Year Abroad Diaries: 29 September 2012

I am in what will be my living room for the next seven months. My two flatmates are reading opposite me, whilst I sit in an armchair scribbling.

Dad left this morning, so I didn’t sleep well. For the past two days, he has accompanied me in rushing between my two schools, the bank, the schools again, the lycée, to try and find an apartment. Two choices: the first at the faraway college, a ground floor flat with three rooms, a living area and separate kitchen. It was quite old fashioned but not badly decorated, and had space for a bike in the outside cupboard. When I first saw it, I was quite taken; the teacher and the secretary sold it to me as Dad and I wandered, and I didn’t worry about the prospect of living on my own.

Then we went to the lycée. I just rocked up in the staffroom, then a teacher took me over to the admin building and upstairs and through the door. It was smaller than the flat at the college, but more brightly decorated. The ‘kitchen’ is literally a sink and two hobs – for three people. However, there was a little balcony, a TV and a sofa, so it was more homely than its rival.

To be honest, the first night I was leaning strongly towards the faraway flat. I wasn’t sure I wanted to live with strangers, and Dad’s company gave me confidence in being by myself. The next day, after sleeping on it, I was even less sure. After a trip back to view the apartments a second time, I had a change of heart, especially after stumbling upon a handwritten sign in the faraway flat which said, “Don’t worry, it’s just the dead man.” What?! When it was only Dad and I viewing it, I suddenly had a fear of being all alone, and I really didn’t want to live there. So I had to inform the secretary and backtrack on my decision. Typical…

The following morning was difficult. I met Dad outside the lycée at twenty to ten and we walked through the centre of town towards the station. The steep slope to the Gare weaves down through a small shelter belt, stepping from the high town to the lower plateau where the railway is situated. It was so upsetting to wave, to watch my father walk down the hill away from me. It was as if everything familiar fell down from my heart and back to home. Then he was no longer visible and that was me. All alone. Toute seule.

I walked back up the hill towards the cathedral and to the flat. K asked how the journey to the station was, and I couldn’t help crying, despite my embarrassment. Out the three of us, I am the only one who has never been away from home. Living away from family is completely strange. I feel at such a disadvantage; it’s so hard to get used to.

We sat and talked for a few hours (me going through the social motions, heart in another place) then traipsed into centre-ville. From there, we spent a good hour in Orange trying to sort out Wifi (finally the cashier managed it, but it will take 14 days to install a ligne-fixé.) Then to various shops, finally Carrefour.

When I returned to the flat, I got another case of nervousness and anxiety, only managing soup for dinner before TV and a hot water bottle lured me into bed. Now the warm light surrounds me and photos of family and friends. It seems as if this morning I waved goodbye to my childhood. This is by far the hardest thing I’ve ever done – I’m here on my own, responsible for myself, and I just have to manage. Thank God for bed – my own wee space, surrounded by photos.

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