05 April 2008


Make new friends and keep the old, one is silver and the other’s gold

It’s been…interesting…making friends here. So many dynamics combine to form, on the one hand, a charged social environment, and on the other, a bunch of independent human bubbles. Not mastering the language: strike 1; having a cell phone: point; being a foreign student on a short stay: strike 2; joining a dance class: point. No dorm life: strike; taking classes within a single department: point. When I first arrived, I looked for the picture-perfect French and foreign friendships. Then I forewent friendships on-site to maintain familiar ones. I was telling someone a couple months ago that I felt I had friends I would see if I came back to France, but not friends I would come back to France to see. Now, as my thoughts turn towards home, I sense another change. Bad timing, huh? We are a motley lot: an Australian, a half-Greek, a Breton-French and an Alsatian-French, a United-Stater (kudos to my Quebecoises who insist that, technically, they are AMERICAN too). I sometimes wonder just what stuff these friendships are made of. Then I stop wondering and just enjoy them.

It’s been even more…interesting…keeping track of friends back home. God bless Skype. And even Facebook, to some extent (never thought I’d say that!). I find it difficult to let things be, to let life happen, and that can be stated in either a positive manner (I act with intention and let others know I think about them) or a negative one (I am guilt-ridden and full of “shoulds” and lists). Paradoxically, I also find it difficult to maintain regular contact with people in two different worlds. I just wrote a letter to a high school friend with whom I visited shortly before I left, whom I hadn’t talk with at all the previous year and whom I haven’t contacted since. Meanwhile, a stack of letters and emails from home wait to be responded to. And there are plenty more people I like very well back State-side who I’m sure are existing and who I hope are doing well. My intention is to pick up where we left off, but deep down I am not content to think fond thoughts of them living their lives. A friendship takes commitment, intention, investment, right?

What do you think about a friendship quotient? The idea that one can only maintain so many genuine contacts at any given time?

At this time, all I can clarify are some goals of mine: to give a very special friend of mine some very special attention, to respond whenever I am written to, and to continue investing myself where I can and where I feel it returned. And to remember that friends don’t let friends get burned out on being friends!

The Spring Break of your Dreams

Little by little, I’m figuring out how to travel. My latest discover relates to time frame, because even though I’m prone to attempt to squeeze every moment of adventuring out of the last day/afternoon/hour of break, I’ve realized it’s not a very healthy practice. It lacks in…sanity. And my aim is really not to run myself ragged, you see. So, my latest trick is to figure out the earliest date I can possibly leave, and leave two days later; calculate the latest I can possibly be back; and return two days earlier*.

Classes finished yesterday and we have yet another two-week break before us. I get the impression that most French students use these weeks to finish projects and prepare for the upcoming exams, and that most foreign students travel. I know others going to Norway, Brittany, Scotland, Morocco, Italy, Poland, the States, Sweden… I will be traveling in Spain. The weeks look a bit like this:

6-9 April: Barcelona: seeing Gaudi architecture, enjoying the Mediterranean at one of the beaches (It will be 70 degrees!), and visiting a Manchester BCA student (Melissa)

10-13 April: Cordoba: smelling orange blossoms, visiting the Mezquite mosque, and a day trip to the big fair in Sevilla

14-15 April: Granada: seeing the Alhambra

16-18 April: Madrid: paying homage to a particularly persistent art professor in visiting the Prado Museum, enjoying the city parks, and tour around with a Porto Rican I met in Italy with the Quebecoises and whom I visited on the trip to Lille (Adlyn)

18 April: Strasbourg: returning by way of night bus, shuttle bus, plane, another shuttle bus, and two more trains, and technically, my bike (not as complicated as it sounds—I leave at 10:45 one night and get back at 3 o’clock in the afternoon the next day)

So, you’ll have all this and more to look forward to the next time I post! Please do keep checking up, and thank you for all the letters and emails that have come my way lately!

*This is, of course, all subject to plane/train/bus ticket prices, available lodging, and the length of the break. I have two weeks to play with this time around, so my pragmatist guilt (the one that bleeps in phrases like *once in a lifetime*take advantage*travel expenses to get here*) has subsided and allowed me to try traveling with this perspective. I make no promises.

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