Pops and Me on top of the Arc de Triumph
Before Christmas, we took a family train trip into Paris. In less than two hours, we are in the middle of one of the grandest cities in the world. It is a privilege that makes me marvel. I utterly adore being able to be in such an environment.
And it is important to remind myself (ourselves) of elements such as these. Because much of our days are just straight-up challenging. And as a mother, challenging not just for myself ... but worrying over all that my kids are experiencing. Are the "Paris" moments enough? Enough to make all of the daily difficulties worth it?
Lucette and Jane, with the Eiffel Tower in the distance
Before we even left the States, Pops and I did some reading up on the stages of Expatriate-hood. It's a very real thing for people transplanted out of their native environment and into a new. Language, culture, geography, food, shopping, driving, social communication, homesickness ... all of these things come into play. But like many things in life, knowing it and experiencing it are different beasts.
We've now been here for 5 months. We get lots of well-meaning questions like, "So, are you guys fluent yet?" Oh mercy. So. Far. From It. It's almost demoralizing how far from fluent we are. Even though we can step back and see marked progress from when we arrived, it's just still super difficult.
In front of the Hôtel De Ville, deciding to land-skate, because the lines were too long for ice-skating.
Now, can I interject to say ... we're okay! Life isn't falling apart at the seams and we aren't caressing maps of the States and weeping to the melancholy sounds of Kenny G. But. It has to be okay for it to still be hard for us. We aren't acclimated yet, a "groove" doesn't exist, we are confused all the time ... and we are choosing, as a family, to be good with that.
I recently saw a graph that marked out the stages of expatriate adjustment. We've barely arrived, so I don't have full perspective, but I'd say it seems pretty realistic. In a nutshell, there is the Honeymoon Stage (2-6 weeks ... weeks!), Culture Shock (6-8 months), Gradual Adjustment (1-2 years), Competency (2-4 years), and "Mastery" (5-7 years).
Uh, yeah. We are 1.5 - 3.5 years away from Competency. Not mastery, competency.
Lucette and Peter noticing something surprising (I can't even remember what!)
In front of Notre Dame de Paris
When we first got here, everything was so new and fascinating, it balanced out the smack-in-the-face of the language difficulties. It leveled out the feeling of having an invisible American flag above our heads, announcing the fact that we were weird and didn't fit in.
And I laugh now at thinking I spoke French "a little bit" when we moved here. Uh, no. I think I can speak about 10 times better now, and if someone asked me today if I speak French, I would chuckle and say, "hardly at all!" And those French school lunches! So exciting at first, and now it is balanced out with the mandatory "goopy cheese" and extreme suspicion over any dish with the word "tête" ("head") in it.
In the above photo, Pops is in front of a Metro sign. Though he himself was, perhaps, in a bedraggled, tourist state, he declared he had found his "style icon." His style icon? Is this my husband talking? The man who thinks black athletic socks can take you from work, soccer, poolside, and then to a wedding?
Peter and Pops on the Pont de l'Archeveche, the "Love Lock Bridge"
The children are navigating school and learning what to reserve their energy for and what to just not care about. We are learning how to rely on each other in new ways and support each other's deficiencies. A favorite meal time conversation starter is, "What embarrassing thing happened to you today?"
Sometimes I feel guilty about complaining or trotting out all of my "you won't believe this" stories. It is not lost on me that I am living the life I have literally dreamed of. Sure it's hard, but shoot. You're living in a farmhouse in France! How hard can it be? Get over it!
But even when life is just as you would have it ... it can still be kick-in-the-bum hard, no?
Jane and I take a "selfie" while waiting for lunch
Yet here we are. In all it's glory. Indulge me, if you would, if sometimes I feel the need to unload. It's important for me to chronicle the joys and blessings, yet some of the beastly bits seem important too. Someday, we'll look back on this time and like stones of remembrance, recall all that God has done for us ... in all of our circumstances.