Friday, August 29, 2008

Baby Steps...and other musings

Baby steps.... this is the theme of life at the moment.

I am learning to embrace the smallest of accomplishments rather than focusing on the daunting future of 3 years in France. I place pressure on myself to know the language fluently by the weekend (not going to happen), to have the French fashion sense morphed into my preggar wardrobe (again, not working) and to blend in rather than stand out as some crazy American.

There have been days in which I have wanted to just stay at home and not have to face attempting to speak French and the embarrassment that follows. Yet at the same time, I realize while stumbling through conversation, I am making small advances.

All that said, I can manage to order a baguette, coffee, a carafe of tap water and simple items at the market in my broken french. It feels wonderful to be understood! The pointing and desperate look on my face for someone to understand me may also help!

We have been learning a lot about the French way of life. One of the most noticable things is that the French do not feel the need to pickup their dog poop frpm the side walks. Instead of gazing at the amazing architecture, one must focus on the side walk... just ask Shane, he learned the hard way this weekend!

Common French thought is that a toilet in a bathroom is dirty. Therefore, some bathrooms have just a toilet, nothing else. While others have just a shower and sink. If you get really lucky, you have all 3. We saw this all the time when looking for apartments. It strikes my nursing mind as strange to not be able to wash your hands directly after using "la toilette". Isnt that a bit on the unsanitary side?

We tried out the only English speaking church in town this past weekend. It was not a church we would choose if we were in the States but options are quite limited. Can Eikon just church plant over here??? We received great advice from the colonel before attending the service. He has been in the army 25+ years and lived all over the world. He said you need to make the best of whatever place of worship is made available and find the good in it. With that in mind, Shane and I attended and found ourselves enjoying the eclectic bunch of people who were all coming together to worship. They were all very friendly and invited us to stay for tea and cakes- a very very British crew! We did meet one Englsih man who was wearing a Pittsburgh pirates shirt and knew all about Steelers football- someone we can identify with! After tea, we had to walk home. Minor problem- it was POURING rain! We made the best of our 20 minute walk. It turned out to be a fun time because how often do you ever get to walk in the rain at nite in the streets of France with the one you love??? Kissing in the rain is a little colder than they make it on the movies! But still very romantic....

Classic Shane face while enjoying a traditional Lille meal of steamed mussels in cream sauce, French fries and local beer

Gorgeous building we passed in Belgium

Sunday, August 24, 2008

A Weekend in Lille

Homemade Crepe with Nutella at the "marche"....

Followed by people watching and "un grand cafe au lait". We concluded that this will be our new Sunday morning tradition- a trip to the market followed by a fresh crepe and coffee. Sounds perfect!

All the amazing, delicious bread

Fresh veggies and fruit

A walk through the park by our house. Shane's office is also in the center of the park at the Citadel.

The bridge to cross into the park

The back entrance to the Citadel, Shane's office building

The main entrance to the Citadel

French pride

A beautiful stroll

Fishing along the river

Little bridge

Friday, August 22, 2008

Baby Update

I had my first doctors appointment this past week. Dr Phil spent over an hour just talking and checking everything on the baby. He even did an ultrasound and made it 3D. In the US, we had to pay for a 3D and here he was, just clicking away and making Kayden stand out. Of course, her head was turned the wrong way with her hand in front of her face. She has done this the last 3 ultrasounds. The time Dr Phil spent just this past week was more than the combined total of all my visits with MD's in the States over the last 7 months. Maybe birthing in France won't be so bad afterall... He said the baby looks healthy. We were a bit apprehensive about the potential size of her head, due to the fact that Shane and I, well, have big heads. When he responded, "No, her head is normal. She will be a smaller baby," the joy was indescribable!
We learned that in France, a full term baby is considered to be 41 weeks gestation...grrrr. That pushes my due date to November 14. BUT I am still holding out for Novemeber 7!

French Frustrations

On this rainy Friday, it has been 2 weeks since we began our move to France. I can honestly say that I have been able to avoid vast amounts of homesickness... until today.

Shane and I were feeling adventurous and decided to drive the car to Ikea and the grocery store. After a few wrong turns and tense moments, our hearts skipped a beat (at least mine did) as the blue and yellow of Ikea loomed before our eyes. We broused the store, receiving inspiration for our new home from the cheap Swedish furninture. For a moment, I forgot I was in France, but rather felt that I was just browsing the Ikea in Connecticut. We decided to load up on Swedish food delicacies, our stomachs growling and mouths drooling. As the cashier attempted to run our credit card mulitple times, she concluded that our Master Card was "American" and would not work. I could feel my neck starting to break out in a sweat as I noticed we were holding up the line, which had grown to the length of any ride at Disney. In broken Frenglish, I managed to convey the need to put back all our goodies. We setteled on 2 luke warm chicken sandwiches, purchased with the little cash we possessed, while my parched throat longed for the icey cold sparkling pear cider.

