Blue skies and dog droppings
Updated: May 27, 2019
I could write pages and pages about the benefits of living in France, from the food to the language, to the culture to the weather, but there are of course a few things I would change about the country, one of which is certainly the amount of excrement on pavements kindly left there by pets. In recent years, Britain has become much less tolerant of dog poo on the streets, but unfortunately the same thing cannot be said for France. When walking about in a new city (although Bordeaux isn't exactly new to me anymore) I like to look around and enjoy my surroundings, but unfortunately here I have to keep an eye out for where I place my feet... I wish they would implement some kind of fining system.
Life in Bordeaux is otherwise pretty idyllic. Nine months into my year abroad, I can't imagine a situation where I might have done anything else. It's like a microcosm of just living in the present - something it's fairly difficult to do at Oxford - and I realise that right now I am probably the happiest I've ever been. Having a job in a sunny location is great. It's also fantastic to have this spare time to read and prepare for my final year at university. I still have a lot of books to read, especially now that I've changed modules. I have yet to finish reading Le Roman de la Rose, which is a 22,000 line poem written in the thirteenth century.
I visited my family this weekend just gone by. It was good to see everyone, and to spend some time in Bristol, but it is a shame that a fair few of my plans fell through. It turns out my grandfather and grandmother are very unwell, and so visiting them was quite a shock to the system and many things I aimed to get done didn't happen. I have never had anyone in my family die - not even a pet - and so to see members of my family in their state was really hard to process. As a young person, it is easy to feel somewhat detached from death, as if one is immortal. Visiting my grandparents in hospital forced me to face reality for a fleeting moment. I flew back yesterday night and last night I made the decision to take the day off work today and enjoy the sunshine. I should feel significantly better tomorrow.
I have also been thinking about my future career and how I would like to spend the remainder of my year abroad. A part of me wishes I had decided to do a volunteering program in a francophone part of Africa, or in Morocco or Tunisia. But I'll admit that it is all too easy to think what others are doing is more exciting and interesting for one reason or another. The truth is, Instagram is not exactly a faithful portrayal of how much people are enjoying themselves (here my mind goes to a particular episode of Black Mirror, a new TV series on Netflix, in which people live entirely for their online presence but are desperately depressed in reality).
I do think, however, following something a friend of mine said to me this weekend, that taking a year out after I graduate may not be such a bad idea. I never did a gap year, and I feel as if I have a lot more travelling left to do before I start a proper job. Speaking to the people I work with has shown me how easily people are sucked into the 9-5 structure and therefore struggle to travel and take holidays. I don't want my life to be like that, and it's important not to have unrealistic expectations of oneself r.e. work. It's also good to be realistic about the limitations of one's own mental health.
Being a teacher has, to me, always seemed a bit of a cop-out career-wise, but I have actually been enjoying it a lot here; when I tell people I teach, I feel proud of what I do rather than ashamed that I am not doing something more stereotypically impressive. Teaching is very much constructive, and the world always needs more teachers.
In my spare time I have begun tutoring some English boys online via the Online Education Partnership, which is a tutoring agency that advertised at fresher's fair and whom I've been with since November. The money is good, but, more importantly, the kids are very enthusiastic and bright. It makes such a difference to have students who are keen to learn. This is mostly the case where I work for my internship, though some of the people I teach are less interested in learning than others are. I've also started getting back into dancing. There is salsa dancing on Sunday nights at a bar the other side of the river and it's great fun. I've only been to one session, but I'll certainly go again. I've also decided to fully sign up to the Krav Maga class. I love having energy and feeling healthy.
I get the impression that in France people are generally more conscious of their health and fitness. One certainly notices fewer obese people, and there are always people running in the street. And yet, this doesn't mean everyone has a healthier mental attitude towards weight; as I was walking down Rue de Saint Catherine, which I believe is the longest pedestrianised shopping street in Europe, I heard a homeless man shout at a fat woman to go and do some sport. It was such an odd thing to experience and I didn't know exactly how to react. Fat-shaming is a strange phenomenon, and I hope my future daughter(s) won't feel the horrible pressure many women of today's society feel to be unhealthily skinny.
On my journey back to the UK, I watched a film called Comme une image, which is a story about the daughter of a famous writer who struggles with her weight and her self-image. It's a very insightful film about the girl and her relationships with the people around her. I must say, European cinema (though this is definitely generalising a little) seems to be more intelligently put together and more in touch with emotions than American cinema is. I certainly prefer it anyway.