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This summer I spent many hours in the parks of Chicago, taking time to enjoy life amidst a hectic schedule and amusing myself with people-watching. Right now I’m sitting on a bench in the Esplanade Charles-de-Gaulle, eating a surimi sandwich and slightly regretting my decision to not add any sauces.

This is the first chance I’ve gotten to really spend some time by myself since I arrived in France just a little more than a week ago. Here things are so different. An hour or two parked on a bench, alone or with friends, is quite commonplace. Perhaps their worries are about things substantially different from ours back home, because on their faces one sees only signs of content and tranquility.

Everything is slower here. People aren’t always rushing to get places, meals are enjoyed instead of devoured simply for the sake of avoiding starvation, and each day seems to be lived as singular entities rather than a blur in a life. It’s the perfect environment for me right now, a sabbatical away from the hectic world of broadcast news. (If only real life included a four-month sabbatical each year.)

I’ve only been here a week and have yet to move in with the French family hosting me, so it’s way too early to say this is how I would want to live my life. Perhaps once a routine sets in, this pace of living will be too bland for me. Would I then have to skydive or hang glide just to feel alive? I wonder if I’ve been too conditioned for a fast-paced world to change. When the French go to the U.S., do they pity our bondage to commercialism and materialism?

Alors, my brief window of solitude has come to an end, shattered by the chit chat of my fellow students and leaving me in a state of disassociation and bewilderment. I am now in a solitary mode, which will give me more time to reflect, but I suppose only time will answer my questions. I promise to get to cultural misunderstandings and blunders soon, because I sure have made a bundle of them.

[A note on linguistic immersion: it most definitely has had an effect as I am already replacing so many words with French just while writing this post, and I’m constantly finding myself garbling English and misspelling words. This could be detrimental once I return to the States. Hrmph.]