First thoughts

Trip Start Jan 14, 2011
Trip End May 17, 2011

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Where I stayed
Chez M. et Mme Allimant

Flag of France  , Languedoc-Roussillon,
Saturday, January 15, 2011

Of course, given my luck, I got sick during the days leading up to my departure (part of the joys of living with a three-year-old), so I had a sore throat and an achy head and back when I was packing, which continued to the airport. My mom and sister drove me to the airport, and they got a pass in order to go through security with me since I hadn't been to the airport since the new security regulations were put into place and I had never flown by myself. Everything went smoothly, even though my silly sister had a purse full of liquids. A TSA agent gave her a quart-sized plastic bag, and they all fit, so they didn't have to confiscate any of them. We got to the gate in plenty of time, and they stayed with me until I boarded the plane. However, about fifteen minutes after everyone had boarded the plane, the pilot announced that there was a "minor malfunction" on the plane and that they were pulling the plane back to the gate to have maintenance look at it. But when we got to the gate, there was another plane there undergoing repairs, so we had to wait for them to move. Once the mechanics looked at the plane, the pilot announced that the malfunction was more than minor, and that we would have to switch planes. Everyone had to get off the plane, and move to a different gate to wait for another plane to be prepared. So my flight that was supposed to leave at 3:25 PM yesterday ended up leaving at 6:30 PM. Consequently, I missed my connection to Montpellier and had to arrange another flight. However, even if my flight from Atlanta to Paris had departed and arrived on time, I'm not sure I could have made my connection in the hour and a half interval because the Charles de Gaulle airport is very different from what I'm used to. We got off the plane direction on to the tarmac, then took a bus to a station with a board of flight schedules. I then had to get on another bus to get to right terminal, where I had to find the counter to change my flight and go through immigration and security, and then finally go to the gate. As we went to board the plane for Montpellier, we got on a third bus, which took us next to the plane on the tarmac. I had previously arranged for my host family to pick me up from the Montpellier airport, so I was worried that she wouldn't know that my flight was late and would be waiting at the airport. Fortunately, she was tracking my flight online, and I was able to call her at Charles de Gaulle and let her know when my flight to Montpellier was departing, and she was there at the airport to pick me up when the plane landed. So all's well that ends well, right? Well, now that I'm here, all the emotions that adrenaline and the need for action suppressed yesterday have come rushing at me. Yesterday, it was like a dream--totally surreal. But today it feels very real and very overwhelming. There's a lot to take in, and there are a lot of unknowns, which makes me anxious. Today I went on a walk by myself through the historic downtown of Montpellier, which was really scary, but also exciting. I was terrified that I would get hopelessly lost, but I actually managed to follow the map and make it there and back safely and even without having to ask anyone for directions! The city is beautiful: lots of statues and intricate facades on the building. But the cultural differences are a little disconcerting, even when you expect them. For example, in America, particularly in the South, we smile a lot: we smile at friends, we smile at strangers, we smile at waiters, cashiers, and people walking in the park. Not so here. And you know what? A friendly smile would have been really nice today. Tomorrow is the first day of orientation at the university, so I'm hoping to make some friends and not feel so alone. A day full of activities will help distract me too.
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Diane Pritchard on

Glad to hear you made it safely! Sounds like a bit of a rocky start, but you got through. I hope you enjoy your host family, orientation, those initial cultural surprises and even getting lost. Soak it all up! And always know we're here when you need us. :)

Amanda Sutker on

Yay! Love it! So excited for you Rachel!

aliceparish on

It looks so cute there, even your room! can't wait to see more pics :)

InJung Hwang on

Hey, jealous of u :)
I wish i could visit the place where u stay.
Don't worry anything, u will be fine and make lots of friends^^*

CB on

Nice. Keep up the blog. We want to know more, see more.

Robert Stutts on

Great post, Rachel (though I'm sorry to hear about all the travel difficulties)--looking forward to reading and seeing more.

Tyler Todd on

Oh wow Rachel! That sounds amazing and terrifying at the same time! I hope today went better. I miss you so much, but I'm so happy that you're getting this experience. Bonne chance!

Amanda Klinger on

I miss you and I hope to read more soon! :)

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