Social butterflies in Paris
I know my friends were concerned about the tweet I left last night about wanting to come home, and I realized this morning there was no way I could explain what was going on in my head in under 140 characters. I could say "I'm homesick," but that puts a cheap and easy spin on something I recognize is not either cheap nor easy.
The real issue going on here is that I'm a social creature in isolation. I have a couple of friends here in Paris, and I am incredibly grateful to them because they have helped me keep my sanity, but past them, the trouble begins. While I'm decent at puzzling out word roots, thanks to all those years of spelling bees, I can't say that I speak, read, or understand French, and I have no fallback here. At the end of the day I go back to a Francophone hotel in a residential (read: non-tourist) area of town. There's no one to just talk to at the beginning or end of the day, since I'm traveling alone, and that isn't working well for me.
I've tried to avoid being The Ugly Tourist. Every conversation begins with an apology for not speaking French, followed by my best halting attempt to ask my question or state my need. I've approached every situation with the expectation that the language barrier would make things more difficult and make them take longer. I will also say that this appears to be the right approach. Parisians, every single one of them, have been kind and helpful and understanding and switched over to English immediately. Read that again and understand that I have had zero angry or negative experiences. Zero.
I knew something was going on yesterday when I was shocked to realize I understood someone in the post office -- a British tourist trying to figure out how to post a letter home. My expectation now is that I cannot communicate in any meaningful way with anyone I encounter.
Make no mistake. Paris is beautiful, and old, and unlike any place I have ever been. I think eventually I will be glad I came, but I think it will be more in terms of the learning experience had than any actual experiences I've had here. I shouldn't have come alone; I had serious concerns about what being socially and linguistically isolated in Paris would do to me, and I should have trusted those concerns. They were valid.
So I'll put my shoes on, make my first apology of the day, and hopefully get a croissant for it. I'll do my best to get the most out of my time in the city, but I'm ready for drupalcon to start.