Sunday, September 27, 2015

Divonne: Week One

Wow! This week has been intense. But good.

After a mostly sleepless overnight flight I arrived in Geneva just in time to catch a mountain sunrise. The photos I tried to take don't do it any justice. Just know that it was pretty transcendent. Here's the first glimpse of sweet little Divonne.
Yep, mountains. Everywhere you look, we are surrounded by mountains. This is a new experience for me since Nashville's pretty flat, and MAN is it awesome! Every time I go outside I'm like "YOU GUYS, MOUNTAINS! LOOK! THOSE ARE THE FRIGGIN ALPS RIGHT THERE." Okay, so I don't actually say this to anyone, I just think it really loudly.
This is the view westward on the walk to the girls' school. When the sky is blue here it is BLUE.
This is to the north. This leads to the Jura mountain range.

And this is the view south. You guys. Those are the Alps.............. I can't believe this is my life.

This week has consisted of the kind hospitality of my host family, a stupor of jet lag, many new experiences, and so. much. French. I love French, and I'm so excited to learn it. They say that the best way to learn a new language is under stress, because your brain basically realizes your survival depends on how fast it can learn. Fortunately for me, both the parents speak English, however the girls do not. The urgency of my needing to be able to understand them is definitely stressful, and will hopefully speed up the process. We'll see. This is a new adventure for all of us! I don't think really there are shortcuts; I think the only way to really learn is by hard work.

On my second day I started driving! I was super nervous, mostly because I was still so jet-lagged that everything felt so surreal, like an avatar video game or something. Plus the temperature change (it's ranged from 65-45 degrees here) has been a shock to my system. I came over with a week-long cold already that I had hoped was going away, but the dang cough has lingered with a vengeance. But the driving went fine. It's fun to be driving with a manual transmission again. When I'm at home and thinking about going out, it's really intimidating. But once I'm in the car or out on the sidewalk I feel great. Each little trip is so empowering and enjoyable.

This weekend the family went to Paris to meet family and run errands, so I've spent the weekend relaxing (sleeping) and getting to know the town a little better. Friday night I went grocery shopping and made myself some chicken soup for dinner. Saturday I slept in (more sleeping) and basically spent the day skyping with my parents and friends. They really filled up my love tank and encouraged me to focus on the adventure (not the homesickness), and gave me some practical advice for how to address the culture shock.

Today I went to the Sunday market! It's like a cross between the farmer's market and the flea market, and it's lovely. I was too intimidated to take photos among the press of people, but maybe next week I'll have worked up the courage to do it. I did buy a rotisserie chicken! They roasted them right out on the street, the smell was so intoxicating. There were two street musicians, one of whom was playing an accordion. I was like SERIOUSLY DO YOU UNDERSTAND HOW MUCH YOU ARE MAKING THIS AMERICAN GIRL'S DAY RIGHT NOW so I did take a video of them. I couldn't help myself.

So culture shock.
First of all, I didn't really expect to get it. I always thought culture shock only happened when the new culture was extremely different and unfamiliar, like a toilet that's a hole in the ground, or eating bugs, or not being able to read any street signs. Things like that. I didn't know that culture shock could look like everything being just enough different and there not being anything familiar onto which you can ground yourself. Honestly, I thought "they've got Coke and Disney and a dishwasher and they drive on the right side of the road so why would that shock me?" But I guess I never fully appreciated that it doesn't really matter whether you can read the road signs, the experience still requires some acclimation.

Like going from fresh water to salt water, changing cultures (um, and languages) is an IMMENSE transition that takes time. There are actually stages of culture shock! This is all news to me. My sweet friend, Christina, who moved to South Africa four months ago has been counseling me through this, having just gone through this acclimation process herself. I've always found it a little frustrating to be in the middle of process like this. To acknowledge "this is how I feel, and it's not great, but this has value and I will get through this." I would like to skip ahead to the part AFTER a growing season, to the part where I've acquired all that immense wisdom and life experience. I'm learning to have grace with myself and to allow myself to be kind of a mess. It's much easier to type that than to live it out.

Tomorrow I start my French class! It's in the next town over and the drive is beautiful. I'm praying expectantly to make some friends in this class (and also that my teacher is niiiiicccce). It will be weird going back to school. I've got pre-school butterflies and my new notebook (NEW NOTEBOOK) all ready to be filled with beautiful, well-ordered French language.

A Demain!