I arrived in France approximately one year ago, on August 1, 2013. Actually, I landed in Luxembourg but quickly drove myself in an enormous Land Rover across the border and into Metz, France. I chose not to commemorate that specific date this year mainly due to my continually precarious visa situation. Happily, today the precariousness has finally been stabilized and I can announce that my visa has officially been renewed for another year! Huzzah and Hazooooooh!!! As I have stated repeatedly, the visa process slash onion-like layers of French bureaucracy can be tedious and mind-blowingly evil. As an homage to the famous French existentialist, Jean-Paul Sartre, I frequently think of his play "No Exit" when waiting for answers and working my way through confusing red tape. Either that, or Dante's "Inferno"... I feel sure that there was and/or at least should have been a chamber of French bureaucracy amidst the 9 circles of hell.
That being said, I am free for another year! And now taking a moment to reflect on this past 12 months of utter ridiculousness. I spent last August in the south of France, sometimes seeing more of the inner workings of a French family than need be, but also having the opportunity to experience amazing beauty, nature, and a true sense of the French spirit of relaxation. I spent two semesters at La Sorbonne, a school internationally revered for its scholarly prestige. And while my teachers seemed maniacally obsessed with French grammar to the point where I learned more than most natives use in a lifetime causing mental overload and inability to actually execute in live-action discourse, I wouldn't take back the experience for anything. I taught English to a wide variety of private students and finally began a new trade of Parisian tour guiding. I traveled several times and had several visitors. It was indeed the year of the British Isles, going to London three times, Ireland (almost) three times, and Scotland once. I also went home to the States for Christmas and got my fix of love and laughter from those who know me best. I had friends and family wander around Paris with me, allowing me amazing moments of nostalgia and new memories to share. I saw monuments, museums, the Moulin Rouge, ate at cafés and delicious restaurants, and certainly became a relative connoisseur of rosé and eclairs. I met a vast amount of people, some only fleetingly while others around to stay for good. I had infinite new adventures, countless disappointments, learning/growing experiences up the wazoo... And of course I became a "Lady" of the Scottish Highlands.
The next year will continue to be a year of travel and amazement. I complete my year of the British Isles next week when I go to Ireland for the third time, then off to Budapest/Vienna/Prague the first week of September. After that I begin school again (this time somewhere completely new) and will continue to teach and tour guide about town. I already have some visitors scheduled, a trip to Barcelona on the horizon, and plan to be back in the States for Christmas. In addition, I have a slew of creative ideas I'd like to put into action on top of my dear soul-ramblings. I have no idea what to expect because every single day is a new mystery to be solved, a new priceless gem to be discovered. As I embark on a second year abroad I take with me all the moments, the education, the inspiration, the spectacle, and the people from the past year. I will never be able to repay the support, the love, and the good will from those who have proven their undying devotion to such an absurd little fairy sprite from Connecticut.