I’m thinking a lot again about travelling and having adventures. I want to be free and happy. Of course living in France can be looked at as an adventure. I don’t think I am ready to leave here just yet but I find there are a lot of things here that make me unhappy. I do like to work with children and working in a school, having the experience of working as I am, it’s really fantastic. It could be that it’s just my manager stressing me out. That my relationship is feeling like a normal routine and there is just nothing exciting for me anymore. I’m bored here. I really need to start making some changes.

15 Months

Living in a foreign country seems so glamorous when you think about it. Say you dream about going to… France – Oh the baguettes, the cheese and wine. Oh la la, I’m going to learn French! But when you arrive it isn’t completely the dream you had. I might be something like a feather in the wind, just flying around with, what seems to be, no purpose in life other than travelling and unfortunately, many people don’t understand you and will never understand you or the decisions you made in life. Of course you will find English speakers all over France, but this won’t give you any more motivation to learn a new language, especially if you boyfriend is French and you are spending a lot of time with his friends and family. When you immerse yourself into a new world, it is never so simple and easy as you originally thought. In a short idea of my one year here, at times you feel like you are surrounded by so many people, but are quite alone.

The amount of evenings I have spent sitting around dinner tables not understanding anything and not being very involved after the first 5 minutes are just uncountable. You find yourself spending hours daydreaming of being somewhere else, far, far away. You almost start building a resentment for everyone around you. Of course, as you are in a new country, everyone will expect you to speak their language, especially if not many people at the table speak English. Many will think they are doing you a favour by speaking their language when you first arrive, as if your knowledge of just “Bonjour” and “Merci” will help you to join in the conversation. Many will like to offer their advice when you first arrive, that, “you need to speak French in order to learn.” Maybe it was my unfortunately circumstances here, because I never felt it so brutally as I have in France, where I felt like everyone thought they were helping me, but infact, speaking quickly with slang words of jibberish is not helping me at all. From somewhere deep inside me, despite not really feeling so motivated by anyone but myself, I continued to study, while also feeling like I was ‘losing myself.’

Generally any communication at all becomes a challenge in itself. When you have a rendez-vous at the bank or if you have just a simple question in a supermarket. Need to make a phone call or send an email ? “Wait, did she just hang up on me?” Every day is just another hurdle that you need to overcome. It isn’t just errands, finding a job or new friends that you need to accomplish but even just the emotions you have going on in your mind each day. Most days are good and other days are just terrible. You miss you friends and family, then you make new friends, great friends and shortly after they move away.

Every day you push on…. and then one day…. everything starts to click. You begin to really understand things when you watch tv or hearing people talking on the streets. You are able to help strangers, ask for something in a shop and your motivation has grown 10x the amount now for studying. Asking my boyfriend, “can you proof-read my email and tell me what is wrong in there?” It’s only a couple errors instead of him writing it for me. Hell yeah. Sitting at the dinner table, I am not only understanding things, but I am actually laughing again and trying to join in more. Did I just get my bike fixed and have a conversation with the repair guy? Did I just make that phone call? Did I just have a meeting for 30 minutes all in French and understand 80% of it ….. yes… yes I did. And man, nothing feels better than actually feeling like you are on your way up this mountain. It’s probably one of the most self-satisfying feelings in the world. This year has truly been a rollercoaster of emotions and I know that it’s not yet over, but living outside of your comfort zone, whether it’s with travel or any dream that you have, it’s the most rewarding experience I think anyone can do. And when you think you want to just give up, collapse on the floor and cry, which I have done on multiple, multiple occassions… just don’t give up on yourself.

Everyday life 

It’s summertime now in Lyon. All the trees are green again and more people are out and about. This morning I woke up to the boyfriend saying he was going to the boulangerie for some croissants, pain au chocolat and a baguette, as you do in France. Then afterwards we went to cool off in the pool, with the beautiful view of the mountains. We attempted to play volleyball with just the two of us, but it was more exciting just to be outside and enjoy ourselves with no distractions. Afterwards, working out and heading to work for a few hours. Life can be pretty good 🙂 You know, unfortunately, it’s easy to take life for granted instead of appreciating these little things – especially the things that cost nothing or near to nothing. 

💜

11 Months

Next month will mark my first year in France. I can’t say it’s been the easiest transitions. To be honest, it’s one of the most difficult things I’ve done in my life. Overall, my job isn’t the most interesting – as I am still working with children, but I can’t complain since I am earning money and I have a lot of time off in the day.

A couple months ago we had the opportunity to move into my boyfriend’s father’s house. There is an apartment under the main part of the house, so we have all our own area, minus the kitchen. I much prefer this situation than the previous one, but I have come across a lot of things that have made my stay a little uncomfortable.

I was aware of the fact that my boyfriend’s father and everyone in the house didn’t speak much or any English. In fact, I was quite excited by this idea of being forced to speak in another language all the time. But quickly I realised that it is pretty emotionally straining. When I first met the family, I didn’t speak any French. I think they got in the habit of not speaking to me very much and they knew I couldn’t reply so they would speak through my boyfriend. Now that I start to understand more, I would hope to be involved in more discussions, but I feel after the amount of time that’s passed, people continue the habit of not involving me in the conversation and because I still take a long time to process the French phrase in my mind before speaking – and before I can even express what I feel at that time, the conversation has long moved on to something else. I’m not alone with this feeling, as I spoke with one of the father’s whose children I watch. He explains that it took years to understand what his family and friends were saying, and even still to this day if he is tired it can be difficult to follow the conversation.

