I am writing this blog mostly as a way to wrap up my whirl-wind year in France, and as an introduction to what lies ahead. As made evident by earlier blogs, I was very sad to leave my life in France. I could not quit picturing myself leaving with so much sadness. Well, it was sad. It was hard, but I learned that I am a lot stronger than I originally thought. I pictured my miserable self sobbing on the plane. That is not at all how it went. Thank goodness for individual tv screens and many movie/tv show choices. I made it home and was so happy to see my parents waiting in the airport.
Then I saw a surprise and I was so excited that I cried. One of my dearest friends was waiting with a camera...Miss Julie Weston (soon to be Julie Wilsey :) on October 9!).
My first few weeks home were eventful to say the least...in fact, I was hardly home at all. I was busy squeezing in visits, getting a long overdue haircut, setting up a new mobile phone account, getting everything done so that I could drive my car again, and trying to catch Olivier on Skype whenever our schedules would allow. Then after less than a week back in Cadillac, I went to Elk Rapids for a week for the Brugger family camping reunion. Thank goodness I stayed so busy...I needed it.
Then Olivier came to Michigan (and Chicago and NYC). I freaked out when he called me at 4:45 in the morning the day he was supposed to arrive in Chicago. He couldn't get on the flight because an Aer Lingus employee said he needed to "print" his ESTA number. This is a recently-required US borders thing that is required of all people from specific countries not needing visas for tourism. Anyway, he had the number "recorded" as instructed by Homeland Security. After much research, I have repeatedly verified that he was in the right. Anyway, I was freaking out because we didn't know if he would be able to come, especially with ticket prices being so expensive. By some miracle, his brother found a reasonably-priced (still expensive!) ticket and he was on a flight the next day. I am still waiting to hear back from Aer Lingus. He heard back, and they are only willing to refund his airport tax of 108 euro. Needless to say, this is NOT over yet. With one less day in Chicago, we spent one day exploring and then drove back to Michigan that evening.
Once in Michigan, we spent almost every day at a Lake Michigan beach. He loved it. I loved that he loved it. Honestly, how could one not love Lake Michigan beaches?!
While enjoying the beaches, we also enjoyed the Platte River...a few times. Olivier quickly got the hang of lounging in tubes and drinking beverages while floating down the peaceful river into Lake Michigan. I think we floated it three times that weekend. Along with my family, we had the company of long-time family friends, the Vance/Marvin family. He was able to meet one of my best friends, Brittany Marvin, and Robbie, her sweet and fun husband. We had a blast. Here we are, done with one tour of the river, and ready to start round two.
This tubing trip coincided with our annual camping trip with the Vance's/Marvin's. Olivier successfully enjoyed (so he said) a few nights of camping in a tent, and survived an intense thunderstorm.
Our time together in Michigan was wonderful. The weather was perfect everyday, we saw nature's way of bragging everywhere we went, and we thoroughly enjoyed each other's company. We were not ready to leave when it was time to go. He was actually planning his next trip over before we left for New York.
Last stop: NYC. We spent three nights in New York, enjoying our last days together for now. We started off our first evening enjoying Italian at an outside cafe in Greenwich Village. Then we walked to Times Square to take in the intensity and excitement that only Times Square can provide. We were exhausted, so we headed back to the hotel so that we would be ready for the next day. We packed in as much touristy stuff as possible that day, taking full advantage of our hop-on, hop-off bus pass. Although we did encounter some rain, most of the day was great (Yes, that IS Rupert from Hello Deli!).
We spent our last day taking it easy with a boat ride and long walk through Central Park. I desperately wanted our time to slow down, but like all things, our last evening came to an end. We spent the next morning and early afternoon relaxing. We ate at a local cafe and walked to Prospect Park, not far from our hotel. Then it was time to head to the airport. As I saw signs for La Guardia Airport, I knew it was goodbye. It was so difficult to see him pull away, but I was okay (he had to leave from JFK).
I think part of what makes this all easier is that I know that we are going to work this all out. It is not as hard as I imagined it would be. I am staying busy working and catching up with people, and I talk to him via Skype almost every day. I know that I need to be here right now. I have so much to take care of, including the mountains of paperwork required to get me back to him. I have to make money and go through all of my stuff. So for now, I am okay being here. I know that I will be back with him before long.
As of right now, I am planning on going back to France in mid-January. I decided to work as a waitress and substitute teacher until then, saving as much money as possible. I am spending the holidays here with my family, and then getting ready to head back and start my life with him. For the first year I will not be legally able to get a real job, but I will be babysitting and tutoring in order to make enough to get by (luckily my student loans are my only big expense right now). Then after that year, I can do other paperwork that will allow me the right to work. Once I have that, I will probably work as an English teacher or maybe a math teacher in a bilingual or international school. We'll see. For now, I am just doing what I can to make it work, as is he. Nobody ever said life was easy, but it sure is great. I don't know where my road will lead, but I am currently headed WAY East, with signs in francais.