Home

Home is where the tea collection is.

In case you haven’t noticed, I live in Kansas City now. On short notice, without pomp or ceremony, I moved to the West Coast of Missouri to start a new job. I’m now a teaching assistant at Horizon Academy, a private school for students with learning disabilities. The last two weeks have been a bustling mess of packing, traveling, working, apartment hunting, painting, cleaning, and unpacking. Now that I’m settled into my new address and my new position, I finally have some time to think. This city isn’t mine. Then again, no place has been entirely mine for the last half decade; I’ve bounced from one semi-home to the next in constant flux.

Two months ago I returned from France to St. Louis, a wonderful city that I can no longer legitimately call home. While my parents are still there, many of the friends I grew up with have scattered. The ones who remain no longer enjoy the freedoms of being a student; frequent, spontaneous hangouts are a thing of the past. St. Louis is to me a city of woven memories.

This summer, my only home was my 55-liter backpack. I explored Ireland and Scotland, never staying in one place for more than a few days. As I hiked across the Pyrenees, I dreamt beneath the stars every evening in a bivouac sack. Names, distance, and time all lost meaning as I slept on a new patch of ground each night. My backpack was a kind of home for adventure, but it offered no permanence.

Before becoming a nomad, I had just begun to call Chambéry home. I’d arrived in the Alps on a September morning, disoriented by the mountains and encumbered by luggage. By April I’d grown up a little and grown into the language, culture, and people of France. My first year of adulthood was in Chambéry, sweet but temporary.

Before France, Kirksville Missouri was my makeshift home. Every year as a student I lived in a new building, every break I went back to St. Louis, and every summer I worked elsewhere. In many ways I grew to love the small town atmosphere of Kirksville, but as a student it was impossible to become a true local.

I studied abroad in Angers, France—the most brilliant and ephemeral home of them all. The three months were a whirlwind of novelty: new cultures, new places, new people, and new worldviews. I was separated from everything I’d ever known, liberated but adrift.

Throughout my summers at Camp Eagle, Texas became a kind of home for me, too. It’s there that I developed some of my most meaningful and lasting friendships; it’s there that I fell in love with the outdoors while backpacking and kayaking in the blazing summer heat. The people and the landscape of southwest Texas will draw me back for years to come.

In the last five years I’ve had many homes, and no homes. Each place I’ve lived has offered something special, but never something whole. I’m continually homeful, and homeless. This move to Kansas City is yet another passing stage; if all goes according to plan, next year I’ll move yet again to start graduate school.

I’m finalizing the layout of my new room. I’m memorizing my new zip code. I’m getting to know my new students and coworkers. I’m growing accustomed to being surrounded by Royals fans. I’ve found a few radio stations that will suffice. Each day I can better navigate what I’ve realized must be the most haphazard and knotted streets in America. I have a purpose here, and I’m close to people I love. With each passing day, I feel a little more homeful and a little less homeless.

 

The Wealth of the Mountains

The Bauges, looking north from just under the Dent d'Arclusaz

Climb the mountains and get their good tidings

–John Muir

A few weeks ago, I went on a day hike with some of the other Anglophone assistants. Our goal was to hike from the train station in the town of Saint-Pierre d’Albigny (295 meters) to the top of the Dent d’Arclusaz (2041 meters) and return before dark. Spoiler alert: we failed. I still consider the trip a success.

Our party consisted of the Brits (Dawn, Julia, and Rose) and the Yankees (Adam, Hannah, Neal, and myself). Our motley crew assembled at the train station in Chambéry in different stages of preparedness—from hangover to headlamp. Except for Dawn and me, the group didn’t have much out-of-doors experience. 

 

 

We arrived to find Saint-Pierre shrouded in mist. As we walked up through the town, the gang became concerned: if visibility stayed so poor, would it be worth continuing? As we ascended the sun did the same, and the clouds melted away to reveal the landscape surrounding us. The Dent d’Arclusaz was directly in front of us, massive but distant. To our right, we saw the high peaks of the Belledonne range, already covered in snow. The party reacted with awe, followed by uncertainty. The space separating us from the peak was difficult to comprehend.  

 

 

Still we pushed on past the outskirts of the town, finally reaching the trailhead. The first section was muddy and steep, which only cultivated more doubt. The word impossible bounced around. It seemed silly to me, however, to undermine our chances so early, so I encouraged everyone to keep hiking as if we were aiming for the summit. If our goal turned out to be unattainable, it wouldn’t be because of our own pessimism.

