Eyoel Seifu
Nov 8, 2022

Day 1, Lesson 1

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The plane landed in Paris. Everyone was in a hurry to go somewhere. Everyone seemed to know where they were going. I didn’t. It is easy to follow the crowd until they all go their separate ways and you are alone. After that, you have to go your way. Taxi. Plane. Uber. Car. Loved ones. Bus. Train. Everyone went their way dispersed in the crowd. Every face I was accustomed to before, in, and after the plane until the luggage claim disappeared and was replaced with new ones. It was the beginning of a new adventure. I have to find out where I am going and how I will get there. The train station. Listening to others will get you confused especially when you are listening to both of them at the same time. Because the way they experience everything is different so the information they retain after the event is different. I had two friends who went to the same place as me before. One a week and another three weeks before me. But asking them for help confused me more than asking the uniformed officer who only spoke French. I guess miscommunication happens because of context, not language. Because he was more helpful than the one who spoke my language and I don’t speak any French. He was speaking something I couldn’t comprehend and he continued talking even when I was telling him I don’t speak French in the little French I knew. He was pointing and gesturing and repeating words. So, I did what any sane person would. I listened to him. Him. Not his phrases and loud words, but his face. He understood my problem and was trying to help. I followed his instructions to the letter. Or whatever I can grasp from his gestures and terms. “A2… B3!” I arrived at the terminal. It was an hour later that I realized I was waiting for my train at the wrong terminal. I had my google maps and two of my friends helping me online (later I realized If I had followed only one of them, I would have gotten there with half the time I wasted.)

Then I tried to ask other people who seemed to work at the airport. A woman frowned at me for assuming that she worked there because of the shirt she was wearing. And I continued asking until I found a graceful tall black man, who overheard my conversation with another person and decided to intervene. “I can help you!” Those thick French-accented English words gave me hope. He told me that I was in the wrong place and after inspecting my ticket he pointed me to the correct terminal. I will forever be thankful for that man. Now I am ready to go to my destination.

I had to take the train to Besançon. I had my ticket. It was an excellent plan to book my train ticket 4 hours after my arrival time. I planned. When I left home, I had everything thought out. I checked the maps hundreds of times and saw where I need to go. But it turns out you can’t be too prepared. After sitting and waiting for the train. It arrived. If only it knew the trouble I went through, the luggage carrying I had to endure and the once-in-a-while frowns, I received. But nope the train comes and goes. It doesn’t care what you went through. It doesn’t care what you did to get there. I will take you and bring you back as if you were an object. If you were one minute late because you took the wrong exit or you followed the wrong directions a French cop gave you, it would leave without you. That is life. C’est la vie. But I got on board.

The train was a little more chaotic than I imagined. But I managed to put my luggage in a safe place and sat on my assigned seat. The French landscape to the east is very similar to my country. The trees and grass the hills and the farmland. I felt at home again. At least until we got to the next train station or a small city. It is France. Small towns will pop up once in a while but for the most part, it was a peaceful countryside view. I changed 3 trains. Each time running with my luggage. In one of the stations in Strasbourg, I had to carry my luggage up a long flight of stairs. Which was more difficult than you can imagine (well if you have never traveled with a large suitcase). I slept after my third train change. I hadn’t slept for almost 35hrs.

At last, I reached my destination. Viotte, Besançon. After all the chaos and the wearisome travel, after the waiting and the running, after the rush, after saying all my goodbyes to my parents and friends after the long waiting for my admission and scholarship and visa, I finally arrived in France. The most classic country. The birthplace of the greatest people in the world. And it is going to be my home for the next two years.

The adventure begins. To meet new people. To dive into a  new world. To taste new food. To make new friends. To learn new languages. This is a new world for me.

My take on my first day in France was the simple fact that understanding plays a significant role in communication. It doesn’t matter where you are from if you can’t understand others, if you can’t put yourself in your shoes, eloquence will not solve your problem. Day 1 Lesson 1: Understand to Communicate. I hope there will be more of these lessons as I continue my adventure in France. More people more stories and more incidents will accompany me. And I hope the next time I write, I write en francais. For now, from the balcony of my room with a mouthful of croissants and un cup of coffee, Au revoir.

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