To have the munchies, in French + We have a party, I learn a few more lessons...

cross-cultural awareness: say it in French, do it often

Moroccan Woman (c) Kristin Espinasse

I made a lovely acquaintance. Don't miss her in today's story. Picture taken in Morocco, where my mother-in-law once lived and where we celebrated her 70th (in 2011).

la conscience multiculturelle

    : cross-cultural awareness

Audio File: Listen to Jean-Marc: Download MP3 or Wav

Comment développer la conscience multiculturelle et le respect des autres régions du monde?
How to develop cross-cultural awareness and the respect for other world regions?


Style & comfort in the beauty of the Provencal countryside. 4 bedrooms & a study with a sofa bed, each with ensuite (full) bath. Villa comfortably sleeps 7-9 adults.

A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE... by Kristin Espinasse

Clumsy? Ignorant? Afraid?: On not letting your mind talk you out of enlightenment

Driving alone toward Marseilles, my pint-size Citroën was whipped to and fro by the Mistral wind. Passing a semi-truck was a chilling experience, but when cars swept by to my left, au même temps, I gripped the steering wheel in terror.

Wouldn't it be ironic to crash on the way to hospital? Just when I began picturing myself in bed beside my mother-in-law--sporting the same drip system as she--I shook my head, putting the brakes on an overactive imagination. I was not destined to be Michèle-France's hospital roommate. I was going to be her visitor!

Only, arriving at St. Joseph's réanimation wing, I learned visiting hours were over....

In the salle d'attente, I waited to know whether hospital staff would make an exception. After all, I'd travelled far to get here--and even kept calm looking for parking when the hospital lot was complet!

Flipping through a fashion magazine, waiting for the staff's answer, a murmuring of Arabic tickled my ears. Two women seated en face were in a lively conversation. Every so often their sentences were peppered with French. 

The older woman wore a traditional dress and a head scarf and her daughter (?) faded jeans and dyed blond hair. She looked my age, en le quarantaine...

I set aside the magazine. Why look at models when you could admire the real thing? Authentic women

"You are mixing languages," I laughed, entering the conversation.

The blond smiled and her mom lit up. Thick gold fillings in Mom's teeth sparkled along with her smile.

"I do the same," I assured them. "Only in French and English--when I talk to my kids."

My waiting room friends giggled, and I thought to tell them about the wonderful movie I'd seen the night before: La Graine et le Mulet by Abdellatif Kechiche. Only I was quickly riddled with doubts. To  suddenly bring up an Algerian-Tunisian film... wasn't that, after all, assuming? Or dumb or ignorant or flippant? Along the lines of "Hey, I notice you're North African and I just saw a North African film!!!

Et alors? As if guessing or alluding to another's culture was a no-no. The tricks the mind plays on us to keep us silent and alienated one from the other! So what if I put my foot in my mouth? What was important was to reach out. 

"Where are you from?" I blurted, only to die a twelve-second death when the daughter hesitated.

(One-thousand one, one thousand two, one thousand three....)


"Oh, I hear Algeria is beautiful." 

One-thousand four, one thousand five... my new friend was looking at me silently. If she was seeing my thoughts, she was now picturing my great French aunt, who carried around a razor blade in her pocket! A war bride in Algeria, she was poised to slit her childrens' throats, then her own, rather than be killed by a native during la guerre d'indépendance Algérienne. It was a matter of dignity.

The shocking thought was but a flash, part of a great Kaleidescope of images that churn in my mind as it sifts life's experience. Here, now, with the bottle blond and the gold-toothed grandma, a new set of images swirled into the technicolor machine, a mind ever hungry for understanding.

Soon (back in the waiting room) a lively conversation began. As barriers quickly dropped talk turned sentimental. "I don't understand why we all can't get along," the bottle blond from Algeria said. Live and let live. We need only respect one another's religions.

Hallelujah! Inshallah! This was my kind of conversation: away with the small talk, get right down to matters of the heart. But just when we were getting to the soul of things, my telephone rang. It was my mother-in-law trying to talk me out of coming to the hospital.

"Too late," I said, "I'm here. Now if they'll only let me in to see you! I'm waiting to see if they'll make an exception to the rule."

When I hung up the phone, the women across the room were in an excited conversation as they turned to me. "But you should have told us your situation. Come!" said the younger woman, pulling me over to the door where a note had been posted to the wall."

"You need to call this number and they will let you in!"

"But I've missed opening hours..."

