Totally ungrateful and yet so rewarding !

I wanted to say that soooo many time!! 😂😂

This past month, I didn´t write.

I started this blog because I wanted to have a project that was mine, not related to being a mother, a wife, a school volunteer, just something for me.

And yet I spend the month of June, doing just the opposite!!!

I spent the month of June being “a school volunteer” !

Organising the transfer of the school’s 2nd Hand uniforms shop that I managed alone the whole year from home and handing it over to a new team (kids are in an international school, hence the uniforms!). It sounds easy like this but it actually took a looooot of meetings and emails and discussions and negotiations …

Organising a “primary graduation party” for my 11 year-old daughter and her classmates. I was one of the class representative.

Creating an End-of year book. Nobody asked me to do it but yet, I thought it would be great for the kids to look back at their hope for the future and their memories of this special year.

Preparing presents and cards for all the adults who played a role in the kids’ life this year for both my daughter and my son classes. Yep … I was a class rep for both … not funny otherwise!!😂

And in the middle of all of it, Hubby restarted going away for work, I helped the kids with their end-of-year project (I painted a galaxy, I would let you know!! 🎨) and of course, I had to deal with constant pain …

I really enjoyed doing all of it (well, not the pain obviously!! 🥴), That is not the issue at all.

BUT…

I never really wanted to be a stay-at-home mum. I respect the parents doing it and I admire the people who found great joy in it, but I’ve always known it was not for me.

Our departure to Singapore threw me in that role, and it was so hard at first. I can honestly say that it took me about 9 months to accept the situation. (I never expected that I would not work over there … after all nurses can work anywhere … Yeah well, not true AT ALL! 😤)

My Halloween display in the school library!

It was hard for me to accept, but it was also hard for other people to understand how I could not enjoy not working or I was not willing to do something else. I heard it all: Teach French, volunteer, write a blog, be a school nurse!! But when all you want to do is being an ICU nurse, it takes a lot to look around and see other opportunities.

Yet, I ended up volunteering in the school. I needed to stay active and have projects. After a few months, I discovered that I actually liked it. I managed a team of a few mums on different activities and had free rein to express my creativity.

When we moved to Germany, my hopes were high that the stay-at-home-mum role would be temporary. I just had to learn the language, pass the exams required for my diploma to be recognised and I would be a nurse again …

In the meantime, I thought I could carry on volunteering: I was a gymnastic coach-assistant for 6 months, vice chair of the Parents Teacher Organisation for a year then manager of the 2nd-hand shop and events organiser (not so easy in a pandemic time!!), still in the school.

And because I don´t like doing things half-way, I really put myself into it. Between the school projects and my studying, I was working full time … without receiving a penny or a thank you!! 😂

Because that is the thing with volunteering in a school … parents expect a lot from the parent organisation but most of them don´t want to be involved, yet they want a community spirit. Again, most of them are quick to notice the wrong but are yet to acknowledge the amount of work behind each event (in person or online).

My friend and I, we organised the graduation party from scratch: kids’ presents, teachers presents, speeches, music playlist, art piece that will stay in the school, making sure that everybody had their corona test … All of it!!

From 23 kids in the class, we received a thank you from 4, maybe 5 parents!! they didn´t realise that without us and the 2 teachers, there would have been no party!

So, as I said, totally ungrateful job!!

But yet, so rewarding on a personal level because I learned so much about my capacity to manage projects, on my abilities to have a decision-making role (as a nurse I was mostly in a following-orders role). I also received valuable feedback from my team that I will use in my next role.

And the most important was that my kids enjoyed having me involved, always encouraging me and looking forward to see what ideas I will come up with!

But last week, I handed over my volunteer cap☺ … for a while anyway.

I am moving to my next role!

I signed up to a course to be certified as an end-of-life Doula … a grateful AND oh-so-rewarding job … I can´t wait!🤗🤗

Sincerely, Lyvy 🙂

back pain … You Evil !

Me! except that I can´t lie down on my front! It hurts too much! 🤣

The last 7 days have been hell for me health-wise!

I suffer from 2 very different chronic illnesses but both impact my daily life.

