Sunday, 9 December 2012

Weihnachten, Weihnachten.

Weihnachten (ie. Christmas) is going to be the topic of this week's post, and well it should be! As I may have mentioned, the Germans do Christmas in a BIG way - none of this waiting-for-the-week-before business, as soon as gets wintry (and I'm talking the middle of November here), these guys start preparing the way for a good bit of Christmas cheer. It started subtly, with a few lights in the town centre, then developed into displays in all the shops, then the candles that began appearing everywhere (and I mean everywhere!), then came the Christmas trees on the lamp posts (see last post). Now we've got the whole shebang, with Christmas markets (Weihnachtsmärkten) on every corner and ice rinks being all the rage. It even snowed the other day!

I have, of course, been throwing myself into this Christmas spirit whole-heartedly. I was lucky enough   to receive a hand-made advent calendar from Oma, with a little present to unwrap each morning - only for family members, apparently - what a privilege! Then, there was St. Nikolaustag on the 6th of December - St Nic decides to pop over a bit earlier in Germany- got to get round everyone, I suppose - and not only that, but he uses shoes instead of stockings to leave his gifts in. So, I was woken up very early on Wednesday morning to go and check out the rather lovely pile of presents waiting in my old walking boot - lucky I didn't get coal really, they definitely weren't polished up to German standards! This weekend was the big event -Kläschen - Lemgo's answer to a Christmas fair, and the social highlight of the year for many locals, apparently! Now I'm trying to make it to as many Christmas Markets as possible, to soak up the atmosphere and enjoy a bit of Glühwein, Bratwurst and gebrannte Mandeln (caramelised almonds) - mmm, lecker!

This ridiculously extended Christmas period is rather charming, particularly as it gives the impression that it's the Christmas holidays from about the 1st week of December. The only problem with that being, of course, when you still have to go to work! And there is the worry that, after all this Christmas activity, that one would just get rather tired of the Yuletide fever - but, after all's said and done, I'll have to admit, I'm a massive fan. Looking forward to the next Weihnachtsmarkt!

p.s. I almost forgot - we brought a bit of the British Christmas spirit along and made mince pies the other day! Photos are to be seen on Facebook (as they are of all the other events - feel free to peruse =])

Tuesday, 27 November 2012

The Germans take Christmas very seriously...

...which is great, and I intend to profit from it wholeheartedly! Expect more about this in the next few weeks =]
N.b.: My host family have already started the Christmas baking - they made about 100 biscuits the other day and there's still more to come!

Sunday, 25 November 2012

The Trials of a Traveller

My goodness, it has been a while since I last posted. There are two main reasons for this: one, life has not drastically changed in the past few weeks, and two, I have not been at home very often! Since Heidelberg I have been variably in Dortmund, Amsterdam (woo!), Paderborn, Aachen, Düsseldorf and Essen. Not a bad list, I find!

This is all very exciting and I've been learning such a lot and meeting amazing people along the way. Sometimes I feel like I'm in an adventure story (you know, discovering new nations and such like), only without the massive sail boats and fisherman's beards and scurvy... you know what I mean. The only thing about adventure stories is that there's always a moment where the hero is finding things tough and has a short moment of doubt before normally receiving some kind of magical inspiration and continuing on to save the day in spectacular fashion. This is about where I am at the moment. I mean, I'm not about to throw in the towel (far from it!), but I am feeling some sort of travel weariness - the constant upheaval, not being at home (and yes, I do consider my flat in Lemgo home now too), and not being able to have those heart-warming little chats over coffee with old friends.

But, things are not so bad! God has been good to me in blessing me with great friends here, a good church, a loving family (at home in the UK and here in Germany), and a rather exciting life to lead (I mean, I'm going to Paris next weekend! Who can complain about that?). So, all in all, nicht schlecht, as the Germans would say. I would appreciate prayer though, if you can spare a moment - for me and the others on their years abroad who are sometimes finding things a bit much =]

So, until next time - much, much love,
Nat xxx

p.s. Oh, I did forget one slightly drastic thing that happened within the past two weeks - I had my hair cut off! OK, so not entirely, but there's a fair chunk of it gone - I like it! Feel free to Facebook stalk if you wish to see the Frisör in its full glory...

Normality...(or not)

Having read Hannah Garside's latest, along with a couple of other year abroad blogs, it seems that now is the point at which life overseas is starting to feel like normality for many of us. This 'normality' has several distinct effects - principally, that many things which seemed alien to us at the beginning are now becoming as second nature  - for example:

Being able to pay separately at restaurants/cafés - a very useful little device that means the waiter/waitress does all those awkward little sums that you inevitably get wrong anyway and never have the right change for...

