Sunday, 19 October 2014

My funny life three years on

Three years ago I lived every little (and grown up) girls' dreams. 

For twelve lively - but also at times lonely, lovely, long - months, the iconic Eiffel Tower played saving beacon each night I wandered in and out of its streets. It was a year of learning: At one of the most prestigious French schools, where the specially chosen, wildly ambitious, students gathered discussing what they thought were politically and intellectually appropriate. Under the bridges of the Seine, with newly-made life-long friends, making the most of our dreams with expiry dates, laughing and drinking and dancing until the new day began again with the first Metro. 

But my dream wasn't without its worries. In the lurking shadows crept the future, whispering, provoking, approaching, the dark unknown. What will I do after the year? After my studies? What more can I, should I, be doing to ease the passage from student to professional lives? 

Since then I have learnt, and even somewhat accepted, that these questions will never quite go away. In order to progress, I know I will never be quite happy enough to settle down - perhaps geographically, yes, but intellectually, no. Getting a job was never the final step. How can I improve here, for the company as well as for myself? 

Life is a chain of events, and Paris had played a great part in it. Three years on, I am back roaming the still amazingly familiar and souvenir riddled streets, wondering how much I have experienced since those days. I like to think I am more comfortable with myself, enough to take regular risks in life. Walking along the Seine in the Parisian evenings with the Eiffel Tower guiding me once again, this weekend, I tell myself that things turned out well, even after that dream year had finally ended. 

That I will keep trusting myself. That I will continue to improve. That my funny life will continue to lead me to wonderful places. 

Thursday, 16 October 2014

What do I want? Where am I? Where am I going?

Half way into my third month (already!) in France, I'm having a heart attack (again) on what I have come here to do, and what I have achieved so far.

My French goals 2014-5:
  • Improve my French language skills
  • Improve my cooking skills
  • Improve my fitness skills
  • Continue blogging
  • Keep in touch with family and boyfriend regularly
A lot of improving. How much have I improved, so far? 
  • French // I speak it every day, but I still haven't enrolled into any courses yet. 
I'd tried Alliance Française in the past, and while they are the standard/official French cultural institution to go to, I'm hesitating. Their website is hard to navigate around, I know their classes tend to be medium sized and work on books I've already used so far - because I'm hovering on the same level for the past few years, neither improving nor deteriorating, but barely keeping from losing all I've learnt so far. 

I've tried Franglish events, every Wednesdays in a bar somewhere in town. It's language exchange in a speed dating set up; you talk in English/French in equal set times, then change onto the next table and person. But the bar setting tends to be noisy so it's hard to hear each other, and at 14 minutes per table (7 minutes in each language), it's not easy to get past the usual introduction - hi, I'm Viv, what brings you here, what do you do, how long have you been here? Oh, time's up, bye.

I've tried to find groups on Meetup, Couchsurfing, Facebook, Leboncoin. I don't mind paying for private lessons, as long as they are not too expensive and if the teacher is good. I want to perfect my grammar, widen my vocab and improve on those cultural nuances, so I can laugh along with the others and not feel left out.
  • Cooking // Slowly does it. Simple and healthy.
My housemate enjoys being the guinea pig - it means that he doesn't have to cook. I've always wanted to have a beautiful coffeetable book with lots of colours and photos and gorgeous writings. Thought maybe I could have a cookbook instead. So far, I haven't found any I really liked. Ah well. Still eating lots of salads mainly, and lately, lots of sausages and yoghurts. I think baked new potatoes with rosemary and quality sea salt will be next. With salad as a side. 
  • Fitness // Marathon training starts... when?
A half marathon has been on my to-do list for a long while. A good few years. I have my eyes set on the Bordeaux night marathon next April, and was going to start training soon, but... it keeps raining. I have a cold. Excuses, excuses. I'm also really keen to take up African dancing again. I have three places in mind, so will try one by one until I find the one that suits. African dancing is the best, it's so much fun and lively, with live drums that gives you a really happy feeling all around.
  • Blogging // keep it up!
Finding time to blog regularly has been tough these days. I am forever trying to find ways on how to improve my content and to reach more people. The main thing is to keep posting so you have new things to read about. 
  • Keeping in touch // time difference sucks
But I'm used to it. Brief messages and phone calls here and there, just to hear their voices, is important. Long distance relationships are not easy, but we are trying :)

Monday, 13 October 2014

Husky sexy voice

I went and got a bit sick the last few days of last week, so now I have a very husky, sexy voice to show off. Husky, sexy and sick with a sore throat, keeps making me think of that one Friends episode where Phoebe is trying to catch Monica's cuties so she can have a sexy voice, too. There is no such Phoebe around me, but hopefully I'm not spreading my germs to those nearby me, unintentionally, either. 

