It's mid-November and the weather's starting to get a bit chilly, even down here in sunny Provence. The work load is starting to pick up so students are forced to spend more of there time indoors studying and less outside playing or traveling. Germs are hitching rides on that winter wind from the north, so folks are popping vitamine C tablets by the dozen and even some of the hard core cafe-drinkers are beginning to order tea instead and maybe even move their morning newspaper read indoors. I popped on my facebook account and read at least 6 miserable facebook statuses from friends studying abroad or just studying out of state. In other words, it's that awkward season in between fall break and Christmas when homesickness lurks around every corner in every foreign place in this not-like-home world.
Meanwhile, I'm writing a paper for my French language class where I have to define and give examples of "rite of passage" in French. How are these two events related, one might ask? Well aside from the fact that all the conditions are right for mopping and reflecting on life in general, I can't help but notice some similarities between living away from home and so many of the rites of passage I've noted for this paper. The shock of encountering death for the first time, the intense joy and at the same time feeling of separatness from that past life that may come with marriage, the uncertainty of retirement, the feeling of walking on clouds when one experience's her first love, and then the crushing blow of that first heartbreak; I'm pretty sure I've experienced all of those feelings in the three months that I've been living abroad.
What conclusion can I come to about this revelation? What advice for other folks going abroad? I'm not sure that I have either. If anything, being in a place where you haven't mastered the language can offer moments of quiet and reflection. Perhaps that's why I've found that, even moreso than before, I alway want to retreat to the hills, the country, the open spaces. Though the views are different from the Appalachains, the Provençal peaks, le Côte d'Azur, the Austrian and Italian Alps, they're all worlds within the same world. I recognize the Calanques and the Italian Alps, though I'd never before climbed them. While "les trucs d'homme" -- the language, the traffic, the beauracracy, the cultural differences, the foods -- may present themselves in the towns and cities, the countryside holds the same familiarity. We still speak the same language.
Since it's the season of "home," I'm sharing some images of special places that I've encountered. They fill me with exactly that feeling of being home and make me feel a little closer to my own.
The first time I looked down and saw this beach in Portugal from atop a cliff, it literally took my breath away. Portugal does some amazing cliffs.
We had two days in Munich, but did we stay in the city for both of them? Not a chance! On our second day we trained out to a little village which was the farthest stop on the city metro. There we walked through woods and over hills until we reached a 500 year old Monastery. This was our view. The walk through woods and sheep pastures alone was well worth the trip, but then to seal the deal we had the most amazing meal at the monastery's tavern, complete with giant pretzles, good beer and cheersing germans.
Poppies along a ruined wall in Corinth, Greece. Poppies anywhere in the world are the flowers of remembrance; perhaps that's why I was so struck by the poppies in Greece.
This picture could only be of the Calanques. There simply are not words to describe that color blue, or the chalky translucense of the rock along the cliffs. I spent a perfectly happy day with Frances walking the Calanques around the gorgeous coastal village of Cassis.
Another image that needs no description: it's simply Shropshire. A lovely hike with Luke's family... lovely, that is, until we got to the top of Mount Caradoc and got caught in a wind storm. I'm sure I saw some of those very sam sheep tossed into the air like cotton balls.
Saint Victoire from the west. Simply Provence. We walked the foothills underneath Victoire when France and I both had been feeling a bit homesick and moppy. It was the perfect cure, or at least, the perfect pick up. After seeing Mont St. Victoire and her countryside under such blue skies and sunshine, it was impossible to look at our own woes through anything but sunny eyes.
A photo album of images of home from around the world wouldn't be complete without one of my real home: the people and the mountains.