For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth. Colossians 1:16

Friday, August 23, 2013

One thing that gave me great comfort in France was going to my favorite coffee shop.  I would bring music, though their selection was always stellar, books, any work I needed to get done, and even my sketchbook on occasion.  What I love about that kind of a day is that, while not necessarily universal, it can be carried out in any of the places in which I have lived.  So, here I sit at a beloved coffee shop in a setting that is familiar and I feel less overwhelmed than I have been over the also few weeks.

Between the jet lag, the cultural differences, and being surrounded by my native tongue (you wouldn't think it would be as exhausting as it is), my head hasn't really stopped spinning since the plane landed .  On Friday, I intentionally didn't plan anything other than cleaning out my closet and unpacking.  My sister and brother-in-law came into town that night, and we just hung out before the whirlwind of activity began on Saturday.  On Saturday morning, I was reunited with two of my dear friends that I haven't seen in two years.  Holy reunion, Batman!  Sarah and I basically didn't stop screaming and jumping as we were hugging each other for about two minutes.  It was so surreal to see her and Brad again, not to mention meet their son!

After that reunion came the family reunion of the day: with all of my siblings, siblings-in-law, mom, and a couple friends who are basically family anyway, we went to see my Dad's show.  From there, we hung out at IKEA (frustrating flashback there) and then went to my brother's show.  On Saturday, the overwhelming emotions were nothing in comparison to being culturally overwhelmed.  What do I mean by this?  On Saturday morning, I went to the open air market in town.  This was a regular occurrence in my life pre-France as well as in France.  Here was the main difference: I am able to tune out the French background conversations because I likely wouldn't understand all of them anyway.  My ear has been tuned, however, to listening for English-particularly the American accent.  All of a sudden, my ears were soaking in every conversation, every word, every call to passersby, and I didn't know what to do with that.  I was so overstimulated, but I did get to speak in French with the French nuns who run a pastry booth, which was wonderful. 

Throughout the week, which included my first trip to Six Flags, going out to my friend's like house for a day, and many other reunions, my jet lag eased up and I'm pretty much used to speaking in English again.  Sometimes I do use French words with an American accent, thinking its the same word and it turns out that I just sound like a crazy person.  Oh well, that happens! 

When I first started this post a week ago, I was far more nostalgic and overwhelmed, which is why I didn't post it right away.  God is so good and I am so blessed to rediscover and create new relationships in multiple countries. 

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Once again, I find myself at Heathrow, an airport I know fairly well at this point.  There is the standard mix of characters and people from different countries: little kids wearing Angry Bird hats, a South African sports team, the same French families that were on my previous flight, a group of young students wearing fluorescent yellow shirts, and people from every walk of life.
I'm running on about three hours of sleep, but now am wide awake thanks to a short nap from Lyon and the coffee they served on the flight.  My guess is that the 9 hour flight back home will knock me out though.
I really do love international airports.  Not the security checks, mile-long lines, and the stress of rushing to your gate, of course, but just sitting with a cross-section of the world.  No matter how many places you've lived, languages you speak, or contacts you have, you can always learn more.  I think that knowing other cultures and appreciating them really helps to understand the heart of God in a new way.  When God created man, He made him in His image, and when you embrace another culture, you embrace another facet of God's image that you may not have known before.  That is one reason why I enjoy traveling, and also why I love airports.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Anticipated Changes

Living in another culture is always going to be challenging, but I think the bigger challenge is returning to your own after living somewhere else.  Here is a list of what I'm anticipating will be the biggest challenges, and also a list of what I'm really stoked to return to.

1. Shaking hands or hugging instead of kissing people hello and goodbye.
-I've gotten so used to kissing people in greeting that it actually is a shock for me to hug people, and I'm probably the world's biggest hug addict there is. So, my apologies to all of you Stateside in advance if you see my face rapidly approaching yours when you say hello.
2. Really long meals.

-In France, sharing a meal is not something done out of necessity; it is something done out of community. If you are invited to share a meal with someone, it is expected to reciprocate the invitation. These meals are not the 45 minute (if that) meal at a restaurant where they seve you immediately and clear dishes before you've finished that last bite of toast.  Yesterday, I invited friends over for lunch, and they didn't leave until 6 p.m. It's not like we were eating that whole time, we were talking, laughing, joking, and just enjoying each other's company.  Not to mention, of course, playing card games.
3. Driving.
-I have not driven a car in a year. For one reason, French roads terrify me, and for another there's not always a need for a car. You can take the buses, trams, or just walk anywhere in town.  Sure, it takes a little longer, but that just means you have the chance to enjoy the scenery instead of being stuck on the autoroute.

4. Speaking in English.
-I already have a hard time remembering what certain words are in English, and now I'll be in English all the time.  There are certain nuances and phrases I use in French that really do not translate into English (and vice versa), so we'll see what bizarro things will come out of my mouth.  Plus, for the majority of the year, when I have spoken English, it's been with British folk.  If I do say something that sounds like a British term, I am not trying to be like this (best quality I could find, apologies), certain words have just crept into my vocabulary.

Now, for a list of things that I am looking forward to:
1. Free wifi.
-My favorite coffee shop here has it, but it's hard to find.
2. Driving.
-Yes. I know I said it would be a challenge, but I'm really looking forward to not walking/riding the bus for 40 minutes each way to go grocery shopping.
3. Baseball.
-They neither play nor watch it here, and I'm excited for doing both.
4. Fully understanding worship music.
-As much as I do love French worship music, my vocabulary does not include every word so sometimes I don't know what I'm actually singing.

Please have patience while I adjust back into the American culture, and while I adjust to living away from my friends and family here. It's not at all that I am not excited to see those I love in the States, it's just very hard when your heart is in different countries.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

One Week

Seriously. How did this happen?  I have been in France for 45 weeks, and now I have one week left. I can't believe how quickly time has passed.  In all honesty, it doesn't seem real that in seven days I will be on the lengthy journey back to the States.  A friend of mine said, when she returned to the States, that it seemed almost as if her time in France had been like a dream, which often happens when you return to familiarity after a time away.  Not that my life here can be compared to his journey, but I am reminded of what Frodo Baggins says in The Return of the King after he returns to Bag End: "How do you pick up the threads of an old life? How do you go on, when in your heart you begin to understand... there is no going back?" 

Over this last year, there have been many things that have changed, both in my life in France and in my life in America.  There is no going back to "normal life" when the definition of normal has changed, and that is as it should be.  There are moments that you know immediately will be significant when they happen, but then there are days when nothing seems to happen.  However, it is often in those days of the seemingly mundane that your character is shaped.  I am so thankful that my year has not been "normal", that I have been challenged and encouraged in the ways that I have been. How great a joy it has been to live here and be with all of those whom I have grown to love so deeply and to learn a fraction more of the character of God by experiencing life in another part of the world He created.