All my life I’ve been eating pears wrongly, and it wasn’t until I had a pear bestowed upon me by Anna that I was shown the error of my ways. At first highly sceptical, I observed as she bit the stalk off and binned it, and then proceeded to eat the entire pear, barring the core and leafy-bottom bit of course. I believe at first I was powerless even to commence my own pear-consumption, being overwhelmed by the sheer radicalism of her actions. I was far from convinced, but, being the polite guest that I am, acquiesced to try her most unusual of methods. To my surprise, it made for a rather delightful experience, certainly less wasteful than my previous manner of pear-eating, and also seemed to create a better taste of pear, perhaps because my brain was not expecting an apple-taste due to me biting around the “core”.
So anyway, when people ask me what I’ve taken away from my experience in France, I am not sure if that will be how I will answer them, but it would certainly be a truthful way so to do.
My biggest “what on earth?!” moment would probably be in January, when the night after I skied into a rock (and was therefore in some pretty serious pain) the girl across the hall got me up at 3am to evacuate an unwanted male from her room. I’d never spoken to her before, and have since also never seen her. Another contender would be the guy who stepped over my back as I lay on my front revising in the park: personal space, ever heard of it?!
Culinary discoveries include: how easy quiche is to make, tabbouleh, cooking with lentils, and how good ganache is as an all-purpose dessert for the ovenless. Plus that you can make pizza dough with ordinary flour. And also that I do enjoy a nice Alsacian Pinot Gris or Gerwurztraminer.
Knitting discoveries: I really like knitting hats, and really like knitting in the round so I don’t have to seam up afterwards.
Literary discoveries: how much I like Kazuo Ishiguro.
Miscellaneous discovery: English people find it difficult to comprehend the upbringing of a good Scots child to forever be resentful of the English, and particularly to loathe being called English. Also they are mocking of the beautiful Scottish accent. However I (grudgingly) accept that even the English people that haven’t chosen to study in Scotland (my previous proviso) may have some good qualities as friends 😛
On a more serious note, I’ve also been able to really appreciate how faithful God is, and how wonderful it is to be able to bond with Christian sisters and brothers from all over the world, no matter how short or long a time you’ll have with them. Trinity International Church, particularly the Youth Group, and Navigators have been wonderful, as well as really interesting with the mix of opinions on things which diverge from what can sometimes be a relatively homogeneously conservative set in Glasgow… don’t worry, though, nothing heretical 😉
Also really interesting has been talking with people of any viewpoint from all across the world, learning about differences in cultures and mindsets. It’s been amazing to have the opportunity to travel freely into Germany whenever I like, and the additional times when I went to Copenhagen, and am going to go to Luxembourg and Amsterdam have definitely whet my appetite for international travel, albeit that I definitely prefer being somewhere I can speak the language. I’ve learned that really, I don’t care too much for the “must-see” sights, particularly not if they involve cathedrals or art galleries… though history museums and art galleries in tiny doses can be interesting. Definitely better is just wandering about, getting tips from a local on where to go, savouring a hot chocolate and pastry in a café, admiring the architecture, and popping into a few of the locally-grown shops (ie not H&M and Zara).
I’ve also learned what I miss about Scotland (other than my friends and family, of course): the healthcare system definitely features, as well as golden syrup, Cadbury’s chocolate, every shop being open at lunch, and a lack of OTT bureaucracy. Plus not so many hideously creepy men. Other things are more nuanced: it is annoying that all shops close at 20h, and most are shut on Sundays, but at the same time it’s nice that the French go some way to having a better life/work balance sorted, and I can’t begrudge people a day’s rest! And the “bising”: I kiss more people’s cheeks on any given day than I previously ever had in my life before France, so please don’t be taken aback if I swoop alarmingly close and hover beside your cheek before realising what I’ve done and awkwardly transforming into a hug. I certainly won’t miss having my cheek scratched by guys who haven’t bothered to shave, and it can be annoying being expected to bise everyone if you walk into a room; but on the other hand it is a nice way to say hi to everyone, and can also finish off a conversation nicely.
And there are so many things I’ll miss about Strasbourg (again, excepting the people that are a given): being able to cycle everywhere, the comparatively great weather, lack of hills, going to market a couple of time each week, the bread, the Orangina, and the beauty of the city. But hey, flights are relatively cheap so I’m sure that I’ll come back soon 😀