A part of the world versus just being in it

I’ve been here for almost a week, and it seems as though it’s been forever as well as not been that long at all. I know that doesn’t really make much sense, but that’s how I feel. I just have to say that I feel blessed. I am so blessed because there are so many people helping me, welcoming me, and are in a similar situation as myself. Living here at the foyer (it’s like university housing but for young workers), I am able to meet people from all different cultures because people come here from all different places to work, and this is one of the cheapest options for most of them for living accommodations.

I ate again at the restaurant here at the residence, and I just have to step back and observe my life here for a moment. While eating dinner, I was eating with another American, a German, and an Austrian. French, English, and German were all being spoken interchangeably (German only between the German and the Austrian, of course). This one dinner made me step back and realize that we live in such a small world and how beautiful is this small world that people from different countries can come together and enjoy a meal together, despite our differences in language and culture. There we were eating together, happily. It makes me wonder. Why are some people so patriotic? I understand having pride in the GOOD things that your country may do, but why do we (meaning the world) have to be so prideful as to not want more of this with ourselves, more meals where we can all enjoy each other’s company and speak in each other’s languages (though I must admit that I feel a little lame for not knowing German. It’s definitely next on my list of languages to learn), more time spent out of the country getting to know other people and their culture.

I also played a game with some of the other residents, and being all together, laughing and having fun gave me some comfort, knowing that I’m accepted here, despite my weird Hoosier accent, despite the fact that I’m American, despite the fact that my French is not the greatest. This will be my home, and I gladly welcome that.

I’ve made so many new friends just within the last few days, and it absolutely astounds me how welcoming everyone is. It does not matter that we all come from different places. We open ourselves up to learning about each other and each other’s culture. One of the girls I’ve met is from England, and we love conversing about the different terminology we use. For example, a jumper in the UK is a sweater in the United States. It’s such a small thing, but it fills my heart with joy. This is what I want the world to look like. This is what my main goal is here, bringing people from diverse backgrounds together, to share in love and friendship. To me, it’s one of the most beautiful things, and it reminds me why I am here. I definitely believe that I am here for multiple reasons, but this is definitely one of the bigger reasons. I do hope that I meet some locals soon, but it’s helpful to know that I’m already establishing an expatriate family. We all come from different places for different reasons, but we are all trying to live in another culture that is not our own. That is beautiful to me, everyone trying to become a part of the world rather than just being in it. That is my goal: be a part of the world, not just in it.

Meanwhile, the struggles of moving to another country have been setting in. Not having my French bank card yet really complicates things, and I’m really trying to budget my money well but still get all of the things that I need. So, I’m trying to find a good balance. Also, my foot still hurts every now and then from when I sprained it in Paris. I’m praying that the pain goes away soon. I’ve also started feeling pain in my right calf muscle. I’ve been making sure to drink enough water, so I’m guessing that it’s from walking everywhere. My body isn’t use to walking this much every day. I pray also that that pain goes away soon. Lastly, I think I’m starting to get a cold, which is not something that I care to have, especially because I start working on Thursday. So, prayers for good health are greatly welcomed and appreciated.

In the meantime, the weather has been absolutely beautiful, and I’m soaking it all in as I adjust to my new home. I’m definitely starting to miss home and everyone there, but I’m also very excited for everything ahead of me. Feeling overwhelmed with joy and love. Until next time…

Bisous et à plus mes amis…

Laval: “Why are you here?”

I arrived very late in Laval on Wednesday. Thankfully a colleague of my contact person picked me up from the train station and took me straight to my apartment. She was extremely patient and kind with me, which I’m highly thankful for because I’m sure that I didn’t smell the greatest and that my French wasn’t the greatest. She even brought me some dishes, some bread, and some tea to help get me settled. I feel so very blessed to have been so well taken care of. Once I got to Laval, I thought I was going to shower and go straight to bed, however, my brain was on process mode. So, I was wide awake (how, on 5 hours of sleep in two days? I can’t even tell you). So, in order to process a bit before I completely settled, another assistant who got here Monday, Breanna, met me at my apartment, and we chatted for a little bit. Afterwards, I had the best shower of my life and the best sleep of my life. It was glorious.

The next day, my contact person took me to open a bank account, acquire renter’s insurance, fill out all of my paperwork with the school, bought me lunch at the school I’ll be working at, and took me back to my apartment. Afterwards, I went to the apartment welcome center, filled out all of the necessary paperwork (which took almost two hours!), and paid my rent, awkwardly in all cash because my American credit card doesn’t work over here sometimes because it doesn’t have a chip in it. It is amazing that he was so helpful. Most assistants have to struggle to get all of that done by themselves. I’m also really glad I got most of my important logistical things taken care of on my first day in the city. The few things I have left to do are get a better SIM card, wait on my French debit card to arrive, and finish my immigration paperwork.

