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….

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