A different kind of thankful.

Life continues here in France. Since the attacks in Paris, life has continued. Though we do not forget, we must live our lives. I continue to pray for this country, for the refugees, for the terrorists, and for everyone affected by their attacks, and to keep up with what is going on in the outside world as well as to improve my French reading skills, I’ve intentionally started reading the news as often as possible in English and in French. This is what my life has starting becoming: normal.

My life here in France is starting to take shape, albeit slowly, but it is indeed happening. I am now very used to my work schedule. Even though I am only contracted 12 hours a week, I usually work about 20 hours a week with lesson planning. Shout out to all my teacher friends, lesson planning takes so much time, and it can be extremely frustrating at times, especially because teachers usually don’t tell me until last minute what they would like me to plan my lesson around. Am I right?! But anyways, I’m getting to the point now where my students enjoy seeing me and enjoy having a lesson with me, most of the time. There are, of course, the few who couldn’t care less. However, after talking with a dear friend of mine about the importance of the impact I make on these students, he made a good point: I can only do so much. I see 12 different classes for one hour a week. My goal is, of course, to help them to improve their English skills, teach them about my culture, and hopefully make them slightly more globally aware. However, one hour a week makes achieving those goals extremely difficult.

So, this is how I’ve chosen to look at it: I will do my absolute best to plan lessons that are fun while at the same time help the students work on their English writing, speaking, reading, and listening skills. Some students will really get it. Some students will only sort of get it, and some students will not get it at all. I will do my best to help those whom only sort of get it and those whom don’t get it at all. However, I can only do so much in an hour, so I can’t do the work of a teacher who sees them almost every day. It’s just not possible. This is the perspective I’ve been trying to adapt for myself. I have a hard time dealing with feelings of inadequacy and failure, especially when it comes to my work and something I’m extremely passionate about. This new perspective though makes me see that I’m only one person, one person who is only allowed to work 12 hours a week. So, I will do my best with what I have, and this mindset is what has been lifting my spirits this past couple of weeks.

In addition to that, I’ve been struggling with the concept of money and budgeting. I have always struggled with being able to set a budget for myself and stick to it. Even though I still struggle with it, this has been the perfect opportunity to improve. Yes, I don’t make a glorious amount of money, but I make enough to live on comfortably for me, which is a blessing in and of itself for which I am thankful. Despite my lack of ability to stick to a budget plan, I can confidently say that I am learning.

Yesterday, I was just sitting in my apartment, and I realized that I pay rent. I buy my own groceries. I pay for my own cell phone plan and my own wifi. I pay to go out with my friends, and I pay my renter’s insurance. Hey, I’m not doing too bad for myself. I thought to myself ”wow, I’m actually adulting. I’m actually living a life that I have created for myself and that I pay for by myself. It may not be glorious and full of rainbows, but it’s mine.” I find so much joy in that. For this life I am extremely thankful.

This past weekend also made me realize how thankful and blessed I am here in Laval. Yes, I’m still figuring it out. Yes, I still don’t feel like I’m fully immersed in the culture here in Laval, but I am surrounded by amazing friends that accept me for me. This past week was difficult. This is the first time that I’ve missed Thanksgiving back home in the United States with my family. I did get to Skype call my family on the day of, but it doesn’t make me miss them any less. Being in France didn’t make me miss Thanksgiving completely though. Instead, myself along with the other American assistants and the Canadian assistant planned and prepared for a Thanksgiving Laval edition. All of our other assistant and expatriate friends got together, and we each prepared a dish to bring. It was a huge success! Everyone brought some delicious food, and it made me realize how truly blessed I am to have friends from all different countries: three Spaniards, four Brits, an Argentinian, two French, four Americans, a Canadian, two Germans, an Austrian, a Trinidadian, and a Mexican. We had some traditional Thanksgiving food, but we also had some dishes from some of their native countries, which was fantastic! Not only do I get to experience and learn more about the French culture, but I get to experience and learn about my friends’ cultures too. How many people can say that they’ve stood in a room where 10 nationalities are represented at one time? Probably not very many. For this I am thankful.

