I was one of the first to arrive, and watched as students from all over the world trickled into the Residence de la Marne on the Rue de le Somme in Strasbourg, France. Ferdy and Adro arrived early as well, and the office manager, a interesting fellow who only spoke French, took me to meet them. Ferdy stuck her head out from behind the door and smiled.
Her smile, and everyone's smiles, filled the streets of Strasbourg in the most unbelievable of ways. To live, to thrive, with Mexico, Poland, Croatia, America, China, Finland, Sweden and Italy seems farfetched, but for 30 day, it was all we knew. Our cultural differences, cliches and expressions became inside jokes. If I were to tell you, "It's particular", if I say "I don't know" and wave my hands confusedly in front of my face, if I say "Supermarcheeeee", you will have no idea what I mean. But phrases like these mean the world to us. They became our culture. They encompassed our understanding.
It would take at least an entire day to sit and tell you everything that happened. But even if I did that, even if I could account for every phrase verbatim, every second, you could never understand. In the words of Marco Cantoni, "It's impossible."
I spent a good portion of my last day in Strasbourg with the begginers level French teacher. I met him at the goodbye dinner, and when I told him where I was from his face turned to stone.
"You have to meet my wife," he said.
It turns out his wife if from my home city, and there was no way two Houstonians could let this opportunity pass. We talked for hours, and most of it was me soaking up the wealth and wisdom of a cross atlantic, binational, biracial, multilingual couple had to give. When I told them about my theory of romance abroad, romantic attraction is either a tragedy or a miracle, they corrected me.
"That applies to any relationship abroad, even friendships," he said.
He was right.
It's the last day, and I feel like the Strasbourg 2011 group finally gets it. We know and prefer each other. We're happy together. However, the same way I saw us come is now the same way we will leave.
It started with Laura from Missouri. She left a day earlier to make a wedding back home. The last day was like a hole in the heart of our group because we knew she was gone. Alejandro, who absolutely adored her and jokingly proposed marriage to her, was quiet for the first time.
Our plan for the last night is no plan at all. As long as we're toghether. We will make this thing last as long as possible, even if it means not sleeping.
It's 3:30 a.m. and I haven't packed or cleaned a thing. As my bags fill with clothes Le Marne empties its residents. It's about 4 a.m. and a taxi arrives for Andrea. I take constant breaks from packing to visit my brothers and sisters. Every time I return upstairs my emotional barriers break a bit more until it becomes official. I'm crying and there's not a damn thing I can do about it.
Alejandro and Adro meet in the lobby to leave. I stole Laura's name tag from her door so he could have it. I promised Adro a personal gift, so I gave her a pen from my home university. She hands me an empty notebook and a small mexican flag. While we hug she begins to cry. I wait until I'm back in my room to cry.
Mike, my roomate from "Michigan", is much less emotional than I am, but even the end is getting to him. He gives me a hug before going to bed. I purchased a hat that was too small for me while in Luxembourg, but it fit Mike just right. I leave it on his bags.
I go to Ferdy's door and she sticks her head out just like when we met. She says she'll meet us in the morning before we leave. It's 7 a.m.. I'm all packed and completely distraught. I've been awake for over a day. If I try to stay awake I may pass out and hurt myself. I'm supposed to leave at 9 a.m., so for two hours I sleep.
Ivan from Croatia knocks at my door for the last time.
"Shameless, it's time to go," he says.
He, Davo the Croatian, Rocio (Davo's new girlfriend), Laura from my university, and I will all take trains together as far as Milan. Ferdy is in the lobby as promised. Marco stumbles out of his room to give hugs. Unexpectedly, Ola and Dorota, the Polish girls, show up.
"We saw you guys leaving and wanted to say goodbye."
Ola has been crying for at least a day.
The five us head to the train station leaving a handful of the group at La Marne. We stayed awake as much as we could, because another goodbye waits for us in Milano. Ivan and Davo split off to Croatia with Rocio, who goes to meet the parents, while Laura and I continue to Firenze.
A few hugs and we're on our way.
Firenze is my destiation, but Laura will continue as far as Roma. It's after 7 p.m.. We say goodbye, and I stand in the train station alone. Somehow I smile.
-This is dedicated to the Strasbourg 2011 Summer Exchange group for the Ecole de Management, Universite de Strasbourg. I love you guys. It feels tragic to leave you, but it's a miracle to know you.- Teo_