It’s 5:40 a.m., and I’ve been awake for more than an hour. Of course, that’s what happens when you go to bed before 9 p.m. on a Friday night. My body thinks it’s still in Provence, and my brain wishes it were, so clearly there’s nothing else to do but get up. I just ate a rather tasteless orange, which reminded me again of where I was 4 days ago, and where I am now.
Later today, I’ll continue working on the lesson plans for a course I’ll soon be teaching to a group of 17 Chinese professors, who are visiting the University of Alberta to spruce up their teaching and their English language skills. They’ve been taking courses and observing classes since they arrived. It will be my job to help them make sense of the higher education culture they’ve been experiencing, and to figure out what parts of it they can implement in their classrooms once they return to China.
My own culture has seemed more than a little foreign since we came back from Provence on Tuesday. When we left the airport parking lot and swung out onto the Queen Elizabeth II, fhe highway looked unnaturally wide, the half bowl prairie sky more expansive than I remembered. When we grocery shopped on Wednesday, the vegetables looked as jetlagged as I felt, and the peaches had no perfume. I did buy some really good bread from our local bakery, but the loaf was 4 times more expensive than any I’d bought in France. Last night, I met a colleague for a drink at a pub in downtown Edmonton. We sat outside, but the rush hour traffic, metres away from us, drowned out sections of our conversation. At the table next to ours, a very young waitress in a very tiny black dress leaned into a group of happy hour men, showing off four inches of cleavage and a spread eagle tattoo that stretched across her collarbones.
According to Bruce Kirkby, a travel writer for the Globe and Mail, I am standing at that “fleeting and oft-ignored intersection… between vacation and routine, between exotic and familiar, [when], for a brief moment, we glimpse our home through the eyes of a stranger.” Kirkby says that the “anonymity, freedom, and time” we experience when we leave our homes to travel reshape us. We want the changes to last, but “how do we weave…all the ephemeral moments and all we have seen and felt and learned, into the starched and unbending routines of home?”
I began to consider an answer to this question before we returned from France. In my post “Les delices de Provence,” I decided to weave a little Provencal .food culture into my eating habits. I’ve dug up a recipe for salade Nicoise (maybe “the” recipe: it’s Julia Child’s), and I haven’t denied myself a square of Lindt dark chocolate in the evening, “Francais, ou pas Francais” helped me to consider the style of French women – clothes that fit, accessories with spirit, and posture that says, “I like me, and I care how I look.” I’d been working on my own posture and the core strength to support it since I hurt my mid-back during a coughing spasm last February. Before we left for France, I was losing my motivation to continue the exercises, but those French women helped me to regain it.
I’ve also resolved to continue travelling and blogging. I discovered that combining the two made both the journeying and the writing richer. Knowing I was going to write about my adventures opened up my senses and helped me to become more keenly observant. And because travel always presents us with unfamiliar experiences, sometimes positive, sometimes not, writing acted as a meaning maker for me, helping me to figure out and shape those experiences, for myself and for you. Because who is a writer without a reader? I loved having all of you along for the blogging ride, and I so much appreciated your feedback, your enthusiasm, and your encouragement.
So, here’s my plan. Before the end of the year, I’ll be launching a new travel blog, one that defines “travel” in its broadest sense. Sometimes, I’ll write about the travel I do outside of Edmonton. But more often, my travel adventures will take place in and around the city. I think those ephemeral moments that afford us the chance to see and feel and learn don’t need to be confined to exotic vacations. We can enjoy those moments every time we step out of our starched and unbending home routines to try a new experience, add a new skill, and find out more about other people and ourselves.
And so, until my new adventures in travel blogging begin, a bientot, everyone! Stay tuned!
(P.S. You can find Bruce Kirkby’s article “A trip doesn’t stop when we return home” at http://www.theglobeandmail.com/life/tra vel/travel-news/a-trip-doesnt-stop-when -we-return-home/article1361270/ )