My friend Doc lives in a small village in Haute-Marne, about an hour and a half away. She has lived in France for five years, and while I always admired her courage to pick up and move to a new country (we talked on the phone often and laughed about the silliness of the French, which lead me to come see this silliness, resulting in marrying my own Frenchman and moving here myself), but only in the last year have I been able to fully appreciate the difference between her and any other ex-pat in France I know. The village where she lives has a town hall and a church - that's it. No stores, no boulangerie, no museums, library, movie theatre, restaurants, bars, or corner shops. Oh wait - there's a post office. The only person who speaks English in this village is her husband. Her husband's aunt, who has been taking English lessons for something like ten years, doesn't count, because the lessons don't seem to stick. Oh, and did I mention that she didn't speak a lick of French before she moved here? Sure, Troyes isn't Paris, but it might as well be next to her village, and even the village where we're moving to at the end of the month has more amenities than her village.
So here we are, five years later. She's fluent in French, has worked here, has started a family and is in the process of building a house. She, more than my other ex-pat buddies, gives me hope that I'm going to get past what I hope is this most difficult phase of learning the language and how this place works, because I knew her when she started and I was right there with her.
So, that's Doc.
We were chatting online last week when she mentioned that her hubby was going to help some friends move and her in-laws (who live next door) were going on vacation. She invited me to come hang out and, thanks to my new confidence in driving, I accepted. Saturday, after Steph got home from work, I left for my little weekend in the country.
After a little stroll to see the progress on the new house (up two humungous hills, thanks very much for that bit of exercise!) we got down to the importance business - gossip and tall tales. Because she has lost both of her parents, she was one of the three or four people who really lifted me up when my Mom died back in May, and we talked some more about that this weekend, and I even found there are some things I'm ready to laugh about. She may complain that her little boy was a little monster this weekend, but I just saw the same adorable little boy who slurped down pasta like a champ and is working on his baseball arm (!).
So there you are. I went off and did something without having to drag my poor husband along, French classes start up again this afternoon... things are looking up, my friends.