Sunday, January 22, 2012

Out of Place

   Last week the entire school was abuzz when an adorable kitten got itself stuck in one of the trees in the courtyard! For three days the tree’s trunk was constantly surrounded as students looked up towards the sky and spotted the kitten looking down at them. Classes were disturbed as students watched out the window at boys throwing things up the tree. People pled the school to call the firemen (les pompiers) and they refused, until they gave in, but even then the firemen announced that the cat was up too high!
   Yes, this all really did happen however, the ending of the story is not concrete, so you can believe what you want about what happened to the poor kitten, all I know it that the tree was cat-less Monday morning.
Which brings me to Monday morning.
   Two months before I arrived in France a girl in my town was killed. My host mom was smart to tell me about it on the first day that I was here because the topic is often brought up among my classmates. It’s a terrible story and when it’s brought up, my friends often lighten the mood by jokingly saying that I came to the wrong town in France. They’re going to be using this a lot more because on Monday we were told that a boy in our grade had committed suicide the day before.
   The school was a mess. The library was reserved for kids who needed to escape the cold outside, hot chocolate was served, and classes were optional. Clusters of girls held on to each other as their makeup ran down their faces and boys sat in solitude in the corners of hallways.
   At one of the AFS weekends I went to before I left, a returnee warned us about feeling left out when your friends abroad talk about memories from years past and inside jokes made in your absence. Well, I know this isn’t what she had in mind but I couldn’t have felt more out of place in the midst of all my grieving friends. I was intruding on their time to mourn a friend and no amount of my hugs could comfort them like they could comfort each other. A reality of being an exchange student is being an outsider. There will be times when you feel utterly out of place and awkward and uncomfortable, but with a little luck you make friends that will make you feel as included and helpful as you can be, and in the end that's enough. 


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