"Tell them you've come from very far away!" And, with a smile and a wink, my new friend added, "Arizona, you said? Yes, tell them that!"

Our eyes embraced as we said goodbye to one another. We had so much in common, least of which our homelands in the desert.

 *    *    *

Update: my mother-in-law is doing much better after near kidney failure. She was her regular feisty self when I visited, yesterday, and she swore she'd kick me in the butt -- me donner un coup de pieds aux fesses, if I hung out in her room any longer! So scram, she said, get lost... and bring me a few madeleines next time you visit. This hospital food is for the birds!

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 New rental in Provence. In the charming village of Sablet--this spacious home is the perfect place to return to after sightseeing, bicycling or hiking. Click here for photos.

Paris window (c) Kristin Espinasse

A picture (taken in Paris) that reminds me of my mother-in-law. I can almost see the stylish interior, inviting us inside for a taste of some delicious olive tapenade. Read a favorite story "Mal Barré" (Up The Creek) about my French mother-in-law. Click here.

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For more online reading: The Lost Gardens: A Story of Two Vineyards and a Sobriety


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Christine Dashper

I love this story Kristin, you are such a genuine, gentle soul. Thank you for sharing


Wonderful story, Kristin. One of my favorites! Mostly, but not solely, for the Update that Michèle-France is doing better. So loving of you to risk your own safety to be by her side. So glad you arrived safely!

I loved revisiting the "Up the Creek" missive as well. I do the something similar when my housemates leave, I go stay with my 80-year-old mother, and have all the same thoughts and feelings. :)

Your new friends sounded lovely! How brave of you to reach out to them. It's never easy for some of us to put ourselves on the line that way, but almost always the rewards are worth it. Loved your last line. It was poetically poignant.

Souhaitant votre belle-mère prompt rétablissement et une bonne santé...
and you... be careful! ;)


Great post and such a great thought: why is it so taboo to ask where people are from? And your immediate desire to connect with them and mention the film is just so human and sadly, your caution about mentioning the film so as not to offend is also what we modern day humans have had to learn to do.

Glad to hear your mother in law is feeling fiesty!!


This was so well written; a pleasure to read. Thank you.

Lynn McBride

Lovely post, Kristen.


Chere Kristin,
Enchanted par cette histoiire et que votes belle-mère CA mieux mais elle n'a pas goutée de la nouriture horrible so elle n'a pas était dans in hospital americain. Bleach! 😝

Faye Stelly

My sentiments exactly! We would live in a more beautiful and peaceful world if women were in charge! Small steps and it starts with each one of us! Men can absolutely learn from women! Merci beaucoup!


Great news about your belle-mere! I will continue to keep you and her in my thoughts and prayers!

Allen Laskin

Very nice story! A few corrections:
"brakes", not "breaks" in your car
"dyed", not "died" blond
and the old apostrophe bugaboo--no apostrophe in "madeleines".

Kristin Espinasse

Thank you for your thoughts and prayers. Will take them with me on tomorrows visit to see Michèle-France.

Allen, thanks for the corrections. Off to put them in now. And for those who sent corrections in last week -- many thanks for the helpful notes!

Gail Pisut

Again, when I take the time to read your "day in the life" story (instead of just learning a new French word or phrase), I am touched by our similarity of thought and action. "Making friends" in a hospital waiting room or an elevator is part of my daily routine. [I finally found a husband who "gets it"]. But I digress....after the joy of meeting the Algerian women, I was distressed to find out the food in French hospitals is just as unappetizing as the food in American hospitals! Mon dieu!
Take care. I send healing thoughts to your mother-in-law.

Diane Young

Hooray for votre belle mere. Long may she live. There is way too much intolerance in this old world, for sure. Thanks for doing something to ease things.

Betty Gleason

Ok now I am exhaling. Yes, please do give our warmest regards to Michele-France who we think of as one of our own & wish her only the best with a speedy recovery.
I am currently house & pet sitting for my niece in Portland, OR. Arriving early to take a historical trolley tour of the area, I asked the only other people standing in front of the hotel if this was the place to catch the tour. I asked where they were from & they visibly stiffened & hesitatingly replied "Bagdad, Iraq." I asked a few more common questions which they warily answered. It wasn't until I said "Welcome!" did they relax. We were chatting like old friends by the time the trolley arrived.

Chris Allin

Dear Kristin,
Another moment in time or chance encounter becomes a memorable and magical pause in your! So glad Jean-Marc's mom is better~

Sue King

You are such a gifted writer Kristin, thank you so much for sharing your life with all of us!

