14

So Micah turned 14 yesterday.

Kenya – February

We were all together. We were in one place. We were not currently packing or unpacking bags. We weren’t getting on a plane, didn’t just get off one, or have immediate plans to get on one. That in itself sets this birthday for him apart from quite a few that have preceded it.

Last year he turned 13 in Kenya dropping off J& M at school.

he turned 12 in Kenya dropping off J & M at school

he turned 11 in Canada the day Jonah and I flew back to Kenya

he turned 10 in Kenya when we were dropping off Jonah for his first year at RVA

he turned 9 in Rwanda when we had temporarily evacuated there.

He turned 8 when we were travelling through Michigan the summer we were home between France and Burundi.

Birthdays 7, 6, 5, and 4 were in France. His fourth was supposed to be in Iceland, but we ended up moving to France just a week or so before his 4th birthday.

3, 2, 1 and the day of his birth were in Canada.

So if one could gather anythign from this pattern it’s: we move around a fair bit. Micah’s birthday seems to always happen when we’re activly moving around somewhere.

Not this year.

Watching Matea play soccer at RVA in February

This has been a big year for Micah. We’ve been through a lot as a family, and he’s been through a lot. An early end to an abbreviated school year, moving back to Canada for a few months in the midst of a pandemic, getting ready to leave home for school in Kenya in Sept, then preparing to start high school online until January. And all that is just the last 6 months, after what we went through in February.

So … i guess all of that means it’s a year worth celebrating. Celebrating that he’s made it through all that, and it still doing well. That he’s

and i suppose if “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger” then he’s become a lot stronger over the past year. And he has definitely gotten stronger this year.

So here’s to our strong, resilient, thoughtful boy. Proud of the young man he’s becoming -and proud to be his parents.

…and, here’s some pictures of what being 13 looked like for Micah

Tanzania – last August
Rocky Mountains…last week
kayaking in the cold rain by Hinton – July
Finishing up school – April
Back home in Kibuye – March
travelling to Tanzania for camping last Christmas
hanging with the Nuns at the local orphanage
a chicken that was a gift. or giving it to someone. or both. this seems to happen fairly regularly
no longer even close to the realm of “as tall as Mom”

La Vie en Noir

{PART OF THE MEA CULPA SERIES OF POSTS _ where I post things I should have written a long time ago… yeah…that’s on me. Apparently I reposted this in Dec 2019 during my MEA CUPLA series…but this one was tagged 2011 so it showed up not as a new post.}

{{{This is a post I apparently wrote in 2011, while living in France. Not sure if it was intentional, but I never published it to the blog. So here it is. Despite really wanting to edit it now, I left it exactly as I found it, except for one typo’d sentence that was really unclear. I decided to let my 2011 self speak for himself.}}}}}

So I’ve had two people comment that from the sounds of this blog – all is rosy in La France.  It’s probably true that I have at some level not sounded off about what bothers me more about living here. That probably comes from just by being an ex-pat in a foreign country you tend to bump into lots of others here as a non-native.  And if there is one thing that seems to come easy in that situation is all too often a rather scathing,  often unending, critique of the French, their culture, the way they drive, their bureaucracy, the schools etc. etc.

I have made a very conscious effort since arriving here to try to disallow myself from falling into that trap for two reasons:

  1. the French didn’t invite me here – I chose to come
  2. the French didn’t ask for my input – it’s their country

There are I think a number of mitigating factors that make living in France quite enjoyable.

One – we’ve lived here before – so we kind of knew what we were in for with some things.  We knew what to be prepared for, remembered what kinds of things tended to be annoying last time – and set our expectations accordingly.

The second factor is that while France is a very foreign place compared to Edmonton – it’s not the kind of place where I stick out like a sore thumb as I would in South-East Asia, or in Africa.  If you were to see me walking down the street – I would (at least I think) look no more out of place than I do back home. Perhaps a bit above average height – but that’s about it. We could be from here – and it’s not until people actually hear us speaking that they know we’re not from here. And even then – there are lots of expats etc living in the Grenoble area – so it’s not likely we’re the first people that someone has run into that does not have French as their first language.  There are lots of North African Arabs in the city, the Universities attract a lot of African and Asian students – so I imagine me being here is nothing like a tall white dude walking around downtown Kampala.

I think the other thing to me that makes a lot of the issues more tolerable – is that in a lot of ways the things that can be annoying – are often just massive pendulum swings of things that I find annoying about North American culture.

Here: the customer hardy seems right  – but back home I find “the customer is ALWAYS right” to breed a fake sense of appreciation by store clerks, lots of entitlement by customers, and a generally synthetic exchange between the two.

Here you seem to have to wait in line, all the time, for a long time, for no apparent reason – it is really maddening.  However, this causes me to think about how everything back home MUST be done as soon as possible, in the least amount of time, in the fastest possible manner – no matter what.

Yes- the bureaucracy here is astounding, the time delay and paperwork required to get anything done (we still don’t have our French health coverage etc – which we started applying for last September) is at times beyond what can be imagined. However, I have yet to meet a French person who does not share that frustration.

So yes, there are a  number of things that I find difficult about living here – but in all honesty a lot of it is not living here specifically – but being outside of my comfort zone, being in a foreign place, living someplace where things do not come naturally, my reflexes and instincts more often fail, and the obvious answer to me usually does not apply.

majestic

There’s a lot of ways to describe the Rocky Mountains, but the one that seems to come the most naturally, and the most frequently, is majestic. We’ve lived in the Alps for years, but there really is something about these mountains that is truly unique. Our family has been incredibly fortunate to get a few camping trips out into the mountains over the last little while.

Our first trip proved how fickle the weather is in the mountains, and despite it being July, we were hit with freezing cold weather and smacked with a thundering hailstorm. Camping up by Jasper we tried to get some hikes in but kept getting rained out. The kids did get a nice paddle in down a creek that connected several lakes. We did at one point have to meet the kids at a bridge and have them pull the boats out so we could throw Matea in the car and rush her to Hinton where a friend of a friend allowed her to borrow a desk and internet so she could write her last final exam. Not likely the most ideal situation for scholarly work, but our kids have learned few things more than flexibility and working in sub-optimum conditions.

This week we headed south to Kananaskis, closer to Banff. We got some nice hikes in, saw some amazing scenerey and had a great time overall.

It was a full-mountain experience including waking up to a grizzly bear a few meters from our tent the first morning. A conservation officer came to shoo it away, then a mother and her cub showed up and walked through the campground. So quite a bit of authentic mountain experience before breakfast!

SNOW!!!

We went on hikes three days in a row, totaling about 40km. It was quite a bit – especially if you are an 8 year old! However, it was all easily worth it in her mind, because SHE SAW SNOW. This was a pretty big deal for Alma. She started asking as soon as she found out we were going to the mountains, and whenever she saw snow up on the peaks asked if we could hike up there.

Why yes, yes I DO want to build a snowman.

One ‘little hiccup” on our third day hiking was a broken fibula, which Nicole had to walk the 5km back down the mountain on. So – that was kind of a rough ending to a great weekend

An amazing time in the

Beautiful

Majestic

Canadian

Rocky Mountains*

*you’re supposed to read that last bit like Roman Mars from the podcast 99 Percent Invisible. If you don’t know what that should sound like – you really ought to give it a listen. One of my favourite podcasts of all time.