I’m sure you’ve noticed the title is in quotations. Well, during my now three full days that I’ve been here, I’ve been going to the grocery store every day to buy food and get stuff for my apartment. Breanna and I also ate at the restaurant in our apartment complex (reduced fares. 3€ for a full meal), where we met some of the residents of the apartment complex where we are staying, most of whom are French. I have never been asked more times where I am from than in the last 3 days of my life at the grocery store, while eating, at the tourist center, etc. Not even while I was in Nantes was I asked where I am from that many times in that short amount of time. While we were eating dinner at the apartment restaurant, one of the other residents literally said to both of us, in French of course, ”Why are you here?” with a confused look on his face. Breanna and I also went to the tourist center to pick up a city map and a bus schedule and bus map. The lady working asked us where we were from and laughed when we said we were Americans, as if to say, ”Why are you here, in Laval?” Apparently, it’s very rare for Americans to be in Laval. Perhaps most people assume that Americans only ever go to Paris, which they probably only ever do when they tour France or even Nice, Bordeaux, and Normandy but probably definitely not Laval. I totally get that, but it’s kind of awkward. “Why are you here?” It’s so straight forward, and it’s also weird to me because there are language assistants here every year. You think with a smaller city like this, where the majority of the assistants probably live in the foyer every year (it’s like university housing but for young workers) like I do, they’d know or be at least a little bit aware of the presence of Americans in the city. I guess not. I’m sure I’ll keep getting that question asked over and over again. Hopefully though I can get to know the other residents in my apartment complex and that question will cease to be asked. Who knows though? Maybe there will always be someone asking.

Meanwhile, I’ve just been exploring Laval and getting settled in. I think I’m going to love it here. It’s definitely no Nantes, but I’m sure there’s still some room in my heart for this place. I only felt a little bit of homesickness this morning while I was eating my breakfast and looking out my apartment window. So, I’ve been trying to stay productive so as to avoid jet lag and feeling lonely. Also, Breanna and I met a few other young women that live here at the foyer. One is from Germany, another from Austria, and another from England. I didn’t know that I’d meet people this soon. We all speak French and English, so it’s nice that there are no language barriers. All of their accents are pretty amazing too, and I’m excited to get to know them. It’s nice that I’ll be able to start making friends this soon.

I don’t actually start working until October 1st, so I’m just hanging out and getting used to my new city in the meantime. So, until next time….

Bisous et à plus mes amis!

Bonjour encore Paris!

After Iceland, Stephanie and I took the same flight to Paris. We arrived at 6:30 in the morning, and we were both feeling the lack of sleep and the fact that we had walked about 20 miles the day before. So that to say, we were struggling a bit. Both tired, hungry, sore, and in desperate need of coffee. We needed to take care of logistical things first. My train later in the evening was departing directly from the airport, whereas the train she was taking to the city she was placed in was departing from a different station in Paris. So, first, after we obtained our bags, we took mine to luggage storage in the Paris airport then took the RER (a commuter metro) to the city center. From there, we walked her luggage to Gare Montparnasse, the train station she was leaving from, so that she could store her luggage there. All in all, it took about 3 hours and a lot of struggle. We thankfully made it though and made it to a cute little cafe where we had lunch and, of course because it’s a necessity, coffee!

We decided that after our epic journey in Iceland that we’d just relax in Paris. It was Stephanie’s first time in Paris, so we did do some sight seeing, starting first with the Jardin du Luxembourg, or for you non-French speakers, the garden of Luxembourg, my favorite garden in Paris. It’s really beautiful, and it’s a great place to relax.

beautiful fountain that we sat at in the Jardin du Luxemourg.
beautiful fountain that we sat at in the Jardin du Luxemourg.
cute little picture of Stephanie and myself.
cute little picture of Stephanie and myself.

From there, we stopped by La Sorbonne, Le Panthéon, and, bien sûr, le Notre Dame de Paris. It was so amazing being able to see the Notre Dame a second time. It is just as beautiful as I remember it being. It was also a little warm and sunny the day we were in Paris, which helped our moods and our day of traveling immensely and basked Notre Dame in the most beautiful lighting, displaying her glory.

The beautiful lady herself.
The beautiful lady herself.

We also stopped at a couple of bookstores, because I’m Lindsey. That’s what I do when I travel. I go, and I find all of the bookstores. I’m obsessed. Can you tell? The first one we stopped by I actually saw the last time I was in Paris. It’s called the Abbey Bookshop. There are only two in the entire world, one in Paris and one in Toronto. Most of their books are in English, with some in French, and it is the epitome of a European bookshop. All of those pictures you see on the internet and Pinterest where the books are towering and are everywhere, where there’s barely any space to move because there are so many books? Yeah, that’s this place. I absolutely love it there, and I really wanted to share it with Stephanie. They also offer you a free cup of coffee while you browse the books. I ended up buying Le Petit Prince en français bien sûr because, and I have to be honest, I have yet to actually read The Little Prince. I feel like such a fraud. How dare I call myself a francophile if I have yet to read and to own The Little Prince, especially in French? Well, I can tell you that I will for sure be reading it within the next 8 months since I finally acquired it in French.