The first one is Food allergy syndrome. It is not very known under that name but basically I’m allergic to a LOT of food. It can give me terrible stomach pain and I have a high risk of having an anaphylactic shock. My last episode was last Monday!😩 I will talk more about that another time.

The second one is chronic back pain. This pain drives me bonkers!!! Not that I enjoy the stomach pain when my body doesn´t agree with what I eat but still … back pain takes over everything!

I am now day 4 of being bedridden. I know I should keep moving, walk a little every day. But I am at that stage where going to the toilets feels like doing a marathon !

Never did a marathon, but I guess it is tiring ! 🤣

By the time I’m in the toilets, I look at them and curse the person who decided the height of them … Why so low? Why?😭

Going from standing to sitting feels like someone is stabbing you with hundreds of needles and taking a real pleasure at it!😵

Never been stabbed, but again I guess it hurts !😫

And then, you are here… so glad you managed to hold on and do your business in the right place and not in your pants …. and suddenly you want to cry because you will have to bl**dy get up !

So yeah, going to the toilets at the moment is an adventure who is draining my energy big time!

Back pain is complicated. Between 60 to 70% of the population suffer from it and yet, it is unique to each individual and more often than not; you feel very alone in your distress.

You have the acute back pain episode, which means that out of nowhere you have a lot of pain. But no worries … it should be fixed in about 6 weeks time… easy peasy! 🤣 It may be the longest 6 weeks of your life, but who cares ?!

Then you have the chronic back pain that can be divided in two !

The one where you are in pain ALL the time and the one where you have acute episodes!! so confusing!!

It means that you have an underlying condition … like me: Disc herniation between L4 and L5. It means that I can go weeks or months with coping super well and then BANG! God only knows what I did to deserve a reminder that the hernia is still here.

But no worries … each episode should only takes between 6 to 12 weeks to recover if I am to believe all the medical studies I read about LBP (Lower Back Pain)

(so if you have 3 or 4 episodes per year and taking 3 months to recover each time, you are screwed!)

No big deal, right ??? well YES, BIG DEAL !!

Because the nice weather is finally here and I am in my bed.

Because the covid is finally giving us a little break and we could go out but Noooo, I can´t walk.

Because I carefully planned my summer … three weeks road trip! not manageable with a messed up back, thank you very much.

Because I finally restarted running and was progressing well. Each time I have to restart training from scratch.

Because I can´t walk my dog and I miss my woods like crazy.

Because I had to look into my boy´s little face this morning and told him that the plans we made this weekend for his birthday will be cancelled if mummy can recover in the next 48 hours.

So yeah BIG DEAL, you Evil!!!! (I am just a tiny bit angry and frustrated, sorry! 🤬🤬🤬)

Sincerely, Lyvy 🙂

Expatriation: 2. Why?

Migrating birds
Image Credit: AlicePopkorn

For 18 years now, I have been an expat and I still don´t know the answer to this question.

Why did I one day choose this life?

I don´t remember getting up one morning and standing in front of the mirror and saying: “Ok, today, you become an expat!”

I didn´t plan for months in advance.

And I don´t recall ever thinking: “When I am older, I will travel, live abroad and raise kids who speak English better than me!”

It just … happened. And it still does!

Fortunately, other people looked for the answer! 😏

Internations came up with this infographic that I find quite interesting. From their study, there is 10 types of Expat who are predominant:

  1. The foreign assignee: ” I was sent here by my employer”
  2. The career expat: “I found a job here on my own”
  3. The foreign Recruitee: “I was recruited by a local employer”
  4. The (ex-) student: “I moved here in order to go to school or uni”
  5. The travelling spouse: “I moved for my partner’s job” …THAT´S ME!!! 😂
  6. The romantic: “I moved for love”
  7. The family expat: “I moved for family reasons”
  8. The “single destination” expat: “I wanted to live in this particular country and I found a job here on my own”
  9. The “greener pastures” expat: “I move for a better quality of life and I simply enjoy living abroad”
  10. The Globetrotter: “I love travelling and simply enjoy living abroad”

When I am reading this now and I look back on the last 18 years, I guess I started as a Romantic, who transformed into a Travelling spouse and is now a Globetrotter !😁

And you?

If you were to become an expat, what would be your “Why”?

