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Thursday, February 16, 2023

My life stories - Part 19 (Life and learning amidst impermanent changes and challenges)

My life Stories – Part 19 (Life and learning amidst impermanent changes and challenges)
Stories from my past memories – childhood, family, friends, growing up, poverty, integrity, dreams come true, finding peace and happiness, Buddhism, Yoga, and now…

It has been more than a year since we arrived in France. Even though there will always be some ongoing impermanent changes and challenges in life to deal with, just like everyone else and anywhere in this world, we appreciate our life and the opportunity of residing here in France. This body and mind also get to experience life under four seasons and keep learning amidst impermanent changes and challenges.

In the beginning, we were staying in the hotel for two and a half months while going through the process of finding a 'long term but not really' living space to rent here in Evian-Les-Bains, as well as dealing with the prolonged legal documentation procedures for residing in France, which is still going on because there's a lot of backlog in the respective department since the pandemic started, where both process are equally time, energy and money consuming. It's particularly challenging for my husband, as he needed to be working full time under a new environment after living a slow paced way of life in Malaysia for many years, while at the same time, spending additional time and energy and money into doing all kind of paperwork and communication in French, which I can't help at all.

In April 2022, we managed to find a small studio apartment to rent nearby the hotel that was within our budget and eligibility. Its great location that is being very close to the hotel, as well as the reality of great difficulty to be renting an apartment due to the high demand and low supply in the property market here, was the main reason why we didn't hesitate too much for renting that studio apartment, knowing that it's only suitable for temporary stay, while we take our time to look for another more suitable living space. We were being 'reminded' by the hotel management that we needed to move out from the hotel before the end of April, as well as we ourselves also wanted to have a 'proper' living space, where we can prepare and cook our own food on daily basis, and so, we took that apartment, after seeing some other apartments that were in worse condition and of higher rent.

At the time when we visited that apartment, we already knew that there were some issues existing in the apartment, however, the property agent 'had promised' that certain 'important' issue with the apartment would be resolved within the next few months after we moved in, which didn't happen, but it had been causing us certain inconvenience, consuming our time and energy. After we moved in and were living there for some time, we started to be aware of some other issues that exist in that studio apartment, which were seriously affecting our physical well-being.

Not long after we moved in, I was suffering from back and hips problem due to the bad quality mattress and the fixed table and bench that didn't have the right height. I also suffered from repeated knees and foot injury due to the awkward way of getting in and out of the bed under the tight space, where I 'carelessly' knocked either my knee or my foot into the bed frame or the pillar for countless times, and also spraining my knees going up and down the narrow and steep staircase for accessing the tiny loft space that we used as wardrobe and laundry drying area, where there were a few times, I 'carelessly' missed a step and nearly fell down from the stair. And the worst was, I started to have respiratory problem due to the allergic reaction towards the mold that exist in the apartment because of the inefficient heating system on top of the non-insulated old windows that couldn't be closed properly, where heavy condensation built up on the walls when the air temperature was very low, where cold air keeps coming in through the gap around the windows, while the heaters were releasing heat warming up air from below the windows. It's unfortunate that the highly efficient energy saving floor heating that is widely being used in Asian countries like South Korea, hasn't gained much popularity here.

We had to wrap ourselves in many layers of warm clothing in the apartment even when the two heaters were switched on for many hours at the highest temperature available, while we were paying higher electricity bill for using those inefficient heaters that couldn't warm up the room efficiently. There were also some 'pests' issue during the warmer months, where hundreds of tiny 'pests' came out from underneath the flooring everyday, which I picked them and threw them out from the window, restlessly.

Another important issue, was that my husband couldn't rest/sleep well because of his high sensitivity towards light, sound and smell, on top of many years suffering from painful tinnitus. Two people living in a small studio apartment with squeaky wooden flooring and furniture, where the kitchen, dining, shower/toilet and bed are all within the same space of 20 square meters, on top of the non-soundproof wall between the immediate neighbours on the same floor, doesn't help either. I couldn't really move/do much in the apartment until my husband left the apartment for working at night, where I usually cleaned the apartment, washed the shower and toilet, cooked and had my dinner/supper, and did some modified stretching exercises in the middle of the night, and would wait until my husband came back from work to sleep at the same time as him during the day, to minimize 'movements', 'lights' and 'noises' in the room. However, during the warmer months, there were random people hanging out, chitchatting, getting drunk and shouting loudly in front of the supermarket that is right next to the apartment.

The shower/toilet in a tight space was also another issue, where we had to keep the bathroom door open when we wanted to sit down or get up from the toilet, as the door was just right in front of the toilet, while stepping up and down the shower box that was one step higher from the floor right beside the toilet, where the shower door can only be half opened being blocked by the toilet, is another awkward challenging movement before and after a shower. A space like that might be okay if there's only one person living there, as the dining table is right in front of the toilet, it's really inconvenient when someone is having a meal while another person needs to use the toilet making certain 'actions', 'noises' and 'smells'. When Marc's parents came to visit us in October, we couldn't use the toilet when we were all in the room (apartment).

