Trip Start Sep 02, 2010
77Trip End Jun 13, 2011
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Biarritz was also a magical place for me because of its position in the Pays-Basque region of southern France
Ten years later, when Dan and I stepped off the train and made our way to downtown Biarritz, I couldn't believe how much of the town I remembered. We dropped our bags, and I went walking. I felt my body move through the town as if on autopilot. I quietly made my way to the house where I'd lived with my first host family. From there, I turned and went along another road, made another turn, and found myself at the school where I'd had my first phonetics and language classes. It had been almost ten years since I'd been here last, and I didn't even have to think about the route to school; my body just took me there.
When I stood in the grass and looked up at my school, I felt more nostalgic than I've perhaps ever been. I remembered some of the funny moments with my friends during our phonetics classes. Our nerdy teacher, Naima, was the target of various jokes
We didn't laugh so much the day we left Naima's class, walked out onto the grass, and heard some troubling news. I remember we'd just been listening to a friend give an oral report on the Taliban. As I'd listened to her talk, I took notes and thought that I'd vaguely heard of them before. I didn't realize that in just a few minutes, I'd be learning a lot more about the Taliban. And more and more and more in the coming months and years.
On that beautiful Tuesday afternoon, we stood on the grass and tried to understand what our director was explaining to us, in fast and furious French. I remember understanding her as a slow-motion process...and then collapsing under a tree as I frantically called Dan and my friend Becky, both of whom lived near the World Trade Center. Dan and I had lived two blocks from the Center that summer, just a month before I flew to France.
In the subsequent hours and days, my time in Biarritz was filled with mixed emotions and paradoxical cultural experiences. I was elated to be in such a beautiful, foreign city and also distraught to be so far from New York. I tried to assimilate into my French host family's culture, but I was also so obviously singled out as American
Ultimately, then, Biarritz was a place that brought me great joy, where I found life-long friends and immersed myself in a culture that I adored. It became a place to watch the hippy surfers ride the waves and to try sangria for the first time
Going back to Biarritz with Dan, this year, helped me enjoy all those things that I loved and still love about French culture. It also brought me back to September 2001. But most significantly, it allowed us both to carve out a new cultural path for ourselves, one that led to something that runs deeper and older than New York City or Biarritz or even France herself: Basque culture. Dan's heritage. Traditions and histories that we could create and uncover together. So we kept heading south, and we crossed the border.