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Thursday, 16 June 2016

My First Weeks Back in France, Part 1: Shopping and a Wedding!

Hello! Welcome back to Embrace Space! As you may recall, I made the move to France a few weeks ago and I thought you'd like to learn a little of my adventures so far. Herein lies the first week, getting to France and preparing for a wedding!

Getting ready for the flight was easy, I've done it several times. Packing my life into two suitcases wasn't easy, and in fact I left many things behind; things I wouldn't need right away. The flight itself was fine; spacious, relaxing, and I spent the entire time watching The Flash on my Surface 3 tablet, so that was pretty great! 

Reuniting with Juliette was literally a dream come true. I have been thinking of this moment for months now and it was a weird combination of the realest and the most unreal experience I've ever had. We had been apart for over 7 months, marking the second time in our 2 year relationship when we had been apart for that long, and we collapsed into each other's arms like we had just finished a marathon.

Since then, life has been both busy and relaxing. Juliette and her mom have been very hospitable, making sure I have everything I need to be happy and comfortable. There have been some difficulties, but they have been mitigated greatly.

Getting used to a new country can be tough, even when you prepare for it, and as I now know, even when you lived there before. The language is different, the thinking is different, the food is different, tastes are different, and the way things are done can be different. As I said, for the most part things have been great, but it is tough not to feel like an ignorant savage when I don't know about this type of cheese, when I want ketchup on my hot dogs, or I miss that "American yellow paint you call mustard" as Juliette puts it. 

Taking things in stride is a valuable skill to have, and one I have been developing for far longer than discovering that France doesn't love peanut butter as much as I do. I have learned to be patient, try new things, even to like sushi. *gasp* I know, I know, but it's all a part of growing up.

Very quickly after arriving, Juliette and I went to Strasbourg. We had a friend's wedding to attend, and I needed a new suit. I had been excited for this for some time. Since my financial situation has started to improve, I wanted to mark that with a fashion upgrade. Fashion is always an interesting topic for me. Ever the engineer, clothing and accessories must be functional, but my time among artists has taught me how to appreciate and be critical of the form. Anyway, with Juliette's help, I am happy to say that I now own two new suits, one blue and one grey, and a new pair of "everyday" pants that fit me far better than their predecessors.

The first weekend here was the wedding, and it was both very nice and very different than my previous experiences as wedding guest. The biggest difference for me was that it took place in the town hall. I had never been to a town hall wedding before. Even when I attended very non-religious ceremonies, there had been a lot of preparation, decoration, and fan-fare. Here, there was not. It was a lovely ceremony, but a very subdued one. This fit the couple well, for which I'm glad, but it was odd to me to see the mayor and clerk signing several forms and speaking quietly amongst each other as part of the ceremony.

These are not complaints. The ceremony was very sweet and I was very happy to have been invited. Juliette acted as witness and I had an extra smile for her as she stood at the front with her friend.

Afterward, we drove to the reception hall which was in the mountains! The Vosges mountains are a lot closer to Turckheim (where Juliette's family lives) than they are to Strasbourg (where we'll be moving soon), and they are lovely to see. Nowhere near as sharply defined as the Canadian Rockies, the Vosges are rounded and full of the colour green. One neat thing I learned is that the French refer to the rounded hilltops as "ballons", balloons.

I tried to get pictures of the mountains, but it was a foggy afternoon.

A lovely day for a ride in the sky (The day was actually much brighter than this)
The reception was very nice, but I was bored at first. While the wedding party went for a walk to take photos, the rest of the friends and family stayed inside the inn. We had been left with a crossword puzzle concerning the bride and groom (which I think is a fantastic idea), but I couldn't really contribute since I didn't really know the couple. I had only met the groom on the day of the wedding, and I had only spoken with the bride a few times prior to the big day. I did my best to stay enthused, but for the most part, I just stood outside and enjoyed the view.

Afterward, we all came together for the meal. I tried a few new things including foie gras, duck (I may have had some in the past but I cannot recall), and Gugelhupf. All in all, quite delicious. I had the honour of sitting across from the bride, and I did my best to work my way into the almost-entirely French conversation. The groom and his Best Man spoke English, so thankfully some of my jokes came across. My French is improving, but it is a slow process.

It was a lovely event and the couple honoured their parents with baby gifts, surprising them with the fact that the bride was pregnant. The conclusion of the evening involved lighting candles and setting them adrift on a nearby lake, a symbol of wishes and well-wishes.

I wish AliƩnor and Laurent the very best for their life ahead. With all the love I saw at the event, I know they are in for a wonderful adventure.

I know that some of you have reached this point and thought, "Hey, where are the pictures?" Well, the truth is that I didn't take any. While everyone looked lovely, I didn't know most of the people and I was busy helping before the ceremony. The wedding photographer took two lovely photos of Juliette and myself so I will upload those later, but I didn't want to wait to publish this post.

And that concludes my first week in France. All in all, I am thankful to have arrived safely, to be far enough away from the recent strikes and floods to not be affected by them, and thankful for Juliette's ever-present company making my time here completely enjoyable and stress-free.

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