Canadian Expat Mom

Congo- My Year in Review

I’m back after being quiet for quite awhile. I guess we can call it a period of reflection, although as I write this, I feel like I might still be in the middle of that.

For someone living what might seem, from a different continent, like a crazy adventure in Africa, I haven’t had a lot to say around here lately. The truth is, I have been writing. Some Africa things, some other things, I just haven’t decided where those words should go yet.The other reason for the recent silence is that I don’t like being a Debbie Downer, and adjusting to life here hasn’t been all roses for me. Some people absolutely love it here and are heartbroken when it’s time to go. I hear of people who have left and are actually home-sick for Africa when they move. At this point, I will not likely be one of those people. Am I glad to have gotten the experience of visiting this part of the world? Absolutely. Do I want to continue to live my day to day here? Well, that’s debatable. It’s not all bad. Where we live is safe, the people are nice, the friendships are plentiful, my kids are happy and well adjusted. We fill our days with enough to keep us busy and we’ve created a life here. But the location is a far cry from past places we’ve loved living, which my Facebook memories keep ever so gently reminding me of(I’m looking at you France!).Of course we can drive an hour on the weekends and make a trip to the beach, but if we don’t want to do the drive every weekend, where we live can be a bit, what a friend calls, “same-ish”. There are no strolls through town, walks along the river, visiting city parks, farmer’s markets, water parks, malls, libraries or science centres. We don’t have a lot of options besides the playground in our back yard or the neighbourhood pool, which are great, but with those being the only options, after a while it gets, well, same-ish.But there’s got to be a bright side, cause if you look hard enough, there always is.

My kids are happy in their large francophone school and really enjoy having a slew of neighbourhood kids that are always within earshot of our windows, with their squeals of delight summoning my girls to join them and play.I fit my clothes again! The past two years, we’ve moved across the world twice, with a stop in Canada each time, where I’ve celebrated by eating my feelings. With no move coming up this year and not much to do during the day, I’m not stress-eating while I pack boxes and have time to make exercise a priority. I’m back to the weight that is normal for me, which I haven’t been since two years ago when we left France.

I wrote a book. Yes, you read that right. To manage my feelings when leaving France, two years ago I started writing a book about our adventure and adjustment to life in La France, but when it came time to leave, I put it down and completely abandoned it. Finally feeling like life has stopped spinning(aka no international move this year) has given me time. And I used that time to revisit a project that for two years has felt too big to tackle. I’m happy to report that 78,000 words later, my book baby has been born! Well, more like conceived, and now at full term. After summer holidays I will work on hopefully finding her a home so she can be shared with all of you!

Lastly, it’s not permanent. I do find refuge in knowing that even though we don’t feel like we’ve won the expat lottery this time, it’s not forever. After this, maybe we’ll go somewhere else, maybe we’ll go home, but our current reality is not forever. In the meantime, I’m trying to make the most of it, enjoy the people that are here with us, use my time wisely, and take away from this experience whatever lessons I’m supposed to be learning; although I usually don’t realize those until after the fact.

In a nutshell, that’s what I’ve been up to. Health and fitness, writing my passion project, spending time with my family and friends and trying to be grateful for what I have while living in a place where so many would love to be in my shoes; even my worst pair.

When we found out last year that we’d be moving to Africa, we decided that because of proximity, and time zones, our “home base” would be France. Our plan was for us to spend the summer there, enjoying a place that funny enough, now feels so much like home. But for me there’s only one thing missing from that wonderful country, and that’s my family! So, as physically exhausting and financially taxing at it is, I’m making the not-so-short flight(s) home this summer anyway.

Next week my girls and I are on quite the journey.

