It makes now one year that I went back to Mexico after having previously studied there for one semester. Many of you have wondered: “why deciding to live in Mexico?” and until now, I never gave that much details on the blog. I was just starting to write articles and I think always difficult to define the line between personal and public sphere, but I concluded after one year that a blog is never really personal. If you write a blog, it engages yourself to be somehow public. Let’s take the example of Oneika the Traveler: she is definitely public and shares personal aspects of her life. It is also the case of This Battered Suitcase, even though she is more discrete. So, it’s not a secret anymore to say here that if I went back to Mexico, it’s to be with my better half that I recently married. As a matter of fact, I am considering writing articles about challenges of mixed couples and differences between Mexican and French weddings.
But today, I’ve decided to go back to this whole year spent in Mexico and to review one year of blogging.
July 2016 – The return to Mexico
I went back to Mexico literally running. As it had been the case the first time that I came to Mexico, I almost lost my connection in Miami: 2 hours is definitely NOT ENOUGH to change of airplane in US because of all the different controls (identity, luggage…) I got to run through the airport, call my better half in the shuttle between two terminals to tell him that I was about to miss the plane and thus won’t be present at his cousin’s wedding that night, and kept running anyways with some encouragements of people in the airport. I arrived at the gate at the exact moment where they had closed the doors! I spoke to the employee fast, unable to breathe, hating myself for having no physical condition and promising me mentally to start running (and I actually did it because now, I am a regular runner!). After having explained me that it was not possible to reopen the doors and that I will have to spend a night in Miami again (yes, it is what happened the first time), I realized that the man was probably from Mexico and explained him that I had a wedding at night, because in all possible ways, family and weddings are strongly important in Mexico. At this time, when I was not believing in anything anymore, the man told me: “okay, follow me!” He called the airplane and we started to run on the tarmac! The staff reopened the airplane door and I had been received with applauses. A MOVIE SCENE! I thought that this type of stories only happens in cinema but I literally lived it and I keep an amazing memory of this experience.
I arrived 1h30 later in Monterrey exhausted and all sweating. And surprise? Nobody for me at the airport. My better half was trapped in the traffic and I waited for almost one hour. From there, we drove to the apartment, I took a fast shower, didn’t wash my hair, put my dress and we ran to the wedding. It had been pretty epic but I spent a fabulous night!
During the month, we celebrated the birthday of my better half and of his brothers (they are triplets!) with some “antojitos mexicanos” and even a DJ brought by a friend. And I did the canyon of Matacanes: probably the worst idea without exercise glasses because I was terrified of not seeing anything!
In the meanwhile, a couple of Spanish friends got divorced and the woman went back to Spain. It made me feel weird because I know that their rupture was mainly based on the fact that she never really adapted to Mexico. It gives me a bit of anxiety because I couldn’t not imagine me at her place. After all, I was exactly in the same position as her when she arrived in Mexico 3 years before.
August 2016 – The first worries
After one month, I started to get worried of not receiving any mails or phone calls in companies where I applied. Inspired by the blog of Mathilde, a French expatriated in Boston, I decided to start my own blog: A French in Mexico was born (first post here).
In the middle of the month, I finally convinced my better half to have a cat! We went to the association Adopta Monterrey and we felt in love for Tess. We gave her this name as nobody knew her previous one. The day where we were supposed to pass for her, I woke up in the morning with a terrible pain. I had never felt this type of pain before, or maybe when I got operated of the appendicitis when I was 10. Supported by the parents of my better half, I went to the emergency. Diagnostic: pyelonephritis. The doctor was surprised that I didn’t feel any discomfort before and told me that I was highly tolerant to pain. The fact is that I truly didn’t have harbinger. I got a treatment and this episode pushed us to take me a health insurance in Mexico (yes, I know, I was supposed to already have one but we were actually doing the necessary for it).