If you are an expat, what was your “Why” at first?

Sincerely, Lyvy 🙂

Expatriation: 1. Definition

credit: @mrslyvystar

I never really used the word “expat” until our departure to Singapore 4 years ago.

It is really strange because I left France for Belgium then we moved to England and in that period, I always saw myself as a “foreigner”, not an “expatriate”!

Then my daughter came home from school one day and told me she found out we were not only expat, we were “migrant” as well.

So I wondered: what exactly is an expat? Is there a difference between expat and (im)migrant?

If we are to believe the definition from dictionnary.com (and we have few reasons not to believe it! :-)), Expatriation means:

“Voluntary departure from the nation of one’s birth for permanent or prolonged residence in another nation.”

Ok, so technically, I realised it applied to me since the day I left France.

But … and there is always a but … if we continue to read the information from Dictionnary.com:

“If the word expatriation sounds like it has just about the same meaning as the word immigration, that’s because it does !

Oh well, it would have been too simple, right ?😂😂.

So … technically I’m also an immigrant !!

But (another but!!), actually, if not in a dictionary, in “real” life, there is a difference and thinking about it, I experienced it a few times.

The most obvious moment has been when we were in England, and Brexit happened.

Brexit was and still is a very complicated process/situation/(mess?🤔). I will not pretend to know all about it and I only speak from my perspective.

For a lot of foreigners, the feeling was that the United Kingdom did not want the immigrants anymore. Again, it was much more than that, but that how it felt. And let me tell you, there was a strange ambiance in the country, on the day they announced the results.

One of the doctors I was working with came to me the day after and apologised in the name of his country. His words were: “I hope you know you are still welcome to work here!”

It was good he told me because it didn´t even cross my mind that I was not!!! 🙈 😂. It would have been embarrassing if someone had asked me to leave!! 😄

However, it stayed on my mind the whole day, wondering why he felt the need to tell me that.

I went home and talked to a “friend” about it, telling her I never perceived myself as an immigrant, I was just “living in another country, speaking with an accent”. Her reply was:

“Yeah, but with you, it is different. You are French and you work, you!”

And there it was: the difference between my colleague who perceived me as the same foreigner as the others and my “friend” who put conditions on the “foreigners”.

And there it is, the difference between an expat and an immigrant!

It depends on the country you come from, the country you are going to, the language you speak, the colour of your skin, how much money you have, what job you are doing, how many times you move, the reason behind your move … I could go on and on!

So really, it is not up to you but up to the people around you and the way they decide to perceive you.

No? What do you think ?

Sincerely, Lyvy 🙂

PS: Did you know that the word (Ex)patriate has a lot of neologisms? well, according to Wikipedia!!! (up to you to believe or not). Here are some of them:

  • dispatriate, an expatriate who intentionally distances themselves from their nation of origin;
  • flexpatriate, an employee who often travels internationally for business.
  • Inpatriate, an employee sent from a foreign subsidiary to work in the country where a company has its headquarter;
  • Rex-pat, a repeat expatriate, often someone who has chosen to return to a foreign country after completing a work assignment;
  • Sexpat, a sex tourist.

Mother´s day !

4 little eggs who hatched on Mother’s Day … in my husband’s bike helmet!!!!
(photo credit @mrslyvystar)

Yesterday, here in Germany and like in a lot of other countries, we celebrated the famous “Mother’s Day!”.

I always had such a weird relationship with that day. I didn´t hate it, but I didn´t love it as well. I was ok to celebrate it with my kids, but I didn´t want to make a fuss about it as well.

Except for the “Noodle necklace”, the “top-of-the-art” poem or drawing from school, I don´t remember celebrating that day at home as a child. That may be why it was not so important to me, and also maybe because I always heard it was “all commercial anyway” !!🙈😉

But then I had my kids and to this day, they are so excited to do something that we plan a good meal; I ask for a special dessert and they go shopping with their dad, spending their “hard earned” pocket money!

This year, however, it took a different meaning for me and I think I will always look at it with fresh eyes. I decided that instead of my kids celebrating ME (well; I am not against flowers and chocolate! let’s not push it!!), I will be the one celebrating having kids. I know I should do it every day but I am a mother every day and yet; it appears that we need a day to celebrate that !!!

