Well, here it is, as promised to one Miss Brand—the update of my blog! Haha perhaps a couple months late, but better late than never, I always say! :P
What to say, what to say… Let me first start off by saying that although decisions have never been my strong point, and career paths still remain quite hazy and uncertain, I definitely made a good decision—or rather, a wicked awesome one!—in coming to France to work and live.
I had a great time in Belgium over the October break, getting to meet family and really being treated like royalty as they took me everywhere! I got to visit Ghent, Brussels, Antwerp, Ostend, Bruges, and Ypres and try amazing Belgian food like matentaarts, this dish with endives wrapped in ham, and of course, chocolates and waffles! (So not overrated, by the way!) I also was lucky enough to get a VIP pass to the World Soundtrack Awards in Ghent. All in all, it was a memorable time.
Getting there was also memorable! Haha It was during the strikes in France due to the retirement age now being – wait for it—62 instead of 60 (gasp!). So they cut gas supplies and consequently, the trains were not all running. After a cancelled train, seeing a man pee right in the middle of the train station, a broken down train in Kortrijk where I didn’t understand the announcement that it was broken down..haha… and a delayed train, I made it to Ghent! But as I said, it was a great trip, and well worth the hassle of getting there :).
France is… France! Beautiful, proud, and unique. Sometimes, the only explanation for things—be it paperwork, buses, planes, or lunch hours, is: “It’s France!” You can’t help but somehow admire a little that they don’t seem to care if you don’t like how they do things/that things aren’t as efficient as may be desired, because it’s just how they do things, and they won’t be bullied into changing for just anyone. It has character and you have to love it for that.
Over the past few months, I have gotten used to things like one and a half hour lunches at school—yes, 1 ½ hours. At first, I thought, ‘How could this be? Who could need that much time?’ But now I enjoy it and use it to prepare for classes. I have also gotten used to being a flexible shopper… At first, I found it frustrating that I couldn’t find items that I considered everyday items in the big shopping centre (Superstore/Walmart equivalent), such as lunch bags or Bristol board, or plastic cups. Now, I simply sigh, say, ‘It’s France’ and find an alternate solution… I’ve found that there are two ways to look at it: you can either be arrogant and say, ‘Well, this isn’t how WE do it back home’ or you can choose to take a step back, realize it’s different and yes, perhaps frustrating because you’re not used to it, but that ultimately, it is not the situation that must bend to you…rather it is you who must learn to appreciate the good in the differences.
I’ve gotten used to people asking me if I want warm milk with my cereal, which for the life of me, I still do not know why I would want that… ;) but I guess at least I have the option! ;) and I’ve gotten used to being able to find amazing bakery items every ten steps! It is said that French cuisine is among the best, if not the best, cuisine in the world… I have to say it has not yet let me down! Having someone place a huge chunk of warmed Camembert cheese in front of you on top of a salad at a restaurant as your dinner defies the food pyramid, but let me tell you, it certainly lights up your taste buds! I have yet to tackle the charcuterie (butcher shop) as it looks intimidating with its rows of (for me) unidentifiable items! I do not doubt, however, that it would be a crime not to stop in there!
I’ve also gotten used to being asked by my kids at school, ‘Do we glue this?’ ‘Can we use markers to colour?’ ‘Do we colour this?’ ‘Do we write the date?’ ‘On which page?’ I’m sure anyone who has taught small children can attest to this sort of constant questioning. ;) I have also come to love their constant chorus of ‘Hello!’ and their ‘bisous’ as you walk through the schoolyard. It is a job and a half, trying to teach them to say ‘I am happy’ and not, ‘Hi am appy’ and such, but I find it is just at those moments where you want to pull your hair out from frustration that one of your little kids will give you a Canada flag he drew just for you, or she’ll give you a beautiful drawing she coloured, or tell you that you look pretty that day. ;) No matter the day, it is certainly never boring. ;) I love being able to sing with them and make silly drawings for them… I sometimes feel like it is more of me putting on a show than anything else with all our songs and my hand actions! ;)
I have come to love being able to hop on a train at a moment’s notice and zip off to Paris just to watch Harry Potter… or zoom off to Strasbourg to see the beautiful Christmas markets and sample warm apple juice with spices and honey… There is so much to see, I feel as if I’m a sponge trying to soak it all up… so much beauty to see and so much good food yet to taste! :)
I have also come to love my friends here in Evreux! I especially realized this past while when I was sick just how lucky I was to have them :). They would come by with oranges and tea, or lend me their Vick or make me supper when I wasn’t up for much… and it always meant so much just to have them stop by and ask ‘How are you feeling?’ I am so lucky to have them to be ridiculous with and laugh with and travel with. Thank you ladies if any of you read this!! :) And ladies at home, don’t you worry—I love you with all my heart and miss you tons!!
