(the misadventures of an expatriate corporate dropout)
Saturday, November 15, 2008
On Armistice Day I wandered into my village, drawn by the endless clanging of the oldest bell tower in France. I'd been told that any variety of activities would be occurring throughout my new land ... most coordinated by the local mairie.
I went to our war memorial ... which is where I suspected the action would be. There a surprisingly small group was gathered, listening to a wizened man in uniform speak of the horrors of war. Also in attendance were a small cadre of men in uniform, and what looked to be a unit of some sort of French youth group associated with the military.
My village has a woman mayor (zut alors!) and she was in attendance, being saluted and shaking hands.
I stood off a distance, observing but wanting to signal my recognition that the proceedings were not for étrangers ... out of respect.
I spotted and was recognized by a woman in the audience. She is associated in some way with the socio-cultural committee of Brantôme, she attends my yoga course and collected the fee from me. She has always been very serious with me, a bit cool and aloof in class which until now is only where I've encountered her.
Well, on this day she smiled and nodded at me. Quelle surprise!
Once the proceedings concluded, the attendees made their way as a group through the village ... a short walk over the picturesque L-shaped bridge and past the old moulin that is now a hotel ... up the cobblestoned streets past the monastery turned mairie ... and then down to a large hall where I gather the mayor hosted aperitifs and conversation. I didn't attend that part, feeling a bit of an outsider.
During the walk, Madame approached me and greeted me more formally with bises! I exchanged a few halting sentences with her, I was taken aback and it seems my french flew out my ears and into the atmosphere! I ended with a 'well, I think I'm going to have a walk around town' and she bid me a 'bonne promenée' ...
I was quite surprised by this turn of events and brought it up at my Friday french lesson. My professeur, Laurence, pondered my tale and told me that fewer and fewer French seem to honor the veterans, but pass the holiday by. She felt that the reason Madame approached me was, since she obviously considered the day important to observe, perhaps she was touched by the fact that an étranger would exhibit such respect and show up.
Well, even though it is all mere speculation ... I was happy to be recognized by a local in this manner.
Isn't it funny, that? I mean, Americans are such a seemingly happy-go-lucky lot ... with few traditions and a Labrador-like style just ready to wear their hearts and opinions on their sleeves.
I'm continually struck by the similarities and yet vast differences in human nature as I press forward with my new life. There's the social ones (like my story today).
There is also a veritable rubik's cube of possibilities presented with the male and female interactions. I'm pretty much without a clue with most of it, stumbling my way with a cadre of misconceptions and assumptions ... many of which I'm convinced are completely out of line and yet all I have to go on.
C'est trés drole! And it is very droll as well.