Faye Stampe, Gleneden Beach, OR

I hope your mother-in-law continues to improve.


Sometimes you just have to break the ice and it sounds like you did it charmingly. I hope your mother-in-law is well and home soon.

Cynthia Wilson

I LOVE that she wanted Madeleines on her next visit:) great story...

catharine ewart-touzot

When I lived in Algeria I loved the adventure and opportunity to know Algerians, their culture, their country and I never felt in the race/culture baiters have put fear into my heart and how very sad that is..cultural "correctness" has prevented us from asking or offering help to one another that is not correctness but hate mongering. How lucky I was to have lived in a different time. How correct you were to converse with the Algerian ladies. hope your Mother-in-law is soon home.


I'm glad Marie France va mieux and wonder what expression she uses for "for the birds"?


oops, sorry, Michèle-France

Cynthia Lewis

Michèle- France (what a lovely name) is a treasure just like your own mother, Kristin. I am very glad to learn that she is much improved and feeling feisty. Don't forget her madeleines!

Your writing today was very thought provoking; I really enjoyed it. Thanks so much. Best wishes sent your way.....

Bo Brown

I am so happy to hear your mom-in-law is getting better. I hesitated to respond to your wonderful post about your anniversary party because I was a little confused about what would be appropriate in this situation. I should have just said, "Happy Anniversary." This too is a wonderful story, and yes, for gosh sake, do not forget her madeleines. No one should go without their madeleines.


Our dear Kristi,
Firstly--most importantly--thank God for hearing our prayers and assisting dear Marie France on the road to recovery.
For certain,knowing the devotion of her loving family has been the best medicine in the world.
Remember "entertaining angels unaware?"
What better place could there be to experience this except in a hospital waiting room(?) Once again you have shown us inspiration--and hope--when worry most weighs us down.
Natalia XO

Karen from Phoenix

So glad to hear your mother-in-law is doing much better. Seeing you I am sure helps with her recovery.






What a great story about being 'open' to others and what joy that can bring to our lives. I'm glad your belle-mere is much better and my husband would whole heartily agree that Madeleines make everything better! We just returned from a month, driving around France and we must have bought a thousand of them. My husband would teasingly say as we headed out to see one more beautiful place in the morning, "I just can't drive without my Madeleines!" So we'd stop, buy some more, and feed our driver! :) - had a wonderful time and so wish we could have been there for a "meet-up' with you! We were in Vaison-la-Romaine one day and close to your former home - thought of you often on our trip. Our time in Provence was spectacular, meeting people from many different countries. Wishing you & Marie-France well!

Chris Allin

A post script....This story made me think of Adamo's song, Inch' Allah. Beautiful and haunting and still meaningful today . I heard him sing it in concert in Paris many, many years ago. It still haunts me today.

Jules Greer

Kristi Darling,

Loved this story - one of your are ready to start that novel....




Kristin, this is such a wonderful story! I often miss out on making interesting acquaintances because of my shy nature. It does pay, sometimes, to go out of our comfort zones to start a conversation! There are so many fascinating people in this world! I also mix languages, creating an English-Russian scramble when I speak with my mom. It used to annoy her and she preferred that I speak only one language to her at a time, but she has since become used to my bad habit. :) So glad to read that your belle-mere is healing well! I will continue to keep her in my thoughts.

Nancy, San Antonio, Texas

Hospital food is even for the birds in France!!! Amazing. I really like your belle mere? Is that correct? I really like her no matter why is the correct French.

Eileen deCamp

Lovely post Kristin and happy to hear that Michèle-France is doing much better!


Multiculturalism is embraced in so many languages! Australia thrives on it... Well, in some parts...
A few more corrections for today's wonderful post:
au même temps, = en
le quarantaine = la
was posed to = was poised
Algerienne = Algérienne
get right down to matters of the heart - This phrase set me to thinking whether you meant 'the heart of the matter'... both ways seem to work.
Jacqueline in really cold Brisbane.

Carolyn  in Vermont


So relieved to hear that Michele-France is doing well. I will keep her in my prayers.

This was such a beautiful story. My favorite days are those where I connect with strangers when I dare to start a conversation and connect through shared experience. So happy you had the chance to make a momentary soul connection with those women.

Thinking of you always and hoping you're enjoying your weekend.


elitha van der Merwe

I absolutely loved it!
Grand-mère, trying to ge the French under the knee!

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