I am an immigrant but no one cares because I’m white


Ain’t no subtlety about this one, folks.

If you’re reading this blog post, that means you have access to the internet, so you are most definitely aware of what’s happening in good ol’ America. Though I’d like to point out that the xenophobic basis of what is happening in America has happened and is currently happening across many parts of the world; the US just beat us all to the punch of being really damn blunt about it.

My race and country of birth give me an immense amount of privilege so I won’t even pretend to relate to any minority seeking refuge from persecution. However, I am currently living on a Visa in France, which has lead me to think and reflect empathetically. If France decided to ban all immigrating Canadians, regardless of Visa or Green Card status, I would have to cancel any upcoming trip I have out of the country because I would not be allowed back into the place where I am employed and have a documented home with all of my belongings, and I would live in fear of being found out by the French government. And while this hypothetical scenario is significantly less grave than the real life scenarios of Muslim immigrants and refugees, it really makes me reflect on how that is a terrible situation to be in.

But the funny thing is, even though I’ve come to France to steal their jobs and live out my Canadian beliefs, no one gives a crap because I’m from Canada and I’m white. No one is afraid of me. No one bats an eyelash at the fact that I’m taking employment away from the French and imposing my Canadian values onto their country. In fact, everyone thinks I’m super exotic and interesting and my accent is really cute and they won’t stop asking me how cold it is back home. My “diversity” is celebrated, while the diversity of Muslims is villainized, even though we post the exact same level of threat to the world.

And I’m sorry for my language but that’s just fucked up.

I don’t have a conclusion to my point here, because there never will be a conclusion to the discussion of xenophobia. And it isn’t just America. My dear naive Canadian friends: if this week has taught you anything, it should be that your own bright and shiny country isn’t as perfect as you make it out to be.

We need to do better. All of us. When you think you’ve done the best you can, that’s probably the exact point where you need to try your hardest. Put yourself in the position of others and try to understand. Because there are so many things in this world that are not fair, and just because you drew the long straw in life, does not mean you won’t be impacted by the sufferings of the short straw.

My 2016 didn’t really suck that much

Really, it didn’t.

Yeah, sure I experienced some not-super-fun things from time to time, but overall, I’ve had worse years.

“But Marryl. It was 2016. It sucked for everyone. That’s just how it is.”

Ah, but see, that’s where you’re wrong. Highlights for me include graduating and moving to the French Riviera, so really I would say it’s been one of my best years yet. And you may call me selfish for saying that, what with all the horrible shit that went down around the world last year, but personally I think I am being less selfish.

Here’s why.

Yes, many people died in 2016. But fortunately I did not lose any of my personal family or friends. Yes, a bigoted human potato was given the leadership of a very powerful country. But I am not a minority now living in fear as an American citizen. Yes, terrorist attacks struck many countries across the globe. But I only experienced them through a television or computer screen from the safety of my Canadian couch.

Maybe 2016 sucked, but MY 2016 didn’t really suck. And I think all this negativity I’ve seen across my newsfeeds of people going on and on about how they personally participated in the suck of 2016 shows how self-centred and egotistical our world can be. Yes you can mourn the loss of your favourite celebrities. You can feel compassion towards the victims of tragedy. You can be angry at the nonsensical things that happened. But don’t make it about you. Don’t brag about how terrible your life was last year because a lot of terrible things happened. It isn’t about you. Aleppo isn’t about you. Carrie Fisher’s death isn’t about you. The Nice attack isn’t about you. Black mothers unjustly losing their children isn’t about you. Fear of deportation isn’t about you. Orlando isn’t about you. Maybe all these things made you feel sad or hurt or angry, but I’m sure there were other people, other people much closer to the incidences, who had it a lot worse. So don’t make it about you.

I say all this under the assumption that most of my audience falls somewhere on the spectrum of having a lot of privilege. And I am also saying all this knowing that I can’t possibly know what everyone dealt with this past year. Maybe you faced hardships of your own. And I completely respect that. I know I shed my fair share of tears last year. But what I’m trying to get across is that you don’t have the right to plagiarize the sorrow of others and claim it as your own. It doesn’t fly with a university paper, and it ain’t gunna fly here. I hate to use the now clichéd phrase of “check your privilege” but seriously, do it. I’ve learned that human beings love to play the anti-brag game of who has it off worse. But maybe we should all stop and consider how lucky we are that we want to brag about how terrible our lives are, and that we aren’t in the position of those praying for the day when they can brag about how wonderful their lives are.

New year new you? How about you resolve to keep others in your good thoughts and keep yourself in check.

How to be a foreigner

This week I had planned on writing a post titled, “How to be foreign and exotic,” in which I wanted to talk about what it’s like to find myself as the cool and interesting foreigner, a strange feeling when I always considered Canada to be Wonder Bread level of plain and boring. I was going to make witty comments about how people here ogle at my accent and bow in my maple syrup covered presence because I’m just très exotique.

