Okay, this is a really funny story, although it was really scary at the time! A little background, I left Brazil in 2010, embarked on an interchange adventure that took me to Chappaqua, a tiny town in NY. While I was still in Brazil, I started chatting with a lot of English-speaking strangers as a way to improve my skills so I was ready when it was time for me to move. As a requirement for my graduation, I also needed a third language, so French was my pick! Fernanda (pictured above) is one of my best friends and we hadn't seen each other since graduation, in 2010.
At the time my French was as good as it has ever been! One of those strangers I was talking about was Kyle! Kyle and I had met in person ONCE and he was stationed in Germany at the time. My host family in NY was going to take a long vacation to the beach, so I actually had a good 12 days of paid vacation to take, woop!
Europe, here I go! My first stop was in Germany for a few days, then I took off to Paris by myself, without a cellphone or internet, just myself, all the courage in the world and all the excitement to finally see Fernanda again after so long! We were kind of inseparable (as a group) towards the end of our college so after graduation we all just drifted apart in different jobs and countries.
We had arranged to stay with a group of guys from Couch surf and one of them was to wait for me at the train station. My flight arrived on time and I immediately proceeded to get maps, buy tickets for the train and a train pass for the duration of my stay. This little train to Paris was super slow and felt like it took forever to move.
All I know is that when I arrived at the station, there was nobody there waiting for me. I had no phone, no internet, didn’t know anyone and spoke some of the language, but not fluently. I tried waiting around, asking around, I tried to use all of my Brazilian and American credit and debit cards to use the pay phone but nothing worked. There was nowhere to buy credits for the phones either!
I was at a loss, starting to get worried and it had been a while already. I ended up finding a partial address to the house we were staying (like in a movie hahaha) and decided to ask some of the counter workers how to get there. They told me to get on another bus to the next stop over (which I really didn’t have) and so I did.
I still remember very vividly coming up the subterranean staircase to nothing less than PARIS. Except it wasn’t that sparkly moment when music was playing and lights were twinkling, I was LOST. I had NEVER been there before, I had NO idea where I was going and even less WHERE I WAS!
I had a map, sure, and with luck, I even found my destination!!! But I still had no clue where I was in that map. It was cold, it was raining a little too, it was dramatic and I had no clue what to do. I decided to get inside of a business to ask where I was, but when the rude waiter saw the map, he yelled something to me that he wasn’t going to help me so I just walked away.
It got more dramatic! I sat on this bench, half wet, half crying, with a map in my hands, it must have been close to two hours since I first arrived at the train station. It was going to start getting dark soon and I had nowhere to go.
I decided I had to keep moving because sitting down and crying wasn’t going to solve my problem, so that’s what I did. I walked somewhere! If you’ve ever been to Paris, you know they have maps on the corners of the streets where you can look up where you are going. I probably looked disheveled and LOST, because this nice man came up to me and asked me where I needed to go (so thankful for his kindness!). I explained my situation and told him where I needed to go, he pointed me in the direction I had just come from, and I was able to follow it all back! Phew!
BUT WAIT! There was more drama to it!
There I was, pulling my luggage under the freezing rain, wondering what was going to happen to me, how long it had been since Kyle had heard from me back in Germany (he had dropped me off at the airport in the morning) and somehow I found my destination, there were some young people smoking at the front of this HUGE double door, which I would not have had access to if those guys weren’t there smoking when I arrived, I would have been locked outside. I got through the door and walked into two sets of stairs and a huge courtyard.
Remember my address was INCOMPLETE? Yep, I had no apartment number. There were SO many apartments within that courtyard, I felt so defeated, I thought I would never find them. What was I going to do? I had nowhere to go. I confess I just sat down on the steps and I didn’t know what to do. One more time I decided to wander around the courtyard and by some mini miracle, (I am also half blind from far away) this person who remotely resembled some guy I had seen was looking down right from on the middle apartments (cue in angelical sound).
I don’t remember if he waived, if he asked my name, I was so stressed by that time I was just relieved I had found them. I met Fernanda half way up the stairs and broke down in an uncontrollable sob (which makes me laugh now) and my French was completely out the door at that point – hahaha.
The poor nice guys who hosted us had no clue what was going on, they must have thought I was crazy! Fernanda on the other hand, was the culprit of EVERYTHING! I didn’t know that until I finally arrived, but they had called her to tell her I wasn’t there yet (at the train station) and she told them to go home, so they did. I guess we didn’t account for all the time it would take me to buy the tickets and the train ride. She thought I was crying because I missed her so much.
That was it, friends! I eventually calmed down and explained everything, half English and half French, we had lots of fun, ate some really good food, saw amazing views and spent time together. It was QUITE AN EXPERIENCE, but I did it, all on my own, things aligned where they should have and I’d love to go back, just without all the drama next time!
These are some of our pictures :)