keskiviikko 10. lokakuuta 2018

Grape Picking In Provence


It's 5:30 in the morning when an annoying ringtone sets off and pierces the silent darkness in a small bedroom in the South of France. I wake up with the impression of having closed my eyes five minutes ago. My husband is quickly out of bed and already making coffee downstairs. I love coffee in the morning but I can't have any on the days I work since it makes you want to go to the bathroom. I get up and head also downstairs to have breakfast which I wouldn't really have the appetite for. At 6:40 I dress up, slather some bb-cream with sunscreen on my face, pack my snacks and lunch and make a last visit to the bathroom. Twenty minutes later Q and I are in the car on our way to Chateuneuf-du-Pape, famous for its prestigious wines.

In the dark of an early morning, we sit in silence listening to Indochine's J'ai demandé à la lune:

J'ai demandé à la lune / I have asked the Moon
Et le soleil ne le sait pas / And the Sun doesn't know about it
Je lui ai montré mes brûlures / I showed her my burns

Et la lune s'est moquée de moi / And the Moon made fun of me
Et comme le ciel n'avait pas fière allure / And as the sky didn't look great
Et que je ne guérissais pas / And that I was not healing
Je me suis dit quelle infortune / I told myself what a misfortune
Et la lune s'est moquée de moi / And then the Moon made fun of me

J'ai demandé à la lune / I asked the Moon
Si tu voulais encore de moi / If you still wanted me
Elle m'a dit "J'ai pas l'habitude / She told me: " I'm not used to
De m'occuper des cas comme ça" / Taking care of cases like this"
Et toi et moi / And you and me
On était tellement sûr / We were so sure
Et on se disait quelques fois / And we would tell ourselves sometimes
Que c'était juste une aventure / That it was just an adventure
Et que ça ne durerait pas / And that it wouldn't last

The car ride is soon over and Q pulls over to drop me off in front of a hangar with a bunch of people waiting around. A quick kiss of goodbye and I'm already on my way towards my colleagues. We are all there for the same purpose: to complete the harvest of the wine grapes for 2018. It's 7:20 am and another long day is about to begin. I hop on one of the vans and my work pair drives us to today's location. I try to focus on the present moment and not think about the long hours of manual labour ahead until 5 pm and being able to reunite with Q again.


Once at the vineyards, I prepare myself to work: put my cap and gardening gloves on, grab my vine cutters and a black bucket. Here we go...A row of vine is assigned to me and I get to work. We work in a bent position, cutting and grabbing the grapes as fast as possible, not forgetting any behind. My abs and back are soon burning and I get an occasional numb feeling around my tailbone and buttocks.  I throw the grapes into my bucket which I carry with me as I move forward. I hear my colleagues criticizing the work of others: that one there is too fast, that one too slow and so on. I don't want to be targeted so I try my best to keep up with the others and go unnoticed. However, I'm the only first timer so sometimes it can't be helped that I fall behind. 

We work 4 hours nonstop in the morning and 3 and a half in the afternoon. I have learnt how to regulate my water intake so that I can make the whole day without reaching an unbearable need to go to the bathroom. I drink only when I absolutely need to and only enough to quench the worst thirst. Sometimes the day's location has enough bushy vegetation so I can safely drink as much as I want as long as I can hold it until the lunch break.

At noon we have a break of an hour and a half. The work is physically and mentally demanding so sometimes I just want to eat in silence in the van and maybe have a nap to kill some time. Otherwise, our team looks for some shade and we all eat together.


I'm always happy when it's finally 13:30 and we get back to work. It means there's only 3 and a half hours to go. When you do monotonous manual labour,  such amount of time can literally feel like an eternity. In order to push through I have learnt to meditate while working: no past, no future, only the present moment exists. To keep going there's only one repetitious thought on my mind as I grab and cut the grapes: cut, cut, cut, cut...My back hurts and abs wouldn't want to keep holding my torso in that bent position so I catch myself holding my breath. I force myself to keep my breaths long and regular. At this point the temperature has climbed close to 40 degrees: my eyes are burning from the sweat and I can feel the heatrash get worse under my humid gloves. I fantasize about water and delicious cold  drinks. But time never stops, no matter how slow it feels, and at 5 pm the boss shouts: "Empty the buckets!" I have survived another day. 

