Monday, April 6, 2015

Where it all began

It's flashback time! I'm rewinding to April of 2010, when I went on my first long-term international adventure, my BYU Paris study abroad. 

I had the time of my life living in and exploring Paris for a few months, as well as having the opportunity to travel through other parts of France (and take a weekend trip to Spain!). Besides having nothing to do right now, I've been planning on doing this post for a while since this month officially marks 5 years since my amazing first study abroad. I wish I had some new travel adventures to write about, but this is the next best thing!

There are a few reasons why my Paris study abroad was important in my life. #1- It was my first time living abroad. This trip was what made me fall in love with living in foreign countries, which obviously influenced my future life! From the moment I got home after this study abroad, I was dying to travel again and immediately started plotting ways to leave the country.

#2- I learned how to be independent! When I left, I was just an innocent 20 year old who didn't know how to travel without my family. I remember being SO nervous about flying to Paris and making it to the hotel to meet up with the group. I remember being terrified of figuring out the metro. Now... put me on a plane going anywhere in the world or a subway/train in any country, and I'm TOTALLY comfortable (not buses though... for some reason those still confuse me... can't have it all I guess ;) 

#3- It helped me be happy! I didn't love attending BYU. And more importantly, I left for Paris maybe just a month after having friend problems in Provo. A roommate I thought I was close with treated me so horribly and it was traumatic. But you know what's an excellent cure? Living in PARIS while the mean girl stays in Utah doing nothing exciting with her life :) Paris magically erased all of my problems.

So, I'll start with a little bit about my daily life. We had class for only 1.5 hours in the morning 6 days a week studying French history and culture... en français! After class, we were free to wander the city and experience what Paris has to offer. We had a book of walking tours that we had to complete... hands down the most enjoyable homework I've done in my life (and it was pretty much our only homework). Most days I would do one of the walking tours with a small group of people, done at our own pace, with lots of stops for eating pastries, taking pictures, and shopping.

We went to about a million museums, including lots of small ones that many tourists don't make it to. Also, we probably hit up a different cathedral every day. I lived with a host family and a roommate about 40 minutes away from central Paris. We took the train to the city every morning. A few nights a week we had dinner with our host mom to practice French. The host family was not the most welcoming, and we were usually too afraid to leave our rooms- but it was strangely hilarious, we were good friends with each other, and we had nice rooms... so I didn't even care.

Here's a picture I snapped with the Nottin-Dufours on my last day staying with them. Ah, so French.

Okay, I think it's time for more PICTURES! Looking back at these I think 1. I look like a baby, and I look so different with bangs, 2. I dress so much better now (what's up with the ugly jeans??), and 3. I took lots of silly pictures like the teenagers who annoyed me on the Jerusalem study abroad :)   I guess it's a young people thing... because you know, I'm sooooo old now.

But can't you just tell how much FUN I was having??

Here's an Eiffel Tower collage, as well as a 'then and now' picture. Compare Marissa at the Eiffel Tower in 2010 and 2015.

Here's some miscellaneous pictures from Paris landmarks. I spy the Galeries Lafayettes, the Pont Alexandre III, Notre Dame, Sacre Coeur, the Pantheon, and the Opera House.

Something I really liked about this experience was all of the freedom and the free time we had (especially looking back through the lens of my Jerusalem study abroad). We only went on 3 field trips together, which was exactly the right amount (in Israel, it was at least a 10 hour field trip every single week). On our field trips we went to two castles- Versailles and Fontainebleau, and one of the loveliest cathedrals in France, Notre Dame de Chartres. 

I guess I'll throw in one more 'then and now picture.' Me at Versailles 5 ans plus tard!

One of the best parts of the study abroad was the traveling we did through France at the end of the trip. We started out in Normandy and saw the D-day beaches and Mont Saint Michel (an amazing abbey). Then we drove through the Loire Valley and spent 4 days visiting several different fairy tale castles a day. After that, we spent one last night in Paris (which we spent filming a baguette fighting video in front of the Eiffel Tower, obviously) and from there flew to Nice. The last week and a half of the study abroad was spent being lazy on the beach, eating gelato, and stopping by Monaco. It was perfect!

You know, I almost forgot that I also went to Spain in the midst of all of this. Yes, we were allowed to leave the country without chaperones (again, unlike during a certain other study abroad I participated in). I went to Barcelona for the weekend with 4 other people. Barcelona was a really cool, interesting, and modern city. It was a fun but short trip. 

Basically, these were some of the best months of my life! I love looking back on it. There were some great people on the study abroad that I had a lot of fun with. No one ever sang hymns on the bus for fun (ahem, Jerusalem haha). BYU Jerusalem was an AMAZING experience as well, but this one was just much more suited to my personality :)  

In Paris we were treated like adults and given freedom. You may think it's only because of security concerns, but I think it's mostly the fact that stuffy religion professors are in charge- there's more crime in Paris than Jerusalem. You just need to be smart. Plus, the focus was on enjoying the city instead of on classes and homework. It was great!

I missed Paris so much during the 3 years before I was able to go back in 2013. I feel very lucky that I've been able go back several times, because Paris won my heart during this study abroad <3

I've grown up a lot and become a much more experienced traveler since this first long solo trip. One of the things that made me laugh when looking back at pictures was how much I've improved at photography. The evidence: pictures of the same rooms at Versailles:

I swear I don't have a better camera now or anything... I guess I've just improved with practice!

