Those first few days of scenery blurring by, new faces, new names, new bed. Trying to piece together a routine that involves sleep and some reasonable degree of food out of what you packed in your suitcase (hint: it's never enough, because clothes and computer won't help make dinner).
I spent two days wandering lost around the nearest supermarchet looking for food, and managed at least to get a few basics. But it wasn't till I found the fresh produce marchet in a cobbled downtown courtyard that I realized: after living for a year on the fresh delicious fruits and veggies of Santa Barbara's farmers markets, I've forgotten how to shop for food anywhere else.
The produce is cheap; certainly cheaper than Santa Barbara (though let's be honest, that's hardly a challenge). A few euros for a full bag of fresh fruit, bread, eggs, cheese. And the familiarity of it, the universality of stalls heaped high with produce, is intoxicatingly easy. I feel at home.
A handful of plums, a wedge of cheese, a still-warm baguette. Nothing else needed.
The program takes off without pause for breath; I arrived Thursday, and on Friday was sitting a French exam. I tested B1, which makes me a threshold independent user according the European Framework of Reference for Languages.
I have no doubt that this semester will see me challenge that. I'm excited. I can't stop thinking in the constant stream of (threshold independent) French that I need to have constantly in mind if I want to be able to react to sudden new situations. It accompanies me to bed at night, wakes me up in the morning - the conjugations, the silent plurals, the genders, the buzz of new vocabulary.
C'est très fatigant.
The dorm is comfortable. A tiny little room, as wide as I am tall and twice as long, complete with desk, bed, closet and a crazy spacepod bathroom-shower-sink that redefines 'space-efficient'. Across the lawn from my classes, and on top of two bus stops that go direct to the city center (straight to that Saturday market!), it is cozy and it is connected.
And it is home! For the next six months, that is - until the next adventure.