Thursday, April 10, 2014

school's out.

well… that’s that. today was my last day of work here in excideuil, because the kids have spring break for the next two weeks and i won’t be coming back afterwards. i genuinely cannot believe my job is finished. it doesn’t seem real, to be honest. but come sunday, i’ll be moving out of my apartment and kicking off five solid weeks of traveling before i head back to the states in mid-may… and i suppose it will feel real enough at that point. le sigh.

this week of school was bittersweet. i progressively said goodbye to my students, as our final class ended, and it was harder than i expected! i wrote them a little note, thanking them for such a lovely year and passing along my contact information… but i also did it so that i wouldn’t have to talk in front of my classes and get emotional. i’m terrible at goodbyes. each set of kids has been so precious – i received several going-away presents, and we had two separate mini-parties. the best part, though, has been the flurry of friend requests on social media, because now i know that i can stay in touch with these students as they (hopefully) continue their english studies! because that’s truly the best part of teaching – seeing the progress your students make, and then seeing their delight in recognizing that progress. i hope facebook will serve as a decent substitute, because i know some of these kids will go far!

as my final week of teaching draws to a close, i’m (unsurprisingly) getting more and more nostalgic. already. i can’t help but think about how much i’ve grown to love this place! my students are wonderful, despite their adolescent antics. the teachers are fantastic, and have really made me feel so welcomed and appreciated. i have grown to love this sleepy little village, with its joyful bells and quaint streets. i think what i’ll miss most of all, though, is just the feeling i have when i wake up every day – in france. i’ve been here for ages, it seems, but in reality… hardly any time at all. the novelty of knowing that i’ve had the rare opportunity to live out this dream – living in france, for real – still hasn’t worn off. and while i’m definitely excited to come home next month and see all my friends and family… i’m not looking forward to leaving this place behind. but, as tolkien said, the road goes ever on and on. and while i may be finishing this beautiful, albeit short, chapter in my story, i’m looking forward to seeing what the next page has to offer.

in the interest of brevity, and because i love lists, here is a collection of things i will miss desperately about this year:
- foie gras snack time. i never thought i’d say this, but i love foie gras. and i will miss it so, so much.
- going up to paris for the weekend, just because i can, and enjoying the sunshine in the most beautiful city in the world.
- being greeted by a chorus of “hello!” and “hi jill!” every time i walk into the courtyard at school and honestly, the consistently kind “bonjour” you get from basically everyone.
- the cafĂ© downstairs, and all the smiling faces i get to see there every day.
- walking through the market on thursday mornings, and seeing all the locals going about their daily lives. and then walking back through the plaza afterwards, and smelling the slightly fishy, slightly earthy smell of the freshly-rinsed asphalt
-traveling like a crazy woman. it has become my favourite thing... can't imagine life without it.
- hearing a mildly out-of-tune ‘ode to joy’ ring out from the church every hour
- my bench by the fountain
- being able to throw a stone from my window and hit buildings from the 14th century
- pilates with the ladies of excideuil
- seeing my students every day. love those kids.
- my sweet, cozy studio
- speaking french. that goes without saying.

the reason i’m so terrible at goodbyes is because i am so sensitive to finality… something amazing is coming to an end, and i want to be sure that i acknowledge the significance of this moment appropriately because it deserves the attention. unfortunately, i honestly don’t think i could do this experience justice. suffice it to say, i am so very grateful for this place, for these people, for this year as a whole. i feel like my heart has grown through becoming a part of this community… which is good, because i’ll be leaving a good chunk of it behind me when i go.