Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Le mal du pays

My blogging has been a bit spotty lately, and for that I apologize, but to be honest my day to day life offers up little for the blogosphere. And, I have to come clean, I have been hit by an attack of the homesickness. I was pretty sure that of all the things that would happen to me in France, homesickness would not be one of them. But then, I guess what I've come to realize through coming to France is that I have a pretty great life in the States. Nothing luxurious or spectacular, but I have a job I love, a family that loves me and would probably do anything for me, I'm happy with the university I chose, I have good friends and fresh air and mountains and contra dancing and a million little things that really makes my life quite rich. All of that just came back to me and hit me like a mad billy goat this past weekend, and I've had a really hard time shaking the melancholy of it.

Part of the problem is that I have too much free time. If you know me, you'll know that I'm a workaholic. I can't sleep past 8 a.m. even when I want to. I prefer to have a full schedule and have often been known to find things to keep myself busy rather than have to sit down and relax. At home, I have a million little things I do to occupy my time--everything from spinnning wool to making handbound books to baking bread. Here, I have been stripped of all those things. I can't even bake a batch of cookies because my host family has a pretty meagerly-stocked kitchen, not to mention you can barely turn around in it.

So, essentially, I can do a handful of things with my time. Usually, I go to the library and stay there for hours on end reading, compulsively checking my emails, and writing blog posts whenever I have something I think I can rattle on about for a while. The problem with this is that I've almost run out of things to read for my classes. Remember those giant Victor Hugo tomes that I talked about earlier? Yeah, they're done. I've read everything except two tiny Victor Hugo books that should only take me a day or two to finish.

Now that the weather is glorious, I can spend more time outdoors, but, as much as I enjoy walking around, I'm in a city. I'm used to being in the country, or at least in a fairly rural area where you can pretty much roam the fields and trails as it were. Here, you can roam the streets and try to avoid the dog poo. This gets old fast. I mean, Angers is a really beautiful city, but I'm feeling claustrophobic. Remember how I said I could never live in Paris? Well, I'm not so sure I could live here either. It's just too much, too big, too many people and cars and buildings that block out the sun.

Another issue is my health. In the States I live a very healthy life. I know how to enjoy a good slice of pound cake with whipped cream, but in general I eat lots of organic fruits and veggies, whole grains, raw milk and farm fresh eggs. I've been able to find those things here, but it's difficult to stay on a budget and eat healthily. Not to mention the allure of the chocolates, pastries, etc. that I have to walk past no fewer than 10 times a day. I also have a pretty physical life in the States. My job is very physical, and I'm used to going to the gym about 3 times a week. Here I don't work, and I would go to the gym, but it's prohibitively expensive (the universities here aren't all-in-one packages like they are at home--no campus gym). So, apart from a few little exercises I try to remember to do in my room, there's not a lot of activity. True, I walk everywhere. This has been my saving grace, but it's just not enough to suit me.

Getting sick twice has also made me realize how a change of scenery and lifestyle can affect your health. At home, I have an immune system of iron. Here, I feel weak and sickly and tired way more often than I'm comfortable with. In short, this isn't the lifestyle for me.

I'm feeling a bit more optimistic today. I have some social activities (yay, St. Patrick's day!) to keep me occupied and the promise of a box with some peanut butter in it and my spindle and some wool (thanks, Mom). The day is nice, which means a promenade this afternoon and possibly dinner outdoors. Nothing like moving overseas to make you appreciate what you have at home.


Robert said...

True that. Homesickness is like a German U-Boat- it is there, looming under the surface, and you don't think about it until it has already hit you. Not a perfect metaphor, but it suits well enough.

I am feeling a similar thing to you though- I had to buy a gym membership, and I can't work here. I too miss it. But! We are still abroad, and now's the time to do those crazy things you've always wanted to do!

meg said...

You know, rob, I might just have to buy a gym membership. I've been thinking about it, and I feel like my health (and sanity) are worth it. I'm jealous, though. The exchange rate is in your favor!