Is it really like this?

As christmas draws closer I find myself getting more and more homesick. I eat more milo, usually in a muddy consistency rather than the packet directions of “recommended milky”. And due to missing my family I have dedicated my christmas, and it’s decorations to my maniac christmas heritage.

My family are those embarrassing Christmas maniacs. You know the ones. They win the christmas outdoor lights AND decoration competition. My mother who is totally petrified of any height above the knee will brave a ladder on our second story veranda (with 35 degrees Celsius heat) in the name of hanging the christmas lights properly. All the while screaming at me to make sure I have an “iron hard hold on that ladder”.

She was also the one that brought lollies for all the kids that walked by the house. Everyone in our little town knew her as the christmas lady. I have, over the years, harboured a secret pride in it all: my mum rocked at christmas. She made it special in ways I can’t explain. There were traditions that I am only starting to realise I follow more religiously than christianity (sorry guys)

Things like the countdown to Christmas. Or our tradition of putting the decorations up on the 1st of December and removing them all on the 1st of January (hangover included). There was also the lolly wreath, candy canes. And my favourite: who would put the star on the Christmas tree this year. It was a rotating basis.
Then there is always the christmas swim. Grandparents and anyone present must swim after Christmas lunch. Plaster casts, wheelchairs, pregnancies and sickness are no excuses. We live in Australia so the heat was a problem, not the cold.

But something I took for granted slipped out of my hands faster than snowflakes melting on my hands. Celebrating Christmas. My husbands family are not Christmassy. In fact, I find them pretty GRINCHY. Last year there was not a single decoration in their house, not even a lost bit of tinsel. And this year when I asked about it, they explained they didn’t have the time. They then continued the conversation saying that Christmas wasn’t really their thing. Wasn’t their thing? WHAT BLOODY FAMILY HAD I MARRIED INTO?

It then came to logger heads a few days afterwards. I had been bugging Seb to buy me a Christmas tree. We were already 3 days past the tradition of decorating. It was bugging me and grating against me mentally in a very horrible way.

So off we go to the supermarket. On a saturday afternoon. He was, We were insane. The crowd in the supermarket was so off putting that I started growling at ladies in the chocolate section looking for an advent calander. Seb had promised to buy me one, so I had held out. Waiting for the purchase. With him there I searched in vain, there wasn’t any left. They had sold out. My mood plummeted….

Then I asked to look at the Christmas trees.
“But I thought we were coming here to buy some food?” Seb asks.
“No I wanted to buy a Christmas tree.” I reply trying to keep my voice steady
“But look at the crowd Nik, we can get a tree on Monday.” He says trying to reason with his homesick expatriate wife. Not an intelligent idea.
I was silent as I worked out that would make it 5 days past my tradition, and the terror was starting to mount. I hate missing a deadline.
“No we need to get one today.” Is all I can manage to say as loud as a mouse.

Back stiff, a sign of frustration, he starts walking away. He ignores my quiet answer and walks out of the store empty handed. As I catch up to him silent tears are trailing down my cheeks. I had already been secretly stockpiling all my christmas decorations. Mum had even sent me some from Australia to start a few of the other traditions. (personallised names on christmas baubles was one of them)

I try one last time to make him understand. Because I cannot understand how you cannot care about Christmas.
“It’s tradition Seb and it’s already past the date. I asked you ages ago, and I’ve asked again. I hate to keep on asking. I just want a christmas tree.”
He looks at me with a great big smile,walks outside and the chill air hits me. With a quick start I realise he is taking me to the real christmas trees, the ones that smell so nice.  AND…
I burst into tears and say “NO” quite loudly. He looks at me like I grew an alien head*.

We turn around and go back to the car. And he is silent as we drive home. My sobs punctuating the french radio commentarie. He finally breaks the silence.
“Nik you wanted a christmas tree, and I was going to buy you a real one”
“But real christmas trees die in Australia.” I wail
“But we live in France Nikki, we can have a real christmas tree, isn’t that better for tradition?”
“No” I growl, “Mum doesn’t have a real christmas tree, in Australia we have fake ones, I want a fake Christmas tree*.”
We continue to head home. Seb shocked into silence.

When we arrive home I go back to my desk. I have a maths unit to complete and it’s bugging me. Seb ducks out for a beer with mates…..
And arrives home with a 2 meter tall christmas tree.
An appropriate response would be thanks. But I burst into tears again. At least this time it’s in gratitude!

But yes, I just want to say I am calmly now following my own christmas celebrations. For the 2nd time ever I have a real white christmas. I am trying to make the most of it. It’s hard the culture shock. The differences of it all. We may see your white christmas in every marketable way but we have had to adapt that to a hot Australian summer in every explainable way. Kids ask a lot of questions!