Deciding who to say 'du' to and who to say 'Sie' to - the tricky concept of, basically, who to be polite to (Sie) or not (du). If you're someone's friend you don't have to be polite (no Sies there), but if they're older than you you probably do, but if they're a bit more modern they might ask you to 'duz' them (pronounced 'doots' - yes, really) and might be a little bit offended that you were so polite to them (makes them feel old). Ok, I'll be honest, I haven't quite got this one down yet.

Being waited on in pubs - I do love this one, just an excuse to be lazy really. I'm sure I'm going to forget to go up to the bar at all when I go back to the UK.

...and finally riding a bike on the right hand side of the road, while having cars and even pedestrians stop for you, who aren't angry when you ring your bell to tell them to get out of the way!

However, there are still some things I'll never understand: namely, always opening the window (bad air apparently), even when it's freezing cold outside and you're required to put your jacket on to counter to rush of cold air that blasts into the room when you do so!

Also wearing jeans to go out. I am currently undecided on this matter - it does make things a heck of a lot easier to prepare (spontaneous clubbing plans can occur within half an hour of their conception), but where are the party dresses? I do actually like getting dressed up every once in a while!

Having to pay to go to the toilet. Not in the house (obviously!), but in public toilets there's always a charge of 50 cents, which you have to put in a little machine (like a ticket barrier) before it will let you through. Madness!

The sum total of all this German-ness is that I am actually starting to forget English words! It took me ten minutes yesterday to think of the word for 'tug-of-war', and I gave up trying to work out what 'meringue' was in the end and had to look it up. Not that these are particularly important words (you  never know!), but this is distinctly worrying - I'm hoping it doesn't go further, otherwise I'll get to the end of the year and not even be able to remember my own name. Helga, anyone?

p.s. There's a great list of Germanisms that someone else made on their year abroad a couple of years ago - pretty factually correct, if not exactly scientifically observed.... Have a peek:

Sunday, 28 October 2012


Busy Times!

Life has suddenly got rather busy! What with going back to school, two family visits and the never-ending appearance of more activities (e.g. a dance class that said it was going to be ballroom but ended up being rather more hip-hop - don't think I'll be heading back there again!), I am definitely keeping myself occupied. Several particular highlights:

Watching my cousins with my host family all picking apples together off the trees in the back garden - with a special long-length apple-picker, no less (amazing!).

Having a French-speaking session in my new favourite café, Moccaklatsch in Bielefeld, with other assistants in the area (some of them French, some not) - and then getting very confused when we had to speak to the waiter in German!

Coming back from a day out with my sister at night, only to discover that my usually-quiet town had a late-night shopping event going on and the whole high street was lit up with candles, with the smell of Glühwein in the air (that Christmas feeling is starting already).

Going round and enjoying live music in several pubs in Lemgo with my sister and several friends last night - a lovely, chilled-out evening (with some 70s rock to end the night well!).

I am starting to become rather fond of my lovely little German town =]

Half-Term Holidays

The last two weeks have been school holidays (yes, two whole weeks for autumn half term!), and school holidays means travels! I have several colleagues who went for the rather adventurous destinations of Rio and New York, but I went for the slightly closer but no less worthy German cities: Berlin and Heidelberg. It's been a mad couple of weeks, and one to make me realise how ridiculously lucky I am to be doing this year abroad, assistantship, degree and all it entails!

My impressions of Berlin: constantly changing scenery thanks to the never-ending re-building of the city that's going on; never-ending nightlife thanks to the 24-hour clubs that stay open all weekend (we didn't stay that long, thankfully!); and the ever-changing faces of the people we had to share a room with in the youth hostel (some more welcome than others...).

Heidelberg was a little different - a beautiful old city right in the middle of Germany with a ridiculous amount of students!

I have thoroughly enjoyed these last couple of weeks seeing friends, meeting new ones and having adventures. It was only at one point, as I was (mildly) stranded in the middle of Heidelberg at night with nowhere to sleep and no way of getting back home that I began to appreciate the distance between myself and home. With a world full of so many people, I am truly grateful for those God-given relationships that fill my life and give it warmth. Life is precious!

p.s. I found somewhere to stay and a way of getting back home (eventually!). Thanks Abbii!

