Thursday, May 14, 2009

Misery loves company

We had a three-day weekend last week (the second of many this month), but two of those days were spent at the in-laws’. Not working but being present as otherwise Juliette and I wouldn’t see Remi at all this month of May. Spring is the “saison noire”, or black season, for us as Remi’s business is all-consuming. But I stood my ground to stay home Saturday for a bit of housecleaning (what fun!) and to go and visit my Latvian friend.

There are a series of coincidences that connect this girl and me together. We were born just a few days apart (albeit on different continents). We met in 2002 while both doing our training programs in France. I stayed on because of Remi. She went back to Latvia. But then she met a Frenchman who was in her country on business and voilà, she’s back in France living about an hour away from me.

So armed with her basic directions and my GPS, I strapped baby into her car seat and off we went under a hazy blue sky. At first I tried to follow my friend’s directions but the GPS kept telling me otherwise. Finally doubt overcame me and I caved into the GPS’s commands. And as baby nodded off to sleep I drove through little villages with white-stone houses, places that would be perfectly lovely if not so far from jobs and shops. I maneuvered winding roads lined by those brilliant yellow-green oilseed rape plants and cows grazing on steep farmland. That new Franz Ferdinand song was cackling on the radio (Murphy’s Law: when a good song finally comes on, the station is too faint). I was enjoying my little adventure and realizing a solo ride in the French countryside would have been unthinkable three years ago (sans French driving license).

After about 50 minutes of non-stop driving, I arrived at my friend’s house. She made us lunch and we caught up with each other while half-watching a make-over show on TV. Anyway, she’s about in the same situation as me, unstable job-wise and far from her family and old friends. It all started making me wonder (again) if I’ll ever consider France as a home in the cozy, warm sense of the word. Dealing with limited job prospects and homesickness is really getting to me. If I don’t stop frowning my face is gonna stick this way (your parents weren’t making that up).

I think I’m at a turning point where I could become the unhappy foreigner or I could try and make the best of things. But how? I’ve vowed so many times to turn things around that I should be dizzy by now.

But back to the title of this post. Reaching out to others in the same situation could help a bit. Maybe some kind of virtual or real Expat Wives’ and Girlfriends’ Club. I came across this website once, perhaps it’s a start. They even talk about expat writing. The truth of the matter is, living in a foreign country is not always the daydream it might have seemed during high school French class (or in my case, German). But maybe with a little help from my friends, I can carve out my own little world.


Crystal said...

any kind of sad or stressful situation is more manageable with friends and/or family close by. Sure, we can all stay connected by phone, email, etc. but nothing replaces a cup of coffee with someone on the couch. I think ex-pats need to be surrounded by other ex-pats in order to feel connected to someone who is sharing their experience (the good and the bad). Here in Paris, I have a few girlfriends I met through my blog, but they don't live within walking distance (or even a short train ride away) and so I don't see them as much as I would like in order to have some semblance of a social life.

When you're sad and confused about life stuff in a foreign country, being alone in your misery is the worst thing you can do to yourself. This is why I miss you (and the girls from INL) so much...we made a pretty good support group!

Ksam said...

My old samdebretagne blog was a life-saver a few years back. I was at my wits' end, always feeling like I was trying my best but that it was never good enough for France or the French. Getting it all out in writing and then realizing that I wasn't the only one out there going through that helped me stay sane. So feel free to let it out, and know that even if most of us are strangers, we are here for you!