A Week in France #48: DEBRIEF IN LILLE

I put this off, because I wasn’t sure if I wanted to do “A Week in” review if I spent it in a country other than Greece.  But last week I spent five days in Lille, France for a debriefing time with my sending organization, and I think it’s significant enough to talk about publicly.

It immediately reminded me of one of the things traveling does for me, an anxious person:  throw me into a worst-case scenario and then help me realize that there are solutions even for the things I fear most.  So on Monday, I flew into Paris.  The airport shut down for 20 minutes because of an unattended bag, and instead of making me feel nervous, it made me more confident in an airport’s dedication to keeping people safe.  But that’s not the worst-case scenario.  

I took a train from Paris to Lille, and when I got off at the northern city’s train station, I realized…I don’t know what any of the people I’m meeting look like.  I’d had lunch with one a year and a half ago, and I Skyped with one a few months ago, but I have bad facial recognition skills on a good day.  The station looked like it ought to have had wifi, but when I tried to send an email announcing my arrival, it didn’t go through.  Also, my phone’s battery was at 21%.

I wandered the train station, looking for a group of women who looked like they were looking for someone.  Nothing.  I left the train station and stood in various places outside. There was a mall across a plaza, and I thought, “Maybe they are waiting there?”  So I stood in the various mall doorways before noticing a wall of chairs near wall sockets.  Unfortunately, my phone plug kept slipping out, and anyway, the wifi here didn’t seem to work either.  I walked back to the train station, and then back to the mall.  By this point it had been over an hour.  I finally thought to get out my laptop and try to connect to wifi that way.  For some reason, that worked, and I found a recent email directing me where to meet them.

Disaster averted.

What else?  Well, it might seem really dumb and privileged, but I was angry to be in Lille.  I later found out that all four of us debriefing participants had privately asked to be excused from the week.  We all wanted to spend our last week in Europe in the place where we had begun to feel was home – not some new place with new people.  I felt the same, but as the days went by, I realized how valuable it was to have a transitional zone.  I needed to detox my brain (in a positive way) from thoughts of Athens and HD and become ready to return to my hometown.  It was also really great to talk with other people who were feelings things similar to me, excited about all the ways we’d changed and resentful of all the ways we would have to return to “normal.”

I also spent the week thinking about the future, and not really coming up with answers but feeling more at peace with the questions, which is a step forward, I think.  Oh, and obviously the food was DELICIOUS and France is amazing and it was delightful to wander the cobbled streets of a Christmas-lighted European city.

And then I went home.


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