The forest was a consolation. Autumn was in its fullness, and the myriad of trees enclosed us in living color. When I think back on the fall of 2014, I will remember the fiery blanket spread over the mountains.

 

The blanket

 

It’s a good thing that the woods were pleasing, because we didn’t see much else for the next several hours. The trail leveled out as it meandered up switchbacks, which made the hike easy but time-consuming. Not everyone in the group thought it was easy, however. This was Julia and Hannah’s first time ever hiking up a mountain, and a few of the others were running on inadequate sleep. Much of the challenge was mental. The trail was narrow and even though we were concealed in a forest, the steep drop directly beside us was enough to give some people vertigo. To be fair: the slender path, combined with the wet leaves and mud, gave us reason to be cautious.  

 

 

As we hiked higher and higher, the party approached physical and mental breaking points. Hannah, as always, was endearingly vocal. She frequently asked for the elevation in an attempt to judge progress, but she really meant are we there yet? It was clear that we wouldn’t reach the top, but still we pushed on towards the tree line. Although the strugglers were periodically revived by little glimpses through the forest, it was clear that we couldn’t keep going much longer.

 

A gap in the trees

 

Just when surrender was palpable, we reached a clearing below the summit. The cliffs of the Dent d’Arclusaz, which had been concealed for the past several hours, suddenly shone right above us. Gasps, then cheers. We had a clear view north into the folding range of the Bauges. The group shouted in disbelief: it was difficult to wrap our minds around the fact that the cliffs that were once so far away now lay right before us. The gravity of the scene filled us all with a sense of immense accomplishment.

 

A triumphant Dawn

 

At our highest point we reached 1440 meters, but it was apparent that we couldn’t reach the top before dark. After a late lunch and an extended break, we started our descent. It wasn’t long, however, before we reached another opening in the woods. It was even more stunning than the last. The town and the valley opened up below us, and we could trace the Isère River for miles as it snaked towards the mountainous horizon. The earth and the sky were draped in wispy clouds, and the afternoon sun illuminated the entire landscape. This is literally the most beautiful thing I have ever seen, Hannah said. The sentiment echoed in our group, albeit with more profanity.  

 

Adam looking out on the valley

 

We didn’t reach the summit, but that day I witnessed something far more rewarding than the view that would have met us there: I saw other people discover the mountains. What other place offers such rich grandeur? What other place confronts man with such an abundance of challenge? Only the mountains can pummel you into submission one moment and overwhelm you with beauty the next. The fact that this beauty is well earned makes it all the more sublime. It invigorates and enriches the spirit. This is real wealth; this is living.


Here you can read the accounts of Hannah, Julia, and Rose

Traversing the Chartreuse

 

Over the last several years, traveling and living abroad have made me a sort of real life Yes Man; I try to accept every opportunity that presents itself. Special access to a cathedral spire? Sure. Spontaneous trip to Turin? Absolutely. Sharing a bottle of exorbitantly expensive wine? Please and thank you. So naturally, when my new friends Léo and Antonin invited me last minute to join them on their weekend traverse through the Chartreuse, I said yes.

The massif of the Chartreuse stretches between Chambéry and Grenoble, and—even though the peaks reach only modest altitudes when compared to the high Alps—it’s not a geological formation to be trifled with. This is real hiking, Léo warned me; we would span the entire range from north to south: about eighty kilometers of distance, five thousand meters of ascent, and five thousand meters of descent in three days. I, however, was thoroughly psyched, and the fact that these measurements were metric made them all the easier to ignore. The weather forecast was ominous as well, but I was not to be deterred.

 

Last minute preparation

 

Day one:

On Friday, October tenth, I met up with Léo and Antonin at their house. We were joined by an Austrian named Bernhard, a friend of Antonin from his time studying in Calgary. I learned that we were also to rendezvous with a British girl named Emily somewhere in the mountains—as of Friday the location wasn’t very specific.

This ambiguity seemed characteristically French—as were many other aspects of our voyage. As we split the group gear and loaded up our packs, I couldn’t help but notice our food: paté, taboulé, cassoulet, saucisson, Nutella, and on our way out of Chambéry we purchased no less than six fresh baguettes. This was also a francophone journey in that it started far later than originally anticipated—after a lackadaisical lunch and some desultory preparation, we left at four in the afternoon.

