Typically, when you hear the phrase “a walk in the park” you assume the feasibility of whatever course of action you are taking is extremely high. As many of the activities that Slimbach suggest we do, I realized I do on a daily basis just through my creative nature. However, there were some things that weren’t such a “walk in the park”. Walking is certainly a great teacher as it’s taught me some central locations such as Place General de Gaulle (where the bus picks me up for school), Gares d’Antibes (the train station that takes me to the airport and other locations in France or to the first few towns in Italy), the bus 200 stop either for the direction of Cannes or Nice (there is two different stops per direction) and so forth. These discoveries came from walking around, getting lost and asking questions—all a spectacular way to learn very quickly where everything is. Depending on the day and my level of exhaustion, it was fun to get lost and discover my surroundings and find my way back home. Other discoveries made were subtler, dealing with the food commonly found in restaurants or cafes. In almost any bakery, store or restaurant, baguettes and wine are sold or available. Greater than that through conversations with my new communitas I was able to discover which market is cheapest and which has a greater selection. However, other discoveries took time and practice to grasp such as the local do’s and don’ts. Upon my arrival the CEA program orientation quickly briefed us upon some general customs such as saying Bonjour when walking into a store since not even trying to speak the language is considered ruder and the general hours that all stores are closed for lunch. But throughout my own experiences I’ve learned to speak softly on the streets and while I’m out to a meal, that walking slowly is customary as no one ever seems to be in a rush and that whatever you do… DO NOT take a taxi as you will likely be spending your entire week’s food money. Through Slimbach’s exercises it has only reinforced the view that adapting is not a quick process and it does take time, to walk, stroll and allow yourself to pay attention to the details of my new surroundings.
When having to deliberate on which travelogue I was going to allow help me through my journey, I picked the one full of paradoxes, so I could get the full French feel, rather than all the “good” information—I want the full story. For this reason, the travelogue I chose was called “France: A Nation on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown” filled with all sorts of information ranging from politicians who think they can advance their careers despite various sex scandals, to learning that many French people will delocalize themselves just in order to find work and to learning that 14 % of French people admit to working “off the books”. It’s set up more like a dictionary than a novel, meaning the author, Jonathan Miller, has organized it in alphabetical order based upon the French word, with the English meaning directly underneath. When choosing to come to France, I knew not speaking the language might be a little difficult, and I’ve realized in my location I can very easily communicate in my natural language, but what kind of study abroad student would I be if I didn’t at least try? For that reason, I’m extremely happy with my travelogue choice as it helps me to better my French vocabulary and be enlightened to some new facts. One of my favorite facts reads under the heading “Paysan” meaning “Peasant”. Miller writes “In France, to be a paysan is an honorable calling, and paysans are seen as an authentic expression of the soul of rural France” (207 Miller). Typically in our daily language Americans assume the work peasant to have a negative connotation for those that are among the lower class. It was certainly interesting coming across the same word with a complete opposite meaning. Throughout the rest of my reading I discovered that France shares many hobbies and companies with England such as the sport Rugby, ranging all the way to the British airline “EasyJet”. Personally, I’ve already booked trips using that airline and I can attest that there are frequent and cheap flights, leading me to believe they have a strong relationship with French Aéroports (Airports in French!).
The Travelogue helped prove to me that there is a separation from my home country and people and I am exposing myself to new and great adventures where I am bound to learn so many new things. In this stage of my rites of passage, it gives me a greater appreciation to know the new facts and compare them to my communitas back home. I think out of this, I not only know my American communitas as home, but I’m beginning to know my French communitas as a second home as well. This picture only reinforces the idea that there are so many directions in my new home and new places to go, things to see and knowledge to absorb that I’ve only just begun.