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.

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.)

Vote

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Politically passionate Marryl on the loose.

Alright, I’m not THAT strong of a political activist. But I do get invested in politics, particularly around election time, because it provides some hot provincial gossip and more sass than I thought possible. I also think it’s rather important to be politically informed because a) you live here so you should probably, like, I don’t know, care about the people in charge, and b) politics is a field of conversation that can easily leave you with egg on your face after one poorly educated comment. Plus having democracy is pretty rad.

I don’t like to tell people what to do so I apologize, but right now I’m telling you to vote in tomorrow’s Ontario provincial election. Just do it. Take the insignificantly small amount of time out of your day to scribble on a piece of paper and drop it in a box. You could scribble in kindergarten, and you sure as heck can scribble now.

I say this because while true democracy can sometimes feel more corrupt than true, we are hella lucky to live in a country that awards us the right to play a part in the decision of who runs the government. You could scroll through pages upon pages of Google News articles about countries living with an unethical government in which they have no say. Or in which women have no say (come on, countries, it’s 2014, get over your patriarchal selves). I don’t know about you, but having little to no say in the people who tell you what to do is just dumb. So understand, appreciate, and exercise your right to be democratically active. Don’t take it for granted.

And in so doing, please make the decision of who to vote for on your own. Vote for someone because you decided yourself that they are who you want to vote for. Don’t vote for who your parents are voting for. Don’t vote who your friends are voting for. Don’t vote for who you think others expect you to vote for. And please don’t eenie-meenie-miney-moe your vote. Become educated in the platforms of each political leader and decide for yourself what is most important to you. Read each party’s and leader’s website, and check this pretty snazzy platform comparer from the CBC (CBC is pretty legit so I would say it’s trustworthy). And please don’t base your opinions entirely off attack ads. Some political slander has truth behind it, but a lot of it is skewed with rhetoric and presents facts inaccurately. Nobody likes mudslinging.

(Side note: I feel like all of those “who”s should be “whom”s but I’m not hundo p sure and I want to avoid sounding super arrogant so I’m leaving them be. Sorry grammar police.)

Or you could decline your ballot, which seems to be a growing topic of discussion on social media. If you’re feeling unhappy about the state of political affairs and would rather not pick any of those crazy yahoos running for government and would like to make a statement about your displeasure, apparently if you hand your ballot back, unmarked, it’ll be counted as a declines ballot. I really don’t know much about that and I personally think I’m too young and new to voting to be able to understand the ramifications of declining a ballot. Again, I don’t want to tell you what to do, but a very smart professor of mine recently posted on Facebook that declining your ballot actually means supporting the worse alternative by not giving a party your vote, and that one party must be closer to your viewpoint than another. I really agree with this. I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but we don’t live in a dictatorship. The leader of the party who wins isn’t going to control every single move you make. So if you have more faith in one leader over another, I suggest you choose them, or else you’re supporting the leader who you dislike more. Obviously I think you should do what you want, but please make an informed choice, especially when it comes to declining a ballot. Don’t let slews of articles and ignorantly passionate Facebook comments sway you towards a choice you may not understand.

Woah, things got for serious this week on marecredi.

That’s all my political ranting for now. Just a friendly reminder that I am not a political scientist and this blog is totally just my opinion. I’m 21. I don’t know everything. I hardly know anything. But I think voting is interesting and it would be pretty cool if you also thought so.

Vote.

No but seriously.

Like actually.

Pls.