Why living abroad is not meant for everyone

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I have always been fascinated by the idea of living abroad. Blame it on my older cousins going abroad and returning home with a new accent and their pictures of their awesome brand new life. Or the fact that it’s kind of a cultural thing in my country. There’s this idea that you’ve not succeeded until you have been abroad. Many Mauritian youngsters go overseas at some point of their life and then they come back. Or some immigrate.

In a few months, my little cousin will be flying to Malaysia for four years. I hope that he will make the most out of this new adventure. Still, his upcoming departure made me reflect on certain things. Namely the fact that living abroad is not meant for everyone. We derive this idealized idea that moving abroad is glamorous and adventurous from movies, blogposts, books or Tv shows. It is so misconstrued that we are led to believe that we have not lived until we have moved overseas. Trust me, it is far from being all that great. It shakes your life up. After all, it requires you to break up with your old life and move thousand of miles away from everyone you know.

It is landing in a foreign country and realizing that you do not have any relative or friend here. Fortunately for me, my high school friend had landed six months prior to my arrival. She is by far the only person closest to what I would term as my family abroad. I will not lie, moving abroad is hard. Language barrier and difficulty to acclimate can be quite tough. It is far from being effortless and easy as presented by the media or the Instagram pictures of your friends living abroad. Nobody ever talks about the hard times. In fact, most people would rather talk only about positive things as if homesickness, accent shaming, body changes (gaining weight or losing weight),  language barrier, and culture shock were taboo. I have seen so many people with regrets who head back home early or become jaded or depressed and refuse to integrate.

It is a battle out there. Adapt or perish.  Sometimes it is so harsh that it makes you wonder why you came here in the first place. I always ask myself this one question: is that what I really want? I spent a lot of observing and listening to people to try to fit in. After all, a huge part of living in a foreign land is about integration.

Truth be told, I had a hard time with greetings since people do not kiss on the cheek here. They hug and it made me uncomfortable at first. You know some foreign body pressing against mine. Plus sometimes I had a hard time finding my words in English  ( I still do sometimes). I would stop mid sentence because I couldn’t find the equivalent of the French word. So, I ended up speaking less because it made me so shy and embarrassed because I just could not find my words. Consequently, I ended frustrated and becoming shy. I am slowly but surely coming out of my shell by putting more effort in my “conversational” English haha.

( brief note: even though English is the official language of Mauritius, our conversations are mostly in French and creole. At school, we are taught in English but if you do not understand something, you either ask your teacher in French or Creole to explain it to you. As a result, we are better at writing in English compared to speaking it. Parliament and court are in English though. Complicated much huh?)

Oh, and did I mention that sometimes you will get mad at your host country? Blame it on the fact that you will sample two ways of living so you end up comparing. I have so much admiration, love, and hate for Canada. It’s like a relationship actually sometimes you hate and love your boyfriend/girlfriend. Cause as much as you love so many things about them, sometimes some of their quirks just piss you off. Sometimes I get mad at Mauritius and Canada. Sometimes my loyalty see-saw.

To live abroad is to experience a split of personality. Travel changes you for the better or the worst. Though I had my ups and downs, I do not regret my decision at all. It has shaped and continues to shape the person I am today. I have become more independent, responsible and learned a few things about myself. But I also believe that it is not meant for everyone. You need to to be prepared psychologically, be mentally strong and, flexible to change. After all, living abroad entails having a lot of changes happening at once. Bear in mind that you run the of the risk of feeling guilty about leaving and resentment of where you have ended up. Have I missed something? If it is the case, do not hesitate to leave a comment below 😉 

Toronto I love you

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Dear Toronto,

You and I might never have met. Truth be told, you were never my first choice in the first place. You were the guy I found interesting but never dared to make the first move…The guy I kept checking out but kept at bay.

Because, it was a minefield. You were the epitome of the unknown. Too far, too cold…I kept finding excuses to convince myself that it would never work. I had been flirting with Australia and Germany for a while. And Germany’s European charm gave him the upper hand.

