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 :)

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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.

 

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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!!!

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

Message from the camp grounds. 

I have been here a little over a week, but it feels like it has been much longer. Which is probably why I have been feeling bad that I haven’t written anything about it yet. It’s not that I didn’t have the time, but just that I have not yet figured out what to tell you. I don’t know how I feel about this whole experience just yet and not everything that I could tell is suitable to discuss with the world wide web. So I decided to just give you a glimpse into my day-to-day life, and we can go from there.

It’s just been a little weird. When I went to Indonesia, there was so much to tell. Everything was new. Here… it’s ‘just’ France. And I’m at a Dutch campsite, so basically it feels like I’m still in The Netherlands (except for those wonderful but rare occasions on which I can actually practice – and hopefully improve – my French). It’s a language I want to learn to speak so badly, but to get better at it I need to do it, and so far… I haven’t had to do it a lot.

This past week and a half has been a learning experience. I have gotten to know a lot about the business that is this camping site and I have learned how to operate within their procedures and rules.

My domain here is the reception area and the shop. I keep everything organized and neat, which is a task that can easily be trusted to me. I get to print a lot of things, create program booklets and menus (the layout, not the content), I make the schedules and I gained a new hobby: laminating stuff.

Besides the kitchen I help out with a lot of other different tasks, like cleaning, working in the kitchimg_0205-1en, doing a whole bunch of dishes, restocking the tea carousel, filling up cups with mayonaise. I get a bunch of fun tasks (that will probably only be fun the first time) and I enjoy doing it all.

So a bit about the living conditions. I’m staying in a trailer, where I have my own bedroom with a big bed. I share it with another girl, but we hardly see each other there because we work different hours (meaning, I get to go home at 17.30 – although I usually offer my help in the kitchen and hang out there for two hours) and she rolls in at 23.0img_02030 or 0.00.

The next morning, I probably wake her up at 6.30 when I get out of bed to do some yoga or go running, but every time I ask she says it’s okay and that I’m not bothering her.

It is freaking cold. I always sort of thought I was an outdoorsy type, but I guess I only am when the sun is shining. I hate the cold. And I’m cold all the time. Except when I work in the kitchen, so that’s… something.

The internet here is worse than in the secluded places in Asia that I have visited, so that’s too bad. But the upside is fresh mountain air every time I go outside, a great view to start and end my day with and living for free. Because that is basically what I’m doing. I get paid, but I also work for food and housing. The cook here makes great vegan meals for me every day and he really knows how to cook! I eat delicious french bread and I drink lots of water and tea. In the morning, I can even get fruit and make a smoothie. So that is arranged really well animg_0230d that is great.

My goal was, sort of, to not spend any money while I am here. And now that I have decided that I want to see a bunch around the area, I will have to spend some money on gasoline, but other than that, I will be able to live here without any costs. So I’m going to keep track and write down all the expenses I have. But it will not be much, because I really have everything I need here.

So, even though I still have my ups and downs, my certainties and my doubts and my good moments and my bad moments, I’m liking it here more and more, and by now I feel confident that I can make this a great summer.

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The amazing view
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