My adventures serving in the Peace Corps
Friday, August 14, 2009
Salut! Here I am in France, having an awesome time. Leaving Africa after almost 14 months was pretty surreal. The airport was a good send-off- plenty of typical Beninese antics: everyone had five or six bags to check (do they pack their entire life??), one woman refused to stop harassing the security guard until he let her on the plane with THREE carry-ons, and the plane left late because a majority of the Beninese passengers arrived late. I was with another American who had come to visit another volunteer, and what struck me was how incredibly patient I have grown since being in Benin. As I watched Daniel get so frustrated, I realized that that would have been me a year ago, but honestly, nothing at the airport phased me.
Even though it was a red-eye flight, I basically got no sleep. The flight was fine though, and I have never enjoyed airplane food so much haha- it was not Beninese! Of course, since we left late, the plane landed 1.5 hours late, and then we had to wait in absurdly long customs and baggage claim lines, so, I missed my train. I was able to switch my ticket to a train leaving one hour later (to the tune of about $45), but had no way to call the Dimitrovs to let them know. When I arrived in Grenoble, no one was at the station waiting for me, so I had to take a cab to their house. (I couldn't even think about how much it was costing me- I could have taken a Taxi from Cotonou to Dakar for the same price!)
Apparently they thought I had decided not to come and were upset, but they were really happy to see me. That afternoon I just relaxed with them, and in the evening I went out on the town with Roser, a Spanish student now living with the Dimitrovs, Cyril, my host brother, and two of his friends. It was so nice to be out at 1am and feel completely safe! It was also blissfully chilly :)
The next day Roser and I walked around Grenoble and had an awesome lunch on the river bank. Roser speaks really good English and is going to live in the States for about six months starting in October. After lunch we headed to get the famous pear sorbet that I have been longing for for over four years (we got it almost every day when I studied abroad here)... only to find out they no longer make that flavor! So sad :( But I still got delicious peach sorbet. That evening it was decided that we would go to Chamonix/Mont Blanc the next day (in the heart of the Alps, the highest mountain in Europe, and only about three hours from Grenoble) so we went to bed early.
Chamonix was INCREDIBLE. We tried to go there when I was here with my parents last April, but you need a sunny day to really appreciate it and we didn't have one. It took us four hours to get there because of construction and traffic, but it was a beautiful drive through the mountains. All we really had time for there was going up the Aguille du Midi, a gondola that goes WAY up into the mountains. It is really expensive ($50 or so), but the Dimitrovs treated us which was really nice of them.
Going up was amazing, albeit a bit terrifying! Definitely not for those who are afraid of heights- I am not afraid of heights but still had a hard time! Seventy-two people squeeze into this little cable car hanging from a wire and go roughly one bajillion feet up into the mountains over snow, ice, rocky peaks, cliffs, etc. When you get to the summit, you have about two hours to enjoy the views. I don't even know how to describe to you how beautiful it was, but I think the pictures speak for themselves :) I really have never seen anything like it.
Up at the top there are plenty of places to talk around, including snow and ice caves! I literally kissed the snow. I was freezing and thoroughly enjoyed it :) We watched the insane mountain climbers, and even had a nutella crepe.
On our way home that night Roser and I took the Dimitrovs to dinner since they had driven us to Chamonix and paid for our gondola tickets. We went to a nice place and had a great time. When we got home that night (not until almost one), Cyril's friends were watching a TV special on American spring break, and were just disgusted with how Americans act. I couldn't convince them that this is a unique phenomenon and that 95% of Americans are nothing like this. Sigh.
Yesterday I went up to the old fort overlooking Grenoble with Roser, and then we got lunch. I love little French restaurants- the couple were the cooks and bar tenders, and their daughter was the waitress. We were the only people in there because it was late, so they sat next to us and talked with us, ate their own lunch, just hung out. Later in the day I went to a supermarket, which was overwhelming to say the least. I am truly astounded by the comforts we have in the western world.
Today is my last full day here. Later in the day I am going to meet up with Stephane, my other host brother, and tonight I will have dinner with the family and get ready to take off at 5am tomorrow! I really, really can't believe that I will be in the States tomorrow. I can't wait!