Wednesday, 26 September 2012

One year on..

There will probably be no celebrities mentioned in this blog post.

Today marks the one year anniversary of the day I moved to France, which is actually a little bit unbelievable. The past twelve months have gone by so quickly, and truthfully I still don’t feel “ready” to go on my year abroad, let alone have already had one that ended 4 months ago. 

The actual morning of my leaving I did not feel scared or sad or anything like that, because I had been living in total denial for the weeks leading up to it. I was quite sure that something or someone was going to come along and say “oh Daniel, you don’t actually have to go to France. Don’t be ridiculous”. But they didn’t. And as my mam helped me with my suitcase onto the train and left me in my seat it gradually sunk in that I was actually leaving the country and I was in no way, shape or form prepared for that. Thankfully, what then ensued was the train door closing on my mam who- thinking it would be like a lift door- stuck out her arm to stop it and ended up almost going all the way to London with her right arm hanging partially out of a train.

When I think about my year abroad, it’s hard to pinpoint a particular happy memory or special moment because the whole thing was so surreal I spent most of it in a dream-like state. What I do remember is going to a lot of parties with some amazing people. I remember having a lot of gin. I remember slowly liking red wine more and more. I think about dancing in a lot of French bars with some very cool folks (and a lot of very uncool folks, as it goes). And I remember walking back to my flat at 3am and being sick in the street.

Ah, my flat. If you are a long-time follower of my Twitter account (and if you’re not you should rectify that immediately) you’ll know I lived in a bedsit with no oven and fairly limited furniture. It took me a while, but I grew attached to this flat in a very serious way. I literally had some of the best (and, indeed, some of the worst) times of my life in that flat and when I think back to it, it is with warmth. 

I think about microwaving a frozen pizza and then grilling the bottom so it would go crispy. I think about what was literally dozens of takeaway boxes, stacked in the corner of the room. I think about my Carrie Bradshaw poster falling on me in the middle of the night. I think about that bastard dog that would bark all night long upstairs, even though we were specifically told there were no pets allowed in the building. I think about that horrible lift which only worked 50% of the time, and when it did work it more-often-than-not smelled so strongly of marijuana that I was off my face by the time I got to work each morning.

Something I’m surprised at is how much I miss teaching. While it remains something I’m in no way interested in pursuing as a career, I did enjoy it. I was probably not a “conventional” teacher, the kids I liked got to hear all about my life in Le Mans, how I was getting on with various friends I’d made and general tidbits from my personal life. The ones I hated got worksheets and utter silence until the bell went. For those who are interested here are a selection of various lessons I did with my students:
  • Dancing On My Own by Robyn played to the class. Lyrics given out with gaps. Gaps filled in while listening to the song. A discussion then ensued about whether we felt sorry for the girl in the song, or whether she was a mentalist who didn’t deserve the nice guy she was stalking.
  • The same lesson but with The One That Got Away by Katy Perry
  • The same lesson but with Fight For This Love by Cheryl Cole, complete with a fact-file about Cheryl and whether or not we think it is better to fight for love like Cheryl did with Ashley.
  • Make new years’ resolutions for various celebrities including Prince William, Beyoncé, Susan Boyle and Justin Bieber (one memorable incident involved a student saying “he [the Biebs] should cut his hair” followed by another shouting “he should cut his throat”)
  • Play Your Cards Right but with celebrities’ ages. One class guessed that Christina Aguilera was in her mid-to-late 40s. Poor X-Tina.
  • A lesson based around this memorable news story from The Daily Mail a couple of years ago, followed by an activity on Geordie slang.

What I should probably mention briefly is my boyfriend, who I met in France and is one of the best people who has ever existed. Again for those who didn’t know, we’ve been together now for almost 9 months. His name is Niklous and he lives in Texas. And I miss him terribly, we had some amazing times together in France. Thankfully, after what will by the time we see each other be 6 months of not seeing each other, I’m going to Texas at the start of November to see him which I’m very excited about. He is really wonderful, and was, of course, a massive part of my year abroad experience.

All in all, it’s unbelievable that a whole year has passed since I got on that train and ended up in France. The past 12 months have gone by in a blur of parties, trips to McDonalds to use Wi-Fi, hysterical laughing and hysterical crying in minutes of one another, 5.30am alarms going off, sitting around Johnson’s flat, mixing cocktails for my 80s birthday party, traveling, speaking actual French to actual French people, getting a terrifying haircut at a barbers that doubled up as a halal butchers, shouting at Nik in the street just because I was pissed, cursing Jenni Hopkins as she filled my bed up with Pringles crumbs and, of course, drinking two bottles of wine in a launderette on a Saturday night, winking at a man on the tram and then passing out in my boyfriend’s bathroom.

What I got out of it was knowing that I am capable of looking after myself. That I am not the most awkward person in the world after all, and that I can make friends with people if I want to. And, most importantly, that there is someone in the world mental enough to go out with me, even if we do live 5000 miles away.

I had some incredible times and met some incredible people.

I’m glad I went, in other words. It was alright.

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