Week 3: Learning Through Travel

Here is Week 3 BootsnAll’s Indie Travel Challenge:

Have you ever studied or taken classes on a trip? What did you study, and perhaps more importantly, what did you learn while on that trip?  What would you like to learn on your travels this year?

I have been living abroad for a little over a year and a half now. I frequently like to reflect and look at all this year has given me. It actually is a bit overwhelming to think back to the day I stood in the security line, equipped with a backpack and suitcase in hand, staring back at the anxious and tear-filled faces of my parents. At that moment I had no idea what the next year for me would bring or if I was making the right choice. A part of me wanted to jump out of line and back into their arms of safety, cradled with in love and support. But also those arms represented everything I already knew and I was ready for something different. At that, I took a deep breath and continued in line to security.

Now, how does this relate to this week’s prompt? Well, because with that one step I started the learning process. I learned that I have more courage than I ever thought. But this wasn’t all I learned. My time in France has been some of the best education I have received. In a formal sense, I cannot speak too highly on the French classes I have participated in; however, learning a new language has been part of my education here. Outside the classroom is where I believe I have gained the most. Not only have I opened my eyes to the world around me: new cultures, new foods, new languages, new customs, the list goes on; but also I have learned about myself. There are things I have done that I never thought I could be capable of. I have simultaneously had the best and worst year of my life. Because of the hardships, I have been able to appreciate what I have more greatly.

My very first trip to Europe was with a group and was an organized tour. I only got 10 days and 3 different cities. When I look back on that trip, I remember the way I felt and all the things I saw. Yes, I did learn about new thing however I my level of learning was very shallow. I only got to skim the surface of what really made up all of these magnificent cities. I took away history and fun facts, but did I really know what made these cities tick? No. And that wasn’t any fault of mine. It merely was my limited time and my lack of exposure in travelling to these places. As I said, I was with a group. There were my friends, teachers, mentors. It was familiar. I blindly followed the tour guide, rarely having to think about where I was going or how I was getting there. I never had to communicate with someone who spoke a different language than me. My interactions with locals were extremely limited. To me, it is all these factors that add to the education you get while travelling.

When taken out of your comfort zone, you are required to adapt and to learn. You are forced to be flexible to surroundings and in that you are developing more knowledge of that around you. You are more aware because you have to be—it’s new, undiscovered territory. Because of that, the wine tastes better, the bread smells better, the people are prettier. But when you are really able to delve further you also are faced with fear and uncertainty. In order to accumulate you have to fight this and in this process you are learning not only about your surroundings but about your capabilities to adapt.

This year I would like to continue the journey I am on by taking advantage of everything I have in front of me. I want to kick it up a notch 🙂 I hope to not only improve my French, but also learn other languages (like improve my elementary Spanish!) New cultures and different countries will continue to provide me with fresh perspectives and increase my thirst for more. To be honest, I would also really like to learn what it is I actually want. I mean, I know the basics of what I want but I have yet to figure out what will make me truly happy. Well, I lied. What would make me happy would to be a travel writer and photography and continue to travel the world. I guess what I mean is I want to know where I should plop myself down next. I am searching for something, I just don’t know what. I would like to learn what that is.

“Travel is more than the seeing of sights; it is a change that goes on, deep and permanent, in the ideas of living.” – Miriam Beard

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Fail: Journey to the Doctor’s

I needed to go to the doctor. Because the French has something terribly against working, the hours of operations of things are never convenient. I mean why would a doctor’s office be open on the weekend? No one would ever imagine to get sick on the weekend… Anyways, I decided to wake up early and try to squeeze a visit in before work. I knew this was overly optimistic but I thought since I had no other choice I would give it a try. I went exactly where I needed to go and stared at this large building with a sign in front for the Cabinet Medical. It was there. There was a sign. After careful examination of the outside of the building, I finally figured out how to get it. Once in the building, I was led into a huge open courtyard. No doors unlocked. No signs. Not a human being in sight. How very French. I finally found stairs and walked up to the 1er etage. Now I was in a place that resembled an apartment building. Reluctantly I gave up. There truly was no other ideas I could pull from my hat. After having searched for doctors online, I remembered seeing another place a few streets away. I proceeded to go to that one. I managed to get in, but same issue–all locked doors, no humans, no signs. So I went back to the front of the building (can i just add in that it is pouring rain at this point?) and called the number listed for the doctor. I called and did my utmost to speak in the best French I could master at that point. The dialogue went something like this:

 

Me: Bonjour, le cabinet est ouverte? Hello, is the office open?

Awful witch on the other line: Oui, vous avons un rendez-vous? Yes, do you have an appointment?

Me: No, je n’ai pas un rendez-vous, mais je suis ici maintenant. Je ne peux voir un docteur maintenant? No, I do not have an appointment but I am here now. Can I not see a doctor now?

AW: Vous devez un rendez-vous. You need an appointment.

Me: D’accord. Quelle heure? Ok. What time?

AW: (She then continues in rapid speed French to word vomit out a ton of times)

Me: (I managed to hear a few and chose the one closest to the time it was.) Excusez moi, je suis tres desolee parce que je parle un peu francais. 9h20? Excuse me, I am very sorry because I speak a little French. 9h20?

AW: (Screaming at the top of her lungs now in a voice similar to what I think Satan would sound like) MADAME. 9h20. VOUS DEVEZ UN RENDEZ-VOUS. 9H20. (then inaudible angry french.) MADAME. 9h20. YOU NEED AN APPOINTMENT. 9h20.

Me: Desolee. Je ne comprend pas. 9h20 est correcte? C’est bon pour moi. I’m sorry. I do not understand. Is 9h20 correct? It is good for me.

AW: (yelling. screaming. anger.)

Me: (hung up.)

 

At this point, there was truly nothing I could do. She was clearly upset and I could not understand why or what else I could do to express I wanted the appointment at 9h20. As I am pulling the tears back from the frustrating conversation that was unsuccessful, I get a call from an unknown number.

 

Me: Hello?

AW: pourquoi voulez-vous raccrocher? qui est si impoli. pourquoi voulez-vous raccrocher maintenant? (yelling.screaming.anger.hang up.) Why did you hang up? That is not polite. Why did you hang up??

 

The tears poured in. A Frenchwoman had the nerve to call me back just to yell at me. Really? Confused, upset, and defeated I got on the metro and went to work.

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When I got into work, I told my French colleague (and good friend) the story. Not only was she sympathetic, but she also managed to get me an appointment on Monday at an office close to our work within about 2 seconds. She printed a map for me, highlighting the directions and wrote down all the information needed. Why is there not more Estelles in this country??

 

Lesson of the story/ongoing theme of my life: I hate the french. I love the french.

Learning and Loving a Language

Now that my stay in France has turned slightly more permanent… as in I have no idea when and if I will ever leave… I have had this new take on French. To be honest I was lazy when I … Continue reading