Once back in the car with Q, he immediately hands me a fresh soft drink which I accept with the greatest gratitude. Returning home, I feel beaten but I force myself to shower and eat before falling on the couch for the 3 hours I have left of the day. Q slathers balms on my sunburns and aching back. Soon it's time for bed again and I ask myself: how many more days is there still to go?

***

The grape harvest finally finished last saturday. The only reason why I accepted the job of picking grapes was that we were assured that I could work at my own pace and that the work conditions were very good. I was also told that the job would last maximum three weeks. Last week I ended up picking grapes six days in a row and until the very last day I didn't know when we would be finished. There was no information whatsoever on the matter apart from speculations and rumours. In the end the harvest lasted 4 weeks. 

The description above of my typical work day is to give a realistic image of what working at a vineyard really is like. I thought that if I just told you I had finished working at a vineyard in Chateuneuf-du-Pape, the whole thing would have seemed a bit too glamorous. I have done manual labour before but this was really the hardest job I have ever had. However, I do treasure it as an experience and am glad I managed to finish the season. People around me asked why I didn't quit earlier but to be honest I was just too stubborn to give up. Also, of course I wanted to earn some money. Thanks to this last month I will be able to for example offer myself a new camera.

I know many youngsters and travelers are fascinated and attired by grape picking in countries like France and Italy. I honestly think that I would have myself enjoyed the job more had the language, culture and country been new to me and had  I a companion of travel to share the experience with. At the vineyard where I worked everyone had already worked there for plus 20 years or they were directly related to the bosses. This made me feel quite left out.  In addition to this, I could understand all the racism and backstabbing activities going on around me. Sometimes it's just better not to know.

So, grape picking? It was definitely an experience, but I'm thankful it's all just a memory now. 



perjantai 14. syyskuuta 2018

Finnish Thrift Finds


Thrifting is one of the things I was looking most forward to doing during our stay in my homeland. Unlike in Provence, thrifting is not viewed as "a poor thing" in Finland. People from all social classes love shopping second hand. This means that there are a lot of thrift shops of high quality. The items are most often clean, well displayed and reasonably priced. I find that in France thrift shops are either too fancy or horribly shabby. What seems to be increasingly popular and the most socially acceptable way to sell and buy second hand is to take part in a vide-grenier. Basically this means that people gather in an empty parking lot to shop other's used goods. The vide-greniers usually take place  on sundays from early  morning until noon, but some big ones last the whole day. Hopefully the success of the vide-greniers will eventually change the way buying second hand is viewed in the French society.

I love thrifting for a number of reasons but one of the best things is to find items of excellent quality for an affordable price. The condition of a garment once I find it in a thrift shop tells me everything I need to know about its potential lifespan in my own closet. There's no need to fear for it to disintegrate in the first wash if it has made it so far. Most of the clothes I still own are actually old second hand finds and this is thanks to two things: their quality and timelessness. The latter meaning that I don't shop according to trends but my own personal style. This way I end up with gems I really love and want to hold on to.

While in Finland, I was lucky enough to visit a number of thrift shops in different villages and cities. Recently I have been on the hunt for tops, cardigans, skirts and a cropped jean jacket. It's such a feeling of victory to find something I have been looking for such a long time! Such was the case when I found for example the jean jacket I had been wanting for over a year. When shopping clothing second hand it's not only the style  and quality that matter but also the size. As my size is more common in Finland than in France, my options were numerous and I made many finds that need no adjusting whatsoever.

I must say that trying to take proper pictures of my finds in our little dark house with a 50 euro camera has made me pledge to buy a better device as soon as possible. I have already been putting some money aside and hopefully in a few months I'll be able to step up my photography game!


