I am once again in the train station of Toulouse, not quite two weeks after my entry "Reflections on what's next." Now I know! And it's been good! Although not without periods of angst and hunger. So far the impetus to seek out more French language has not been the criteria that's yielded the easiest connection. But hey, I came here to muck around a bit, clarify my intentions, right?
So here's what I learned: 1) It's hard work to understand French spoken by French people! Which has heightened my desire to study the language, to listen more to recordings, to practice reading and writing, to get coaching on my speech, so that it flows more easily into my head and out of my mouth. I'd love to sound like some of the train announcements -- picture an elegant, mature French woman with excellent diction and clear direction. This is not something I will accomplish on this trip, and at this point I'm okay with that: My overall travel fatigue has left me more at ease with taking the easy road and speaking English when my host can, too.
2) Just because I'm in France doesn't mean I'm eating well -- either because my host doesn't keep much food in the house, or doesn't have a refrigerator or even running water, or because it's near torture for me to wait until 10pm, or later, for dinner. (This is why I have steered clear of visiting Spain!) Not all of the bread, or cheese, or meat, in France is good. I've even heard it's possible to have bad wine, although perhaps because of my ignorant taste buds I cannot yet corroborate that!
3) Those amended desires just keep being born, since those experiences do, too. I'll paste below a journal entry two days before I was determined to move on from my last host's place, when I was all aglow in appreciation. Not to say that I am now without appreciation, far from it! It just changed, into looking ahead to how much I wanted to appreciate clean hands, a break from bread, clear energy. (Which I totally got!)
And now, I am again waiting for a train, amused and pleased at how in the last two weeks I've eaten the best ever white-chocolate-raspberry cake baked in a wood-fired oven, made steady progress on a French novel, weeded garden beds of strawberries, vegetables, and herbs, helped build the frame of an outdoor kitchen, looked down the sheer side of an enormous dam on Le Canal du Midi-Pyrénées, swum and soaked in thermal waters, and met people from Scotland, Russia, England, Tunisia, Australia, and Estonia, as well an authentic Basque descendent, the last of a lineage from the 11th century. I shared some spiritual yoga with a new old friend, read Tarot, admired a rainbow over Mount Bugarach, passed through a psychic barrier at Rennes-le-Chateau, savored a chausson de pommes* that made the ones in Paris taste like chausson de vieux chaussettes**, played table tennis and climbed a jungle gym. I even ran into people I knew, recognizing outside a Carcassonne giftshop the Australian couple I'd met in a café in Rennes-les-Bains. Small world!
Not bad, eh?!
* "chausson" translates as slipper, and is a pastry the shape of a slipper, filled with baked apples.
** slipper filled with old socks!!
Journal entry, May 27:
I am having a really good time here with Anne. It's a primitive, Gypsy set-up. I'm thankful for the life experiences that have made it possible for me to acclimate comfortably to a scenario like this! It's a change, but I can handle it. I like giving myself the opportunity to be adaptable. I like feeling able to respond positively to all sorts of scenarios. It's fun to see how other people live. It's nice to be welcomed into so many homes. I like getting more clarity about my preferences, for hospitality, meals, company. It's fun to see how the universe fulfills all my requests! Like my motorcycle ride yesterday – yay!! I'm so glad I did yoga on the field beforehand, since it took a lot of work on my legs. But what a marvelous way to see the countryside. It made me consider whether I would get a license myself to drive a motorcycle through the mountains and countryside of France. I really am having the time of my life. It's all coming together perfectly. I didn't realize how much of the trip would be affected by other helpers, as much as hosts. Nor the weather; I think I might have been more uncomfortable if the weather was as sunny as usual. There's still so much to discover, and I feel certain that I'll get to. I can totally imagine doing this sort of thing again! It's fun to travel this way. There have been wonderful aspects to every situation. I'm curious what will happen next, and eager to see how delightful it will be. I really like this. I'm having a really, really, good time! And did I mention I answered the phone this morning? And spoke to someone in French, and it went fine?! It's becoming more comfortable for me, my vocabulary is expanding, I like it more and more. It's fun to speak French, to hear it, and it especially fun to understand, and feel at ease expressing myself. This is a really, really good experience.