Monday, 22 October 2012


Having survived a week full of perils, possibilities and (im)practicalities, I have had a few minor revelations. Nothing new, just old chestnuts God had to put back on my heart. Story of the week has to be the tale of the Semesterticket:

So, the concept of the Semesterticket is simple - a card that will let me get around the whole of my (not unsubstantial) region for free! However, the actual getting of the Semesterticket was rather more complicated than that. Firstly, I had to enrol myself at the local Uni. So far so good. Then, I had to wait around for a bill from the University so that I could pay my tuition fees and become an official student there. First bump in the road - I had no money to pay with because I hadn't got paid yet. This was sorted out by some very kind people at my school, who decided that me having no money was not actually very nice, and proceeded to lend me some from the school funds (thanks guys!). So, all moneyed-up, I could then pay my tuition fees and get the card, right? Not so fast. Admittedly, the next problem was partly my fault, but that doesn't make it any less stressful - I went to the bank to pay in and transfer this money, and the next morning when I looked - I couldn't find my bank card! Stress and panic ensued, particularly as the next day was a bank holiday so I couldn't go back and ask if I'd left my card at the bank until the next day (which I had). Forgetful, me? Never! Anyway, so, next step down, I decided to ring the Uni to see if I could pick up my Semesterticket in person, as this would (hopefully) speed up the process a little. After several failed attempts (which included me blurting out all my problems to a rather bemused civilian - wrong number - oops!), I managed to get through and talk to the international student office. As it transpires, the ticket comes in three parts, one of which is the student card, one of which a sticker to stick on the student card, and one a separate paper card, which is… the Semesterticket! I'm sure they do this on purpose. So, I headed off to the Uni to pick up my student card. Got sent back because they wouldn't let me have it without a passport (apparently driving licences aren't good enough here). A few days later I managed to go and pick up my card (with the right ID this time!), but I still had to wait for the other two parts of the card to come through the post, which I am still waiting on. Oh, Germany!

After all this, I have come to realise that, despite the amazing wealth of possibilities out there, there are still some things that are out of human control (or at least mine!). This is actually quite a relief. Despite the power we have as the great human race (can you tell I've been watching Doctor Who?), some things are just beyond our control. Some people call this chance - I think it goes deeper than that.

A quick Bible verse that sums up my thoughts:
'For I know the plans I have for you,' declares the Lord, 'plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.'

Sunday, 30 September 2012

Choices, choices.

Week three of my German adventure (already!!), and things are starting to get philosophical again. I have been thinking (I have quite a lot of thinking time at the minute), and at this point in my life I have come to the conclusion that never before have I been presented with so many choices. The thing about being on your own in another country, in another culture, with a lot of free time, means that you are very much in charge of your own life, and have to make decisions accordingly. Having never been much of a decision-maker (ask my parents!), I am finding this rather new - but exciting! I'm now realising the power that comes with decision-making, and at the moment I have the opportunity to really use this time to do something interesting. But this also requires a fair amount of energy - I often underestimate the effort it takes to always organise your own activities (especially in another language), and the temptation is often to stay at home, wrapped-up warm with my duvet and hot-water bottle (and possibly some Kuchen alongside...). Hey ho. It's a good challenge, and one I'll take on with pleasure. We'll see what comes out in half a year's time!

Wednesday, 26 September 2012

Lemgo City!

First lesson.

A quick anecdote:
My first lesson - and what a disaster! It was actually a cover lesson, so all I had to do was say hi (in English), and put a film on for the class to watch. Simple, right? Not quite as smooth as all that! First, all was well - we set it up, I pressed play, the laptop was working, the projector was projecting, the speakers were... speaking. Then it all went a little stir crazy. The projector decided it was too hot and turned itself off. The laptop decided it was too tired and went back to sleep. The speakers, thankfully, were still performing, but unfortunately, due to the tired laptop, they were beeping quite loudly every 5 seconds or so. And I had a class of about 30 students sitting in front of me, expecting me to do something about it! I took the situation in hand and decided that, instead of making myself look stupid and faffing about with overheated projectors and what like, I was going to do something I knew how to do - talk! In an English class, that's a pretty legit. way of passing the time. So, we had a nice chat about Uni life and UK pubs (apparently one o' clock is shockingly early for closing time). And then a very helpful student came back with a new projector and new laptop and very kindly fixed everything for me! Good times. Phew, first lesson managed! What an experience!

Eine interessante Woche.

