Thursday, June 28, 2018

Village Celebrations

On Saturday, we took part in a village night hike. It began at 7 and ended with a dinner and surprise (to us) dancing.
We signed up because we liked to hike but also because we want to be part of the village community. To our surprise, the majority of the hikers were English-speaking, but we still managed to rub elbows with some French villagers too.
We had to RSVP and pay 15 Euros each. The money was for the meal, and apparently, for insurance on the hike too.
We hiked for two hours, from 7-9, and the sun was still high in the sky when we returned to the village. 
Some of the path was narrow and lined by weeds, other times we walked up roads or wide gravel paths. 
Earl and our friend Jules have long legs and wanted to stay in the front of the pack. I had to scurry with my short legs, but only felt out of breath during the initial ascent up a fairly steep path. The group stopped to let everyone catch up, and one Frenchman was in charge of counting people to make sure no one got lost.
Earl and I were joined by our American friend Jules. Her husband met us at the dinner afterwards. 
My view throughout most of the hike as I tried to keep pace with Earl and Jules.
Earl's back

The hike resulted in some pretty views
I was getting pretty hungry by the time we returned to town.
We ended in a community room set up with U shaped tables. Plates of peanuts, potato chips and other munchies were set up on a serving table. Another table held sodas, juices, pastis and one box of white wine.
In a panic, Jules had us take turns carrying two plastic cups to the table to fill them with wine for our group.
As we were waiting for the dinner to begin, we noticed they had set up speakers for music and some rotating light. We complained that we would have preferred they spend more on wine.
No worries though, they soon served pitchers of wine with dinner.
Our starter included shredded carrots in vinaigrette, a type of coleslaw, and paté.
Then the main course was cassoulet with confit de canard. 

A plate of cassoulet, the specialty of the region. I don't think I ate it all, but by then the wine was flowing freely.
 We talked to the other English speakers nearby, then Jules pointed out that a French woman had no one to talk to and she urged me to speak French to her. The more wine I drink, the better I understand French, so I jumped right in to conversation.
The woman used to run a shoe store so we shared stories about shoes and feet. She'd been in Quillan for 32 years, and Jules blurted out, "Welcome!"
I pointed out the irony since we Americans have been here only a few months.
Earl was invited to a hiking club that meets on Mondays. We felt the conviviality of the whole community.
As we finished eating, the music began to pick up.

Me and Earl, in our hiking clothes eating dinner. 
The beat got our feet to tapping, and it wasn't long before I pulled Earl's hand and he accompanied to the area in front of the tables. We started dancing and soon the dance floor filled with others dancing too.
It has been so long since we danced! Before Earl's knee surgery last September. We danced swing and salsa and then just some rock and roll dancing to mostly American songs, but some Latin songs thrown in too.
We danced Brits, French and Americans all together, throwing our hands in the air like we didn't care.
As the clock ticked past midnight, and my Fitibit reminded me I had over 26,000 steps for the day, we decided to escape outside to the cool air and head home. But first, the French women we'd been dancing with shared cheek kisses.
An Irish woman stopped me and suggested we come to salsa dance class with them, and a warmth started in my belly, reminding me that new experiences and friends are always just around the corner.
Life isn't perfect in this corner of France. I'm not writing about the struggles we have when we miss our family or how hard it is sometimes to know that one of our kids needs help and we aren't there. I'm not even journaling the difficulties of figuring out simple things like bus schedules because we speak a different language.
But, I want you to see that there are ways for us to weave our lives into the French community, whether we speak the language well or not.

3 comments: said...

Congratulations to you two for taking the steps to getting integrated. These kinds of parties/dinners happen everywhere, and usually are advertised at the local bakery/grocery/whatever shop (our village doesn't have much beyond a bakery and a tiny grocery that serves the very elderly population who no longer drive).
Lots of fun. And you didn't have to bring your own dishes and silverware, which is pretty common (il faut apporter les couverts).
I vicariously feel myself standing taller with each of your accomplishments.
Let me know when you're in Carca next. Would love to meet!

Kim hansen said...

Love reading your blog. Glad your enjoying your time in france.

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