Tuesday, 31 March 2015

Coping with loss


My aunt "Tata Titine" in the traditional costume around 1940

My aunt passed away at the week-end. In a way it was expected. She was 92 and for the past few years had been in a retirement home. She was more like a grandmother to me, and I have very fond memories of her. She had a strong personality, was very opinionated. and also quite stubborn (a very common trait amongst Breton people!).

Unfortunately, I cannot attend the funeral but this time around, it will be a bit easier as my sister is coming over for a long week-end, so at least we'll have each other.

Grieving when you live abroad is probably the worst experience expats have to deal with. A couple of years ago, several people I knew passed away. And their death was unexpected. Three persons I knew died in the space of 2 months. On top of that my parents weren't in the best shape either and it really made things difficult.

At what point do you decide you have to go home? How do you measure the importance of the person who died? I mean, those people were not from my immediate family, but were close nonetheless. I wanted to be there for my best friend whose dad passed away. I wanted to be there for my sister whose brother in law and father in law died in the space of a month. I wanted to be there for my dad's heart surgery. I wanted to be there for my mum who also had to undergo some tests at the hospital. 

But I couldn't be there. In the end, I went home as I couldn't cope any more with all these emotions. My sister and I needed each other. I had to see my dad at the hospital. I had to see my best friend and cry with her. But I couldn't attend any of the funerals.

Coping with loss on your own is hard. You have no one to talk to because chances are, they don't know those people who passed away. You can't share memories. You can't mourn properly. In a weird twisted way, the loss can have the opposite effect as you don't really realise those people are dead. I had this weird feeling for a while where I felt detached from reality, that all of that didn't really happen.

I'm not a big church goer, but I do think the ritual is important, and it definitely gives closure. Someone asked me once if I had ever been to a funeral in Ireland, but I hadn't. His answer was "You should go, it's great craic"! Well, in Brittany, it's the same. After church, the whole family gather in a restaurant nearby, drinks coffee, eat cake and crepes. And as we call it, we "send the dead to heaven". 

So today, I'm sending "Tata Titine" to heaven, with a glass of wine (hey, there was no coffee left!) and when my sister comes, we'll share some memories. And my mum will definitely ring to tell me in details how the funeral went.

Will it replace being there physically? Probably not, but being abroad, that's the best I will get.


Sunday, 29 March 2015

Saying goodbye again

Is it harder to say goodbye to someone you know you'll never see again? 

A friend of mine, who just went back to France explained to me before he left that, in his opinion, it was less painful to say goodbye to someone he knew he would meet again at some point in the future. And it was harder to say goodbye to someone he would probably never see again. Why? Because when you say goodbye to that person, you know it's the LAST time you see them. Ever. And that's what makes it more emotional.

I have only known him for a few months, but he has become a good friend, so watching him go was definitely painful. I really hope our paths will cross again, so I think his theory is bullshit (no offence man, but it is). I can understand where he comes from, but when you hope to see someone again, and you don't know when it will happen, it's heartbreaking.  At the moment, I feel like I'm back in time, when I had to let good friends go back home and I was staying here. This is the reason why, a long time ago,  I decided to stop making friends with people I knew were not going to stay. It's too damn hard to deal with. I should have known better, but sometimes you don't realise how close you got to someone until it's too late. I like to think I'm a sociable person by nature, so it would be hard as well to get too detached, but this experience has to be a lesson in some way. 

As I said before, I don't want to invest too much in a friendship with people who will not stay here. Psychologically, it's quite damaging as well, because constantly seeing people come and go (which will definitely happen in my job) makes me feel like I'm stuck in my own life and not moving on. But moving on from what, I don't know.

Maybe it's the slow realisation that I have made my life in Ireland and I'm not going anywhere else. It's not a bad thing though, I love this country, I have a great quality of life and met wonderful people over the years, but I don't know, it's like something is missing and I can't really pinpoint what it is. 

Seeing all those younger people experiencing life in different countries, partying, having a good time also makes me realise I'm not in my twenties any more. And trust me, the state of my head after a night out with them definitely reminds me I'm not able for this shit anymore. Having said that, I'm not gonna lie in saying they make me feel younger and for an evening I can forget I'm 34 with 2 kids and a mortgage! After all, age is only a number, right? Being young at heart is the most important.

So what do I do now? The nature of my job is to work alongside French students who will only stay for about 6 months. I'm pretty sure I'll be closer to some than others, and I know I won't keep in touch with all of them, but no matter what happens, I will have to say goodbye. Over and Over. 

And the thought of it just breaks my heart.

Wednesday, 25 March 2015

Book review: Petites confessions, "A humorous memoirette"

I think at this stage you have realised I'm addicted to Vicky Lesage's books. And you'd be right. 

