my intentions are to take the train when I land. I wander around for ten minutes at the airport looking for the trains or even a sign to the train. I do not understand where I am going, or see anyone to ask. I decide to get some water, I didn’t drink so much water on the connecting flight from reykjavik. I stop at the shop in the airport and receive disapproving stares from blank eyes at the service counter for not speaking french. I’m physically and mentally exhausted, and quite frankly, intimidated to speak the little french that I do know. I have been practicing the language on duolingo for about a year and a half prior to this day, and in this moment I cannot recall anything. I’m practically delirious right now- tired and dehydrated and confused. I pour the water into my kanteen as I’m sitting, feeling extremely out of place. I see a woman walk past in a blazer, skirt, tights and small pumps... she looks so sharp, she looks like she knows where she’s going.
I feel defeated and decide to take a taxi. I definitely don’t feel like wandering right now, especially not around an airport. its no later than 2pm in paris and I am super ready for some sleep. I step outside and light a cigarette, at least I’m not alone in smokng this french air, I’m trying to calm down as I listen to my thoughts, ‘you are fucking crazy, how did you think you were going to be able to do this?’ they don’t deter me, and I only partially believe them. I am so disorientated.
the warm sun is adding weight to my surprisingly heavy feeling bags- I tried to pack light, thank the heavens I left my SLR camera at home. I meander in to the taxi line, listening to others communicate in their native tongue. I realise I haven’t contacted well with paul, my airbnb host. as the people in front of me fill the black taxis, I wonder how this is going to work out. the most attractive cab driver I have ever seen waves for me to come, joy. my french skills are now at a .5% as my mind enters a numb dream like state, real life is so much different. he puts my bag in the trunk and I collapse into the back seat. as he gets into the drivers seat- he turns around and says something while pointing at the door. I give him a blank stare and a ‘désolé’ he repeats in english and I close the door all the way, phew. let's make this a game, I made it through level one.
I tell the driver the address of my host and he begins driving. I am immersed in the city, how the outskirts near the airport are reminiscent of queens, the outskirts of the nyc airport. I am partially panicking and partially shocked. I can’t believe I did this. I am here, and here for a while. I tell the handsome driver that I have always dreamed about coming to paris and now that I am here, I feel like I am dreaming. probably also because I haven’t slept in a very long time. after a longer while than I anticipated and some frightened small talk, we make it to my new home for the next nine days.
the driver gives me some advice:
- take a taxi at night because crimée is a shady area
great! thanks for the reassurance, just what I wanted to hear. it looks more safe than my neighborhood in brooklyn, the un-gentrified part of bushwick, so in retrospective it’s all relative.
I get out of his audi and give him an (unknowingly) generous tip. apparently, people don’t tip in europe.
I had several minor panic attacks today, the mash up of saturday and sunday. my body is confused with the changing times and the sleepless overnight flight. my trials birthed several desires- one of more peace and two of more confidence. I have hope that tomorrow is going to be a magnificent monday, but today is undoubtedly a shitty sunday.
what I learned-
1. prior to departing, resolve details with where you are staying. literally, every single detail you can. if you are not staying in a hotel, let your host know what time you are arriving and what time you are expecting to arrive at their home. ask them if they will be there, and how to enter the building. ask if there is a number button to press, any codes to enter in the keypad. for me this was airbnb. I thought that by looking up the neighborhood and putting myself in the vicinity of this, paul, my host, would magically pop up and greet me (not really, but I didn’t really think that far ahead) as I realised I had no idea how to enter the building or what apartment I was even staying in, my phone had no internet access because I shut off my data, I was just confused. at the front door there is a key pad with numbers, I believed at first it was a buzzer system with each number corresponding to a different apartment. staring at the keypad I breathe and remind myself that this has already happened, I have already figured it out later in my timeline and I am most definitely not going to be standing here forever. I start pressing all of the numbers on the keypage and hope that at least someone will answer. nobody’s there. I begin to walk and I see the audi that carried me here drive away. shit, I hope he wasn’t waiting for me to get in. well if he was, he would have been waiting a while. oh well.
2. I walk down the block to find a park, light another cigarette and try to connect to the free wifi, later do I learn it only works if you have a local sim card. when traveling international, make sure your phone is unlocked so you can purchase a local sim card, this way you can use your maps and phone to even call your host (imagine that!) I see a man sitting across from me eating an entire baguette. I’m hungry. children are playing in the park, I start walking back, hoping I will figure it out. feeling extra delierious now and completely exhausted now, I just want to get inside. I press the buttons again and look up and see 181. shit, that’s not even the right building number. all of these doors are blurring together and looking the same, my vision is fading out. I walk to 179 and push a button and then I realise, these aren’t apartment numbers, it’s looking for a code to enter, omg. I turn on my cellular data and I need to get inside. I have an alert from airbnb- it’s paul. he messaged me an hour ago to tell me hhe has a personal problem come up but tells me the two codes I need to enter the front door and vestibule door, and also where to find the key and which apartment is his. AHA HALLELUJAH~ I struggle with the key door for a moment, c’est normal por moi... and the door swings open, holy shit. I cannot recall a time that I have felt a greater sense of relief. I inhale deeply, it smells kind of like a hotel, hm. it’s small, but its my home for the next nine days. I made it.
3. "je suis désolé je ne parle pas français."
4. breathe and relax