And now, here follows the less abstract, yet just as sappy retelling of the events surrounding my departure from L’argentière and my subsequent intercontinental move…
Tuesday was the first hard day. My last market. Oh, I’m going to miss the food. The creamy Brie cheese (which I think I accidently snuck past customs), the sanglier sausage (that’s wild boar), the sweet Vendanges d’Octobre wine that isn’t sold outside of Ardèche, the chestnut liqueur, the cartagène that’s only homemade — note: I swear I’m not becoming an alcoholic — the imperfect yet perfect-tasting mussels, the green peppers as big as your head, and the bread…I could go on and on. I already have. Sorry. But in nine months I had almost become French, or at least a country girl, at least in the sense that I had crafted strong ties with my marchands at the market. Had to say goodbye to them. And to their food. Sigh. Thank goodness for New York. Tant pis (too bad) on the import prices…
But Tuesday was also hard because it was my last day of teaching. I didn’t expect much reaction from the kids, since I had already told them I’d be coming in Thursday to say goodbye. But no lessons stayed on track, inevitably jumping the rails when one kid would ask if I was ever coming back. Or if they could visit me in the US. Or where I lived in New York. And one of my CE1 groups ended the way it began: with tears. My first day, one CE1 boy cried because he was intimidated by me, confused, and couldn’t grasp the concept of repeating anything not in French. Sweet boy, really. Then, my last day, my little wistiti (pet name), the girl who first started giving me hugs, started crying without any mention of me leaving. Sweet girl.
Wednesday was fighting bureaucracy in reverse! Well, not “in reverse” as in they have problems with me, but in that I had to undo everything I had done in September. Cancel a bank account, put away all the pictures and cards on the walls, pack my life back into two suitcases, try to find the right box to send books back to the States, and get confused by my internet account. Again. Some things I will never understand.
Not everything was in reverse, though. I finally finished translating a book of French poetry into English. I had the complete honor of presenting the final (-ish) copy to the original author, my dear friend who runs the bookstore. He even recognized a few words, from the little English he knows. And I can boast that I’ve completed a real project, translating French literature into English. This is what I’ve always wanted to do.
That evening, I got to go to a modern ballet, if that’s what you’d call it. L’homme à la tête de chou, created by Serge Gainsbourg. All the way in Alès, an hour away, down one of the straightest roads in all of Ardèche, not that that’s saying much. The school treated me as a going-away present, and I went with the CE2 and CM1/CM2 maîtresses, who have season passes. We had a ball. And on the way home, conversation turned to skinny dipping in the rivers in the summertime, which is apparently a perfectly normal thing to do, even for families. Must coincide with the tie-dyed Speedo number…
Thursday. My last day at the École Albin Mazon. My, how time flies. I tried not to cry. It didn’t always work. The kids practically showered me with gifts, collective and individual — a little book filled with notes from each one of them, letters, flowers, Pokemon cards, marbles, and a painting by one of the CM1 kids that I have to send home by post. Cries of “Ne part pas!” and “Don’t go!” still echo in my ears, and I wish I was exaggerating. I mean a lot to those kids, I would venture to say more than they mean to me, which is saying a lot.
And what have I learned from all this? Oh, lots. This year has been my harder than I expected, and all the more rewarding because I not only survived, but succeeded in what I set out to do and enjoyed myself quite a bit along the way. Tears and heartaches are a normal part of life, and now I know what I need to do to lessen them. I had my fair share of adventures and became completely self-reliant, while forging new friendships and strengthening old ones across an ocean. I learned that I still have lots to learn. But that does not affect the fact that I can still help other people, even if I don’t fully know what I’m doing.
As for what I promised from this blog? Well, I may not be one to judge, but I am also my own worst critic. Even so, I would say that these writings lived up to my three-seasons-old promises: rants and raves, check. Homesickness, almost too much. Heroics, depends on your definition, but yes. Happiness? Of course! Awe, toujours (always). Aptitude…sure, why not? My own special brand of eloquence…well, I try.
And with that, dear readers, I permit myself to take my leave of you, but it is only as I leave France: for now.