Hey everyone, thanks for taking the time to read my blog again! I’m trying to keep the entries regular, but life is seemingly boring here. I’ve adapted (for the most part) to all of the differences to the French life, and as the 9th week of my stay here has started I have found myself going through the motions. So, this entry is going to be a pros/cons sort of comparison to life back home and life here. I’m doing this partially to inform everyone reading of how life is for me, but also to remind myself so that I don’t take these beautiful oddities for granted.
Let me start with a disclaimer: as with everything in life this review is only one persons opinion and interpretation, and it should be taken with a grain of salt. The discomforts I have experienced might serve as conveniences to other people, and vice versa. I use the word “cons” for lack of a better word, and when I say cons what I really mean are things that I haven’t grown accustomed to yet, or things with which I prefer Canada’s way of life.
Time change: this is the most obvious one, but it has been difficult. From missing every North American sporting event (except the first Football games on Sunday) to not being able to talk to the family back home until at least 4 pm my time, I have definitely experienced the time change in full effect. This creates a strange feeling of isolation, as I feel as if one half of the world sort of disappears for half the day. It’s lonely, yet strangely comforting. When is the last time you had only a few friends online on Facebook? When is the last time you saw an email or text, but didn’t have to reply because they won’t be awake for 6 more hours anyway?
Food/drink: I know you’ve all heard about the contrasts in this area, but let me highlight a few things. I would be hard pressed to find a coffee to go at any of the hundreds of café’s in town. If I could get them to make it to go, it would be the size of a little yogurt container, and wouldn’t have a lid. I understand that this is how it happens out here, but I truly miss getting a coffee so big your arm gets tired holding it, for $1.80 at Tim Horton’s. The same thing goes for drinks; it is unheard of to ask for a glass of tap water at a restaurant, and you may get asked to leave if you pull a bottle out of your backpack and start guzzling. You are expected to buy all of your drinks, and when you order a coke it will come in a 250 ml glass bottle. When that’s done, you order another; no waitress bringing another free pitcher. Its areas like this that notice the difference in mindsets between the two continents, and with this I prefer the North American methodology, however unhealthy it may be. As far as food goes, I have heard from many (non-French) people that France is the best country in the world to experience fine-dining. I love the food here, and try to eat French food as opposed to just making my favorites all the time. However, sometimes I just want a plate of nachos, some wings, and a pint of Molson Canadian. That’s what anyone’s experience will be as they venture anywhere in the world, I suppose. Its natural to miss mom’s cooking, and those things that make your culture what it is. That said, I am not going to get sick of the food here anytime soon:)
The religion: France was recently listed in an article by the Huffington Post as the 4th least religious country in the world, with only about 30% of the country being religious at all (and I suspect most of that group is Islamic, or maybe Catholic). You may have read about the crackdown in France on the mention of religion in high schools last month. I was even told by a teammate that it is illegal to display some types of religious symbols in public (cross necklaces, certain shirts, tattoos, etc.). Needless to say, I haven’t gone to church since I’ve been here. However, a few Friday nights ago I was in a restaurant when I heard a sweet, sweet sound: English. As I said before, I’m lucky to meet someone who speaks a few words of English, so when I met Helena, an American ex-pat living in the next town, I was thrilled. She is a kind lady who has been living here with her 2 kids for over 8 years. I got her information, and she invited me to the English-speaking church of Lille. This was pretty awesome, and I think I’m going to go soon. The fact that I nearly jumped out of my seat when I heard American English illuminated to me that I might be missing home more than I let on to myself.
The team: so far, I have only praises to say about the team. While we have been underachieving throughout the preseason and recently lost our first league game in 5 sets, I have no doubt that we will improve to be a force in the league. I’m making some pretty close friends on the team, and the guys are awesome. Every Friday after practice, we spend time in the team room after practice having “Aperol.” This is nothing more than a few cases of beer paired with baguettes, cheese and other appetizers while the team just hangs out and pumps music, but it is the perfect way to end a hard week of training. We have our home opener this weekend against one of the best teams in our league, and I think we should have great attendance.
I’m almost done, but I have to tell you about another cool thing that happened. I miss the music scene a lot in BC, especially since I missed out on a lot of great concerts this summer. So one day I tried to find out if any of my favorite bands would be coming through Lille anytime soon. I was surprised to find out that not only are there some amazing bands coming, some are coming through Tourcoing! Tourcoing is a small suburb of Lille, the way Langley is to Vancouver. All of these bands seemed to be coming to a place called La Grand Mix, so I checked out where this place was. I couldn’t believe it; it was only 2 blocks from my house! When I found out that two Canadian bands (The Born Ruffians and Moon King) were coming in a week, I made sure I would be there. The next Tuesday I went alone, sporting my Canadian hockey jersey. Didn’t make any Canadian friends, but saw some great music and will definitely be there again soon. From October 12-19, Tourcoing is host to a very famous jazz festival, which I’m looking forward to as well.
I guess I’ve realized that over the past two months, I’ve been very fortunate. The transition has been very smooth for me, and I have found little tastes of home to prevent the homesickness that is imminent. I’m going to need all the tastes of home I can get, as Thanksgiving is coming this weekend…the first Canadian holiday I have to spend away from home. So when you eat your turkey this weekend, be extra thankful for the little things that make your home your home. Enjoy time with family, enjoy an extra large Tim Horton’s, enjoy the traffic on Glover Road, and enjoy the rain. Because there is someone, a long way away who misses all of those things.