Hello From The Other Side

It’s been so long since I last wrote, over a month, the insanity of which is that it feels like I just got back from vacation and was uploading photos of my time with Sofi. I’m not even going to try to recount the past few weeks, because it won’t even skin the surface and will only make me sad to be leaving. Today is the 3rd of December and I leave in less than 17 days back for Hong Kong. This past Monday, I was sitting in my 9 am class, bemoaning the early morning as habit has taken on, and suddenly I felt my stomach turn inside out: one and a half week left of classes, a few days of finals, and we’re off.

I remember leaving for El Camino, sitting on the airplane thinking how fou it was to be leaving on a trip alone for a month; sitting on the plane on my way back to New York after I was finished, my stomach tightened with tears as I realized why I was feeling so lonely – because I had never been travelling alone, all throughout the Camino. The same has happened here; I’ve made friends, been with a wonderful family, seen so many things, and the thought of leaving that is devastating.

So yesterday, I decided, on a complete whim, to take some time off for myself, to be alone. I finally figured out why I love travelling alone so much: I took a BlaBlaCar from Aix to Montpellier, and had the most wonderful conversation in the car with the driver, Brahim, and the other passenger in the car, Romaine. We talked about teaching, languages, ecology, El Camino, time, modernity, everything. It was incredible, meeting people just by chance in this way. This morning I grabbed coffee with Brahim and he took me around to two lovely museums for photography and one that used to be a university laboratory, and we took a walk in the Promenade Peyrou, which was gorgeous, and so tranquil. I spent the day yesterday walking around Montpellier, going to the Musée Fabre, seeing a show, Charlotte Salomon, at a local theatre here, writing, reading, walking, talking to the Japanese lady at the tourist office, meeting new friends and people – that’s the best thing about travelling, and alone. I had been so overwhelmed by this anticipation of leaving, anxiousness of departure, that I had no idea how to enjoy being here, right now. One of the things I have come to learn but will never be able to fully understand, is how the French can maintain friendships without ever really trying to see each other: you can be best friends with someone and have no idea what they’ve been doing for the past two weeks until you see them again when you both happen to be free, and that’s okay. For me, there is a constant anxiety of how to maintain friendships and relationships, and I’m learning to let that go. At least that’s what I’m telling myself that so that one day I will know to come back and think of this still as home.

I would love to be in Montpellier next summer. I have no idea how to make that happen, but I’m sure I will, judging by the fact that apparently badgering people into employing me has worked in the past. It’s ironic because Hong Kong and Yale are both places that I’ve come to think of as homes, but the idea of leaving, of going back to anywhere else is terrifying. I was sitting in the tram just a half hour ago, reading my book on the Mediterranean, when I heard a huge crowd of voices load onto the tram. I received a phone call from a friend, which I picked up and I spoke briefly in French. I looked back and saw a crew of men and women, one of whom was wearing a jacket with the Canadian flag, talking and laughing in English. I turned back a little and saw a little old French men smiling at me, as if to say, I know, those North Americans am I right? I’m not French, let’s just make that clear. But if I thought being stuck between Hong Kong and America was confusing, being here on this hiatus of identity makes it almost impossible to go back to myself, it seems.

I’ve been trying to take more photos. I’ve stopped documenting my own face as much. I’m hoping I remember all this as well as I have experienced it. I am desperately trying to write about it. I am giving myself the space to go back and live it a little more before I go. I am hoping it does not forget me just as I will be holding onto it.