This past week, I went out with the teachers from Guichainville (one of the schools where I work) and enjoyed a little night in French etiquette… I got there before everyone else and sat down and had some tea while I waited. Someone else came and we were talking, but she never sat down. Soon, others also arrived, were talking, and not sitting down. So I stood up, wondering if I was breaking some sort of unwritten rule that you don’t sit down until absolutely everyone is there. Finally, everyone was there, and I was like, ‘Alright, time to eat.’…. orrrr not… as we stood around for another 10, 15 minutes talking, and then proceeded to continue to talk as we sat down for another 10 minutes or so. I was just laughing to myself thinking that if we were in Canada, we would have been done eating and have left already! ;) As the evening progressed, I saw other people come in around 9pm to eat— eating late is yet another custom I have grown used to… and so is having a little snack before so that I can make it to the late supper without my stomach arguing with me! ;) Then came the part where I was so full, yet had so much food left… I knew in Quebec it is kind of a faux pas to ask to get it to go, and figured it would be here too… nonetheless, as I was trying to rid my fridge of food before the holidays, and therefore had little left, I thought it would be perfect to take it home for the next day… well you should have seen the looks on their faces as they realized I was taking food home from the restaurant! Haha A memory, that’s for sure. Next social gathering, I will do better ;).
Oh, and the bisous… for those not familiar with the word, it would be the ‘kiss/kiss’ thing people here do when you meet. And not just for the first time, but pretty much all the time. I am not sure if it’s my North Americaness that resists because someone else is in ‘my space’ ;) but I have yet to embrace (haha oh lame puns) the whole kiss/kiss thing when you meet. I find I still prefer the handshake, but to each his own! It has led me to appreciate that some people are not ‘stonecold’ haha.
Right now, I am in England for Christmas, and plan to visit Bristol and also head up to Scotland to visit another assistant… I said if I see nothing else, let me see a kilted man! Hehe I am also bound and determined to try some haggis before leaving ;) and to use ‘Cheerio’ at least once ;).
It was also memorable getting here… after leaving Evreux at 6:20am, we were on the subway to the airport when we found out our flight was cancelled… Upon arriving at the airport and seeing it still posted as leaving as scheduled, we asked and were told that the airport was perhaps not so efficient as to have taken it down yet as (and I quote) ‘It’s Paris!’ haha After waiting almost 2 hours to wait in another line-up for 1 ½ hours, we found out that our second flight was cancelled… this led us to Eurostar to pay an inordinate amount of money to get on a train that stopped several times for service that needed to be done, and once where they cut the heating and lighting temporarily to conserve electricity! After another 3 hour train ride and metro stops in between with no working escalators and heavy suitcases, we made it to my friend’s at 1:30am, a mere 12 hours behind schedule, after having been up for 22 hours! A journey and a half, let me tell you. :)
Nonetheless, I am sure it will be worth it, and I am glad of the chance to travel a bit more during our break. I will miss (and do already!) my family and friends a lot during Christmas, but I am convinced that ‘Stonecold’ here will make it through with a little Skype and phone time ;). So thank you to my family for being so loving and wonderful that it gave me the strength to leave and explore the world a bit… because I know their love will still be there always through my comings and goings.
People sometimes ask what I will do after this time in France… right now, I don’t know… I am contemplating re-applying, applying for subbing back home, or maybe finding a random job just to try something new… All I know is that right now, I am lucky enough to be here and so I am determined to have some Carpe Diem in my life and go where it takes me… I bought a wonderful little sign in the Strasbourg Christmas markets that says ‘Ose ta vie, toi seul la vivras’ – J. Salomé. Basically, it says, ‘Dare to live your life; only you will live it.’
So that is where I stand now, ladies and gentlemen, lads and lasses—in Liverton, England, thankful for all the blessings God has given me in 2010, and looking forward to making many more memories (look at that alliteration! :P) in 2011.
So Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to everyone!