The Canada Day stage is almost set up in front of the Parliament, but this year again, we will miss the festivities: we are heading to France!
Eh, I love Canada Day in Ottawa. But do you know what I like ever better? Affordable plane tickets. And flying to the Old World in the middle of July is just pas possible. So we will be celebrating the Fête de la Bastille instead and Mark will get the chance to reconnect with its French roots.
This time, the plan is:
- To avoid forgetting my laptop at Toronto Airport (we are leaving from Montreal, anyway)
- To avoid eye injuries (note to self, cut Mark’s nails)
- To get Mark to speak fluent French (really, fluency in any real language will do)
- To catch up with French culture (me) while watching World Cup games (Feng) and being spoiled by my family (Mark)
Once again, I feel exhausted and I’m hoping I’ll be able to rest a bit. It’s not that easy though, because as idyllic as the three words “holidays in France” may sound, every immigrant know that visiting family is pretty much the opposite of booking an “all-inclusive fun & relax” holiday package… no matter how great your family is.
And mine is pretty awesome.
I’m even bringing them gifts, aka “please-entertain-Mark-bribes”: Levis and Calvin Klein jeans (much cheaper in Canada than in France), books, American beauty products, etc.
Even though Feng and I started dating in 2001 and got married in 2005, my family only met him in 2008 when we traveled to France together for the first time. I wasn’t hiding him but between my permanent residency process and graduating from university, we simply hadn’t had the chance to go to France together.
There was no “Meet the Fockers” moment—my parents are very easy going—but this first trip was a bit of a disaster. We stayed in Paris and took a side trip to Brittany but it was cold and rainy (duh, Brittany in March…) and I got sick. Above all, I felt torn between Feng and my family, France and Canada, my old life and the new one I was building in Ottawa. We argued a lot during this trip.
Back then, I wasn’t yet a Canadian citizen but I had left France for long enough that everything had changed in many subtle ways. My old friends had all moved out of town, my brother and sister were all grown up and my favourite hangout places were long closed. I was no longer stubborn and angsty teen who smoked cigarettes on the balcony at 2 a.m. while completing school assignments and listening to Lou Reed but I wasn’t sure who the new me was either since I was starting from scratch in Canada.
Feng had expected me to be a traveler in France, like I had been when we backpacked the world together. Meanwhile, I was trying to reconnect with my very French family who had no clue what my life in Canada was like. I had too much “insider knowledge” of France to be your average North America backpackers but I had been gone too long to be a proper host and tour guide.
The following trip, in 2009, was a bit easier. Feng was more comfortable with my family and its little quirks and I decided to pretend I was a tourist in my old hometown. It made things easier, and I was also more confident with my new Canadian identity.
We traveled back to France together a few time since, including twice with Mark last year. Feng is probably the most French Chinese-Canadian I know and little by little, he got to know my roots and appreciate France.
I have no idea how this trip will turn out. Mark is no longer a baby but a stubborn and curious toddler. It should be… interesting.
I’ll let you know, either way!