02 September 2009 at 1755 Montpellier Time.
I have arrived and the first day is now done. It was a day unlike no other I have had recently, if ever. A day, full of first impressions, both of my new home and the new people in my life, tedious errands and payments, and absolute and unremitting confusion. I heard of culture shock before leaving and about the methods of containing. I wouldn't characterize myself as being shocked right now. Something told me before I left, the people in France zould be speaking french and would not look like the people I saw in America everyday. Yet, what I am suprised to find myself feeling is complete loneliness. I have never felt a deeper loss of the people I hold closest to me than i do this day. Perhaps, this is my culture shock. I have heard people describe the situation I am in and the loneliness I am feeling as a loss of a "safety net." That the people you hold closest somehow distort the "real world" through love and care. Once they are no longer able to be with you, the body and mind are released into a convoluted world of self-interest and disinterest. Yet, I don't see my relationships as what is given to me or what I give to others. My family and friends do not prop the world up above the realities of everyday life. They do not soften the blows of disappointments or magnify the pride of success. In this view, we are close to people not because they create a better life, but because they blunt the effects of those aspects of life we wish not to expose ourselves to. Yet, what I feel right now is not the seclusion of a world I once was not exposed to, but a deep loneliness derived from the complete absence of all those who made living in America so happy. We reciprocally transferred love, care, and happiness to each other. Now that this is incapable of occurring intimately, I a, confronted with, with a slightly different flavor, only absent the things I held most deeply in my life. So, for those who didn't believe me when I told them, you are and will be truly missed.
Yet, not all I take away from today is negative. I have to take pride in being able to put my head down and successfully struggle through the tasks of the day. My language skills failed me, but, by the end of the day, I felt myself coming around to coherency in speech and clarity in comprehension. I can retrace an improvement from a dismal state to something slightly above that. It was just one day, I can't imagine the impact of several weeks and months.
Montpellier is even more beautiful in person than in pictures. There is a medieval, spanish flavor to many of the buildings. The town center is definately the most scenice and beautiful part of the city. It has a beautiful town square of shops, bars, and restaurants known as the Place de la Comédie. Several other "places" find themselves intermingled with the disorderly placement of "rues" and avenues. The outskirts, where I reside, are nice but nothing special. I am lucky to have a row of villas lining a couple of the streets leading to my apartment complex. What a wonderful treat they will be when I have the oppurtunity to go for a jog. From spanish-style shingled roofs, terra cotta walls, and ebullient 18th and 19th century french buildings, similar to what you would see in the French Quarter in New Orleans, the architecture is beautiful. The city is spotted with medieval churches and fortresses, as well as some very beautiful, very old statues. I spent the entire day in the city, getting passes and insurences for different programs and transportation systems. The food is pretty cheap and very good. I found myself lone eating a jambon sandwich in the middle of the city this afternoon with a homeless man playing the accordion in the background. I thought that was a wonderful and fitting first impression. At that moment, alone in the city amongst the beautiful buildings, I saw the Montpellier I had come to see. Perhaps, I was not a jolly fellow the rest of the afternoon, but, at that moment, I realized the hard and tedious times would pass and a time of more wonderful moments were on their way.