Though the language was a barrier, it was quickly put in the back burner. If I had to learn German to get closer to Germany, I was willing to. Hell knows I was determined to learn German and hell I did! Ich spreche Deutsch (I speak German).

Yet, you kept making goo-goo eyes. And, it didn’t help that everyone kept talking about you. Apparently, you weren’t that bad. My friend told me that once I would get to know you, I would have a change of heart. Before I knew it, you were asking me to come over. So, I looked at Germany and bide him goodbye. “TschĂŒss”, I said.

The first time we met, I was thrown off balance. You seemed cold, unsympathetic and constantly in a hurry. And you didn’t understand why I stiffened every time you hugged me. I on the other hand couldn’t comprehend why kissing on the cheek made you uncomfortable. Certain of your ways annoyed me. I felt like I had rushed in a relationship. I hated you with such a passion but I was stuck with you for a year.

If we were to cohabit, it would be better if I didn’t have any ill feeling. So, I decided to try to see eye to eye. I stiffened less when you hugged me and observed you on the sly. I learned that you weren’t as cold as I thought you were. If I smile at you, you would smile back at me. If I asked for help, you would help me out. You were growing on me.

I relished every time you held the door for me. I liked the fact that you respect my space. I appreciated that you did not honk when you saw me walking the street in shorts. I loved that I could leave my friend’s house at 9 pm and return home alone. I love the fact that you make me feel safe even when I am alone.

It warms my heart every time you say “hi” to your driver and thank him when you arrive at your destination. I like it when you tell me “take care” every time I tell you “have a nice day”. What can I say? I love politeness. I have always find this attractive. I admire the fact that you give equal opportunities to disabled people. It gives me hope in humanity when I see how you treat and protect your dogs.

It turned out that I had so much to learn from you. Provided that I gave you a chance. Thank you for this beautiful adventure. Thank you for all these beautiful people I met and those I have yet to meet.

P.S do let me know what you love about your host country in the comment section below if you are living abroad ;). I am all ears :).

Hello 2017!

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Paradoxically this year, I miss my neighbor blasting his stereo with the latest hits until the wee hours of morning. I miss impatiently waiting for midnight to light my firecrackers and going around to tell everyone happy new year. See, the tradition in Mauritius dictates that each family has to light firecrackers at midnight to mark the new year. And then, you hold family gatherings until mid-January to tell all your family members “happy new year”.  It also involves lots of  food, Sega and parties. Though it gives me a twinge of sadness, I am keeping the homesickness at bay and focusing on the exhilarating adventure I am having in Toronto. After all, everything in life has a price.

2016 has set the tone for change. This year in a nutshell has been a roller coaster of emotions. I finally realized my dream of living abroad and moved 15,000 km away from home. I dealt with culture shock, homesickness, awe and tasted freedom. I still haven’t got over my mixed feelings but I feel that Toronto has given me a do over. I have burned bridges and landed in this place where no one knows who I were. It was an opportunity to start afresh provided the old demons don’t crawl in the suitcases.

Here I was ready to reinvent myself in wherever way I choose. Experience to date? I have learned so much things about myself during four months. When no one is around to keep you grounded, no one can influence your decisions. You are left on your own and live your life the way you want to. Consequently, it shows you your strength, your weakness and your ability to think on your feet.

I started from scratch again and with baby footsteps. I have re-learned how to live and carry out daily activities. There are times when I felt like a lost puppy in this overwhelming city. Still, it gave me a certain confidence. There are people who spend their life contemplating the idea of moving abroad but who never dare to venture out of their comfort zone. I am happy to say that I took that leap though it required a few adjustments.

While I am immersing myself in my host country’s lifestyle and norms, I am still trying to keep up to date with my family and friends’ most important events. But, the nine hours of difference don’t make things easier. Sometimes, I feel like you need to book appointments to have a conversation. I have missed important celebrations back home and watched from afar as some people who I used to be closed to, become strangers as our conversation become less frequent. I watch from the sidelines as people carry on with their life.

