Aero: Emma (Reno) Bondi – France 2015 – My Expectations
What to expect in a foreign country. I wish I could ask myself this question the same way I did four years ago, before my first trip to France, when the culture shock was greater and the world bigger in my young eyes. There will undoubtedly still be a culture shock, since it has been quite some time since my travels abroad, but I now have a premise of what to look forward to.
Living in France seemed like a fairytale. The sun was shining, flowers were in bloom, the day was quiet and peaceful. I would stand at the window in the guest room of my host family’s home and take this all in. I couldn’t believe people actually live in this…. tranquility. There was a farm next door and a church down the block. It seemed so removed, and yet a thirty minute drive could get us into the city. This was life in Normandy.
Paris was rather different. It reminded me of New York City; a place I only like occasionally and in select parts. Paris, unlike it’s perception in the movies, is not very charming. Sure, it has it’s nooks and cranny’s of unspoiled quaintness, but those aren’t part of your tour. The sidewalks are crowded with tourists, shopping and taking photos and in general being in the way. Vendors and street salesmen of North African decent speak in a broken English, eyes darting from one potential victim to the next. They flock the feet of the Eiffel Tower; a now corrupted beauty of gift-shops, tour groups, and restaurants inside. Her own people dare not venture within her grasp, the headache alone too much of a hazard. She stands alone, a pinnacle of sadness.
To live and breathe in France did not come as much of a difference to me. I functioned the same as I would back home, but speaking and thinking en français instead (which, once you’re immersed in, is fairly easy to do).
There was a bit of a technology gap in France circa 2011, but I in no way found this a draw back. It allows one to disconnect from the soul-sucking gadgets you now rely to heavily upon, and connect with what you came to do: travel and discover. Not every one of the host kids had cellphones, and if they did they were rather up to date. I assume that presently, everyone is equipped with an iPhone (or at the very least, an Android), similar to the United States. Perhaps more WiFi hotspots, but who knows (honestly on the fence about whether I do or don’t want that to be true).
‘Laissez-faire’ doesn’t even begin to describe the French school system. Man do those kids have the high life. I remember one of the days, the teacher was out sick; instead of having a substitute, they just didn’t have class. Shenanigans such as that would never have happened in American schools. French classes have a relaxed atmosphere, rather easy going. Their school week is different as well. Wednesday afternoons are set aside of extracurricular activities, and Saturday morning class is held in lieu for this accommodation. I expect there to be lecture style classes still with note-taking and assignment reading as usual.
A world without English is the same yet entirely different. The people, the lifestyle, the communities, are all inherently the same; and yet they are nothing alike. I wish this were easier to explain. Because in my mind, the French are wildly different from Americans yet I found them comforting and familiar. Though English is my first language, I don’t find it all that pleasing. Being surrounded by French twenty-four-seven is a struggle for non-native speakers; struggle to conjugate, struggle to comprehend, struggle to understand. Living in a world without the English language as an English speaker is a nightmare for those unsaddled from audacity and adventure. A world completely devoid of English could be a beautiful thing, in my opinion. A world where not one language dominates, but all are equal. Language learning wouldn’t be so sidelined; it’d be a primary educational requirement. Our world could expand in a cultural way. Or at least, it could in theory.
Emma (Reno) Bondi