The first quinze jours

The French say "quinze jours" (15 days) instead of "two weeks", and this evening (Tuesday, Nov 8, 2017), marks the end of my first two weeks here in southwest France.

It's quite different from any other time I've been in France (or traveled anywhere else for two week), as well as from every other move I've made -- certainly different from all the moves in the U.S., and even quite different from the times I lived in Africa (Ethiopia, Rwanda and Ghana).  And in Africa, I was mostly in the employ of an organization that had people to help me through the adaptation process.  Nevertheless, I always seem to get hung up on electricity:  what needs a converter (nothing electronic, just electric, but I have everything electric furnished in my gite -- rental); what needs an adapter; what length extension cord do I need (in meters??); oh, dear, it has holes for British plugs.  Why is there no outlet in the bathroom (not allowed in France, or at least in this part of France for this type of housing)?  Where do I dry my hair?  (In the bedroom.) I can learn to light the burners and oven on a gas stove (been there, done that); I can even haul in wood and learn to light and maintain a wood stove fire (have one going right now), but I can NEVER seem to get the issue of electricity sorted out quickly.

As far as being in France goes, I actually LIVE here; I'm not visiting.  Thus, I'm having to learn a French that is more localized (as in, "Here they say..."); learn a different vocabulary (for home goods, groceries, automobile, etc.); AND learn British English, since so many of the ex-pats here are from England.  Fortunately, I've always been able to laugh at myself...

One new British acquaintance, in response to my email offer to bring pastries to her place for an impromptu coffee with her and another long-time expat, said, "My pick-up is in front".  My immediate response was to think that meant her boulangerie -- where she got her bread and morning pastries -- was in front of her house.  Nooooo....she meant her Mitsubishi pick-up -- her open-backed truck, just as we call it in the U.S.!

On the other hand, my landlady Linda, also English, and I keep talking past each other.  I asked her one of my first days here if she had a pitcher so I could make iced tea.  First of all, I don't think ANYONE this side of the pond (as we call the Atlantic) know what iced tea IS; second, she thought I said, "picture", and wondered why I would want a picture of that...thing.  And then when I explained it was a glass container, etc. (and sent a Wikipedia explanation), she said, "Oh, you mean a JUG!"  Uh, well, us, a "jug" means a large cylindrical container with a small, plugged mouth, for things like...well, moonshine (what else?  Oh, maple syrup.)  Turns out she had exactly what I was looking for, and we of course laughed about it.

People's conversation in the French countryside seems to be pretty much the same as it is in rural America: the sheep are in breeding season (however you say that in French), there hasn't been enough (or there's been too  much) rain, so-and-so did such-and-such, and the government sucks.  But I do love the French sense of humor; there's always a sense of irony, a play on words, a self-deprecation that is charming.  I'm particular fond of joking and teasing (plaisanter et tatiner) the 30-something young man, Romain who works at the local Carrefour"express" (grocery store).  We're always joking; today it was how things are different here than they are in the U.S.  I asked if he wanted money for my purchases.  He said he did.  I said in the U.S., they don't take money.  Then I slapped my baguette down, a bit too harshly, on the packet of eggs on the belt.  He exclaimed, ooh, la la, they were going to break.  I said in America, they don't break; they'are actually made of rubber.  We all had a good laugh.  We all detest Trump.  The Brits whom I've met so far, all hate the Brexit vote and worry about their status here, where they'll no longer be in the EU.  They're as embarassed politically to be British these days, as I am to be American.  We get along.

My friend Rachel, who with her husband Jamie owns the gite about 40 minutes from me (they're both British, but lived in the Netherlands and speak Dutch fluently as well), says she never understands her British or Dutch friends and guests complaining about the French -- especially the Parisians.  Rachel screws up her face, shrugs her shoulders, indicating she has no idea what they're talking about.  Neither do I. Everyone here, French or British, has been wonderfully friendly, helpful, and amused/amusing.  Even when I got confused because the owner of a small village restaurant was asking me how I wanted my potatoes ("pommes de terre") -- either baked or mashed -- and I thought she was talking about apples ("pommes") for my dessert, offering them either baked or, applesauce.

As we all agreed:  It's not where you start, it's where you finish.

I need to stop here.  I'm getting anxious.  The wood stove fire is dying down.

A la prochaine -- P.

View from my bedroom window: first morning frost of the year, 11/08/17.
My backyard is the fenced-in area and that's the roof of my house.
The larger section belongs to my neighbors/landlady/landlord.


  1. Fun to read Paulette. Takes me back to the 6 months I lived in London at age 20. It didn't take long before I was carrying an umbrella everywhere, and spouting Ta-Ta when I said goodbye, not to mention taking Afternoon Tea each and every day. I was living on English wages with no monetary help from "home", so I took on an Italian boyfriend who owned a restaurant, and fed me on a regular basis. The bathtub down the hall, was shared by several flats, and to get hot water, we had to place a threepence into a slot and just hope Hot came out. You and your adventures are taking me back to memories I hadn't thought of in years. Keep 'em coming!

  2. I feel like i'm reading a book! Thanks for the taking the time to write and post pics. Even if I don't respond, I'm loving them all!! xo

  3. I too am enjoying each entry you make, here and on Facebook. Really wishing I could do it - maybe I will one day. You are showing me how! Keep 'em coming. Kj


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