I have met expats who were overtaken by how much things changed in Mauritius. They have been staying for so many years in Canada that they can never go back to their old life. Every time I meet these expats I wonder how it will be when I will go back home. I have heard so many people talk about reverse culture shock. And then I get lost in thoughts…It seems to me that I have one foot in Mauritius and the other one in Canada. Each country fulfill different parts of me. I miss the islander lifestyle of Mauritius. I miss Mauritius’ warmth and hospitality. Still, I am in love with the freedom Canada entails. I can walk in shorts without cars honking or being catcalled. I can do whatever I want without my neighbor commenting on my lifestyle and putting his nose in my business.

I often found myself in a bar or restaurant talking to random strangers about my homeland and my experience of living abroad. I have traded lands and cultures with other international students. We can relate to each other through common experience and some friendships were built like that. Overnight, some friends became my second family in a foreign land.

So, should I leave or should I stay? I guess I will have an answer to this question in due course…In the meantime, I am polishing my English, practicing my Spanish, living new adventures every day, settling in this new life and discovering new personality within myself. On that note, I wish you a happy new year. May this new year meet your expectations. May you venture out of your comfort zone and go for what you like :). Carpe Diem :). If you have any new year resolution, feel free to leave them in the comment section below. Cheers 😉

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I’m a martian in Toronto

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Lately I have been thinking that terming me as a “martian” would be suitable. After all, if you remove the “u” and the extra “i” in Mauritian, you get the word martian…Honestly, this is exactly how I feel since I landed in Toronto. Every time I say that I am Mauritian, I get the clueless look. I feel like I am a rare species.  I have lost track of the number of nationalities I have been attributed and stereotypes that I had to break. Yes we have running water, we also have WiFi, 3G, 4G and not all Mauritians are fishermen.

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Okay, blame it on the fact that there is no cultural representation of Mauritians and no one talks about it. But, I was never prepared to become an ambassador of my country. Least have to bring the subject every time I meet someone. For, I can always expect to get the question “where are you from”? which is always followed by: “Where is that?”

I still remember my dad telling me that I need to be prepared to be asked about my country. I remember laughing it off and telling him that I’ll just say the basic. You know an island in the Indian Ocean next to Madagascar. And that we are  multilingual since we speak French, English and crĂ©ole.

But, it turned out that the basic does not surfeit when people ask me what language I am talking when they hear me speaking creole. “But I hear some french words. What kind of language is that?” Or having to explain that there is no average look for a Mauritian. “You guys are really from the same country?” When they see me hanging with my Mauritian friends from different ethnic groups. Or how come I know so much about Indian and Chinese culture.

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I guess that I have never been so culturally aware or talked so much about Mauritius’ history . Well, long story short: The french colonized Mauritius and brought slaves from Africa and Madagascar to cultivate the land. Later, the English overthrew them and took over the island. With the abolition of slavery, many slaves flew. To make up for the loss of labor, the English brought Chinese and Indians. So, basically the Mauritian society is made up of European descendants, Chinese, Indians and Africans. And creole is the language that our ancestors invented to be able to communicate with each other despite their different nationalities and language barrier. It is a mixture of french, English, African and some terms from Hindi and Chinese.

Consequently, Mauritians’ cuisine is a blend of Chinese, European, Indian and creole food. And we do not have a “typical Mauritian look”. Just scratch that part. But we do have some common character traits: we are very friendly, we smile a lot, we are helpful, we are usually late and we always  use “ayo” to express different kind of emotions. From fear to irritation and surprise. And Mine Appolo is a huge thing. At least for most of us. I can go to the extent of saying that it is a national anthem. Chili must always be part of our dish. And yeah flip-flops are mandatory! Hey after all we are a tropical island and gorgeous beaches are ever present and it is our duty to maintain the islander lifestyle!

Ever since I am here I feel like I have become a representative of my country. And it is so much pressure! I have never been so aware of my “crĂ©olitĂ©” . And paradoxically, I  am learning more about my own culture and my country.

Oh and yeah here’s a video on my island made by a compatriot:

 

*Back to being a brand ambassador again* Hahaha.

Do let me know if you’ve ever felt the same way while living abroad in the comment section below. Cheers 🙂