Cough, cough. 

Thursday, 9 October 2014

A burger or a bubble bath?

I'm cooped up inside this week because of the chilly wet weather outside. Last night I started craving for a hot gourmet burger, with meaty sauce oozing out of the local made-in-France beef pattie and some seriously good smelly cheese. I don't even know why I get occasional burger cravings, I know it's going to be messy with the inners falling out the other end; my mouth is never big enough. My housemate J says I'm like a pregnant woman all the time, jumping from one craving to another. But... it's so cold outside! While it may be one of the top burger places in Bordeaux (I had a specific place in mind, see), is it worth the long walk and back?

Burger, or... bubble bath?

It was the last night of having the apartment to myself - J was out of town for work. Shouldn't I make the most of the alone time, run a hot bath, enjoy some time away from the computer screen, maybe read a bit?

... I think that's a better plan.

But you know what? I just need to finish this one little thing on the laptop. Oh, but why isn't it working? Grrr... Then two-three hours pass, too late for a bathtime. Drats. No burgers and no baths.

Maybe tonight. J, do you feel like burgers? with beer?

Monday, 6 October 2014

Smart Living Tip: Getting rid of mosquitoes in Bordeaux

Insects I hate include:
  • Ants in Paris
  • Flies in Melbourne
  • Mosquitoes in Bordeaux
  • Bed bugs in Auckland
I thought the huge sticking flies in Melbourne were bad enough. At least they don't make lasting impressions on you. Literally. 
I've never done well with mosquito bites. Each of those tiny blood suckers leave huge marks on my skin, swelling and hardening them. Never have I encountered them like in Bordeaux this summer. Maybe because I've never lived so close to rivers as huge before?

In Bordeaux, as well as being geographically close to the waters, many of its old buildings seem to have drafty underground 'caves' for storing the (mostly) regional wines. These damp reservoirs of flavourful specialties are, unfortunately, ideal breeding grounds of those hateful tiny buzzing, sucking insects. 

Every morning a handful of dead mosquitoes lay on the desk waiting to welcome me. Every night they would keep me up, playfully teasing me around my ears - driving me mad.
  • We've called people in, to chemically bomb the place. We've literally sealed the cave door, to keep the toxic air and the teeny beasts from sneaking in. For a while, it seemed they were gone for ever. Until they returned again, one by one. 
  • We've tried anti-mosquito sprays, both for the room and for direct use on the skin. Frankly, none seem powerful enough. We must have super mosquitoes, those who have defied the odds and have built strong immunity over time. 
  • We've tried the overnight chargers, the ones you plug into the wall while you are sleeping. For me, these have worked the best, whether it be the liquid or the tablet like version. 

  • As a back up, we've also started using lavender room sprays and lemongrass incense sticks, because mosquitoes do not like strong smells. Plus they keep the house smelling nice, which is a bonus. I would love to have the actual plants themselves, but I have been unable to find them in town, so far. 
Luckily, summer is over. In fact, it has turned positively chilly overnight! I've had my last jump in the pools last weekend. Time to get the woollen jumpers out. So long, suntans, and so long, mozzies. Until next summer. 

Feeling the chills

The weather suddenly turned a chilly corner and my housemate has not stopped coughing all yesterday. Been forcing hot mint tea with plenty of lemon and honey on him, but he is not going anywhere this morning. Not a good sign.

Wednesday, 1 October 2014

September took Summer away

Summer seems definitely over these days. The air has turned chilly, and the leaves have started turning brown.
Last week I went back to the countryside house I started my French year off in. The swim in pool was definitely a much more hesitant activity than a few months ago.

It has been two months since I have arrived. Time goes by scarily fast. How am I progressing? 

Well, I am cooking more. Still very basic affairs, but thankfully my housemate applauds me as a champion chef whenever I cook for two. Compliments do wonders to my self esteem. I still buy my work lunches, but small dinners I can do. Once I even hosted a impromptu house dinner gathering! Should do more of those, I reckon.

October is here, and along with the change of seasons, I feel it's time to set up some goals for the month. 
  • Squats and stretches in the morning
  • French language book, one chapter a day
  • Run/swim after work at least twice a week - starting off slow, it's been a while 
  • More tea, less sweets, weekly baths allowed
  • Sleep on time!