This came to me while I was doing my morning Gratitudes, (something I do every day about everything and anything). I was thinking about my friend who lost her 22 years-old boy last month in a car crash and about this post from a blog I follow (NOTQUITEOLD).

Mother’s Day is such a painful day for them. Mother’s Day is painful for so many people; the women without kids, the kids without moms, the mothers who lost their child, the children who lost their mom …

So I know now that, on Mother’s Day, I will focus my gratitudes on the fact that I am really lucky to be a mother and that I am really lucky that I can hold them and cuddle them. I will take a step back and enjoy even more everything they have to give me that day … even if it is tears and screaming because they fight over who should give me my presents!!! 🤦‍♀️ (yep, that happened!! 😂).

I will feel lucky indeed to celebrate Mother’s Day !

Sincerely, Lyvy 🙂

German, German, German !!!

Yep, that is about right !!

If I won money for each time I heard the sentence ” you need to talk to learn it” since I arrived in Germany, I would be rich!!

The first problem? It is true!!!! You can spend hours reading a book or doing all the grammar exercises you can digest (and trust me, learning German is a real digesting process!) or like me having studied it for 10 years at school, if you don´t actually practice speaking out loud, your progress is going to be very, very, very slow !

The second problem? As surprising as it is, sooooo many people here in Germany speak English. So at the minute they hear a slight accent or that you can´t find your German words, they switch to English, too happy for them to actually practice with someone.

So the third problem? Well, YOU didn´t practice your brand new, so well studied, hard to swallow, 25-letters-long new words and so, you are back to square one …

When we moved to England, I didn´t speak a word at all. (I learnt for a few years at school but hated it so as soon as my “baccalaureat” was done and dusted, I forgot everything !)

But I realised quickly that I didn´t have a choice to speak out loud if I wanted to belong.

Here, in Germany, it is another story!! Most of the radios diffuse English songs, some even do their programs half German / half English! Where I live, it is very international and many people speak 3 or 4 different languages. Very often, our common language is English.

In UK, very few people speak another language unless you are in really big cities, the radios/TV are in English, the songs are in English. Everything!! So you eat English all day long! After a few very painful/nobody-understand-you months, you can easily find your way around.

But the worst of all is: Netflix and other media platforms!! (didn´t have this 10 years ago in England). Why watching a movie where you will not understand a thing when you can binge on your favourite series in any language you mastered !

So you really have to practise (read, watching TV, listening to the news), not be scared to make mistakes when you speak, find the courage to say ” please let me try!” even if you can´t have a good conversation.

I tried …. REALLY! but I also realised that learning a language without an aim/purpose in mind (exams, job, …) makes it really hard to stay motivated. Since I know we are going to be on the move again in a bit over 6 months’ time and that I may never have to speak German again, well, let say, my German took some Holidays !!!!

It has been 2 months now (yep, that is some long holidays!!!) since I passed my “Prüfung” and spoke German with anybody. The motivation to push myself is really gone. Despite that, I am glad I took the time to re-learn it because if I didn´t progress as much as I wanted and I may never use it in my career, I met awesome people in my classes and didn´t feel so alone during that time and that, for an expat, it is essential !

I will add this video from Nathanaël Rochat (for anybody who understands French) who will teach you German in 4 minutes ! 😂

Sincerely, Lyvy 🙂

Let´s do it !

Going through the door of new opportunities …

In expatriation outside of my “native country” for almost 20 years now, I realised my journey as a “traveller” started way before that!! I moved with my parents for the first time when I was 6 months-old, I did my primary school in a town, my middle school in another, my secondary in another and went to Uni in another … the only difference as an adult is that now I move between countries!!! So when the ultimate question I am being asked every single time I meet someone new, “where are you from?” comes around, I am often at a loss for words.

So where am I from? I guess it depends on my mood, who I talk to, how motivated I am to start from the beginning!!
All I know it that wherever I am or go, I have to reinvent myself, adding each time a chapter at my life.
I did it as a child, as a girlfriend, as a wife and now as a mother.

I decided it was maybe time to put all my experiences, lessons, reflections into words …
Welcome to this journey with me !!

Sincerely, Lyvy 🙂

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