How has life continued? Hmm, hard to pinpoint exactly what has changed, but things are definitely different to how they were last week. Things develop at a slower pace here than they did in France - I have to keep reminding myself 'Relax! You're here for six months!'. One thing that I have noticed: I can now manage getting up at 6 in the morning much better than before! I'm pretty sure I'll never get used to it, but I can bear it now a little more. Another thing - it's strange, to be starting from scratch again in yet another foreign country, but a lot of things have stayed with me (the accent, for example - see last post!). My attitude towards people and situations as well - I know now that if there's an opportunity that presents itself, grab it! And that sometimes you have to go out and make your own luck - otherwise I would be tempted to just sit at home and watch TV (although we have started watching Doctor Who together - but I count that as intercultural education, don't you?). All in all, things are getting there. But it is tiring to always make your own way - so prayer for energy, courage and strength (as always) - beginnings are hard, but I see many opportunities on the horizon!

p.s. One of these is to start playing volleyball - I have totally joined a volleyball group and plan to be amazing by the time February comes around! Unfortunately, at the moment my play leaves much to be desired...

Sunday, 16 September 2012

Das Leben beginnt.

So, week number two in Germany! And, quite aside from all the Buttermilch, Gurken and Bratwurst that I've been trying out (some more successfully than others), this week has been one of new experiences and settling in to my life here in fair Deutschland. I have now spent a week at my new school, successfully been introduced to about half of the teachers (and promptly forgotten all their names again), been on a tour of my town and even got a bike (a necessity for anyone who wants to be truly German)! Although here I am anything but truly German - I speak English at school in lessons, I spend time with language assistants from Britain, Ireland, America, France and Spain and apparently I now talk German with a French accent! All that time spent trying not to sound British in France and now I just can't help sounding French... gah! I have also been invited to several local activities by some of my colleagues - a very busy schedule at present but I think it is a good way to begin.

Life is gradually taking shape.

Sunday, 9 September 2012

Deutschland, Deutschland

As you may have guessed, I am now in Germany! It's been a while since I last wrote because so much has been going on, I hope you can forgive me for not having the time to write when I had three days in the UK to sort out everything I needed to go on the the next country (which I didn't quite manage, you won't be surprised to hear). I was trying to count how many different beds I've slept in in the past three weeks, and I think the count is somewhere up to 6, at least. Thank goodness things are starting to calm down a bit!

So, a quick summary of my life so far:

In the UK I spent a lovely few days with my family and friends, celebrating various occasions and even managing a cheeky trip to the Olympic Stadium for the Paralympic Games, which was a great experience. I even started to feel a bit normal again - however, that didn't last very long! I was soon whisked off to the airport on a flight to Cologne to start with an introductory course in Altenberg for my new job as an English language assistant in a German secondary school. Great few days there getting to know all the other assistants in the area - there's a lot of us (and from all over the world!) - and generally preparing ourselves for what is to come. Then we were all schlepped back to Cologne, and I made the journey over to my new home town for the next six months, Lemgo (feel free to look it up - not even German people know where it is…). I am here with what seems to be the loveliest German family in the world (others may argue but I'm sure they can't be far off), and gradually adjusting myself to life the German way. Judging by what everyone asks me, what seems to be important here is sport, religion, work/education, and bikes! Oh, and coffee and cakes (Kaffee und Kuchen), which I have taken as my new motto. No wonder sport is so important when the cakes here are so good! So, all is well for the minute - we'll see how things go in the next week or so. For all who wish it, I am now Skype connected and you are also welcome to visit, whenever you have the urge! Just let me know =]

Till next time.
Much love,
Nat xxx

In Limbo-Land

Music - C2C - Down the Road.

So, here we are! I'm on the ferry with my family, soon to return the not-so-distant shores of my homeland, adding another few precious hours to my travel total of 21 hours in transit this past week. And I do feel a little like a cargo shipment at the minute. Not in a negative way -  this in-between time has really been a chance to clear my head and sort my thoughts out (and boy, did they need sorting!) - but I do feel a little displaced. I'm sure this is pretty normal for someone who has spent two months living the lifestyle of a crazy, French children's entertainer and then suddenly finds herself in the midst of her very British (and very lovely!) family. I'm even having difficulty getting random French phrases out of my head - worrying… Having expected a slight return to normal life at this point in the proceedings, and having not really got it, I have come to the realisation that I, in fact, no longer have a normal life! This fact is both exciting and rather worrying, but in any case is sure to continue, as I head off to Germany on Monday to start my latest adventure. Slight feelings of anticipation, but mostly just wanting to get there and begin all over again. And it will be completely different again, of that I am sure. Please pray that I manage to get everything organised in this (very!) short time that I have to sort myself out. Your support is invaluable to someone who is feeling a little rootless <3 xxx

Monday, 20 August 2012

Overwhelmingly Everything

So, yet another week has passed at the beautiful Côte d'Azur and I am left with just seven more days of my adventure here in France. At the moment, I can't decide if I want to stay or I want to leave - I love the madness here, but you can only live madness for so long without actually going insane! At the moment, I have so many thoughts going round in my head I have difficulty separating them - hence the non-specific title to this post. Let me explain:

My two perspectives regarding my time here are thus:
I love the excitement that comes from working with children - the imagination, the noise, the giddiness. I love the friends that I've made here, the social life, which is non-stop, and the fact that when I walk down the road here I can say hi to the waiters/receptionists/life guards/trapezists/cyclists etc., etc., and I know them as friends. I love the weather (except this ridiculous heatwave), and the fact that when we go out in the evening, we can casually just stroll down to the beach - just amazing. Also, I love the challenge that comes from pushing myself to be stronger, better, more imaginative every day... and finally, I love that all of this happens in French, and I happen to be part of it!

