So, we have officially been in France for two weeks and what a ride it has been so far. Evangeline started school this week (I will be posting a blog about that after she gets out of school on Friday).
There is going to be some real talk in this post because it’s been a roller coaster of “What in the heck did I get myself into” to days where I am like “okay, okay I can do this, this is cool” and then moments of total awe and amazement where all I can say is “I get to live here for a year, wow”.
A couple of things I didn’t ever really consider when moving my daughter and I out here was:
- How embarrassed I would feel walking around town with Evangeline and speaking to her in English. This is a real struggle for me. I want so badly to speak french and I want her to learn French so that way we won’t be the “random Americans”. Not that anybody has said that, but there is an internal mentality that I have going on where I feel judged for speaking English. I want to fit in and be invisible to a certain degree and when I am alone walking around that’s easy to do, smile, say “bonjour” “bonne journée” and be on your way. No one is the wiser. But when you have a curious and eccentric…no…outgoing five-year-old, she’s going to ask questions in the language she knows…which right now is English.
- Language learning is going to be a process. Right now I feel like I am at the beginning of one of the longest roads I’ve ever travelled…in terms of learning a language. I feel so completely inadequate in my French abilities that I am doubting my ability to even learn the language. I have this ridiculous fear that after a year here I won’t know any more French than I do at this point in time.
- I guess a part of me assumed that I would just learn the language overnight, and though I know that’s illogical I still can’t shake this feeling of being disappointed about not knowing more after being here for two weeks.
- There will be miscommunications. One of my more prominent moments of frustrations happened last week when the Landlord wanted rent money…rightfully so. She had expected me to come with two months rent right off the bat and I hadn’t even considered this. She speaks no English…or rather speaks broken English and understands no English. So communication with her is nearly impossible. When I tried to tell her I’d have rent in about two days she made a comment about waiting “but not for long” and I was so angry about that. I felt like she was being completely rude. Once my friend talked to the both of us after getting her rent it turns out she’d been under the impression that the only money I would have while being here was what I had brought with me (which was about 300 euros). She had not understood that I was in the process of getting a bank account in France and that an international wire transfer takes time.
- Getting things set up. I thought I could have everything set up and ready to go in like the first week I was here. That is so far from the case it’s almost laughable. The first priority was getting Evangeline set up with school and that was probably one of the easier processes. Once again having a friend who speaks both English and French has been an immeasurable blessing in these rather delicate and important matters. Trying to get a bank account or a cell phone is another matter entirely. A bank account is a necessity for long term stays and is required for almost anything you wish to do. I can’t get a phone here without a bank account. I apparently qualify for scholarships here in France as a year long resident but once again a bank account with a bank statement is necessary. Getting the account set up was rather easy…well easier when your bilingual friend and his family set up the appointment and he comes with you to translate. Attempting to do an international wire transfer is slightly trickier. As I need to call my bank to do that and that is difficult to do when I have no service. Thankfully I can do internet calls through my bank, but then you are banking on (pun intended) a decent wifi connection…which I am finding to be much less reliable than I’d imagined.
- Missing my favorite foods already. It’s only been two weeks and with my tiny mini fridge and closet sized kitchen, my food choices are rather limited. I have no oven so I can’t bake (a great hobby of mine) and I don’t have much in the way of storage space. So when I buy food it’s usually just for the week, at least fresh food is. We’ve been living off of a steady diet of Pasta in different varieties. I will get more adventurous with cooking when I am more comfortable with cooking, but for now, I don’t have the energy to try too much. Nor do I have the confidence to go out and order food (as most places are sit down restaurants and not a place you order food and take out.