We also visited Shakespeare and Company, which is another bookstore in Paris that I had not actually heard of until this year, even though I’ve been in Paris multiple times. It mostly just has brand new books, and it is very touristy. So, we only stayed for about five minutes and didn’t buy anything. At that point, we were both getting very fatigued, and I’m pretty sure I sprained a muscle in my left foot because my foot felt like I had daggers going into it at that point. It was awful.

Pretty cute bookstore. Also, definitely love the name.
Pretty cute bookstore. Also, definitely love the name.

We grabbed some sandwiches for dinner, and actually the hour before I departed, we were rushing around trying to figure out our cell phone situation. So, she and I bought prepaid SIM cards from the French cell phone company Orange. Our data and calls were working just fine, but for some reason, if we turned our data off, our texts wouldn’t work. We were scrambling going from one Orange store to the next trying to figure out what was happening. Unfortunately, we didn’t get any answers and we were running out of time. So, I had to leave Paris without having figured out the problem. So far, my texts are working just fine without my iMessage on with other people’s phones, but for some reason, it won’t work with Stephanie’s number. It’s really bizarre, and I’m probably switching cell phone carriers after my prepaid days are up anyways. So, I’m not even going to worry about it. Just another struggle along the way.

So, I rushed back to the RER so that I could rush back to the airport, pick up my luggage, and make my train. Thankfully, I unintentionally took a direct RER to the airport without realizing it which helped a lot with my time. So, I ended up having about an hour before my train left to relax. At this point, I had only had 5 hours of sleep in two days and was struggling hard core.

Even though I struggled around Paris for about 12 hours, being there made me realize so many things. Firstly, I did not realize to full capacity how much my heart was aching for France. It is so good to be back here at my second home. Secondly, it made me realize that my French is actually not as bad as I had originally thought. Yes, my verbs tenses aren’t always correct, and I struggle with remembering vocabulary from time to time. BUT, French was just coming out of my mouth like it was no big deal when I had to order food and or ask someone a question. I was so impressed with myself and so thankful that I was re-adapting to my second home.

Speaking French and being in France bring me so much joy and comfort in my life. I don’t even feel nervous about being here now that I’m on this side of the pond. When I walk the streets of Laval, I feel at home, like I already know the place, even though this is my first time in Laval. I belong here. This is where my heart is and definitely where I feel God is leading me right now in my life. I definitely miss home and everyone there, but this is where I need to be right now in my life. Right now, and I’m sure this will change, I’m not even afraid that I’ll be away from home for 8 months. I’m all smiles, perfectly content with my life and the people loving me and supporting me throughout all of it. I’m feeling so blessed right now. Merci à tous for your love and support and encouragement. So thankful for this opportunity and the adventures to come! Until next time…

Gros Bisous!

A plus mes amis!

Takk! Takk! Adventures in Iceland

Last I left it, I was about ready to depart for France, preparing myself for three days of straight travel. Well, let’s just say that I must really love travel because there were a couple of rough patches thrown in there with some amazing experiences!

I first took a plane from Indianapolis to Boston. My 8 hour layover in Boston wasn’t too eventful other than two things. First, the fire alarm went off in the airport. The airport then proceeded to tell everyone to wait for instruction, only the instruction never came. The fire alarm was going off for 15 minutes, and everyone in the terminal was just looking around at each other awkwardly. It was actually a little bit funny. It finally turned off though, and everything ended up being fine. Secondly, this random man sat next to me by the plug while I was charging my phone. He just randomly started a conversation with me, and he bought my dinner for me. I initially refused and turned him down politely, but he insisted. So, I thought, why not? He was very kind, and I think he just wanted someone to talk to. I found out that he’s from Nigeria. He’s lived in Atlanta for 15 years and was flying back to Nigeria to visit family and to see about starting up a school for teenagers that has similar education opportunities as American high schools. How amazing is that?! It’s those whom are like him that help me to see the good in humanity.

From there, I took a flight to Reyjkavik, Iceland. One of the best decisions I have every made. I seriously love Iceland so much now. There, I met up with another assistant in the city center. (side note: I made it from the airport to the bus station and from the bus station to the city center all by myself. I felt so accomplished and seriously impressed with myself). I don’t want to give a play by play of what I did in Iceland because I feel that would be boring and take too long to write and to read. So, I’ll just give the highlights. Firstly, Reyjkavik is a very small city, so it was very easy to get around.