However, there are also things that I don't enjoy quite as much. When I get tired (which is often), I lack the motivation to challenge myself in the way that I want to. Also, that way it becomes harder to socialise - either I can't concentrate on the conversation, or I just can't understand what's being said! Another thing - I miss church. I miss being with a group of people that believe deeply in their hearts that Jesus is love and that God's way is the best way to live your life, no matter what the cost. The culture here is pretty secular - in terms of drink, sex, etc. - which is difficult for me - I struggle without someone to call me to account in what I believe, and sometimes I find myself accepting things that I don't necessarily like, or even agree with at all. And, lastly, I miss my friends and family. This summer has made me appreciate those close friends with whom there is a deep level of mutual understanding - I have had the luck to have made these kinds of friends in the UK (you know who you are), and I hope to make more in the future - but for the moment I have to be content with what I have, which is a large group of lovely people who I like spending time with, and who like spending time with me (I hope!).

So, to sum up, I have loved my time here, and I appreciate every minute that God has given me, but I think I am ready to leave. I will never forget my summer in La Belle France - and perhaps I'll come back next year! Who knows? I'll just have to wait and see!

Sunday, 12 August 2012

Nearing the finish line.

Not sure exactly what to write this week - it's been a bit of a blur. In fact, even when I try to think of what I've done, I can't bring to mind straight away what's happened! OK, so there was:

1. My move to the Juniors - an interesting one, that. I can't say that I didn't miss the Kids (the team in particular), but the Juniors do know how to have fun! Water fights, ultimate frisbee, Jungle Speed (yes, I said it), doing surfing on a belly board along a wet tarpaulin covered in soap... I can't think of a day where I managed to stay dry! Also, the kids are hilarious! We had many a discussion centred around which team-member was going out with who (oh, the scandal!), who they found the most attractive, etc. etc. Brilliant.

2. My gradually creeping-on tiredness... I definitely made the most of this week in terms of socialising, etc. (finally managing to do so), but as a result this leaves me rather lacking in sleep and in the claws of an energy deficit. And, working with children, energy is something that is needed in abundance! I have realised (again) the necessity to take some time out now and then, pray, sleep, relax, just be - not very easy when you're surrounded by the buzz that goes on here. Also, for those who know me, I do not deal very well with fatigue (in fact, I become rather bizarre...). So, this week I have decided to chill out a bit, look after myself, listen to what God (and my body!) is saying to me and prepare for the next couple of weeks - where I will be heading off to Germany before I know it! This leads me on to the final point:

3. Trying to find myself (without wanting to sound pretentious). In the battle between acting like an outgoing adventurer who doesn't care if she makes a few slip-ups and the slightly more reticent character who wants every sentence to be well-formulated in her head before it comes out of her mouth, I find that the line between the two is getting less and less distinguished. This is great, as it obviously means that things are starting to come more naturally to me, but it also presents me with the strange question: which one is me? I have come to the conclusion that I am therefore both and neither. Both, because both of these characters come from me, and it is I who have 'created' them, as such. Neither, because my true character lies somewhere in-between the two - somewhere between mad extrovert and striving perfectionist - and it is up to me to find out where. So, without wanting to turn schizo, I simply have to accept these different versions of me (of which there will be even more once I move to Germany, I'm sure!), take what I've learnt from each, and wait to see what comes next. Perhaps this is what is meant by Isaiah 64:8: 'We are the clay, and you are the potter.' - there is definitely something about being moulded by God's hands that rings true for me in this situation.

So there you go: my week in rather more than 100 words. I hope you found it interesting -  just a quick call for prayer for the next couple of weeks, in preparation for moving back to the UK and then on to Germany in a very short space of time. Also, just that I can really benefit from/bless others during my last two weeks here - it's been quite a journey so far, and long may it continue!

