Happy New Year! It is that time of year again! RESOLUTION time. I know, for most people they don’t work, but for me it keeps me on track.
I started writing this post from our home in Budapest, Hungary, having spent the holidays in our Elizabethtown 19th century apartment enjoying the festivities of the Christmas markets and visiting family and friends. It was a lovely holiday despite having a broken foot and catching a streptococcus virus that led to an ear infection and inevitably- antibiotics. It didn’t stop me from exploring the city on foot though, although slower than we are used to. I had to ditch the crutches at times to keep up with my family as it was hard to maneuver through the crowds of holiday tourists.
My hands became inflamed trying to support my weight on them. My upper body ached at night and kept me from sleeping straight through without painkillers. Still unstoppable, each day we set out in the morning and came back in the evening. It probably helped me kick the strep throat faster than if I had basted in my own body fluids and self loathing for a week in bed. You know the drill, on vacation, no one is allowed to be sick!
I took a break from writing, photography and social media during this time. It was surprisingly easy. After spending so much time in the wasteland of MEDIA news in September and early October I think I earned it. During our stay we were building our business, getting quotes from marketing firms and researching the ESL market in Hungary. It was a combination of productivity, visiting, exploring and a little down time.
During the last 20 days of 2015, I wanted to evaluate what next year might bring to me. If I can see what it is I want, then I know it will come. But my thoughts need to be clear. I took these moments to ask myself what last year meant to me, what had I learned and to take account of any personal progress. After all if not at New Year’s, then when is the right to time to reflect?
A few unexpected changes came last year. For one we switched booking agencies for English Second Language students even though it may be less profitable at first to work with a new start up in the industry, but it could go the other way as well. For this uncertainty, we decided that things like respect, honour, and being in a team was the most important to our family. What kind of example would I be to my children if I did not respect my boss. After so many years on this planet, I need to partner with someone who I can be proud to work with, a company I feel like a member of and not just an employee to make money off. Our solution, after our three month resignation period with our former affiliate, we have moved on to Daily English. We start February break with a similar program. I am very excited about this new partnership and can see many opportunities in the future for our family.
Also we want to take holidays with the kids during the year, and not always in December when the weather is cold. The whole reason for moving here was to enjoy the kids while they are small. Even though they are always with me. I still want to focus on them and that comes from being present and not trying to cook, clean and give English lessons. So next year we will be taking two weeks off during the summer holidays to explore Spain with the kids. After all, that was the point of moving to Europe: travel, exploration, experiencing new foods, and new cultures. Making time for travel has endless benefits.
Lastly, Alfonz has teamed up with an affiliate as well, Vin en Vacance run by his mentor Wendy. Since learning about the wines of the world, Alfonz’s sparked a passion for food and wine. This new field has brought wine tours through his company but he is now expanding to include local chateaux and the tourist office, making concrete connections for expansion in 2016. Last year was a good year, and perhaps with some hard work, 2016 will be our best year yet!
New Year’s Resolutions 2016
#1 Wear makeup everyday and do my hair!
This used to be a priority for me. I got up, made coffee, went to the gym, showered and got myself all pretty and then I would start my day. Of course it was a big chunk of my day, but looking and feeling good was my priority even when the children were very little. Somewhere along the line after reaching southern France, or maybe as I aged, and especially since my hysterectomy; my energy seems to have depleted. Although I don’t look a mess when I leave the house, there has just been a few too many times I just didn’t bother going out at all and stayed in pajamas all day long. I would spend the day writing, indulging in my lazy routine. Not exceptable! I need to look nice for myself and for my family too even if it means less writing. Nice clothes, keep my hair cut and styled, I have put myself back to #1 on my resolutions list again this year.
#2 Keep at the French everyday!
A funny thing happens to my French levels when the summer ends or when we return from Christmas holidays in Hungary. I can speak French! Obviously immerging myself in the French students there is a translation factor during the program that helps me build my level. But strangely enough, when I come home from Hungary after speaking Hungarian for two solid weeks, I can speak better French. Why? I have no idea. Maybe the grammar structure is similar, because I don’t speak English for two weeks, or it is a certain function of the brain that I work when talking in Hungarian or French that gets used… I don’t know. But when I come back to France, I take the time to talk to everyone I see: policeman, baker, Intermarche clerk; just to show them I can actually speak in French!
Part of my daily routine is to carry on a few conversations with my family and members of our community as practice. I also have reached a good level on Duolingo and will continue to refresh my studies each and everyday. I also listen to Michel Thomas a few times a week. I have been on lesson 4 for over a year and cannot seem to get the tenses down pat, but I am determined. This is my year for languages!
#3 Take the language proficiency test in Hungarian
There are language fluency tests in Hungary I can take as a Hungarian citizen that will add to my dossier. These are tickets that will perhaps open some doors if ever we decide to move to Hungary. I would live there under my Hungarian citizenship but I would like to have my English and Hungarian language tickets before hand. There are different levels, beginner to intermediate, to technical to fluent etc… and most likely I would just go in and take some of the tests without any prep. The oral will be easy for both languages for instance. Writing in English will also be fine, but writing in Hungarian for me would be very hard as I never learned to read or write in a Hungarian school and my levels are very low. My goal is to learn during this coming year, and to take the test next year. It will give me an incentive to work alongside the children while they learn Hungarian with Alfonz. It is about time. It shouldn’t take too much effort, especially when I have spent the last two weeks reading every sign we passed while in Hungary.
