Tonight as I awoke to the muffled, hocking sound of my coloc (short for colocataire, the official French title for the guy who lives with me in my apartment) throwing up, I realized something: sick is sick. It doesn’t matter if you’re in France, the U.S., Thailand, Turkey, or Peru. When you’ve gotta puke, you gotta puke.
For months now I’ve been thinking of starting a blog, and for some reason I never imagined my first words would be about vomiting. But I never actually thought I’d get this far in the process either. It’s true that even after I tackled the obstacle of coming up with a title and convinced myself that I might possibly have more than three readers (shout-out to fellow rookie blogger Liz Loewenstein, who finally pushed me to get this thing up and running), I continued to doubt whether or not I would ever actually write anything, let alone anything meaningful. But I suppose there’s no harm in trying, so here we go: Words. Sentences.
Kipling said that “the first condition to understanding a foreign country is to smell it.” Admittedly, I knew very little about this Kipling fellow before stumbling upon his quote the other night. I guess I possessed some vague, back-of-the-mind knowledge that he was a writer (some lasting remnant of 12th-grade English?), but it wasn’t until I exploited the trusty services of Wikipedia that I learned that he was a Bombay-born English author most famous for his Disney-adapted collection of short stories entitled The Jungle Book, and that his first name was, of all things, Rudyard. However noteworthy this whacky first name might be (it had me in an irrationally hysterical fit of fatigue-induced laughter), it’s not that tiny sliver of wisdom I want you to take away from this post. What I do want you to realize is that dude’s got a point.
If living in a foreign city for four months has taught me anything, it’s that being vulnerable is completely okay. Going to any new place, especially one whose natives don’t speak your language, is intimidating and at times humiliating. It’s once you’ve stripped yourself of expectation and exposed yourself to vulnerability that you can open up your senses and truely start to experience (hear, taste, smell) a foreign land. It’s true that some things (like vomiting) are universal. But for every similarity, there are about a thousand differences.
So, readers, follow me if you wish. Join me as I look for, encounter, and document these differences. But before you do, stop a second, open your eyes and ears, and take a big ol’ whiff of the French Stench.