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!

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