Sunday, May 30, 2010

11:34 p.m.

The air is stifling. For it only being the end of May, the summer heat has already hit hard. Summertime in Saint Louis is hard to beat. Heat radiating off asphalt pavement, laughing children running around with sticky hands from the sweet treats delivered by the ice cream truck, and Cardinals baseball games on nearly every body's mind. The month of June is always perfect. Everyone is out of school, enjoying the hot days sitting by the pool, and having cookouts during the cool but humid nights. Tonight isn't one of those nights.

The stifling air is not a product of the outdoors. Well, indirectly it is. The stifling air haunting my bedroom tonight comes from a forty-year old home's circulation. The second floor is naturally hotter, naturally less breezy, and naturally more uncomfortable for those very reasons.

A fan hums continuously and disturbs the taped posters on the wall. In order to feel the fan's effects just a little bit more, my feet are hanging over the edge of my polka-dot covered bed, and my right foot shakes out of habit. My cat is lounging next to me, wondering why this bright glow is keeping her from sleeping. Every once in a while her irritation causes her to lift her head from the bed, turn it slowly towards me as one ear cocks back, as if a sound has caused her senses to awaken her. When in reality, it's the drumming of my fingers on the keyboard and the brightness of the screen that causes her insomnia. My insomnia, however, is caused by other reasons.

When I was younger, I used to lay wide awake before every vacation or trip I went on. The only difference is the reasoning behind it. As a kid, there are no obligations to keep track of, no promises to uphold, and friends were always there when you got back. The adventure I was about to embark on was what mattered. Sure there was some anxiety when I wasn't travelling with a parent, but mostly I laid awake wondering what was waiting for me, wondering if we could leave as soon as I saw the sun's rays peaking over the hill. But tonight I lay awake for a different reason.

Sure I want the plane to take off already, but I want to be sure of a few things when it lands. I want to know I'll be accepted as an American student, who is truly interested in learning the culture of both Austria and France, and not just some spoiled American kid on summer vaca. And I want to know that I'll be able to find my way around foreign airports and make it to my connecting flights on time. And then find a trustworthy taxi driver to take me to my House-Mother's apartment. And I want nothing more than to understand Madame Dru and learn from her about her lifestyle in Paris. It's one thing to be a student in a city, but to see how it's inhabitants live their lives is one that has always fascinated me. Part of me wishes I could fast-forward to the part where I will be sitting in cafes, sipping lattes or a glass of white wine, asking the waiters where they are from while pieces of live performers songs ring through my ears. People on bicycles will ride by and the tires will bounce along the cobblestones. And not only do I want to sit in the city and see how people interact, but I want to see how they fall in love, appreciate one another and appreciate (or disrespect) complete strangers. I know it won't be Eden, or even close to a Paradise, but it will be something-- something spectacular.

And while I am sad to leave my country behind for a month, and while I feel guilty for diving into not just one, but two new cultures....ignoring my own, I know that when I step outside to walk to class, or enter a new arrondissement, I know that the pavement will still be steaming, children will still be running around gaily with ice cream stuck to their grinning faces, and...okay maybe it won't be baseball, but the talk of the town will be the World Cup and the Tour de France. And maybe, just maybe, keeping those few things in mind, the cultures won't seem so different, and American soil won't seem so distant. I can carry that piece of knowledge and understanding with me, secretly of course. We all know the French would hate to be compared to the Americans...

And so the fan hums on. My cat has chosen a new spot to sleep, and I have rolled onto the bed properly, and laid my head to rest.

By this time tomorrow, I will be in Vienna, drinking my morning coffee, reading an international newspaper at a local cafe, watching the summer work its magic.

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