That was, however, until today when I witnessed a Syrian woman cry in front of my French class as we applauded her for immigrating to France.

On Thursdays I attend a French class in my small city, which is offered for free by a church and designed for recent immigrants to France. I take this class to improve my French, but also as a way to get out of the house and do something with my absurd amount of free time. Moving by myself to a country that has different customs and a different language from what I’m familiar with has been difficult, but today I was reminded just how privileged my experience has been.

Normally our French class is divided into multiple groups so I don’t often interact with other students, but as today was our last class before the holidays, we had a Christmas party, at which some of the volunteers presented a map of where all of the students were from and recognized each country. As I watched this sweet Syrian lady pull tissues from her purse, I felt incredibly moved and incredibly guilty because my biggest struggle of the day was that the instant coffee at the party was not up to par with the Nespresso creation I drink in my 5-bedroom French home, which I moved to not because my country is at war, but because I really had nothing better to do.

France is fun and scary and crazy and challenging and beautiful. It’s difficult being away from my Canadian friends and family, especially at Christmas, but I need to remind myself that moving to France was my choice, and there are many immigrants who were never given a choice. As I watched each student stand up and be applauded for the country they came from, I reflected on just how stupid xenophobia is. People in France welcome me with open arms because I’m Canadian, which apparently means I’m cool and harmless. I just wish that all foreigners here were welcomed with such appreciation, because their need to be here is much greater than mine.

US Election: how I feel as a women

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This morning I woke up to my alarm at 5 am, which I had set so I could see the election results come in in real time because France is six hours ahead of Washington DC. I hit snooze a couple times, thinking I could afford a few more minutes of sleep, because while I knew this election would be close, I assumed it would inevitably come out in the world’s favour.

Boy was I wrong.

Wrapped in two blankets, for comfort more so than warmth, in the morning darkness, I could not believe my eyes. I wondered if the early hour and lack of sleep was clouding my judgement, but as the sun came up and the reality sank in, I started to cry. This is an inconceivable blow for minorities, and as a woman, I feel so much indescribable pain in my heart. And when the seven-year-old girl I care for came downstairs for breakfast and asked why her mom was so shocked by what was on the television, my heart broke over her sweet ignorance to the utter bullshit America just got away with.

As a woman, a feminist, and a decent human being, my upset does not simply lie in the fact that a woman lost, although I am almost positive that if a man presented Hillary’s platform against Trump, he would have won in a landslide. Yes, a woman holding such a high position of power would be truly inspirational to the world, but as a woman, that is a loss I can deal with, because qualified women being shafted by institutionalized sexism is a reality I have unfortunately become acclimatized to. No, what really upsets me, the reason tears were streaming down my face as I gawked at CNN at 5 o’clock this morning, is that the so-called leader of the Free World is a man who has verbally crucified women and openly admitted to acts of sexual assault on national television.

I do not blame Hillary for not speaking tonight. I could hardly look at my French daughter this morning, so I cannot even imagine how impossible it would be for Hillary to look out at a crowd of heartbroken women, at a nation of heartbroken women, and tell them that she supports the results of the election, that everything will be okay, that these women are safe in the hands of a self-proclaimed sexual assailant.

I don’t go anywhere alone at night because I am afraid of being sexually assaulted. I hate walking down busy streets because catcalls cut deep. I avoid magazines and mainstream media because it makes me feel criticized and less valued. But all of these fears derive from strangers and faceless people, not from a man known by all, not from such a powerful figure, not from now the most powerful figure in the world. But it isn’t just Trump who I am afraid of; it is of the millions of Americans who passionately listen to what he says. The millions of men and, shockingly, women who propel his ideals and echo his sentiments. Who have become an army of bigots. Who won today.

Canada, you can joke all you want about welcoming Americans into your spare bedrooms, but the reality is, the 49th parallel does not protect us. I am currently living in the South of France, a million miles away from North America, and I do not feel safe. I am mostly joking when I suggest the possibility of a Third World War, and really, war isn’t what I am afraid of. I am afraid of the mentality shift. I am afraid because today, the bigots won. The bigots learned that they can fill their mouths with the most degrading terms, joke about rape, advocate for misogyny, and get away with it. Today the world was told that sexism, racism, hate, are all okay.

In the United States, women were granted the right to vote in 1920. Less than 100 years ago. That is disgusting. And it hasn’t exactly been paradise for the past century. We all need feminism because we do not have gender equality. Plain and simple. The fight for women’s rights is not our past; it is our present. This win is a step backwards for the world. The days when women were not even considered persons in the western world are not so far in the past, so if we step too far backwards, we will find ourselves in a dangerous reality.

