I have arrived in Paris, and been here three days now…only eighty-five more to go. The fact that I have already counted how may days I have left, may be somewhat telling of my initial response to the separation and liminality has been. Mentally I am questioning why I ever left home, I can’t stop wishing I was home, I am everywhere except Paris. The actual separation process was way more emotional then I anticipated, I had imagined it being much more exciting and happy, and it was extremely difficult with a lot of mixed emotions. When we first got off the train from London I was very excited, but that feeling faded extremely fast when we were walked over to taxi’s, given a brown envelope with a few papers and the address of our homestay, with a little note that said ask for a receipt, “un recu.” The taxi dropped me off in front of my homestay and all of the sudden, I was just there. The paper had the code to get in the building and I couldn’t even figure out how to get the door open once I put the code in. Once inside, a small elderly woman with very big, curly, blonde hair and red-framed glasses came walking up to me waving her hands with a big smile. All I could think was, “please dear god, let this woman speak English.” Luckily, my Parisian host is actually Danish, and speaks perfect English. I basically got my bags upstairs and had to turn around and leave, to find the office of my program. Mind you I come from a very rural, little town in Connecticut, and have never navigated a city by myself. I felt, and haven’t really stopped feeling, like I am in one of those crazy dreams that you are stuck in a maze and you cannot get out, or wake up no matter what you do, a.k.a. liminality.
Upon meeting the group that I am studying with, I learned there are only 14 of us. I would assume these people would be my “communitas” as Slimbach describes it. The “bond” that I would have assumed we would have formed initially considering we are all in the same situation has not been apparent yet. It is a very quiet group, and not a lot of interaction has taken place. I am still the same outgoing person I was at home, but the other students I have met are very much the opposite, so far. So I am not sure I can have much of a personal view or opinion on the double-edged sword factor of the communitas. I have pretty much been on my own since we got here. In total it’s been 6 days, we spent the first three in London. The positives to being on my own, is that it is really forcing me to be independent, and I am quickly learning how to use transportation like the metro, and the buses. The challenge of getting used to the simple fact that I am living in a city, the opposite of home, I have been trying to welcome, but it most definitely tests my patience, and comfort. It is a different world. The negative side to not having the bond with the other students here is mostly the loneliness, but at the same time I am forced to put myself out there more with the locals which will lead me to have a more culturally rich experience. While facing these first few challenges, the biggest navigating the city, I have learned that I can always trust myself that I will get home. I won’t be lost forever and it just might take a little more time and effort then originally planned. I learned that there are a lot of misconceptions about the French ‘not liking’ the Americans, and being very cold towards them. I haven’t experienced that at all, everyone that I have asked for help getting from point A to point B, has been very happy and willing.
My plan as of right now has been just taking my days minute by minute, and not looking to much ahead or behind, so that I can get my mentality here, in Paris. I will also plan to continue reaching out to the other students to see if they want to go exploring or meet up so that we can all get to kind of share and talk about the experience of all of our homestays and settling in thus far. Also I need to continue staying open minded about these challenges and look for the good in them as I have been doing. Another important aspect for me is to continue staying busy, the time that I spend not busy is not good for me. That is when I let me mind wander to home and I start missing home and questioning why I am even here. Slimbach wrote, “Although the path of transformation rarely follows a predictable and linear course, it requires that we keep walking.” (156). I know it will be worth it; I just need to get past this first week, or “keep walking” as Slimbach put it. I have thought about that quote a lot since I read it, repeating it over and over in my head convincing myself until it sinks in. Needless to say, I am absolutely, totally, and completely a liminoid.