Monday, 6 August 2012

MDR (aka LOL)

MISTAKES: A few awkward language errors that I've made so far, if you want a laugh -
Saying 'j'aime les bisous' (kiss on the lips) in place of 'bises' (kiss on the cheek). That conversation took a rather unexpected turn!
Saying 'cul' when working with the children… right up until I was told by our team leader that, apparently, it was a leetle bit rude! Rough translation: arse  =/. Slightly inappropriate, that.

All Change!

So, after a week of walking the fine line between icy cold and over-friendly, I think I have managed to work it out: basically, you have to make it dead obvious if you like someone - if not, it's all fun and games! No worries there.

So, this week - everything is starting to change! The fact that I've been here already for a month (which makes me halfway through my placement here), added to the fact that my housemate went back home last weekend, and there are even more people leaving soon - it makes me realise that I really don't have long left here at all. What's more, I've been moved to a different club this week - instead of being with the Kids, I'm with the Juniors - bye bye littlies! It definitely doesn't do to get too comfortable here - before you know it, everything is different again. I suppose that's a lesson in life - never take things for granted. Things change!

On a different note, as my spoke French improves, people are starting to notice less and less that I'm a foreigner. Obviously, I still have an English accent, but either it's becoming less noticeable or people just care less! This gives me an interesting opportunity - I can either tell people that I'm British, or I can carry on without mentioning it, and stick with the French. However, I'm finding that, more often than not, I choose to tell people where I'm from - and I'm proud of it! Why not? We have the les J.O. (Olympics), London, the Queen, Adele (who they LOVE here!), Ed Sheeran, etc. etc. Vive l'Angleterre!

Culture Challenge

Disclaimer: Apologies for the long delay, it's been a busy couple of weeks! Here are two posts for the price of one, just to make up for it =D

I'll start my post this week with a quote from my dear friend Annie: God has sent you out and put you in an incredible place, and remember he never gives us more than we can bear. And indeed, this is true. I have spent my week trying to be as friendly as I can, and I seem to have managed it. There are still times when I have passed by an opportunity to chat, but all in all, I'm happy with the progress I've made. Thanks God! So, next challenge... 

The problem about being really friendly is that it is very easy to give the wrong impression. From what I have seen, the French are very tactile and rather flirty. The dilemma: if I stick to my roots and act like an English girl, I come across rather reserved and quite cold. However, if I go native and try to act like a frog (not literally, obvs), it's very difficult to discern where the line is between just being friendly and being a bit over-friendly, if you know what I mean. Which, all in all, tends to make things a little awkward! I have to admit, it's a bit like being 13 again, having to learn all the rules and social etiquette that comes with the teenage years. Oh la la. So, what to do?

Sunday, 22 July 2012

The Night at the Museum.

Taking the Initiative

Wow, another week has already passed and I'm still not quite sure how - time goes so quickly here! I would say that things are settling down, which they are, but at the same time, each week God brings a new challenge to test my confidence/abilities/trust in Him. This week, it has been all about taking the initiative.

Now, to explain, you probably all know that I am a reasonably confident person, happy with myself and the person God has made me to be, but I am not the most outgoing, forward-thinking person in the world (for example, if someone says: 'Hey guys, I've got a great idea - let's do this!', it's not normally me). However, due to the circumstances, I am finding more and more that this is exactly what's required of me. If I want people to talk to me, and make friends, and do exciting things (all of which is obviously true), I have to talk to them, and make friends, and think of exciting things to do. All this might seem ridiculously obvious to those reading this post, but for me it's something I'm still working on! It is also doubly important in a culture where I am, essentially, an outsider - there are many similarities between French and British culture, but the differences are becoming more prominent as I am starting to work out where people are coming from and what attitudes they have towards life in general. My current target is to be continuously pushing the boat out, talking to people even when I feel fed-up/tired/shy/embarrassed of my very English accent (delete as appropriate). And when I do, good things happen! French people are actually quite nice, after all...

So for all of you who are giving me prayer support (for which I am incredibly grateful), I would just ask you to pray for strength, courage and confidence in Christ - that way, I can walk out with my head held high and take the initiative whenever I'm called to do so. Or at least, that's the plan!

Until next time!
Much love xxxx

p.s. I am well aware that there are many details that I have failed to mention in this week's post - for those who are interested, there are photos on Facebook, and I'll try to include more next week (but I make no promises!).

Sunday, 15 July 2012

A Snapshot.

Note: It's usually more sunny than this!