We mostly just saw different tourist attractions. The Sun Voyager sculpture for one, which is essentially a sculpture in the shape of a viking boat made from metal. The sculpture was pretty cool to see, and not to mention that there is a beautiful mountain in the background. Iceland is essentially a giant, ancient volcano. So, all of the rock is beautiful, black volcanic rock that is everywhere. We also stopped by the church, the giant concert hall, and the lighthouse that is there, which were all pretty amazing to see. That was the first lighthouse that I’ve ever seen in person.

We also happened by a phallological museum, aka a penis museum. Now, I’m sure that to most of you that sounds ridiculous, perhaps even disgusting. Why on earth would I want to see that?! Well, firstly how many of you can say that you’ve been to a penis museum? Probably none of you. Also, it was quite interesting. There were so many different types from all different types of animals, such as sperm whales, goats, even mice! It was quite intriguing! The idea of going to a penis museum was quite strange to me, but I’m glad I did. It was a unique opportunity to try something new and try something that most people would never do.

For lunch, we ate at Stofan Cafe, which is a really adorable cafe in the heart of Reyjkavik, and it was delicious. We had fresh salmon on a bagel with cream cheese and a fresh salad, and their latte was one of the best I’ve ever had. Maybe it all tasted so wonderful because we were starving and had been walking all morning, or maybe it was just amazing. Regardless, I was very happy with it.

We also did some shopping on the main shopping street in the city center. I bought myself a handmade ear warmer, and I love it! The only thing that I’m not such a huge fan about is that Iceland is soooo expensive! My ear warmer was about 20 American dollars. It was definitely worth it though. I’m not sure that I’d be able to afford to spend multiple days there though. We also stopped by a used bookstore, because I’m me and I never travel without stopping by a used bookstore. I didn’t buy anything though because there weren’t very many books in English, and everything was hard to find because none of it was well organized. However, we did stop by another bookstore, unfortunately not a used bookstore (probably the Icelandic equivalent of Barnes and Noble), and I bought a book, in English, of Icelandic folk tales. I’m super stoked to read it!

Seeing everything was absolutely fun. The downside is that it rained all day long, and by the end of the day, we were both soaked from head to toe. Good thing I brought a change of clothes in my carry-on.

Something that I absolutely love about Iceland: everyone is so incredibly generous. It’s beyond amazing! I, unfortunately, could not store my backpack at the bus station because since my credit card doesn’t have a chip in it, I couldn’t pay for and open the locker. It took credit card only, no cash, not that I had any Icelandic Krona on me anyways. (You know, I go to Iceland on the reg. Let me just pull that out of my back pocket. *note sarcasm*) So, I thought I was facing a day with traveling with my backpack all day long, and I just knew that was not going to be a good situation. After meeting up with Stephanie, the other assistant that I traveled with, she suggested we ask the youth hostel across from the coffee shop if they knew of any other place to store my bag. The woman at the counter, after I explained what had happened, very kindly gave me the key to the baggage locker there at the hostel, even though I just came off the streets asking for a luggage locker, even though I wasn’t staying at that hostel, even though she didn’t make me pay a fee. What?! So, she let me store my bag for free, even though I was a foreigner who wasn’t staying at at that hostel? Why yes, yes she did. I told her that I was even willing to pay the fee, and she told me not to worry about it. That absolutely blew my mind. I have never met anyone so kind in my entire life. Throughout the day as well, everyone we came across had no problem switching over to English for us. The guy at the tourist center kept helping us with a smile on his face even though we went in there about three or four times. The guys at the coffee shop/bar we went to were perfectly happy to converse with us about Iceland, in English nonetheless, while we were the only ones in there.

The kindness of Icelanders really made my day and my trip. It also made me think about humanity in general. Why can’t we all be as trusting and generous as the Icelanders? Why do we constantly have to be weary of others and the potential harm they might cause us? Better even, why do people have to feel the need to harm others?  Also, why are they so kind and trusting? What is it about their culture that helps them to welcome the rest of the world with open arms? Is it because them being a small country, they are just more prone to welcome people from outside of their small island? Is it because that since there are so few of them, their whole country seems like their next door neighbors, so maybe they take on that mentality with everyone who passes through there? I’m just brainstorming here because I am genuinely curious.  If what happened to me happened in the U.S. or probably even Europe, I would have to pay the fee, or I would probably be refused access since I wasn’t staying at that hostel.

But anywys, this post was a little longer than previous, but I hope it was worth the read. Now that I’m in France, I’ll have much more to actually blog about. So, keep your eyes peeled. More to come soon.

A plus mes amis…..

P.S. I learned one Icelandic word: Takk, which means thanks! In Iceland, they say Takk, takk, which I thought was kind of fun. So, Stephanie and I spent the whole day saying Takk, instead of thank you. I feel like such a tourist doing that, but I also don’t care because I was trying to get to know the local culture. Loving all of my adventures.