October 19, 2009

Amis, Connaissances, Rencontres

Friends, acquaintances, and encounters. My time in Paris has become defined by a number of things, the most prominent of which are culture, language, food, the city life, sites, and most of all, people.

Before I left to go on my overnight train ride to Barcelona this past weekend, I was chatting with Madame about feeling anxious for the travels ahead. I had never taken an overnight train - much less by myself. I told her that I was hoping to make some friends, amis, throughout the ride to make it more interesting, and she immediately corrected my vocabulary and insisted I use the word connaissances instead of amis. Connaissances translates to acquaintances. The French are very particular of the difference between friends and acquaintances, as it takes much more time to enter in to the category of a "friend" for them than it does for the typical American. Thus, there was no possible way in her mind that I would be able to make any amis throughout my 13 hour train ride, because that simply wasn't enough time to develop a friendship.
This exchange stayed in my mind throughout my weekend, and I meditated on how my amis, connaissances, and rencontres have shaped my time in Paris. I came to Paris not knowing a single soul here, so I had plenty of room to let others in. I have been amazed, surprised, comforted, challenged, and educated by the people I have come in contact with so far.

I have been blessed with a roommate who not only cheerfully asks how my day was every time she sees me, but even sends me text messages asking if I need to throw in any laundry with hers on a random Tuesday night. She also has accompanied me on social excursions in which I'm not quite confident enough to go alone. This is what I call une amie.
I have spent time curled over in laughter in the presence of the two most opposite personalities, who somehow get along perfectly, as they have shared with me a bit of their time studying abroad. Who knew that eating a sandwich in the shade could be such grounds for good times? Rencontres, Connaissances, Amis.
I have turned around while waiting in the line for the elevator of the Sagrada Familia in Barcelona to make pleasant French conversation with a group of ladies from Lyon. I always love finding French people when I travel to different countries, because then I can practice my language while being away from Paris. Rencontre.
A waiter in a cafe has made my afternoon by offering me their free wifi, all while leaving me to my business for a solid 2 hours, uninterrupted. Rencontre.
An English couple at a train station has entertained me during an hour and a half long layover after missing my connected train. They just so happened to know everything about the little town of Portbou in which we were waiting, and I learned that the man was a freelance composer. Connaissances.
The friends from my study abroad program have become my travel companions, lunch buddies, weekend going-out girls, and confidants. I can't be thankful enough to have good friends. Amies.
A few fellow study abroaders from another program in Paris made my 26 hours of time on a train to and from Barcelona worth every minute, just by being nice. Not to mention interesting, hilariously awkward, and full of refreshing conversations. Rencontres, Connaissances, Amis.

I started off scared, then I was surprised, and now I'm overcome with curiosity and gratitude. I am thankful for every single person who has made an impression on me, and my mission is to make it as hard to leave this place as possible. So far, so good.

1 comment:

mary said...

EEeee Kel I miss you!!!! lets chat soon! Love hearing about everything, and your pics from barcelona are beautiful! I also want you to model everything you bought while your parents were here for me through skype. nuff said