Though we were disheartened, we mustered up enough courage to enter the grocery store. Easy, right? Wrong. There are 3 aisles of yogurt, the stench (or aroma) of the cheese aisle greets one from miles away and the milk is non refridgerated. I have yet to work up the courage to try this, as my taste buds directly associate this unnatural substance to the box milk I drank while in Africa. Our safety zone was found in the bread section, where rows and rows of baguettes and pastries spoke to my stomach, saying "Chose me"! With great restraint, we managed to chose just one baguette (the biggest one though!) and some "pain au chocolate." Trying to balance out our diet, we attempted to buy some veggies. Upon observation, people were bringing there fresh produce to some fancy scale with a guy who would then in turn say something and walk away. It was all a bit intimidating, so we stuck to frozen vegetables. When we were fully satisfied with our selection, we found a line and started placing our items on the conveyer belt. No sooner had we unloaded almost everything, when the cashier started speaking to us (in French, of course) and pointing to the sign. Apparently, it was the line for a special card that we did not own. So, rejected again, we put the groceries back in the cart and found another line. On a positive note, in France, there are special lines for handicap and pregnant ladies. I do not know if the French culture is trying to say pregnant people are handicapped (Shane seems to think so) but I will take full advantage of that line while possible! We finally managed to pay, with the "American" Master Card, and still with a bit of dignity.

I never realized how the simple task of driving and grocery shopping could be so mentally draining. Next time I am in the States, I will fully embrace these tasks with an enormous smile on my face. In the meantime, I vow to tote my English-French dictionary where ever I go and pray no one asks me a question!

Saturday, August 16, 2008

One week down...

Today marks our first whole week of living in France. It is hard to believe that this is our home for the next 3 years. This week has been full of information and sensory overload, as well as embarrassing moments in French culture.

Our first day here was met with overwhelming jet lag. The couple we are staying with, Mark and Kelsey, took us around Lille on a walking tour. Needless to say, we were completely disorientated but in awe of this beautiful city. We experienced our first outdoor market with tons of fresh flowers, fruit and veggies and bread. In LOVE with outdoor markets already! The outdoor cafe scene is hopping and we were able to get our first taste of French coffee and beer. Shane and I are both in agreement that we will be completely happy with the beverage choices in our new home!

We have been able to overcome the jet lag mostly to explore Lille a bit more. There are beautiful parks, old gothic churches and buildings that are older than the US everywhere. Last night, we ventured out for the first time for a dinner date by ourselves. Our theory was that if we ate in the touristy area, English speaking waiters may be more prevalent. Putting our theory to the test, we ordered come crepes in extremely broken French. With pointing, gestures and Franglish, we managed to have our first taste of French cuisine- delicious!

The Americans that Shane works with have been extremely welcoming and hospitable. They are letting us stay in their homes, share their meals and have been excellent tour guides . On Tuesday we went to an "UnThanksgiving" dinner where we had a turkey dinner. It was pretty much an excuse to get together and socialize. Embarrassing moments tend to follow me, this was no exception. When it came to saying good bye, the colonel's wife does the kiss cheek French thing. Well, I tried to be all culturally suave and kiss back but instead ended up kissing her on the lips. Ops! She laughed, I turned red. It will be a moment never to be forgotten. I think I will stick to hugs and handshakes.

Today we went on a tour of the hospital where Kayden will be born and also met the doctor. "Dr Phil" gave us a personal tour of the birthing facility. Having worked in and seen many hospitals in the States, in my opinion, this one was extremely minimalist but clean none the less. I know we will be in good hands there, but the posh ness of birthing in the States is clearly lacking. We have to rent a bed each night for Shane and there is no TV in the labor room. It could be a LONG process! All that said, we feel confident in our doctor and French health care... if only we could understand what they are saying!!!

The baby update is that I am now officially in my third trimester, month seven. Kayden has officially started kicking so much that by just watching my stomach, you can see her movement. It is fascinating, rather odd but super exciting!

New adventures definitely await us this next week. Tomorrow we are venturing into the huge market in the North- African/ French/ Arabic area and trying out the ONLY English speaking church in town. The big item on our agenda is to find an apartment. We are torn between practicality or living in something that radiates an old European feel.... It’s quite the debacle! Stay tuned!

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Finally in France!

Wow! After months and months of discussing, praying, planning and looking forward to a new adventure, we have finally arrived in Lille, France. It took only 5 planes and 2 days, but we have made it safe and sound. More to come....