Close to home

From my journal, dated June 15, 2013

I’m so close. At the gate at the airport. It’s unbelievable that I’ll be home tonight. It’s easy enough to understand (/feel like) coming home after the French program, but harder to grasp that this is also my coming home from my year at university. I’m so excited.

The French program was a really great experience in all. It wasn’t like “the time of my life” every day and I didn’t cry when it ended, but it was more of a steady awesomeness. I think my French improved and I learnt lots. The class was probably actually one of my favourite things; every day I learnt a ton, but in a really casual + fun setting, with lots of improv + discussions.

But more than the language skills, I think I learnt the most about Quebec, its culture, and its people. It was just so cool to discover another region of the country, while constantly broadening and adjusting my definition of what Canada is and what it means to be Canadian. The specific region I was in was lovely, and I definitely want to return.

And on a personal level, I continued to have new life experiences. I was quite often, especially in class, pushed out of my comfort zone in a good way. I mean, I wrote and recited a personal poem in French in front of others. And though I didn’t connect with as many other students as other students did, I did make 2 decent friends, and I’m proud of that. Whenever I think that I can’t make friends, I’ll try to remember that. And I even had deep/personal conversations with both of them. I wonder if we’ll stay in touch.

Last night was the final night, and it was a blast. All the students + facilitators went to a billiards bar and there was karaoke too. I would probably consider it my first real time at a bar and at first I was a bit uncomfortable (eg. What to order when you don’t know + have never tried many drinks?). Throughout the night I had 3 drinks and by the end I was out there on the dance floor, giving it my all and singing along. So much fun.

Like I said, I’m really excited to return home, but I’m curious to what it’ll feel like to be back. Will my family and/or our habits have changed? I don’t think they will. But some changes aren’t always bad. There are some things I’d like to work on this summer; I’d really like to nurture my relationships with others. With my family I’d ideally like to be more open and break some of our taboo talking topics (eg. feelings, goals, religion, love, sex) and become closer in that sense. Because as close as I am with my parents, there are still some personal feelings that I haven’t shared with them but have with friends.

And as for with my brother, I’d really like to build and adult-sibling relationship with him. And I’ll try not to do it in a pushy way, like normal, where I tend to enforce family time while asking 100 questions a minute. I’ll try to be conscious of the space I take up in the relationship and be more genuine and casual. Maybe then Adrian could be coaxed out of his shell.

And as for friends, I’m really going to try to take the initiative with building relationships. I am going to call up old high school friends and not shy away from potentially awkward situations. Just because we weren’t/haven’t been that close, doesn’t mean we can’t be now. I’m going to do my best not to be lonely this summer.

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Memories from here

From my journal, dated June 8th 2013

Translated from French

One week. It’s hard to believe that I’m going to be in Vancouver, at home, in one week. It’s been 10 months since I was there and it’s weird to think about my old life. At the same time, I think that after few days it will feel completely ordinary, like I never left.

But I don’t want to concentrate on that yet, I want to talk more about my time here in C-town doing this French program. Normally when I travel, I keep a journal where I keep track of what I do each day. I didn’t do that with this trip, but there are still things which I want to remember:

  • Quebecois French: I love the accent here, learning the expressions and the slang, and simply being surrounded by the beautiful language
  • Playing soccer: for the first time in a long time (more than a year) I played soccer, 2 times a week, outside, for fun. Oh my God. It was so much fun, and my knee didn’t bother me at all!
  • Improv and other fun activities in class: I love my class here and my teacher is super nice. We spend most of our time discussing all sorts of pretty deep subjects and playing really fun games. I laugh each day and we learn about what interests us. It’s great.
  • Friends: I’m proud to say that I made two good friends here and a few other friends as well. My two close friends are Alexa and Justine. I don’t know if we’re going to stay in contact after the program, but I hope so, because they’re super awesome and we have a number of things and interest in common. It was nice to have friends with whom I could hang out during the weekends…
  • Other things: lying in the sun, watching the storm, riding my bike along the river (with the baby seat behind me), playing tag with the kids, eating soft serve ice cream, seeing a beluga, dancing, fishing, going on an ATV, playing hacky sack, shopping at the thrift store, among other things.

What interests me and astonishes me a little bit, is that during all this time the last month I didn’t really miss my home or my parents. But I remember how I felt during the last weeks of school, and during the year in general I felt so desperate to return home. What’s different? I think that it’s the fact that here I’m not alone I don’t have to plan and live my life alone. My schedule is full and planned (generally speaking) and what’s more I have people with whom I eat meals – my friends and classmates at lunch and my host family at dinner. I didn’t realize how often I ate alone this year. My host family could never replace my real family, but it was still really pleasant to live with them, especially with children, who make all situations less awkward and silent and with whom I can play.

So, I should really go to bed now. I don’t have any concrete plans for tomorrow (Sunday), but I have to plan my course schedule for September which is really complicated and takes a lot of time, write a poem in French that I have to present to my class next week, and start to research a summer job!

I’m trying not hard not to stress too much, because I really want to enjoy this last week here. I am so lucky to have these opportunities and wonderful experiences life experiences!

À bientôt

French

From my journal, dated May 26, 2013

Translated from French

Hey! I’m writing in French today because I’m in C-town and I want to use French as much as possible. The more that I immerse myself in the French environment, the easier it will be to speak, think, and even dream in French. I really want to become perfectly bilingual.

