After two short but wonderful weeks I am already at the mid-way point of my program. I can’t believe how fast time is passing and I constantly push the countdown to my departure from my mind. Despite the shortness of my time in Lyon, the time I’ve spent here makes it easy to call it home. I love my host family. They have made me feel very welcome and even though I am still struggling with the language barrier, I love talking with them. One of my favorite parts of the day is sitting around the table and continuing to talk long after we’ve finished dinner. Though the French are known to savor and draw out their meals, my host family eats very quickly. I’m also a very fast eater and in my family I am always the first one to finish eating. It’s thus very nice and unexpected to have my host dad say “we should be more like Grace, everyone eat slower!” Even when I have a lot of homework to do, I make sure I am never the first one to leave the table. Before I left, I hoped I would get along with my host family and at least be able to communicate the necessities. By doing more than what I expected of myself, and what my host family probably expected of me, I feel my connection to them growing and my language skills improving quickly.
Their apartment is full of history and charm that makes me feel more connected to Lyon. Their towering ceilings are hugged by beautiful crown molding and the creaky wooden floors are as old as the building. One side of the apartment faces the street and the Saone River, the other faces a serene courtyard. In it is a statue of what seems to be a saint, and lush vegetation overflowing from the park on the top of the hill. I asked my host dad if they were able to use the courtyard, and he revealed to me with a look of clownish fear that only the lady below us can but she is “mechante” (mean).
Each day I walk to a red bridge on the Saone to meet two of the girls who are also staying with host families. There are multiple red bridges, and the first time we met, I waited at the wrong one. But after two weeks, the route is routine. After a breakfast of toasted baguette smeared with jam made my host mom, I leave the apartment, say “bonjour” to the owner of the Tapa restaurant on the corner as he sets up the street café tables, walk on the bank of the river, then cut up and walk a short time through the daily morning street market to reach the bridge. The three of us pass Place Bellecour, the unofficial heart of the city. Depending on the day we either stay on the shadowed perimeter or cut straight across. After my French Romantic Arts class, I either have lunch with a couple of the girls in my class somewhere in the neighborhood by the university or walk home and make my own lunch. We’ve found several cute and affordable places including a colorful vegan cafe that reminds me of Portland and serves a delicious raspberry tart and a cat café that plays great music. On my walks home from school, I am alone and free to discover new paths; each day, I try to take a new street. In my afternoons I start on my reading for class the next day before grabbing my camera or sketchbook and heading to whatever meeting spot my photography or drawing class had agreed upon. Each time we have class, we meet somewhere new.
Through walking around on my own and with my art classes, I get to see a lot of Lyon. It is easy once you have a routine to mindlessly follow the same paths, but doing so limits your interaction and connection with the city.
After my art class, I hurry home to my host family for dinner. They eat late, but if my class meets on the opposite end of town from their apartment, it makes it hard to make it back on time. Once, they ate without me, but left the food and a place setting out for me to come home to. I was very touched. After dinner, I will either continue my homework, walk around the neighborhood during sunset, or watch a French movie with my host family. One of my first nights in Lyon, they set me up with a movie and told me they would watch for ten or so minutes but then would go to bed because they had to wake up early. When the movie ended, they were all still with me in the living room. At that moment I truly felt like part of their family. I was so reminded of my dad, who always pops into the living room while me and my brother are watching a show or movie when he hears something that interests him. He’ll loom in the doorway for a while before conceding to a chair.
The world cup is this summer so some nights I will meet up at a bar with the other students in my program to watch a match. When France wins, the walk home is noisy and exhilarating. People in cars speed by, honking and waving the French flag out the window. While I am not terribly interested in sports, and don’t spend time in bars, participating in the culture in this way makes me feel more connected to Lyon. I’ve found that regardless of whether or not I enjoy something in the US, experiencing it in France makes it special.
my host family’s lovely living room
the view of the courtyard from my room
the market I pass through on my walk to class
baguettes being made, seen through a bakery’s window I pass on my walk to school
the (correct) bridge we meet at
the cat cafe where I sometimes get lunch
a photo I took for my photography class
sunset over the Saone