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. 🙂

I wish I could see clearly

I wish I could see myself from the outside, like floating above everything that is happening and have a serious idea of my life. Some of the time I would like to remember me leaving Ukraine in a completed way; feeling like, I was happy to leave my job and my friends and begin a new adventure; that I only planned to stay for 2-3 weeks but it turned into something much more; but other times, I feel like my time in Ukraine is just incomparable to anything else in my life. Even if I spent a lot of time in London, I never felt the way that I felt in Lviv and my friends. I knew that I wouldn’t find true love in Ukraine with the mentality of a lot of the men there so when I had this ‘love story’ almost unfolding in front of me, I wanted to run and jump, leap as far as I could and not look back and be a happy ‘in love’ person; but I feel like my life here isn’t me. I daydream a lot about old memories, friends, boyfriends, jobs. I wonder if I am truly happy here, living someone else’s dreams and living with someone else’s friends. I’ve met some really great people here, but they are not my best friends. And my best friends in Lviv are irreplaceable. I am trying to understand my feelings of – would I actually be happy to pack up and go to Ukraine again? Would I want to live there again or am I just sad that it is over because there was so much emotion involved while I was there.

This quote replays in my mind often – ‘don’t cry that it’s over, smile because it happened.’

But it’s unbelievable hard for me and I don’t know why after 5 months, I still feel like something is missing in my life; like a huge chunk of my heart. Why can’t I stop feeling like this?

Again, I feel like it could been weeks, if not months since I last wrote. I have made some good friends in Lyon but I also feel a little less social than I normally am. A lot of the time I want to rush home to see Loic and spend time with him. I am doing a lot of babysitting in the evenings now too and I feel like on my evenings off I want to be home or out in the city, but with Loic. He has a different personality to me, which is more clear the more we go out together and generally living with each other. I find myself wanting to be more domesticated and less wanting to go out partying and drinking. I’m not sure if this is so good though, because if I have just moved to a new city – I need to be spending time with the friends who are wanting to spend time with me too.

I have a few plants now (I’m enjoying this gardening idea) and just yesterday we bought a hamster. I’m surprised with my willingness to settle down now. It all started when I decided to buy a bike and from then on, I am feeling more (and less) at home. Now I feel like the apartment we live in is mine too, and now that I am working everyday, I feel more productive. Although really it can be difficult for me, and a lot of the time I find myself in a fit of tears. I hate to cry around Loic because I don’t want him to feel depressed for my sake. I wonder if I am doing the right thing with my life. I wonder what my parents really think about my life and the decisions I have made. Of course they are always so supportive of me, but do they really want me to travel so much. My brother made a comment on Skype on Sunday – that he feels like he doesn’t have a sister anymore. A lot of things he says don’t make a lot of sense now and he gets really confused with his medication. He said to my mom a few weeks ago that he was talking with me downstairs (at my parents house) about life problems, which is clearly not possible. These things really upset me because I just want him to be happy and have a normal, happy life but since the accident it’s very difficult for both him and my parents. But it’s the comments,about our childhood, or my room, about me being there and being his sister. These really upset me because I wonder if I am doing the right thing. I have been away from my parents, really, since I was 18 years old and now I am 26. This is a constant thought in my mind but I feel like my parents have missed all of my ‘adult’ life. Although we have Skype and Facebook, they don’t get to see me on weekends for Sunday roast, or for all of the holidays. I don’t mind being far away from any of my other family, cousins, aunts, uncles, but I think one day my parents will be gone and I missed the most influencial years of my life with my parents. I think I have realised this again now when Loic goes to see his family or has his friends for the last few years, or from school – like long periods of time; whereas for me, everyone is all over Europe and my closest friends now are the ones I left behind in Ukraine – along with the job and lifestyle that I loved.

