This is it, the beginning of my year abroad, where I'll studying in a city I never expected to see again and living alone for the first time in my life. Armed with the same Birkenstocks I wore last year follow me as I chronicle my journey from LAX to JFK to ORLY to Paris. Let the grand adventure begin.
PART I: LAX
6:32am Leaving is hard y'all let me tell you. I'm saying farewell to so many people that I love and it's painful knowing I won't be readily available to see them for the next year.
I'm not sure I have advice to give y'all on this one. When my parents waved goodbye to me at the airport this morning it was all I could do to put one foot in front of the other. When I said farewell to my brother yesterday I cried the entire way to Long Beach like a blubbering whale (I'm not sure what sort of image this is supposed to conjure up in your mind). Now, sitting in front of gate 43 in LAX waiting for my 7:30am boarding time I realize I'm incredibly lucky. I have people I cry for when I have to leave them. I have learned to love people immensely and without fear and have done it unknowingly. I will be okay in life because I've made it. I am not afraid to leave the people I love because I've realized that love will still be there when I come back. This moment in my life is just a moment and it too shall pass just as MVC and UCLA passed and at the end of this year I'll be heading on to another journey and that will also be grand and terrifying.
PART II: JFK
So, I have arrived at JFK. The flight before did not feel quite as long as I'd anticipated it to be. The process of getting to my new gate at JFK; however, felt incredibly long. I first asked like 4 people where terminal 7 was, as I was in terminal 8 and much to my chigrin was mislead twice. I finally gave up on asking people, grabbed a map and started following the arrows. The arrows lead me to a tram which brought me to terminal 7 I once again followed a bunch of signs just so that I could sign in at a new kiosk and go through the security again. What a struggle.
Now though, that I've found my gate, bought some overpriced snacks and a smoothie I'm able to start mentally prepping for the big flight. By tomorrow morning I shall be in Paris, France, today; however, I have to spend 8+ hours in a metal tube. I think back on the entire process that has lead to me this place seems daughting when I look back on it and even though I still have a lot more things to do once I get to Paris (like finding a cell phone plan and setting up my apartment for wifi) I doesn't seem nearly as hard anymore.
My only hope for this flight is that I sleep. I slept a little on the last flight but the man in front of me was a giant and leaned his seat all the way back making for a very cramped 5 hours.
So update on the seating, as I have now boarded the plane. I've for some reason been seated in what looks to be the business class cabin. Not that I'm complaining but man the amount of space they have up here. What does one do with all this space? It sure is comfy though. Okay 8+ hours I can handle you in this seat. *content sighes resound*
PART III: ORLY
First of all let me just tell all of you, I've arrived safely in Paris; like 2 weeks ago. Sorry about that, I kept meaning to finish the journey but it just never seemed to happen.
Okay, so what exactly happened when I arrived in ORLY? Well, let me tell you it was quite a ridiculous affair.
First, I got off the plane and realized my phone had no service. In the actual airport (after the bus ride from the plane to the airport terminal) I also had no service. I'm not sure why I thought I'd suddenly have service in the airport but I did think this and I did not have service, still.
Next, I had to go through customs and now my passport currently has two stamps in it (woo-hoo!) for the same country but we won't dwell on that. After going through customs I walked right out of the international baggage claim area without my bags. Yes, that is correct I followed I couple from my flight assuming they knew where they were going and would lead me to the baggage claim area. This couple did in fact know where they were going, trouble is, they didn't have checked bags to pick up. I, unfortunately did.
I cannot stress this enough: it is imperative for people traveling to a foreign country to NOT leave the international baggage claim area because trust me it will be so incredibly hard (and insanely embarrassing) for you to get back there.
As you can imagine this is where the panic set in.
I wandered around using my limited knowledge of the French language to try and communicate with people that I had left the baggage claim area without my bag. They all thought I was trying to tell them my bag was lost and then I'd have to say things like 'No, I just walked out of the baggage claim area without my bag.' And then they'd look at me blankly and try very hard not to laugh. I went through this with the people who worked in the five different areas of orly I was sent to.
My first stop was to an office of a tiny old man, the purpose of which office I've not a clue. From there the man escorted me to the British Airways departing station, where severely annoyed employees sent me in some general direction to the lost baggage area. From there to the information desk because I got lost while trying to find the lost baggage desk. From this lost baggage desk I was sent to the Gate G sign where I met a different tiny old man who led me to the baggage area that I was supposed to go to originally after going through customs. Once there I discovered that my bag had actually never gotten on the plane from JFK to ORLY and was indeed lost. Basically making my epic struggle of communicating in broken French to various people and walking around ORLY nearly 3 times all a gigantic waste of time. So, I went back to the lost baggage desk and told the woman that my luggage was indeed lost. Upon which time the woman actually did laugh at me, shake her head and let out an 'Oh la la' before filling out some paperwork.
Then I hailed a cab and waited slightly terrified as my cab driver did not have GPS nor the faintest idea of where my street was located. The man got lost once and had to call someone twice for directions. To this day, I still have no idea how I got to my apartment.
But I did arrive, to be greeted by an adorable caretaker who, much to my happiness, insisted on speaking English with me. You'd think that this is where the story ends right, well no, not quite. The caretaker and I discovered that the cleaning lady who had my key was nowhere to be found. So, after the fifth time of ringing the doorbell with no answer he looked at me and shrugged saying "We'll try your apartment if she's not there I don't have a key".
By this point I was not surprised. Up we went 6 flights of stairs to the top of this apartment building where my room where my room was being cleaned. I clutched those keys very tightly as the caretaker and I proceeded to walk back down the 6 flights of stairs so he could show me how the sensor key worked at the door downstairs and then back up to my apartment where I awkwardly waited for the cleaning lady to finished.
When I was finally alone in my apartment I flopped on the bed and watched tv for an hour before having to once again brave the unknown world outside to search for wifi as my parents hadn't heard from me in close to 3 hours.
As my suitcase was lost I also had to acquire more clothes. Luckily, I discovered that the arche du triomphe and the champs-élyées is quite literally a 3 minute walk from my apartment. Unluckily, I discovered everything was grossly overpriced including the H&M. 70€ later, my family had been called, I had clothes to get me by until my lost luggage was found and I had a temporary (extraordinarily overpriced, thank you Orange for gouging me) SIM card in my iPhone.
I sat on a bench in front of the arche du triomphe for a long time, facetiming with my mother, and with every passing minute I feeling less and less like I had made the worst decision of my life.
Paris or bust eh?