 


I felt our departure from the city slowly; we went from downtown to the suburbs, then outer villages, then the countryside, until finally there was nothing but a lone trail in the forest. We followed the French grandes routes—primarily the GR 9. Much to my disappointment, I quickly distinguished myself as the weakest member of our party. I had the shortest legs, the heaviest pack, and I was the most out of shape. The difficult trail only widened this gap: I learned quickly that the switchback is a trend that never really caught on in the French trail system. Instead of zigzagging up the mountain, the path went straight up at a relentlessly steep incline. Even worse, the trails were nothing but mud as a result of the recent rain. With every step, the ground absorbed my energy. Any momentum gained after a short break was quickly sapped away by the fluid earth.


The GR trail marker

If the first day of the hike discouraged me with its challenges, it consoled me with its views. We walked through the picturesque meadows of the countryside, passing furry cows as they grazed. When I periodically looked behind me, I could see all of Chambéry, nestled in the valley. As we pressed on we caught larger and larger glimpses of the dramatic northern face of Mont Granier. We ascended into the clouds, feeling their cool moisture envelope us. Then we climbed above the mist as the sun was setting: we found ourselves in a numinous plane, punctuated by mountaintops. 


Mont Granier

 

The most impressive panorama, however, waited for us at the Pointe de la Gorgeat. At 1486 meters it was the highest elevation we achieved on the first day. Although the sun had set, the valleys we straddled were still illuminated in the glow of twilight—it was just barely too dark for pictures. Behind us, we looked down at the lights emanating from Chambéry and the surrounding towns; the giant Lac du Bourget was a dark void surrounded by glimmering settlements. In front of us, the entire Chartreuse massif presented itself in an otherworldly scene. Only the outlines of the mountains were defined; their dark masses jutted out from the earth like broken, contorted teeth. The clouds hung in the sky as dark smoke, and the scattered lights of small villages in the distance burned like the last dying embers of some epic cataclysm.

 

After absorbing it all in amazement, our party began a whirlwind descent. The conglomeration of mud and leaves that was so tiresome on the way up proved to be sympathetic in descent. With each lunging step, the ground cushioned the impact; we could safely rocket down the slope without destroying our joints. An hour or so later, we arrived at the outskirts of a village and stopped. In the darkness we set up camp, ate, stretched, and discussed the imminent storm. 


An unexpected friend

Day two:

At six in the morning there was a break in the rain. All four of us awoke simultaneously, and when we transitioned out of a sleepy daze and realized our fortune, we moved. As quickly as possible, we took down the tents and loaded our packs. We went down into the village to make breakfast (if you can really make soggy baguettes and jam, that is), finding shelter under someone’s deck. After a slight scare about our dwindling water supply, an early riser in the village pointed us toward a public restroom where we could refill our bottles.


Antonin, Bernie, and Léo navigating

Before the sun had risen, we were back on the trail. For a while, the hiking was relaxed as we moved forward in the valley. Eventually though, it was time to get up on the ridge. I was confused as we approached a small cirque. Eventually I realized that we were to follow a solitary forested corridor up the cliffs. An ominous sign read: Col de l’Alpette .9 km; 1 hr. It doesn’t usually take an hour to walk one kilometer…


We hiked up that

 

More mud, more ascent, no switchbacks. As we pressed up the slope, no one had the breath to talk. The only sound came from the cowbells below us in the valley. The multitude of bells reverberated and echoed into one, continuous drone. It was both charming and eerie.

As we neared the top, the sun peaked over the ridge right above us. The sudden burst of light created intense shadows, and the energy of the sight gave me motivation to keep going. Once we reached the crest, we stopped for a moment to enjoy some chocolate and our sense of accomplishment.

Nearing the Col de l'Alpette


The next section of the trail was sublime. We continued underneath the backside of Mont Granier into a brilliant meadow, which was covered by the lushest grass I have ever seen. The blanket of green was wet from the night before, and it glistened in the directional sunlight. We weaved in and out of rocky glades and diffuse evergreens. Bernie proved to be quite the forager: he found wild blueberries, blackberries, and cherries. I have never met an Austrian before, but somehow this seemed to be fitting.

 

South side of Mont Granier

Bernie's bounty


Around this time, Antonin’s knee started giving him significant pain. Apparently the morning’s ascent had revived an old injury, and as we moved Antonin struggled to keep up with his limp. As much as I could sympathize with Antonin (I’ve had intermittent pain in my left knee since my hike in the Pyrenees two years ago), I was also relieved to no longer be the slowest. While Léo and Bernie eagerly progressed, Antonin and I stuck together and followed at a slower pace—a trend that continued for the rest of the trip.