Look at those flowers! This lightweight viscose blouse is one of my favorite finds from this summer. Thanks to its cropped length it pairs well with high waisted skirts and jeans. I finally have a pair of pants now as I went through my closets back in Finland and found some long lost high waisted black jeans. 


This orange cardigan is 100 percent wool and its style is right up my alley. In Provence it's still way too early for it but before we left Finland, I actually got a chance to wear this cozy beauty.


The blue flower print -cardigan is the first piece of clothing from Gudrun Sjödén I have ever come across in a thrift shop. That's not the reason I bought it though but because it is made of organic cotton and is incredibly lightweight and soft. Its length also makes it nice to pair with my many dresses.


Yes, it's another cardigan! I do confess that I love the way a cardigan looks with a dress or a skirt. This one is also the perfect cropped length with 3/4 sleeves plus it's 100 percent cotton.

Before the summer I had hardly any patterned tops so I was really happy to come across this fun leopard print one. I'm usually not a fan of animal prints so I'm surprised that I have recently bought not only one but two leopard print garments.



Here's THE jean jacket I mentioned earlier! It really seems to be of great quality and I'm looking forward to the denim softening and getting that slightly worn out look.


This t-shirt is a curious mix of wool and viscose but it feels so comfortable on plus fits perfectly. I didn't really have anymore any basic top like this.


I forgot to mention earlier that Noki worked hard as my photo shoot assistant for this post! Here he's making sure my leopard print scarf is nicely fluffy for the pics. Seriously though, this scarf is just what I needed for the windy provençal winter. I had already a few prior to this one but they are the huge blanket style and thus not very practical.


It turned out quite challenging to photograph this one but I'll be doing a series of ootd posts soon so you will get a better look at the clothes. Anyway, this one is another soft blouse in viscose with a fun pattern and fluttery sleeves.


Time for the last item: a retro leather handbag. I'm not sure from what year this one is exactly but I would guess 80s or 90s. I like that it's smaller and lighter than my other a bit similar bag but I can still fit my wallet and phone in it. This is the last bag I will buy in a long while as I now have all the big, small and medium sized purses a girl needs. The little Marimekko coin purse peeking from the bag is not a second hand find but a gift from my mother. I find it goes well with the vibe of the bag so I keep them together.

Huhhu, that's all for my finnish thrift finds. I'm happy I was able to find items I had already been seeking for a long time and I actually need. How about you? Do you keep a list of the things you want to buy second hand?

Have a lovely weekend! 

torstai 2. elokuuta 2018

Greetings From Finland

Visiting Loviisa!


It's been already a bit over three weeks since the day I finally got to open the door into my parents' home, my childhood home, after the long wait of one and a half years. The reunion was full of rejoice and I was actually jumping up and down with tears in my eyes  while yelling: "I'm HOME!! I'm HOME! I'm finally HOOOOME!" Grhm, it's quite obvious that I really needed this time in Finland. It makes my heart so full to think that I have got an amazing husband who is ready to drive across the whole Europe to bring his wife to her family. That being said, the drive didn't really feel that long nor tiring. My family has always traveled by land and being on the road again, spending nights in campings and seeing all the landscapes between each destination brought back so many good memories. We enjoyed the trip so much that we are actually looking forward to the drive back!

However, we still have four weeks left of our stay. I have been enjoying every moment of our time here. When we first arrived, I was so so excited to speak Finnish and it was so amazing to be able to just talk. For the first time in ages I could express myself without wondering if I was speaking correctly or if people would get my references or jokes. It was like getting my wings back: everything around me made sense again. I felt like I could handle anything and everything seemed so childlishly simple after living life on the hard mode. The funny thing is that now it's Q who doesn't get the logic of things. These are his words: "I become instantly a retard in Finland!" Poor him! He's doing much better already though! 