I continually have to explain that raindeers get a rest in Australia, “Six, snow white boomers” (huge big kangaroos) help Santa. He arrives via the drain pipes not the chimney and he gets beer rather than milk and grass clippings for the Kangaroos. Our stockings filled with lollies and chocolates are found in the fridge because Santa is smart enough to know they will melt!

So maybe I may get a little slice of Christmas. I hope that everyone out there finds a little piece themselves. You just have to remember to hold onto your traditions tight because sometimes that’s what makes it all special!

*Please note here I am aware I sound like a spoilt brat. I just wanted a piece of my home country with me. It was doing weird things to my brain.

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Loosing your mobile phone when moving overseas

Yes,
I did it. More masterful than a masterchef. I lost my mobile a week before moving overseas. Smart cookie aren’t I? And I did it on the day when I planned to book all my last minute things in before I go. BTW to top it off it is in fact a broken mobile that I dearly love.

It’s a wonder I am surviving. I learnt my DOM (dependance on mobile) off a Class A professional: My husband. That thing, better called an Iphone is glued to his hand with cement (Superglue wasn’t good enough). Including into this his DOT(dependance on technology). The particular DOM with his Iphone really topped of my cake. DOT and DOM for me are generally frustrating to say the lease. But really he is french, he is man and therefore he loves gadgets and technology.

Me? I am very nearly a technophobe. To the point it is nearly like green eggs and ham. Normally I would be quite proud to go without the phone. In fact I fell IN LOVE with the book The Winter of Our Disconnect, to the point that I am not wanting a TV in the loungeroom. Much to my husbands distress.

In France I am known as a hopeless phone user except when it comes to the game app flight control which I deliberatly learnt to piss off the husband by beating his score. However my dependance comes from the convienience of a phone call, to shop around, to find out if you are home and just the whole normal communication thing.

So instead I have considered my options to amazing points.

  1. I could turn on my French mobile in Australia and rack up some hefty phone bills in response to the horrible loss of an already broken Aussie phone.
  2.  I could try to buy some skype dollars and call around. But that seems like too much effort.
  3. I could email the people I want information for. Which I did concerning my lost mobile.
  4. I could actually physically go to the shops in person. AMAZING IDEA ISN’T it?

So right now I am signing off and venturing into that scary world. It actually isn’t too hard it’s just a pain in the ass cos it takes so much more time.

a bientot (see ya!)
mignonne (me)

So far so good

Hey everyone,

I’ll give everyone a proper update in the next week about the Visa process for Australian’s going to France, which I promise has more drama than the Bold and Beautiful.

I officially have my Visa in hand. In my passport which has currently been sleeping on my desk since I got it back. I have been too scared to even take the visa to a friends house to show because I am scared I will loose my passport.

I haven’t finished packing but am about to start sorting the last of my odd bits and pieces which includes packing my suitcase and the boxes… GOD I HAVE SO MUCH CRAP THAT I AM THROWING OUT! And so many books that I refuse to be without. When Sebastien wants to cheer me up he literally takes me to a bookshop! Its like bookporn, that’s how much I love books.

Sebastien and I as usual are fighting like cats and dogs. This is the usual process of arrivals. We are a very easy cycle to read. While together we have our ups and downs like every couple. Apart it reads like so…

First phase: Missing the other person like you have lost a limb and or your bestfriend to cancer. I am morbid, cry a lot and generally eat too much chocolate.
Middle phase: Addicted to skype, man hater in general except for the lovely Sebastien. Starting to focus on getting healthy. Starting to appreciate my girly time and making an effort to not let myself go.
Last phase: Being so excited and frustrated at the same time, because you are both so close but so far away. Fighting like cats and dogs. Drinking a lot with mates and partying hard.

Other than that I am preparing to visit my Mumma in the Outback just before I go. Get a real taste of Australia before I leave in the hope that it puts off my homesickness just a little bit longer. And yes I know I will get homesick. I am not pretending this is a holiday. I am going there to live. I already have a mild distrust of French people. You can thank some ex-female friends of Sebastien for that. It’s also the language barrier and the culture that decieves you. You think you understand it. And then BAM! It slaps you in the face for getting too comfortable.

Anyway this packing will not do itself.

Talk Soon

Nik

Prefecture – a complicated word

It doesn’t sound so hard to pronounce right? Try pronouncing it french style when you are angry. It’s complicated all right. As soon as any strong emotion hits me I lose all french language ability and what results its something like a two-year old with horrible pronunciation.

Really, try this, imagine a young woman (aka moi), sitting there flushing red, attempting to produce a recognisable sentence with my pathetic range of vocabulary. I have a slightly panicked and confused look on my face and have curled my hands into those little white knuckled balls. AND I don’t understand a thing. I sit stiffly in the chair while VGT talks with the woman. I try to calm down and concentrate on understanding anything of whats being said. VGT glances at me with a funny look on his face. I must look pretty weird compared to my normal carefree, relaxed Australian style.