- Lastly, the need for connection is so important after a while. At first, you don’t miss your phone, You can always use your computer to communicate with friends and family. The time difference is the problem. For me, as I am getting ready for bed, most of my friends are getting done with work. Lunch time is breakfast time for them. SO it’s a bit lonely. But none the less the internet has been a Godsend most days. I can let my daughter watch movies when I am not feeling particularly adventurous, or binge watch Downton Abby when I am needing to escape from reality. But I about had an epic meltdown last Sunday as my internet went down all day. Suddenly I couldn’t watch movies, talk to my friends, or keep updated with what was going on. I was totally isolated and after having spent an entire week and a half with Evangeline I was LOSING MY MIND. Seriously. My temper was short, I was crying. I tried to get this online wifi pass that worked for a bit then didn’t. It was a nightmare and the first time I really questioned my being here. As silly as it sounds, that connection to your home is really important at first, especially when you have a kid with you. Yes she is my daughter and I love her greatly, but she is also my daughter and knows just how to push my buttons. I am not designed to be a stay at home mom, I would go crazy.
- when this moment happens, and it will, it’s okay and normal. Just breath.
Some tips I am finding along the way that have helped me adjust a bit.
- Seriously, having a friend in the area who speaks the native language and your language is an invaluable resource. Especially when you have kids and especially when dealing with matters such as banks, schools, and landlords. He has helped me out so much I can’t even begin to imagine where I would be without him and his family’s help. From being picked up at the airport, to accompanying me to Evangeline’s first day of school so he could talk with her teachers for me. To helping me translate documents to fill out. I mean that kind of thing is so important to get right and be on top of from the get go.
- the one draw back here is that it tends to be a crutch in the language learning sector. While he’s around I don’t practice or use my French. He’s leaving at the end of the month though and by then I should be all settled. I won’t have that crutch much anymore and I can really dig into the language.
- You know you better than anyone else, what makes you comfortable, what will you miss the most, how can you make your space fit you in this new place. One thing I didn’t count on was no AC here and how that would affect sleep for me. I don’t sleep well in heat, I regularly keep my apartment in the low 60s in Albuquerque and have a fan going and a white noise machine to help me sleep. When I got to my apartment there were a few problems with my room.
- 10th-floor apartment with no AC and where heat rises, so naturally the apartment tends to be on the warmer side. Thankfully fall and winter are around the corner.
- Due to there being no AC they tend to have their windows open. Despite being on the top floor of my building, the sound still carries all the way up and you wouldn’t know that I am on the top floor, given what you hear outside. The silence being punctuated by the random street noise at night are not good for my sleeping habits.
- The pillow situation. One wouldn’t think too much of this, but the pillows that were already in my room were heavy, hard, and flat. All three of those are things I cannot sleep well with.
- So I finally took matters into my own hand. I bought new pillows, fluffier, lighter ones. I also bought a small radio that I can turn on at night to a station that is just white noise. It mimics my white noise machine at home and helps me fall asleep much easier. The heat problem is only fixable to a certain degree and for now, I will deal with it as I can by keeping my window in and praying for cooler weather.
- Get back into the things you did before you moved to another country. I personally enjoy working out, baking, hiking, reading, writing, walking, and drawing. I can’t bake in my apartment and while I can still read and write I am waiting to do most of that when I start my language classes. (although I just downloaded the French Audio book of Harry Potter 1). Hiking is hard to do from where I am at right now without a bus pass and though I can walk to my heart’s content, it can get monotonous. So I found a gym nearby and got myself a membership. Working out always makes me feel good, helps keep me in shape, and gives me something healthy to do with my time instead of sitting around watching Youtube videos or movies. Plus the routine gets me used to seeing certain faces and makes me more comfortable with my surroundings.
- Even if you don’t know, try. I know very little French. I understand more than what I can acutally speak and this fact made it hard to want to get out and about for a while. But I’ve spent these last four days putting myself out there. Going to bakery shops, getting a gym membership, going to stores, all without help from my friend and all on my own. I let them know up front that I could speak and understand a little french but not much. This usually prompted them to speak what little english they knew. Between my crap french and their crap english we managed. People are generally very forgiving if you try and will even help you out if you mess up. So don’t be afraid to put yourself out there…cause that is the whole point right? To be out there learning. I know that I wont learn this stuff unless I try it.
Well that is all for now, more next week.
(My very tiny, closet sized bathroom.)