On top of these thoughts playing on my mind, on a daily basis, I also have trouble with the language barrier. Sometimes to be in the house and the guys are talking so quickly in French, about old memories or jokes; or if I go to Loic’s family’s house, I can’t have a normal conversation with people. Sometimes I don’t feel like myself anymore and it’s only when I do go out with my friends, alone, that I feel like myself again. I am happy and outgoing. We went out last night for one of Loic’s managers going away parties, and unlike my normal self, I am sitting quietly – not sure if anyone speaks English – and almost waiting for people to come talk to me or to be introduced. And where has all my motivation gone for learning a new language? I think the depression feelings of living in another country overwhelm me so much that I just don’t want to think about studying.

I have been reading a lot lately on the metro because I find if I am just listening to music, I am over-analysing my life – staring down at the ground and thinking way too much about what I do on a daily basis and how much I feel like I am changing, or not being myself. I am daydreaming about past memories in Ukraine, or generally just thinking anything about Ukraine brings me to tears. I feel like I am almost escaping my life by reading books. Even the other day when I met a couple girls from couchsurfing, we were talking about books and they asked me about what I was reading. I answered in such a way that it almost felt like the characters were real and I was describing them and their personalities.

But on a good day – no really, most days, the majority of days – I remember how much I love travelling and that I wouldn’t want to settle down in America (atleast for the moment). I love my life the way it is and I am blessed to be able to live in other countries when others would need to have a visa to visit. I have the best, more understanding and patient boyfriend I could ask for. Even if we are completely different, he brings out the best in me and I want to be a better person, for myself and to him. I think that if I were able to atleast visit my family for a couple weeks (because they last time I saw them was 2 years ago), everything would feel much more comfortable for myself – because at the moment, maybe I really am just over-thinking everything.

So, it is this time next week – – I have just 7 days before I start working. Lately I am still running a lot and studying French. The other week I ran over 100KM for the week, so I was really tired before our trip to South of France but now I am taking it easier. I would like to train for a half or full marathon for this year – this is my plan 🙂 This last week, Monks and I went on a short roadtrip to a few places on the coast – – to visit two of his friends (one was Stefan who I met in Ukraine too!) and we also slept in the car one night – which was a little cold and painful but funny memories. Where we went was so beautiful! I went swimming in the sea, you could see in the water pretty clearly. I used my waterproof camera for the first time (underwater). We also went on jetski for the first time, which I thought would be scary at first but it was just so much fun. I’ve never laughed and screamed so much at one time!!! I’m really looking forward to work though and getting out of the house more, making some money. Hopefully soon I will begin a language exchange with some locals and really start to learn French quickly 🙂 


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A Week in Expensive Paradise

The last few weeks had been really hard on me with not having a regular routine, job and friends; so in a spontaneous mood, I decided it was best if I went away for a little while – to somewhere new – and when I looked at the map, I noticed how close Geneva actually is. I booked with some people on Blablacar to join them last Sunday and Couchsurfed for my first official time. 

I’m proud of the way I travelled for this trip because more and more I feel like I become braver. When I first started to travel, I would go with a boyfriend by plane, staying in nice hotels. Then I started to travel alone, with tour groups; then backpacking and staying in hostels. This time it was all blablacar, hitchhiking and couchsurfing (and 2 train rides). It was the ultimate cheap holiday, in such an expensive country, and it was just what I needed. When I am travelling, I remember who I am, my loves and dislikes – I am happy. I rented a bike (for free) and cycled for over 50km in Geneva, walked for atleast 7 hours a day, and went for a run in the vineyards of Switzerland. I had conversations with strangers and I lived out another bucket list item, by proper hitchhiking – you know, with a cardboard sign and thumb out. I met really great people and had some interesting conversations. It was really what I needed…

It was only one week that I went away, but when I got back to Lyon it felt like I had been gone for a month because I had done so much and been on the move non-stop. Everything in the house looked different but actually nothing had changed and everyone was up to the same things – but it was nice to see them again. No one knew I was returning – I just arrived to the house and rang the bell, so it was exciting to see Loic’s face when I walked in the door 🙂

The last few days, I have been running a lot. Saturday (18k), Sunday (8k) and Monday (21km). I called the company I will be working with, and sorting out some of the things I need to look at for work, my dad’s website, etc. I introduced Manuel to a Japanese girl I met, as he wants to learn Japanese. I, myself, will start private French lessons soon. I posted on Couchsurfing website and I had a lot of replies for private lessons and language exchange. Today, I would again like to go for a run, ride Velly to the centre and get a fridge magnet or some sort of souvenir for my dad’s birthday, and just continue to stay busy because I think it’s the only thing that it keeping me sane when I am not working. And next week, Loic and I will be going to South of France for some camping, so it will be interesting to do a little more travelling 🙂

2 Months in France

So I have been in France for an unexpected 2 months now. When I left Ukraine, I really had no estimate on time that I would spend here so it’s a bit surreal. 