As my applications were not going anywhere, I tried to give French classes in a “preparatoria” (high school) from the TEC close to my apartment. If the director of foreign languages needed me, the Human Resources were strongly opposed as I didn’t have working permit in Mexico. They could have supported me in the process but they simply didn’t want, which was incredible when many French teachers were needed. I have been disappointed and started to realize that I won’t get support from any company to get my working visa. This is why, we decided with my better half to advance the date of our signature to be civilly married even though I hated the idea.
September 2016 – Turning 28
So, we signed in September. Shocking at this is, I hated this day and I simply decided to not remind it anymore (except in this article). I wanted to keep it secret as I was not considering that it was my wedding. For me, it was simply a pure administrative formality. But it was important for my life partner to have his parents and his friends on his side. So, we organized a little night at our place after the judge left and I contained my tears all along. I was missing my family and my friends. My sister has not answered me while I was actually trying to inform her and proposing her a skype at this moment…I was worried about the feelings of my mother…For me, this day didn’t have any value when actually my better half had made a bigger deal around it. I would have liked to keep it lowest as possible. It was just a signature to get my working visa…Nothing else.
Few days after, I turned 28 and I started to be really anxious for my future. I had contracted a loan to go back to school and do my Master but I have finally made the choice to be in Mexico for love and I was not finding a job.Thanks to some contacts, I started a trial in a little consulting business. I didn’t do more than two weeks. No precise missions, lunch breaks of 3 hours with the necessity then to stay until 8 pm, no real productivity and the worst: social racism from the boss. I started to realize that the bubble of San Pedro was more problematic that what I was imagining but I will dedicate an article about this topic.
Some good things also happened to me. I went to San Miguel de Allende (wonderful trip) for the week-end of the Mexican Independence and I attended to the Monterrey International Ballet Gala.
October 2016 – Human Resources in Mexico
I started to get depressed, thing that happens a lot to many of expatriates after their installation in a new country. I naively thought that I be protected from it as I had already spent 7 months in Mexico before but I was wrong. I was not at the school anymore, I was not studying anymore, and the people who I knew were all foreign students who had left. I was going regularly to the Migration Office in order to obtain my working visa but the process was long.
Thanks to a friend, I got a job interview in the company where he was working but things didn’t go well with Human Resources and I have been highly affected by the experience. My life partner and I started at this time to work on two business ideas but the projects failed in the following months, especially because we didn’t have the capital.
During the month, I went to Cerro de la Silla that I see from my living room window and I started to run without really knowing why. I think that my self-esteem was in pain and I needed to prove to myself that I can do something.
November 2016 – A difficult month
At this time, I was keeping working on business ideas (market analysis and so on). I celebrated the tradition of Día de Muertos and I went to Chipinque with some friends, which I consider to be the best aspect of Monterrey.
My mother-in-law also organized me a “Despedida de Soltera” (Bachelorette Party) which is an important tradition in Mexico and even called it “Bienvenida a la familia” which was a really nice attention to me.
However, my memories from this period are quite blurry. I was definitely not on my best at this time.
December 2016 – Christmas time
I regained of bit of dynamism getting in the mood for Christmas but I was terribly missing France, thing that I didn’t expect so quickly. I had flight tickets to go there in January as the tickets at Christmas time were too expensive and I was looking forward to fly.
If we drink Champagne in France for holiday season, in Mexico we drink tequila! So, I decided to learn more about the tequila production: everything you need to know is here. I also wrote an overview of places to visit in Mexico after having received a message from a French friend who will start a World Tour in January and wanted to know what really worth it to see while being in Mexico.
I went to the French night at the Museo Marco where I got the opportunity to exchange a lot with a French woman who was exactly at the same position as me years ago, when she arrived in Monterrey ran by love. I realized that her situation was even more complicated than mine as she was 7 months pregnant when she arrived and as Monterrey was not as developed as today. There are not many French in Monterrey, and the average age is around 40 but it was good to be able to talk to someone who has been through what I was living.
I also organized a “posada” at home with the brothers and the sister of my better half.