So far, I’m loving this French program. My class is super fun and the activities are fun too. I like that everything is organised for us and we just have to show up and participate; it’s comfortable and relaxing, unlike this year at university.

My host family is super welcoming and nice too and they have three young children. It’s fun to live with them and, once again, I like that I don’t​ have to plan meals, etc

What I find interesting, is that I don’t miss my family much since arriving here, which is really different from my last weeks at school. Having activities to do helps, but I think what makes the most difference is simply living with others and for example eating meals with others, it’s just as simple as that. I was too alone at university.

So, I think that the three weeks (!) that are left will go by quickly. I’m excited to return to Vancouver (more on that later), but so far, I’m really happy to have chosen to do this program. Vive le français!

On being capable & confident

From my journal, dated May 12th 2013

Sorry for the shaky writing; I’m on a bus, on my way to C-town, Quebec. More on that later, but first I’ve got to fill you in on what I’ve been up to since my last entry.

Visiting Alice in K-Town was awesome and I’m so glad I did it. I was surprised by how familiar our interactions were, and it wasn’t too awkward at all. She’s the same old Alice, and that’s not a bad thing at all. She showed be around the town, which I found to be surprisingly nice and I helped her clean, paint, and set up her new room in her newly rented house.

We walked along the lake, ate Blizzards in the sun, drank wine and her room, bought a lottery ticket together, ate Mr. Noodle in plastic cups, and played Taboo late into the night.

We took the bus back to O-town together, where I stayed with Deborah + John. I had a pretty relaxing, chill week and enjoyed having no plans and the sunny weather. It was nice and comfortable staying in a real “family” home again, complete with delicious home-cooked meals.

Then I went off to Montreal with Nate. I was really glad to be traveling with him, especially since he was so good at being calm, controlled, and optimistic when we kept on getting lost in the city, and when I was practically having an emotional breakdown. Yeah, so the first evening in Montreal wasn’t the best. My billeter was really nice though, even though his place was very eclectic / hippie / alternative / indie / grunge / whatever you call snakes, skulls, fur coats, altars, and no bedroom doors.

The conference/training was awesome but I might talk about that more later. And now I’m on a bus to C-town where I’ll be spending 5 weeks living in a host family and learning French.

In all, over the past two weeks, I’ve learned how stressful traveling is (especially alone), but also how capable I am. I’m capable of figuring things out, and doing it all. I also feel more comfortable meeting people and living with them. I feel very open to new experiences and I feel like I’ve been improving my social skills.

And therefore unlike most of the kids on this bus (I think), I’m not really nervous to about meeting + living with a host family. I’ve done it before, and what’s more is that I’m really quite confident with my French skills. Wow, hello new-found confidence. I’ve always been quite independent, but I think that I’ve learned how to use that to live / thrive / survive in the world better (if that make sense). I’m only getting stronger.

Uprooted

From my journal, dated May 1st 2013

I’m on a bus to K-town to visit Alice. Yesterday was a packing day and it was exhausting, stressful, and overwhelming. It’s hard doing it all alone, being completely responsible for yourself, and not having anyone, like family, to lean on. I was an emotional wreck by the end, but I got it all done and this morning successfully made it to the Greyhound station on time.

This year I felt very uprooted, and no longer having my own safe dorm room set up with all my stuff made and makes me feel even more so.

But when I try to, I can still garner strength for my old roots, like my parents, and Stephanie, and even the environmental/activist community. And if I try I can even see what I hope will be new roots taking hold. Nate and the student union gang, other French students, my volunteer position, as well as family friends in town like Deborah + John, and Lawrence. Let’s hope I’m just a late bloomer.

Now like I said I’m on my way to see Alice. I’m excited and nervous. We didn’t keep in very close contact this year and in addition to the fact that we were always very different people, I’m afraid this will be terribly awkward and that we’ll have nothing to talk about. But we’re old friends and though our relationship may change, I think it’ll be OK and I’m OK with it. I feel as though I’m about to learn a valuable lesson about friendship.

Done

From my journal, dated April 27th 2013

I’m done. Exams and first year university. It’s whack and hasn’t sunk in yet.

I think my exams went well, except for my last one (intro to International Relations) that I struggled with. I finished it, went back to rez and lay down naked on top of my stuff for a while. My brain was scrambled and it was such a relief knowing that I wouldn’t have to study or think about school for a long time now. Yesss.

In the past few days, everyone’s been moving out. At first I was kind of indifferent, but the other day it really sunk in that it’s over. Life in rez for me is done, and these people, most of whom I didn’t get to know super well, I’ll still miss. I didn’t really connect with any of them that well, but they were constants here and good people. Interesting personalities. Now I know this will mean nothing to you, but here the name two that I remember them: […]

I almost regret not trying harder to get to know some of them. It’s hard to think that it will never be like it was anymore. All the times hanging out in the common room…

Well I have to go pack now. A new leg of my journey is about to begin. Will write again soon. Xo xo

Late night scrawl

Slipped between the pages of my journal, on a scrap piece of paper

The only thing I feel like doing is going home.

It’s the only thing I look forward to.

I should be happy that I got accepted into the French program but all I can think of is that it’s two more months I have to live until I’m with my family again.

Is it the city I miss? Or just my family?

It is home. Mostly my family but also all of our routines, traditions, and simple comforts. Family dinners, game nights, watching TV together, spending time together.

To have someone to talk to at night when I’m too anxious to sleep. To have someone who knows me just as well as I know myself, who can guide me, calm me down, and love me.