The first week of our stay was such magical time as I rediscovered so many nostalgic items I had left behind at my parents'. I know one is not supposed to cling on things but the truth is that those items made me feel like somebody again. They reminded me of my past and that I do have roots here. During my time in France I must admit that I have often felt invisible and disattached from my surroundings. Less so since we made common friends with Q, but with his family or old friends I'm  still just "the wife". This is not to say they wouldn't like me, but their relation is firstly with my husband and they don't really know me. Even less so as they don't know my culture nor my life prior to living in France. This is normal though and there's nothing to do about it. I know in the years to come I will start to feel like a real person in France too but right now it feels so good to be at ease and enjoy this feeling of  belonging.

We visited the Fiskars Village.
Remember when I said I was looking forward to doing some thrifting in Finland? Well, we have been to a bunch of second hand shops already and I have been able to make great finds. I'll share those with you in another post! I would still like to check out a few thrift shops but I have to wait a little since Q told me he has had quite enough of them for now...



Since we arrived here by car, it's been great having the liberty of coming and going according to our own wishes. We do spend a lot of time with my family but we also want to make little trips here and there just the two of us. Our favorite getaway so far has probably been the one to Tampere. That city just has such a nice architectural style and atmosphere! We drank coffee, ate some mustamakkara with cold milk, went to a thrift shop and visited the Moomin Museum. Since one day wasn't nearly enough to discover everything, we are planning to go back and spend a night in a camping since we have our tent!

As it's just the two of us and we have so much space in the car, we were able to bring along items "just for fun". Q brought his instrument and I my sewing machine. I have actually managed to finish some garments during our stay! My mom even let me sew a dress from an old Marimekko tablecloth which I'm very pleased with. I'll of course be sharing my makes here on the blog in the near future.



That's all for now! I hope you are having a lovely summer too!




lauantai 23. kesäkuuta 2018

Crazy About Sewing



June is nearing its end and summer has arrived to Provence with all its might after a historically cold beginning of the season. To tell you the truth, Q and I are both built for a colder climate and we are quite happy to escape to the north in just a few weeks! Speaking of which, it's crazy how fast our trip  is approaching. One thing is sure: despite of all the time in the world we have had to prepare ourselves, the last day is going to be full of chaos. We are just a couple of hopeless daydreamers...

Anyway, I have got a confession to make. During these past few weeks I have become completely, utterly immersed in the world of sewing. Since the beginning of June I just sort of transformed into this person who wants to from now on sew her own clothes which is quite a daring proclamation from someone whose last me-made garment was sewn some 13 years ago in junior high school. I think though that this resolution is the inevitable outcome of wanting to follow my own values. Ideally, I would shop mostly second hand garments but despite of my efforts that just doesn't seem realistic where we live. Then I told myself I would buy new but to last from as ethical brands as I could afford. Well, that didn't go so well as there was the fitting room -episode  and I didn't find anything that would fit my curvy figure (why are all ready-to-wear dresses in the shape of a rectangle?) I was also disappointed in the quality of the clothes. Let's just say I got a strong urge to no longer be bossed around by "the system". I no longer want to rely on the stuff that is readily available. 

So, three weeks ago I had all of these thoughts floating around in my brain, but my resolution of becoming a sewist became final only after stumbling upon the channel And Sew On on Youtube. Mesmerized, I watched all of Lisa's videos. After devouring all of her channel, I moved on to others such as: I sew a lot, Sew Happy! and Sew Over It. I found a whole community of women who shared their plans and makes with the world. I was excited not only for the realisation I could create perfectly fitting garments but also because I could make anything. Can you imagine the amount of sewing patterns that exist in the world? This means that I can make any garment I have ever dreamt of having. A huge plus is also the fact that I can use any fabric of my choice! I have fallen in love with Sew Over It's vintage inspired collection of patterns. It's so exciting to find a resource of patterns which is right up my alley.

