Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Nice Things French People Do

Lest you think all I do is complain and seek out the worst in French people, I'm going to disavow you of that notion by acknowledging some of the wonderful things that have happened to us - and the kind French people who have made it happen - since we've been in the country.

Starting from the most recent, they are:
1) A woman in the RER who noticed that I was having a hard time getting my RER ticket to open the turn style, a problem that would normally result in a long debate with the agent in the office. She tapped me and asked if I'd like to sneak through her turn style on her ticket. Voila! I wasn't late to meet my new client.

2) Our new neighbors, the jolly M. and Mme Joly, who in the last five days and on different occasions have given us a tomato plant and a bouquet of forget-me-nots (May 1 tradition).

3) Our 90+ year old neighbors in Chantrigne, the amazing M. and Mme Millet, who invited us in on Sunday afternoon to eat multi-layered strawberry cake and drink Sauterne and coffee.

4) Our friends in Chantrigne, Cristal and Phillipe, who invited us in for a bottle of Bordeaux and gave us a lavender plant, two tomato plants, and some other pretty perennial I'm going to plant in our Creteil garden. They were all plants he had cultivated in his greenhouse.

5) Isabelle and Laurent continue to be sources of support and sustenance. Last Friday night, after the long drive to Chantrigne, they invited us in for "apertif", which I put in quotes only because it's never really just apertif. They make and serve enough to feed you the whole night.

6) The aforementioned Jolys' who have taken pity on us and both loaned us their garden tools indefinitely, and given us an old-timey manual push lawn mower. (This is after we were told that the guy who mows the big lawn won't let us borrow his mower because he doesn't like our landlords.)

7) The Angel de Creteil.
Our very first night at the new place in Creteil, Ti was attacked by another dog right on the pieton, in the center of the village. It ended up being okay - no big deal injuries - but I lost it.
The woman had no control of her dog. I didn't know the area yet so was entirely discombobulated. I was also exhausted from having moved all our stuff alone, because Greg was stuck at work until late. I was so upset that I couldn't find the French words to express it to her, so (like the crazy American) I started yelling obscenities in English, scooped up Ti and ran into the nearest parking lot, away from everyone, and started crying whilst looking Ti over for blood. A woman came out of nowhere and asked me if I was okay. She put her arm around me while I calmed down and could explain what happened. She was so kind and patient and seemingly concerned, assuring me that Ti was okay, that I was struck by her grace. I've never seen her again, so have decided she is the Angel de Creteil.

8) Various people who have accommodated my poor command of French more times that I can list here.

9) That random barrista in a cafe in the Marais. Before I had a fancy iPhone, I had a piece of shit phone which rarely worked. For months Greg and I had no way of getting a hold of each other on a regular basis, save for email, which required having computers with us at all times. One day when logistics could have gone horribly wrong, a nice man in a cafe in Paris kindly let me borrow his phone to get a hold of Greg. It changed the day entirely.

10) Les Noyalets. This is the family that made it possible for Greg and me to live together in their spacious condo in the suburbs for a month while we looked for a place to live. Not only did they give us a key to their place and free parking space, they told us to ignore the idiots from a previous post (Merde!) because they will deal with them when they get into town this summer. Yeah. Comme ca!

11) Pifka = Pifoo and Karine. Our friends in Paris who even in their too-full house (two kids) gave Greg a bed and dinner as often as he needed it during those few difficult first months.

12) The nice guy at the flower/plant stand at the bi-weekly market in Creteil who, after selling me a few pretty plants, saw me eyeing an additional one and then counting my euros and then eyeing the plant again dejected. He tossed it in gratis.

13) The yoga studio owner who has decided to take a chance on me even though, according to her count, she receives dozens of bios and CVs from English speaking yoga teachers every week.

14) The amazing new French Canadian acupuncturist friend I met at a yoga workshop, who recommended we do a work-trade. I think I'm getting the better deal ;-)

15) My new African-French hairdresser who brought us both to tears talking about her profound appreciation for everything Obama stands for and the American people who made, what she considered the impossible, happen.

16) 90+ yr old M. Millet who hand whittled a new handle for an antique garden tool, after my de-termite solutions proved worthless.

17) The same M. Millet who supplied me/us with turnips and other yummy tubers and the "chicken lettuce" all winter (ala an earlier post).

18) Isabelle and Laurent for bringing light and life into my otherwise fairly dark 39th b-day, by dropping off a beautiful window box full of blossoming tulip bulbs.

19) Les Maugers. The family in a village near Chantrigne who hosted a holiday dinner for us that was out of this world and shared some treasures from their cave that we otherwise would never have the opportunity (or luxury) to taste.

20) Every last restaurant, bistrot, cafe, etc owner who happily lets us bring Ti inside. I know it's the norm rather than the exception in France, but it never fails to warm my heart.

There are lots I'm forgetting and will remember later; invariably adding to the list. I'm sure Greg has many I haven't thought about or don't even know occurred.

It's been challenging, but the aforementioned has occasionally buffered the landing and made us smile.

Their worth is immeasurable.

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