I returned to the U.S. from France back in May 2015, and now I’m finally getting around to bringing closure to that adventure on this blog. In previous posts I’ve already talked about various experiences and trips I’ve had while being based in Montpellier, France as an English language Teaching Assistant. This post will touch on the period from February 2015 – May 2015.
After I returned back to Montpellier from my short trip to Nigeria, I had to scramble to find a new place to live. Roommate drama had forced me to move out of my previous housing right before traveling to Nigeria. Thankfully, an American friend in Montpellier had graciously allowed me to leave all of my stuff in her apartment until I found new permanent housing. By God’s grace, a couple weeks after returning from Nigeria I found a living arrangement that was better in every respect for my last month in Montpellier. Thank you Jesus for praying aunties who have friends of friends that are renting out a room. lol
In between finding a new place to live, moving, and teaching English at three schools, I met some more amazing people and got the chance to hang out with the ones I already knew in Montpellier. I don’t want to bore you with too many details, but just know that I was blessed! Some of the highlights were going to the zoo with a fellow American assistant, being invited to dinner by a student’s family, taking a day trip with a colleague and fellow English assistants to Aix-en-Provence, participating in an Agape (also known as CRU) French Bible study with a few young ladies, celebrating Easter with an American friend and missionary family, serving as an English judge for a “high school musical” foreign language singing competition, participating in a school field trip to the movie theaters to see Selma, eating an English brunch prepared by my students in one of the school’s restaurants, and having sendoff dinners with friends and colleagues alike.
After my last day of work and many goodbyes, I packed all of my stuff and took the train up to Lyon. I relaxed for a few days and then flew to London to hang out with friends I had met in Montpellier. We did the tourist thing as well, and I FINALLY was able to check out Primark to see what all the rave was about.
I then flew to Bordeaux to hang out with another friend and his girlfriend. After my short visit I carpooled back to Lyon. (Side note: I HIGHLY encourage those traveling in France to use covoiturage, also known as blablacar. It was the cheapest form of transport that I found, and I had a good experience every time.
Once back in Lyon, I met up with a friend’s former roommate in Montpellier who is originally from the Lyon area, and Abena even came to visit for a few days! It was her first time in Lyon, so we visited a couple of the main attractions.
After Abena headed back to Spain, I had a few days to tie remaining loose ends and prepare for my trip back to the U.S. Looking back over my time in Montpellier (and abroad) I can say that between the highs and lows I had a truly enriching experience. I’m truly happy that I decided to take this opportunity. Here are some overall lessons I learned from my time in Montpellier, France:
- Frenchies leave the house in sweats too
- People (read: French and other non-Americans) liked to tell me about myself and the United States in general. Thanks for pointing out that Americans leave the house in sweat pants and athletic wear, but don’t forget that French people do it too. I cannot count on my hands the number of people I saw in sweats.
- Apparently Americans don’t speak any languages other than English and we live off of McDonald’s. (In other words ignorance is universal)
- It’s impossible to escape one’s roots (I went to France and ended up being surrounded by Americans and Nigerians!)
- Don’t expect to have local friends. (see above)
- Normalement doesn’t mean normally.
- It’s a faux ami my friends, do not be fooled. I would equate this to the ambiguous “inchallah” or “by God’s grace” some people like to throw around instead of saying yes and committing to it.
- Generosity is universal.
- I can’t even begin to list all of the ways people of various nationalities poured into my life throughout my stay in Montpellier.
Additionally, I felt like I couldn’t conclude without highlighting some of the bizarre things I encountered in this unique city. Below are a few things that could happen to you as well. Some of them I wouldn’t wish on anyone.
When in Montpellier…
- …the tramway driver may abruptly stop the tram in which you are riding, walk all the way through the tram to the last car, from that last car drive the tram several feet back in the direction you just came, walk all the way back to the fist car, and continue driving off in the correct direction like nothing happened.
- …while you and your friend are trying to buy a tram fare card, a random man may come up to you in the guise of asking a question only to grab the 10 euro bill from your friend’s hand and due to your friend’s super good reflexes he may stumble backwards without the money in tow. After this failed attempted robbery the worthless non-burglar may hang around and try to have a conversation dismissing the fact that he just tried to rob you and your friend with “C’est bon. T’as toujours ton argent.” He may also stay in the same area trying to rob other innocent bystanders only to be hindered by your friend frequently shouting out “Attention!” to the unsuspecting would-be victims to which the non-burglar replies “Mais c’est bon. On a fini là.” This back and forth may continue for another 10 minutes until you and your friend get on the next tram when it arrives.
- …you may casually be walking through the St. Roch park with your delectable Amorino ice cream cone only to have a crazy man come out of nowhere and try to take your ice cream from you. As in his hands may almost be touching you and your ice cream. After throwing out “Mais t’es malade ou quoi?!” between sucking your teeth and backing away from the man, you may be able to walk around him and continue on your way home. Tchwww.
- …you may be out dancing downtown with your friends only to hear the DJ play “Personally” by P-Square in between the techno, pop, and salsa music. And of course you shake body well well before he changes the track. 😉
- …you may be chilling at a Spanish tapas bar with a friend when the bar owner decides to cut off the Spanish music and play “Azonto” by Fuse ODG. 😀