I spent Christmas in the father family side of my partner where I had a really great time and where I have been welcomed as a member of the family. I was missing my family and a French Christmas but I know that I was lucky to be so well surrounded. For New Year, I surprisingly discovered that Mexican were mainly celebrating it in family, such as Christmas when in France this time is dedicated to friends. Finally, we booked a table in a nice Italian restaurant with my better half (it was our engagement anniversary) where his brothers and my sister-in-law joined us. Again, I missed France and the presence of my friends but I recognized that I couldn’t complain of anything because I was not alone. Expatriates don’t really have the right to complain, because in most cases, they live with a certain comfort level and the rest, the sacrifices that they do, is not visible for people from outside. I learnt that also…
January 2017 – Vive la France!
I started the year with a week-end at La Mesa del Oso. I have been there last year at approximately the same time and I really enjoyed it. I think that it can turn into a tradition: starting the new year with a week-end at La Mesa del Oso. This time, we went with friends and we had a great and funny time.
Then I left Monterrey for Paris! Probably because things were not going to the way that I wanted I was missing A LOT my home city. In France, I recharged batteries. I went to the Hergé exhibition, the creator of Tintin and I saw an exhibition of Modern Mexican painting (seems that Mexico was pursuing me!). I walked and walked in my secret Parisian places, saw some friends even though it’s always difficult to see everybody. That’s a frustrating thing: people have their own agenda and they won’t move everything for you. They work and it’s not because you, you have free time, that it’s the case for them. But I spent a lot of time with my family and my mother even organized a French Christmas for me! The paradise…Ultimately it was too short. It will probably always be…
On my way back to Monterrey I had a flight connection in Atlanta and I lived a mess at the identity control: the story here.
February 2017 – Teaching French
Few days before I went back to Mexico, I had been contacted to give French classes. The opportunity was coming when I didn’t expect it anymore. The director of the Foreign Language Center was really flexible and accepted that I miss few days for my wedding which will be in April. I had only few hours a week and the feeling that it was nothing, but it was something. It was few hours better than nothing. It allows me to see new people and I discovered that I really enjoyed teaching French. I liked my students and I have been more than rewarded. In Mexico, such as in US, students evaluate their teachers. Some of them mentioned that I have been their “best French teacher”: I was pleased for that.
Parallelly to French classes, I initiated the application process to pursue a PhD in Social Sciences with both TEC and Sciences Po Paris. That took me a lot of time, especially because of the thesis project writing in both French and Spanish and all the investigations to fill. I would fail two exams in May and June, so I haven’t been accepted at TEC. I haven’t been accepted at Sciences Po neither as I am in Mexico and as they were not interested in a co-supervision with the TEC.
This is also in February that I collaborated with Walking Mexico where I wrote an article about La Mesa del Oso.
March 2017 – Last wedding plans
The Mexican civil wedding was from now on close. I was fixing the last details which is not something that I really enjoyed because I am not this type of woman who likes to organize everything for her wedding. The fact to not have more working hours was also giving me the feeling that I was reduced to that: organizing a wedding and it has something degrading to me. Again, I was feeling guilty.
This is during this month that I did my first 10k race in Monterrey and that I wrote an article about living in small places in Paris.
April 2017 – A Mexican wedding
The Mexican wedding! My closer family and around 170 guests! The nightmare for me but…it went well! To be totally honest, my flower crown was so big that I couldn’t wear it, the judge (who accepted to go back) was late, the DJ told me that my playlist was boring and didn’t want to put it, I couldn’t sit down one minute to have a drink, everybody went to my bathroom so I couldn’t have intimate space to arrange the train of my dress, I ended by crying…but the place was beautiful, people were happy, so…so! I have a special thinking for my sister Béatrice who supported me A LOT. Without her, I don’t know how I could have done. The wedding was still great and I danced a lot.
Wedding pictures by Jonathan Beiko
But the best, it was to welcome my family for the first time in Mexico. We went out, we had a super nice night at the place of my parents in law who are wonderful people and then…my better half and I took the road to Yucatan and Quintana Roo with my mother and my sisters (articles are still in process: I am terribly late!!!) We all had an amazing time and I was super happy to share Mexico with my family.
