I could waste this post pondering the fact that it has been almost three months since I have posted in this space (sad and shocking). I could (and have) shake my head ironically that those last few entries were full of lamentations describing how difficult it had been keeping up with this blog. Little did I know that I was about to drop off of the blogosphere all together. And, most uselessly, I could expound about how I will not let this happen again. Well, I will certainly try not to – because I have missed it.
However, the question of where I have been deserves much more attention. In those three months I feel like I have flown to the ends of the earth and back. Twice. I just wish I could compile all of those frequent flyer miles. And then park myself on a beach. For a very long time.
First, I spent the week surrounding the Thanksgiving holiday in central/southern California with my extended family and friends. It had been a little over a year since my last visit to the land of fish tacos and 80ºF late-November days. The sun shined almost continuously.
I crammed as much visiting, laughter, Mexican food, Pacific sunsets and barbeque into those nine days as I possibly could. And then I cooked a turkey. Everyone seemed to enjoy it. My first Thanksgiving dinner as head chef was a huge personal achievement. Unfortunately it also marked the beginning of the (now ongoing) cold war with my bathroom scale.
I returned to Paris. I worked. I tried to restrict myself to salad. That was not possible. The temperature dropped and snow fell. As an aside from this (not-so-quick) summary – since when does Paris get this much snow? I was under the (false) impression that this city gets dusted with the white stuff once or twice a winter – just enough to look pretty. Apparently the snow gods are laughing it up at my shivering expense this season – but it does look amazing…
Last year I was too busy digging into my laboratory work to really explore the holiday festivities throughout the city. This year I was lucky enough to have a visitor (hi Elé!) who was happy to tromp around the multiple Alsatian Christmas markets around town and, most importantly, help me taste-test the vin chaud available at each event.
A very short, and mostly unproductive three weeks later, I hopped a plane to Germany for the Christmas holiday. I spent many days wrapped in blankets, drinking tea, reading my books in front of the fireplace (an ode to the addictive, wonderful cheesiness that is the Twilight saga deserves a post of its very own). Although I very easily could have stayed in my pajamas the entire time, we were adventurous and ventured out to see the original Christmas market in Nuremberg. I think the glüwein may beat the vin chaud (probably because it came in a seasonal souvenir mug).
I was, once again, reminded of how lucky I am to have the German in my life, as well as his incredibly kind, loving and generous family and friends. We all opened gifts on the holiday, lit fireworks for the New Year and ate and drank copiously the entire time. Meanwhile the snow kept falling. It was a bit like a fairy-tale. One that was exceedingly difficult to leave.
I flew back to Paris once again – to the hustle and bustle of work and a head full of New Years resolutions. It had finally settled in that 1 of my 3 years here had already passed. I still have so much to do and so little time. We dove headlong into the preparation for the upcoming 9-day visit to the laboratory in Cairo. Unlike my quick visit in October, this time around a large team from Paris traveled together. Not only did we spend time in the lab troubleshooting technical problems, preparing for new studies and catching up on the last two months of work, but we also presented the past three years of work to the scientific council responsible for the funding and maintenance of our research site. More than a bit stressful. Again, another post for another time, but I must mention how impressed and proud I am of my colleagues in Egypt. Although extremely challenging, it is an amazing experience, personally and professionally, to learn and work in such an environment.
Two weeks ago, I returned to Paris, this time prepared to stay a while. I have spent that time reorienting myself, doing laundry, re-prioritizing projects at work, sleeping and re-motivating after feeling like I have been running, non-stop since November. Slowly but surely I am again getting comfortable in my own skin. I am finally getting myself back on track both at work with my own projects and catching up with friends. In the time that I was bouncing back and forth like a pinball, they also gathered wonderful holiday stories to share, gifts to exchange and, in one amazing case, a beautiful new baby to visit and snuggle.
Of course I miss the German in Boston. And, I miss my family in California. But it is clear to me that Paris has become my home, at least for the time being. And, as we all know, there is no place like home.
Why I am currently writing this from a couch in San Sébastian, Spain is a story for tomorrow…