throughout my day, when interesting things happen, i have a habit of forming in my mind how i will write about it in this blog. i did that all last week but when it came time to sitting down and writing, i always ‘found’ more pressing things to do. granted, i have had a large to-do list looming on my desk. fortunately, this weekend and today i checked off and crossed off so many items that i actually needed to re-write a new, smaller list, in order to easier see what was left.
as i mentioned in a recent post, it hasn’t been the easiest, starting up a new semester here. the results of my classes last semester were disappointing at best, even though i knew right from the beginning that a) it’s hard to get good marks here, and b) it would be even harder for me to keep up the same standards i’ve been used to in a new environment and a foreign language. the january blues settled in with full force. however, one of the great things about living in the south of france is that by the time february rolls around, the kind of ‘spring’ i’m used to in april at home is well underway here, so that feeling of anything being possible, and ‘everything’s going to be all right’, has lifted my mood. at least, momentarily. could just be the extra vitamin d.
i have an appointment at the consular office in marseille on wednesday. in order to make sure this is the LAST TIME (please, oh please, let this be the last time…) i have to deal with visas and residency permits and immigration offices, i have been running around making sure i have ALL the documentation, bureaucratic nonsense, and tax payments, the FIRST time. i will have to miss an entire day of class, since the appointment is smack in the middle of the day, and i have to catch the bus down there, then walk from one end of town to the other for this thing. oh well. getting it over with will be worth it, just in time for me to leave!
fortunately, today, i got all the difficult (and expensive) tasks done on my list. last week i was not so propitious. not that i expected much more…regardless. on friday i went in to town, idealistic and optimistic little robby (first mistake), to-do list in hand, cheery disposition. i was quickly thwarted. my bike was not ready like the bikeman said it would be, the bank is, yet again, incredibly incompetent (i miss meridian), and, after waiting in a long line at the only place i knew sold the 55€ postage “tax stamp” necessary for my permit – a tabac shop – the very unpleasant man at the counter interrupted me, waving me off and telling me there weren’t any more. “non plus, non plus.” when prodded, he managed to also add, “peut-être dans quelques jours.” maybe in a few days. helpful. thanks. grumpy, (hungry), cold, frustrated, and feeling less than productive, i took the bus home.
i turned some music on on my ipod and stared, somewhat dejectedly, out the window, looking at nothing in particular. across from me on the bus sat a pretty asian girl around my age, and next to her, a pleasant old gentleman, with stark white hair, thick glasses, and a long, beige wool coat. as we passed the parc jordanne, i could see him asking the girl if she could press the “stop” button for him. it struck me how genuinely nice he was. and nice, old people make me just so happy. he smiled and nodded his head a couple times, so grateful for such a simple favour. watching his somewhat unsteady (though this was seemingly veiled) manoeuvring to exit the bus, grasping the railings, nodding and thanking the bus driver earnestly as he left, i couldn’t help smiling. in fact, i caught myself as my eyes welled up a little. all the negative parts of my day faded.
it’s wonderful, and i mean that in the ‘inspiring of wonder’ kind of way, how impactful the smallest of gestures can be. i forget this. i forget how much my mood effects others. i forget that it doesn’t matter whether someone has treated me unpleasantly. i am not responsible for their actions, i’m responsible for how i respond, because how i respond effects others. i have the power to ruin someone’s day, and it could be completely unintended (let’s hope so!). inversely, i can also make someone’s day better by expending little more effort than being grateful and friendly to those around me. it’s so simple…
on sunday afternoon, i went to cook myself a late lunch of eggs. the kitchen was, quel surprise, un vrai désastre. a really, disgusting sort of disaster. before i could consider cooking in there, i had to clean. it took me nearly an hour, and i certainly didn’t owe it to anyone to do it. it was largely for my own benefit, plus the satisfaction i get from the before/after views, and of course a smug sort of superiority complex (look at how clean i am you slobs!!).
i seriously considered printing off a sign and posting it above the sink that read something like (profanity witheld): “clean up after yourself, use an ashtray, take your garbage down! you are in UNIVERSITY and your mother does NOT live here!!!!” i also considered throwing out the dishes in the sink (the cleaning lady does it sometimes). i did neither of those things, don’t worry. instead, after i calmed down (paradoxically, cleaning is very therapeutic for me), i decided to wash the dishes in the sink and leave them on the counter. negative responses to the state of the kitchen would have had absolutely no beneficial impact on anyone. hopefully, and most certainly in my idealistic mind, my anonymous gesture will have made someone happy, and more likely to clean up in the future. at least, i can dream.
and anyway, i felt far better than i would have if i’d chucked the dishes and posted a nasty sign. it would have been vindictive, and bitter. who wants to engender those sorts of feelings in others? in oneself?? but i digress. have i mentioned how much i LOVE living in residence? 🙂
the next little while is going to be fun and inspiring. i bought a bike! it’s very exciting. i will post a photo soon (and the winner of the name contest… still accepting suggestions!). also, claire and i are hopefully leaving for italy in a rented car on friday, for about 10 days. roadtripping down the coast, taking our time, visiting rome, and florence, maybe venice… eating lots of pizza and pasta and gelato… after that the time begins to slip away. 4.5 months left as of today. tick, tock…