28 August 2010

The Big Day

And, I'm off!  I'm currently sitting in Au Bon Pain (a poor substitute for a French cafe) in Philadelphia International Airport, sipping some cheap burnt coffee and taking advantage of free wifi.  My trip has begun, and though this seems an unexceptional start, I'm just glad to report that my bags have been accepted despite their bulging at the seams.

My last week at home was everything I'd hoped it might be.  The weekend at Villanova was a successful one, despite uncomfortable time spent sleeping on the hard floor while my friends reclined in their fabulously decorated bedrooms.  To their credit, I was offered their beds each morning as the Orientation Zombies formerly known as my friends headed off to enthuse the freshmen.  When all is said and done, however, I'm positively green with envy now that I've seen my their apartments... I will add it to my list of things to look forward to in January.  Thanks to Skype, Villanova will never feel too far away.  Even my close friend Elka, who is spending the next four months in Ghana, is now bringing her laptop and will be only a phone call away.  There are times when globalization really rules.

Among the other small pleasures of my week was receiving a thoughtful and fabulously decorated card in the mail from my older sister.  During her time spent in South Africa, she's picked up card creation as a new hobby, and I have to admit she is pretty good, don't you agree?

I'll see what I can do about acquiring a red beret...

My Dad and I attempted to make gnocchi at home on Tuesday night.  For a first attempt, it was not as bad as it might have been.  If we had only followed the recipe rather than assuming that we knew everything there is to know about gnocchi making, I'm certain it would have turned out better.  That is the price one pays for being ridiculously stubborn... and for having a ridiculously stubborn Dad.  Mum and Megan were good sports, however, and after we smothered the failed gnocchi in cheese and baked it in the oven, it was really pretty tasty.  I look forward to sampling the perfected version in December.  (Hint hint, Dad)

As far as I'm concerned, anything baked with cheese can't really be so bad.

Thursday night Megan and I spent some quality sister time together, watching the silly tearjerker Dear John and the last four episodes of Sex and the City.  Dear John was really cheesy but managed to coax many tears form us both nonetheless, and Sex and the City only convinced me that I will never act as foolishly as Carrie Bradshaw does upon arriving in Paris.  I mean, the woman wore a flouncy skirt and high heels on the plane.   ... Really?  I can assure you that I don't resemble Carrie Bradshaw in the least right now, as I've opted for a baggy t shirt and leggings.  How terribly chic.

My last dinner at home was delicious.  Mum asked if I had special requests, and of course I did.  Luckily for her, I wanted something simple and tasty-- Trader Joe's Israeli cous cous and roasted veggies.  It was so delicious, and my evening was sweetened by a last trip to the Yardley Ice House with Meg.  Add Small Mint Chocolate Chip Water Ice to the Things I Will Miss Most list.

Why would I order anything else, when this is done so well?

Breakfast this morning: a homemade cappuccino and a luminous Bagel Train breakfast sandwich.

This little babe came running to me today, ready to say her goodbyes.
She either knew I was leaving, or she just thought I was going to feed her...

Teary goodbyes have been said at the security line, and I am now officially on my way.  I feel a little nauseous but very excited to see what the next four months will hold for me.  Before that reveals itself, however, I have to successfully find my connecting plane at Montreal Airport (thank you, AirMiles, for always being so convenient...), kill five hours in Canada, and then figure out how to cart a huge sixty-something pound suitcase from Charles de Gaulle Airport to Place de la République.  If I can manage that, the next few months will be un morceau de gâteau.  Stay tuned!

19 August 2010

Things I Will Miss Most

It's hard to believe that after years of dreaming about packing up and going to Paris, I'll be doing so in only nine days.  Since my first visit to Paris on a family vacation, when my bespectacled and painfully awkward self gaped at the Eiffel Tower and chowed down on pains au chocolat galore, I've fantasized about spending an extended period of time in the City of Light.

Thanks to  Boston University, I'm about to do so.  From August 29 to December 18 I'll be living on the rive droite in the home of a French couple, with their cat Pilou (!!) and another American student.  I've got to be honest, I couldn't have gotten luckier.  When my sister Sinead and I spent time in Paris last summer, we stayed literally one street away from the apartment, so I know precisely where it is... Though, with my winning sense of direction it's entirely possible and probable that I'll get lost on more than one occasion.

As the departure date draws ever nearer, and my excitement grows exponentially, I have to say I find myself stuck in moments of anxiety sometimes.  How will I survive without Mum's yummy (and vegetarian!) meals every day?  What if Pilou is mean and doesn't like to snuggle like my cat Lily does?  How am I supposed to keep track of my budget, my meals, my schoolwork?  I've had trouble sleeping lately, because my mind is always racing... Just when I think I've calmed myself down, something else will pop up!  (Will I find time to listen to Podcasts of all my favorite NPR shows?!)

Aside from these petty concerns, there are larger things about which I worry as well.  Though my French is adequate, my traveling skills have been honed over several years, and I'm not afraid of eating snails... I find myself returning to the ever-approaching moment, the instant that I step off the plane and realize "I am in France, and I am by myself."  I almost get chills thinking about it now, and my stomach fills with papillons at the thought.

Almost drowning in lists of To-Dos, Things To Pack, Things To Remember... I've found it much more enjoyable to make a different type of list:  Things I Will Miss Most (in no particular order).

My wonderful family, soon to be scattered across three continents,
pictured here visiting my sister in South Africa

My happy pink yoga mat, which has kept me so balanced over the past year.

My fat but loveable cat, Lily, and her friendly nuzzling and tiny meows.

I have a trip to Villanova in store for this weekend, and though I look forward to spending time with friends, I'm sure that my good-bye to them and to the Villanova campus on Monday won't be easy.  It's strange to think I won't be back there 'til January!  I'm excited, though.  I'm twenty years old and I've been handed the chance to once more, begin anew.  Things won't always be easy, but I intend to remind myself continuously that this opportunity is, as they say, once-in-a-lifetime.  For now, however, the heaps of clothes and miscellaneous items invading my bedroom are begging to be dealt with.  

P.S.  I'm asking for your patience with this blog... Declaring an English major doesn't automatically endow one with flawless writing skills, and travel writing is a new frontier for me.  I won't always know how or what to write, but I hope you'll bear with me as I seek the right words.