One of the many things I love about France is that my birthday is a public holiday. November 1, known as All Saint’s Day to Catholics in the U.S. and El Día de los Muertos in Mexico, is Toussaint in France. And for Toussaint, French schools close for 10 days. I’ve been on break since October 23, and will be until November 4th. If you’re wondering whether I’ve been doing a lot of traveling in Europe during this time, the answer is no lol. As I don’t have proper long-stay residency status yet, I can’t legally leave the country. So I’ve been mostly in the area, getting to know Orléans and my fellow assistants better, filling out French paperwork, and working on my Princeton in Latin America application (I’m actually in the library right now lol). I do plan to go to Paris for my birthday, though, and stay with some friends that I met during my junior year abroad. Last night, I invited a few new friends over, and we watched Hors de Prix (Priceless), a funny romantic comedy with Audrey Tautou. I pushed my bed up into couch position, we rested my computer on a chair, and we watched the movie over a bottle of 2€ wine and chips. Classy.
On Wednesday, some friends and I visited Blois, a cute little town tucked between Tours and Orléans, which has a castle where seven kings and ten queens resided. Anne of Brittany, Catherine de Medici, and Louis XII were amongst them; and, Louis XIV was born in the castle. The castle has 4 different types of architecture, because it was repeatedly built up and torn down again. When you’re in the courtyard, you can really see the striking difference of the exposed, spiraling Renaissance stairs juxtaposed with the 17th century classical façade of the adjoining wing, which in turn clashes with the gothic style of the Louis XII wing.
I’ve been to Blois before, during the summer of 2007 when I studied abroad in Tours through my university program. A tour of the castles in the Loire region was included in the program, and we visited Blois. However, at the time, I had no idea what our tour guide was saying. It was my first time in France, everything was so new, and French was still so incredibly hard. It was nice to be able to come again, to remember my first experiences in France, and to understand it better: both what the tour guide was saying about Blois Castle, and what my first experiences abroad really meant to me. In Paulo Coelho’s book Eleven Minutes, Maria says that for Brazilians, it is bad luck to meet a person in the same place where you first met them, because it could signify a close to the relationship. When I went back to Blois on Wednesday, I felt as though I were saying goodbye to the town, and goodbye to France. I know that this sounds ironic because it’s the beginning of my stay here, and sentimental because I’m quoting Coelho, but it’s true.
I believe that this will be my last long stay here in France. I really like this country, and I adore the language even more. But I think that this chapter of my life is coming to an end, and that it’s time to move on something new. Don’t get me wrong- there are things to France that I still don’t get, and things that I will probably never understand. But I am ready to start working in a developing country. I’m ready to put my major and certificate skills to use. I’m ready to- as Gandhi said- “be the change you wish to see in the world.” I appreciate the opportunity to observe, first hand, the social welfare systems in France, and to compare it to other countries. I appreciate the opportunity to make new friends, have new adventures, and to strengthen my French. But in April, I know I will be ready to say goodbye to the country where I spent my first time abroad. It will be time.