When I first found the patterns of Sew Over It, I was hesitant to purchase one and give it a try as I really wasn't sure of being able to pull it off. So, I chose to minimize the pressure by choosing a free pattern which I still liked a lot. That free pattern ended up being the famous Orla dress by French Navy. Excited to give it a try I purchased some pink cotton fabric with a funky print. My first attempt turned out to be a success and I came to the conclusion I wanted to recreate the dress in a few more fabrics. The beauty of sewing is that when you find a pattern you love there are no limits to using  it. So now I have three orlas: one in linen, in cotton and in viscose! I left out the sleeves  which were part of the original pattern as I had so much difficulty inserting them neatly. To be honest, I much prefer the sleeveless version as it is more practical for the Provençal summer.

The Orla dress in pretty linen.
In light viscose.
I feel like this cotton one has some Ivana Helsinki vibes!


Voilà! I'm now taking a break from sewing dresses as I also urgently need some sleeveless tops to pair with my skirts. My next project will therefore be the Sew Over It's Silk Cami!



perjantai 1. kesäkuuta 2018

DALF Results // Summer Plans



Hello there!

We are enjoying a beautiful sunny day here in the south after days of rain and some epic thunder storms. I'm writing this up in our little office/storage room with Finnish biscuits and a mug of espresso. The loudspeakers are blasting music and I'm in a good mood!

I received an e-mail a couple of days ago from one of my French teachers which was to let me know that I had succeeded to pass my DALF C1. It was such a blessing that she thought of doing that for me even before sending out the official results as I had grown more anxious by the day ever since the exams. A few nights before receiving the e-mail I had told Q at 4 am out of the blue in the darkness: "You know what, I think it's now sure I have failed." Of course a failure wouldn't have been a catastrophe but it sure as hell feels good to know that I have not been wasting my time at the Uni this past spring. This means that in two years I have went from French level A1 to C1. I have reached the goal I set for myself last autumn and now I'm definitely done with courses. I have enough tools to carry on by myself and let my language mature on its own. You can do only so much to learn a language fast. There comes a point when you just need to lean back and let time and your brain's natural capacity to learn take care of the rest.

Anyway, I should probably finally mention that we are leaving for Finland in just one month! We'll travel by car which is not that crazy effort considering we'll be staying for about two months up in the north. The last time I met my family was a year and a half ago when we spent the Christmas in Finland. Already back then my heart ached to leave them behind so soon as we stayed only for two weeks and our schedule was super busy as I had to finish passing my driver's license while trying to spend time with my family and friends. This time I will put my family first and make sure we have the chance to catch up properly. I think the ideal time between visits for me would be about six months. Unfortunately this time we were held back by our financial situation but hopefully from now on our visits will be more regular.

Things I'm looking forward to doing in Finland:

  • Picking and eating strawberries (which are the best in the world if you ask me)
  • Drinking my Mom's blackcurrant leaf juice.
  • Swimming in lakes.
  • Hiking in the woods.
  • Eating Finnish candies.
  • Go to bar and get tipsy from tasteless Finnish beer.
  • Enjoy the Nightless Nights.
  • Play Nintendo with my brothers.
  • Have a road trip.
  • Enjoy speaking my mother tongue.
  • Go to the super market and discover all the new things (mostly food).
  • Buy yarn.
  • Buy design products from Iittala, Arabia, Pentik and Marimekko.
  • Thrift shop!
Here's  a clip (go to spotify for full version) of the song I have been listening to all afternoon:



Have a lovely weekend!

PS. A shout-out to one of my readers whom I met at the traffic lights next to the bus stop right after my exams. I'm sorry I didn't even ask your name as I had to run to catch the bus. It was really nice to meet you!

perjantai 18. toukokuuta 2018

DIY Project: Resizing A Thrifted Dress


I haven't presented my this year's summer capsule yet as I'm willing to wear hardly any of my last year's dresses. Back then I still had a few fast fashion jeans, but my last pair ripped sometime last october. One of my classmates followed me to the toilets to discreetly informe me of my ripped pants. I was quite amused about how sorry she was for me, since I just found the whole situation so deliciously tragicomic! Anyways, at this moment I have two skirts and maybe three dresses for the summer. This is because many of my last year's summer pieces were just a bit too short or deep cut. It was annoying to have to wear a tank top underneath a dress to hide my chest when it was 38 degrees outside. So yeah, I have been keeping my eyes open for some new, light but modest summer dresses!



