I always struggled with Lyon.
Looking back on those six months, it is a lot easier to gloss over the ugly memories... the dirty streets, the giant sewer rats, the grotesque mistreatment of the homeless.
Now, it is easy to remember the Lyon of ferris wheels, and friends, and hidden gardens.
But at the time, I had to live in between the two extremes: high culture and filthy squalor. I must admit, it was difficult at times to find the silver lining on the dark cloud of Lyon, as a mixture of culture shock, home-sickness, and bad experiences threatened to overwhelm me.
Yet, as I neared the end of my study-abroad exchange, I began to realise this:
that whatever I thought of it at the time, I was going to be nostalgic afterwards, and I might as well bloody enjoy myself when I was actually physically there.
That was a true revelation, cutting through the mist of culture shock like a knife, and forcing me to live as if Lyon was my own home.
From then on, I lived in the moment. I embraced each part of that city, and one day, when I was wandering freely among the rubble of the old Roman amphitheatre, I was invited to join an improvisational singing group in their rehearsals. After the rehearsal, I was approached by a girl, who told me in her broken French and English that she greatly admired my ability to join in, and my bravery. It was then that I realised it was only ever me holding myself back from being truly happy in this new place; from belonging. Now, though, I feel like I could belong anywhere - that I could just jump right in and join any chorus of voices!
Lyon was a learning moment for me, a stretching and growing moment. I remember both the good and the bad, but I focus on that which was beautiful.