So, I’m in France! I’ve made it! Je suis arrivé.
I’ve had the wildest 24 hours, honestly.
SwissAir is really, really good. I landed in Zurich without too much trouble at all. And the food was pretty yum: a nice little cheese quiche, and a pretty good breakfast platter. I had to clear passport control at Zurich itself, since it was my first entry point into Europe. That went through pretty smoothly, and then I had 3 hours to explore Zurich airport. The only big observation I had was how relaxed the Europeans are when they travel. They don’t hang out at the boarding gate an hour before departure. They come when they need to, and leave when they must.
That’s my first impression.
Landing in Geneva was something else entirely. I used my time at the airport to figure out what all free perks I was entitled to the minute I landed – internet, travel, and the like, and then figured out my monthly bus pass. That was my first use of French on this trip – very rusty, but pretty decent (per my assessment). It began raining as I waited for the bus, and I arrived in Cessy to a pretty bad storm.
Soon though, the skies cleared, and I set off to do some exploring and understand my bearings.
A little bit of background for all the readers of this blog. I’n doing an internship in Geneva, and I’m staying with one of my college friends in Cessy, a quaint little town in France. It’s right across the border, a 40 minute commute one-way, and it’s got a direct bus. More than much else, what attracted us to this lifestyle was that it was literally half the cost, accommodation-wise atleast. I shall now resume my narration of the day.
Cessy is ridiculously pretty. It’s the stereotypical French countryside town. There are fields, lots of agricultural property, cute, cozy villas and cottages, and a view of the mountains. The roads are narrow, and steep in some parts. There’s only one supermarket, one tabac, one boulangerie, one pharmacy in the town. The rest is a walk away, or a cycle ride away. There’s a separate cycling lane. Everyone in the town seems to know each other, and everyone is friendly.
I took two trips walking around town today. The first was to see what all I had access to and what timings were like. I got home, researched on things I needed: SIM card and the like, and then took a second trip to actually complete transactions I needed to complete. The first time I went, I was a little hesitant to speak French. I’m not sure why, but I felt a little bit of fear come over me. I think it’s because the only context in which I’ve spoken French fluently before is the examination context. I was horrible at speaking exams. I knew all the words, and I knew my answers, but something would come over me and I’d get nervous and whatnot. My French teacher, who is one of the kindest people I know, used to do all sorts of things to calm me down. I had pep talks, and anti-pep talks. I had the promise of rewards, high-fives after exams, and even comedy about how my exams had gone. It was nuts. But the second time I went around town, to actually buy stuff, I put to use what I knew. That was a proud feeling.
I can’t believe I’m getting a month of this. After studying French for what, 14 years almost. I still remember how I picked up the language. In Grade 1, we got a circular attached to our diary, which required our parents to tick a box next to the language we wished to learn. I asked a friend in class and I ticked French, getting the circular home for my parents to sign. They were a little shocked because they assumed I’d learn Hindi, but I went the other way and put up a bit of a fight to ensure they didn’t take the language away from me.
It’s given me some of my happiest, warmest memories in school. To be able to take those and apply them in the real world is something I’m privileged to have the opportunity to do when I’m still fairly young. Maybe one day I’ll have native level fluency.
For now, I’m happy with my pain au chocolat.