So it’s over. Today is the fifteenth of September. Friday the nineteenth will mark a full year since I struggled down the cobbled streets with my oversized suitcase and sat dazed on the sofa bed in my new, empty flat. This time last year I was worrying, and panicking, and packing, and unpacking, and obsessively checking where my passport was. It feels like a very long time ago.
I suppose it was, really. In the last year I’ve worked three jobs, lived with two french families and spoken in one new language. I’ve learnt not to panic on the phone, how to turn a blind eye to a tantrum, and how to get twenty french children to sing ‘Heads, Shoulders, Knees and Toes’. I can make croissants and tough decisions. I’ve loved hard and lost hard, been homesick and at home. I’m not the person I was when I left.
I moved to France to learn french, and I have. Throw me into a French situation, and I can swim along quite happily, muddling through the idioms and the jokes that leave me laughing half a minute too late. But I’ve learnt a lot as well, the mushy, personal life lessons that you never know you’ve learnt until the teacher is gone. And I made memories that I want to keep, memories with all my friends out there.
So here, my friends, are the moments I treasure. I treasure thanksgiving, when you at the end of the dinner you brought out stacks of cakes for me and Sue. I treasure the day in December when we bought a Christmas tree, dragging it back from the market with the needles in our gloves. I treasure Christmas, too, with the flat full of people and the squishy parcel you got me, Lianne, with the Christmas jumper inside. I wore it to school on the last day of term, trying to explain to the bewildered children the whole concept of a Christmas jumper, and why on earth I would want to wear one.
I treasure sitting on the harbour in Monaco, eating pastries because we couldn’t afford a restaurant and staring at the yachts. I treasure stumbling home after parties, and Emily and Dalia, I treasure the hundreds of times we walked down my street together so that I wouldn’t have to do it alone. I treasure the week of eating crazily, one posh meal after another, until we couldn’t move and the thought of another starter repulsed us. I treasure the picnic on the island the weekend I came back, and the nights I spent on Steven and Sarah’s floor.
I hate to say goodbye – to you, to France, to this year. So I don’t think I ever really said it. I was one of the first to leave, hamster and mother in tow, so that I wouldn’t have to get glittery eyed as one by one you went home. Strange, isn’t it, that in a way I’m the last one back. You all have a grip on me stronger than you can imagine.
I won’t say goodbye – not to Britain, Canada, Germany or the USA. I promise I’ll try, with all I’ve got, to see you all again. I won’t say goodbye to France either, because this country has a hold on me now. It’s home. So au revoir you wonderful people, because this is not goodbye. This is until next time.
Seeing as my Year Abroad is over now, this blog feels slightly redundant. Should I keep writing? What should I write about? Give me your ideas!