For me, normal is the dining room queue, laundry slots, and sweltering humidity, among many other not-so-normal things.
So my fantastic hosts in Paris laughed at me almost constantly about the things I got excited about. Things like shelling peas while solving the worlds problems and then turning on Rolland Garros and napping on the couch.
I love that I love 'normal' things in a way that most others don't. Things like cheese. We don't get that much on the ship and what we do isn't a legitimately fermented and absolutely delicious Camembert that wouldn't even be sold in the States because it's not pasteurized. That divine specimen was surrounded by five other varieties that were equally fantastic. Accompanied by a still-warm-from-the-bakery French baguette and a glass of vin rouge, and I am in heaven.
My 28-or-so hours in Paris were absolutely heavenly, if you haven't figured that out already.
It was a welcome break from Africa, but especially my travel to Paris - I woke up on Wednesday at 3:30 with a horrendous migraine and honestly wasn't sure I would be able to fly. Of all the days...
But many many thanks to the fantastic nurses that are my roommates and friends, they drugged me up and packed me up and sent me off to the airport where I slept it off for much of the waiting time and subsequent flight. Thanks friends, I owe you big time.
So by the time I arrived in Paris I was able to embrace the joy that is a crisp, cool, sunny Parisian morning, free of diesel fumes and dead fish and where every day is a good hair day thanks to the lack of humidity. My hosts were lovely, as previously mentioned, and I fully embraced the French cultural requirements of cheese and wine.
Yesterday I hopped on a train and enjoyed the six hour journey to Biarritz, my home for the next four weeks. I'm attending a local French language institute for intensive French lessons, many thanks to Mercy Ships for supporting my tuition and costs and the Lutheran Church of the Good Shepherd Endowment Fund (Duluth, MN, USA) for the educational grant to cover the rest of the costs not covered by Mercy Ships. My French level is functional, but not fantastic, especially for the amount of interaction I have with the government and local partners, where bush French isn't quite so appropriate.
So, for the next four weeks I'm immersing myself in French, and hoping to improve my fluency and vocabulary. Expect limited social media and blogging from me, I really don't want to be hopping back and forth between English and French if I can at all help it. I'll probably limit my emails/facebook/blogging to one day a week; I recognize the privilege it is to be an immersion student in such an incredibly beautiful place and culture, and have no intention of wasting the opportunity!
Why Biarritz? The combination of mountains (Pyrenees) and the surfing beaches on the Atlantic, of course :) Yes, I'm in school, but I also fully intend to enjoy myself and practice my French in various social environments. I love my life on the ship, but also fully intend to embrace the fact that normal life here is about as different from normal life there as you can get.
Bon voyage, Africa Mercy, may the seas be kind to you.