Taking on the Challenge

Ok, so it's day eleven and here I am, trying to think of a way to sum up the last seven days in one short paragraph. It's quite hard! I finished my last post with work, so I'll start there and see where I end up. Work here is great fun - every day there's something new, many excited children and a lot of dressing up (pirates, anyone?)! The great thing about children is that they don't care that you aren't French - they just go ahead and speak anyway. I've had many a child come up to me, jabbering excitedly about something or other, and as long as I nod and look interested, they seem to be happy. The difficulty comes when I have to give instructions - the accent is hard enough when you're speaking to one person, but a group of 30? Quite a challenge! But a challenge I can take. I am really enjoying this new stretching of my capabilities, and it's definitely never boring. I even had to translate from French to German for most of the days this week for a little German girl called Lily! In short, the work this week has been incredibly tiring but incredibly rewarding.

On to of that, there's the nightlife. I think I'm going to have to continue, as there's still a lot to be said - I hope you don't mind that this post is a bit longer than the previous two. As nearly everyone lives here at the holiday village, there is a lot of opportunity to meet people and make friends with the other 'animateurs' (and others). In addition, we are right near the beach, so there is a pretty good opportunity to go down to 'la plage', or even 'la crique' (WordReference tells me that this is a cove) to do a bit of socialising! The language is rather more difficult when it is dark/noisy/full of people, so I am quite often a silent bystander, but I'm getting there on the talking front - at least they tell me my accent is 'mignon' (cute) - a little patronising but positive all the same. I have also made friends with a Spanish girl called Lara, so quite often I end up spending the night talking in two or three different languages!

OK, I think that's enough for now. I'll tell you all about the people here, and the events that are put on, and perhaps that fact that I've signed up to be in a show (!) next week. That is, unless something else momentous happens that I don't know about yet. Oh, and we are going to have another resident in our little flat this afternoon (Marion), so I shall have to tell you all about her. Until then - farewell - au revoir!

Saturday, 7 July 2012

And so, the journey begins.

Only a few days in, but it seems a long time ago now that I was sitting in my bedroom writing my first post. It's not just the distance that separates me from that place now. The over-packed suitcase is gone, now my surroundings are quite different - I am in a white, reasonably big, slightly dirty kitchen with a large bay window at the front, looking out onto a paved courtyard, from which I can see the rolling hills of the Côte d'Azur, and hear the cicadas as they sing (very loudly!). An idyllic setting, really. And I can't complain - I feel that God has truly blessed me in these first few days of my stay here in France, and I hope that He continues to do so! There have ben a few teething problems (like the fact that I arrived, exhausted and rather sweaty, to be greeted with a very confused employer who wanted to know why I was here several days too early for my shift!), but these are massively outweighed by the gifts that God has given me - a friendly, helpful flatmate called Marie (who seems to know everyone!), a reasonably active social life, and of course, a few days to settle in and explore. It's still a challenge to understand everything that people are saying, and I am yet to build up the confidence to really step out and lead a conversation, but hopefully this will come with time. I look forward to the challenges that the next few days will bring me, as I start work on Monday, and pray for confidence in tackling them head-on. This was not a bad beginning!

