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Thursday, March 9, 2017

French Learning Curve

A bit more than a week is under our belts. Overall, it's been a great week but the onslaught of newness does make one feel a bit overwhelmed at times. That coupled with the butt kick of jet lag with gray, rainy skies can lead to a bit of a foggy brain. But today is day 10 here in Paris and the old adage says that for every hour of time zone change, it takes that amount of days to "switch over" so with those 9 days behind us, I am hoping for more regular rhythms of sleeping and awake will continue to kick in.
I wish the title indicated the learning curve we're on with the French language but unfortunately our knowledge of French pretty much remains at Parlez vous francais? At least we can also say thank you, good day, and goodbye, all of which are important niceties in the French culture. Most of the young people we are hanging with in public settings speak wonderful French so we rely on their finely honed skills. We are learning to read a menu so that is perhaps the most important quest of all!
It is good for our hearts and minds to be back in Europe and the International church. Our spiritual heart soars in the midst of the diversity and joy of the International church and we find that while the French story differs in some ways to the Swedish story, there are also many resonant similarities. Here are a few of our initial impressions:
--Everything in France starts late in the day and many things happen at night. The earliest we ever start anything is 7.30pm. Last night we gathered at restaurant with a group of young adults to discuss life and theology. The evening began at 8.00 and we were not home until close to 11.00. We have not been out that late for a very long time! We are having to bring our retired, early to bed selves out of the woodwork and into the light once again. It's amazing to see how Paris bubbles late into the evening with people arriving for dinner well past 9.00 p.m. Fortunately for us, we don't have too many early morning events to attend to at the moment.
--A smaller refrigerator and bread that tastes best the day you buy it contribute to the notion that you stop by the grocery store at least every couple of days to buy fresh food. The stock up mentality does not really exist. Fortunately for us, there are many close options in our wonderful neighborhood.
--Paris is expensive in some ways, and in other ways not. I also know that our neighborhood is quite highly priced. Beer is a lot more expensive than wine in a bar or restaurant. No big surprise there. We haven't fully explored the cheaper eats like crepes and other "fast food" options but there is time! With working and living in the church complex, zipping home for a quick lunch is not hard to do but at times, the luxurious 2 hour Parisien lunch is a treat. The 1 euro baguette remains a mainstay.
--It is still a thrill to see the monuments that are so well known when simply wandering about town getting something done.
--Have yet to have a glass of wine that wasn't great. We were given a box of chocolates by a fellow staff member that has proven to be an endless box of amazingness. I know that's not a word, but it should be. Chocolate covered cherries with the stem and pit in tact were on the top layer. Little did I know what awaited me on the second layer. Discs of chocolate with nuts and candied fruit strewn on top. Then the ultimate surprise of finding yet a third layer with other delights that I can't describe. I have eaten most everything in the box. It is there for Doug to dig into but he isn't lead to the box in quite the same manner that I am. The onion soup that we enjoyed before an evening meeting was every bit as delicious as you might imagine. I wondered if was considered rude to just pick up the bowl and lick the interior.
Here are some things that I want to get a handle on:
--Truly figuring out how to grocery shop and meal plan and eat well while here. I also want to figure out where the local markets are as I've heard shopping at these is delightful. The famous one, Rue Cler, close to our house, is amazing and beautiful but a bit high end at times. Have to admit however, that the produce is delicious and smells great.
--A trip to Ikea today should help us more fully get our house in order. We need some decorations and some 'touches' to make it feel less like a vacation rental and more like our home.
--We have to learn some French and are working on figuring that out.
--Get a good plan together for exploring the city, especially the lesser known spots of Paris that being here for an extended time will allow. It's really such a beautiful city that to not more fully know and experience it while here would be a great shame.
--I am excited for the warmer, sunnier season, when the daylight lengthens and picnic become a way of life. I might even start running again as the paths that are available are stunning and beckon.
--We plan to figure out ways to jump on a bus and just see where it goes in order to more fully understand Paris.
What grounds us is the church and the wonderful people we are meeting. We are enjoying getting to know the stories of how and why people have landed in Paris. The reasons range from Embassy appointments to fashion and of course, falling in love with a French man or woman and it's quite a thrill to see how the American church in Paris brings all of these diverse threads together to shape a tapestry of connection and relationship.