After the meadow, we transitioned into the high plateau of the Chartreuse. At the risk of sounding less-than-literary, the whole landscape truly felt like something out of Lord of the Rings. We were on a great journey through misty clouds, ancient forests, and dramatic mountains. Within the course of the day we passed through a dozen distinct environments; the diversity gave the impression of elapsed time—as if we had been traveling for months.

The Chartreuse is powerful. Even in the daylight, my impression from the night before at the Pointe de la Gorgeat lingered: you can’t escape the sense of being immersed in a brutal geology, something both mythical and violent. The mountains are giant shards, and you can almost feel the pressure that formed them. In some places, it’s as if you are walking amid the collapsed ruins of a giant stone table. In others, you can see the enormous folds of rock that were formed when some ancient colossus kneaded the peaks in his hands.


On the high plateau

 

After some more ascending and descending, we stopped for lunch. It was a hardy backpacker’s lunch—comprised primarily of different forms of fat (and a little bread). I shamelessly sucked on a heaping sporkful of Nutella for dessert. It amazes me that, when I'm backpacking, I can feel my energy being restored after a meal. 

 

Beaufort and pâté, garnished with bread


We followed the GR 9 into a thick forest. It wasn’t long after we left that I slipped in the mud and bent one of my trekking poles. I wasn’t too happy, and my mood sunk further once we entered the woods: the trail became a disgusting trench. Whereas at other points on our journey we could just walk beside the trail when it was particularly muddy, in the forest it was flanked by the most combative of thistles—there was no choice but to trudge through the deep, watery muck. I could also surmise from several of my senses that the mud was in no small part composed of cow feces (local herders also use the GR system to graze cattle). Mud, mud, mud—it was the constant of our voyage. Memorial of mud; millennia of mire.


After the forest we worked our way toward the Col de Bellefond, a pass situated in a beautiful crown of mountains. The approach was littered with boulders of all sizes, and once again we felt ourselves in a fantasy as we weaved in and out of the rocks and trees, passing a pack of chamois. When we arrived at the top, we were shrouded by clouds. Although the weather had been far more agreeable than we expected—it was supposed to rain on us all day—it was a little disappointing to not be able to devour more spectacular views. In another way, I suppose, the clouds did make the occasional glimpse all the more titillating.


Looking up towards the Col de Bellefond

A glimpse of the other side of the pass

 

Again we rocketed down the mountain. Antonin was able to get cell service, and he contacted Emily. We would meet up her and her friend first thing in the morning. As the sun began to set, the trail seemed never-ending. We had been hiking for almost twelve hours straight, and we just wanted to be done for the day. After becoming tired, then becoming numb to the stress, our muscles were reaching a third wave of fatigue. Léo and Bernie kept pushing on, hoping to find a campsite before dark. Antonin and I lagged behind, out of sight and out of earshot. We were both in pain now, as my ankle had started to hurt with every step. I don’t know exactly how long that final leg of the day lasted, but it felt interminable. Finally, well after dark, we stumbled upon the other half of our party. In an exhausted hurry we ate and then collapsed.

 

Sketchy bridge

 

Day three:

Although Antonin and Bernie woke up at six, Léo and I slept in for another forty minutes. I use the word sleep liberally, for most of the previous night had been an attempt to find some modicum of comfort with a giant rock in the middle of my back and while sliding down to one side of the tent. The briskness of the morning and the beautifully blushing sky, however, quickly invigorated me.

Shortly after we hit the trail, we ran into a section of very steep rock. We descended slowly using all limbs, but the rock was polished from the friction of thousands of other hikers. At one point I slipped, and the only thing that stopped me from a ten foot fall was landing on top of Antonin, who was down climbing directly below me. Scrambling with a pack on isn’t very fun.


Squeeze...

After the rocky section, we rounded a corner and caught our first glimpse of Grenoble in the distance. Even further beyond that—about 70 km away to be precise—Mont Aiguille poked up above its neighboring peaks. We continued on for a bit until we were above another pass, the Col du Coq. Léo spotted Emily waiting below us, and he started sprinting down the switchbacks (apparently they do exist, just where you don’t need them). When I reached the bottom, Emily, topped with blonde dreadlocks, greeted me with a full hug. To my utter surprise, I looked over and saw that Emily’s friend was none other than Dawn—a British teaching assistant who I had just met at our training a week before! Once the six of us had all been introduced or reunited, our formidable multi-national coalition set off for Grenoble.


