Tuesday, April 20, 2021

A Little Different

 In the grocery store, a man stocking avocados sneezed. "Bless you," I said without thinking.

"Thank you," he replied. It was nothing to him, but I suddenly realized that was something I would never have done in France. First of all, the words are hard to say "à tes souhaits" (“to your wishes”) and they sound to me like "a tissue," which maybe is appropriate. Second, I've never heard a French person say that to anyone in public. 

I suddenly realized, I wasn't in France any longer. 

A sunrise across the golf course as I walked out of Mom and Dad's house in Florida

The morning after we arrived, I walked out the door to go for a run and the man in charge of the roofing project at my parents' house was standing in the yard. "Bonjour," I began to say, then bit back the words. "Morning," I substituted

One night, we cleaned up after dinner and Mom started the dishwasher. I checked my watch. It wasn't 9 p.m. yet, the time we usually start the dishwasher in France because the electricity gets cheaper. I sat in the office for a bit preparing for my classes the next day. Then I heard Mom in the kitchen again. 

"What are you doing?" I asked.

"Unloading the dishwasher," she said. It hadn't been three hours, the time it takes our dishwasher in France to run. 

"Why does it take so long over there?" she asked when I explained the situation. I wasn't sure. Maybe because the dishwasher heats the water. I've just gotten used to it.

The same with the washing machine. The shortest cycle in France is an hour. Here, the cycle finished in 27 minutes, the dryer goes about 25 minutes and the laundry is finished. And we don't have to wait until night time to start it! It's amazing.

A couple of times, I have caught myself using the word toilet. Of course, that is a word in English, but it's not something we would say when excusing ourselves. "Excuse me, I need to find a toilet," would probably indicate I'm about to get sick rather than that I need to use the bathroom. Bathroom, restroom, I remind myself, but "toilette" is what sticks. 

Me and Earl with Tampa  Bay behind us

Here in the States, stores are open on Sundays and there is traffic, traffic, traffic everywhere. The town where my parents live has a population of about 10,000 people. It leads to another town with 10,000 people, and a six-lane, sometimes going down to 4-lane, road goes from one to the other. It is always busy. As I watch the road, I wonder how we go from Quillan to Carcassonne on a two-lane road, sometimes interspersed with four lanes. The traffic on this six-lane road is fast and aggressive. 

The only thing real about Covid here, other than the more than half a million deaths, is the people wearing masks. Otherwise, everything is open, business as usual. Except for Starbucks, which is only open at the drive through, and Trader Joe's which counts the number of people going in to limit customers in the store. We're in Florida now. Soon we'll be driving north toward Ohio. I don't anticipate things will be very different, except maybe no outdoor dining because of the cold.

It's a real jolt to see life going on as normal in the States after France has been in lockdown or in curfew with restaurants closed since October. I understand now why the virus has continued to spread. 

Friday, April 09, 2021

A Miracle Day

Fourteen months. That’s how long it has been since I’ve seen my parents. 
And it has been a harrowing year to live across the ocean, knowing that a pandemic was attacking and killing thousands of people in my parents’ age group.
That’s why it seems like a miracle that today, I got to hug them again. 

I know, I know. It isn’t safe to travel now. The odds of getting out of locked-down France, into Spain and onto a flight to Florida seemed low. But my parents have both had their vaccinations and Earl and I have had our first shot, which the doctor said should give us about 85% coverage. It was a risk we needed to take. 
France locked down nearly a week ago. We got our negative Covid test results Thursday morning and our friends Jack and Jules drove us an hour to the train station in Perpignan. 
There we caught a train to Barcelona, which takes about an hour and a half. There were about 5 people in our train car. Spain is more open than France, but people are all wearing masks and staying distant. 
We took a walk from our hotel Thursday evening, finding a Starbucks (the one decadence I miss from the States) and sitting near La Sagrada Familia, the Gaudi designed cathedral that is still unfinished, to drink our coffee. 
No crowds taking pictures this time in Barcelona
We got take out from a Turkish restaurant and carried it back to our hotel room. In Spain, restaurants are allowed to serve people until 5 pm. Then they can offer take out dining from 5-10. Their curfew is at 10, which makes France’s 7 pm curfew seem pitiful. 
We had a breakfast buffet at the hotel. It felt weird to eat inside a restaurant. There was only one other person in the big room. The buffet had hand sanitizer and plastic gloves at both ends to limit the spread of virus. 
Only one other person was eating breakfast
A taxi picked us up at the hotel and we walked into a very empty-feeling airport. There was no one in line in front of us so we quickly checked in. I hadn’t been allowed to check-in online because the first question American Airlines asked was whether we had visited South Africa, Brazil, China, Europe, etc, recently. Since we were flying out of Spain, you can guess the answer to that question. Answering yes meant we couldn’t check in online. 
There were many helpful people at the airport. I always feel guilty saying “no hablo espagnol” and being satisfied with “hola” and “gracias.”
Our plane looks so small from here. 
When we got on the plane, we realized how fortunate we were to find a flight going abroad at all. This flight from Barcelona to Miami had only 29 passengers on a flight that could take more than 200. Thanks, American Airlines for not canceling. 
The flight attendants offered us our choice of seats (not in business or first class, obviously). 
Fellow passengers were few and far between

We had snacks and lunch and little cups of ice cream with a plastic spoon. 
In case you've forgotten what an airplane meal looks like.
Noodles and sauce, salad, cheese, bread and chocolate cake for dessert. 

If only it had a wooden spoon. 

I finished reading a book and watched a French movie about a woman hiking with a donkey, hilarity ensues. 
We landed in Miami because it seemed a better option than hanging out in airports and transferring to another plane. Instead, we reserved a car to drive the three hours to Mom and Dad’s. 
We return the car to a nearby town Saturday morning and then we’ll quarantine at Mom and Dad’s for 10 days. And if all goes well, we should get to see those well-loved sons of ours in Ohio, one of whom we haven’t seen in 14 months either. 
My heart is full at the miracle of it all. 

Cockadoodle Doo or Cocorico?

 We stood in the middle of the road, having walked together 13 miles that day and Claudine grasped my forearm. "Mais non! It doesn'...