Sunday, May 06, 2018

An Attempt at French Friends

Yesterday, after saying goodbye to our sons at the airport, Earl and I drove to the Charente for another housesit.

 It is the lock keeper's house where we housesat during the floods. But now the weather is gorgeous and French people pull up in their cars and park along the lock to enjoy the sun reflecting off the water.
Some actual lily pads
 This morning, we took the dogs for a walk

and then returned to see boats making their way through the locks. Although this was once the lock keeper's house, people are on their own for operating the locks now. Earl cannot resist helping them, though. Whether they want help or not, he's out there turning the wheel to open one side before turning the wheel to close them in. Then he goes to the opposite side and turns the wheel to let the water out and the boat slowly lowers to be even with the water on the other side. It's good that he's keeping busy.

The boat enters the lock where the water is higher and must lower the water to move to the next part of the river. 
We were talking to some Americans from South Carolina who rented a boat when a yellow van pulled down beside the lock and stopped by the garden of the house where we're sitting." The garden has a sign, "Jardin privé" which means private garden, meant to keep people from wandering around the yard. I imagine they'll eventually have to put up a fence. 
When I was inside the house, the woman who drove the yellow van came to the door and asked if the owners were home. I said no they had gone on vacation. The woman said they had met the homeowners and tried to call them but she thought she had the wrong number.
I gave her the correct phone number and the woman continued to chat. She said her husband would be very excited to meet us because he loves America. And a few minutes later, he showed up at the door and began to speak about Chicago and the Indianapolis 500, along with their yearly Christmas trips to "Vegas."
They seemed nice and they said that the homeowners had previously allowed them to picnic under the weeping willow at the end of the garden. We shrugged and said that was fine. And could they also use the boules court in the yard?
I told them Earl had always wanted to learn to play boules and they said they would love to include him. Then they invited us for an aperitif before their picnic.
When we wandered down for an aperitif, Beatrice and Pierre had several friends and grown children with them, probably 15-20 people gathered beside the river with a table, an umbrella, lounge chairs and folding chairs. We were quickly given a glass of rosé, technically "gris" Pierre explained since only a certain type of grape grown near Avignon count as real rosé grapes. The rules about French wine are baffling to me so I nodded my head.
We talked about Mustangs and movies and music and all seemed to be going well, until Pierre mentioned that France has too many Muslims. "I don't like zee muslims," he said.
That was a conversation stopper for us. I tried to point out that the U.S. has many Muslims, too, and he loves the U.S.
Pierre moved on to a different topic, hopefully realizing that we were not a receptive audience for Muslim bashing. I sat a few more minutes then moved to talk to a young couple in the group before saying we should go back to the house to let them have their picnic.
We walked up the drive past the sparkling canal hand in hand.
"And things were going so well," I said.
"Yeah," Earl agreed.
We'd said we would return to play boules, but the thrill had faded.
Our first attempt at new French friends was not a success, but we know not all French are prejudiced against Muslims, just as not all Americans are prejudiced about certain races or religions.
We won't give up.

7 comments:

francetaste said...

Bravo to you for calling them out on racism. Some people think that if they reveal a little racism, it will be OK, and then they can move on to bigger racism.

Sim Carter said...

I have to come back and read this post later but for now, I hope you will file away "The Lock Keeper's Wife" for use as a book title later.

sillygirl said...

Isn't it difficult when you meet otherwise pleasant people that unabashedly are blind to prejudging other human beings. It always takes my breath away - I think we have come far in realizing world unity but we haven't.

Just Me said...

Greatly appreciate your comment Sillygirl. For me it's so disappointing, as I recall hearing disturbing comments from people I've know and really like...or if I may I digress into a year of unwittingly discovering who voted for and continues to fully support our current president. I can see why the topic of politics was once taboo among polite society. It feels like TMI "too much information" or my reluctance to confrontation.

Paulita said...

Francetaste, Yes, but I always feel like I should do more.
Sim, You're right. That is a good one.
Sillygirl, Yes, people seem willing to let their ugly underbelly show to see how others react to it.
Just Me, Yes, it might be easier to not realize that people are prejudiced, but maybe it's easier to have that person lay out their cards at the beginning so we can avoid them.

Jackie Mc Guinness said...

Good for you! I never know what to do when someone makes a racist comment. I try to immediately shut it down if it is with strangers like this. It happened this winter when we met a couple in Mexico, remark was made and that was it I just disengaged from them.
It is harder when it is very good friends though who have some radically different (intolerant) opinions from us. I just change the topic.

Sim Carter said...

Finally back to read the entire post. It's so demoralizing isn't it, to discover that people who seem quite nice otherwise, make racist and ignorant statements. I think you reacted perfectly, what else could you do? I hope you had a lovely mother's day there in France despite the fact that it's not all wine and roses. Plenty of people here in the states happy to bash Muslims and people of different colors, religions, sexual orientation, etc. as you know. All we can do is keep our own hearts open and when possible stand up, as you did, for what is right, without being objectionable.
Now I'm off to read your most recent post.
Cheers!

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