samedi 18 décembre 2010

The Snow, Christmas, and random thoughts

I'm off on holidays as of tomorrow! Fingers crossed the snow doesn't foil my plans. I'll be travelling around parts of Germany and France and am very excited. I'll also be going to Paris for my third time :)

The Snow still continues to fascinate me. Thursday night (16 December) had the biggest snowfall since the start of the month. It's been so cold here that the snow from the last big snowfall hadn't even completely melted yet! (I didn't see any snow in Lyon last weekend but there are still bits and pieces here). One time I looked out the window and just stared and stared until I was lost in my thoughts (about the snow!)... I love how it glistens in the light as if it were made of crystals. I laugh inside my head when I look up at the sky and think that the snowflakes look like dandruff flakes. Well, heck, they were both white and unevenly shaped and sized! Haha. It's just such a magical and wonderful thing for me to see but I appreciate that it causes huge amounts of havoc for people who have to do any kind of travel anywhere (ie everybody) on roads, on trains, or on planes. :( Worst is when people are stranded in below freezing temperatures... It's all too sad.

One of my friends just posted this shocking (but sort of funny) video:

Christmas... I've been quite ambivalent about Christmas for many years now. I generally feel that Christmas is only fun if you're a child or you have children. Since it's been many years or will be many years before either of those things will happen to me... well...

Also, my family are not Christians so we don't ever have a 'proper' Christmas and being in Australia, all our Christmases are in summer so.... Also I feel that in Australia it's just all about the presents. All about stressing about shopping for presents and people getting upset because there are no car spaces in the carparks etc etc. Stupid petty little things... all for what? To buy presents?! ARGH.

Christmas 2006 was the last Christmas that I had a long term partner to celebrate with. I can't help but feel sad and lonely that this is my 4th Christmas without someone special to spend Christmas with :(  This is a confession that I long for my own home, my own big kitchen (to bake Christmas goodies), a loving and supportive partner (and stable relationship) and kids! It seems like almost everyone I know has those things (or at least one of those things) and like a carrot danging in front of an animal, those things never seem to be within my reach. *sigh* One day...

Since I spend a lot of time by myself I tend to think a lot. I have noticed that those who write the most statuses on Facebook are people who are single and/or are living by themselves (or work alone at home) or are young stay-at-home parents. It makes sense because these are the people who have no adult conversation! I think most people take having someone to talk to when you get home from work for granted. But like anything in life, you take everything for granted until you lose it.

I find myself comparing myself to my friends a lot. Not in a competition sense, but just for interest's sake. I have friends who had kids at a very very young age and I have friends who are older than me and still single... so we're all at different stages of life but I do get a sense that those of us without long term relationships and kids somewhat feel left out. Or maybe not.

I find it hard to be around couples as I hate being 'the third wheel' and I admit I feel some jealousy (not in a nasty way but just in a sad, wistful way) when I see them being lovey dovey towards one another or doing really simple things like holding each others' belongings while the other goes to the toilet. In fact, when I was with my mother's or sister's partner and they offered to these simple things for me I was very humbled, shocked and thankful. I was/am just sooooooo used to doing everything myself!

But what is it with couples anyway? Once your friend gets herself a boyfriend you never see nor hear from her again. Usually the only people who call me up to do something with me are single people... I do have a few friends in long-term relationships who still go out and do stuff but the majority of couples I know seem to just stay at home every night and every weekend (with the tv and/or pet for entertainment). It's as if once you find a partner you don't need a social life anymore... Of course I'm talking about those without children yet as I realise that once you have kids your free time goes out the window (well yay for me in that respect because I have all the me-me-me time in the world right now and I do cherish it because one day that'll end for sure ;) )

Although I shouldn't really criticize or judge as I used to be EXACTLY like this. In my younger years. But I have learnt my lesson. You need to continue to socialise and make contacts, if not for making friends but for connections for work and for anything. You never know when you'll need help from other people and you can't rely on your partner or your family 100% of the time.

Another topic that is constantly on my mind is city living vs suburban/small town living.

• I'm a big city girl. I've always been one, always will.
• First, I want clarify... in Australia we have very few cities and they are all biggish. Then within each city we have hundreds and hundreds of suburbs.
• In France they have a different 'system' where you have thousands and thousands of little cities dotted throughout the whole country.
• So even if you live in a small town you only need to drive 10-30 minutes and you'll be in another bigger town. But if you were in Australia you'd be in the SAME town the whole time. Hope that makes sense?

I live in a town of around 10,000 people which is TINY to me, but it's decent-sized for France. In fact, after having visited various towns of various population sizes my idea of what is 'big' or 'small' has shifted dramatically. I now consider pop. 50,000 a medium sized town and pop. 100,000 a large town. I say this because in a town of  50,000 you can find most things you need but not all and 100,000 you can pretty much find anything you need and the train station is a decent size with many lines/connections.