I finally found this beautiful 100% linen dress at a thrift shop but the only problem was that on me it looked like a tent. Well, as I have my sewing machine which Q got me last Christmas, I decided to try to make some alternations myself. The dress cost me 8 euros and even though if in the worst case I ended up ruining it I would still have learnt something. In case of failure I had also thought of making some small pouches, pillowcases or accessories out of the fabric. Well, I managed to find a tutorial on how to resize a dress with sleeves and I realised that I would have to completely remove them if I wished to succeed in this thing. That was a bit scary, I got to confess, but somehow I managed and I'm very happy with the results! I also shortened the dress a bit so it hits just above my knees which I think is still a decent but youthful enough length for me.

 This experiment has definitely left me excited to attempt making more alternations myself and maybe even sew some pieces of clothing!

perjantai 11. toukokuuta 2018

Back To Sharing It All


I know I have been gone for a while, but now I have just so much to talk about that I don't even know where to begin. These past three weeks have been quite a journey in more ways than one. First of all I have to tell you that we have spent two weeks in Italy with a couple of friends who had asked us to join them as they wanted to return home for the holidays. We have been back in France for about a week now and even though we loved Italy, I have had to deal with the aftermath of all the socializing and overstimulation of the trip. We were able to experience so many amazing things and have many beautiful moments with friends, but for an introvert it is very tiring to be with people all day everyday for an extended period of time. But to be honest, there's more to it than that and I wasn't really sure if I wanted to share the whole story here. You see, I think I have been lately quite lost with the direction of this blog as I have grown more and more reluctant to talk about my hardships which was something I did without hesitation in the beginning. It's been only two years since I started this expat journey, but as I'm so hard on myself I feel like I should already have it all together. Before our trip in Italy I was even thinking of erasing my blog and all of my social media accounts related to it as I'm a failed expat and all I really wanna do is whine. Then one day we were in Bologna and I happened to spy a group of expat women seated around a round table, having apéro, drinking wine and chatting. The atmosphere around the five of them made me curious and I was able to casually linger around long enough to hear these words, pronounced with emotion: "...and I didn't know if this was normal...Am I supposed to feel like this? Do others feel the same or is it just me?" I saw her face and her little smile, bright eyes that looked to the others as she wished to be understood. And they did understand. I  understood. It's so  easy to feel alone with these feelings of isolation, sadness and not belonging. It's even harder to pronounce them out loud since it seems so wrong and ungrateful as we get to live in such beautiful places. In the eyes of our friends back at home we have the perfect life with millions of possibilities.  

So, I sort of felt like this post should be about how amazing Italy was, how lucky I am to have been there and how I'm just overall living my best expat life. Yes, I had a good time and I am lucky, but today I am going to talk about something else. The Italy-posts are coming a bit later since I just have this strong urge to let it all out. Everything I have been holding in too scared to tell you how I really feel about life here in the Provence.

The thing about following your spouse to his or her homeland is that you are most likely gonna be there without your own family and friends. So, I myself tried to look for that support and love within my husband's family. In the beginning everything went well, but during last autumn until recently there's been more and more times that I have been feeling hurt after leaving my in-laws' house. I must say that they are extremely kind people and they are most likely not aware of the effect they have on me. This is what I like to think and I hope it is the truth. 

