Hello from lovely Lyon!
I’ve been here since Thursday evening (after a rather awkward two-hour train ride from Paris in which few of us had a place to sit).
Our families picked us up at the train station. I recognized mine from the photo they’d sent; I felt like I already knew them! My host Dad wore a black polo with a Mizzou tiger logo and I recognized my host sister (one of them) in her adorable glasses. Playing in their car was my favorite Michael Bublé album, and I knew we were going to get along.
Host-Mom showed me how I’ll be getting to the Sciences-U campus (it involves walking, taking a bus, and then the metro, so a bit complicated!) and then we went home. I absolutely love it here; it’s so beautiful, rather like an Italian villa. Bright flowers are everywhere and the cozy-but-modern little houses are built to receive optimum natural light. There are high, pretty walls around each area, offering a genial privacy. All I can see over them are the tops of other houses in the distance and tall trees studded with a pink fruit I’m unfamiliar with. Combine all this with the warm weather, light breeze, and fluffy clouds, and it feels like tropical paradise.
Above, host-Dad pours the wine at the first dinner I had with my family.
There was a pizza with jambon (almost forgot to use my knife and fork!), as well as cornichons (little pickles), ratatouille on toasts, chèvre and tomato on toasts, and several other things which I’m not even clear on yet, which is exciting. I absolutely adore trying new foods and I love learning new things, so each meal is like a delicious lesson in French gastronomy.
I’ve been enjoying noticing all the things that are different about a typical French meal, even the simple things like how bottles of chilled Evian are always on the table (instead of tall glasses of ice water from the fridge).
After dinner, I was instructed to choose un yaourt from the fridge (a yogurt) and I ate that while we talked some more, Norah Jones on the stereo.
When it started to get chilly, we headed inside where we ate delicious fresh strawberries with crème Chantilly and cigarette russe cookies. There was also a bowl of fresh cherries grown by a colleague of host-Dad.
Dinner is quite a long affair and I really enjoy that. I’ve always been the happiest, I think, when enjoying good food with people I love, so this lingering-meal tradition really suits me. 🙂
But what of the conversation? Everyone asked me before I left for France if my host family speaks English. I didn’t know. I didn’t want to know, and have any expectations. The answer is yes, kind of. Host-Dad learned English when he worked at a French restaurant in London twenty years ago, the girls know some, and host-Mom knows a little, too. Really, it’s the perfect amount. We speak in French, but if a message really isn’t getting through to me, someone can usually throw out a bit of English so that I can understand.
We’ve already had a bunch of great conversations this way, talking about food and cultural differences and American football and, I don’t know, Harry Potter and Rihanna.
And regarding ça, I want to say a big merci to Madame Wetzel for making me memorize so many verb conjugations in French 1000 and 2100. Thanks to her teaching and everything she made me memorize, I’m able to have those interesting conversations with my family. They know that I need time to understand what they’re saying and time to respond, but that I have the knowledge that I need (for the most part) to figure it out. It’s just a matter of retrieving it.
Sometimes the girls will get excited about something and since they know the phrase in English too, they’ll start to say it, but one of the parents will say something like: “Non. Parle français à Jessica. Lentement. Elle parle bien français et elle comprend bien.” I really appreciate that! They understand that I’m here to practice, struggle, and learn, and ultimately to improve.
It’s humbling and it’s exciting to be a study abroad student, and I’m so grateful I was placed with the people that I was. Boom. Just like that I’m part of their family. I have two precious little sisters and a cozy room and a key to the house and a spot at the dinner table, and I still can’t quite believe it. 🙂