A student recently reminded me that I started this blog 10 years ago. 10 years that I’m trying to write regularly... or not.
2021 is starting and I’m looking back. Where was I in my life 20 years ago? I was taking my little suitcase to leave home at 17 and land in Paris on my 18’s birthday. It was just few days before 9/11, before the flood of panic. I felt the looks changing, people being either worried or scared by me and some even insulting me. I knew racism before but it came closer. I also learnt again to live in a mild climate, observing my body reacting to the different seasons. Then, I lived many incredible, funny, tough and more than anything, learning experiences and adventures.
What was happening 10 years later? I was taking _again_ my little suitcase to move to the other side of the planet (only compared to Paris), in Australia. Once again, it was thrilling. I was very lucky to work in very different sectors and to meet a lot of interesting people. I’m luckily still in touch with some of them. I met my student zero, just like they is a patient zero, the one thanks to whom I started the exciting adventure of teaching.
I remember meeting his father. He sold me a video camera and asked me if I was teaching French. Of course, I thought it was just to make conversation or, at best, to secure his sale. It was not. I taught my first French class to this young gentleman, from a Vietnamese origin, in Australia. I discovered the contagious passion of teaching. My first thought was to provide strong grammar basics but I wanted to give him more, more elements on the French culture.
This student zero helped me to initiate a thinking process, leading to actions. How efficiently pass on? I acted 5 years later. I started my training for the DAEFLE diploma. Then, thinking that I needed more training, I started a FLE (Français Langue Étrangère) Master. Funnily, I started my first training without any job or experience in this area. Then, by chance, this training was perfectly fitting a job opportunity, a cooperation program.
Then I started my Master at the same time than another experience in a language center. A remote learning Master started in Malaysia and finished in Canada.
20 years ago, ‘Amelie from Montmartre’ was released. I fell in love with it and I did not know that I soon had to choose between a preparatory class for literature studies and the Sorbonne University, only mainland French university accepting me. I was also sitting for my A-Level this year. The very first edition of the exam at the same time than the mainland (meaning that some exams were starting in the early evening) and the very last year of a format with all the exams together (now, it is more spreader out).
I never thought, 20 years ago, that I would live today in Vancouver, Canada, the furthest point on the planet, from my home Reunion island. I never really projected myself in the future: I tended to live the present and I’m trying to remain into it.
The first day of the year was radiant and sunny in Vancouver and I hope it is a sign. I hope it will a radiant decade, if not, at least a year! A clear blue sky is showing up after all these humid grey skies. But I probably have found a solution: a light lamp! It is quite funny, thinking back about it as I did a radio report about it for a local radio in Mons, Belgium in 2007. It sounds true that we usually find answers to our own issues. But even if this thought seems egocentric, it is far from it.
I always wish to bring to others but I learnt a good lesson: without energy, peace and joy with yourself, you might pass on negativity. I tried to be very careful about it when I was teaching. I do remember a teacher about holidays and recharging: ‘It is crucial. If you have no rest, you pass on bad things such as frustration and impatience.’
On the first day of 2020, sitting on a bench in a park, I was observing these line-shaped trees, maybe coniferous trees, gently swaying in the wind. The concept of tree communication came back to me and I remember starting reading Peter Wohllenben’s ‘The Hidden Life of Trees’. The foliage of trees were being cut down in order to interlock and some branches, slightly bended, were like hands inviting you to dance. A dancing couple of trees.
Art is everywhere, even in words: nATuRal for example. I like the French word ‘partage’(meaning sharing) when you do find these letters.
Seeing what you want to see
We do see what we want to see. I miss Australia sometimes and I do see it, here, in Canada. I was even able to see Reunion island in New-Zealand. If you are focused enough, I think you can see what you want to see. As a teenager and even young adult, I was incredibly pessimistic. Going through tough events, my perspective changed and that is why gratitude became my pillar. We forget too easily that we are able to change ourselves.
2020 will sound...