Nevertheless, I have been mentioning a few times here on the blog about some toxic comments on my body made by my in-laws. To be honest, I have received small remarks on my size from time to time ever since we moved to France, but I have just tried to ignore them in order to maintain a good relation with them and so on. So, the day before we left for Italy, I was taken to do some shopping with a few members of my extended family as they wanted to buy me a birthday gift in advance so I would have it for the trip. I was very excited as I had already a few dresses in mind that I wanted to try on. So, once at the store I got in the fitting room with a bunch of dresses while they waited behind the curtain. I  tried on one dress and opened the curtain to show them. They looked at me and said that it looked strange around the waist and was a bit too long on which I agreed with them. As I was preparing to show them the next option I hear one of them tell another: "Try on that dress with this belt. You can do it as you are skinny." Well, I opened the curtain once again and got the same feedback as for the last dress. Too long, weird around the waist; makes me look massive. As I was taking off the dress I heard from behind the curtain: "She doesn't have a normal waist. It's a woman with  a waist that is...*searches for words*" The funny thing is that she hates to call people "fat" despite of indirectly letting you understand that you are big. I heard the awkwardness in the voice of my other in-law as she tried  to save  the situation by finishing her sentence (as she obviously was aware that I could hear everything through the curtain): "...standard size." I honestly would have preferred my waist being called fat instead of abnormal. She knows that I have suffered for my body although she has no idea of how much exactly. I still carry the visible scars of those times that I used to hate myself as a young teenage girl. Inside the fitting room I felt like someone had just kicked the air out of my lungs. It felt just so absurd. I tried to take long deep breaths and not cry as my hands started to shake. There was still one dress to try on but I didn't have the mental strength to go through with it. I made a huge effort to bottle up my emotions in that moment until I would be in a safe space to access them. I managed to finish the rest of the shopping trip without bursting in tears, but once in the car alone with Q I was finally able to break down. And I cried not only for having been shamed behind my back, but for the emotional consequences of it all. It meant that I'm not safe with his family. I cannot even confront them on this because we already had a huge dispute last autumn which already caused a trauma for everyone involved. So, the next day after the whole fitting room incident Q and I left for Italy and during the trip I didn't have a chance to go through my feelings and thoughts. It's been only during this past week that I have started to work on it and to be honest I don't know how to feel about it or if I should talk about it with them or not. Even when we came back and were at their house to pick up our cats, someone leaned towards me and said: "So you didn't gain weight then?" I was like: "Excuse me?" I got the answer: "I thought you would be like thiiiiis *blows out his cheeks and spreads out his hands to demonstrate." I was too baffled to answer but I have made the mental note to exit the house the next time someone comments on my body.

Then there was the return to Provence and the reality of our everyday life in this region. I have never said this out loud before, but we do not like Provence. We love its old villages, historical cities and vineyards but its people are killing us. Seriously, they already make your life miserable in all of the other places and then they also try to kill you on the road. The atmosphere of this region plagued with crime and unemployment is so negative and most of the time we don't feel safe. I have been harrassed on the streets a number of times to the point that I can't walk alone freely in the city. I have to always keep on mind to stay where there's enough other people in sight. Avignon has been working hard to brush up its image but the homicides related to its drug cartels aren't really helping. A few months back a man was shot next to my University while the evening was still young. We live in an atmosphere of danger and negativity. I have grown tired of the ever-present corruption. The locals don't either like foreigners which makes it hard for me to relate with them. It was Italy that made me realise what we are missing living here. In the city where we stayed the women could enjoy a night out and walk safely home even after dark and the children played freely outside. Q has never felt at home in this region and his dislike for Provence and its people drove him to leave for Finland. Thanks to which decision we were able to eventually meet.

So why do we live here if we don't like it? For Q's work as he cannot ask for a transfer this early in his career. We will definitely look into the possibility of moving as soon as possible. This region is great for a vacation, but not ideal to raise a family in.

This post is one of the most honest ones in a long while, but I feel like this blog has hardly any value if I keep hiding important parts of my story. This is not a blog about how to be a successful expat, what you should do or how you should feel. This is my story with all of its ups and downs and feelings that are or aren't justified.