Game of Catch-up Anyone? Pourquoi pas? {part 1}

It is approaching one month since I have been here and so much has happened but I will not flood this post with too much. Instead, my upcoming posts will cover those different occurrences and then some. 
 
The French are known for their delicious food, fine wine and exquisite culture, among other things. So why not share a taste of that? After arriving at the house around 12pm on 9 janvier, I took a nap and  when I woke up, my host mom (Mme Hélène) gave me rice lightly seasoned with organic extra virgin olive oil (pretty sure that is the only oil she uses to cook) and topped with avocados. After my late lunch we went grocery shopping at an organic market and she bought tons of vegetables and some fruits. Then we picked up my host sister (Pauline) from school and met my host brother (Rocco) at this cute new cafe, Le Comptoir de l’Imaginaire (LCDLI). I guess they have an abbreviation for it because it is a long name but it is such a cool name that I would write it out or say it all each time. Anywars, Le Comptoir de l’Imaginaire became the first location on my list of hangout spots in Nice and the surrounding cities. My first dinner was this thick vegetable soup. It was not the best thing ever but I had already picked up on how healthy my host mom is and I told myself this would be a great adjustment. Of course I eat healthy back at home but sometimes when I am at school, buying whole foods and cooking all the time is expensive and time consuming. But when I do take out time to do so, it is deliciously rewarding. I have not mastered grocery shopping as well as my mom has and I also do not have a full time job so you see where a big portion of my problem lies. But my parents and my roommates parents do bring us food every so often. My mom is always blessing us with the groceries back at school. I have no problem cooking but having a cafeteria and restaurants on campus and in close proximity makes for an easy outlet. Enough of that ‘life in America’ tangent, let us get back to real life in France. *pinches self* D’accord, tout est bien (Okay, all is well). Besides the benefit of guaranteed breakfast and dinner each day (and lunch when I am in the house) the home-stay option was a great decision for many reasons which you will come to find out about. After that first soup it got better. Way better. We have eaten different dishes every dinner and I love them. Some of the tastes are different than what I am used to but my host mom said I have done pretty well at adjusting to what she makes for being in a new place. It’s good that’s why. Her meals are a little different from what I have been hearing of the other host families because even though there are times when a baguette and cheeses are out on the table, that does not happen often. There is always cheese in the fridge and bread or baguettes in cabinet. I do not eat too much starch, she always has a good amount of vegetable portions with each meal, and sometimes there is a special dessert. Yum! I have to take notes so I can have some recipes for a wider variety of meal options. I’m sure my family and roommates would love that.

 



I learned about the king cake (galette des rois) tradition in my high school French course and my second day here, I got to be a part of it for my first time. My host family and I went to a neighbor’s (M. & Mme. Marc) house. Mme Hélène is not one of those French parents you hear about that lets her kids drink. But as M. Marc offered Pauline some cider and jokingly asked, “Tu es un bébé?” (Are you a baby?) she glanced over at her mom and got the approval to taste a glass. I do not know how she drank it because the champagne and cider that I drank was so strong. I was not ready. Although I tripped up a few times with my French, that was my first opportunity to engage in an all French conversation with three adults at the same time. Okay so for the tradition: Each cake comes with a crown on top or on the side and hidden inside of the cake is usually a figurine of some sort that becomes a collectible. Once the cake was sliced, Pauline being the youngest in the room, hid under the table and and named who would get each slice as we pointed out the slices. This is done so the cake slices are randomly distributed. Whoever comes across the figurine (which used to be a raw bean ages ago) in their slice is crowned ‘king’ for the day. We went through the whole fist cake before Pauline came across a figurine of a famous person in her slice. M. Marc’s wife found the figurine of a dog from the second cake and was crowned as well. My first real traditional French experience was classic.  
 

       
   

 

Since it is a tradition solely during the month of January, I got to partake a second time and final time (until next time). This time the celebration was at my host mom’s workplace (somewhat of a studio setting) and there was a much bigger group of people—children and adults—in attendance. Perfect immersion setting. The standard greeting is a kiss on both cheeks and as I did that with each person, even the little kids (well not the toddlers but kids around 9+). As each adult and I would greet on the first cheek, they would say their name and ask for my first name all in what sounded like one breath. But not a breath long enough for all their names to register the first time. I figured that as we go in for the greeting on the other cheek I would simultaneously say my name and let them know it’s a pleasure to meet them, “enchanté”. Even though I did not know them, it really was a pleasure to meet them. They gave me a warm welcome and they conversed with me in French even though most of them could understand and speak some English. It made me smile that some of the adults I spoke to complimented my French language abilities and understood what I said the first time I said it so I did not have to repeat myself too often. It also felt wonderful to hear them pronounce ‘Jana’ correctly on the first try. When I was not answering a question or asking a question, I was listening to understand exact sentences or even by using the context. While I listened, I watched as the kids decorated their paper crowns. The simple designs the boys chose to incorporate took less than five minutes, while each of the girls spent over half an hour making sure every inch of their crown was colored in and intricately designed. It may have taken them longer because they kept taking breaks to pick up food from the table of dessert assortments. At some point french music was turned on and some of the adults started dancing. It was a cute sight to see. 
 
 
 
My host family eats dinner together. I think that is sweet and awesome. I also find it helpful since they have conversations at regular speaking pace. Sometimes what they say registers a tad late in my mind, but I am getting better. Sometimes I find myself thinking in French. As you may have already noticed or will notice, I love interacting with my host family’s friends. Rocco has this one friend who talks so fast it’s crazy. At times, even they have to tell him to slow down or repeat himself. I do not learn much when he speaks but I learn a lot from my host family bien sûr (of course) and my host mom’s friends. I have picked up on pronunciations as well as new words and phrases to what I want to say. A couple Saturday nights ago, she had a dinner potluck. Most of the food on the table looked very colorful and interesting. It did not look like food that I would usually serve myself. She never forgets to take into account foods that I do not like or cannot eat and she pointed out what had those particular dishes were. Each dish had a different flavor to it and of course it was tasty. She made margaritas and I said I would taste it and yet again, “Who did I think I was?” At this dinner her friends asked me about the school system in America. They asked what I study and what my career goals are and I was able to articulate myself in my best way possible.    
Maybe one day I will post one of my French journal excerpts… HA!

 

Hang in there,
JRO
 

 

 
 
 

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