I mentioned in my last post my will to volunteer, to collaborate on a project for the community, my love for public service. I wanted to volunteer for a French NGO (Valentin Haüys), providing audio books to visually impaired people in the past. Today, I'm thinking of going to read books to elderly people in hospices.
I love sounds and voices. There is so much in a voice. Warm voices, rocky voices, heavy-experienced voices, funny voices, original voices.
I have started writing podcasts but I have a technical issue with my recorder.
... like Art?
I am naturally going towards painting from the moment I arrived. I painted in good company: with a friend, Tanya and a good glass of wine (only one). It was a nice winter scene but with warm colours. We were listening to Bob Ross’s explanations. He has such a nice and gentle voice. I was thinking that it is such a 80’s signature. Today, the majority of online tutorials are so shouty and the editing is so fast paced, always wanting to go faster and faster, faster towards the end. I am not nostalgic. We have to live with our era but for nothing on Earth I would fit this one. I am embracing this difference, even if I suffer sometimes.
I also learnt knitting with Emily, a Canadian friend who was crucial in my good arrival in Vancouver.
Meeting, salt of life
I was very lucky to meet Idliko Kovacs. I interviewed her for the bilingual newspaper The Source: you can read the article here. This woman is amazing.
I felt so reinvigorated! I love this job for this reason: meeting people. For me, meetings and discussions are always enriching. They can also be challenging but I like to talk with people having very different views as it can be quite boring in a way to agree on everything and to be satisfied of it. I don’t like conflicts but a proper point of view defended in respect for each other. I am keeping an eye on the next public debates at the Vancouver Public Library…
Poverty in Vancouver
In Verbatim in The Source, I am mentioning the gap between rich and poor people in Vancouver but I think it is far from what I have seen in Antananarivo, Madagascar.
But it is still shocking that it is so significant in such a rich city. Hard drugs are a real plague. I have not heard yet about junkie attacks but I am not really going out at night anyway… During the day, some people beg downtown, others remain discreet or simply walk on the streets or on the bus.
Talking about bus, I was very surprised by a scene in a bus. A young man with sunglasses and headphones on was almost yelling at the bus driver, telling him he had no change but obviously, his outfit and accessories were clearly saying that he could afford a bus ticket. Then, his nose up, he went at the back of the bus. I was shocked as it had been weeks or even more that bus drivers’ strikes were on the news because of working conditions but also low salaries. How can someone lacks of respect towards public services? How do we reach such a situation?
I don’t want to stigmatize Canada, the situation is not better than in France: firemen, public hospital staff and other public services are attacked. But in general, I don’t understand how irrespectfull humans can be…
The value of things
I was thinking about the value that we are giving to things. Humans love what is rare and go without any scruples digging in the Earth’s guts for ripping off stones that took millions of years to be formed, for taking lives, those of mining slaves, which had been shaped by so much love, abnegation and work. But what about this rare moment of peace that we can have for ourselves, moment of laughing because of a play on words, moment of love at first sight?
Unfortunately, we realize how precious things are when they are lost, especially in such a capitalist and materialist world like ours. However, they are still reachable, right now…
My mood is sometimes a bit down and I think it is due to the lack of light. I have lived in a seasonal country for years now. I discovered that Vancouver is actually at the same latitude of Paris. But for some reason, I feel there is less light… I am living in a basement, half underground and this is probably why.
Once more, here I am as the international errand, and I have to face administrative process and times. I am using the word errand, referring to my experience in Australia. Find the right information took me some time. It is not the first immigration website I am looking at but they have some slight differences. But after information sessions, sharing with other French-speaking migrants, I think I have found different options. I have initiated the process for the Education Credential Assessment (only one diploma as it is expensive). My school sent the required documents and now, it needs to be checked. Expected time: 20 weeks maximum! If I am lucky, it should be quicker.
And then, I will be able to submit an application for the Express Entry and it should take 3 to 4 months… Patience is a virtue!
