Thoughts on exile part 1
Write a personal essay about exile… Easier said than done, I’m spending a long time contemplating starting the personal essay, it seems fairly straight forward, but then when I start thinking I complicate things more than necessary. I have therefore not written even just one word yet. See I do feel I have something to say about the subject though, If you think of exile in the traditional meaning of the word, then I might not live in exile, but if you think of it as Vilém Flusser does, as someone being expelled from their usual or habitual environment then I guess I have been living in exile for 8 years.
London will always remind me of aircrafts, the noise, the lights and the dirty tails like snails passing through the sky leaving their slimy trails in a long tail behind them. Up until recently this thought about aircrafts was something I hadn’t noticed, a thought floating around somewhere in between conscious and unconsciousness and then one day when I finally acknowledged it, it’s been roaming around in my head ever since. Such a simple thing that I didn’t even notice it and yet so meaningful. Everyone who lives in London, even those who have been here on holiday will know that I’m right when I point out that every time you look up, if the sky isn’t a complete wall of gray, you will be able to notice a plane or even hear the vague sound of jet engines. When I look out my window at night, I see the lights from planes, when I walk around in my own thoughts and I look up, they’re there, or just the sound without the visual, a gentle reminder. They have become such an intrinsic part of my life that I almost don’t notice them anymore. What is it then about aircrafts that keeps my mind locked in thought for so long?
When I first moved to Paris I knew no one, nothing was familiar not even the language… Nothing looked the same, nothing smelled the same everything was new. I wasn’t picky and I got lucky, I found the cheapest flat share, moved in to the same (very small) room with another Danish girl, with whom I quickly became best friends and found a job rather easily. The flat share was obviously illegally sub let and we shared it with out quite random landlord, Yann, who collected old cork bottle stoppers, lived in a room filled with plants, had half long greasy gray hair and wore old dusty pullovers. The flat was situated in the middle of China town and it constantly smelled like fried duck even when no one were frying, but we didn’t care. It was on the 31st floor and we had a panoramic view over the rooftops of Paris, we drank wine and ate chocolate and cheese whilst smoking Vogue mistrals and Daviduff’s looking out on the blinking Eiffel Tower. We didn’t speak a word of French, well maybe three, but it didn’t matter, we would end up discussing French politics after a few beers anyway. We found crappy jobs in restaurants, jobs a lot of blue eyed, blond haired Scandinavians must have done before us, they screamed exploitation and we were payed a lousy salary but we didn’t care. I got really sick not long after I got there, for a reason that to this date is still unclear. I was pretty much hovering between life and death and spent four days in intensive care and three in recovery, I couldn’t really tell the doctors how I felt, they even tried to communicate in German at one point. I could have gone home, that would have been the easiest thing to do but I didn’t. We wanted to be in Paris, we wanted to blend in, we wanted so badly to be a part of it, that when I look back on that time now, I only have good memories. We were so young and carefree and as much as we wanted to blend in, those two first years we really didn’t.
When you choose to leave a life behind, when you choose to travel to a new country, to a new language and to a new culture you don’t necessarily think about all the things you leave behind. I know I didn’t and I know that I didn’t notice the change until it had already happened. You might not even think you leave something behind, but down the road you will. I’m not the sort of person who will complain so I didn’t and these first couple of years in Paris, in spite of all the things that could have made it hell, they were magical. That is at least the memory of it as it is in my head. When I think about it now I can see that I probably cut myself off from my roots. It was sort of a bubble in the beginning and when the bubble popped I found that I had left a lot of my old friends behind and that I didn’t really speak to my family that much. With my family, luckily, I was able to turn that around and I guess with your friends only the truly good ones stays through your mess. My life in Paris, in the beginning, happened as I went along, nothing was planned. One year became two, became three, became I did my degree in a French university alongside French students and ended up staying for seven years.
To be continued…