Packing and Flying… Again

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When I moved to Canada, I remember thinking that it was just close enough to France in case of emergency or if I suffered a bad case of homesickness, yet far enough that I would be able to embrace a completely different culture. I couldn’t picture myself moving to Australia for instance, because it takes at least a couple of days and multiple expensive connecting flights to go to Europe. It simply felt too far, too remote.

From Ottawa, I can easily bus to Trudeau Airport in Montreal or Pearson in Toronto and catch a direct flight to Paris. It’s a six- or seven-hour flight, and dozens of airlines serve this route every day.

I can be there if needed. At least, I can try to.

And this time, I needed to be there.

A few weeks ago, my mother ended up at the ER—hardly the kind of news you want to hear when you live a few thousands kilometres away. I felt powerless. It’s an awful feeling, trust me.

In 2008, she had been diagnosed with an aortic aneurysm—one of these bad genetic jokes, because she didn’t have any of the “risk factors”. However, she was lucky to be diagnosed: aneurysms are a silent killer, usually striking people without warning. By a weird twist of fate, as her aneurysm enlarged, it caused pain—good news in her case.

At the time, the risk of rupture was weighted and surgery was not yet an option. She was sent home and told to practice “watchful wait”, i.e. to get a scan and a follow-up every year.

But the aneurysm grew bigger. Last February, she was in pain again, hence the trip to the ER. When she told me the diameter the aneurysm had reached, we all knew surgery had to be scheduled fast.

For a few weeks, I wasn’t sure whether I would have to rush to France, whether the surgery was going to be an emergency.

My mother was lucky was again: she didn’t have emergency surgery. She even got to pick the date (that’s the French health care system for you!), as long as it asap.

The surgery was last Friday and it went fine. Waiting for updates was a nerve-wrecking experience and I really felt I was on the other side of the world. I knew I’d only be relieved once in France—hence the unplanned trip. It was long overdue anyway: our last trip there was in June-July 2010.

Feng stayed in Ottawa and I “crossed the Pond” alone.

From Ottawa, I took the Greyhound to Montreal’s Trudeau Airport, and then flew to Amsterdam. It was my first time flying KLM and arriving at Schiphol Airport and both were good experiences (although I wouldn’t claim Dutch is the most melodious language…!). From Amsterdam, I flew to Nantes, my hometown. The weather was gorgeous in Ottawa and fairly nice in Amsterdam but it was cold and damp when I arrived “home”.

Yet I’m here for a few weeks. A French spring, in a way… and an unplanned trip starting on my birthday: I turned 29 today.

Sunrise Over Europe

Sunrise Over Europe

Flying Over The UK

Wind Turbines, Close to Holland

The Coast of Holland

Close to Amsterdam

Schiphol Airport and KLM Planes

Schiphol Airport


About Author

French woman in English Canada. World citizen, new mom, traveler, translator, writer and photographer. Looking for comrades to start a new revolution.


  1. When I read this morning you were in France, I immediately thought about some family emergency.

    I hope everythiong goes well there for your Mom. And have a good birthday!

  2. Zhu, I’m glad to hear your mother is ok. Family emergencies when living abroad are always complicated… I’ve been lucky enough that, although in another country, my family is still in Europe, a 4.5 hour flight away (and believe me, in some cases even this feels like the other side of the World!).

    I hope you can get to enjoy spring in France, I’m sure it’s beautiful! Plus, it’s also really nice to be able to spend birthday at home for a change, isn’t it? Happy birthday!! x

  3. Happy Birthday!

    I really hope your mom turns out well. Based on what you told us, your mom seems to have a lucky streak, hopefully it stays that way.

    And enjoy spring! It’s been so warm here in Buffalo, but I don’t know what it is like there in Europe this time of the year.

  4. Happy birthday! I’m glad your mom’s surgery went well and wish her a speedy recovery. It must have been very scary, but at least now you can be with her and your other family members for awhile. 🙂

  5. I hope that your visit home is nice for you and your mother both. No doubt she will be very pleased to see you. Thank God for good health care. You and your mom are in our prayers, her for a successful recovery and you for safe travel. Of course I don’t know her name, or yours either for that matter. But that’s OK, the big guy knows who Zhu’s mother is.

  6. Happy belated birthday!!! Good to hear you had a safe trip. As you know, I am doing the same thing tomorrow. Was the greyhound on time? I’m cutting it pretty close – the bus arrives at the airport exactly two hours before my flight. Next time you’re in Amsterdam, pick up some Stroopwafels ( They are delicious!

  7. Hi Zhu,
    I am hoping that your Maman is better. You are so right to take the flight over and give yourself the time to be together.
    I have been there,done that with my Dad years back. And last November, touched with my Mom after her stroke.

    Parent’s health issues and health can be very difficult to deal with living in another country.

    I am happy to see your sunsets taken from the plane. 🙂 Yes, bring in the sunshine for your Mom.


  8. Happy Happy Belated Birthday my friend….March BABIES!!!! Me too 😀

    Sorry to hear about your Mom and yes I know the awful feelings as I flew from USA to Spore and connecting flight to China when my Father was very very ill back then……heartbreaking experience.

    Sending all my love and speedy recovery to your MAMA 😀

  9. Hello Zhu

    finally catching up on my blog reading- so sorry to hear about your mom but glad to know all seems well and the incident got you out to France, at least. I know what you mean by distance, living in Cape Town, South Africa with my parents in Guelph Ontario means I often think (unfortunately, as it is quite a macabre topic) about how long it would take me to get home if something went horribly wrong. Worse, I think about what if I get the call that it is too late, mom or dad is dead, and I have to ride in an airplane for 20 hours having just experienced one of life’s worst tragedies! Sorry….all this to say, I know what you are going through.

    Hope your work was cool with you having to take off suddenly. You also need your employer on your side when you live internationally! Hope all goes well!

    • I’m freelancing now so I didn’t have to ask for permission to leave, which was a relief because we get very little holidays in Canada, as you know!

      I’m glad Canada isn’t too far from France. It helps, psychologically-speaking 😉

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