As we’re two and a half months into our ten month adventure, I am beyond surprised at how fast it is going. When we first arrived in Edinburgh over four years ago the adjustment was so much more difficult. I think a lot of it had to do with the fact that I had nothing to do and I retreated into my introverted nature. While I managed to quickly get a job, it was at the most poorly managed coffee shop ever and I ended my first shift in tears. Three months in, I still hadn’t been paid and just couldn’t take working for free anymore so I left and never went back. Along with that disappointing experience, I can be pretty introverted and when faced with such a big change, it’s in my nature to turn inward. Moving abroad can be quite a stripping experience – all the supports you normally rely on get taken away and you have to really figure out how to redefine your place in the world.
Arriving in Paris could not be more different. I would like to ascribe the difference to greater maturity and a better sense of self, but it probably has a lot more to do with the fact that I had something to do and really tried to jump in with both feet. I signed up for French classes, I started attending a women’s group at church, I’ve volunteered, and really am trying to soak up and make the most of this experience. The difference is incredible. Instead of feeling like life has been stripped away, I feel enriched in ways I have a difficult time describing.
We’ve been getting to know new people and this weekend was filled with new friends and fun experiences. We spent had a lovely dinner with the family that my future sister-in-law, Becca, au paired for a couple of years ago. They are so incredibly kind, generous, and welcoming. We ended up talking until around two in the morning! Conversation mostly occurred in French and they were very gracious and patient with us as we mangled their lovely language. Although they know English very well, we all thought it would be fun to have a “100% francais soiree” and while we didn’t quite make 100%, we certainly got in our practice. Saturday saw us heading to a gorgeous flat in the 5th for a Christmas party. How fun to have a Christmas party to go to when we’ve only been here a little while! It was hosted by friends from the ACP and we got to talk to people from all over the world, eat delicious food, and sip champagne. Here’s a photo the hostess sent of Scotty and me.
It’s been fun to think about our two international moves and the similarities and differences. I now know that it’s so important to embrace an experience like this wholeheartedly and with a sort of reckless abandon. I knew I would already be outside of my comfort zone, so why not try to learn a new language, join a women’s Bible study (something I’ve formerly avoided like the plague due to that pesky introversion), serve lunch to homeless people, and go to coffee with strangers. The rewards are wonderful – I’ve met interesting people, carried on stilted conversations in French, and learned a bit more about myself. And learned to laugh a bit more at myself. Learning a language will definitely make you take yourself less seriously! After all the practice this weekend, I managed to completely mangle a telephone conversation by responding to a woman asking for “Julia.” I brightly responded: “She does not live this number.” Ahh well. That’s the other thing about living abroad, you learn to cut yourself a little slack.