Home Under the Rain

There are three essential reasons why I enjoy traveling:

– I like the unsettling feeling that accompanies a visit to a new place. The feeling is stronger when people speak a different language and have a very distinct lifestyle from mine.

– I wait for the moment when I realize that despite these differences ‘they’ are more similar to ‘me’ than it appears initially.

– I love how geographic and climatic elements bring back landscapes and landmarks once familiar and stir emotions.

In my early months in the States, everything was more unsettling than any of my trips to Kenya, the USSR, and every European country.

Unlike my other trips I wasn’t going back home and I was far from feeling at home.

Quickly, although the language and lifestyles were different, I reached the moment when I knew ‘they’ and ‘I’ had enough in common to make it work.

But I wasn’t home yet.

A French perfume floating in the air. A French song aired on the radio. A French landmark photographed in a magazine. A conversation in French overheard in a restaurant.

Small things triggered bouts of nostalgia and homesickness, which came and went away. I lived one foot here, one foot there.

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Light rain fell on San Francisco yesterday morning and while I walked in the city, the drizzle as fine as a mist on my hair and my face, I could have been in Paris.

Rain, more than anything, brings back lots of vivid memories of my life from before.

After years in California, like a true Californian, I’ve come to cherish and respect rain because of the long periods of drought the state endures and like everyone else I hope for rainy days.

Unlike most Californians, there is another reason: rain is part of my DNA.

I grew up in Normandy, one of the rainiest regions of France. Green should be the color of the Normandy flag.

Then I lived in Paris for ten years. The city of light is renowned for many reasons, not exactly for its sunny days.

As I drive down Bush the taller buildings silhouetted in the distance lick the fog.

The Eiffel Tower cranes its neck toward the low thick clouds.

The painted ladies of Steiner Street, so vibrant on a sunny day, are dressed in quiet elegance.

At the end of the Avenue de l’Opéra and the Parvis de Notre Dame, two gems in their jewel boxes.

People hurry along the wet sidewalks; their hooded sweatshirts tightened around their necks, mugs of coffee between their gloved hands.

Umbrellas unfold and pedestrians brace themselves against the gusty rain and wind.

The top of the Bay Bridge sinks in the sky.

The Seine and Apollinaire flow below the Pont Mirabeau.

In San Francisco and anywhere in the US where I have lived or traveled, rain, more than any other element, reminds me where I am from.

But in a gentle way, which replaces my initial displacement.

Last week I wrote that although gray is the color of Paris my heart is a rainbow when I am there, because I am at home when I walk the streets of Paris.

Unlike the French poet Apollinaire, I don’t weep for the lost of love due to the passage of time.

Because love for what was once foreign grows with time and anywhere, you see, you can be home.

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