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Thursday, June 13
The Indiana Daily Student

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Secrets of sunny Provence

AIX-EN-PROVENCE, France - On the days I actually wake up in time for my 8 a.m. class, I get to see the sun rise over a mountain from my dorm room window.

It’s the first thing I do most mornings, anyway – toss back the sheet I put up as a curtain, throw open my window and take in the kilometer after kilometer of beige buildings and red-thatched roofs stretching north through town.

Then, if I’m lucky (“motivated” or “still awake from the night before”) my gaze eventually drifts to the breathtaking mix of pinks and yellows and oranges floating out from behind Mont Sainte Victoire.

In a perfect world my feet would then carry me not southwest to the university, but north, north into that city of beige whose red roofs remain a secret of those of hilltops or mountains or the fourth floor of dorms.

The city’s center, of course, holds its own secrets – secrets you must descend into to learn.

Secrets of a thousand fountains.

Secrets of cobblestone streets and statues of saints.

Secrets of the intimacy of the relationship the city’s planners must have had with the sun to make it hit the walls and streets and fountains just so, filling plazas with light steadily changing from the burst of the early morning and afternoon to the hushed beauty only knowable at the Hotel de Ville as the sun prepares to set.

After a semester, though, all this gets ignored. After a semester, we academic-year kids typically see visions of Bloomington, Starbucks, friends and Anglophones dance through our heads.

Reality morphs into a world of only ugly dorms and inefficient universities instead of awe-inspiring cathedrals and pain au chocolat. We forget the friends we’ve made and instead consider only the chill of the French at the surface.

For some, it’s too much; for some, it’s enough to leave.

I, though, know a way around it. It’s simple and it’s free.

Sit on the ledge of that fountain by the Hotel de Ville.

Push past the arrogance and the slowness and the argumentativeness of the people; look past the stoicism and too-expensive outfits – and see instead the sun as it paints the beige canvas of the walls of the city; see the ease with which the Aixois move.

Let yourself hear the music of the language and of the busker with the accordion.

Let yourself react in feeling before criticizing in thought.

Live this city for a day.

Then tell yourself you want to leave it.

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