A few months ago I posted this flashback entry with my long-lost (literally- I didn't know I still had it until I found it recently) journal entry of my first impressions of France in 2010. I never posted it publicly, until now... so if you want to see more retro young innocent Marissa with bangs, click here.

Wow, I'm in a good mood now after thinking so much about Paris. Best. city. ever. Hope you enjoyed!

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Life on Pause

As much as I like to have everything planned out, unfortunately you can't plan for everything. I definitely didn't think that my annoying knee would ever affect my plans this drastically!

I tore my ACL in October in a ballet class, 2 days before I was supposed to move to Israel. Thankfully I was still able to start my studies as scheduled, even though I had to delay my flight for a few days until I could walk a little better. The doctor told me that I would have to have ACL replacement surgery at some point in the future but that it would be fine to wait until I was done living in Israel.

Until February, my knee was doing great and was almost perfectly healed, besides a little stiffness. We had a 6 week long break between semesters. My parents suggested that I come home to get the surgery taken care of, but I decided that it would be much more fun to make use of my time living abroad by taking a Hebrew class, planning an amazing trip to France, and having them come visit me.

Well, I hate being wrong, and especially in this case... a few weeks into the semester break I hurt my knee again. It was actually a lot more traumatic than the first time because a lot more people witnessed me falling flat on my face, and it hurt way more. I won't go into the details because I don't want to relive that experience, but it involved stepping down off a bus. Yep, that's it. I much prefer the getting injured during a tour jeté story.

I couldn't walk at all for a few days, and it was all very stressful figuring out what to do... all while I was supposed to be studying Hebrew for 5 hours a day. I managed to make it to a few doctors there but they weren't helpful at all and it was too complicated to try to see a specialist (socialism...). 

After the second injury, my knee never healed very well and I was worried that I would keep hurting it again and again. It's just not very fun not being able to depend on your leg to work while you walk, trust me.

Thankfully, I was able to walk enough to still enjoy my trip to France. Let's be honest, that was by far the thing that was the most important thing to me. 

After thinking about all of my options, me and my parents decided that the best one was to ask permission to take a few weeks off of school to come home and get it taken care of. There are several holidays in April in Israel that made it so I wouldn't be missing a ton of class if I came home for a month.

The day my parents left after their trip to Israel, I was granted official permission from my university to miss class for a little while. We bought my flight a day after that. A week later, after only attending the first week of classes, I was on a plane home!

I had my surgery a week after that, and I survived! I now have a new ACL, taken from my parts of my hamstring. And yes, I realize that is gross. 

The sad part is that during the surgery they also found a tear in my meniscus (from the second injury) that wasn't previously known about. We knew that I hurt my knee again, but we didn't know officially what happened inside there. Unfortunately, it was something that required further surgery and they had to put stitches inside my knee to repair it (again... gross, right?).

The really sad part is that the meniscus stitches significantly add to the recovery time. With just the ACL surgery, the expected recovery time was 3-4 weeks, and I would have been allowed to start walking the same week of surgery. With the meniscus stuff added in, I'm not allowed to put any weight on my leg for 4 weeks, and the recovery time is more like 8-12 weeks. Soooooo, it doesn't look like my flight back to Israel in 4 weeks is going to work out. I need to be at least mostly healed and be able to walk without crutches before I go back.

So basically, I have to skip this whole semester of school! I'm pretty disappointed about that because I absolutely HATE to have to change my plans and I'm already dying of boredom here not being able to walk. I'm still planning on finishing my MA program eventually, so right now it looks like I'll go back to Israel for summer semester in July, and then I'll have to stay for one more semester, either for fall or come back in spring. It's really not ideal because I was looking forward to graduating in August, and it's not seeming appealing to me right now to go back for that long... but that's the plan for now.

To rub a little salt in the wound, right now I was supposed to be leaving on an amazing trip to Athens and Santorini. I don't think this sentence really fits in right here, but I just wanted to complain about it somewhere. Forgive me ;)

I wish I could have gotten a warning from the doctor in October that another bad injury could happen or a warning from the surgeon that depending on what they find it could really change the recovery outcome... but oh well. I've never liked doctors anyways (at least they're way less evil than dentists, but considering my opinion of dentists that's not saying much). I need someone to blame, right? haha

Getting surgery was interesting since I've never had to do anything like that before. I've never even had blood drawn. When I got stressed I just tried to pretend I was on an episode of House. It was a great coping strategy. The actual day of surgery wasn't too bad besides being annoyed that I was required to remove my nail polish. It was such a weird feeling to wake up from anesthesia and feel like no time had passed. 

The first two days afterwards there wasn't a lot of pain because they gave me a nerve block and numbed my knee. I did feel pretty tired and weird from the anesthesia though. After that, I could definitely feel more pain. Thankfully, it's fine when I'm not moving. It just doesn't feel good when I have to move around. Who needs to move, right?

I'm feeling much better now because after FIVE DAYS I was finally authorized to take a shower. It was a super awkward shower that left me exhausted, and going up the stairs took 10 years, but it felt wonderful.

It for sure gets a little better every day. Now, a week later, I still can't do much... but I'm not suffering or anything (besides being bored!!). So please don't worry about me :)  I'm uncomfortable with sympathy haha. I'm told it's a Houdek trait.

I'm trying to focus on the positive and enjoy unlimited TV, books, Daisy, people bringing me custard, and finally being waited on like the princess I always thought I was in my head. Just kidding... mostly ;)

Don't worry Israel, I'll come back to you someday!