“I just miss Madison, I want to go back.” I must’ve said that over 20 times since I arrived in France.
How to describe my first week in France? Well, I’ve had better days.
From Chicago to Paris, I had a connecting flight in Dublin, Ireland. The 1st flight was delayed in Chicago and I arrived in Ireland late. Though I was running as fast as I could to eventually catch the connecting flight in such little time, my luggage wasn’t able to succeed like I did. After waiting at the baggage claim in Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport for 40 minutes, I was informed that my baggage was delayed. It was the first time that I ever encountered a situation like this. I panicked and felt helpless at that time. My mind was blank and I just couldn’t remember any French word. I tried to communicate with the airport staff in broken French but was only told to wait for 48 hours for the bag to show up. At that moment, if I didn’t have a train to catch, I almost wanted to stay at the airport till my luggage arrives. (5 days later that I finally received my luggage)
After the stage of panicking, I hopped on the train from Paris to Aix-en-Provence, worried and stressed. As I was sitting in my seat, I suddenly recalled my friend who’s been to Aix reminded me that for French language beginners, the announcements of stations could be really confusing, and she emphasized that not to get off at the wrong stop. “Great, this is not helping. I need to stay calm.” I said to myself. So I took a deep breath and tried to find if there’s anything about train stops in my French guidebook. After searching, I decided to turn to the French lady sitting next to me and to ask for guidance. But how should I form this sentence? OK, I can do this. I gently poked her shoulder and timidly and nervously asked in a low voice like I was almost whispering, “Excusez-moi madame, pouvez-vous m’aider? (Excuse me madam, could you help me?)” She turned around and smiled at me, and she seemed very kind and nice, which eased the tension a little bit.
After I clumsily explained my situation in French to her, she nodded and told me that she was getting off before me, but she reached out to an older lady sitting behind her and asked if the older lady would like to remind me where to get off since she’s going to Aix as well. And the older lady gladly agreed. I thanked them both. It went well! Everything couldn’t be any smoother besides the missing suitcase. After a moment of excitement, the jetlag started to get to me. I was fatigued and sleepy, but I had to hold on to my other suitcase just in case it would slide to the end of the carriage. It was challenging to keep the balance. I eventually fell asleep, but somehow I was able to wake up every 15 minutes to check my suitcase. After 9 hours of flight, 4 hours of train ride, and with the help with two lovely French ladies, I finally successfully arrived at the Aix train station.
The smell of crispy fresh air, the gentle Aix breeze, and the lovely afternoon sunlight, everything is reminding me that I’m here! In France!
(to be continued…)