Tuesday, 3 July 2012

Traveller's Playlist

1. Goodbye England (Covered In Snow) 3:45 Laura Marling I Speak Because I Can
2. You Belong To Me 2:41 Jason Wade Shrek
3. Other Side Of The World 3:35 KT Tunstall Eye To The Telescope
4. Everything Is New 4:00 Jack Peñate Everything Is New
5. Do What You Do 4:17 Noah And The Whale Peaceful, The World Lays Me Down
6. Fill My Little World (Edit) 3:39 The Feeling Fill My Little World - EP
7. Feel To Follow 3:29 The Maccabees Given To The Wild
8. To Ohio 3:18 The Low Anthem Oh My God, Charlie Darwin
9. I Go I Go I Go 3:12 Wave Machines Wave If You're Really There (Bonus Track Version)
10. Leaving Blues 2:58 Bombay Bicycle Club Flaws
11. Die Stadt 3:36 Klee Die Stadt - Single
12. Uummannaq Song 3:39 KT Tunstall Tiger Suit
13. Travelling the Face of the Globe 3:48 Oi Va Voi Travelling the Face of the Globe
14. C'est Ma Terre 3:51 Christophe Maé Mon Paradis
15. Sweetest Goodbye 4:31 Maroon 5 Songs About Jane
16. I'm Leavin' You 3:00 Howlin' Wolf AS Set Works 08/09
17. Eres Todopoderoso 5:22 Danilo Montero Danilo (En Vivo)
18. Everytime We Say Goodbye 3:33 Ella Fitzgerald That's Jazz (Disc 2)
19. You're All I Need To Get By 2:50 Marvin Gaye & Tammi Terrell Capital Gold Soul Classics
20. Take Back The City 4:40 Snow Patrol A Hundred Million Suns
21. City Machine (Single Edit) 3:34 Leo Abrahams City Machine - Single of the Week
22. Can't Go Home 3:02 Good Old War Can't Go Home - Indie Spotlight Free Download
23. I Gotta Go 3:05 Robert Earl Keen I Gotta Go - Single
24. Long Way From Home 3:11 Oi Va Voi Travelling the Face of the Globe
25. Adios Adios (Farewell, Farewell) 4:25 Salsa Celtica El Agua De La Vida
26. Blowin' In The Wind 2:49 Bob Dylan The Collection
27. Wherever You Will Go 3:29 The Calling Camino Palmero
28. Canaan's Land 3:54 Kate Rusby Little Lights
29. S-Bahn fahren Deluxe 2:24 Ich, Alexander Lieber traurig als wütend
30. Steppin Out 4:40 Electric Light Orchestra Out Of The Blue
31. Englishman In New York 4:27 Sting Fields Of Gold: The Best Of Sting 1984-1994
32. Promised Land (feat. Naomi Davis) 2:38 Naomi Davis & Sugarman Three Songs From the House of Soul Sampler
33. In The City 2:56 Madness Complete Madness
34. Living For The City 3:41 Stevie Wonder The Definitive Collection
35. I've Got The World On A String 3:59 Anita O'Day That's Jazz (Disc 2)
36. This City Never Sleeps 6:40 Eurythmics Sweet Dreams (Are Made Of This)
37. The City 3:55 Ed Sheeran +
38. Build a Life 3:47 Captain This Is Hazelville
39. She Will Be Loved 4:18 Maroon 5 Songs About Jane
40. The Planets Bend Between Us 4:18 Snow Patrol A Hundred Million Suns
41. What A Wonderful World 2:19 Louis Armstrong Essential Songs
42. The Only Living Boy In New York 4:01 Simon & Garfunkel Bridge Over Troubled Water
43. With A Little Help From My Friends 2:44 The Beatles 1967-1970
44. Friends 3:10 Band Of Skulls The Twilight Saga: New Moon
45. Swansea 4:15 Bombay Bicycle Club Flaws
46. Feels Like Home 3:12 Newton Faulkner Hand Built by Robots
47. Piazza, New York Catcher 3:02 Belle & Sebastian Juno
48. Build A Home 3:37 The Feeling Together We Were Made
49. Reaching Out 3:13 Kate Bush The Sensual World
50. Jenny Was A Friend Of Mine 4:04 The Killers Hot Fuss
51. One World (Not Three) 4:47 The Police Ghost In The Machine
52. Peaceful, The World Lays Me Down 6:15 Noah And The Whale Peaceful, The World Lays Me Down
53. Brand New Day 6:20 Sting Brand New Day
54. Set My World On Fire 3:57 The Feeling Together We Were Made
55. New Orleans 3:37 Emmylou Harris New Orleans - Single
56. My Friends 3:58 Laura Marling A Creature I Don't Know
57. Airplanes 3:58 Local Natives Airplanes - Single of the Week
58. Perfect World 3:44 The Cranberries Roses (Extended Version)
59. Dive 3:59 Steven Curtis Chapman Speechless
60. Paper Aeroplane 3:19 KT Tunstall Drastic Fantastic
61. So Good 3:33 B.o.B So Good
62. Bring It On 4:16 Steven Curtis Chapman Declaration

(sorry - I am new to this - can't work out how to do a direct link!)


I am sitting here on my bed, in the midst of chaos - a very full-looking suitcase by my side; a gradually dwindling 'to do' list and a certain nervous feeling that I just can't seem to shake. The reason? I'm moving to France tomorrow! This moment has been a long time coming, in fact many years, as I am a student about to embark on the year abroad that I have been looking forward to since before I came to Uni. Now that it is here, however, everything is a little too real. I am now coming to appreciate the beauty that is in friendship, comfort and homeliness - and how lucky I am to enjoy all three in abundance. However, the show must go on, and a great one it will be too! This year I will be heading to France, Germany and Spain on my travels, and I hope to encounter many fantastic things along the way. This blog is here to document my journey - from la France to Deutschland to España, from hot to middling to cold, from my present self to the person I'll be in 12 months' time (or so). As a Christian, I know that things will change, but I also know that God will be by my side, and that He is powerful and awesome and just pretty amazing really. Also, He has a plan, which is rather handy when you have none! For this, I put this next year into His hands - and I know He will not let me down. In the words of Steven Curtis Chapman, 'Bring It On'!

p.s. If you don't know who Steven Curtis Chapman is, look him up. A brilliant artist, and well worth a listen.