At the end of the month, they were back to France and I was back to my French classes where I animated different debates around the French Presidential elections. As I mentioned it on the blog, being an expatriate is not an excuse to not vote. The only thing to do is to register yourself to the French Consulate list in order to get a Consulate number and being able to vote. It’s also something to do to let know to the French government that you are living abroad: this can be really useful in case of any problem in your host country.
May 2017 – A new slap in the face
I achieved my French classes with a little twinge of regret and I completed my applications for the PhD in Social Sciences. As I said it, I didn’t get enough points at the TEC exam in Spanish (enough for a Master but not for a PhD) and I didn’t have enough neither at the GRE.
I wrote articles about cultural differences between France and Mexico, especially about women and I was again looking forward being in France.
As a parenthesis, I went to the picnic organized by the French association of Monterrey where, mainly, men have been sent to Mexico by their French company. Their family (wife and kids) followed them and for many women, it is not easy to get a working visa and being able to reinvest themselves in something. In most cases, they don’t necessarily find opportunities in their field and have to reinvent another path. There were also mixed couples French/Mexican and it was nice to exchange a bit with people who you share the same problematics.
June 2017 – Missing France
As I had failed the PhD application, I restarted my job research (actually, I never really interrupted it) more intensively and without any enthusiasm. I went to a job fair organized by my business school and to some job interviews. It didn’t go that well and again I felt terribly bad. At the same time, did I really want a job with 6 vacation days a year and so not being able to see my family? The answer is clearly NO.
I am conscious that I should be stronger, as I was before…But Mexico harmed me at a certain point and I feel the irremediable need to protect myself. I know that it probably comes from me, that I don’t have the good attitude and I am responsible for what happens to me. I know that I am probably not enough adaptable and that I probably don’t make enough efforts. The truth, is that I don’t want anymore. I depreciate myself for not having a successful job but paradoxically, I don’t want a job in a company anymore. I feel disgusted without really knowing why.
I think that moving to Mexico has been way harder that what I expected. We always know that it will be difficult, that it will be a big change, but I didn’t fully measure it. I think that I am tired: “of doing nothing?” people will probably think…
The fact is that in June, even more than in January, I was really looking forward going to France. I was achieving the last wedding plans for the religious wedding in Paris, something highly important for me. And I took the plane on the 20th of June to arrive in Paris the first day of Summer.
July 2017 – Parisian wedding, THE wedding, MY wedding
I had incredible days. I got to run everywhere but it was GOOD! Walking through Paris, enjoying French food, seeing people close to my heart, welcoming my Mexican family at home and celebrating the religious wedding! This time, not 170 guests but 60! My church in the 11th area of Paris, in front of where I was living before, the surprise of having mariachis when we left the church, some romantic pictures at the Canal Saint Martin and a wonderful night! I couldn’t have expected more because it was simply magic.
I did the tourist in my home city, I shared nice moments with my husband and I drank a lot of Champagne! My sister Béatrice again has been AMAZING and it was simply the paradise. But quickly, the time to go back to Mexico was there…
It makes less than one week that I am back in Monterrey and I am okay. I guess that I will always feel heart broken, divided between my country, my people and my husband. I always thought that I wouldn’t change my life plans for a man but it’s exactly what I did. Does it make me weak? Does it make me less competitive? Does it decrease my value as a human being, as a woman? This is sometimes the image that people postpone to me. I probably shouldn’t care but it affects me.
I have to find a new cruising speed. After discussions with my mother, with my sister, with my husband, after some tears, I finally went back to Mexico with the project to keep giving French classes (ideally more), to keep developing the blog and to achieve my book by December and then fight to publish it. Because after all, if it’s not the most profitable (from far…) it is what I really want to do. But in the meanwhile, I have been contacted by a company in Monterrey which looks for French speakers. I went to a job interview as soon as I arrived and if they would have preferred someone with more working experience, they really need someone who speaks French. So, I am now involved in their hiring process and I am confused. What should I do?
More pictures of the year...
The city center of Monterrey...
San Pedro, one of the richest city of Latin America...
For more pictures, follow me on Instagram @afrenchinmexico