#4 My Expat Life Book Publish Online, Continue the Series and Promote
I would like this to be available online before Christmas 2016 next year.
I have been having so much fun writing this series, meeting new expats and learning from them. i want to keep writing until I have no one left to know and no one left to write about. I find it challenging and exciting. I hope to start promote the series online, through networking and also TV opportunities and Vlogging.
#5 Travel Goals
I want to visit my mom in Canada this year.It has been 4 1/2 years since I was home. Yes it is still my home. I am Canadian foremost in my heart first. I would like to see my Grandmother again, and she is 95 now. Little things like seeing the kids in the family grow into who they are supposed to be. I have missed far too many milestones. I am looking into tickets during March in between my ESL students.
Also during the summer I hope to drive down the Costa Brava with the kids and finally visit Morocco. What a lovely year of travel this would make!
#6 Back off watching the News
Blissfully ignorant, I didn’t watch or listen to the news for over 15 years. And, as some of you know I was seduced by the internet and sucked into the vortex during the heated refugee crisis. I am off the news again, and let us hope for another 15 years!
#7 Energy, Vitamins and Weight Loss
When I wake up in the morning, I feel achy. If I don’t get out of bed and start my routine immediately, it is really hard for me to get moving.
Since my hysterectomy my body has changed. When I broke my foot from standing up, I realized that my body might be lacking essential minerals and vitamins. Although my diet is very healthy, loaded with vegetables and good organic foods, I do drink a lot of coffee, red wine, take painkillers like Ibuprofen and all these things zap my energy. To counterbalance my vices, I am taking a multivitamin with added calcium and magnesium, decreasing my food intake by 1/3 which includes drinking less during the week. Is it hard? Not really actually. I guess my goal is to look good for my Canada trip. I can’t go back to visit my family as round as I am tall now can I?
I have also added a walk after lunch to my routine, or a bike ride when the weather warms up. When we have students I am running through my days, and I need to be in a better place to be able to combat the demands of my very physical job.
I hope to reach another size goal, not weight goal because I seem to be losing muscle mass and that would be easy to reach. I have managed to keep my weight down this year, and winter is a time when I naturally lose a size or two. During the summer, I seem to retain water, and I dislike the heat. It makes my lethargic. While the weather is bearable, I want to do yoga, some stretching and to keep active daily.
I have added more water to my diet as well. In Canada it was acceptable to drink water throughout the day and carry it around with you. Here, you try not to drink so you don’t have to use strange bathrooms and the locals probably have good reason too. Some bathrooms are truly disgusting. I am going to place sanitizer and wet wipes in my pockets for these little breaks throughout my day!
#8 Try to write in French as often as possible
Silly right? But what a difference it makes in learning. I like feeling that I am trying to assimilate as much as possible and talking to friends online helps.
I wrote my first French blog entry this year! Another wee milestone.
For the Town Hall I must communicate in French and the more and more I read and write, I am able to do it without the help of the translation program. I will keep at it.
#9 Find a way to get a loan in France
One of the hardest things about moving to France for me, is not being able to go to the bank and ask for money to buy a house, a car or renovate. Of course in Hungary and Canada it is much easier, especially for entrepreneurs like ourselves. Equity is an asset in most countries around the world, but in France, they only look at your monthly income. Renovation loans with grants attached are not given to foreigners as the loan themselves are not attached to the title of your home. They stand alone against your credit, but not your investments making it tricky to progress in France.
If you work minimum wage at a full time job, you are far more desirable to a bank than if you have millions in the bank! Say what?
It gets very frustrating to watch my house fall apart around me because the bank won’t give us a loan after four and a 1/2 years paying taxes and being part of our community!
Assimilation is what France wants, people to come and fall inline with the system, but the system itself makes it very difficult for outsiders to progress.
We want to change the windows upstairs to double pane, and the front door to solid glass, the attic needs more insulation to protect against the elements. We want new shutters as well, as the ones we have are originally from the 80’s and are falling off their hinges; we want to replace them with plastic more durable ones. The total cost of the reno is 13,000€ with a 30% kickback from the government, putting 3000€ in the bank with a 10 year/ no interest loan at a 109€ payment per month. We have reapplied for the second time and are now trying to find a new bank. Apparently our accounts are blocked because we are not French. We have a meeting Monday. Funny how two years ago when we started this dance, they couldn’t find out then that the accounts were blocked? Is it me, or does it seem like no one knows anything about what is going on?
