Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Mon enfants sont navigateur de voile

My children are sailors.  That is their tribe, that is where they belong.   They feel at home at a yacht club, happy on the water, and, just like anyone else, they relate to the people that love what they love.  

Part of the plan to come to France hinged on us finding a yacht club for them to practice and potentially race.  The closer our departure came, the more our plan seemed to fall apart.  We had two choices for practice but then both teams were full, there were no boats available, I worried that I

would have to tell them that it wasn't going to work out.  Then, a German coach contacted me with an offer to practice two weekends in Lake Garda, Italy.  Kelly and I decided that the side trip to Lake Garda to a sailing hostel(how cool is that) would be a perfect answer in case the day to day training didn't work out.

The first 5 days we were in Nice, Pete asked politely every day if we could please go check out the yacht club.  I was hesitant, not only because my limited French would pose a problem but also because I was worried about getting bad news.  The day Kelly left, bad for me anyway, I decided the kids and I would give it a shot.  We walked(2.5 miles) to the Club Nautique de Nice and met their Opti coach-The laser coach was in Hyeres doing a training week.- He seemed optimistic(ha, ha) that they would be able to practice with either the laser coach, Nicolas or a Swiss guy, Oliver, who was an Olympian...One more time, I emailed Nicolas and he immediately replied back to meet him Wednesday at 10am- that was today.

Our day could not have gone better.  We hiked to the Yacht Club to be there on time for our meeting.  Nicolas turned out so much better than expected.  He speaks heavily accented English but said they could practice Wednesdays and Saturdays with the laser group.  The club boats are battered but they are boats! And we hustled home, had a big lunch, and got back in time for the afternoon practice.  This is our second attempt to plug in here(church was first) and so far we have not been met with any of what I felt might be the classic French Resistance(ha, ha).  Now we have 3 times a week to make friends, practice what we love, and connect rather than just observe.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016


It is on the ticket machine for the tram, it is on the credit card machine to rent bikes, it flashes through my American brain -fully awake from 3 cups of coffee- while I stare at the rack of laundry to dry.

Patientez- literally translates to Please wait- but my brain is rewiring to think Patience.

What is the hurry, really?  We have more towels so if it takes 3 days(and it won't) for these to dry, ok.  We are not hungry right now so the batter for the crepes CAN sit in the fridge for 2 hours.

Last week, I waited 5 minutes in the grocery store for an elderly man to bag his groceries the exact way he wanted them bagged, the cashier sat calmly with her hands in her lap and waited as well.  Really, what is the hurry?  The first week we were here, Kelly and I were at the same Monoprix and the cheese we were buying did not have a price.  The cashier held it calmly, waiting.  We quickly came to the conclusion that she was not helping us and was being rude.  We quickly told her we didn't want it,  paid for our groceries and left.  After the episode with the older man, I think she was telling us- no hurry, go get the price, I will wait.

I am quickly realizing that my rush is self-inflicted and maybe fueled by American society.  Americans see or hear the word "wait" and think "why?" or "what else can I do until then?"  French see the word Patientez and know that it will happen in good time, just be patient and wait.

The culture and attitude is contagious.  At church on Sunday, the English speaking Anglican church, the pastor called for the scripture reader to come up.  There were 3 to 4 pregnant pauses before a proper little English lady stood calmly, approached the lectern, and slowly and perfectly, enunciating every word, read a scripture that took up half the page.  I followed every word.  I have a very different memory of being asked to read scripture in church.  My instructions were to go up on the last stanza of the hymn (so as not to keep anyone waiting) and I felt my heart beat in my ears as I read faster and faster to get it over with.

I have a calendar at home by the back door where I list all the daily activities and appointments.  It gives me a great sense of accomplishment to wipe off each day, complete.  In France, I have yet to get a calendar.  There is no sense of urgency to wipe off a day or rush out.  I still make grocery lists, the kids are magically still on track with school, we have read at least one book each since we have been here and yet- no one is in a hurry.

Hopefully we have developed some patience while we Patientez.

Be patient....
In nothing be anxious; but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God.                                -Phillipians 4:6

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Mon appartement

I live with my husband and two children but also several small children, dogs, musicians, a South American sandwich maker, a French baker, an Indian server, a pretty blonde girl that sells linens, families old and young and thousands of tourists.  Living in the Vieille Ville of Nice, I am never alone.  At night, when I lie down, I hear the low guitar and drum beat from Soul Music Bar across the walk.  In the morning, I smell fresh bread from the bakers downstairs.  In the afternoon, I watch all the local teenagers hang out at the sandwich shop across the square.  City living is a melange of families, businesses, and human connection that we have lost in suburban America.

