This is the actual conversation I had with the Very Serious Border Control Agent at Logan Airport on Sunday night:
VSBCA: Where are you coming from?
Me: I just arrived on a flight from London but I’ve been in France for a month.
VSBCA: What were you doing in France?
Me: I was completing an intensive language immersion program.
VSBCA: The French language?
And…with that, I was back in the USA! I didn’t want to spend my night in a windowless interrogation room, so I thought it best NOT to offer a snarky response about how I was actually learning Mandarin but I just couldn’t resist the lure of the south of France in the summer.
The past few days have been a bit of a whirlwind – some dear friends are staying with us and they arrived in Boston only a few hours before I did. I unpacked quickly and still have a lot of little things to clean up. Laundry has been done, photos organized and shared. I’m keeping my tourist mentality and putting it to use closer to home, enjoying some relaxing time in downtown Boston.
The challenge for me now is the same one I’ve faced many times before: how do I integrate what I’ve learned and what I experienced into my “normal” life? If past performance is any indicator, this is not something at which I excel. I have a tendency to hold on to the memory of an experience, and to attempt to relive it, or memorialize it.
As I wrote that, I heard the voice of a high school theology teacher, reminding us that, “If something doesn’t grow, it dies”. That’s the trick here; twofold, in this case. First, there is the very practical challenge of continuing to develop my French skills. I feel like I have good plans in place, but I need to be aggressive in carrying them out, and dedicate time for studying. (It helps that it’s Tour de France time; I’ve been listening to race updates and commentary en français thanks to the RTL Tour podcasts.)
The other challenge is to continue to build the relationships that I was so fortunate to make while in Villefranche. The intensity of the program and the shared experience lends itself to fast friendships, but I know that there were more lasting bonds created. That said, we all know firsthand how our best intentions fall away in the face of the rush and busyness of everyday life. So much as I’ll do with my studying, I will be intentional in continuing to grow these friendships.
I know it’s only July, but I can’t help but think of a favorite poem that I re-read at the start of each new year. “…I’m going to stay alert, reach out…I’m going to practice every day…”. Oh, just go read the whole thing. I promise it’s worth the click.