Friday, 21 July 2017

6 things I forgot about France

I usually go to France once a year, for a holiday in my hometown. I know people and the surroundings so when I go there I am not surprised by anything really.

But lately, I had the opportunity to travel to other parts of France thanks to my job, and I realised there are some little things I forgot about my country…

Military presence in airports

When I landed in Beauvais a few  weeks ago and also in Mulhouse the other day, the first thing I saw at the exit were military people, with full on uniforms and shotguns. I completely understand they were there for safety, but still, when you not used to it, it feels a little bit scary. It reminded me that France was still in a state of emergency and the possibility of a threat was real. Having said that, I did feel completely safe any places I went to after I left the airport. A terrorist attack is really not the first thing on your mind when you are visiting a foreign city. Even in the metro in Paris, I was more worried about getting out at the right stop than the possibility of an attack...

Table service in bars

I spent an evening in Nancy, on the beautiful Place Stanislas. The square was surrounded by bars, all with an outdoor terrace. I sat down and looked out for waiter. He was a bit busy and told me he would be with me within a few minutes. It got me thinking how this French system is complicated. If you want a drink in Ireland, you go to the bar, ask for it and pay straight away.
In France, you just sit down. The waiter comes, takes your order, goes to the bar, gets your drink, has to remember where you sit, gives you the drink, comes back with the bill, takes the money, goes back to the bar, gets the change, comes back to you…
It’s just a waste of time if you ask me!

People speaking French around me

I know it’s kind of a given if I’m in France right? Well, I’m just so used to be surrounded by English speaking people that I often surprise myself by thinking :”Oh, there are some French people here!” when I hear them talking French beside me. And then I remember than I am in fact in France… Please tell me I’m not crazy and I am not the only one experiencing this!!

The beauty of the country

I am ashamed to say I have visited Ireland a lot more than France. Of course I know Brittany because that’s where I’m from, but aside from my home region, I know very little about my home country. I have been to the Southwest twice and Paris a few times. With my job I have now the opportunity to travel a bit more and I really feel like a tourist when I go to France. When you live somewhere, you don’t really see the beauty beside you and I am now seeing my country from an outside perspective. I don’t really have time to do proper visits as I am mainly there for work, but I always take the time to walk around the cities I’m in, admire the architecture, take pictures and have a nice meal. I have been to places I would have never considered before, like Reims or Nancy and I realised France really has beautiful buildings and landscapes. I drove through the Vosges region and the views were really breathtaking. Next time I’m over in France I think I’ll take an extra day off just to visit, it’s really worth it.

Place Stanislas, Nancy

Paris Opera

The (very) hot weather

Seriously, I think I was going to melt. I am not used to this kind of weather anymore (not that I was used to it in Brittany or Ireland!), and yet I was looking forward to it before flying out. I kind of regretted my enthusiasm when I discovered there was no air-con in my hotel room. The whole time I was there I was just hoping I wouldn’t look too sweaty for my job meeting! The good side of the hot weather was enjoying a cold refreshing cocktail in the evening and not worry about rain!

This one was well deserved!!

French people can actually be nice

Last year I wrote a very controversial post about French people being arrogant (I can’t even post the link because it was reported to Facebook, and I wouldn’t want to re-open this touchy subject anyway). This time I had a completely different experience in France. From the time I booked my rental car to the time I gave it back, I only came across nice, helpful people. The hotel staff, the people I met for work (and I was with competitors so it could have been awkward and less than amicable), the bar I had a drink in, the airport staff, the people in the queue at check-in… Even when I was in Paris a few weeks ago, everybody I met was in a good mood, and I didn’t have high expectations, trust me! I don’t know what happened, but I was so impressed it made me want to make up with French people. That’s a good start, right?

What about you, anything that you find strange, amusing or that you forgot about your home country?

Sunday, 2 July 2017

The joys of having mixed-race children

When you have mixed-race children, it can sometimes lead to awkward and funny situations...

At the maternity

The morning after my first son was born, the nurse came down to show me how to give him a bath. Everything went well until she took his nappy off. She looked at him, then me, then him again, and then the conversation went a bit like this:

"Is the dad, uh... uh... uh...? ".
I didn't have a clue what she was talking about. "Is the dad what?" I replied.
"Well, is the dad....coloured?"
"Yes, he's black, why? Is there something wrong?"
"No, it makes sense now"
"What makes sense?"
"His testicles"
I burst into laughter. "What??"
"Well, that's why his testicles are a lot darker than the rest of his body"

I hadn't even realised they were, because let's be honest, it was my first baby and to me they just looked normal. Upon closer inspection, they were indeed a lot darker than the rest!!

At the childminder

After a few days, I also realised he had a birth mark on his bottom. So I did what every new mother would do, I googled it. And I found out it was a common birth mark in mixed-race children, a Mongolian spot. Once we knew what it was, we were relieved and didn't think about it until my son started to go to the childminder. I picked him up one day and the childminder was a bit agitated:

"I changed him today, I saw this mark on his back...I thought his jeans had rubbed off on his skin"
"Don't worry, it's just a birth mark!"
"Oh my god, I scrubbed him, trying to take it off!!"


At the supermarket

My husband was in a supermarket with one of the kids, and he lost him in an aisle. He  was a bit panicked and started to look for him everywhere. He finally saw him with a security guard so went straight up to him and said it was his son. The guard look at him, looked at the child, and asked  "Are you sure you're the dad?" .Thankfully my son jumped right in his arms, so that was it.

I never get the question "Are you the mum?" because there is less difference between our skin tones than with my husband's. But I can understand why some people would be asking the question...And to be honest, better be safe than sorry.

At school

My kids know how their dad has a different skin colour, but the interesting thing is that they don't refer  to white children as "white". They are "peach", which is funny because it makes a lot more sense when you think about it.
And to be honest, it's only when I look at school pictures that I see the difference between them and the other kids in the class.

On holidays

They tan so easily I'm jealous. I have to use sun cream, after-sun cream, tanning oil and hope I won't get sunburnt. They are just exposed for a couple of hours and they instantly get darker. Life is so unfair.
My son's tan after 2 hours in the sun...
Being mixed-race is part of who my kids are, and they know their parents have a different skin colour, but it doesn't seem to affect them one bit, for the moment anyway. And well, I don't want to go into a "color chart" debate, but their skin tone is quite subtle, you only see a big difference in summer time (as if we had a summer in Ireland, but you get what I mean!). I think it's harder for their dad who had to justify himself (Yes, I am the dad!) more than once...

If you have mixed-race children, any interesting stories you want to share?