Arachnophobia This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

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In the midst of a turbulent storm on the savage coast of Bretagne, France, my host family and I sped along in their new Peugeot. Nelly and Francois chatted as I gazed lazily out the window, daydreaming and ignoring their conversation. A voice was directed to the back seat, including me in the discussion about dinner. We made an unexpected stop on a nearby rocky cliff where other families had parked and were peering at the ocean. The Atlantic angrily beat the shore and large rocks seemed barely able to hold their ground. The wind blew cream-colored foam into the air, floating for seconds before dispersing into mist.

Rolling gray clouds released raindrops as we finally decided to cook what I understood to be a large spider. Walking back to the car, I was unfazed by this declaration, for I often misunderstood the western Bretagne accent. As we pulled into our small cul-de-sac, a vague worry began to invade my consciousness. The first to enter the kitchen was my host dad, clutching the white bag holding the contents I was expected to taste. Although he had introduced me to culinary treats including wild rabbit, mushrooms from the nearby forest, and sea snails I collected myself, I suspected I might find it difficult to enjoy this spider.

Ralph Waldo Emerson once commented, “No man should travel until he has learned the language of the country he visits. Otherwise he voluntarily makes himself a great baby – so helpless and so ridiculous.” I had voluntarily left my home to risk everything familiar for a year in France. Because the spider incident took place well into my visit, it proved language is a continuous lesson. Along the way there were many awkward and embarrassing moments where the language barrier seemed Death Valley deep. I disagree with Emerson’s assertion that travel should not be attempted until the language of the country is learned. Although I had studied French for several years, at no point could I adequately say that I “knew” French. Nuance, variation, dialect, and vernacular will forever give opportunities for learning.

In France, I made myself a great baby on purpose; I know I was helpless and ridiculous, but not for long. I was absorbed by France and I in turn took a piece of France home with me. Another Emerson quote that I agree with is his observation, “Though we travel the world over to find the beautiful, we must carry it with us or we find it not.” This is a critical part of travel. Bretagne is my moveable feast. Its flag hangs in my room at school; I keep the year with Nelly and Francois close to my heart. I will savor the memory of the tender white flesh of my favorite food – king crab – the way my host mom prepared it. At the top of her well-worn recipe is the French word for king crab, the very same word for spider.

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.






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