Wednesday, November 7, 2012

10 Years Ago Today, J'étais en France


10 year ago today, I was winging my way to France with my mom, sister-in-law Jill, Jill's mom Kathi and the rest of my International Trade and Tourism (ITT) class from CHS. Yes, our field trips were that cool.

I'm so lucky that my parents have long believed in the value of travel. My father bankrolled trips to both Europe and Africa for me in high school, which obviously isn't cheap. Yet so many life lessons and values came to me while I was hearing, seeing, tasting, touching and smelling new things on non-American soil.
 
I definitely learned a lot. Like French people don't believe in pickup trucks.,or even cars that can fit someone larger than a small child inside.

 
Funnily enough, back in 2002 I wrote in the photo album that this car was "Shelbea-sized." Times have changed. There is no way Shelbea could ever fit her long legs in this car now!
 
Highlights of the 10-day jaunt included:
  • Taking a night train to Nice (an excerpt from my journal: "I never want to hear the phrase "Nice is Nice" again. The French people think it's funny, but it's not.")
 
  • Visiting the famed Notre Dame Cathedral, with the requisite scaffolding on the side. I learned that only in movies does any building in Europe not have some form of scaffolding attached to it at all times.

 

  • Checking out Louis "The Sun God" XIV's digs at Versailles. Air Force One and the White House ain't got nothing on this place!


 
    Funny memories (oh, my poor mother). She took several years of French in school, can read it quite well and was so excited to practice in real life. So we all agreed to let her be our spokewoman in public. Our first night on the town, we headed to a non-touristy restaurant. The hostess asked, "How many?" in French, and we all looked at Mom expectantly. All she had to do was say "quatre" -- four.  
But she froze. She French froze. And then, with a white, terrified face, threw up her right hand, 4 fingers erect.  
We just about died laughing. And then laughed some more when on another night, we ordered a whole fish for each of us....and got it. Literally.

 
P.S. Mom, I like your hair here.
  • After 3 straight days of museum-ing (the Louvre is just not as cool as the Baseball Hall of Fame, and I don't care how uncultured that makes me sound), I was finished and needed a quiet space to sit down and think. I found one, next to a statue of a guy doing the exact same thing. How handy.

 
 Yep, traipsing around France and Monaco was pretty awesome. My whole life back then, when you think about it, was pretty awesome. But it was about to get a million times better.
 
In the middle of this trip -- of the fantastic new experiences and wonderful memories -- I felt something crazy. I missed someone, quite unexpectedly. So much so that I had to make an international call just to hear his voice.
 
You see, at this point, I still didn't know. I didn't realize how important this one boy would become to me someday. I didn't know we had a future together. Honestly, in early November 2002, I was just glad I had someone to pay for an occasional movie and ice cream on a Saturday night. I figured we'd date a few months and then move on.
 
Sometimes, it's fantastic when you're wrong.
 
So I called Nick in Creswell all the way from Paris. We spoke only a few minutes, and that was  that. But when I got home, I found this note in my locker (you know, back before boys and girls only communicated through the idiocy we call texting). Note the 2 o's in "soo." :-)

 
 
 
 
And that was the beginning. Reading those words in between econ with Morris and Choir with Buller, something clicked. My heart began to change. Within one month, I knew we were going to get married.
 
Today, life is certainly different than it was back then. I've been out of college for 6 years. I'm well on my way into an incredibly satisfying career (maybe not well-paying...but I take what I can get). I'm a military wife and mama to 3 children. And that boy who used to leave me sweet notes in my locker is now my grown-up husband of 8 years. And I'm still starry-eyed about him.

International travel can teach you so much about the world. It's exciting, fast-paced and a whirlwind.

Maybe my life isn't exactly that way today. And that's okay. Because sometimes, traveling can remind you that something (or someone) even better waits for you back home.