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really honest postcards from lyon: part six

This is the final instalment of  Really Honest Postcards from Lyon, April Smallwood’s six part series on life as a young Australian expatriate in France. You can look back over the series here.

Image: April Smallwood

Image: April Smallwood

Dear Ike,

I love that the French expression for placing an object down so as to not surprise you is, ‘Op!’, and the way they make little fart sounds with their mouths to signify a situation gone awry. To round off, I also appreciate their extremely polite ways and how quick a stranger is to offer a, ‘Bonjour, Madame’, ‘pardon’, or ‘désolé’. I am also a fan of the way a waitress once approached our table of international friends with, ‘So am I gonna have to speak English to you?’, which totally contradicts the former point. What a land.

So we’re flying home within the fortnight. I am bored and lethargic and the very thought of a Sydney summer has me giddy. I hope the same is true for other expats, or those who’ve looked to ‘make a life’ away from home. That moving to Europe or elsewhere can be really underwhelming. I could wax lyrical about the bounty of wine and the beautiful moments I’ll cling to, but there is much that we’ve left behind – friends, sand, individual lives – and I’m keen to be home.

The things that have given me that all-important sense of self are back where I left them. My work, friends and solo excursions here and there. I’m sure I would have recreated this in Lyon had I been able to find stable employment in my field (editing, web and the like). Now in my thirties, I was way too obnoxious to take up a bar job or something that would actually pay the bills. Thus, it’s time to pull the plug and appreciate the experience for what was – an incredible opportunity to exit myself from the 9-to-5 machine and do as I very well please. This, I find, is healthy, and a luxury not everyone can indulge.

A few hours ago, East was offered a role in Paris, starting the beginning of 2016. So my melancholy about Lyon has been sweetened by the news we’re coming back – but proper this time. As in, we’ll be earning money (not burning through savings) and giving it a real shot. I have three months back in Australia to secure a position in France and figure out what I will busy myself with there. I vow to find myself a band and sing at as many dive bars as I can manage.

If this job hadn’t pulled through, it’s hard to justify what we’ve been doing these last seven months. But I’ll try. Two were spent honeymooning throughout Spain (fabulous, five stars, great people), three were spent waiting to hear back on the aforementioned job, and the rest were devoted to me learning French, attending a lavish wedding in Lake Como, chilling with Gabriel Gaté (who after dinner one night at Le Grand Colbert, leaned over and said, ‘I don’t mean to sound like the Godfather, but this is on me’).

The rest has been very ordinary living because we’ve been running on a tight budget. We cook everything we eat (for the most part) and avoid costly ventures (the Australian dollar to the Euro is pitiful). But it’s been a good exercise for East and I as a duo. We have learnt that I become heinous when I haven’t spent time alone; that we eat a lot of chicken; that he comprehends lots of French though fears to speak it. Important relationship stuff.

I’ve learnt plenty about myself here. How easy it is for a woman to pass up her needs in the presence of another. How when I’d neglected the small stuff, like doing my nails and listening to my favourite women, and eating brown rice and calling home, I felt awful and lost. I have tasted the dangers of forgetting to look out for yourself, and while I know I’ll repeat the mistake, I’ll get back to me faster each time.

You asked me why moving overseas is important. I haven’t completely solidified the idea, but probs ’cause it makes you really f*cking uncomfortable. It switches up your routine and humbles you for suddenly you’re the foreigner. You’re the guest. Plus, new languages are good for the brain, so they say. I’ll leave you with this one thought that is tripping me out right now: If we have a baby during East’s tenure in Paris, that baby will speak French to us. Like, Mama and Papa type shit. Dude.

See you soon.

– Ape


That’s all for April’s postcards. To keep up with April, follow her on Twitter.

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