For those of you who have landed on this page by mistake and wonder what it's all about, I've already reviewed Vicky's books here and here

The Petites confessions is a collection of blog posts and articles Vicky wrote along the way and depicts her experience as an American girl in Paris. The tone is very humorous and as usual she is very honest. Sometimes a bit too much when she confesses how much she has drank or how she accidentally may have eaten someone else's finger (yep, true!). 

With only 60 pages, this book is a bit like an appetiser. You would like to read Confessions of a Paris Party girl or Confessions of a Paris Potty trainer but you're not sure if you'll enjoy Vicky's style or even her stories? Like me, you are allergic to Paris and you need some insight to finally appreciate what the city of lights has to offer ? Maybe you are thinking of moving to Paris and you don't know if it's a good idea... Or maybe you just need a good laugh.

The goods news is the book is only 0.99£, so whatever your reasons are, you should give it a try!

Thursday, 19 March 2015

French connection

Where I live...

I never actively looked for French friends since I'm in Ireland. In my mind, I was going to a new country, my main goals were to speak English and discover another culture. I didn't really want to speak French and I didn't see the point of hanging around with people from my native country.

Of course, I came across French people along the way. I used to live with  a French girl in the host family I stayed in when I arrived, and when I lived in Swords with Fabrice, our neighbour was also French. Both have become really good friends.

I also had about a hundred French colleagues when I worked in a call-centre, but I wasn't really socialising with them. At the time, I really wanted to do my best to integrate in Ireland and as I explained in a previous post, the majority of them went back home after a few months so there was no point in investing in a friendship that wouldn't have lasted. 

Eight years ago, we bought an apartment in a seaside village and during all that time, I never bumped into a French person. And as I was working with mainly Irish people, I didn't make any new French friends. I didn't look for them either to be honest.

But now it seems that the wheel has turned once more. I'm back working with French people in an Irish company, so I actually get the best of both worlds. I don't work in French as such, but I have to mentor and supervise French students. Well, soon, because the current student started before me. I'll be able to share my knowledge and experience of the Irish way of life, but the only thing they won't get is to really improve their English, unless we decide to ban French talk in the office (which would be hard because we're the only ones in the office).

Sometimes life works in unexpected ways, like it's giving you signs or something. After 8 years in the same village, not coming across any French people, I bumped into two of them the same week. First at the Paddy's day parade in a nearby town. I was minding my own business when the guy next to me started to talk to me in French. He obviously overheard me speaking to the kids. I discovered he lived just up the road from us, and  had been there for the past 7 years! We exchanged numbers, so hopefully, we'll get to introduce our respective husband & wife soon. 

I met the other one yesterday. One of my friend was supposed to mind the boys but couldn't because of a family issue, so I had to take a half-day and pick up Ciaran at school. Something I never do because I work full-time. As I was waiting for the bell, a mother approached me and asked me in French if I was Ciaran's mother. As it happened, boths kids are in the same class. And she also works full time, so never gets to collect her daughter. Yesterday was an exception, just like me.  And the mad thing is, she works in a company where I had a job interview last year. Except I didn't get the job because I couldn't sell excavator buckets in Spanish to Latin American customers. I'm good, but I'm not that good.

The world is small. Ireland is really small. And my village is tiny, but the French seem to be well represented around here. I used to really try and stay away from them, but now that I'm well and truly integrated it doesn't bother me any more. Friendship is friendship and it doesn't matter where you come from. What matters is the connection between people.


Tuesday, 17 March 2015

Breton-French vs Hiberno-English

Happy Paddy's day everyone! 

Today is about celebrating what makes Ireland and Irish people so special. I previously talked about what Irish people say but don't mean, but what some of them don't realise is that they also say things nobody else in the English speaking world understand.
Irish people speak what it's called "Hiberno-English" (or Irish-English). It means that a lot of expressions and grammatical structures are directly derived from the Irish language. Sometimes, words even have a different meaning than in other English speaking countries.
I'm quite used to this type of language as we have the same "issue" in Brittany, where we use different words or phrases than the rest of France. That's because a lot of what we say comes directly from the Breton language. 
When I came to Ireland and met people who were from other parts of France, they were laughing at the way I talked. So I can only empathise with Irish people abroad who get a funny look when they talk about the press, the yoke or the craic...
The use of Breton was forbidden in churches and all administrations since the first World war, so you can imagine how the language quickly disappeared. It was also forbidden in schools up to the sixties, therefore many parents started speaking French to their children so they wouldn't "fall behind". As a result, there were less and less native speakers. My mother for example, was only spoken French in the house, but all her brothers and sisters were speaking Breton. So now, she understands Breton quite well, but can't speak it. 
You can see how the language was completely destroyed by the French government and what happened is that people started to force themselves to speak French but were obviously making mistakes, translating literally from one language to the other. And that's how Breton-French was born.

I haven't really found anything online (maybe I didn't search enough) about Hiberno-English history. Of course, the different invasions by the British seem to have played a major part in the diminution of native Irish speakers and the appearance of Irish-English. The same way Breton people were forced to speak French, Irish people had to speak English and therefore made mistakes while translating.

