Vignettes of a year abroad

This is a spoken word poem derived from an English assignment that I performed at our final assembly yesterday. The transcript is found below. Enjoy.


9 months.  A roller coaster of emotions pitching back and forth turning you upside down inside out over and over so fast you can hardly breathe, hardly take a moment to stop. pause. And take it all in. Before the car tips and you plunge head first once more into the firey depths of the unknown, falling deeper and deeper into the rabbit hole, a never ending spiral of discoveries and cliches and heartaches and bellyaches from laughing so hard and stories, so many stories. The kind of stories you can’t wait to tell your grand kids as soon as they’re old enough. But my brain has a mind of its own: uncontrollable, my mouth lets it all burst out. A tidal wave of memories…cresting high, swaying indefinitely for a moment, /held/ by the sudden silence of anticipation till suddenly, it becomes unbearable and comes crashing down. upon. the shore.  Littering the ground with almost as many moments of note as there are grains of sand, decorating my life like the shells belle-ify the beach. Spilling the remains of a year well spent all over the primed stretch of previously pristine real estate.
Act 1
In the beginning, there was darkness. nostalgia would hit like a linebacker emerging from the blind side with all the force of an arch rival out for blood, blinding the senses and robbing me of reality, swapping it for distorted perceptions of life “back home” conjured out of my irrational fear of missing out. Personifying every demon I’ve ever had, dragging the retired beasts out of hiding for one last hurrah. Layer upon layer they piled up, encroaching on the new world I’d created. Like a mantra of my insanity: afraid of being alone, of drowning myself in the cliches, of disappointing “them”, of losing myself to become someone I’m not, afraid that no one cared; fear of regret, of not living enough and of going too hard. Little me at the bottom of this well built out of my worries, gone where not even a talking fish and Harry Belafonte could dig me out. Slowly but surely, the walls began to crumble from the inside, one brick at a time shoved aside, piled up and stamped upon. Making my way towards the light at the end of the darkness, on the carcasses of my old insecurities.
I left my old skin down there, shed among the ruined remains of my negative thoughts and fears in an ironic twist: I’m terribly scared of snaKes.
Out of the cold pit of a grey winter, chilling, depressing, & threatening to freeze my soul, I emerged sometime in the second semester to the serenity of what had become my city. Routines morphed, changed form and adapted to the novelty like an accomplished shape shifter and I found myself pounding the pavement in my capris ignoring the stares I received from the few classmates I passed and the other Rennais crazy enough to be voluntarily upright and moving as the sun steadily creeped up the sky. Pushing my tired lungs up the increasingly steep incline, rapping  formidable  to myself in the intimate recesses of my mind, planting one foot in front of the other past the wall that was white at the beginning of the year and is now covered in graffiti tags from grenier man to I heart sex, rounding the corner through the gate. Standing, breathless as the suns rays softly light up the newly bloomed rows of flowers that stretch out like a rainbow carpet bringing the parc du thabor to life to greet another day. I love for these moments when time slows around me and all I wish for is a photographic memory to freeze forever the way I feel right now, a sleepy contentment steals into my soul. the haphazard pieces of my life are at least temporarily aligned. This happiness is dangerous (bottled and hawked it’d fetch a fortune), but fleeting. Sneaking in and out, a thief in the moment, it’s presence reassuring and revitalizing, a sign that despite the rampant stress of teen life, peace is possible.
The calm Peace of an orderly mind gives way to the raucous happiness of a flock of juniors drunk on sunshine. Spinning, dizzy from the freedom. Playing tag like a bunch of school children, crying out I’m so out of shape and cursing out your closest friends for giving you the most intense cardio you’ve had in months. Giddily flopping on the ground in mock defeat, yelling eff you at the top of my lungs as a respectable old couple promenades by blissfully unawares.
Friday afternoons, liberated from the shackles of school, turn into nights spent doubled over, cackling over the pure horribleness of the human mind. Cards against humanity delivers guffaws and dark truisms, promising that “Only two things in life are certain, death and some really f***ed up shit”. Our youthful spirits are undaunted  by premonitions of darker days. For now, life is, simply, good.
But life is life, even in france. When the tables turn, things can and will suck. Whether the magnitude of suckyness drowns you to the ends of infinity or not depends. I give in a little and treat myself, wallowing French style (tea, chocolate, vienoisserie and les Intouchables), and trying to prove that a little fudge factor never hurt nobody
But one by one the fudge piles up, a veritable mountain of delicious goodies with a sad payback for anyone who isn’t born with the paradoxical metabolism of a French boy: those twigs with little tufts of hair Who can vacuum up twice their weight in one sitting and gain not a pound. Where back home I was short and skinny here I’m close to average height and on the relatively chubbier side of things. That’s my culture shock, guiding me back towards the culinary pillars for comfort. Burying myself in The 3 C’s chocolate cheese and carbs. Stuffing my face with soft squishy baguettes topped with Comte and its pungent, spreadable cousins, with slices upon slices of chèvre cleaved from the log in the fridge that’s half its size by the time my gouter is over, telling myself it’s ok because I’ve got to take advantage of it all while I can. It’s no surprise that I’ve avoided a scale all year especially when dessert is a fundamental course after each meal.
It’s one thing to blindly inhale the fruits of other peoples culinary prowess but after over 3 hours in a kitchen churning out a 20 min cupcake recipe, pulling out gingerbread that tastes like cardboard because molasses apparently doesn’t exist in france, making hot chocolate so thick it cools and doubles as frosting and frosting that melts into straight butter, baking sugar cookies that taste like the ocean I mean Is it really my fault that one white powder resembles the other? My one crowning glory is a pasta dinner cobbled together on the last day of October with my 7 new best friends, getting scared shitless by the asshole who keeps startling me in the middle of that zombie movie causing me to almost spill my tea.
Time seems to have compressed itself into a few medallion moments. it seems like no time has passed but who am I now is Tara 2.0. I know I’ve made it when it’s pouring again but despite having cried myself to sleep the night before and having had a total of 10 hours of sleep over the past two days, I look classy: all black, check. scarf, check. jean jacket, check. Longchamp, check. The only tell tale sign of my Americanness this morning are my combat boots, water stained and wearing thin: they were nearly new when I arrived. Those shoes are my story, that sole is /my/ soul objectified, in a good way. Urging me forward, just another step more. From the coast of Brittany to the streets of Rennes, in the halls of the Louvre to an open mic in an upside down bar, a travers the transepts of multiple cathedrals, through chateaus in the Loire and the gritty tunnels of the Parisian metro, capital hopping- from Berlin to Madrid to lisbon, scuffed from dancing at my French friend’s 18th birthday in a one bedroom apartment somewhere in Strasbourg, covered with a few drops of champagne and more than a few grass stains. Together, we’ve survived.

One thought on “Vignettes of a year abroad

  1. This is really really incredible. I’ve been following your blog for a while because I want to do SYA my junior year. You have a gift, and this was truly beautiful 🙂

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