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?