InterExchange Working Abroad Ambassador Sarah, Teach English France
I was expecting my adjustment to France to be awkward and embarrassing. An incident two days ago in which I fell off my bike while going down a narrow street with a loaf of bread in my right hand, trying to dodge a car that was uncomfortably creeping up behind, hardly even phased me. I just shrugged my shoulders at the wide-eyed man across the street and kept moving. I was expecting that, after all. However, I was absolutely unprepared for how smoothly (bike drama excluded) my French adjustment has gone, thus far.
I have now been in France for over four days. I wanted to wait to write about my new home, as first impressions are rarely accurate. For example, on the first day, I thought to myself, "France is lovely." Now, after getting to know the country and its inhabitants a little better, I would most definitely have to say that France is very lovely. I hope
you've learned a valuable lesson about first impressions.
My host family resides in a small town northwest of Paris called Maisons-Laffitte (sounds like, "may-zon laff-eet"). It has a bustling city center of cafes and tiny shops that fades into residential streets lined with towering sycamores whose branches mingle overhead. In Maisons-Laffitte, the horse is king, and it is home to several stables and a school for competitive horse riding. As a result, I often share the road with more horses than cars, which is not an unwelcome statistic.
My house is a white brick stable that has been converted into a home, and my room used to be a stall for a champion horse named Hawker. His label is still scrawled across the great, green stable door that leads to my corner of the house (no word yet on whether or not champion English tutors receive similar monuments). The house is located at the end of a quiet street and is a pleasant haven away from the city. Most days, we leave all of the doors open and light up the rooms with sun's rays instead of lamps.
My host dad, Burt, was born and raised on a dairy farm in the center of France. He loves the Rolling Stones, French cheeses and running in short shorts (as any true Frenchman would). Burt has all but retired from his job as a consultant in agricultural economics and now spends the majority of his time pruning trees, chopping wood, and fixing broken roof tiles—typically in a dress shirt that is tucked into nice jeans.
Before retirement, my host dad was sent all over the world to represent France at yearly conferences. While attending one in Argentina, a charming biological researcher from the host country caught his eye and later became his wife. In addition to working in a Buenos Aires lab, my host mother, Cindy, has also competed in the Atlanta and Barcelona Olympics in fencing. She now works out of the home as a personal trainer and is notorious for telling me that she can't cook while taking scrumptious homemade tarts, lemon-chocolate cakes, and herb-crusted fish dishes out of the oven.
For me, however, my host parents are probably best known for the smiley little lady they produced five years ago—the loveable, huggable Nan. Much like American kindergarten girls, my tutee loves Barbies, Hello Kitty, and Disney princesses, and she likes to put stickers of their likeness on every conceivable surface she can find. Spunky and determined, Nina enjoys disagreeing with her mom on what she should wear and has been found sporting a pair of shorts with both legs through a single leg hole. She also insists that the cat is fond of jumping on the trampoline with her (it is not) and that her Barbie must sit with us at every meal and receive a portion of each course (Barbie is especially partial to pizza). Given our wealth of similarities (and the fact that I brought her about 500 Hello Kitty stickers), we are getting along just fine.
Here's to hoping France keeps defying my expectations…because I really don't want to fall off of my bike again.