Monday, January 10, 2011

virginia, je t'aime

i received a lot of warning and advice before returning to the states for the holidays. most of it ran in the "be prepared, this will be really hard" vein. and traditionally i tend more towards reverse culture shock, with difficulty re-acclimating to america, so i was prepared to struggle. 
but home was wonderful. i knew i would be returning to france soon, so there was no homesickness for aix, and nothing makes you appreciate the little things about home and america like knowing you only have two weeks out of seven months to soak it in. 
there is a certain caché in popping into the states for the holidays. your presence is rare, and thus, very special. and this goes both ways. we didn't just go out to lunch, we went out to indian-american for the best food ever and who cares that i'm crying and my nose is running because it's so spicy, i'm not going to have it again until may, so i'm going to eat as much of this saag as i can! 
amazing friends traveled to see me (with my little receiving the all-star award).  
i was only home for about two weeks, so there was a type of suspension, i wasn't fully re-immersing myself or starting back up my american life. 
parts of it were hard.
my mom moved out of the house where i largely grew up while i've been in france, so i wasn't going "home" in that sense. i wasn't able to see or spend the time with some people i had been so looking forward to seeing. 
and returning to france was hard. i landed on monday and it was cold and raining in aix. that evening i had a friend over for coffee and i realized once again that this place is hard but it is wonderful and i love it and not everyone can do what i am doing. 
also, it turns out if you burn your hand and complain on your blog about the sad state of your coffee situation, people give you things like a french press, a stove-top espresso maker, and mugs. on that note, i was hit by a smart car while biking a few weeks ago (not a joke), so if anyone wants to spring for a driver, please go right ahead. 
in truth, seeing home, my family, small town virginia, the people i saw and didn't see, from this perspective clarified my love for them. it's the kind of love that cracks your chest open, that in their absence you lay on your bed and listen to bon iver and cry and just ache for a bit. 
but i don't know that i would have seen it clearly had i not gone away. not that absence makes the heart grow fonder (a little phrase i taught my students today), but that absence breeds clarity. absence makes you see what you had, and what you'll still have when you make it home. 


  1. I feel that Hannah! I just got back this (Morning, afternoon? Not really sure what time it is. The silence in my studio is deafening, after being surrounded by the sights and sounds and tangible love of friends and family.

    Great post- looking forward to seeing you soon!

  2. Girl, I know the feeling.

    I felt it more the first two times I was abroad, but I remember just how important the little things from home (mom's cooking, big grocery stores, hugs from friends, peanut butter) became when they were 2,000 miles away. I enjoy the clarity, though, and the ability to step back and be grateful for how good life is there.

    And it's important to remember that it's a two way street, too - these rooms and these buildings and these friends are the things we're going to be aching for come May. So even if we have bad days and weeks, it's somewhat comforting to know that we're surrounded by the same kinds of important things that we find at home - even if they're in disguise.

    In any case, I heart you and we should hang out.

  3. Hannah, this makes my heart ache, but in such a good way.