And hence, the process of finding another apartment to rent had begun some time in October.

Of course, it's another few months of apartment hunting challenge, particularly for my husband who was already struggling with not getting enough rest/sleep/free time/personal space/privacy/daylight/fresh air, due to the existing issues while living in that studio apartment, and he had to spend his precious off-days to be dealing with the exhausting complicated documentation procedure with the different property agencies and apartments viewing, and then, dealing with the repeated hammering of great disappointment for being unable to get the apartment(s) that we thought was suitable, due to there are too many other candidates competing to get an apartment. It's understandable that he was getting tired physically and mentally for spending his time and energy to be writing countless emails, filling up forms and making phone calls during the day time office hours while he needed to sleep in the day after working night shift, communicating back and forth with the property agents, and after spending time and energy viewing the different apartments that we thought were suitable, and yet, we still couldn't manage to get one.

Some of the property agents put on the "Can't you see that I am very busy" attitude, because they are never short of business, as there are too many people desperately looking for a living place to rent, as more and more people are not eligible or couldn't afford to buy and own a property, however, we came across a young woman from the Bochaton Immobilier, who is very friendly, welcoming and informative, who is happy with what she does. It gave us a rare but nice apartment hunting experience even though we didn't rent the apartment from them, as it was not suitable.

Finally, one day in January, we found an apartment with a separate bedroom, separate shower/toilet that is not in the bedroom or kitchen, with a bigger kitchen and living space, even though it's not the most suitable apartment, as the rent is higher, while the location is not great for my husband where he needs to spend more time and energy into commuting between work place and home, and the shower has some defect, but everything else is significantly a lot more better. And more importantly, the owner wanted to rent his apartment to us. It's not perfect, but, that's the nature of everything. He said he was shocked that there were more than 40 requests showing interest in his apartment on the day he put up the advertisement, being compared to two years ago, there were only five requests, and there were four other people viewing the apartment at the same time when we were there.

And so, we moved again. Being busy with the moving, lots of cleaning and the many paperwork with different organizations for changing address/signing up new account/ending old account during the month of January, while knowing that we won't know the exact pros and cons of the new apartment until we moved in and live there for some time, living through the different timing and season, where different activities/things happen during different timing and season, learning from the previous experience.

After living here for two weeks now, we are glad to know that it's the right move that has to be done the sooner the better, even though it's not perfect, but for the sake of looking after our physical well-being.

We both find this apartment very homely. My husband is definitely having better rest/sleep, while my back and hips problem, as well as the knees injury and respiratory issue are slowly recovering, where now this body can gradually perform many of the yoga poses that it couldn't practice in the past twelve months due to the space limitation and ongoing physical injuries, although yoga and the yoga practice is not limited by physical and space limitation to be doing some yoga poses. It's about whether the mind has been developing the correct understanding, transcending the impermanent qualities of names and forms, being undetermined and uninfluenced by all kind of impermanent changes, challenges, pain, difficulty and obstacle in everyday life, being free from egoistic attachment, identification, desire of craving and aversion, judgment, comparison and expectation.

Even though it was cold snowy winter weather in the past two weeks, where the air temperature dropped below 0 degree on certain days, we were bare-footing and wearing only one layer of clothing in the apartment, with only one heater in the bathroom that is obliged to turn on all day during the entire winter in order to keep the entire space dry, which we agree with, and it works efficiently as how it should be.

I also have more freedom, time and space to be doing something in the apartment, such as preparing and cooking meals, cleaning and washing, doing some yoga exercise, or merely using the bathroom and enjoying the daylight, in the day, while my husband is resting/sleeping in the bedroom with the shutter down and door closed. The solid flooring also doesn't make squeaky noise when I move around in the apartment. There are two balconies that we don't use at the moment because of the cold winter, but they give us the view of the mountains and the sky, where we can make use the outdoor space in spring and autumn. The laundry get dry quickly because of the unblocked sunlight comes directly into the room for many hours in the day, on top of the efficient heating system in the apartment that keep things dry. It will be hot in the summer definitely, but, it's okay, as the hot summer is only for a couple of months, but the cold and wet weather will be here for many months. Most important, it keeps the apartment mold-free.

Even though the apartment hunting process and the prolonged ongoing legal documentation procedure was a bit challenging for us, and the experience of dealing with some of the property agents were not that nice, but after one year living here, we are thankful to this country that has been very kind to us, where we are being looked after by the social health care and welfare system here, and in general, it's very safe and peaceful here in this little town, particularly.

All is impermanent.


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About Yoga

Know thyself. Everything is impermanent and selfless. There is no 'I'. There is no 'I am selfless'/'I am not selfless'. There is no 'I am hurt'/'I need to be healed from hurt'. Non-blind believing, non-blind following, non-blind practicing and non-blind propagating, but be open-minded to inquire the truth of everything. Be free. Be peaceful. Be happy.

About Meng Foong

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