The other weekend I went out to see some friends and I was walking back from the city alone around 4am. I was just around the corner from the house when a guy grabbed me on the street. It’s a strange feeling because when you think about something like this happening to you, you think that you would be able to move, kick the guy and run away, or even scream, but just in the shock and fear, I didn’t even think to scream for help. He had his arms so tight around my body and up against him that I couldn’t move at all. He started touching me and trying to rip off my shorts. I started to feel emotional, with tears in my eyes, I am asking him what is he doing? And why? He is repeating, “Je t’aime!” The whole time I was looking into his eyes and anticipating what might happen. A rush of visions come to mind of me being raped as he is trying to pull me off the road. He is looking for somewhere to take me into the darkness, when he is distracted and looks ahead at the traffic lights. His grip became a little more loose and I bolted away down the street. I looked behind and he is just staring at me whilst slowly crossing the street. As I am running, I was making sure he didn’t follow me and got home to Loic in a fit of tears, crying until I fell asleep. 

I have had guys yell at me, pull over in cars, follow me home but I am quite shocked about this and it has really made me scared to be alone now, or to pass a guy alone in a secluded area, even during the day. To be honest, lately, I am becoming a lot more anxious and I feel that everything is starting to get to me. I am not feeling like myself anymore. Sometimes I wonder if I am really able to be in a relationship right now because I can’t control my own emotions. I hate to be upset about things or to bring someone else down but at the moment, I don’t have a job, or often go out with my friends. Two girls whom I met when I first arrived to Lyon have moved to Paris and other friends are away on holidays this month or when I call/write them, they are away for the weekend or not going out.

And also, as nice as they all are, it can be difficult living in the house with the guys. Sometimes I really just miss sitting in the clean house with Oxana with some brie and a bottle of wine, listening to music and talking wishfully about love and life. Instead, it is parkour videos, yelling, running around the house and punching each other, all talking in French and I sit there bored, not understanding anything. They are a close group of friends and not that I feel as though I am in the way or left out, but I feel like I don’t get to have nice “girly time.” I miss having quiet people around the house and talking, enjoying some drinks, going to cafes. I really miss my friends. I keep daydreaming of my life in Ukraine, or even London at times, friends, my job, taking weekend trips away. I have to say I miss everything so much.

Sometimes I wonder how many relationships with a different native language actually work out? I really want to learn French but I am very easily discouraged when I sit in a room with everyone speaking another language and I don’t understand anything. I don’t want to keep asking again and again to the guys what they are talking about. When I first started travelling, this wasn’t even an issue for me. I enjoyed sitting and listening to people of different nationalities speaking their languages. It was all interesting to me. But now after Ukraine and now again in France the same thing, oh la la, it is tough on me. I, again, wonder what it would be like to date a guy who’s whole family and all friends speak English. Sometimes when I sit at the dinner table and everyone is speaking together, I daydream that I am in Australia or somewhere warm, outside having a BBQ, with everyone laughing, a good vibe and I understand everything. I am nostalgic for this. Is that bad? Maybe it is – because if I wanted an easy life, of speaking English, then I could have stayed in England or somewhere.

I think I need some time away because now maybe I am over-thinking everything when I need to think of the positive things in my life. Like the work I will begin in September, going to my interviews and meeting new families to work with. And most importantly for me right now, I have a really understanding and amazing boyfriend. This is my life and I decided that I wanted to travel and live in other countries, so I can’t be surprised when things aren’t so perfect.

#Loneliness of a Traveller