The day that I thought would never come has already been and gone. I was finally going back to Canada after ten long months. My last week included all of the regular things I’d have to do in order to leave France. I returned my cell phone, packed my suitcases (and hoped that they weren’t overweight), and went to the bank to close my account. Boy, was that an adventure in itself. She cut up my bankcard right in front of me and then decided to tell me the bad news after the fact. Turns out the cheque that I cashed in the week earlier had still not gone through and wouldn’t go through until July 7th. I was scheduled to leave July 2nd. I therefore needed a BIC-Swift number as well as an IBAN number (two things that I had absolutely no idea what they were) so that they could wire the money into my Canadian account. I explained that I didn’t have these numbers with me (not only that but I had no way to contact my parents to ask since they were at a Skypeless cabin and I was without a cellphone) and I was later given a fax number to fax the account numbers to the bank once I returned to Canada. That left me with a grand total of 8 Euro and 2 cents to last me for my last three days in France. Lucky for me, I didn’t have to pay for any drinks (except the drinks from Benjy) at the Celtique or else I would have really been screwed.
Wednesday was my goodbye day. Once Adriana and I got the chance, we went to the Celtique with our huge basket filled with American food, all of which we bought at the American grocery store in Paris. It included things such as a box of Whisky Sour, Reese’s peanut butter cups, peanut butter M&Ms, goldfish crackers, as well as some other little things. The Celtique guys all were very thankful and we were quite surprised when Stéphane (or Funny Guy) presented us with gifts as well. We each got a mug with our first initial on it, as well as a picture frame with a picture of my four girlfriends and Stéphane sitting at one of the tables. It was so hard, knowing that I’d be leaving the Celtique, never to see the waiters or to return again (at least not in the next two years…). It was harder saying bye to Adriana, the girl who was with me from the very beginning and with whom I’d spent almost everyday with in the last ten months, Christmas and New Year’s included.
That night, I tucked the kids into bed. Saying bye to Alice was quite easy and she didn’t seem to be too upset by it but saying goodbye to Antoine was a lot harder than I’d thought it would be. Every time I said goodnight and got up to go, he’d ask me another, “But why do you have to go?” and I’d have to try to explain to him yet again that I had family and friends at home that I needed to see. “But they can just come here and see you,” he’d say, trying to convince me to stay. I eventually said my last goodbye and went up to my room, only to hear the kids run out of bed to their parents and ask them endless questions of why I was leaving. Well, c’est la vie…
I got up at five in the morning to get the last of my stuff ready and went downstairs at around 5:45 to find Anne waiting for me in the kitchen. She dropped me off at the Rambouillet train station (really, a nice offer considering it was a 10-minute walk and also would have most likely been the easiest part of my journey…) and left before the train had even come. The train came at 6:11 and I hauled my two 50-pound suitcases, my 20-pound purse, and my 30-pound backpack onto the train without any help from anyone. I got a nice spot on the stairs since all of the seats were taken and tried not to think about the stress I would be going through once the next 30 minutes went by. The train arrived in Paris a half an hour later and I quickly bolted off the train and walked as fast as a person hauling 150-pounds of extra weight could walk. I finally made it to the bus, which would take me from where I was to the airport. I gave one of the guys my suitcases and then went up to the driver with my Visa ready. “Oh, I don’t have a machine for that…” the driver said, “Do you have any cash?” I pretended to look through my wallet even though I already knew the answer, “Um, only 8 Euros… Are there any cash dispensers around?” The driver was quite polite and did a quick look through the street, “Not that I know of…I’ll tell you what. When we stop at the Gare de Lyon, you can get cash out there. There are lots of banks nearby.” This must be my lucky day (or so I thought), “Thank you so much!” I said, as I took a seat near the front. When we finally arrived to the Gare de Lyon 15 minutes later, I ran up to the driver and asked where the cash machine was. She seemed startled and had totally forgotten about me and I realized maybe I should have just kept my mouth shut. She pointed me into the direction and told me to hurry so I quickly ran across the street, taking my debit from home and praying that it would work. “We’re sorry, your bank has ordered us to return your card.” No. I ran to the closest Tabac, “Do you do cashbacks?” I yelled in most likely horrible grammar but I didn’t care. “No, I don’t have a machine for that.” I then ran across the street to the café, desperate for the money. I asked the man who looked like the manager who told me it was illegal to do so, and I was nearly in tears. I walked back to the bus feeling defeated and told the driver that it didn’t work, and I was kicked off the bus. So there I was with all of my bags, at a bus stop in the