Life in Lyon

 

During my time in this French city, I really enjoyed the little things. I was extremely happy every time I went to the market on the square behind my building, where I bought large amounts of fruits and was always greeted with a smile and sometimes even free stuff! I also really enjoyed an evening at home with a good book, a walk along the Rhône, taking a bath, drinking my morning smoothie, talking to my friends, writing, improving my French… I have not done a lot of big things and I actually haven’t really traveled outside of the city during these months, but I don’t regret that. I needed it like this and it was great.

Every week there was an event from Couchsurfing; a boardgame night in the center of Lyon. It was in one of my first weeks there that I went to one of those evenings and I became a regular instantly. We played all sorts of games with people from all kinds of different countries and it was such a blast, again and again, every week. I’m still sort of amazed by how much fun I’ve had there every week. The people who showed up were very nice and I spend a lot of time with the ones who were also regulars outside of these nights too. I’m very happy with my group of Lyonnais friends, even though I did betray one of them in a spy game and they didn’t feel like they knew me well enough until we played a game of two truths and a lie. I would have thought inventing lava sharks and mushroom cacti were ingredients for a lifelong friendship, but I guess it takes more than that ;)

I actually didn’t take many pictures throughout the summer, so in my last week in Lyon I went crazy with my camera to capture all the great memories. You may not enjoy watching them as much as I do, but I hope they are at least a little entertaining :)

Creating your own normal

Most of the times, when somebody asks you if you are happy, it is very likely that you will have to think about it. It seems like such an easy question. Are. You. Happy?

Turns out, not that easy to answer. And I feel like often people are measuring their happiness the wrong way. We all have an idea of what our perfect life looks like. And in measuring happiness, people are often trying to figure out how far off they are from that perfect life. So often, when asked the age-old question, the response will be something along the lines of “I wish I had more money”, or “I’m not quite happy with my current job”, or “I still haven’t found the love of my life”. In my case, it would be “I’d like to exercise more” or “I want to spend more time writing”.

But creating and analyzing the gap between your actual and your ideal life does not happiness make. Nor does it measure happiness. If anything, it shows you that you want more. More time, more money, more love. But even if you have a million dollars, you have all hours of the week free to spend on the hobby’s that you can choose… You will always want something more.

Maybe this effect is created by our current society, or our culture. Maybe it’s all the motivational speakers screaming you can do anything you like and be anyone you want. Maybe it’s fear that always tells us to strive for more.

Whatever it is, it will always be there. We will always want more. And I’m not saying it’s a bad thing, but it does mean that if you will measure happiness based on this gap you create by wanting more, you will never be happy. Because guess what. Goals expand. Goals multiply. Goals change.

You also hear many people say that if you appreciate what you already have, you will be happy. This makes more sense to me: stopping the focus on all you don’t have and focus on the things that you do have, the goals you have already reached. Gratitude is a good thing, for sure. And although gratitude alone is not the key to happiness, it will make the gap between your perfect and current life less prominent.

I’m currently reading a book about mindfulness and I read an interesting part that I’d like to share. We are all very hard on ourselves nowadays. And I don’t mean giving ourselves a hard time if we fail in striving towards all these goals we set, although, yes, that too. But we are constantly analyzing how we feel and why we feel that way. Maybe in your life, if you think about your job, your family, your possessions, you are sure you have it all. The ingredients for the ambrosia called happiness are there. And then you wonder why it is then, that you don’t feel happy all the time.

Instead of accepting this feeling, we challenge it. We fight it with all our power, because we want that happiness. It is the ultimate goal. We question our feelings and wonder where they come from and scold ourselves for not being happy or content. I believe this causes a downward spiral that in some cases can be called depression.

It has been really bothering me lately that the world has these preconceived notions on what will make us happy, when the majority of the population cannot say with any kind of certainty that they are in fact happy.

