Sometimes it’s best not to have plans. When I came to France, I had none, other than to see my friends. And as a result, I was able to do things that were spontaneous and unexpected… such as join Lea and Olivier for what was supposed to be a quick visit to Lea’s family’s house. Originally, the suggestion was to spend less than an hour there and head to a jazz concert afterwards, but things took a bit of a different turn. Our visit lasted past midnight and ended up including dinner, a lot of wine, and a dog named Engie. We never made it to the concert, but that’s alright since there’s no way that jazz music could have topped what happened instead. Here’s how that went.
We pulled up to the house around 5pm in the evening and were instantly greeted by a big, friendly, shaggy dog named Engie. Now, people are often a little more shy upon first meeting, but dogs do not have that apprehension, so Engie jumped up and down, ran in a circle, and brought one of her toys over to me. I felt accepted right away. Then Lea and Olivier introduced me to the rest of the family, who were all excited to meet me (although slightly less expressive than Engie). The whole house was covered in an array of impressive artwork, all of which was made by members of the family. This even included a large metal tree made out of mobiles that Lea’s mom carved and molded herself. Needless to say, I thought the place was amazing. Then we sat down at the table.
We began to converse, and although we were able to convey our points, there was a little language barrier at first, because unfortunately I don’t know French yet. Lea’s grandmother asked if I “parli Italiano” and asked if she “говорите по русский” but both answers happened to be ‘no.’ Thankfully, though, everyone else’s English turned out to be much better than my French, so we were able to keep the conversation going. Plus Lea and Olivier stepped in to translate whenever need be.
Now, usually, I’m a bit awkward around groups of new people, however this was not the case here. Maybe it had something to do with the wine glasses that always seemed to get refilled, or maybe it was the homemade bread, hummus, and delicious food, but whatever the reason, I felt relaxed and comfortable throughout the whole visit. I shared storied of living and teaching in Russia and Georgia, while they happily showed me all the different artworks they made (including music performed by Lea’s brother). It went far beyond the standard ‘get to know you’ chat (again, maybe the wine helped), and by the end of the night, we were all talking to one another as if we were old friends.
After a while, someone (I forget who) mentioned that they were getting tired. I checked my watch and saw that it was now after midnight, meaning that our quick visit was now on hour 7. Riding high on the joys of the evening, I stumbled my way around the room to say goodbye to everyone and made sure to pet Engie one more time. I then walked out the door with a grin, thinking to myself, ‘Welcome to France!’