At three weeks before we move! Here are my thoughts…. (if too random, I apologise in advance…)
I handed in my official resignation letter to Pierre Polard the mayor of Capestang as municipal councilor. He sent me a letter back thanking me for my time, friendship and contributions to the city of Capestang. He went on to say Alfonz and I were good people who will be missed in our village. He wished us his sincerest best of luck on our upcoming journey. It was a lovely letter, really nice, and it was a moving goodbye from my team at the town hall. This chapter is ending, and it finally feels real.
I received another letter back from my deputy Sylvie that made me cry. Not tears of regret but tears of appreciation, tears of joy to have been part of something bigger than myself and as she put it, our five years in Capestang are a permanent page in our life story. It made me think…
We changed our village, if ever so slight, and the village changed us, perhaps in equal parts, perhaps we changed more. That’s if you believe people can change at all, however I have learned a great deal. Who I am, what I am capable of, my limits, my ability, how I handle diversity, and how I manage vast amounts of stress.
I am grateful beyond words for my last five years in southern France. And we left permanent marks on each other like black felt marker. It simply takes a long time to come off. Me leaving with a little French culture and traditions under my belt, and hopefully I have left a positive imprint on the people of Capestang. With some luck, perhaps the impression of foreigners has changed just enough to bridge the gap a little more. Even if the locals view us just slightly differently, then my job is done.
Our life in France provided my children a safe place to fall, a good strong start in life within the walls of our village. They also got to know the village people… no not the 70’s disco band with gay male fantasy stereotypes, they don’t live here. But what I mean, is we have stereotypes too when it comes to what we think villagers are like. You would be surprised at the level of education some of our residents have, not to mention many have travelled throughout the world; so that stereotypical narrow point of view is not everyone’s. There is a good cross section of all kinds of people in rural communities. And I am happy to say that most of our experiences have been positive.
The town hall community took a huge risk on me. A foreigner with limited French, with very North American ideals; believing that anything is truly possible.
My thinking to them at first seemed radical, beyond naive, and it was impossible to achieve the things I wanted to achieve. The answer to many of my proposals were often ‘Non! Tu est fou!’ But slowly, the ideas came back around like little butterflies set free in a room, eventually these ideas landed on my fellow councilors and coming from them, they were not radical at all and they too started to believe that anything is truly possible. Being positive is contagious.
I got to know the French a little better too…
As we got to know each other, we realized we have far more in common than we ever would ever have thought; me being Hungarian Canadian, and them being Capestanaise…
At first the French can seem rude, but honestly it is not that. They are proud, with a resilience worth admiring, much like my Hungarian ancestors. The French like the way things are, believing wholeheartedly in the system they were born into, after all, if it ain’t broken, why fix it. They enjoy the routine and sequence of their bureaucratic system that keeps things exactly the same. They are processed through a very academic system and placed in a slot, and they believe that their allocation will carry them through their life. And if by chance it does not, the system must support them, because, after all, it is the system that put them there. It is an absolute trust. It is their truth and they give up their fate to it.
They fiercely believe in the State above any religion, marriage or anything else. The elite families that runs the country are there to protect their citizens, not profit from them or hurt them in anyway. So why should I impose my commercial, profitable, creative and somewhat stereotypical overachieving American views on them? Who am I to say which way is better? No one that’s who!
And I like to think that the French system does take care of her people, loves them, wants them to have good jobs making enough money to live and that they can trust upon their career for their entire life.
Health care, benefits, 35 hours work week, 2 hour lunches, and holidays. The word holiday in French itself only exists in the plural form for a reason. A singular holiday, well what would be the point of that, C’est fou! It wouldn’t be enough to refresh so they start at 6 weeks holidays per year at any contracted job!
It is a good life, but you must stick to the rules; one worker bee in the hive. Well I for one like bees. Bzzzz….
Enough of that….
I happen to have a lovely group of students this week. Paternal twins from Monaco who are nearly fluent in English, a high level boy on his third visit to our family and a new girl who is so very sweet, she could be from an 80’s gum commercial. They remind me of what life was like when I was young in middle school with my whole life ahead of me. I was equally as eager, kean, inquisitive and curious; devouring information, trying to make sense of the world around me. But I also took safety in the things I already knew for sure, like my mother, friends, my hyper bubble of my school life and knowing that certain things will not change.