We’ll start with an overnight, eight hour flight from Congo to Paris and we’ll hang out in the airport there for a few hours. Then we’ll hop on another plane from Paris to Amsterdam, and pass five hours or so in the airport by trying on clogs and looking at tulip bulbs. Finally, we’ll board another eight hour flight to Calgary, and somewhere over Greenland we’ll likely realize that we’re already completely shattered before even tackling the eight hour time change that we’re about to deal with. But then, we’ll be home. The bank account will be empty, and exhaustion will be heavy, but we will fall into the loving arms of my parents, brothers, sister-in-laws, nieces, nephews, cousins and friends. And Costco. I also love my annual visit to Costco.

After three weeks of loading up on the family time that France can’t offer, we’ll make that tiring trip in reverse, but stopping in Paris and heading South to the other place we call home, where this time we’ll fall into the larger, but just as loving, arms of ‘Canadian Expat Dad’ and spend the rest of our summer together eating baguettes and cheese. And drinking allll the bubbles!

I figure that should be enough to fill my love bank, relaxation time, and Costco supplies for the next year. And even though I’m not totally stoked about staying put for another year, I’m actually quite looking forward to what that year might have in store.

5 thoughts on “Congo- My Year in Review

  1. Wendy Gaonac'h

    I’m also Canadian, and living in Brittany. I miss Costco a lot here, but was happy to hear they are opening one outside Paris at the end of June. Too far for me to travel, but hoping one will eventually open up within a reasonable distance… they plan to expand – and the photos look just like Costco in Canada!

  2. Jennifer

    Before I say anything else, I can’t wait to read your book!!!! There, that’s out there.

    Now onto the rest. I hear you and whilst Congo turned out a lot better than you may have anticipated, it just isn’t ‘you’. I had that feeling in Paris. I tried, I worked on it, I started groups (hello, would we have met otherwise if it wasn’t for running!? haha) and I tried to take advantage of the life we had there. But…it wasn’t me. It never was. Despite that, it still feel like it is ‘home’ when I visit (how can it not after a decade there?!) Yet after a few days, I’m always keen to leave. It’s OK if this assignment wasn’t the jackpot because you will learn more about what you do need and where you really need to be from it.

    We were offered Dubai when I was 3 weeks due to give birth to James. The turnaround from offer to move would have been around 6 weeks so we said no at the time. I have a small regret we didn’t try it but that’s all it is, regret. I’m happy we stopped the company running our lives and took steps to be in control of our location. Switzerland is my 5th and, for the foreseeable future, final stop for a very long time. This might be presumptuous but I think part of you is looking for that feeling of being happy where you are and in control of it. Take if from me, being somewhere that ultimately isn’t ‘you’ will make those feelings stronger. I miss my family all the time, but being happy where I am makes that SO MUCH easier to cope with!!!

    Long-winded but I wanted to say you are not alone in how you feel. Any place can feel like that for anyone if it just isn’t a good fit. Hang in there and go get that book published!!! 😉

    1. Canadian Expat Mom Post author

      That is EXACTLY how I feel!!!! It’s better here than I though it would be when I first heard ‘Africa’, and while some people love it, it’s just not my jam. Different strokes for different folks. I can most definitely relate to the feelings you had while you were in Paris.

      In the meantime, I’ll write 🙂

  3. Catriona Turner

    The good things about living in Congo: 1: I get to say I lived in Congo. 2: another step in the journey of experiencing a new place, new culture, gaining new perspectives. 3. Our community here. 4: the tiny impact I can try and have on the local community.
    The rest is definitely ‘meh’.
    And the people who love it are, I’m very sure, either francophone by origin, or not picking up children at 11.45 every day!

  4. Claude

    Nice to read you again. So as not to be redundant, I echo Jennifer 100%, ‘it’s just not you’! I knew that when you left France and the impressions you had of the Country.

    I just caught the ‘Calgary Stampede’ videos, absolutely awesome! I didn’t know you could ride bulls?

    Fantastic you have devoted this time to fit back in your clothes as you say, it’s a statement wherever you are and a constant shot of self esteem. As a trainer, I know what it means to people that get there.

    I know you are loving your summer, what better way to end it than with Baguettes, Fromage, and Champagne.

    Bien sur, n’oubliez pas les Croissants!

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