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,