I’ve recently read Fightclub (and watched it too) and I was really struck by the part shown in the link (which is more elaborate in the book). Parents tell their kids to go to school. They have to go to college afterwards. Then they should get a job. Marry. Mortgage. KIDS. And then what? They seem like clearcut ways to become happy. They are blocks that can make up a life like pieces of Lego create all sorts of awesomess. They are perceived as the normal way to live your life. But they never guarantee it.

I hate that the world, our society, what- or whomever has decided that we have to follow certain paths. That we are limited to certain pieces of Lego. We have to go to university, we have to get a job, get a spouse, have children and that’s that.

That. Is. Not. That.

You don’t have to do shit anything and you can do everything.

People sometimes tell me they envy the life I’m living right now. Living in different places, traveling, meeting people from all over the world. I get it, but I don’t get it. It’s not like I have anything going for me that others don’t. I just decided to do it. I saved up money, and I’m not the kind of person to do anything that I don’t like to do.

So I don’t.

So in a way, maybe I am like these motivational speakers encouraging you to do whatever. And to not do whatever. Yes, lead your life, set goals. But let your life flow. Go with it. Let things happen. Stop trying to control everything. Enjoy what you have, and take time to figure out what it is that you want to do, not what society wants you to do.

These themes, happiness and normalcy have really been keeping me busy lately. I’m living an awesome life right now and yet there are still the inevitable moments during which I feel unhappy, and those who know me personally may know I’m the analyzing type of person. I want to know why I feel unhappy, but feelings are simply not easily caught up in logic. There is not always a reason and in fact, I believe that the only reason for unhappiness is you. It is your mindset that decides if you feel happy or not.

But that’s kind of a confronting thought, isn’t it?

Because it means you are responsible. It means you cannot blame your job or the people around you. You cannot blame your life.

Because it’s you.

Roadtrip in France

The weekend before my 25th birthday was really special to me. One of my best friends came to visit me in France and we drove all throughout the area, stopping in different beautiful places, taking pictures and laughing. It was really grounding to see her there, because I was already feeling rather miserable and had decided to leave my job at the camping site. She traveled very far, using not the most comfortable ways to travel, to see me for just two days. And it was great. I felt understood and remembered that there are people in this world who are on my wavelength, which is a feeling I was missing there.

She brought me presents for my birthday – which were perfect and showed me she knows me well :) – and a card from another one of my best friends – which contained words that I needed at that moment – and we slept together in one of the huge safari tents. I liked the slumber party, I liked the company, I liked the travel vibe we had going. Honestly, I really liked being able to complain about everything at the camping site too. Roadtrippin’ together was great, even if I did occasionally drive past our goal (an available parking space, mostly), making us having to drive in a circle to end up there again.

Saying goodbye to her on my actual birthday was really hard for me, because it meant I had to stay there by myself for even longer and having spent two full days with her made me realize how great life could be. How awesome my life is. How great my friendships are. How much I miss being able to connect to people on an intellectual level and feeling understood.

Well, this all sounds rather dramatic, I’m aware of that, but that’s the way it felt. And honestly, this weekend is really the only good great memory I have of my time there. So seeing the pictures again… that’s just magical.

 

Schermafbeelding 2016-08-25 om 11.52.39

Sharing is not always caring

I’m sure we are all familiar with this situation. A friend of yours says you have to watch a certain movie, because it has changed their life forever. There goes two hours of your life. Or maybe they would like you to read a book that has the best storyline ever. You could end up giving it six hours of your valuable time. Or if you are really unlucky, they will recommend a tv-show with five seasons, causing you to spend a whole week binge-watching.

When we find something we enjoy, we want to share it with everybody we know (most commonly our close friends and family). You want to tell them how great it was, that it was so funny, they should absolutely watch it. Your life won’t be complete if you haven’t.

And it got me thinking… I am also the kind of person who likes to share their enthusiasm with friends about these kinds of things. If you have read something that felt important somehow, you want to share it. But while doing this, often we forget to think about our target audience.