middle of Paris, with the packing man as my only company. I was surprised at how nice he was and he seemed determined to get me to the airport. He helped me take my bags down the sidewalk, and down the stairs into the metro station where I bought an RER ticket with my Visa and thanked the man before saying goodbye. I caught the next RER and had to get off at the next stop in order to switch again. Once I finally got on the next RER (which would take me straight to the CDG airport), it finally hit me that I was leaving. I thought of the Celtique, my friends, the waiters, and I broke down crying with a good thirty people watching me, not knowing what to think. I got to the airport at 8:15, got a trolley and walked as fast as possible to the check-in counters, which took about 10 minutes. They were supposed to take the last customer at 8:30 so I got there just in time… to find a humungous line of people still waiting. I got talking to a girl a few years older than me so we kept each other company for the next half hour. I finally got to the check-in counter only to find out that A) my bags were underweight, yay! And B) the flight was two hours delayed. Lovely. I got in the line for security, which must have taken at least 45 minutes. Once I got through, I found the girl I had met earlier (lucky for her, she was an EU citizen and got to go through the special security line) so we kept each other even more company for the next two hours. Within 15 minutes, the gate was changed so we quickly moved and found a spot. After an hour, they started serving sandwiches for all of the passengers so we got in the huge line. We waited for about 15 minutes and when we were literally the second people in line, the sandwiches mysteriously disappeared and the lady announced that the gate was changed and we could get the sandwiches there. By that time, everyone was getting superannoyed as we all walked upstairs and downstairs to get to the next gate and get our sandwiches. They finally did the boarding call and we went through and found out that we had to take a bus in order to get to the plane, which only made the process longer. People were squished on the bus from back to front and only when there was no more room left for someone to move a finger, the bus would leave and a new one would come. Once all 300 customers got on the plane, we were ready for takeoff. I cried on that plane too, read a bit, and mostly just listened to my iPod. The flight seemed to take forever but I finally got to Toronto with only an hour and a half until my next flight. While waiting for the baggage claim to start, I decided to take the time to call my parents since they asked me to call them once I got into Toronto. I first tried to collect call, only to find out that my house didn’t accept collect calls, so then I decided I could use my three toonies (which brought a warmness to me just by looking at them). That didn’t really work to my advantage considering the payphone only accepted loonies and lower. Well, my parents would have to go without a phonecall. Luckily, my bags were two of the first twenty that came out so I took them and ran to get to the customs lineup. I got through, checked my bags back in, and then went to the long security line. The first thing I saw once I through security was a heavenly Tim Horton’s sign, almost calling to me and telling me to get that iced cappuccino that I haven’t had for the past year. But I had no time. I made my way to my gate just in time for them to start the boarding call and I got on the plane knowing that my ten months of built-up stress could finally be let go. The plane ride back to Saskatoon seemed to take longer than the last one that I was on but I finally saw the familiar bridges, as well as the river, and couldn’t stop smiling to myself. My family was there to greet me and I managed to stay up until ten that night before passing out in my bed.
My two weeks back have went by so fast and it almost seems like I haven’t even left (when it comes to seeing everyone again). I still notice little differences and miss a lot of France. I realized during my first supper that my entire family was eating normally in the Canadian way whereas I had the French habits stuck in my head and couldn’t help but laugh to myself once I noticed. It’s hard to have the people I come back to not quite understand that I’m glad to be home but that I still miss where I was before. It’s hard to try to share, “Well in France, we do this…” only to be answered with, “Well you’re not in France anymore.” I felt like with many people, I was given a half an hour to talk about my experience but once that half an hour was up, we had to go back to normal and the subject could never be brought up again without people getting annoyed. And with many other people, the subject wasn’t even brought up at all. So now, I’m left to only think about my experiences to myself and write to the people who shared those experiences with me whether it be my friends I met there or the waiters at the Celtique. I understand where people are coming from and I know that I can’t always live in the past so I’m going along with it as best as I can. But the hardest thing of all is coming back and feeling like I had just woken up from a dream and having no one to confirm all of the memories I have. No one to whom I can say, “Hey, remember that time when…”; it’s just me and my memories.
Running Back to Saskatoon – Guess Who