Sunday, November 19, 2006

sorry, no pictures...

Disclaimer: A lot of you have read and responded to my last posting which detailed some of the challenges I'm currently facing in france. For those of you with whom I'm spoken, thanks for your patience listening to my thoughts. For those of you who have taken the time to email me and pass along encouragement, thank you. It's nice to know that A. people actually read my blog, and B. my friends care about me. In that vein, I'm posting an expanded view of what I've been thinking regarding my situation. It's rough - I've written it quickly and without editing (aside from the free advice of Microsoft Word), and it's definitely a big change from the more light-hearted posts so far. It's by no means the "final word" - it's just what's on my mind today. On y va.

I’ve been thinking a lot about my current situation in France, and just this afternoon I’ve had the opportunity to talk with a couple of my best friends on the (internet) phone. While we talked about a lot of things in those couple hours, I struggled to express what I’d been feeling lately about my situation at the winery. I think it’s complicated because what I feel as one large emotion really comes out of two separate, lesser emotions. The first and most upsetting emotion is the anger which I feel when I think about the ways I’ve been mislead by Marie, the woman who owns the winery and hired me back in June. Without going into too much detail, I feel that fault lies on both sides for not clarifying many important issues before agreeing to work together. The second emotion can most easily be called loneliness, and has resulted from the physical isolation of the winery, the lack of people on the estate after work, and my inability to go to nearby towns where I have the opportunity to meet other people who may speak English and/or share common interests.

I believe many experiences are enhanced when shared, and not being able to share my experiences – actually visiting towns, seeing sights, and learning about the culture – with other people (people with whom I can communicate verbally, people who understand not only inflections but colloquialisms, people – basically – who speak the same language and share common interests) has caused me to miss this part of the adventure. Isn’t this why we go on trips together? And by default, isn’t this why we seem to meet people with common interests when we travel (alone or with friends)? “Hey, you’re hiking Grinnell Glacier because you also want to see it before it’s gone? Me too! Where are you camping tonight?...”

Sometimes, the physical location isn’t even the important thing we remember about the experience. How many times have you been someplace with someone – maybe it’s a historically important place, maybe it’s your living room – and the experience itself is a product only of the shared communication and resulting understanding? I know I’ve had these experiences with people all over the place – in cars or on boats or hiking up glaciers or sitting on the couch at 3 in the morning. Joel and I sat on the steps in front of the cathedral in Narbonne last week, eating our crepes, and had a conversation that probably couldn’t have occurred any where else in the world. It’s not that it was intrinsically tied to that exact physical location – it was just a combination of all of the circumstances coming together at that exact time. Of course, these aren’t guaranteed experiences. But I can guarantee you won’t have any without someone else who understands the same language, and therefore the ideas you’re trying to communicate.

So, talking with greg and joel allowed me to clarify the two separate emotions for myself, and begin to ask the bigger question: am I settling for a less-than-ideal situation here in france? It’s a big question, because there’s always the tendency to think “the grass is greener…” But when is the grass actually greener, and when are we only deceiving ourselves into thinking so? When is the time actually right to “move on” and find greener pastures?

I don’t want to leave France because I’m facing something that’s not comfortable. Being uncomfortable can force us to grow and teach us new things about ourselves and others. If I’m here and the work is “too hard,” or “it rains a lot,” or whatever, those aren’t good reasons to leave. I also don’t think that leaving only because someone somewhere else seems to be having more fun is a good option, either. It’s tough to tell if the difference between being “okay” and being “fulfilled” is great enough to warrant moving along.

But sometimes, in the short term, I think you have to sit back and ask yourself what you’re trying to get out of an experience. This doesn’t always have to be a multifaceted question. Have I seen what there is to see, learned what there is to learn, and done what there is to do? While it’s difficult to answer yes with 100% on any occasion, sometimes being close is good enough. I’m not in france to become a citizen or learn the language inside and out. I’m not here to get a permanent job in the wine industry, and I don’t want to “settle down” in this part of the world. The time I’m taking off of school is for me to explore different places, see different things, and meet different people, hopefully while sharing the experiences with my friends. It’s not to make money. Judging by that criteria, I’d say I’ve seen and explored most of what’s available to see in this area under the current circumstances, I’ve obviously not been able to meet as many people as I’d like due to physical limitations, and I’ve shared only two days in the past 10 weeks with someone I’d consider my friend.

The benefits of staying in France for the whole 6 months are that I’d be able to pocket about another $1000 (USD), and wouldn’t have many opportunities to spend money during the subsequent two weeks leading up to the wine harvest in New Zealand.

If I do decide to leave France sometime in January (maybe the middle, maybe the end), I’d have the opportunity to travel to Prague and live with my friends for a couple of weeks. While they’d work during the days, we’d have nights and weekends to see the country – occasionally traveling together – and I’d have opportunities to meet new people and establish new relationships. After some time in Prague, I’d be able to head toward New Zealand a few weeks before work begins and see that country. I also have three or four friends living there now, and I would like to catch up with them and learn about their lives in their home countries. Overall, I’d probably not save as much money. However, the benefits would allow me to spend more time in more places sharing more experiences with more people. Aren’t those the things I said above were most important?

I don’t advise settling for anything. It’s not good to settle in relationships or situations that you know aren’t the best for you (disclaimer: this is not intended to be used as an “out” in cases where people just don’t want to deal with something). I’ve come this far to Europe to see and feel and do, and when I’m not seeing and feeling and doing anymore at a certain place, then I think it’s time to move along, and see and feel and do something else, someplace else, and maybe with someone else. I don’t want to look back in 4 years, while I’m sitting in grad school, reading about relationships between small land owners and growing townships and think, “why did I stay at that winery when I was no longer learning? I should have packed up, moved on, and found the next thing.”

1 comment:

Brett said...

Fitzy, my main man, you go do what you need to do. Once you get past the 'exploring' part of the experience in a new place, the thing you're left with is that you're at 'home.'

And the most important things about 'home' are your relationships with people.

The reason I go back to camp every year isn't because of the pretty mountains...

Stay in Europe, though, because there's a semi-good chance I'll be over there in March sometime.

love ya mang,