Not everybody has the same interests as you. Maybe a dramatic film that has no joke in it whatsoever is not the best thing to recommend to your friend who loves comedy. Sure, you may want to share your passion for this newly discovered picture, but if you don’t keep in mind what your friend likes, this may only result in disappointment. I’ve watched movies that I love with friends who start to tear it apart and pointing out all of the flaws. Maybe after that, you won’t like the movie as much.

We have ALL been in the situation where you show somebody a clip from Youtube of something you have laughed about for days, but your friend watches it with a straight face and a frown, wondering why you would want to show them this video. Usually, about halfway through the video, you will be tempted to say something along the lines of: “Just wait for it, the funny part is coming”. But you already know that this viewing is a bust.

So yes, on the one hand you should think about the person you are sharing your newly discovered awesomeness with, but on the other hand, it can say a lot about you. It is a chance for your friends to learn more about you and what you find funny or moving.

When I was discussing this with my Lyonnais friends, they gave me an interesting new insight. If somebody recommends something that you really love, it proves how well they know you and it can strengthen your connection to that person. I must say, I agree. I always try to think of the person I’m recommending to when recommending something and it can feel rather special when somebody who gives you a recommendation introduces you to something that becomes meaningful to you.

I guess the point of this blog is: be mindful of what you recommend to whom. The philosophy of: ‘They should read or watch this because I liked it and thought it was awesome’ won’t always cut it in the world of sharing interests.

Solo adventures in the Ardèche

I’m late in uploading all of my pictures, as you have recently enjoyed some from six months ago and also a few from nine months ago. So now, uploading these pictures from four months ago is not so bad. Soon there will be more pictures from the same period and even a few recent ones!!!

My 10 favorite French songs

Honestly, I could start with listing all of Stromae’s songs, but first of all, he’s from Belgium, and second of all, I already knew all of his songs. But since moving to France I discovered a bunch of new ones, and here are the ones I cannot stop listening to and I am learning the lyrics to.

1. Zombie – Maître Gims

Even though a few lyrics repeat a bunch, there are a few lines that I just cannot pronounce so fast. “Retire ces chaînes, qui te freinent” (Remove the chains that hold you back).

2. Berceuse – Coeur de Pirate

First of all, love the name of the band. Heart of the pirate. And I just love her voice. This song also really has a French vibe to it, so yeah… Top 10 material right here.

3. Je Vole – Louane

Very slow, very sad. I’m pretty sure it’s about a person in their last minutes before committing suicide, while fully conscious (sans fumer, sans alcool).

4. Jour 1 – Louane

Same singer, happier song. I like the rhythm of the melody, it’s very catchy. Easy to sing along to. While reading from the lyrics website, bien sur.

5. Avenir – Louane

I know, again, same artist. But they were first in the list, so I’ve heard songs by her the most. A great song for dancing (the version I have is faster than this one on YT)!

6. Avec le temps – Isleym

I only found four songs by this artist and I really love this one. The lyrics are fast, but I can still keep up! And I like how she sounds like she’s only fourteen, which she may very well be.

7. Je t’emmenerai – Ridsa

I love his voice. And I like the lyrics. It’s never a punishment to listen to a guy singing in French.

8. Je me souviens – Ridsa

Love the feel of this song. Also, see song number 7.
“Je me dit que ça va aller” (I told myself it will be okay)

9. Pas Besoin de Toi – Joyce Jonathan

Love her voice. And the song is easy to follow.

10. Tant Pis – Joyce Jonathan

Mostly because of the title. But also because of the song.

11. Est-ce que tu m’aimes? – Maître Gims

“Do you love me? I don’t know if I love you”. Seems to sum up love pretty well.

 

Let me know if you found the joke.

 

 

The power of communication

Languages.

