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2008-11-30 Thanksgiving

Thursday I woke up and realized how happy I am here. Not that I havent been realizing this all along, but it was just one of those days when I realized how grateful I am, and then I remembered that " oh yeah, its Thanksgiving. Thats why I feel grateful, maybe. Even the French really dont give a rip about Thanksgiving. Whats the point? a French student asked me this weekend. To eat as much as you possibly can and then get sick afterwards, I replied. Oh, he said, looking extremely confused by this thought. Eating until you feel sick is not a very French thing to do. Dont worry, though: I did actually explain the real reason for Thanksgiving, one that doesnt make Americans sound like fat pigs. No, really its about family, I said. And being thankful. Anyways. Thursday I was thankful. I headed to my favorite caf bookstore in Aix to spend the morning writing and avoiding my homework, since I have no class on Thursdays. I sipped a small French caf crme, wrote letters to friends I should have written to a long time ago, wrote some of my story, looked through books, and listened in on peoples conversations around me. For a while, I listened to another American (weird!) talking about trying to find a turkey to eat that night. I watched the bookstore cat on the chair next to me violently cough and sneeze, and the little boy whine to his father in French about wanting more chocolate. I thought about where, exactly, I am in the world " that is, if I were to put my finger on a globe and find Aix, then examine how far this is from the Pacific Northwest. I am far away, and its rare that I actually have an opportunity to think about this, because Im always going and going and going here. Last night, Friday, I had four girlfriends over to my house to make a Thanksgiving dinner for my host parents. We successfully made dinner all by ourselves, despite the fact that we had no idea what we were doing. How do we eat this? my host dad asked. Should we start with the salad and then move through the courses? I laughed at his silliness. Oh, no, no, no, my dear French host father. This is an American meal. That means that you heap all of the food onto the table and once and then proceed to shovel it all into your mouth at once, as quickly as possible. Flavor, style, art dont matter. The only thing that matters is eating as much as you can, as quickly as you can, and then feeling horrible afterwards as you retire to the sofa to miserably watch football or A Christmas Story for the billionth time. How strange, my host mom said, to be eating something so sugary for dinnerare you sure the sweet potatoes arent some sort of pudding for dessert? It was one of the most enjoyable Thanksgivings Ive ever had. November, up until about a week ago, had actually been a rather weary month for me. I still felt content to be in France, but homesickness hit me off and on in waves for the first time since I came here at the beginning of September. I felt a bit more tired than usual, a bit more antisocial at times, wanting to just curl up in a caf and write all the time, a bit more worried about trying to control things. Ive been worried about money off and on, since things are getting thin and I had a lot of traveling incidents this month where I had to unexpectedly shell out twenty or eighty euros to fix it. (Another eighty for another train ticket, even though I already bought one two days ago for the same train? Sure, why not! Just take it! Really " I have no use for money!) For the first time ever, I had a slightly twinge-y aching feeling of wanting to go home. I was having trouble; I was slipping mentally/emotionally in and out of Aix to return to Seattle and Linfield. But, I took a long train ride by myself to Geneva last weekend, to meet Marty Bode and explore the city, to get in one last weekend of traveling before my money really runs out and before I leave. I love taking trains by myself, because I love to space out while staring out the window. I love the long quiet stretch of time where I really have nothing else to do " no interruptions " so I can write. Something clicked back into place last weekend, some sort of gear that had become slightly off this past month, and I felt better. This week, I feel joy again to be living here. Im looking forward to going back to the States, but also really dont want to leave France. I actually had a dream last night that took place three weeks from now, and I was leaving, and I was feeling this horrible sense of panic. When I stop to think about it " it really doesnt make sense to leave; its not fair. I feel horribly, horribly sad. Here, we have been living very intensely in France all semester, completely submerged in the French life for nearly four months, and we have turned away from American things partly because we were at first told to, and then because we wanted to " limited our internet, limited our contact with family and friends back home, rarely spoke English " and now, voil. Look whats happened. Im not American only anymore (well " I am and always will be first and foremost American, since I do not have a tiny bone structure and sound nasally and loud when I speak), but a little French as well, or, at least, a little something different. Look whats happened " we have established a rhythm here, and we have changed. I have another family, another language that, although it frustrates me every single day, I adore. We have finally slid, not without a lot of struggling first, seamlessly into a place abroad. Now, I dont want to go back because I dont know how I will fit in back home anymore. Three weeks left! Ansley Clark

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