The shared experiences are new to me.  I haven't had to share a bathroom with anyone but my husband for 30 years and now our family of 4 has one shower, one toilet, and one washer (no dryer).  I get to hang out my clothes on a drying rack for tourists and neighbors to see.

I wake up to the smells of a neighborhood, fresh bread from right below me.  At lunch, aromas of roasting meat and caramelized onions fill the living space and there is always chatter from the square below. Even when I clean, I still smell the restaurants below.  I get to hear children when they are sad, I can see families sharing meals, and I watch elderly couples stroll each evening arm in arm.  Today, I watched a small boy learn to ride his bike and a little girl fall out of a swing.

Two nights ago, Kelly had a conference call at 10pm our time.  He sat with his laptop on the small balcony in an even smaller bistro chair working.  He turned around to see four men leaning out from the waist up out of different windows smoking.  They were all sharing a beautiful evening from their apartments down the alley.

A couple of summers ago, Camille and I rented an apartment for a few weeks in a small village near here during the World Cup.  During the soccer matches we could hear communal cheers from apartments all over the hillside.  In this modern world we have created, so much of our life is insulated, not only from the weather, with nice houses centrally heated and cooled, and airtight cars delivering us from point A to point B, but also with little or no contact with our fellow man.  When I was young I remember only having 3 tv channels and you would arrive at school the day after an Olympic event or a big show and everyone had seen the same thing- with our 300+ channels, even those shared moments are diluted.

There is something very human about connection.  We all want to connect on some level, we need interaction.  It makes me miss home and our great friends and family but also makes me feel a part of a community even though I barely know their language.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Bonjour de Nice!

Almost 6 months planning has gone into getting us to this spot.  

Checklist after checklist of virtual school, french visa, apartment rental, airplane tickets, train passes, and packing requirements have been made and completed.  If we don't have it or haven't foreseen it, it can't possibly be something that millions of French people can't help us with.  Only 6 days in and already our french apartment is filled with fresh anemones from the Marche des Fleurs two blocks away and amazing aromas from the recipes made with fresh ingredients from the Cours Saleya.  Kelly and I made friends with Eric, a vegetable seller in the market.  He gave me French/English cooking instructions for artichokes(chop, chop, chop- in the pan- l'huile d'olive- swe,swe,swe-parmesan-parfait-French cooking is simple!) and recommended the best apples for a tarte tatin.  The Bullingtons have braved the butcher shop- I have to work up the nerve and bone up on my french to go order the marrow bones I need for Pot au Feu and the 3 lb chuck roast for Beef Daube.  The food sellers tend to warm to you when they realize you are truly trying a cuisiner.  This morning, sad from dropping Kelly at the airport, I made a quick stop at the vegetable market before walking to the apartment.  The little white haired lady with her fresh bouqi de thym as big around as a wine bottle for 1E50 and the other with the best strawberries tout le monde reminded me why we are here.  With each day, the children and I can understand and converse a little more in another language.  With each trip to the market, we make new acquaintances, learn new protocol, and understand a new culture.  

This experiment/adventure was never about becoming french- it is about understanding and appreciating our bigger world.  Nice is a blended Mediterranean culture.  Within blocks of our apartment there are Turkish, Afghani, Greek, and Italian restaurants.  There are signs written in Spanish, Italian, French and Russian.  There are people, both residents and visitors, that are from all over the world.  We use our minds constantly to learn or decipher new words in our new language and many times it is just a matter of thinking of another way to say the word- cognates like la nourriture for food (think nourishment) or je comprend for I understand.  This is an amazing opportunity for us to be less ego- and ethno-centric and appreciate more of the awesome world that God has given us.  

And if, in addition, we have jumped off our American hamster wheel that had us running from one activity or commitment to the next in pursuit of_______, then all the better.  My teenagers went to the grocery store with me today, we navigated foreign food labels, we paid in euro, we walked, and took public transportation, and carried our groceries.  Another hidden blessing in this trip is the time we have carved out of an otherwise busy, frenetically paced life to enjoy our family while it is still a tight unit before Camille is gone to college.   This is a chance for me to soak up the precious time we have with our children and what better place to do it than one where fresh baguettes are everywhere- and only cost 1E!!