Home sweet home

As of today, I have been back in Canada for a whole month. A lot has changed, but somethings feel like I never left. My family is still the same loving group of people I left over four months ago, and they continue to amaze me – not only with their feats and accomplishments, but also by their love and support. They’ve been excited about my adventures abroad since the moment I heard I got accepted to study in Lyon, and they continue to encourage me to do what I love and what makes me happy. 

School feels the same as ever, trekking across campus three days a week to attend my English and History classes; most of which I am really enjoying, with only two I have yet to find the passion for. The University friends I left behind in August all carried on with their Carleton days while I was away, but have thankfully welcomed me back into their lives as if I had been there the whole time.

When I’m immersed in my school life, it sometimes feels like I never left Carleton’s underground world for the little tabacco factory of a school in Lyon, France. I guess some things never change, no matter how long you are gone or how much an experience changes you. I still get to spend my Fridays running errands and lazing around the house with my mom. She’s still there to nag me and hug me whenever necessary. My sister and I still drive each other crazy but would be lost without each other. Chris and Jon are still the nerdy, protective older brothers I’ve relied on my entire life. Dad is still working his ass off trying to bring some law & order to this crazy world we live in, all the while finding time to worry about and love his four children.

And my friends, well, I would be a mess if not for them. Whether in Texas getting her drawl back, or in Vancouver enjoying her yoga and ocean-side views, or back in Lyon struggling to keep up with the circus that is France, or even right here in Ottawa (and surrounding cities) where I left them, waiting to welcome me back with open arms, ears and hearts. My friends bring me back down to earth when life gets overwhelming, or just remind me to laugh things off and enjoy life because we’re young and we still have so many more adventures to embark on together.

Not that I don’t ordinarily enjoy life to the fullest, but sometimes it’s hard to have to face the reality of life after living in an ignorantly blissful world while on exchange. So many questions run through my head everyday: what do I want to do with my life; am I making the right choices to make me happy in the future; should I be volunteering more; should I give yoga a second chance; what should I eat today, etc. Sure, some of them are easier to answer then others, but when they all start cramming their way into my head, they start to take their toll and life gets overwhelming all over again. I know that my time on exchange has changed me as a person, and even though I’m yet to fully understand how I’ve changed, I know that it has affected my life here in Ottawa. My mom has always said that everything happens for a reason, so whether or not I’ve decided if my changes are for the best, I know life will sort itself out and I’ll be back in the world finding new adventures for myself in no time. As for now, I’ve got fantastic friends (old and new) and family to help me get readjusted to my life here in Ottawa. And look at that, I’ve made it a month and I’m still pretty much in one piece – just a few battle wounds to prove I can make it through the rough patches. I’m excited for life, whatever it holds; hopefully I have more travelling in store for me, which means more stories for me to share with the world. But for today I have Uni readings to conquer and a sister to bother. 

Love to you all, xox, B. 

Giving Thanks

For those of you who may not know, I have a pretty big family. We are a quirky bunch with big hearts, stubborn minds, opinionated thoughts and always the best of intentions. Family means the world to me, which has become ten times more apparent while living almost half a world away from them, and this past weekend was hard to not be with the entire gang as per usual.

Thanksgiving has always been about family and friends in the Doody household. Sunday night would come along and the six of us Doody’s would gather around our dining room table with whatever stragglers  [read: extra friends my parents welcomed into the Doody household with open arms] we had brought along, and we’d stuff our faces til our pants no longer fit. I love Thanksgiving for the fall air, the delicious aroma of the cooking turkey and freshly baked pies, and the sound of friends and family gathered to give thanks for everything we are grateful to have in our lives.

Thanksgiving has also become a time for reunion among friends and family, which makes me grateful for the people I have in my life. As I got older and my friends started leaving Ottawa for various schools, I could rely on one weekend in October where everyone would be reunited – friends and family. It was difficult to be away from the familiarity of my favourite fall weekend, but not only did I find solace in a visit to Paris to meet my parents and sister, but it also made me grateful for the people I love in a country I am grateful to call home. France has most certainly proven to be a frustrating country to live in. Despite its natural beauty, extraordinary architecture and delicious food, the french culture leaves a lot to be desired. From the slow and bureaucratic administrative system at Uni, the lack of legitimate customer service, a sea of unsmiling faces in public, and the sassy unwelcoming personalities of some of our French acquaintances, it can be tough to see the beauty of the French lifestyle from the perspective of an unwelcome “foreigner”. Don’t get me wrong, I am undoubtedly loving my time living in France, and I understand that every culture has its own unique ups and downs, but it has been a long time coming for the need to write about the less attractive side of experiencing and living in a new culture. All that to say, I am now, more than ever, grateful to be a Canadian. I have taken for granted many things about living in Canada; the larger things in life (land, houses, bathrooms, coffees, roads, restaurants… the list could go on forever), friendly faces, online Uni administration/school courses, proper customer service, etc. I am proud to introduce myself as a Canadian to everyone I meet abroad, and I stereotypically wear my Canadian flag on my backpack when I travel as a constant reminder of where I come from. Canada will always be home for me, and being away from it has reminded me how lucky I am to have a safe place to live freely, comfortably and equally among others.

I am also grateful to have this opportunity be on exchange, and to experience the ups and downs of travelling. I have come to the realization that not everything will go as planned, and that sometimes you inevitably have to take the good with the bad. If the worst it gets is adjusting to a frustrating culture, well then so be it, I think I’ll manage just fine. I’ve got myself a group of friends who are all as frustrated as  me or more, and we are all still smiling and soldering on to experience whatever adventures await us. We continue to meet new people, all of whom are eager to meet and get to know us. Before leaving Canada my (almost) sister-in-law told me that meeting people would be like making camp friends – the kinds of friendships that form instantly on the sole basis that everyone needs a friend away from home, and the more is always the merrier. The friends I have made far exceed any expectation I could have had, and they make the difficult aspects of being on exchange ten times more bearable, and the good times ten times more enjoyable. So I am also very grateful for not only my amazing friends back home whom I miss every day, but the new ones I have made who make home seem much less far away.

Home has thankfully seemed much less far away in the past few weeks because I have had the fortune of having home brought to me. Ian was here for two amazing weeks, but flew home on Friday with the ungodly start of 4 am. We were sad to say yet another round of “see-you-soons,” but I only had one day to wallow in my post-departure-depression before my parents and sister arrived in Paris. They are continuing to frolic around the city of fashion, food and love until Thursday, upon which they arrive in Lyon for a few more days of family bonding time and eating our way through the gastronomic capital of France. Between visits from home, I am keeping myself busy with dinner parties, coffee breaks and a bit of studying on the side.

Thank you to everyone back home (and anywhere else in the world) who has been taking the time to travel along with me on my adventures by reading the blog. I am grateful to have your support and encouragement! Love you all so much,

xox, B.