I’ve avoided posting this for a few weeks…well, close to a month now. At first I didn’t want to write about the trip home because it felt too close. Also I was so busy with Christmas and hanging with the fam that I didn’t really have time. Then I got back to school and was swept up in the current of seeing old friends, making new ones, and keeping up with the enormous loads of work. Now, finally, I have made the time to write about coming home. It feels so far away, but I’ve been feeling sentimental lately, so what the heck.
The last few days in Paris were hectic and busy. I spent the final week hustling about the city, trying to see and experience everything in the last few days, while also finishing errands, spending time with friends, and adequately studying to prevent failing all my exams. It was a bit crazy and my memories of those days are a bit hazy from all the activity. But they were very well spent. I went to cafés and shopped with my friends. I visited a few last museums and whipped out a paper on David. I visited my favorite restaurants and bought my favorite pastries. All week was a balance of work and pleasure, splurging and savoring, company and independence.
Of course I had to do some Christmas shopping too, so I spent one day rushing to different neighborhoods, buying presents for various friends and relatives. I got hats for my brothers in the Marais, sachés for friends & perfume for mom in the Louvre Carosel, and tea at Angelinas. Of course this meant lunch out and browsing the Champs-Elysées Christmas market which led to this discovery….
My final evening was spent in equal relaxation and stress. After a mad rush of shopping and errands, I met some friends for dinner and then headed to S’s place. We decided to split a cab, and lugged all her stuff back to my apartment where she spent the night. We drank cider and chatted as I frantically shoved all my belongings in my suitcase. As usual, I got about 4 hours of sleep before we had to wake up.
I was sorry to leave my apartment, my host family, and Paris. As we drove to the airport on that lovely grey morning, I reflected on how lucky I had been, how short our time was, and how many things I had done and wish still to do. These thoughts were all driven away when we reached the curb, however, and began the LONG day of travel. Of course we mixed in a little pleasure…this IS Paris, after all…
By a wonderful stroke of luck, 3 of my best friends were all going to the same terminal as me in D.C. and had the same 6-hour layover, so we stuck together for the day, reminiscing and helping each other with all the baggage. This included a moment when we managed to squeeze four girls 8 suitcases and 4 purses/backpacks into ONE elevator…I know…we’re good…
When we finally were checked in for our respective connections, we went to get dinner. S and I had a mission – Chipotle. Oh dear lord how wonderful was that burrito! You are all laughing I am sure, but it was SOOOOO tasty! And I missed it! And ice in my drink! How nice was that?! We all had a great time sitting together and chatting before our flights left to take us to our respective destinations. Saying goodbye to them was so hard…I didn’t want to leave these marvelous and inspiring women. They were my companions for 4 months and the idea of them being more than a 30 minute metro ride was unfathomable. In the days since Paris, they have been what I have missed the most.
It’s been a full month since I got on the plane to leave the City of Lights. The whole experience has faded into a sort of dream that is difficult to sort out. People ask me “How was it?” and I don’t know what to say beyond “Wonderful!” or “Amazing!” I don’t know how to describe such a wonderful and powerful experience to them. I know that this trip has changed me. Not only is my French much stronger, but I am so much more confident and independent. I know what I want out of my last four terms of college and what I want to come after. Now it’s my job to make those desires realities.
In the month since Paris I’ve been speaking to my girlfriends and many of them say they are experiencing similar things. Lately a storm of comments like “I miss you!” and “Let’s go back!” have erupted on facebook. The novelty of home has worn off and we are realizing how deeply Paris affected us. We truly understand that Paris became our home in those 4 months and that we grew together in a wonderful way. Here’s to hoping we’ll do it again sometime soon. In the meantime, I’ll be obsessively looking at Travelocity for flights to California, Massachusetts, and Chicago.