One Month left to go, nine down. . . .

It wasn't so long ago that I wrote a post entitled one month down nine to go, but now I have but one month left, I'm sitting outside to write this post because the warm weather is back, and this time I'm adjusted to the humidity so I can enjoy it. When I first got here I was cold even on the nice days. Winter has come and gone, and yet it feels like no time at all has passed. The days go by slowly and the weeks go by in seconds, it seems. Oxana, my local coordinator came by the house over the weekend to check on me for the last time and prepare me for the process of leaving, which I think will be very hard. I was worried about feeling pressured at the last minute with all the arrangements so I got a bunch of info together, but together a package of winter coats and books and journals I don't need, so boots, and carves, and taped it all up. It weighs 20 kilos exactly, which will leave me with about 35 kilos for my suitcases (I have the right to 46) though I'm sure it will end up being more in the end. I had a few days of panic though because the regulations for the airline I'm using, Lufthansa, have changed since I got here, and now we only have the right to one and not two checked bags. Luckily however the association bought my ticket last year so the old rules still apply, and I won't have to pay extra. I'm going to the post office in about an hour to mail it off. I felt so relieved after getting it all set up, but then I think I may have hurt my host family's feelings a bit, with all my planning. I didn't think about it being a sensitive issue because they've been planning a trip for this summer since November, but when I was going through my stuff I found the hand book for CIEE. It has a whole section about leaving, and there is stuff about how you and you're host family, or one or the other might feel sensitive about making arrangements for departure, and or afterwards. Then when Oxana was here she asked if I was ready and Isabelle said as a joke that I was definitely ready, I'd already packed my suitcase. I know it was meant as a joke, but I felt bad all the same, and I think my family was feeling a bit pushed aside because of the box. I'm just glad to be getting it sent off today so we can forget about it, and I can focus all my attention on absorbing up any bits of culture I may have over looked before I leave.
I feel like my french has really come a long way just since January, and that I can really say I'm fluent. Now when I talk to people for the first time they don't ask me if its hard to follow the classes in French, but instead complement me on my French, tell me I speak very well. I understand the lyrics of French songs, which was something that totally evaded me for a long while. Plus, most importantly, I received a copy of the movie "Bienvenue Chez Les Ch'tis" which is a comedy about the Nord-Pas-de-Calais, and the 'patois' or the local dialect spoken here, Ch'ti. I watched it my third day here, and I understood absolutely nothing. I got maybe two jokes out of the whole movie. Well, I watched it for the first time since then the other night, and I understood perfectly. I recognized scenes and buildings in Lille, and I laughed at all the jokes. I felt like I was in on the whole thing, and that I was a part of the culture, even if only a very small part. It was a very warming feeling, but more importantly the next night I talked about it with my family, and I was able to discus it with them, recall lines, ask any questions, etc. which really completed the whole thing.
I don't have any regrets from this year. I think the whole experience has been exactly what I had dreamed it would be, and I would recommend it to anyone who has been considering it. Though I will say I think it is something you have to be motivated to do; if you're having serious regrets or are doing it for someone else, I imagine it would be extremely difficult. I have been dreaming about this since I was 10 year's old but even I had about two weeks of culture shock in the beginning where it was hard for me, and another few days during christmas break where I lost my confidence, my motivation, but that is all normal, most students go through vases throughout the first six months. Overall, I think these last nine months have definitely changed my life, and way of looking at the world. I think my opinions, my tastes, my thoughts in general have been enriched after having been exposed so thoroughly to another mode of life, and another culture. Another important aspect of this experience that I think is a lot less publicized is the chance to see your own country from a seat removed from the action. It's very interesting to see how America looks from the other side of the atlantic, and through the lens of French media. The French are at once enthralled and repulsed by the US and it's priorities. I have found however that in a few cases I have felt protective, defensive even, of the US, which I never felt before this year. I feel I have learned to look at the US from a point of view much more neutral, I see the good and bad now instead of being purely critical, which is a much more comfortable and productive place to be.
I leave the morning of June 18th, so I now have exactly a month to conclude this experience, and to make as memories as possible before I leave. I'm not terribly sad yet, because June still feels very far away, but I know it will go fast, and I don't want to feel like I let it slip through my hands. At any rate I know I will bring home a lot of wonderful things, and I'm very grateful for everything I've gained in the last nine months.
A bientot, e a la France
p.s. I just sent off the package, all's well ; ).


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