Thanksgiving Laval Edition

From left to right:

Front: Breanna and Corinne

Second row: Pablo, Matthew, Kellan, Karina, Gabriela, Araceli, and Valeria

Third row: Me, Polly, Thibaud, Sara, and Edith

Very back: Ifey and Naomi

Unfortunately, not everyone is in that photo.

We all also started the Christmas season together by attending the turning on of the lights event in Laval.

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For these people and these moments, I am extremely thankful. I love my expatriate/Laval family. They have made me laugh and have kept me sane, especially when I’m feeling lonely and missing home, and I am looking forward to many more memories made.

While I am still adjusting to my new French life (I’ve been here for two months already! Can you believe that?!), I have found a church that I have been attending for the last few weeks with a few of the other assistants. Even though I still have yet to become a part of the church quite yet, I think there will be some opportunities to get involved, and I am very much looking forward to them.

I still miss home and everyone there very dearly, especially because this is my first holiday season not being home (it’s much much harder than I ever thought it would be), but I’m starting to settle in here and focus on the positives of life here.

This is the kind of thankful that I’ve really had to stop and think about since I’m away from everything familiar, but I think that’s what makes it so special.

Feeling thankful and so much more….

Until next time….

À plus mes amis….

Love one another.

Given the events that have occurred over the past few days, I must write. I must write because firstly, it will help me process the information a little bit more, and secondly, because I feel my voice must be heard. Yes, my opinion, the opinion of a 23 year old American young woman who stills has much to learn about the world and will admit to being quite ignorant about the world has a voice that matters, whether other people think so or not. My voice matters because I’m a part of this world and because the things that I say and do make an impact on the world, no matter how small. So, here’s what I have to say.

My heart is shattered. It is completely broken into a million pieces after what happened this past Friday night. I consider France my second home, and tears and fear were brought to my eyes and my heart when I heard the news about the events that occurred in Paris. NoI am not French, but yes, I still consider myself a part of France. Why, you may ask. Why because not only do I live here and know people here that mean a lot to me, but also because I believe that I am a citizen of the world. With that comes compassion and love for the rest of the world, whether I understand this world fully or not. So, thus, my heart is a part of the world, and thus, I feel my heart break when the world’s hearts break. 

The events of this past Friday still leave me almost breathless, and I’m still having a difficult time processing all of it. These people, that have done evil things in the name of religion anger me to no end for multiple reasons, and I have lost some faith in humanity.

Yes, I brought up religion, and yes, I will talk about religion. Why? Because I am a Christian, and I have no shame in that, but what I do have shame in is when people, whether they be Christians, Muslims, Buddhists, Jews, etc. use their religion to destroy, to lie, to kill. This is not who God is. This is not what religion is suppose to be. This is what people who happen to prescribe to a certain religion have used to carry out their personal hatred, vendettas, and anger on those whom they believe have wronged them in some way. 

I believe in love. I believe in compassion. I believe in caring for one another, and this just doesn’t apply to my fellow Christians. I believe in caring for everyone, regardless of their religious or non-religious beliefs. As a Christian, I personally have felt persecuted based on what Christians have done to use the Christian religion to kill, to destroy, to lie in the past, but I repeat THIS IS NOT WHO GOD IS. THIS IS NOT WHAT RELIGION IS SUPPOSE TO BE.

I’m sorry if this offends you, but this who I am. This is what I believe. You can choose to read my blog posts or not from this point forward. You will not offend me if you choose to no longer read my blog posts, but I will talk about these things.

But anyways, to continue, because I feel this way about my personal faith, I have a firm belief that most Muslims feel the exact same way about their faith. ISIS has perverted their faith, their religion, but just as I am persecuted and judged for the evil things Christians have done in the name of my religion in the past, so are Muslims. So, I ask not only my fellow brothers and sisters in Christ but also those whom I know that don’t prescribe to a religion to put themselves in the shoes of these Muslims and these refugees, despite the fact that they are Muslim, or even think about the fact that there are people who are using their faith to destroy and to kill. How would you feel if it was your religion or your nationality or your ethnicity or your culture or your traditions that were being used as a reason for terrible acts of hatred? 

This is why I am extremely embarrassed that Muslims and even refugees are being persecuted, because even though I am not Muslim and even though I can honestly say that I don’t know that much about Islam, it doesn’t matter. They are still people. They are still human. They still have value, and I personally believe that they are still children of God, despite their differing beliefs.