If last night you went to sleep in North America fearing tomorrow, I’ve been living in tomorrow for hours now, and I can tell you it is a scary place. I will never stop fighting sexism or apologize for being a feminist, no matter the judgemental looks or name calling, because now more than ever I am afraid of what will happen if I stop.

I’m with her, her being not only Hillary at this point, but every woman alive. Because we sure as hell need it.

Falling in love with/in France

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One of the, like, seven photos I’ve taken since I got here because I hate taking photos

My kids just finished two weeks of holidays from school (because apparently All Saints’ Day requires two weeks to reflect upon in France), and for one of those weeks they were shipped off to their grandparents’ house, so I took advantage of the freedom and spent nine days exploring Amsterdam, Hamburg, and Berlin. It was a super cool and super fun trip, but about half way through I found myself really homesick, but not for Canada, for France. And as my plane was landing in Nice on Sunday night, I literally almost cried from pure happiness of being back in the South of France. That was in part because I live in a city where November 1st can be a beach day, but it was mostly because France feels like home.

It’s really shocking how easily I’ve fallen in love with the South of France. Yes, it’s beautiful, the language is beautiful, the people are beautiful, and there’s always an endless supply of bread and rosé. But those are tangible things. It’s easy to love those (especially the bread and rosé). But the feeling I had in my heart when I walked out of the Toulon train station upon arriving last weekend is indescribable. I am so content, it’s rather unbelievable.

I had a hella stressful four years of university, between academics, work, and relationships, and on top of all that going through a rollercoaster of identity, doubting my abilities and self-worth, and discovering the corruptive power of my anxiety. But I am hardly ever anxious anymore. Sure, sometimes I get a little stressed out, but I no longer constantly feel worried about nothing or like I’m forgetting something important. I have finally let myself relax and enjoy what is right in front of me, and it’s incredible.

Keeping children alive and happy is no easy task, but I do realize that I don’t have a real job and I’m essentially living a vacation and that’s probably why I feel so chill. However, I would argue that most people I’ve met here act like they’re on vacation, too. They all enjoy life and everything it has to offer. Maybe it’s something in the salty water.

I had no goal coming into all this for what I’d do after this year is up, but slowly that goal is turning into “figure out how to stay in France by any means possible.” Seriously. I love Canada, I really do, but with every passing day my desire to stay forever grows and grows. So if you happen to receive an invite to a wedding next summer on the Mediterranean Sea just know that it is totally absolutely 100% legal and not at all like Sandra Bullock and Ryan Reynolds in The Proposal nope not at all please RSVP and don’t call immigration.

As for the “in” part of this post’s title? Well, let’s just say France has pleasantly surprised me in all facets of my life. You know what they say about the French language…

French Thanksgiving

To answer your question, no, Thanksgiving is not a thing in France. They’re totally oblivious to the idea of celebrating the harvest or remembering our European settlers or whatever other probably racially insensitive thing this holiday was created from.

But when you have a Canadian girl with passable culinary skills living with you, Thanksgiving is a thing in France.

My indescribably wonderful host family is really keen on the idea of an exchange of culture, even though I constantly tell them that “Canadian culture” consists of a mix of European and American traditions, covered in a light drizzle of maple syrup and/or cheese curds. Still, they insist on being educated in my Canuck ways, so about a week ago we decided we would host a Canadian Thanksgiving.

On one hand, I was jazzed to get a taste of home. On the other hand, I was terrified as heck because I’d literally never made Thanksgiving dinner, plus I’m a vegetarian so I don’t even know how to make half the dishes?????

But apparently I’m braver/more stupid than I thought, so on Saturday I spent literally the whole day in the kitchen (albeit a little hungover because that’s half the tradition) with my host mom, making stuffing, veggies, potatoes, turkey (which was actually chicken because you can only get turkey at Christmas in the French Riviera), and pumpkin pie to feed 9 adults and 4 children, most of whom were experiencing Thanksgiving for the first time ever.

YEAH OKAY NO PRESSURE OR ANYTHING.

But it turned out amazing. Like, better than I could have dreamed. They loved the food. I made stuffing for the first time in my life and wow not to boast but it was DELICIOUS. And I made an entire pumpkin pie from scratch in a country that doesn’t sell canned pumpkin purée because they have literally never heard of pumpkin pie nor do they understand that it is a dessert.

I see a French green card in my future because I am totally wife material.

(Okay, chill, I know that was, like, the least feminist thing to say but IT WAS A JOKE OKAY??)

(Not entirely a joke. I’m lowkey looking for a French husband to keep me in the country shhh don’t tell immigration.)