An ecstatic Léo

 

I want to brush it off as mere coincidence, but soon after the women joined our group we started having navigational issues. We took the wrong trail, doubled back, and then decided to take a shortcut. This shortcut somehow led us to a peak, the Bec Charvet. To get there we climbed off the trail up a blank, steep face of loose rock. Then we continued up yet another steep path of mud, on which everyone slipped at least once. Even though the original goal of making our trip shorter was a failure, the view was astounding. From there we swooped down yet again and then followed a gravel road for quite some time. It had a gentle negative slope, which left us all with enough breath to socialize—a welcome change.


Looking down at the Grésivaudan from the Bec Charvet

On top of the Bec Charvet


For the next leg of the trip we would follow a ridge for several kilometers up until the Fort du Saint-Eynard. The effort it took to get up on the ridge was worth it; for a couple of hours we commanded a view of the winding Isère and the outskirts of Grenoble in the Grésivaudan below. A breathtaking view awaited us at the fort. We peered over at the Vercours and Belledonne ranges, and we looked down at Grenoble and the Bastille (which, in turn, overlooks Grenoble). It felt simultaneously as if we had already arrived and as if we still had a long way to go. The latter was more accurate.


Grenoble from the Fort du Saint-Eynard

 

As the group made our last big plunge, we realized that we were all out of water. I was surprised by how quickly thirst gripped us all. No one spoke on the way down, almost as if to safeguard the moisture in our saliva from evaporating. As we descended lower and lower, I could also feel the temperature rising; I had become accustomed to the chill of the mountains. At the Col de Vence we stumbled upon a spigot, and we guzzled down as much water as we could fit in our stomachs. There was only one stretch remaining before we arrived at the Bastille, but just like the day before it seemed unending as we drew nearer to the close of our journey. Trees encased the trail; the only thing to focus on was my feet. After a sign identifying the Bastille as one kilometer away, I began counting my paces to distract myself (it took 823). At long last, we arrived just as the sun was about to set.

I had imagined myself coming up to the Bastille from Grenoble at some point as a tourist; I would have never guessed that I would descend upon it as a stepping stone at the end of a greater adventure. Sitting there on top of the Bastille, yet again I was struck with the same powerful scene from the Point de la Gorgeat. This time, however, it was just light enough to record. Although I hesitate to share such a poor approximation of the real experience, maybe it can impart something to my words.

 

 

Léo led us down a secret path below the Bastille that he discovered when he lived in the area (which was, this time, an actual shortcut). After just over fifty hours from our departure, we stepped off the trail and onto the city streets of Grenoble, elated and exhausted. Before we ate and caught the last train, Antonin snuck off to the nearest grocery store and bought a bottle of green Chartreuse, which is produced in and named after the massif we had just successfully crossed. Sitting in the company of friends, enjoying the complexity of an herbal liqueur, and feeling the heat of fifty percent alcohol—I can think of no better way to have celebrated traversing the Chartreuse. 

 


In March I hiked back up to the Pointe de la Gorgeat in daytime, as I promised myself I would in October. Instead of snow, imagine it ablaze in the dying sunlight. 

 

Looking out at the Chartreuse range from the Pointe de la Gorgeat in early March

Three Weeks in Limbo

The outskirts of Chambéry

 

I am in France! For the last three weeks I’ve been occupied with getting acclimated to my new city and preparing for my work as an English teaching assistant. I had forgotten how much I love this country and language. I had forgotten that everyone looks beautiful, I had forgotten that everyone smokes, and I had forgotten that every single toilet is different.

Unfortunately, I had also forgotten about the bureaucracy. France has a cultivated and rich tradition of administrative entanglement. The paperwork is simultaneously nightmarish and impressive. Over the past few weeks I’ve had to accomplish a series of tasks: find a temporary place to stay, get a cell phone, find a permanent place to stay, open a bank account, register with my school, get a bus pass, and finalize my working visa with the French government (to name a few). To complete these tasks I’ve had to furnish a multitude of proofs, circumnavigate catch-22s, schedule and reschedule meetings, message and call, message again and call again, seek the help of others, exaggerate my helplessness, and smile.  

 

 

Finding housing has proven to be the greatest challenge. Teaching assistants are required to organize their own housing, and there are many different options. There was a possibility that I could live at my school (they have housing for students as well), but I didn’t receive a response from the school before I departed—so I arrived in Chambéry relatively unprepared. The first night I stayed in the cheapest hotel that I could find (still expensive), just to give me a little bit of flexibility. The next day a girl named Perrine accepted my Couchsurfing request, so I hauled all of my luggage over to her place—I’ll describe my experience there later on. I only planned to stay for the weekend, but once I told Perrine and her roommates about my situation they welcomed me to stay until I found a permanent place.

