The other night, I caught myself salivating at a Wawa ad and dreaming of a tomato, pesto, bacon, and fontina panini. Yes, I know France has some of the best food in the world… but sometimes a girl just needs some Wawa. After almost two months of being in Nantes, it’s not the big things that I miss as much as the small comforts. I miss going to Linvilla Orchards and stuffing my face with apple cider donuts. I miss hearing Temple marching band’s rendition of “All of the Lights” from my second story window. I miss watching dumb YouTube videos with my best friend at 3 A.M. and then not being able to fall asleep when she snores too loud. While I can’t order hoagies or my best friend through French Amazon, I’ve found ways to replicate my small comforts while thousands of miles away from home.
The first step: baby pumpkins.
All my fall fanatics know that a home-sans-pumpkin in October is a sin. Luckily, all of the organic stores in Nantes know what’s up and all have bins of colorful gourds and pumpkins by the entrance. On my hunt to find almond butter, I stumbled upon a wicker basket of baby pumpkins and picked up two. I lovingly placed my pumpkins by my window with a cinnamon scented candle in between. My host mom saw my festive display and asked what I was going to cook with my pumpkins. I told her that my babies were going nowhere near any kitchen equipment, thank you very much. Just kidding. I told her that I was decorating for Halloween and she replied that she understood but I’m not sure that she really did. I didn’t mind though, because after tidying up, lighting the cinnamon candle, and snuggling into my bed with the window letting in a slight breeze, I felt at home in a weird way. The usual anxieties I felt about being in the house rather than outside exploring dissipated. I experienced a calmness that I had not yet felt in my new city.
These little moments of comfort are sprinkled throughout my week. Seeing the opening credits on my host family’s TV screen for Le Meilleur Patissier or, the French version of The Great British Baking Show, was definitely one of these moments.
I have two seasons of The Great British Baking Show downloaded onto my phone for when I’m stressed and need a pick-me-up. So, hearing the twinkly theme song last Wednesday night after dinner warmed my heart a little. I sat and watched, in awe of how similar the French version was to the British version that I had come to adore. I thought back to Sunday mornings in my 17th street apartment watching the baking show in bed and even before that, watching Food Network with my dad when I felt too sick to go to school and couldn’t go back to bed.
It’s surreal how something so trivial as a tiny pumpkin or a TV show can evoke so many memories and emotions. Being away from home in a new environment, having to make new friends, and adjust to new customs has not been easy. I find myself getting frustrated at times because I don’t feel like I’m doing enough or taking advantage of all the opportunities I could. But then I experience these moments of respite in which I remember that wanting to be comfortable is really natural. I realize that staying in every once in a while to do a face mask and watch It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia is something that gives me comfort — and when you’re speaking a foreign language all day every day, you’re definitely going to need some of that.
P.S. Will exchange right limb for Wawa Italian hoagie, no onions. Serious inquiries only.