This year, I’m surprised to find how easily I slip back into old (French) habits. Very little about my current setting, objective, and lifestyle corresponds with the student life I lived in Strasbourg two years ago. Pontivy is a small town I came to on my own, to work in a high school teaching job I found on my own, to live in an apartment as any other young person, where I am leading a routine daily life with a Spanish roommate and a broken heater.
Yet my habits are similar: I speak French, eat good bread and cheese, open bank accounts, buy groceries, relish my Wednesdays off, and take the train. In these respects, Take II Pontivy sounds much like Take I Strasbourg. And it is—comfortingly so. I like these things and I like that they form a routine.
But even so, every once in a while a new experience comes along. Like my aerobics class on Mondays, for example. Dad was right to laugh me off the phone when I said I had signed up, voluntarily, to impersonate a cheerleader one hour per week. But when you’re faced with rainy skies day in and day out, exercise is a good way to get moving and out of the apartment. I have yet to actually meet any of the other exercisers; I’ll just have to learn to be more forward with the sweaty French ladies.
For this aerobics class (and the African dance class I described last time), I needed to obtain a medical certificate stating that I’m in good health and can do all the cheerleading I want. This week Tuesday, after receiving all my information from Social Security and my mutual (which, together, cover 100% of my medical costs), I went to the doctor. Now, while I did stop in at the Strasbourg university clinic in 2008, this time I’ve actually chosen a primary care physician. How did I choose? My supervising teacher recommended him, and I dropped her name when calling so that, “Oh, Dr. Chapon is very very busy” became, “Of course! Just until May?”. Unfortunately, when I arrived for my appointment Tuesday evening, I found that in all that talking the secretary had forgotten to note down my rendezvous. I still saw the doctor, though—I even shook his hand, just before he signed my medical certificate and dashed off to the next (scheduled) patient. So close, so close to my first brush with socialized health care! Suppose I will have to wait until I’m actually sick…by the way, my seasonal cold officially started the day following the visit.
The list of new experiences goes on: I’ve started tutoring a high school student once a week; I learned the French version of Parcheesi; I’ve joined the Pontivy CSA, where I pick up bread, dairy products, and fresh vegetables every week; my first French checkbook has arrived; Victoria and I actually spent two hours with our grammar books dreamily discussing linguistics and the phonetic alphabet; I bought a Christmas plane ticket…
WAIT! A CHRISTMAS PLANE TICKET? That’s right, everybody, get out your Bing Crosby and your sleds and your carols and cheer, because I’ll be flying in with Old Saint Nick! And I won’t leave until the last Christmas cookie is eaten!
26 days and counting...