In addition, and without a loan, we want to change the laminate floors upstairs, strip the wallpaper on both landings in the mudroom and upstairs foyer, and paint the walls in a lovely pale yellow colour to imitate sunshine all year round in the centre of our home which lacks sunlight. I also want a glass door for my kitchen. These small changes would make the world of difference to me. I spend so much time in the laundry area under the stairs and in the dark kitchen, getting the light to me would make me so happy. Then we would finish off the renovation with a small bench seat to put shoes in, and replace the freestanding coat rack with a wall mounted version. In Canada I didn’t have a mudroom. To make my French mudroom a functional space is a dream in my not so distant future!
#10 Learn How To Play Chess!
Last year I learned to master the Rubik’s Cube. This year we bought a seven in one wooden game set which includes: chess, checkers, backgammon, horses, dominos, and Chinese checkers, plus cards. I plan on learning all these games over the summer with our French ESL students, but the most important for me is Chess! Looking forward to it!
#11 To make ‘That’s Hamori’ more appealing
This year I am buying a template for my website and making it google ad friendly and be able to sell my book on. I always said to make money the goal of a site would feel invasive and I wanted a free standing noninvasive format, a place where I could write my journal. Simple. Now I just see the last 4 1/2 years as a missed opportunity to make it profitable. I added newsletter application, and I started cleaning up older posts. I hope when I transfer to the new template it will feel more professional and easier to find the information readers are after.
#12 Continue volunteering
For me this comes in many forms. Of course, I will still continue with our mayor Pierre Polard until 2018 at Ville de Capestang our town hall, as it brings the community closer together. Last year I worked on a few projects with Sylvie Gisbert our deputy in charge of tourism and culture, and added my opinion to a few others. Many ideas pass through us municipal counselors as we open our door to the community, and sometimes we feel like what we pass forward is not being heard, but then the idea pops up down the line and they move it forward as a united community. Complaints are the biggest issues, and passing them to the right person is very important. In the least it has opened my eyes to politics.
This year I am also a pick-up/drop-off point for the Languedoc Solidarity working to help the refugees in Beziers and throughout France. Important work for the Syrians who are in the middle of a civil war. I had an opportunity to meet a few of the families so far, and our small efforts have made a huge impact on their lives.
I encourage everyone to get involved in grassroots organizations to make changes that directly affect you and your community. It is rewarding and together we can move mountains.
2016 will be about growing our businesses, and trying to be present in the moments between, finding personal fulfillment and fixing the things that are broken.
May you all have a prosperous and happy new year!
Last Year’s Resolutions
Although I did not reach all my goals, I did work towards each of them.
Learn French √
- Publish My Book
- Find an editor
- Travel Goals
Stay Focused √ Energy and Weight Loss √ Take time on appearance √ Support the family √ Master the Rubik’s Cube√
√ Learn French. I spent a whole lot of time learning French this year. Duolingo has been most helpful in getting me to my goal. Although I am not fluent, spending so much time with French students have been particularly good for me. I will be adding this to my list every year again so that one day I will reach my goal.
x Publishing my book… hmm what can I say except what started off as a wee project has took a turn. I now have 20 entries from other expats wishing to be in the book. I am still waiting for three to finish and then we are ready for publication. Although not 2015, 2016 sounds like a great year to publish a book!
x Find an editor... I didn’t find an editor but people are still finding me through my blog which has brought many opportunities this last year. The biggest of which got me filming and writing in my beloved Budapest Hungary as an ‘Expat Expert’ for Air Transat Canada! Loved doing it, paid gig and so proud to have reached this mark in my writing career. A foresee many more in the future.
x Travel Goals… still no Morocco but I did get to go to Belgium, Spain, Slovenia, and Hungary twice. Not a bad year for travel.
√Stay focused… I did! I felt far more grounded this year, and completed tasks. I did not start anything new. My new business, Angol Otthon Itthon, will continue advertising in Hungary this year. I love the idea of slowly developing it, and eventually, perhaps when the economy becomes stronger in Hungary, we will move home. The long way home will be the name of that book.
√Energy and weight loss… I always seem to lose weight in the eleventh hour. This year I did have good energy for the students, the family and I spent time on making sure I kept up with everyone. I will be hoping for more energy next year still to take on new levels of fitness.
√Take time on appearance…. I bought myself some cute dresses, a few key items for the wardrobe, nice staples… Then I slowly, over the course of the year, went back to blonde. I wanted to feel light, young, pretty and although getting back to my roots was interesting and something I wanted to do to embrace who I really am, when I look in the mirror and I am blonde, that is who I recognise as me. I was blonde as a child and through my teens, then for twenty years I dyed my hair. So being blonde again is familiar and comforting.
√Support the Family… Alfonz took this year to learn about wines, he is working for a new affiliate and we are starting a project with both kids. Supporting each other as we grow into who we are supposed to be is part of being together and being part of a family. I put it on my list because I can get self-absorbed in my personal development and forget that I am also part of something bigger than myself; my family. I think I did a good job balancing the two.
√Rubik’s Cube I used to be able to complete a side or two easily as a kid without really thinking about it. I could manipulate the colours and do neat things but I always wanted to complete it quickly and show off my party trick. The Lebas sisters were here over the summer holidays, two bright students and the older of them could complete the cube in a few minutes. Sophie, a returning student and I learned from her. After a few days or trying, I was doing it too.