Going off of that, upon reading the recent news about how many of the States have decided against accepting refugees, I immediately became angered. These people are fleeing their country where their religion has been perverted, where they are constantly being persecuted, and where things like the bombings in Paris are their daily norm. I am ashamed of you America. I am ashamed to call you my home, because what if it were you? What if it were your families, your friends, your country, your home that was being destroyed, persecuted, and killed? I, myself, am an immigrant, and it’s extremely difficult for me sometimes due to being so far away from home and my family, due to the extraneous amounts of paperwork and red tape that I have to go through to stay in the country, and due to the feeling of being a fish out of water, not quite feeling like I belong. Yes, it’s difficult for me from time to time, but imagine already having the difficulties of being an immigrant and then, in addition to that, being persecuted and living in constant fear of losing your home, losing your loved ones, losing your life, and losing your faith.

I understand that many Americans are terrified of what might happen, of possible terrorist attacks, but I also know that if we let our fear get to us, then ISIS has already won. This is a time to unify. This is a time to look at your fellow global citizens and to accept them because that person could’ve been you. Now, you might think that I am saying all of this because I think I’m brave, but you must know that I am the farthest thing from it. I’m terrified. I’m scared to death. I balled my eyes out the other night after spending hours reading news article after news article because of the intense fear that I feel in my heart, not only for all of those refugees and for France but also for myself, for my friends in Europe and in the U.S., and for my family. I am horrified and terrified. However, I also know that God calls us to “love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another (John 13:34)”.

Romans 12:9-10: “Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. Love one another with brotherly affection.”

LOVE, LOVE, LOVE, LOVE. That is what we need to do, endlessly.

Love one another. Love the refugees. Love the Christians. Love the Muslims. Love those whom don’t prescribe to any religion. Love the Jews. Love the French. Love the Americans. Love the Syrians. Love the Iraqis. Love the Middle East. Love Europe. I could go on and on and on and on forever, but I’m sure you get it.

I also have yet another challenge for you though. Love ISIS. That may seem like an intense thing to say, and some of you may even think that it’s  a stupid and ignorant thing to say. However, here’s what I have to say in response to that. yes, I want more than anything to hate ISIS. I want more than anything for them to feel the same pain that they have caused so many. Yes, I want them to be destroyed, but if anyone needs love, it’s our enemy, because the reason our enemies become enemies in the first place and want to destroy and to kill is because they themselves feel wronged in some way, have felt pain and hurt, have experienced destruction.

Matthew 5:44: “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.”

Luke 6:27: “But I say to you who hear, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you.”

For hate spreads hate which spreads hate and even more hate, but love, love spreads love upon love upon love, and in addition to that, God has stated that He will avenge us. God is a God of justice. He will repay: Romans 12: 19: ”Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, ‘Vengeance is mine. I will repay,’ says the Lord.”

Even for those whom I care for and know whom aren’t Christians or religious, when has hate ever gotten you anywhere good in life? When has it ever made things better? It might make you feel better, for awhile. It might make you feel like you’ve achieved something, for awhile, but in my personal experience, it’s only ever caused further pain and destruction in my own life and in the lives of those around me.

So, yes, maybe you think my opinion is bullshit. Perhaps you even think it’s not important or well-grounded, which is fine. You don’t have to believe me. You don’t have to agree with me. You don’t have to listen to me, but I could not just continue living my life after what has happened without reflecting and without saying a word, because the more of us that speak up against such horrors and the more of us that unify, the better this world will become. The more likely we will be to defeat our enemies, as well as the hatred and evil that exists in this world.

The thoughts of a 23 year old expatriate nobody, but thoughts that I think are worth considering.

The main point of me coming to France was to become more of a global citizen, to learn more about this world and to learn how to be a part of it. This is me becoming a part of it. This is me being of the world, rather than just in it.

I hope you think about these issues and that you will choose love instead of hatred. I ask you to reflect, my friends, and to stand with me in fighting the enemies of evil and hatred.

A plus mes amis….

