Being connected is essential to me. I knew that upon arriving in Bourdeilles full time it would be important to find ways to connect with the people around me. No longer would it be the casual Bonjour of a second home owner, but a Bonjour with a heartfelt hello, how are you?, and what do you think of this weather?
Now this will sound stupid, but it’s true: all French people look alike to me.
I have found that the only way around this is to meet people in small groups. Four people at the most. Then I can easily see that they do in fact have different distinguishing characteristics. The small group setting also lets me find something special about each person’s personality and their interests.
Looking for small groups, I found my first one composed of gardeners. This was perfect for me. Not much French was needed for me to express how I could help, how I am capable, and how I am eager to jump right in. I could even show off a little bit of my horticultural knowledge. Thank goodness for latin botanical names.
Now Christmas is here. It also has a universal language. Decorations, trees, lights, Christmas Bazaars and food. It just took one person from the gardening group to give me an entree into the decorating group. We had a fun afternoon cutting ribbons and counting out exactly how many of each decoration we would put on the town christmas trees the following day. When the conversation got moving I was often lost, but I was content to be there holding a string and trying to hold onto the flow of words at the same time. The next day we headed to the streets to decorate the trees. Some of the faces were the same with just two or three new people to meet. Just what I was looking for! Out in the cold we laughed at how charming the trees were turning out.
Today was the Christmas Bazaar and my new acquaintances introduced me to many people. And they don’t all look the same! I have broken into the interconnecting town circles enough to know this: even though I won’t yet remember everyone’s name, they will remember me as the funny American woman and say Bonjour to me as we pass at the bakery or on the street. And I know that our Bonjours will come in earnest, from the heart.