Tonight is ChicagoNow's monthly challenge in which bloggers are given a prompt and exactly one hour to publish. This month's #CNblogapalooza:
"Write about a favorite or memorable place you have lived for any time at all, whether a country, state, city, childhood home, fraternity/sorority, hostel, hotel or even bedroom."
I knew immediately: Montpellier, France.
Was it hard to be away from my family, and my new boyfriend (now husband)? Of course. Were classes difficult: Yup; I even failed one. Did I get taken advantage of, being a foreigner? Yeah, but only, like, twice a week.
Living in France wasn't all wine and cheese parties while wearing berets. In fact, my host family didn't drink wine, and so I received no sommelier education, whatsoever. They also were more likely to wear a fez than a beret, being Moroccan French.
My host family.
They were the best part of my year abroad, hands down. If you read one of my recent posts, you know I don't usually believe in luck, but I was lucky to be placed with this family. They are my top three reasons why I miss La France.
Océane: La prof (the teacher); 6 ans. When I arrived, Océane was learning to read. I helped with a phrase here or there, but she rarely stumbled over her words. The French are big on memorizing passages, and she'd even recite poetry for me. I'm not sure if I was more in awe or jealous of the way she could roll that "r" in the back of her throat and pronounce the French "u" that we lack in English. As the nurturing older sister, Océane would gently correct my pronunciation or help me translate a word I didn't understand.
Inès: La gourmande (the person who enjoys eating); 4 ans. Maybe as a teenager, Inès would be embarrassed to have me describe her as "the lover of food." In the French culture, however, this is a compliment. And now, as a parent of a toddler, I can FULLY appreciate her willingness to try any food her mother put in front of her. I couldn't even stand the smell of Roquefort cheese, and Inès would eat it as if she'd been doing so her whole four years of life (which she probably had).
Rayan: Le bébé (the baby); 1 an. Thinking of the first time I saw Rayan always brings a smile to my face. In my paperwork, I had been told that my host family had three girls. While he had the Disney eyes and curly locks to make any girl jealous, he was most definitely a boy. The French are big on bisous (kisses), but not calins (hugs, cuddles). I'm a hug-loving American, and I missed my hugs! Rayan will never know the comfort I took in being able to hold and snuggle a baby. He probably brought more comfort to me than I did to him.
So, I know we were supposed to write about a place. Without the three of them, I would have still been in a pretty cool collegiate city with medieval cathedrals, palm trees, and kick ass moules frites.
But with Océane, Inès, and Rayan, I was chez moi. I was home.
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