 

homeless

It has been quite some time since I last posted some of my musings on my life over here in Europe. Here’s the truth: I don’t really want to write. I’ve been in Europe for about six weeks, and here’s another truth: I’m depressed. I’m depressed and missing home. I don’t feel like writing. I have no motivation, and I honestly feel extremely uninspired. So, instead of continuing to tell all of you about the rest of my time while I was traveling, I am going to first talk about how I’m actually feeling, instead of sugar coating it, pretending that I’m living this amazing life.

Living in Europe is so far, for sure, and will most likely continue to be an amazing opportunity, but boy am I crazy homesick and really hating being here, so far away from everyone I love.

It hit me really hard, the homesickness and the culture shock, when I realized that I was missing the month of October back home. Yes, I did not actually miss the month of October. It’s just that the month of October at home, in Indiana, where there are pumpkin pie, corn mazes, apple cider, Halloween, caramel apples, hay rides, bon fires, and s’mores, is the furthest thing from October here in France. They sort of celebrate Halloween, sort of, but not really. It’s more just a party that you go to drink excessively and wear something scary. It’s not an entire extravaganza like it is at home. There aren’t harvest season activities here like there are at home. I didn’t get to carve pumpkins with my family and then bake the seeds with my mother. I didn’t get to put thought into my Halloween costume for this year because I didn’t have one and then go and excitedly buy all of the things for it. I have yet to get lost in a corn maze, and this year, I won’t get that chance at all.

Now, you are probably thinking that I am being ridiculous, but missing all of these little things made me realize how important family and cultural traditions are to me. Before, I always thought that I didn’t really feel much like an American. I thought that I could definitely live in Europe, and even though I would definitely be homesick, I could adjust, feeling that most of my person is better suited to the lifestyle here in France. However, missing these things made me realize that I am more culturally American than I initially realized, which is not necessarily a bad thing. Being culturally a part of the country that I call my home is actually quite a good thing. However, that in and of itself made me realize something else in addition to my ache to want to devour an entire pumpkin pie by myself: I don’t feel at home at home in the States, always aching for the European lifestyle that I feel my being is much more suited to, but I don’t feel like I belong here in France, realizing that I long for traditions that don’t exist here and family that isn’t here. I feel I want to be an American here in Europe, and I feel I want to be European in the States. So, basically, I’ve come to comprehend that I don’t belong anywhere. I really, at this point in my expatriation, don’t have a home. I’m just floating around, trying to make sense of this life.

It doesn’t help either that I’ve discovered that I have no idea what I’m doing, and I feel extremely lonely. Yes, I have friends, wonderful friends that I’m so thankful to have met, but I still feel that ache of emptiness. Not feeling like I belong has left me feeling empty and homeless, feeling alone despite the fact that I’m not alone at all.

I’m also extremely frustrated because I still feel like I have no idea what I’m doing with my students. There are always miscommunications between the teachers and myself. Most of the time it’s definitely my fault because I misunderstood something. I don’t feel like my students respect or even understand me when I speak. The deer in the headlights look is one I get often. So, I go home from work most days feeling like a complete failure.

I also have yet to find a church to check out and call my temporary home while I’m here in France. Reading the Bible by yourself is great, and it definitely builds individual faith. However, I do need a community where I feel my faith is understood and where my faith can be challenged while I’m here in France.

I’m extremely frustrated, depressed, and lonely, and I absolutely hate it. This is also why I haven’t written anything for quite some time.

I don’t want to lie and to pretend that my European adventures are all glorious because they definitely are not. I’ve said this before, but I must reiterate. I still must live my life. I’m not constantly just on an adventure. With that comes the normal every day struggles, but these are increased by the fact that I’m in a different culture speaking a different language. I can’t help but to want to cry on the occasion. In fact, I’ve definitely cried at least three times this week. This is why I have not written lately, because I have currently lost interest and because I did not want to lie or sugarcoat anything either.

My hope is that these feelings are temporary, that I’ll find a great church to become a part of, that I’ll find my footing in my job, and that I’ll continue building and creating friendships. I no longer want to be homeless but build a home within myself. That is my ultimate hope. So, here’s to achieving that and hoping that I’ll find that smile within myself again soon.

Perhaps I’ll finish telling my adventure stories later, but until then….à plus mes amis.