In the town of Violès (Vaucluse)
rencontre (rahn kontr) noun, feminine
: encounter, meeting (of persons); duel, skirmish
A Day in a French Life... by Kristin Espinasse
(Note: The following post was written in 2009)
Jules made it from Mexico to Marseilles yesterday! On the way out of the airport terminal, Mom and I stopped along the tree-lined sidewalk to gather handfuls of grapefruit-size cones that the parasol pines had dropped onto the parking lot. Like that, our treasure hunt has begun and I'm excited thinking about where the next eight weeks will take us, as Mom and I help each other to see France through one another's eyes.
Speaking about seeing France, here is a letter that Jules wrote just hours before she left Mexico. I hope you'll enjoy it as much as I have.
A note about grammar and syntax (whatever that last one means): Mom is pouting in the corner as I prepare to post her unedited letter (I threw my hands up in the air, in despair, after the third run-on sentence, at which point I quit fixing things). Mom's just nervous about grammar, and thinks she's going to sound really dumb compared to some of the blog commenters (she cites "Newforest" and "Intuit" among others). Because Mom was thrown out of school at 16, she has a huge inferiority complex over her composition skills (having daydreamed through every English class). That said, I did reserve the right to edit out just one word (I replaced "interrupter" with "interpreter". I still don't know whether that was a Freudian slip on the part of Mom, but I don't like being referred to as an interrupter! Read on, in Mom's letter.
My Dearest Marie-Francoise,
I'll never forget the first time I visited your lovely home and vineyard, and your amazing wine cellar located in another area of the village. Wine barrels of old wood the size of little French Citroen. A treasured memory forever.
A few "Coo-coo's, are you there Darling?" and I had my new friend pulled from her morning chores in the back of her house, out in the courtyard explaining to my interpreter (Kristi) what treasures her garden held. Kristi, do you think you could find that photo of us when she gifted me with the antique pot and plant that now resides in your office. Didn't we name that darling little plant "Rachel"?
A few mornings later I abandoned my work and joined the fray to become one of the people in my painting. My Mother thought I was nuts talking to everyone, continually telling me to 'settle down". My John just smiled and winked. Throughout this visit I managed to meet most of the people on MY STREET, and even drift down to the docks and meet all of the fishermen. The woman who has remained forever in my memories was a little old lady directly across from my "studio" who encouraged me to become her assistant as we went from station to station each morning feeding the wild cats of the hills above our street. After our work we would return to her little ground floor studio apartment, me to lie on her bed in the kitchen while she prepared me one of her many little treats each day as my reward for packing the water and food up the hills. After my rest I moved onto the next neighbor, securing her German Shepard, so I could pretend I was a French lady walking my dog around the secret side streets of this vivid and famous city. I will never forget the surprise in my little lady's voice when I called her 6 months later from Arizona. She recognized my voice and I chatted on in English, she in French, as our tears of joy in real friendship trailed down our cheeks. COMO TALLY CHATS??? One of my first French phrases....
Toute culture naît du mélange, de la rencontre, des chocs. A l'inverse, c'est de l'isolement que meurent les civilisations. All cultures are born out of mingling, meetings and clashes. Conversely, civilizations die from isolation. --Octavio Paz
Mille mercis to Divya, Jacqui, Ally, and Leslie (and anyone I might have missed) for translating Marie-Françoise's story. You'll find their versions (in American and English) in the "routine" and "anodin" comments boxes!
A Message from Kristi: For twenty years now, support from readers like you has been an encouragement and a means to carve out a career in writing. If my work has touched you in any way, please consider a donation. Your gift keeps me going! Thank you very much.
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For more online reading: The Lost Gardens: A Story of Two Vineyards and a Sobriety