year abroad :: frustration

*Disclaimer: This is along the lines of a rant.*

I’m feeling a little regretful that I lost track of journaling my days here in Libourne, especially when it comes to a writing a new blog post, but when I’m alone, I just want peace. Or, my bed. I just want to shut my eyes and catch up on sleep. Learning one hundred and one things in one day is tiring, and speaking two languages in one day is also tiring, and interpreting every single body language movement or expression is more than exhausting.

Today I am riddled with anxiety, as I have three days to sort out a bank account. But after spending all morning walking around town hunting down what I would need (so that I could help my landlady), success came. I politely arranged a meeting with her, made lunch and had a lovely Skype call with my Gran, and then spoke with my landlady. I’m glad that all French people face as many problems with the administrative system as I do.

I absolutely adore being here but it is taking such a big toll on my body and my mind. I was never, ever expecting this year abroad malarkey to be a breeze but the French really cause themselves their own problems. No one wants to be direct for fear of being rude, therefore, nothing gets done. This is hypocritical, since I fear being accidentally rude to my landlady EVERY SINGLE DAY, but my obligation is to the Lycee and the Academie de Bordeaux, yet I’m still my own person in France yet I am representing Lancaster University. It’s so mentally taxing.

The French expression of pondering is by far my favourite. There’s the good old inquisitive and bordering on xenophobic stare, then there’s the ponder. I love shattering both expressions with a simple ‘Bonjour !’, a smile, or a ‘Ca va ?’. Funnily enough, it is the smile that seems to put the fear of God into them. I usually receive even weirder looks when I’ve made the effort to be polite, but they just can’t help themselves but say Bonjour back – it’s funny how a simple ‘Hello’ is not only instinctive, but a reflex action.

What seems to make them most curious is my independence. And, I kind of love that. You see, it’s now absolutely normal to walk around ‘unaccompanied’ in England as a young woman. But, in France, or at least here in the South West, it seems to challenge many a closed mind. And if and when you do walk alone, you allow so many negative connotations of yourself to follow you, but it’s also nice to shatter people’s thoughts of “She’s a prostitute”, with “I’m English”. I walk around alone because I want to explore as a free girl; people fought for my freedom and I damn well will make the most of it.

It’s so confusing to me that a country claiming to be so free, culturally bounds itself in the past. Of course, this is what makes the French such an interesting people of study, but often, I find myself so frustrated that they constrict themselves. This has had the worst knock-on effect with the young people of France, and I’d rather spend my time here passing on the knowledge that they can be who they want to be, and building their self-confidence than completing every dream I have had for my Year Abroad. Priorities change.

You could say that every government of every nation has something to answer for, but politicians are also people, who are also human. I really hope one day we can stop blaming one another, instead be kind, and push forward unified as humans. Why can’t we free our minds enough to do what is best for future generations? We have this mental health epidemic, and suicide epidemic, because of  the limitations we put on people in each and every society. It’s demoralising, degrading, and down-right just not okay to treat anyone in a way that could affect them mentally. This is my most frustrated acknowledgement of the abuse of power.

There are rules, and there are always going to be rules, and more often than not trying to outsmart the rules, or the law, does not work in your favour. But even with rules, you can still find freedom and independence.

I’m blessed to be so privileged, and that I have and had parents and family that worked hard doing hard, challenging, repetitive and boring jobs just so I could get on in life. But I also had to work flipping hard to get where I’ve got, and to feel as happy as I do. Laughter, as my dad would say, solves so many problems and at least feels like it cures the ailments in the moment. There’s immaturity, and then there’s enjoying having a child-like mind. Life is so difficult for so many, but complaining about life or even supressing your complaints can lead to so many negative thoughts.

I would just like to bring some joy into people’s lives, at least with my chubby-cheeked grin, if not with the pleasure of my company. Because for me, it’s just as much a pleasure for me to be in their company.

Love,

Anna

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