Last week I had the opportunity to visit Lviv again and to see all my lovely friends. To remind myself of, really, who I was last year before I left Ukraine – a friendly, outgoing person. My friends are extremely consider of the fact that I don’t speak Ukrainian and even when two Ukrainians are speaking together in front of me, they made the effort to speak with each other in English. I can’t say this is something that I have felt at all in France – this consideration for the people around you. I know that Ukrainian is a much more complicated language if you compare it to Latin languages, but of course this consideration really means a lot to me after, what I think, an emotional rollercoaster of a year for me.

Seeing everyone again in Ukraine and the politeness and love they give to others – it makes my heart feel full of warmth. My friends might not have so much money, but they make efforts to come to see me as much as they could during my visit – even waiting at the airport for me to arrive (as a surprise) and when I left from the train station, they came to help book my tickets, putting me on the train, finding my seat and seeing me off – again waving them goodbye as the train is leaving.

As I was making my bed (on the sleeper train), another older Ukrainian woman helped me to make my bed. Then after she climbed up to the top bunk like an impressive Babushka does, I helped to tuck her in, as the ceiling is very low on the bunk. I slept full of emotions the whole journey to arrive close to border of Ukraine, to then find a trolleybus to the bus station, then marshrutka bus to the border. Of course you find some people that don’t wish to help you, like in every country. But when you find nice people, it really gives you an indescribable feeling of appreciation. The first woman at the bus station did not want to help me at all, in fact she was just downright rude. She kept repeating that there were no buses going to Romania, none, nothing and to leave her alone. Finally after the fourth time I asked her out of desperation, she told me to go to the back of the station. I found another counter (now with my friend Natalia on the phone with me) and this woman walked me to the bus, introduced me to the driver of the bus, he walked me to where the bus would be in one hour and offered that I can even put my backpack on the bus ready (which I gratefully declined JUST in case I missed the bus for any reason). After the 1 -2 hour bus journey, when the bus stopped, he even waved to me that this is the stop and told me it was about 2km walk now. As I jumped off the bus, thanking him again and again, I saw 3 Ukrainian police officers. They yelled in Ukrainian ‘Happy Easter!’ and I tried to repeat it, but my words were mumbled and they just laughed at me. They continued to talk to me, asking where I was from and some other questions, but their English was not so good. Then they told me they would give me a free taxi ride to the border, and when I arrived, one of them help me put on my backpack, he pointed me the direction and wished me luck. When I crossed the border, I saw two Moldavian girls that were on my marshutka earlier on and I asked them if they had an idea how to get to Bucarest. They recommended that I go with them to Suceava and they would bring me to the train station from there. They asked to one guy if we could go with him to this city, which if Helen (my Ukrainian friend) could read his face, she would tell me not to go anywhere near him and I went with my gut feeling and decided not to follow with them. Instead a Ukrainian man came up to me and pointed at the Ukrainian ribbon on my bag, asking where I was going with this. I responded to Romania, to Bucharest and he offered me to go with him and a bus full of Ukrainian journalists. Immediately when I joined them, they all said hello and were offering me food. I had a conversation with the driver and another guy that was seated at the front with me, mostly about Ukraine but also about Europe, sports, everything. When we arrived to Suceava, he brought me to the train station, carried my backpack, asked to the cashier and when she replied that the train was just leaving, he literally ran with me and my backpack and put me on the train. I stook his hand and thanked him again and again as the train was just pulling out. Once I found a seat on the train, I tried to look for a man who would be checking the tickets. Finally after some time, I saw him walking past me quickly and into the other carriage, so I ran after him, to ask if I can buy a ticket. He told me to take my seat and he will come shortly. It was a confusing 8 hours on the train because when he arrived, I had no Romanian money and though I could pay by card, but for future reference – YOU CANT PAY BY CARD ON THE TRAIN – haha. He asked to look in my wallet, I showed him only some Ukrainian hryvnias and 10 euros. He sat next to me, it seemed all very casual really. People around me start to translate for me and by the end of this particular conversation, I had about 2 rows of people focused on translating or just generally listening to the conversation. He kept coming back again and again, over the next few hours. Maybe he was making sure I was still there, maybe to see if I magically had some money again. In the end, I fell asleep, hugging my backpack. I wasn’t sure if I should try to run off the train at some point when they weren’t looking and try to take another train, but after inspecting a few different stops, I realised that the train guards got off at each stop and stood on the platform, so I thought it best to just remain where I was. When there was an hour to go, the guard came to me again and asked for my passport. Through the others translating again, he told me that I would get my passport back after I paid him my ticket. This gave one guy an opportunity, I think to start flirting with me and speaking with the train guard and shortly he asked just for the 10 euro note in my wallet and he would just issue me a ticket with the money I had on me. And voila, after this I was in Bucharest! A surprisingly beautiful city where I mostly did some running around the city and parks, went on a walking tour, met a few people, went to a couple bars with my boyfriend and his friends, oh and climbed on the top of our apartment roof by use of the emergency ladder (up 10 stories- phew!). The last evening we went for an evening to Lock Room, where you get handcuffed and blindfolded, put into a cell and you have to find your way out within 1 hour with a series of clues, puzzles, etc. A brilliant end to a fantastic week.

Now I am back to reality in France, where lately all I can imagine is backpacking in Thailand or generally just sitting on a beach somewhere, calm and tranquil. 🙂