Monday, 5 December-Friday, 9 December: a week with two finals and the arrival of the one and only Jeffrey Pond (a dear friend of mine and Spencer’s roommate for the last two years). He was studying abroad in Jordan and finished earlier than I did, so he was able to visit for several days and stay with me and my host family.
Saturday, 10 December-Sunday, 11 December: Saturday—St. Malo with Jeffrey, Caitlin, and Zoe. It was absolutely gorgeous, even if a little chilly. We ended the day with the arrival of all five grandsons who stayed until Sunday evening. Unfortunately, I got sick with a cold Saturday night. Sunday—the first half of the day was spent corralling (and playing with) the boys. The second half I spent at church rehearsing (and then performing) our Christmas spectacle. Dominique and Patrick came, along with Jeffrey, of course, and three of the grandsons. It was a lovely evening, and Dominique and Patrick both commented multiple times that they loved the sermon (which is a victory since neither professes to be Christian!).
Monday, 12 December-Friday, 16 December: finals week, including seven more finals and a final paper. Jeffrey left on Monday morning, and then the week of lasts and goodbyes began. Friday night I took the train to Paris and stayed in a hotel with a friend from the program.
Saturday, 17 December: I woke up at 5:30am to get to my flight. 17 hours later I will land in San Jose, where Spencer and my family will welcome me home.
My heart has been rather torn this past week. There were many times during the semester when I just wanted to go home, to see Spencer, to be back in the atmosphere of Wheaton. I longed for Christmas to come more than I care to admit. But when the time came to say my goodbyes, I truly realized how much I will miss everyone and everything that I encountered in Rennes. I could go on and on about individuals or places or activities, but I think what is really important is treasuring my experiences in my heart and letting them change me for the better.
Because of my time in France, I am a more mature woman. Our program director suggested several methods of processing our time and sharing it with others, and one of the more silly options was a six-word story (inspired by Hemingway). Mine was: Gained weight, confidence, and good friends. (Literary device everyone should know: zeugma—the use of one verb for two or more complements which change the sense of the verb) As light-hearted as the exercise is, each part encompasses an important aspect of my study abroad experience. The weight I gained is due to the famous French food, but behind that stereotype there is a real culture around shared meals, time spent together without the worry of other obligations. I was plunged into this new environment, and I learned how to soak in without judgment, how to reconcile two cultures within me. The second element is confidence. Although an expected consequence of living in a foreign country without family or friends (until I found them, of course), I think I am going to be surprised in the next few months at the difference in myself. The third, I hope, is evident from the stories I have told on this blog, the pictures I have posted on Facebook. I have made friendships that will last beyond my college experience and memories that will last a lifetime.
Now, what you all have been waiting for: the explanation of the title of this blog!
In the Appendices of The Lord of the Rings, there is a passage which describes the two Elvish words for “hope.” When I read this in my Christianity and Fantasy class last semester, I immediately looked up the two words for “hope” in French, only to find that the definitions matched those of the Elvish! L’espoir means hope in material things. I have espoir that I succeeded in my classes and that I will make it safely back to my family. L’espèrance, however, is the hope in something eternal, in something outside this world, who works things out for good. It is this hope that allows me to have peace, in the midst of hard goodbyes and nervousness about the transitions to come.
I praise God for His faithfulness to me these four months, and I thank you for your prayers. I hope to see all of you soon.