9:40 AM claire 0 Comments

Since everyone gets into a more reflective mood near the end or start of a year, I decided to somewhat do a little reflection of my own.

I started this blog in order to organize my thoughts, to pen down memories that were important to me so that I would never forget them. However I am struggling with my free time - do I spend it with family, meeting friends, doing something fun or just resting and having some me time?

In 2017 you may have realised I was travelling a lot. In fact it was the most travelling I had ever done in a year! I was posted to France for pretty much 5.5 months but was also shuffling back and forth with Singapore. Since France was a business trip, I couldn't take much vacation days so when I was in Singapore I took 2 weeks off to be in Japan.... twice.

(A little digression about my leave.. I have 20 days a year and in 2016 I was so swamped since many colleagues quit, I had to train the new ones and as such I barely took much leave so I had bit of leave to carry forward)

Anyway, back to travelling. Being in the South of France meant that I had incredible weather all year round. It was never below 0 (apart from the first time in 9 years or something it snowed right after I left) and I only remember one day in summer when it was 37/38 degrees (hairdryer weather). In summer it was great because the sun only set at 945pm so I could venture further to have dinner, I didn't feel as tired and the city is much safer where there is light! Only thing was that I had to reapply sunblock in the evening which was amusing.

Wine is amazingly cheap and so I got to try quite a variety, learnt a thing or two how to pick wine, visited a vineyard and oh tried this disgusting drink called pastis which is essentially anis seeds. You have to try pastis at least once in your life!!! It is life changing.

In terms of experiences, I went up to Switzerland and it was absolutely beautiful. I definitely want to be back though I don't know how much I need to earn in order to afford sgd 15 one way train fares. Or was it 25? Sigh. Stayed with distant relatives in Germany and got to experience a typical day in the life of Germans - having the flexibility to go to work at 7 and to be home at 4ish, chilling on a patio having tea, getting changed and having dinner chatting until 8, watching tv and then sleeping early. Best part of Germany was when my uncle sped down the autobahn while I was napping and somehow made a 2.5h drive in 1h 45min? He told me traffic was smooth and he was going at 180. Whaaaat? I didn't feel the car about to give up on me so that was great. Volkswagen thumbs up!!

Of course I also saw the ugly side of Europe, it is so scary at night taking the train, I was approached by a strange man, you see druggies or people high they can't stop shaking or moving weirdly.. tons of garbage piled up when there's a strike, practically zero public transport too, racism, cars being smashed just because they left a bag visible... people so impatient when the traffic light turns green and you haven't moved yet... a guy grabbing my wrist and shouting at me at a festival for allegedly "pushing" him when it was so insanely crowded I was just following the person in front, my friend that got her drink spiked in a bar/club and ended up in hospital, someone bumping my car and just driving off and Europcar charging me a "damage admin fee" even though I bought full insurance...

It's hard to pinpoint to say exactly how one grows in a year other than maybe your hair or weight. It's also hard to say what life lessons you've learnt. What I can say with certainty is that... travelling for business makes you incredibly lonely.

At work you have colleagues to have lunch with, sure. Just don't forget there's a language barrier on both sides so they can't really have the conversations they want to have without being rude (not like they really care anyway they just speak french even when I'm there and blanking out).

After work it's a different story. It is not in their culture much to hang out with colleagues and have a drink because everyone has their families or significant others that they want to spend time with, or it gets pretty expensive if you head out often for dinner. They also don't feel the need to be hospitable because their time is more important and I'm not a client or supplier whom they are supposed to please. However I'm happy to say that after being there for so long there were colleagues who turned into friends and I was actually invited to their homes to have apperitifs and raclette :) It really felt good to be acknowledged and accepted!!!

When I was in France I felt like.. a floater. Someone who didn't belong in France or Singapore. My colleagues in Singapore, whom I had lunch with all the time, barely had time to chat with me or joke with me. In France, the colleagues joked but in french, which meant I didn't understand. Sometimes it was too hard or they were lazy to translate. I thank the friends who took time to explain things to me, to correct my pronunciation, to tell me about sweet discounts that they were entitled to and if I wanted to I could use...I even had jamming sessions towards the end which was really fun!! I don't think they would ever read this but thanks for the good memories.

In terms of health it wasn't really good - I had a few health scares and everytime I was back in SG I had to do check ups, constantly worried because medical expenses overseas in France was going to be extremely expensive for me... I hope that things would look up soon in this aspect!

There were so many problems in Singapore that whenever I was in France I felt like it was an escape from it all.

Let me tell you something... it is only temporary. Travelling is a temporary distraction. Even if you reflect and try to get over things it doesn't get better. Time helps, friends help and talking about it helps you realise what went wrong or what you should do about it.

There was an unhappiness I had towards someone, and it caused me a lot of distress. When I was reflecting in Japan it was a trigger of thought and I decided to buy something for that someone. When I returned I gave the souvenir to that person. Though that person didn't meet me, I felt at peace at last, on my end. I was free from one of my demons. It doesn't matter if that person threw it away or never opened it - that's her problem. What matters is that I've matured enough to move on.

Ah. The train journey was long but here I am at my stop!

Chat again next time. Til then, wishing you a great 2018!!!

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