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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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

Look at this photograph

Oh the confusion. In the title I tell you to look at a photograph and yet the post only consists of text. Guess you’ll just have to read it then. All the while having ‘Photograph’ by Nickelback playing in your mind.

I got to thinking about photographs.
Whenever I travel I take many and I love to look at them later. I like to see photographs of the travels of my friends and I like to show visuals of my travels to my friends and family.

During my time in Asia I remember somebody telling me that we are kind of weird with our picture taking. We all want to get that perfect shot of the Borobudur or a beautiful picture of a sunset. And we all think our photo is the best. We like our photos much better than those of others, even the professional photos that are circling the web. Yet if you wanted to actually show people the beauty of the sights you have been seeing, it would perhaps be better to show them the pictures that are on Google. Except maybe if you’re the one taking the pictures that appear on Google.

I keep realizing more and more that everybody has another focus in life, which also shows in their photos. Some people just take pictures of landscapes, of buildings, of inanimate objects. They like to capture the atmosphere of a place, to see it later as it was when they viewed it at that time in their life.  I like a picture of an old building as much as the next gal, but add a person to that photo and I’ll pay more attention.
I am a people photographer.

I love taking pictures of locals, living their local life, doing local things. I like to watch people (not in a creepy way) and I like to interact with people. So it makes all the sense in the world that I also like to see them in photographs. A picture of a person that is laughing can really make me happy and taking them… I simply take pride in the fact I can capture a persons happiness on camera.
And me liking photographs of people also means that I don’t mind being in the pictures, because later, I will have proof for my old forgetful self that I was there. That I lived. And that I loved it.

And yes, this also means that I like selfies.

Just a quick update on my current status, which is Sunny. Literally. I’m currently in France and it was 34 degrees with sun today. I’m getting a tan without even putting in an effort. I’m not sure if all of you knew, but I am in Lyon right now, working a summer job. Basically what I do is answer the phone when people call because they are stuck on the side of the road with car trouble. I put all their information in the computer, I call a garage to help them out and I keep them updated on the progress of their car. It’s more fun than it sounds and I like the job, although I do foresee a lot of stress when the volume of calls will be even higher in a few weeks (or even days).

I have been jogging, I have been doing yoga, I have been drinking my signature smoothies every morning, I have been going to the local market twice a week, I have been practicing my French, I have been watching reruns of Gilmore Girls (in French), I have been writing down all the crazy story ideas I have constantly flying through my mind and yet I still find time to hang out with a bunch of awesome people from Couchsurfing every week to play boardgames.

The summer will be awesome, I already know the fall is going to be awesome, and plans are always in the making to be able to keep that trend going. I have so many amazing ideas for things I can do in the future that I can hardly find the time to do them all.

But if I can even realize half of the plans that I think of, my life will still be one hell of a ride.