It is not that cold in Vancouver. We do not have negative temperatures and meters of snow like inland Canada. But I am activating old habits about clothing learnt in Paris. I think I was suffering less of the same temperatures in Australia and New-Zealand but cold was probably dryer… About clothing, I would like to share a tip that a kind person taught me because I know I have some readers from warm overseas areas not used to this kind of weather. I fell, like others, in the trap of the ‘onion’. Yes, you have to layer clothes but not any kind of clothing and the proper way. The most important ever is the first layer. Once, a lady (that I really do appreciate) told me: ‘Wear silk if you can.’ Of course, silk is quite expensive but no need to be totally wrapped in it. Today, we can find affordable thermals, which could work as well. Then, on top of this, you can dress ‘normally’.
I want to highlight the topic of temperature after interesting observations. I was already intrigued by Australians about to wear thongs during the Austral winter but Canadians created a category by themselves and compel admiration. I saw people in shorts, tank tops, t-shirts and even a half-naked man (but this one probably drank too much of anti-freeze because even Canadians looked surprised). Not even red marks, usual sign of the cold bite on their skin…
I am trying to keep good food and lifestyle habits. Zero waste preacher, I am getting information about recycling practices in Vancouver but it is not always easy to know which plastic item is going where in Vancouver. But I am hopeful as they made a game out of this. I went to the Farmers Market, something that I was usually doing in Adelaide. And I am searching for different alternatives to the big industry. I am also looking for organic but as usual, it is more expensive. So I went on Main Street, one of the hipster places (in France, we would say bobo). I went in a store selling bulk. Of course, I was delighted because I thought I had few, almost no alternatives to the supermarket, full of single-use containers (that I am trying to re-use as many times as I can). However, the charm disappeared when facing a bland and almost nosy attitude of the staff. I had the feeling to enter a very confidential store without knowing its codes and that I almost needed to be co-opted to have the right to walk into this store. I am trying not to have hard feelings and I will go back to them but if I do feel the same shiver going down my spine, I will not hesitate to switch for another store… According to me, this attitude is a disgrace and it should be about sharing and respect, respect of the environment but also people. But it is true that it is possible to be environmentalists and racists or Nazis…
I am trying to do sport but it is difficult to go back to the ‘cold’ chlorine-perfumed swimming pool after having the ocean, to fear a little run when bronchitis is waiting for me everywhere after having all equipments, the freedom to run outdoor (in a nice temperature) and to finally give up and run indoor. However, I should not be that blunt. I am walking. Well, it is a urban environment, it is around a golf course but squirrels are as surprised than me and make this rare journey nicer. Once again, I must be patient and wait the sun and the warmth to come back in order to _finally_ hike.
I always tried to give my time for causes and convictions. I have a list of actions that I would like to do as a volunteer. But sometimes, I find myself caught in thousands of projects because of my overflowing ideas (and honestly adventures and meetings: life is not a straight line). However, I was thinking back of my experiences as a volunteer in Seychelles, Australia, France…
I am waiting to get a work permit and I feel very fortunate so I decided to be a volunteer for two institutions during this time, after my arrival. I was volunteer for the Chambre de Commerce Francophone de Vancouver (French-speaking Vancouver Chamber of Commerce); I just gave a hand to set some food, serving a bit and meeting some hospitable members. I must admit I have not met anyone really aggressive for now.
I also had been volunteering for OpenTable, a meal for people in need. I was a great experience, I always wanted to try it. I do remember the friend of a friend, working for a good company in Paris, talking about his experience at the French soupe populaire (meal served to people in need in France) for years and I found it so inspirational… Serving this brilliant beef curry, I was questioning myself about my motivations and my answer was that I am feeling truly loved and that I would like to share this feeling with those who are less fortunate in doing something very down-to-earth, cooking. I participated to three editions for now: two regular and a special one for Christmas. It was really beautiful for Christmas: there was music, great food and lots of love. OpenTable is about sharing food but also support.
I was challenging the viability of volunteering for the society back in Australia because it seems overused to me. Here too, it seems to be the ultimate way to get in, even if you could be left aside after years of loyal service. It sounds to be as difficult for the volunteer as for the body having volunteers to be able to commit for a long time.
