopes and dreams, the worries and doubts. My time abroad—as does every experience I embark on—leaves me with a greater grasp of the core beliefs I use to structure the manner I view, live and experience my life.

It’s a constant process of self- discovery, life is. It’s why it’s important to keep moving forward, to not get stuck in the familiar of the comfort. We learn a little more about ourselves each time we set out onto something new—the challenges that test our character, the experiences that strengthen our beliefs.

I had been nervous for the summer, nervous of staying in the city without my friends from the semester-- nervous that I’d be staying alone, rather than on a structured program. But my plan to find a summer job had worked out, and my goal of befriending the stranger had happened. It sorted itself out, as it should, because I believe that’s how life works. What feels right, what’s meant to be, will somehow always fall into place.

I don't where this will take me, but I do know Paris isn’t one I’m letting go of. I have foundations laid into my life here, one I’m confident I could pick up should I ever find my way back.  And, as I made Eric and Audrey promise as Eric turned into the side road that leads to my apartment building, they better both still be here once I return.

So the good thing is, I’ll hopefully have dinner plans the day I come back.

Whenever that will be.


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