It doesn't seem like that long ago I stepped off the plane, confused and deliriously excited, in Charles de Gaulle Airport.
At the same time, it seems like so much has happened in the span of two months, it feels like more than two months.
In these two months, I have probably felt more emotions than I have in two years of high school. I have probably learned more about myself and about life, too. That's exchange, though. Being confused, being proud, being depressed, being in awe, feeling all of these emotions and emotions you don't know the name of with a higher intensity than normal. But that is how we grow; sometimes, we have to be uncomfortable with who we are or what is going on around us in order to learn how to truly be ourselves. Nothing can compare to exchange. Nothing can replace the lessons I have learned, nothing can replace the experiences I have shared with some of the most interesting people I have ever met. France isn't anywhere near perfect, but I love it all the same. I'm not going to say I never want to leave (there is too much of the world I need to still see), but for this moment, for this year, it is where I am meant to be.
Since I probably have to report on my progress with the language, I will do it here. I still can't express myself fluently and say everything I want to say, but I do have thoughts that are in French. For the most part, I understand what the teachers are saying (though not necessarily the meaning of the content). The important thing though, is I can feel in French. The words people say don't just go to my head, they go to my heart as well. It's like when my parents back in Oregon reprimand me in Tagalog; it goes straight to mon coeur/yung puso ko. French isn't so much just a beautiful language to listen to anymore, but it has become a language that my emotions comprehend.
Brushing all that philosophical, non-tangible stuff aside, I turned 17 on October 25 (the excuse I used to justify my excessive spending this month)!
And on the same day, my host grandma turned 90. HOW COOL IS THAT.
Because I adore her, I'd like to write about her a bit.
At the age of 90, she is still a peppy, cheerful lady. She's smaller than me, and if you know me, I am only 5 feet/152 cm tall, which is short for a 17-year-old. She goes up and down the stairs everyday, no problem. She talks A LOT. She used to be a doctor. She tells me that at her age, music and flowers are what make living pleasant. Her name is Madeleine, and here is a picture of the two of us on our birthday.
I would really like to be like her when I'm 90!
My host family surprised me with a homemade chocolate cake with sparklers on the night of my birthday. It was scrumptious!
Another thing I did for my birthday was go to McDonald's with some friends. I had a McBaguette. Yes, that is a thing here. I love clichés.
One of the things I have come to realize is how important the piano is to my life. I knew that I would appreciate it better after having gone a few weeks without it, but I didn't realize how much it would help me get through tough days. I've been playing since I was 4, so it has been there for as long as I can remember. It was there during my childhood in the Philippines. It was there when my life changed after I moved to the United States with my family. And now once again, my life has drastically changed, and everything is strange and different, but wherever there is a piano, I can feel at home. Sitting on the bench, listening to the sounds my fingers create, the process of it being the same no matter where in the world I am. The process having always been the same for as long as my living memory persists. Some things never change, and that is one essential part of life.
You may or may not know that Chopin is one of my favorite composers, and some of my favorite pieces are the Polonaises. A little thing about Chopin - he was Polish, and was extremely patriotic with a strong passion for his country, hence the Polonaises. However, he came to France, and he never went back to Poland. Posthumously, his heart was taken to Warsaw, by his request. Until this week, I had never met any Polish people, nor did I ever hear Polish being spoken. But my class welcomed some Polish high schoolers for the week, and I made a good Polish friend. She loves foreign languages as much as I do! She taught me phrases in Polish, and I in turn taught her phrases in Tagalog, all with a basis of French. Now that I have met someone from Poland, I love Chopin and the Polonaises even more. In April, it is my class who will visit Poland; I can't wait. I can't even imagine the emotions I will have and how much more appreciation I will have for the piano, Chopin, and the Polonaises. This is Natalia, my friend in Poland.
These past two months have been full of learning, appreciation, memories, and heightened emotions for me. I can't anticipate what'll happen the next few months, but that's part of it. Stay tuned for more updates later!