There are so many. And they are the key to understanding other worlds apart from your own. I feel like I have been fluent in Dutch and English for forever, so these languages are very comforting to me. I loved learning basic Indonesian so I could get around and order food while I was there. And it felt great to understand at least a fraction of the things the locals were saying. I realized how many things you can say with just a few words. Basic words that I already knew in French, but still I didn’t feel I was capable of communicating in French at all. I’ve been in France for a few months now, and the progress is there. I remember everything I learned in high school and I understand it much better than a few months ago. And now I’m craving fluency.

I love the language so much. The melody is so nice to listen to, the words can create subtlety, they can be very specific and they can be vague. There are so many expressions and they are used to convey daily messages. So yeah, I love learning all of it.

I’ve finally reached that stage where I don’t care about the many, many, many mistakes I make when speaking French. I realize that I can say anything and the message will come across. It’s just not always grammatically correct and my pronunciation can use some (a lot of) polishing. When I just arrived in France, I was very shy about speaking French. I was ashamed of the many mistakes I made and I didn’t feel free to just speak and use the words I already knew.

And that led me to the following realization, which is how the language you are communicating in, can change your (perceived) personality.

In Dutch, I’m me. I can be quiet and just listen to everything everybody else is saying, I can be loud and make jokes, sometimes involving puns. I can speak Dutch correctly, flawlessly. I can understand everything people are saying in Dutch and it makes me perceptive to what is going on around me.

In English, I really like the me I can be. First of all, people call me Sunny in English, which is name I feel suits me better than the boring Sanne. I can understand English without any effort and I like speaking English. I’m good at English and just knowing that I can speak two languages fluently boosts my confidence. I love jokes in English, I like the day to day conversations. In English, I can be myself, with an English (well, probably more American) twist. There are the occasional difficult words that I have to look up, and doing word games in English is harder than in Dutch. But all in all, the way of communicating in English feels very familiar to me.

In French, I was a very, very shy girl. I didn’t really speak a lot in the beginning, I was just listening to the conversations around me, trying to understand it all. I wouldn’t always say it when I didn’t understand what was said. Sometimes I would think of a joke during the conversation and I wouldn’t make it, because it would take me five minutes to find the right words. And this would frustrate me to no end, because that’s not me. I like to just blurt stuff out sometimes, to be able to participate in conversation. And I’m learning to live with this frustration every day, and it’s already getting a bit better. I just have to take my time to say the stuff that would usually cost me mere seconds to communicate.

In Indonesia, speaking the language made me a bule gaul. I was already white, blond and smiling a lot. Also speaking some of the language… well it just made me marriage material. I liked my Indonesian speaking self, because I did not expect to learn anything Indonesian and by the end I actually knew quite a lot. I also really like the fact that everybody (including me) smiles in Indonesia, which made the whole experience very happy for me.

Now, when I meet somebody who speaks French and only a little bit of English, I prefer to communicate in French. That way, I have the control over the conversation. Sure, when I speak in English, I could say much more and give better and clearer insights, but the other party will probably not understand all of it. So if I do it in French, it will take me longer and it will be less specific, but at least I know that my conversational partner will understand what I’m saying.

Fluency is something that will take years, and I’m well aware. But I’ve wanted it for years, and now finally at least there is some progress.

Who knows, maybe one day I’ll type a whole blog in French. That would be a real quick way to lose all my readers, I suppose…

So to end this language story, I want to share a little thing that happened to me the other day. I go to the local market near my house twice a week and I mostly buy the same things at the same vendors. At some point they will recognize the foreigner who always buys bananas and nectarines. So now I’m greeted so kindly:

‘Ah ma chérie, comment ça va?’

‘Bonjour mon coeur!’

Also, I get a bunch of free stuff and discounts, all the time. The best was when I got two little boxes of raspberry’s for free. But then this past Wednesday my market-boyfriend topped this.

I had already paid for my vegan supplies, and had put them away. And as I was turning to walk away, he held up a bouquet of parsley in front of my face.

‘Des fleurs,’ he said, smiling.

J’adore la France.

peterselie