Today marks two weeks since I’ve been in Lyon, France. People have asked me how it’s been and what I’ve been doing. Frankly, it’s been quite mundane: getting groceries, drawing, going to the cafe to read, climbing at the gym. Here, I do all the things I was already doing at home. However, the mere fact that this all takes place in a foreign country has accentuated such quotidien experiences. Here are some musings from my life here so far:
The language barrier is frustrating, but it’s not insurmountable.
Even though I’ve taken about 4.5 years of school French and have practiced on-and-off over the years, I struggle a lot with conversational French — mostly in my listening comprehension. As someone who prides herself on being a warm and attentive listener to her peers, it’s been a huge blow to not be able to always understand what people are saying and to misinterpret the context. Often this leads to frustration, but then I remember that this frustration stems primarily from the pressure I put on myself and from my ego to escape shame or embarassment. In moments where I remember this, I try to laugh about it with the person I’m talking with as well.
And so, in order to improve my French, I’ve sought out language conversation exchange partners, and have been watching and listening to French media on YouTube, Netflix, and podcasts with subtitles and transcriptions. I’ve also been reading more in French in order to augment my vocabulary and grammar comprehension. Lastly, I will begin a 2-week crash course in French starting Monday at Alliance Française.
Slowing down feels foreign.
I came to Lyon in the middle of August, which is the time of the year when locals go on vacation and businesses close down for the summer. With the city quietly resting, I’ve experienced bouts of restlessness in this stillness. As an American who was living a fast-paced life back in the Bay Area, I wasn’t acclimated to a pace where people take time to feel the moments of a moment, to enjoy the espresso while looking outwards with no specific goal or vision in mind, to create space for conversation and for dining. My favorite part of the day is apéro — the time of the late afternoon/early evening when people join their close ones to enjoy a drink and snacks before dinner.
While this slowness has perturbed my over-active, over-stimulated brain, I also think it’s been healthy for me to internalize an approach of living that isn’t always goal-oriented.
Despite having 100% of free time, priorities and structure still reign.
I’ve found it helpful to build some structure into my day in order to have some sanity. I organize my days into 3 main chunks: the morning, the afternoon, and the evening.
I spend my mornings working on my art practice (en plein air or on other projects), reading, writing, and hanging out at the local cafe. I’ve always loved mornings, and that doesn’t seem to change even in a new locale.
I can’t quite recall what I’ve done in my afternoons, but it’s been filled with miscellaneous activity: going to the museum, shopping for groceries, running errands, and apero! When I start my French course next week, I will be spending my afternoons doing that.
Me with my two friends, Jorge and Amy, at Musée des Confluences.
After apero, I might do a number of things: meeting up with a friend, getting dinner with people, watching a free music show at l’Opéra de Lyon, enjoying the sunset, sitting by the river. When the city picks back up, I look forward to watching more live music and other entertainment.
Overall, it’s been quite lovely, and also mundane and true and simple in the way life just is. Everyday I wake up surprised and grateful that I get to have this experience that I’ve thought about for so long.