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Journals from American University Center of Provence

2009-09-22 Baguettes and Peaches; some thoughts after two weeks in a new place

Its been two weeks now, since I flew into France. It seems longer, though, as it always does when the days are full and the setting is new. Aix-en-Provence is quite pretty. The city center looks like everything one would expect a town in southern France to look like; red tile roofs, narrow streets lined with cream colored buildings, cobblestones, fountains and plazas filled with markets and cafes. I have the good fortune, though, to be living in the countryside. My house is about a twenty-minute bus ride from the center. Every day I get off the bus, walk another five minutes and arrive home as the evening is beginning to take hold. Mornings, though, are my favorite. Classes dont start until late, so I never have to use an alarm. I peacefully wake up around 8:00, and take my time in fully getting out of bed and turning on my daytime brain. I like mornings because they are predictable (one of the only predictable things that I have in this new place). I know that after I climb down the ladder of my loft, continue down two flights of stairs, and enter the kitchen, I will be able to make toast and coffee. There is always fig jam and honey. On my first day here, my host mother, Marie Noelle, showed me the toaster and how to use the coffee maker. I have been enjoying my daily French breakfast ever since. I like mornings also, though, because they let me start over. I am washed of the fatigue of the previous day and have only hope for the new day left. I have only hope that my French will be better and the assurance that I am one day further in understanding what this country is all about. I realized a few days ago that my windowsill is just wide enough to sit on. That has become a part of my morning and nightly ritual also. One of the most refreshing things is to lean out over the roof and breathe in the morning or evening or rain or sunshine. There is a slow-flowing creek near the house which feeds tall cottonwoods. The birds or crickets are always singing from their branches. But all this beauty comes with a few frustrations as well. I honestly cannot convey what I want to say most of the time. It is not only French vocabulary that prevents me, it is also what is behind the words. There is so much that I do not know. There are so many things about which I am mistaken, and I am unaware of my mistake. There is so much I dont know that I dont know. It is huge, this task of learning to communicate all over again. I am like a baby spitting out words that no one can really understand. The other students at the school I attend are quite the comfort and so nice to be around. We are all in the same boat, all 29 of us Americans. We speak French with each other and take the time to try and understand what it is that the other means to say. My language partner, Anais, is also good at being patient with me. Last week I spent a lot of time with her. She is quite an interesting person, and I cant do her justice trying to describe her in writing. It will have to suffice to say that I think we will be good friends. Besides all of that, my life is made of baguettes and peaches, interesting classes (most of the time) with nice professors, a new-to-me bicycle, and a bit of frisbee. All in all, I have to say, it is not easy to be here, but I think it is nonetheless quite good. Joy Nelson 23, September 2009

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