Coming home from 10 months abroad is exhausting. exciting. eventful. hectic. but mostly exhausting.
Although, I won't attribute the delay to this "I'm home" announcement post, to fatigue. No, it's more denial than anything else. Because as soon as I click the orange publish button, the main purpose of this blog will be complete. I'm home. I have no more day to day adventure to blog about, no more life lessons to report on. Just an American life to resume to.
But before we get into the present, I suppose I should tell you about the past. My past two weeks.
I ate my last dinner with my host family at the village pizzeria. The pizzeria that has "Laura's American cookies" on the menu. The one that treated me to my first frog legs. We ate a nice meal, seated closely to neighbors, who all wished me a safe trip home and expressed their hope to see me again in the future. I had a knot in my stomach throughout the evening and couldn't keep back the tears as we walked out the door. My host sisters enclosed me in their arms and hugged me for awhile and then we walked, hand in hand, to the car.
Before going up stairs that night, I cried again on my host mom's shoulder. We talked about the time we spent together and the things we learned about each other.
I asked them if they would host again, hoping to share my new family with someone else. But they said no, they wouldn't host a second time because, "une perle comme Laura, on n’en trouve pas deux" (A pearl like Laura, you don't come across two), as my host dad put it.
I barely slept that last night. Instead I looked up at my ceiling, memorizing every mark on the walls, every shadow sneaking in through the blinds. I tried to make myself understand that it was my last time sleeping in that bed, but it wasn't easy.
I opened my eyes the next morning and ate my last nutella baguette. I zipped all my suitcases shut, put on the infamous blue AFS shirt and loaded the car with my host family.
I still wasn't ready.
As we pulled out of the driveway and drove past the soccer field where I would watch my boyfriend's games, past the bus stop where I stood every morning, and over the bridge that I canoed under, it still hadn't hit me that it was the last time I would be seeing those places for a long long time.
There was a pretty big elephant in the car as we drove. We talked about everything except what we were all thinking. My host sisters put their heads on my shoulder and we held hands the whole ride there. We got to the train station early and they wrote loving notes on the AFS shirt as we waited.
The tears came back when my train pulled in to the station. My host dad loaded my suitcases on to the train, and I hugged and kissed everyone one last time.
A part of me was happy though. I felt fulfilled. I went through some hard times during my year, but that morning was the end. And it was proof that the rough patch had paid off. It was so worth it to end my year with my real, second family. To have to say goodbye to people that I didn't want to say goodbye to... as twisted as that sounds.
Two hours later, we pulled into the Gare de Lyon in Paris. My sadness morphed to pure excitement when I saw my AFS friends. We talked briefly about our sad mornings full of tears, but in each others understanding and compassionate company, we were okay.
We ate lunch at the station and then filed into a bus for the airport hotel.
We sat through several hours of long talks and discussion. Thank god we were in France and got frequent smoking breaks. (I don't smoke but appreciate the interruptions).
And it's not that I have something against discussion and long talks. I definitely recognize that it is necessary and helpful, especially before a big adjustment like we were about to go through. But I think that given time to talk amongst each other, we would have covered the same ground, and more effectively than with worksheets and questionnaires.
Dinner was served and a slideshow of pictures, taken throughout the year at different AFS events, was projected. Afterwards, we had time to say goodbye to our friends who we wouldn't see the next morning.
These goodbyes were almost as hard as those shared with host families. We were apart of the 2012 AFS kids just like we were a part of our families. And it is even more unlikely that we will all see each other again. We were like a graduating class. All year we'd experienced something together and were now heading off in our own directions. So caps off to the AFS class of '12!!
The next morning, we were herded like sheep out the door and into the airport. Everyone struggling with their suitcases, thuds being heard as they hit stairs after stairs. Problems with overweight suitcases and water bottles full of vodka were solved and at long last, we were at our gate.
Our plane was late, I bought goat cheese for my family, and we drank a round together.
Our plane's delay caused everyone to panic that we'd miss our connecting flight, including the flight attendant. I could barely walk with my suitcases, so running was out of the question. Yet that's exactly what we all did when we reached Zurich. We ran. And ran and ran. I don't think our gates could have been at more opposite ends. Finally, we made it and were allowed on to the plane, the last people before the door closed.
Seven hours later, we land. I touch down in the United States for the first time in 10 months. And everything that I've been trying to get through my head for the past week, become reality.
I'm not sure how I feel, while my friends freak out about seeing their families on the other side of customs.
I got a wonderful surprise from my brother and his girlfriend, who live in the city, before boarding my second flight to D.C.
I made it home safe and sound, and woke up the next morning at seven a.m for a drivers education class. The next ten days are a blur, life is so busy. I'm catching up on a year and adapting to my American life.
I have to go now, I'm driving to the airport to pick of Pauline, my best friend from France whose staying with me for three weeks.
I have so much more to write about, but so so so little time.
I'll make sure to find it, and tell you more about this "I'm home" part of the blog.
For now this little black curser will move up to the top of the page, and click that orange "update" rectangle, and I'll be out from my hiding grounds.
As with my host family and friends in France, we will meet again, you will hear from me, but never under the same circumstance.
This is the end of one story, the start of another.