Now I'll back to my life in Sydney. I grew up in the suburbs (like 99.9% of people in Sydney). It must be every parents' dream to buy a big house with big backyard for their kids in a nice, safe, suburb. I say this from experience with people that I know... Also with the huge immigrant population in Sydney I think that for them, having a large piece of land is almost impossible in their crowded home countries so it's the ultimate goal to have a big house/piece of land.

I grew up in a very nice suburb. It is very safe and full of friendly, helpful people. 10 minutes to the beach, 10 minutes to other bigger suburbs and 25 minutes to the CBD (central business district). It is very 'leafy' as they call it, full of trees and nature.

However, around my teenage years I got very very frustrated because I was forced to rely on the bus system to get anywhere (that made me get my driver's licence quick smart)..

Then it got far worse in my university years. The city is only 25 minutes away by car, but by bus in peak hour, it often took about 1.5 hours!!! I hated the commute. It was a nightmare as people who lived much further away got there quicker than me (because they had the train and I didn't). I had absolutely zero social life during my university years because of the bus that stopped running at about 7pm and only went to/from the city once an hour during weekends. Driving was not even considered as parking is hideously expensive.

I hated living in the suburbs then. Absolutely hated it. I dreamed of living in the city but I didn't make enough money from my part-time retail job to do so (rent in Sydney is amazingly expensive - so expensive it's calculated weekly and not monthly to not give people heart attacks ;) ).

I eventually got a car in 2001, started a relationship in the beginning of 2003 and moved out of home to live with my then-boyfriend in the beginning of 2006 and my life changed forever from then on...

A year later we both moved to Shanghai. 'A big change' is an understatement. I admit I didn't want to go at first. I had been there before (for a 1 week holiday) and couldn't imagine living there...

But it was living there that shifted my perspective on life and the world forever. I knew myself a lot better, and I changed my views on so many things in life... for the better I believe (and hope).

I was fascinated by how people could work so hard, live in such squalor and yet never complain. All these poor people living and working amongst those earning literally 10-100x more than they do.

Every time I have a 'hard' moment I think back and say to myself to get a grip and stop whinging. I have had such an easy, comfortable life that I took everything for granted. It wasn't till I saw how others lived that I finally began to appreciate all that my parents gave me. The fact that they were always telling me, "When I was your age, I had nothing... When I was your age, we didn't have cars, we had to walk 5km to go to school... we never had a washing machine... I only got one pair of shoes a year... I remember the first time I tried chocolate I savoured it as it was such a rare treat..." etc etc. I have to admit none of that meant anything to me till I saw it all with my own eyes and was old and mature enough to understand it.

Living in Shanghai almost made me realise just how much I LOVEd living in a big city. Although I'd always lived in a big city (Sydney) I never really lived IN the city. I just loved how the public transport was so good and it's walkable everywhere, I really appreciated everything the city had to offer and I didn't miss having a car at all because I never needed one! Taxis were also cheap and plentiful.

When I came back to Sydney a year later (after having broken up with my then-partner) I missed Shanghai dreadfully. I moved to another suburb in Sydney but this more like a city it's so big. I loved my suburb/city to death! It was so easy having everything I could possibly need within 10 minutes walking distance. There were also events and festivals. There was the bus, train and ferry. One of the biggest shopping malls in Sydney. A huge park. Sites of interest and more!

From living in those 2 places I made a mental checklist of my ideal city:

• pop. 100,000+
• excellent public transport infrastructure (both within the city and to other cities)
• easily walkable
• big park
• water feature (river, lake, beach, etc) and nature
• decent variety of shops and supermarkets
• decent variety of restaurants with cuisines from around the world
• puts on events, festivals and street parades

If I have all those things I'm as happy as a clam! Unfortunately the city I live in now doesn't fit all the criteria but most of them. My main gripe with my city is that there's not a lot of shops so I'm forced to do most of my shopping online (I mean for clothes and household items that are not common/everyday things). There is a beautiful river which I bushwalked around 4 times when I first arrived (it's too cold now) and the autumn leaves colours were so beautiful. I miss the lack of a big park though. There seems to be some sort of big city park and carousel in all the French towns I've seen over a certain size.

Now, this is one thing which really shits me about people who choose to live in suburbs/smaller towns. They like their peace and quiet and space but still need to go to the city to buy supplies so this crowds the city up with loads and loads of cars. I was shocked at the hideous traffic jams I saw on a Sunday morning (!!) in Lyon last weekend. The people who live in the city walk or take public transport everywhere and they must get the shits at all the cars. I know I would. In fact, I LOVE the rues piétonnes (pedestrian-only roads). I get sick to death of seeing cars when I'm in a walkable city. Every time I am exploring a new city I wish ALL the roads in the inner city were rues pietons! And I wish every city on earth was walkable!!

(related post)

Those were some random thoughts I wanted to get off my chest so there they are!


(pictures from here and here)


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