Post-France Visa Stamp, Pre-TAPIF
After years of studying, an agonizing six-month wait for the for the ultimate acceptance letter (including my initial waitlisted status), an impatient summer and a shockingly tearful week of goodbyes, my experience as an Assistant de Langue teaching English in Bordeaux, France is here..
It was 24 grueling hours of traveling via plane from Kansas City to Denver, Denver to Paris, capping it all off with a train ride from Paris to Bordeaux. All stops were peppered with interminable layovers and crippling anxiety about traveling 4,000 miles with 100 plus pounds of luggage, all by myself. The skin on my fingers was raw and my collar bones bruised from hauling heavy bags across busy airports and train stations, but I made it to Bordeaux in one piece.
There's this thing about traveling that you always "know" because you hear it, but you don't actually know until you experience it; it's usually scary and uncertain and it is almost always uncomfortable and inconvenient. Seriously, just don't travel if you won't stand for a little annoyance here and there.
I'm a hopeless romantic when it comes to traveling, I spend my free time lusting over all the dream cities I plan to check off my bucket list. So, I chose to re-read the late and great Anthony Bourdain's A Cook's Tour on the plane to inspire my excitement and hopefully mute my doubts. If Tony could stomach snake wine in Vietnam as an aperitif and a dinner of sheep testicles in Morocco, I am sure that I can hack this whole living-in-another-country thing.
Though I am still a week away from starting my official contract as a teaching assistant at Lycée Elie Faure (lycée meaning high school for you non-francophiles) the sheer weight of what I have yet to accomplish here is daunting. I came to France two weeks before the start of my contract to knock out the tedious tasks that accompany living in France on a work visa. Things like setting up my french phone, opening a french bank account and finding a place to live are all painstakingly more difficult here. The French love their bureaucratic processes.
I'll be honest and say that so far I have accomplished only one of those three tasks, and it was by far the most straightforward. Yes, I have a french phone number and it's neat. Now I can actually make phone calls in addition to the hundreds of emails I'm writing everyday, begging some nice French person to let me be their fun American roommate, or sublease their closet-sized studio to me, all to get no response. Rien!
After a stressful week of nothing I've acquiesced that, while I have lost some battles, I am still fighting this war. Luckily, my normal resolute stubbornness and pride are a non-issue here, I'll take help wherever I can get it. I wasted no times saying yes when one of the kind, English teachers at my school offered to house me while I continued my search. I can breathe a little easier knowing I'm not doomed for the streets when my Airbnb reservation expires in a few days.
With un peu plus more peace of mind, I am finally luxuriating in the Parisian-esque facades of Bordeaux centre, the many fountains and towers dotted throughout the city, and company of other Assistants as they begin to arrive in Bordeaux.
Yesterday on a typical eight-mile walk around the city, I rendez-vous-ed with two other assistants, also working near Bordeaux centre. I caught my first glimpses of the Jardin Public, the Miroir d'Eau, the Porte Cailhau, and supped on a fresh seafood pasta along the Garonne River at Sicilia in Bocca. Okay, Bordeaux... I see you, I can get excited now.