Ana Hudson is a twenty something from East Orange, NJ. Over six months ago, she joined her boyfriend in Montreal and added a new element to their otherwise long-distance relationship. She’s found herself exploring friendships, relationships, the French language, Canadian and Haitian cultures (the beau’s family is from Haiti). What a journey!
It has been a year and a month that I’ve dated my boyfriend. He lives outside of Montreal, Quebec, Canada in a small town named Mascouche. This is a completely French Canadian town. Let me tell you, French Canadians refuse to speak any English if at all possible. It’s mind boggling because I think to myself, ‘how can we communicate properly when you don’t meet me in the middle?’ I always start with ‘bonjour, hi’ to ensure they understand I speak English. But that does not always work well.
I have had a few very short and bland conversations in English. Maybe they’re just as embarrassed in their English as I am with my French? Either way, I wish they would take the same approach as I do when it comes to these awkward moments. “Just Do It!” as Nike would say.
French isn’t the only language I’m learning to navigate. I have also found myself losing my swag in English! French is now my second language. So, I have moments of translation in my head that seem to be simultaneous with my speech. But, it’s not an easy task. Recently, I was explaining what a certain car looks like to my mom. All I kept saying was, “une voiture est…voiture, voiture mommy, oh mon dieu je ne sais pas avec moi!!” My poor mom on the other line took pity on me. “I understand Ana, the voiture.” Voiture just means car.
Beyond the language of speech there is the language of love. Being in a relationship outside of the US of A is difficult. The cost of traveling back and forth gets expensive. The time spent apart is daunting, not to mention trying to incorporate socializing with family so that time together is substantive. It feels like everyone needs to meet your partner to confirm that you’re not dating a ghost! What about when it’s time for the relationship to grow beyond the two of you? What about the pitter patter of little feet? Oh my lawd!! A relationship of only one year can shift gears as if it’s been 5. The strain of traveling and considering the absence makes the relationship move even faster. But, if it’s definitely something worth it, you have to believe that it will work out for the best. C’est la vie!
And what happens to life back home? All the faces and places that you left behind? I always feel tense once I’m back in the tri-state. I miss the conveniences of downtown Newark, route 280, family, friends and the Parkway. Did I mention how much I miss the English language?
Long distance, transnational relationships are all about balancing love and loneliness. There is part of you that feels free – on your own, taking a leap of faith. Doing what some others from home wouldn’t attempt to do. There is the other part that is learning a new language and culture all at the same time. In the midst of it all there’s a frustrating acceptance to achieve, to feel you belong not just in your relationship, but also within the larger culture that is most familiar to your partner.
Relationships are a balancing act and I have no magic formula. Between English, French, love and pommes frites, I am enjoying the journey. But, there are moments when I look around and realize that I am far away from where I’m started. Most of the time, I think that’s not such a bad thing.