Friday, 19 September 2014

Standing on the edge of adventure

"Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do, so throw off the bowlines, sail away from safe harbor, catch the trade winds in your sails.  Explore, Dream, Discover"

Mark Twain

This is the first chapter about our amazing European experience.

Got our French visas... tick.
Moved out of our house... tick.
Stuff put in shipping container... tick.

In three sleeps, my husband, Dave, my two children and me will be getting on a plane to move to France for a year. To move away from friends, family, babysitters, neighbours, workmates and our school community of mums. To leave the family house where my son and daughter were born, learned to crawl and walk.

We are also leaving the city we grew up in - Christchurch, New Zealand. A city that was shaken by a 6.3 magnitude earthquake in 2011 and thousands of aftershocks. A city where 185 lives were taken, buildings were toppled, homes were damaged, communities scattered. As I write, some people are still dealing with the insurance companies to get their homes repaired or rebuilt. We were the lucky ones with a damaged house which was repaired relatively quickly (2013) but the last three years have been some of the most difficult and emotionally draining of my life. As a result of this, other areas of our lives have suffered, causing severe "itchy feet" and yearning for 'something more'.

Why?

My husband and I love travelling (like a lot of others). We went to the UK and France a few years ago and had a great time. I love seeing the history and landmarks only read about in books come to life. We never did an OE (overseas experience) before we had kids so we are going to do it with kids in tow. We decided to give ourselves a year in order to really live like the French and master the language.

Do you have family there?

No - It will be just us versus France. I am getting this one out of the way as it is one of the most common questions we get asked.

Isn't it a bit extreme to pack up the children and take them to a country where they can't speak the language?

Well maybe. For me, I am a linguist. I studied linguistics at university. Learning languages has always come easily to me. I once tried to teach myself Scottish Gaelic out of sympathy as it is a dying language. And embarrassingly, I love stupid word jokes and puns (Thanks Mum). This all points to the Ultimate Challenge: become fluent in a second language. And the best way to become fluent is full immersion - dive in head first.

I have tried to speak French at home to the children since they were born. My son is six and understands quite a lot of what I say, even though he gets frustrated with me. He also picks things up very quickly and my biggest worry for him is he will quickly learn to speak French better than all of us, through going to a French school. As for Little Miss Almost Two, she will acquire English and French simultaneously as her little brain is wired for learning language at this age. I am not too concerned about the children, maybe a little more about Dave.

"Language is the road map of a culture. It tells you where its people come from and where they are going."
Rita Mae Brown.

Where?

I have been a little bit obsessed with all things Gallic since learning French in school. There is also the stereotypical view of the French as enjoying the finer things in life, like wine, cheese, love.
People in France seem to have more work/ life balance; legally a 35 hour working week, 11 public holidays and 5 weeks annual leave. The food is awesome and so full of butter and they have no problems eating carbs with every meal. Yet French women seem to remain slim!

We have chosen to base ourselves in Bordeaux for the majority of the time, as it is a big city so there will be lots to do, teams and groups to join and we will be close to facilities and public transport. The whole city is also a UNESCO world heritage-listed site with amazing architecture and close to beaches on the Atlantic Coast and lakes.

Do you have jobs to go to?

No. We have rented out our house and spent our savings to finance our year away. Some may look on this as a bad thing but it depends where your priorities lie.  I think anything is possible if you think outside the box. There is no "perfect time" to do a lot of things in life; have a baby, buy a house or do an OE. Similarly, there is no perfect way to do these things.


 So that is a little bit of background for you on our plans and the reasons behind them.

Thanks to all those who have been so supportive of what we are doing. It definitely helps to stay enthused when people around us are so positive and inspired! There have been some looks as if to say we are crazy. And perhaps we are. We will see when the journey begins...

See my info on moving to France including visas and enrolling in school here.

 Comments?
U, me and the kids
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