Anyway, in the end, everything is about the intention.
It reminds me of all the strikes (and finally progress) about internships in France. I had never been paid for any of them (except once, few cents by a rock magazine). Some played with the laws, refusing to take me longer as they would have to pay me… In the end, I should have been paid but whatever.
The first semester of my second year of Masters is over and it was not that easy. The workload was big and the coordination and intensity of online meetings with my classmates in Reunion island, Serbia and Japan turned me into a zombie for few weeks (but it looked like months). Sometimes, I was not even leaving the house for few days.
But I have absolutely no regrets as I travelled via the intellect, discovered treasures and had fulfilling personal and professional exchanges with my classmates. I was delighted to read about intercomprehension and francophonie, something that I do see for real, here in Canada. I was a bit disappointed by some grades but I am very demanding toward myself… But I passed my semester, which is great news.
I had a great pleasure to work on intercompréhension with a classmate sharing the same point of view than me about integrating disabilities in the global curriculum. Intercompréhension is an approach promoting the exposure of many foreign languages at the same time in order to understand the general structure of a language. In a nutshell, understanding the concept of a language thanks to a wide selection of them. This topic was fascinating by itself. But we had to analyze it with the help of another lesson plan. I more or less randomly picked one about comparing languages and Braille. We also had a glance at another one about sign language.
When my mood was down recently, I went to the Alliance française library for a good dive and I got a book that my mom was reading at that time, David Foenkinos’s Le Mystère Henri Pick. I love graphic novels so I got one called ‘La différence invisible’ (The Invisible Difference). I was intrigued by this title. It was about Asperger syndrome, not very known in France yet. I also got one for my Masters about francophonie.
I also went to the Vancouver Public Library downtown and I literally fell in love with it. The building is huge and very nice. They even have a audio and video recording studio and editing computers. I got few books: Margaret Atwood’s The Heart Goes Last. I want to explore the Canadian literature so I picked a big name. I heard about her via the Handmaid's Tale but I have not seen it yet as I hate the media buzz around it.
I love words so much. I love to play Scrabble (in French). I browsed Facebook, looking for partners for a game in February…
I will also be back as a journalist and I love this idea! I will write for the bilingual newspaper The Source. You will be able to read my first articles from January 2020!
A new start. The set is not new for me. I’m starting a lot in my life. Hopefully, it will be the right one this time. I hope to live at least two years at the same time. I must admit that I do fear an administrative refusal (from the Australian experience). But I’m trying to stay positive. I know the process, the budget to allocate to this but the new component is time here in Canada. For the recognition of my education, the official website is stating 20 weeks.
New start, new culture. I am discovering the North American culture. I am feeling like I am going back to an Anglo-Saxon system with its pros and cons, like in anywhere and only from my point of view. Canada is full of promises, regarding employment and quality of life. Job offers are quite interesting. In my field, there is a lot of jobs in…Québec. In Vancouver, during my last three weeks here, I had four interviews, all successful but only for part-time jobs or as contractors. But I must confess that all potential employers were very nice and helpful, trying to give me tips. I have been told about Canadian people; they are lovely and very helpful. So I have a list of employers to call back…once I will have my situation sorted out.
Of course, regulations are not the same and my biggest fear is the quality of food, a recurrent topic on forums, Facebook posts and pages and others French Youtubers. I took the decision, a long time ago, after many investigations as journalist for a nutrition and health website, after my studies in hospitality and after being in touch with people in field of permaculture and other environmental-friendly practices, to live and consume differently.
Looking for a job is a slow process, as always when you are deciding to settle abroad. My biggest challenge is to try to take some distance with my previous experience with immigration and my refusal of visa in Australia.
The ‘Canadian outdoor experience’ (a tiny bit of it, the wilderness will be for later)
Nature is beautiful and accessible in Vancouver. Mountains, with their shy snowy-peaks, are part of the Vancouverites panorama. I was having a walk in a park next to a beach recently and I could see squirrels but also geese and rabbits enjoying their freedom. Another evening, I met a raccoon.
