Yes, I’m safe and sound in the right country this time. Not the right town yet, but there’s a very good reason for that, and I’m highly enjoying my time here in Lyon. The city (at least the part that I’ve seen so far, the 6th arrondissement) is like a smaller, quainter version of Paris with fewer monuments, although I’m told there’s a wonderfully old Roman area with an amphitheater and everything. A lot of Haussman buildings here, just as in Paris, and lots of squares with cathedrals on one side and parc on the other. It rained a lot today, and Lydie was worried that I wouldn’t want to go anywhere, but I explained to her as best I could how much I love umbrellas, and that I lived in NYC for four years and dealt with rain often enough there. A bit more often than I’d have liked, truth be told, but enough on that.
Anyway, the reason I am currently in Lyon, and have been overnight (and will be until probably Thursday), starting from a bit of backstory:
A few weeks ago, whilst home (just outside of Chicago), I helped a friend who looks and acts remarkably like myself babysit for a French family in Chicago. Before the parents left for the night, they asked what we did. Kara explained her studies, and I told them about my recent graduation and pending journey to France. I had bought my plane ticket the day before that and had booked it to Lyon, the closest major airport-inclusive city near my village (though still at least a two-hour drive away). They said — in French, of course — “Oh, really? We live in Lyon.” They proceeded to say that if I ever needed help, advice, a ride somewhere, or if I wanted to stay with them for a few days, to just let them know. They said all this while giving me their address and phone number in France. So, in short, I took them up on the offer. The husband even picked me up at the airport. I cannot believe my luck, especially with how incredibly nice and welcoming this family is.
So, today: slept a full 14 hours until 12:30pm, woke up to a full lunch (more on the French lunch in a later entry), went downtown (more on the French transportation system in a later entry), bought a new SIM card for my 2.5-year-old French phone (more on the French complication of everything in a later entry), went to the SNCF station to buy a ticket and realized that it’s a bit more complicated than that because there’s no train station in my village, picked the boys up from school, had dinner with them, played a bit of piano — apparently, I am “le star” of the moment for them — and watched a bit of football, or actually soccer, on TV before bed. Or blogging. Same diff. And, what a surprise, I’m exhausted. Still a bit jetlagged, and I had forgotten exactly how difficult it is to think in French all day. I swear I’m blogging and keeping in touch with people at home purely to speak and type without thinking. Or maybe I miss everyone, too…
Anyway, this family is amazing. The husband, Yvan, is some bigshot lawyer whose firm is suffering (more on the French economy in a later entry), so they’re thinking about moving to the States, thus the summer in Chicago as a trial run. The wife, Lydie, is a stay-at-home mom, and the most cheerful one I’ve ever met. She won’t let me help with ANYTHING, and she asks all the time if I need anything, and she seems to be cooking and cleaning and caring for the kids all the time. And she looks like a model. I’m not even sure if I’m allowed to be jealous.
And the kids. All four boys, all four blond, and all four little angels with sneaky streaks. D’abord, les grands. The oldest, Valentin (Val), is ten. Acts older than he is, cares for his brothers, tests authority but knows exactly when to stop. Best Monopoly player I’ve seen, at least in French. The next, Antonin (Anto), is eight. Talks about fights at school like he wants in on the action, but knows better, and stays as announcer. Or so he claims. Et puis, les petits. The cutest one, in my opinion, Justinien (Juju), is four. He is crushing on me badly. He’ll hide behind his mom and smile at me, pretending to be shy and playing hard to get, trying to get himself in trouble to impress me, and then runs back to me to hold my hand while walking around. I also taught him (in the loosest sense of the word “taught) how to sing “Wheels on the Bus” while we took the public bus home from school. Now he won’t stop chanting “roun-dan-roun, roun-dan-roun, roun-dan-roun!” It’s adorable. And the youngest, Victorien (Vici), is 22 months. He’s still in a high chair for meals and has enormous eyes, which shine when he laughs, which is often. Until we pull down the clear covering for his stroller when it rains. Between the four of them, they know more English than their mom…which isn’t much. I can tell that she wishes I would stay here to teach her boys English instead of continuing on to the little tiny village I’m headed towards in a few days.
I have said, on four different occasions since arriving, that “On mange mieux en France qu’aux Etats-Unis.” You eat better in France than in the States. I will stand by that until my dying day.