I think it’s safe to say that I’m really enjoying France.
Aside from the occasional brushes with social death (aka my interactions with bureaucracy and the sweatfest that that usually entails), and an ongoing lack of reliable internet access, life in Pontarlier this past week has been dreamy.
I was whisked from the train station to a small restaurant/sandwich shop to my appartment and home for the next few months by one of the English contact teachers and his partner. Within mere hours of arriving in France, I was fed, welcomed, given keys to my appartment, and even asked politely-worded political questions over dinner. I even met my roommates and fellow assistantes de langue, Madison (check out her bangin’ blog here) and Tanne.
I thought that this spirit of hospitality would sizzle out in a few days, but the people of Pontarlier/Doubs continue to embrace me.
The day after I arrived, Catherine, our host teacher, invited us over to her house for tea. A few hours later, Madison and I left with our hearts full of love and our hands full of herbs. Catherine’s husband not only gave us a full tour of his garden, but also herbs he had grown himself:
ciboulette – chives
sauge – sage
estragon – terragon
oregin – oregano
lavande – lavender
thym – thyme
romarin – rosemary
As Nadi talked about his garden in a language he was familiar with – a language that I was just beginning to become more intimate with – I couldn’t help but feel a tiny growing warmth in the depths of my belly. It began much like I imagine a seed would begin to grow into a seedling; by pushing past a hard shell, hoping to find home in what it finds outside, it reaches for the familiar and unfamiliar things that it needs in order to survive.
Madison and I took Nadi’s additions to our vocabulary and our pantry, and set off brimming with ideas on how to put them both to use. We decided to make dinner.
- Terragon and thyme breaded chicken
- Sage sautéed leeks
- A chive-inspired salad
- Baked sweet potatoes à la micro
Desserts were provided by our German-American roommate, Tanne, and her German sweetie, Lars.
Not only is my admiration for food deepening, but so too is my profound understanding of language and how important it is. Even while my lips and tongue have been fighting through most of the daily battles of life in France, my fingers still reach for the comfort of a language that is more familiar to me. Every time I pick up my pen to note down a new vocabulary word, I balance out my new discoveries by writing letters and cards to family and friends.
Madison and I have gotten into the lovely routine of crafting cards and letters after dinner in the evenings, and while at first this habit stemmed out of our lack of WiFi and need to stay in touch, it has now become a wonderful part of our day – one I look forward to every evening.
It brings me no small amount of joy to craft words, and to share this joy with other people is remarkable. The ability to communicate in written words speaks not only to our desire to share our experiences with those we know, but also stands as a reminder of what it means to be human despite the changing times. The consistency of human correspondence serves to encourage understanding and empathy – two things that are also important when growing into a new home.