“How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives. What we do with this hour, and that one, is what we are doing. A schedule defends from chaos and whim. It is a net for catching days. It is a scaffolding on which a worker can stand and labor with both hands at sections of time. A schedule is a mock-up of reason and order—willed, faked, and so brought into being; it is a peace and a haven set into the wreck of time; it is a lifeboat on which you find yourself, decades later, still living. Each day is the same, so you remember the series afterward as a blurred and powerful pattern.” – Annie Dillard, via Brainpickings.
There is a difference between traveling and living. Although it probably doesn’t seem this way from far away in the U.S., I have spent less than 25% of my time here traveling. I traveled to get here, yes, but then I set up a home base and began my vie quotidienne (daily life). And, because my blog is disproportionately adventure stories, I thought I should say something about my days. For, after all, “how we spend our days is…how we spend our lives.” My schedule, my hours…this is what they’re filled with.
1. I eat and write. These are my two favorite ways to fill my time. I’ve already filled up a moleskine and bought a new one. In the morning and evening, I write. In my breaks between classes, I write. On my blog, I write more. I’ve also learned loads of new recipes. I cook for myself, I cook for friends, I cook for tomorrow’s lunch, I don’t cook because a waffle from Waffle Factory sounds better. I sometimes put on music in the background, genre “cozy evening folk” or “jazzy oldies,” depending on what mood I’m in. I dance and sing and cook, at the same time.
2. I ride the train. Four days a week, four hours a day, I am either in or waiting for the train. This has ceased to be unbearable since I remembered On Being, my old favorite podcast. Now I use the time to be inspired by the mysteries of human existence as reported via interviews with the famous studiers of humanity. It can’t be beat, as far as train entertainment goes. It’s also a lesson in chuckling at the little things, like this Christmas-colored train board (unfortunately the result of multiple delays…not uncommon train behavior).
3. I talk to students and teachers. Much of my time at the high school (12+ hours per week) is spent in the staff room, socializing with teachers as they come and go, or with students in class. I’m getting to know them, even if I still don’t know most of their names. I am greeted by a chorus of “‘ello” as I walk down the hallway. I am welcomed to lunch tables and solicited for english advice. I am engaged in conversation by especially interested teachers and students. I also have a tutoring job once a week, which provides extra money and the fulfillment that only one on one time with a really motivated student can provide.
4. I spend time with friends. In the land of workaholics (America) (or maybe just college), relationships too often get thrown into the “do if I have enough time” category. Now that I always have enough time, I get more enjoyment out of social events, because I never have to rush off to the next thing. I go round for tea. Breakfast dates, dinner parties, wine tastings, soirées in town, poetry readings, film nights, group workouts, leisurely walks to the lake…the world is our oyster, and I’m grateful to have others in my position to share experiences with.
On any given day, I will do all of these things. This is how I spend my days. Really, my year with TAPIF is not about the number of countries I’ll see or the amount of French I’ll learn…it’s about the moments and memories I will have spent which make up a totally unique, and fulfilling, and happy life, in a foreign place-turned-home. I think the hardest question to answer when I go back to Seattle will be “how was France?”
You may as well ask, “how was life?”
And how would you respond to that?