All bragging and joking aside, it may very well have been the best Thanksgiving I have ever had. Maybe it was the champagne (and I’m talking REAL champagne, not sparkling wine) but I almost teared up a few times our of pure thankfulness for my host family. I sound like a Charlie Brown special, but honestly, I really learned the meaning of Thanksgiving this year. I have such an incredible family who are so invested in my life and my culture that they are willing to orchestrate probably the most complicated Canadian holiday, so that they can learn more about me and give me a welcoming French experience. I genuinely feel like the most fortunate human being in the world, and I am trying so hard to not take any of this for granted because holy crap I am really damn lucky.

I still don’t know what I’m going to do after France. Heck, I don’t know if I will ever leave France at this point, if I can swing it (re: wife material). My future is more uncertain than it’s ever been but eff the future because the present is pretty freakin fantastic.

I realize I come from a lot of privilege, so I will not just say, “you, too, can have an amazing life like this!!” because I know that’s a narrow-minded perspective. But what I will say is do not settle for anything. I know I sound like a broken record in all my French blog posts, but seriously, moving to France is probably the scariest thing I’ve ever done, but I’ve never wanted something more, and I’ve never been happier. So reach as far as you can, and then go one step further.

Oh and just a heads up I’ll be starting a pastry business if I ever move back to Canada because DAMN I make a good pie.

French Month-iversary

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This Friday (September 30th) marks my one month anniversary of moving to France, and you better believe I will treat myself to a pastry from the Boulangerie around the corner to celebrate.

Holy crap it’s been a month. It does not feel like I have been here that long. Honestly, it still doesn’t feel real at all. Even a month in, I still stop myself and think, oh my god, I literally live in France. In. France. You’d think it would have hit me by now, considering how much baguette and wine I consume on the daily.

But one thing is for absolute sure: I do not regret it at all.

In the past month I have not once cried about being homesick. I have not called my parents in a panic. I have not curled up in the floor in a puddle of lamentation for my life in Canada. I never really expected to do any of those things, but I also never expected NOT to do them, ya know?

But how can you feel regret in such a stunning place? The the culture and the scenery and the people and the language and the food and the everything. You can do some cool shit here, and boy have I done some cool shit.

I’ve gone to the beach more times in the past month than I think I have in my entire life. I’ve consumed meals on the beach so often that I am no longer phased by the view. I’ve gone stand up paddle boarding on the Mediterranean. I’ve had dinner on a rooftop with the most beautiful French people, drinking the most delicious champagne. I’ve gone swimming in a pool at a villa on a hill overlooking the sea. And I’ve done a few other wonderful things that I can’t share on such a public platform.

And that’s just the big stuff; don’t even get me started on sipping espresso outside cafés and wandering along cobblestone streets and exploring harbours and speaking more French than I realized I knew and drinking wine, oh my god, drinking wine.

And perhaps the most incredible thing of all is that while doing these things, I have been welcomed with such uninhibited love from everyone I have encountered. Maybe it’s because they feel bad for me because I’m foreign or maybe they’re fascinated by my long legs and pasty skin (JK I FINALLY GOT A TAN!!!) but every person I encounter here treats me like a best friend from the moment they kiss both my cheeks. The most loving of the bunch has been my host family, for whom there are no sufficient words to describe how warmly they’ve welcomed me into their family, and the respect and appreciation I have for them.

I have a family and friends and I am truly making a life for myself here, and it’s so incredibly exciting that I have another year to continue to explore and learn and enjoy (and work on my tan).

Sometimes I feel bad for posting snapchats and instagrams and really anything about my French life because I don’t like bragging. But in talking about my adventures, particularly through my blog, my goal isn’t to boast about how amazing my life is, but to try to inspire anyone who will listen to chase after what they want. I am being very careful to not say “follow your dreams” because dreams happen when you’re asleep and I am very much awake. I know that sounds cheesy, but a friend I have made in France once said to me, in English but with a heavy French accent, “I am not living my dream, I am living my life.” His words really resonated with me (and not just because they sounded hilarious/beautiful with an accent) because, honestly, I don’t know what my dream is. Every since graduating university, I’ve had absolutely no idea how to answer the question, “What is your dream job?” and that is terrifying. But I am starting to learn, with the help of this incredible place and my new friend, that I don’t need to live a dream, I need to live my life. And, honestly, I think I’m doing a pretty damn good job (re: list of cool shit I’ve done).

Live your life. Do whatever you want. As morbid as it sounds, we’re all going to die at some point, so it’s more of a risk to not do what you want when you want to. You could claim that you’re young, you have time. But when you’re young, your life is much more malleable, and I firmly believe that the things you experience now will impact your entire life more than things later on. At the risk of being sued by Nike, I’m telling you to just fucking do it.

Two weeks ago when I was sitting on a paddle board on the Mediterranean, I was low key stranded because my friend had stolen my paddle, so I just sat there and looked out at everything and I honestly felt the happiest I have ever felt in my entire life. And that was the moment I realized that taking this big risk was absolutely worth it.

On ne vit qu’une fois. (That’s french for YOLO.)