They remind me also to never lose that part of myself that enjoys the search of knowledge, to invite change and to explore with an open mind. They remind me to never stop learning because life is a journey and we must explore and develop further.
Kids are so much smarter these days, but they still have so much to learn. If I can teach them one lesson, it would be to follow their dreams because that is the key to happiness.
10 days until departure…. what? That came fast!
All I can think about is how much I have to pack. I started randomly giving things away; half bottles of tequila, my favourite shoes, my treasured Budapest coffee mug so my best girlfriend in France doesn’t forget me… and that comes with a little nostalgia…
Change for me brings a clean feeling. You know fresh starts, like new linens after you take the plastic off, and a certain sense of relief to leave the old life behind.
Starting over is like cracking a new book open to find all the pages blank, and you have the power to write the story in a magic pen that becomes true. In the next few chapters you fill the pages with hopes, dreams, ideas, and goals; with whatever you want. Eventually fate takes over, but there is a certain magic in pointing your fate in a certain direction to your destiny; and hoping it takes hold.
This reinventing of oneself is surprisingly fun, and literally anything you want can happen.
In France I became many things that I dreamed about becoming.
A municipal councilor/volunteering getting involved in politics and helping my community; I always had an interest in volunteering for different charities back home in Canada through work or the kid’s school, and I enjoyed fundraising when the children were little.
A long carried dream of mine, some thirty years, was to become a singer. I was always singing as a child, no different from my children now.
It gets funny in the car when all three of us are singing different songs, something we are used to hearing, but the students don’t appreciate it as much. Crazy is genetic apparently…
In grade 8 I became the youngest captain of our choir, and I held my position for three years in junior high. It was my life. Singing during every break, teaching others how to find their voice, encouraging our class to put on shows during assembly, and there were many solo opportunities. But once in high school with a population of 1200+ I got lost in a very harsh world in our low income neighborhood. I had to go to work to help out our family. My dreams were put on hold and yes it is a very sad story, however, things have a way of coming back around, especially if you give yourself the time to explore your natural passions, and seek out your personal form of happiness. And came back around they did.
I enjoyed my second proper set of eight songs with a band just this week. My first was last November and before that I sang in a big choir and even got to sing a solo; Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody. Mission accomplished, and I loved every second of it! Will I continue. If the opportunity presents itself again, I will jump at it!
Being a writer is more a necessity for me than a hat I wear. It has been a constant in my life since I can remember, scribbling in books trying to make sense of the crazy world around me. When I started my blog it was a journal that became a travel diary of our expat adventures. It is a place to keep the life lessons I have learned, a travel guide for others visiting the same places I have seen and love, and also a bit of inspirational happiness advice for fellow seekers.
I couldn’t be more happy at how it has developed over the years and I refer back to it daily for recipes, or memories. I suggest anyone who has a passion to share it. I find it very rewarding on many different levels.
I have even had quite a few paid writing jobs which led to YouTube contracts, published in magazines and paid guest blogging on different sites. I would say that writing has become a big part of my life since moving to France.
Some people tell me to focus on one topic for my blog. Yet, I am eclectic, eccentric even, and those scattered parts make-up the person I am. So why would I narrow who I am to please others by only sharing a marketable aspect of myself.
A teacher. I guess I started teaching young when I became management and had to train my own staff at 19 years of age or maybe even younger during singing class helping my fellow students. Then years later, after having my children, I became a fitness instructor which was also a way to encourage people to be their best, and show them what it takes to change. It was a natural evolution to get accredited and start teaching English as a Second Language. It combined my love of learning and teaching to helping children find different ways to develop; especially in the very academic school system here in France.
I have a love for alternative teaching methods, like the Montessori program my children went through in Canada. Back then I became highly involved in the Surrey Montessori Society. It was a pivotal time in my life that substantially changed who I am and the road i would take to where I am right now.
We are so much more than just one thing. We are complex, developing organic creatures who learn from the moment we are born to the moment we die. Such amazing beautiful beings, full of experience and adventure.
Whenever an opportunity presents itself, take it, and try to challenge yourself. Hungary for me is my next challenge. I am looking forward to that fresh start, a new life, a new language and perhaps a new career! Who knows what the future holds, life is long and I could become, well anything really…