I'm not a linguist by any means, but I find languages fascinating.The funny thing is, I sometimes use a direct translation from Breton-French to Irish-English and it works, but not always for the same grammatical reasons. Irish and Breton come from different language families: Irish is a Goidelic language like Scottish, and Breton is a Brythonic language, like Welsh and Cornish. Even though they have different roots, I have noticed some similarities when they are both translated in English or French.
For example, both Breton and Irish people use the verb "bring" instead of "take". Trust me, Breton people "bring" everything everywhere, we even bring people. If say I "bring" my kids to school, nobody here will think it's wrong. If I was in the UK, it would probably seem a bit strange. And if I said it French, I would just get some laughs from my French colleagues.
The same goes from Yer man /Yer wan , which means this man/this woman. We have the same kind of word in Breton-French when we talk about someone else. 
In Ireland, people usually say "like" at the end of almost very sentence (I haven't found the reason why), and in Britanny we say "quoi" (what), but the meaning is the same. And there's no reason for it either...
I studied Breton at school for 2 years. It was optional and I really enjoyed learning the basics. I'm not fluent at all, but my mum used to reprimand or give us orders in Breton, so I know how to say "Go to bed", "Go home", "Stop making noise" or "Take the dishes off the table"! And I definitely speak a lot of Breton-French.
I'm quite good with the Hiberno-English as well now, and I would like to learn Irish at some stage. 
I know many Irish people who think it's a useless language and the way it's taught might be one of the reason. I think keeping some cultural heritage is important, and efforts should be made to make Irish language more attractive to the population.

Monday, 16 March 2015

New design!

I have finally given my blog a new face and I hope you like it. It was bugging me for a quite a while and I was fed up of my old theme so I spent a fair amount of the time at the week-end looking for the perfect template.

Too much choice kills the choice and my indecisive nature didn't help at all. I must have gone through hundreds of different templates before eventually finding this one. I wanted something simple but not bland, stylish but not over the top, minimalist but with all the functionalities. I'm not demanding at all, as you can see...

My only disappointment is that I can't seem to be able to change the Blog title font (I went for a free template so that may be the reason...). I also seem to have lost many comments that I will probably never recover (unless a blogging pro comes along and gives me a hand). Other than that, I'm quite happy!

What do you think?

Tuesday, 10 March 2015

Trip planning headache

I come from the greatest region in France. I assure you, Brittany has beautiful landscapes, a very rich history, a strong sense of culture and identity, food to die for (remember the crepes and the langoustines?), great weather (Nah, just kidding on that one!)...

The only teeny tiny issue is that it's quite remote from the rest of France. If you want a comparison, I'd say Brittany is the "Kerry" of France. To make things even more complicated, I'm from the "End of the Earth". I'm serious, this is how the area I grew up in is called. "Penn-Ar-Bed" in Breton or "Finistere" in French is the furthest you can go. After that there's only the ocean. 

The little red part? Yep, that's where I'm from!         Source: Wikipedia

So you can imagine how complicated it can be to fly home from Dublin. Sometimes I wish I was from Paris (OK, not really, but let's just pretend). All major airlines fly there, everyday, several times a day, and it's cheap.

If you want to go to my place, get ready for a headache in terms of planning your trip. 12 years ago, I had to go through London and land in Dinard, about 5 hours drive from my home. There was no other way (unless I wanted to pay an arm and leg going through Paris with Air France). The journey door-to-door was taking 12 hours, the same amount of time of a Paris-Mauritius flight!

A couple of years after I moved here, Ryanair upped their game big time. They started a direct flight to Nantes (only 3 hours drive from my house). And after that came the best, a direct flight to Brest (only 1 hour drive from my house). Sadly the latter didn't last long, and Ryanair pulled out from that airport, apparently following some disagreement with the airport authorities.

So now, I usually fly to Nantes. It's fine, if my parents can't pick me up, I have friends over there, and if I'm really stuck I can take the train. But the big problem at the moment is the stupid schedule airlines have implemented.

Can you believe I can't go home for a week-end? I used to envy my French friends who could fly on Friday night and come back to Dublin on Sunday. None of that for me. Ryanair, Aer Lingus, Flybe and basically all airlines that fly to Brittany are against me.

I'm trying to get to my best friend's hen party next May. Unfortunately none of the airlines fly on Friday or Sunday. Flybe has flights to Nantes but it only starts in July. They also have flight to Brest, but they stop in March. Aer Lingus doesn't have flights on Friday or Sunday either. The only solution would be to go with Air France, if I'm willing to pay a mere 750 euros for the round trip!

In the end, I'll probably take Ryanair, fly on the Thursday and come back on the Monday, but why does it have to be so complicated to just go home for a week-end? 

I tell you, it's much easier to book a flight to Mauritius, and it's the same price as an Air France flight to Nantes. Crazy don't you think?