I bring this scene up for a very good reason. We are sitting in the office of etrangers (immigrants), at the prefecture. The Prefecture. Will. RULE. My. Visa. Here is the place I come for information, to give information and to get important things like my carte de sejour. Oh, and did I mention that we waited 10minutes for the lady at the desk to finish gossiping to serve us. There was no one else waiting but we still had to stand/sit/shuffle for a designated time. And she looked harassed!

So we are back to me sitting in the chair, my nails are now making pretty crescent shapes in my hand. She is speaking so fast it’s nearly spanish to me. Somehow the conversation is ending because she starts pausing (I am amazing at body language now, after a year in this country I am obliged to learn something ) and after all the hullabaloo of waiting and getting information I don’t understand she finishes with “Mairie”. My ears prick up like a dog hearing a whistle. The mayor, what has he got to do with it all?

As we walk back down the stairs VGT explains that for my carte de sejour we need to get married now by the Marie, and then I return to Australia, wait for my visa AND then come back. If we don’t get married now, I have to return after marriage into Australia to wait for my visa. So another plane ticket, or the extension for the fifth time of the ticket I have now…. Insert the sarcastic AWESOME!

So not only did the woman want me to rush into my marriage, she wanted it in three weeks. And then I had to go back to Australia. I am skeptical as to whether she gets a commission off the airlines too…

As we drive home I start screaming and crying at the same time “I TOLD YOU, I KNEW IT, I TOLD YOU SO!” It all stresses me out. But alas, I have survived my very first encounter with french bureaucracy. I have come out nearly whole, I don’t need a mental institution but I do need tissues…

The problem was I had been under the impression of a Fiance visa, allowing me to move and marry in one big swoop… after double checking different sources it is still possible. She was just… FRENCH.

Prefecture… There. I can write it without wanting to fisty someone in the eye. Don’t ask me to say it just yet. I ask for a little patience (maybe kindness too, the french aren’t too good at that, have you heard their national anthem?) But there, Prefecture. It’ll have to do.

How to explain it all? The basics

I’ll start this bluntly in the hope that it answers the basics quickly and efficiently…

  • I hope to be moving to France in a few months.
  • In the last year I have spent more months here than home in Australia. (Ironically I feel out-of-place back home now.)
  • To state the obvious my partner, VGT, is french. He is a classic geek but with a few quirky areas like surfing and ice-skating. He still loves the odd LAN which contains large doses of aggression at his computer.
  • I am getting married and no it’s not for Visa’s, pregnancy, or money reasons. It’s not to get away from my beautiful Mum and nor is it to get a new citizenship. (Just addressing here all the nasty comments that arrived at the announcement of my engagement.) It is in fact for that universally cliché thing called Love.
  • The French visa application process is interesting,to be nice about it: It’s a complicated bureaucratic mess. Being Australian I hope that I have better chances than a Tunisian.
  • To obtain any form of longstay visa I must return to Australia and then come back to France. (I go back to Australia in about 2 weeks to start it all)
  • I am only learning to speak French now, with interesting results.

Ok now we have that out-of-the-way… I love chocolate and comfort eat when I am under any type of stress. I hate McDonald’s(which VGT adores) and love fresh veggies and fruit(horrendously expensive here) I do love the odd wine but when I can finally force down a beer I am drunk after a single stubbie.

I miss cooking Australian food here, the ingredients are different which results in different flavours. Sometimes better tastes but usually disasters (For example my soon to be father in law had to HACK SAW my frozen oranges for dessert last night, the ice cream had refrozen into milky orangey ice)

Australia is being flogged right now weather wise and personally I am glad we picked France for the first country to live in… It’s a loud passionate nation who strikes over the craziest reasons, you are lucky to be served with a smile and it can be a chaotic mess. However at the rate Australia is going economically and weather wise I will be coming home to a card board tent, thankful, that I get some newspaper for a pillow.

My second seemingly crazy reason is this. VGT knows Australia culture and customs a little. He speaks nearly fluent English and can happily communicate with any of my family or friends. I speak no French and often ruin a moment of tradition or culture with my habit of Australian blundering. Their perspectives are sometimes totally opposite to what I try to communicate. So it’s a little human experiment of learning french culture and customs then back over to my land of sunshine….

I am overly curious, and love new things. Love being on the move and visiting and meeting friends and family everywhere. In the last month I Have been to Bourges, Font Romeu, Paris, London, Bournemouth, Lyon, Nantes, Anger, Bordeaux, Biarritz and La Pointe du Raz….  I am known as G like a Golden Retriever, how happy they are to be loved and surrounded by people. But also how curious they are. We watch Rhianne, VGT’s dog and she is 14 with bad hips and she still gets in and about the most amazing little places. Wiggling her body, wagging her tail you can see the pleasure of a new sensation. That’s me, just in human form. (I get excited over a 10 euro bowl of pasta that tastes amazing)

Lastly, Why not?