 

My hosts' chicken

 

Once I set up camp in their living room, I started wholeheartedly searching for an apartment. I continued searching for two weeks. As it turns out, there is a shortage of real estate in Chambéry. Even the most undesirable of accommodations will fetch at least three hundred euros a month. Something approximating nice will cost around five hundred. I wanted to share an apartment or house with French people. It’s cheaper, I could practice my French, and I could make some easy friends. For two weeks I scoured close to a dozen different sources: websites, agencies, university postings, and friends of friends. After incessant calls and messages, I received dismally few responses. Again and again, promising opportunities fell through. I became discouraged.


Taking a photo while biking

 

This period of instability would have been even more distressing if it weren’t for my hosts. Perrine lives in a colocation with four other young people: Amel, Antonin, Jean, and Léo (colocation doesn’t have a great English translation, so I’ve chosen to use the French word—or its abbreviation—throughout: it is a name for a living situation with multiple roommates, flat mates, or housemates. It commonly connotes conviviality and community). In one of the most vulnerable periods in my life, I have experienced profound hospitality. From the moment I arrived they not only put a roof over my head, but they invited me in on their meals, conversations, and plans. Antonin and Léo took me hiking (although we got rained out). Amel introduced me to all of her friends and brought me to her English class. Jean included me in all of his game nights and movie nights. Perrine took me climbing. In particular, Amel was immensely helpful in assisting me with my paperwork and housing search, and she was a constant source of encouragement. I also just returned from a three-day backpacking trip with Antonin and Léo through the Chartreuse mountain range—although I’ll save that for another post.

 

 

The coloc quickly became more than just the place where I slept—it is now where my closest friends in Chambéry live. Although installing myself in this city has been a slow process in other regards, I am tremendously fortunate to have established the roots of friendship so rapidly. I have no doubt that they will remain close for the duration of my stay in Chambéry—and long after.

 

 

Eventually my housing search started to yield results. I secured a visit to an apartment about ten minutes from the center of the city. It is a coloc with two other guys: one Asian student and a French man who I suspect is around thirty or thirty-five. I met them both, along with the landlord, during my visit. I saw the room being offered and the amenities of the apartment. My impression: it seemed to have neither spectacular advantages nor significant drawbacks. It was attractive because it existed and because it was available—which is more than I could say about any other option I had pursued. I told the landlord that I was interested and that I would decide within the next couple of days. In the meantime, I was still waiting for responses and seeking other leads.

Several days later, there were no new options. After three weeks in limbo, with my job about to start, I decided that it was time to make a decision and get settled. Exactly one week ago I accepted the offer, signed the papers, and moved in. The relief that comes from transitioning out of virtual homelessness in a foreign country is difficult to qualify; for the first time in the better part of a month, I was able to unpack my suitcases. I could organize my belongings. I had privacy. I felt secure.

 

 

Over the past week I’ve made this apartment my home. It is quite nice! So are my new flat mates, Xiao and Cédric. I was pleasantly surprised to discover that the coloc had Wi-Fi: I was told it didn’t. There haven’t been any nasty surprises yet, and the bathroom is pretty normal (you never know in France). As I explore the neighborhood, I’m also realizing how practical the location is. The bus stop is right in front of my door, there are multiple grocery stores nearby, my favorite restaurant is only a couple minutes away, and the old coloc is right up the hill.

 

A party at the coloc

 

I am getting established with my job. A couple of weeks ago, all of the foreign language assistants in the area of Grenoble (about two-hundred and forty) congregated for two days of training. We met our colleagues, we were guided through the impending administrative obligations, and we attended workshops on pedagogical strategies for assistants.

 

So-called training

 

Last week I started at Lycée Louis Armand as the English teaching assistant for the entire school (there is also one Spanish assistant and one Italian assistant). The English faculty has been welcoming, and the students have been surprisingly agreeable. Although French classrooms are known for being a bit more rowdy, my students have been engaged and interested—for now, at least, I’m novel. I am enjoying my work, and I feel confident in my ability to do it well.

After three weeks of uncertainty, I am finding equilibrium. I have a home, I have friends, and I am fulfilling the purpose for which I am here. It is no longer the beginning.