Vancouver had been renamed ‘Raincouver’ by its inhabitants after its abundant and impressive pluviometry. However, until now, I had been very lucky and I had sunny continuous days with spectacular fall colors, as we do imagine them when talking about Canada. It is a bit cold for me but I had been very lucky and not sick for now (which sounds amazing considering the temperatures!). It is only around 10 degrees. Vancouver has the influence of the ocean so it is never really cold.
The city of Vancouver is looking a bit like Melbourne, its Australian relative, on some points. Apparently, the two cities are oftenly compared. But I think they are matching only their climates and topographies. Their vibes are different; Melbourne is more on the cultural side as Vancouver is more family-friendly. I am sometimes feeling nostalgic about Australia and New-Zealand… However, I had found this good old charm of ‘op’ shops’, here called ‘thrift shops’. The same good old smell of untouched wardrobe, the same kindness of staff, the same incredible clothes (or other items)… In France, this practice is still a bit taboo. I did not really lived in France for a while but from what I can see, this new tendency to ‘recycle’ clothing is more online, as if we were ashamed to go in a proper shop (in France, there are mostly owned by a charity called Emmaüs) , as it is seen as ‘being poor’ and in France, it is still a taboo to be poor… Different cultures…
I am trying to keep good habits and to do sport regularly. However, I tried to run one morning but my lungs disagreed with this practice. Icy-cold air in them was like a jab for all impulsive desire to do some outdoor footing. I never hiked yet, the weather being too cold and the ice and snow starting to appear, making the trails dangerous. However, I have heard about hiking groups and around me, I have people interested in hiking (for sure, I will never go on my own, I don’t want to be a snack for bears).
First Canadian celebration
I celebrated Thanksgiving within a lovely family and community. At first, I was a bit reluctant to celebrate an event, I thought, being the celebration of a genocide (in France, it is sometimes considered as such) , similar to Australia Day (link) in Australia. But I decided to leave aside any preconceived idea. We all have some. It was the opportunity to think further about preconception and mental conditioning: education, society. In France, unfortunately, North America is depicted as the bad example. On the contrary, I met very open-minded and respectful people. I discovered a celebration based on gratefulness, a value very close to my heart. Everybody (out of almost 30 people!) had to mention someone or something they were grateful about. I thought it was all about sharing and communion.
Masters a day, Masters…forever
As I am settling, I am also studying at the same time. Once again, I really appreciate the chance I have to study and I am very grateful to the opportunity I have to study at this level for this price, as I know the local fees for studies. I am a bit sad that these studies are only two years…
This year, I am daring to offer my application to be the student representative and member of the comity for improvement of the program. I am taking a new direction in being more involved for the community in general. As teenager, I was very shy and the idea of putting myself forward in order to speak for others gave me the impression that is was only about ego but with time, experiences and thoughts, it seems that it is the right time to apply in real life more than ever my values and convictions in being the spoke person. I also want to try out more group activities like curling for example. This true blue Canadian activity involves a team, bowls, boules, shuffleboard and ice… Interesting!
I think I would be eligible to a program helping me to fit the Canadian Education system at one of the local Universities and I do understand it would be helpful but it would cost about 55000$ for one year, not really fitting my budget for now…
Cowardice and narrow-minded vision
Recently, someone (man or woman), posted an ‘interesting’ comment about my last post in Malaysia. I have found it ‘interesting’ in a way as this person sounds potentially frustrated, jealous or having a quite boring life to have enough time to write such a comment on a blog that is not read by a lot of people. Coward would be the middle name of this person, using a pathetic pseudonym. Oh well, enough emphasis on someone who probably does not know what ‘emphasis’ means… Oh, and before closing the case, I am finding quite sad to think that we do ‘possess’ (‘have’, avoir in French) human beings (and it is already touchy for animals for me); ‘to have children’. To conceive children is a very personal choice.
My last post in Malaysia was announcing a new project. Unfortunately, it had been suspended for now, as I was busy with many things. But it is still going on in my mind and should come to life at one point. Stay tuned!