Life in France:
I arrived in Montpellier, France, on July 16, 2021 and began the process of establishing my new life. Montpellier, located in the south of France, is about 8 miles from the Mediterranean Sea.
I took residency in a comfortable (if small) one-bedroom furnished apartment in Castelnau-le-Lez, a suburb of Montpellier.
The combined living room and kitchen make one large room. Large, at least, by French standards. A bedroom, bathroom with a small curtained shower and two closets provide 800 square feet of living space.
The apartment is located on the street level, so both my bedroom and living room windows open onto the street. By listening to the sounds, I can tell the time of day.
A rooster, who must live nearby judging from his daily wake-up call, is the first sound I hear. On sunny days, he quits once he’s confident he’s raised the sun and it’s here to stay. On overcast or rainy days, he continues his effort by crowing on and off until sunset.
After the rooster’s reveille, the early morning quiet is punctuated by the sound of car ignitions and shoes hitting the sidewalk as workers quickly move by, talking animatedly. When that activity slows, mothers come by with their strollers or barely-walking toddlers.
Sometimes one or two seniors from a nearby senior residence go for a walk.
The evenings hours are filled with the sound of parking cars and employees rushing home carrying groceries. Quiet descends around 7:30 when the evening meal begins. And except for weekend nights when parties last until one or two in the morning, the nights are quiet.
Across the street to start new life in france are two small bins with big containers built into the ground. One accepts journals and papers; the other bottles. I can hear the bottles shatter when residents toss them in the bin. Periodically, a truck comes and empties the buried bottle bin. The crashing of tons of glass (mostly wine bottles, I’d guess) can’t be missed.
Now and then, a half-block away on a main street, an ambulance, police car, or fire truck rush by. I don’t know the difference in their sounds. I’m told by locals that they are different but my ears have yet to make the distinction.
I can, however, hear that the sounds are different than those used by emergency vehicles in the U.S. And although I wish no one ill, I have to admit that I love the sound they make. They always reminds me that I am really in France. I’m not dreaming!
My apartment is situated no more than 300 feet from the home of my son, his wife and their two teenage boys. Because they’re close by, I am at their house a lot, or they’re here. It’s a joy to spend time together after not seeing them for so long. (The pandemic and my husband’s illness that made travel impossible.)
Sometimes I have breakfast with the family but almost always dinner. My sixteen-year-old grandson, whom I call Smartheart, is my I.T. guy and set up my computer, internet, telephone and all the other electronic gadgets homes rely on. Plus, he assembled furniture purchased at IKEA for my office.
The thirteen-year-old (I call him Hugbug because he never misses a chance to give his grandma a hug) frequently battles me in cribbage. I am inadvertently teaching him that old age and treachery overcomes youth and skill.
Besides learning French, I have lots of basic stuff to master. Like how to turn on my washing machine and dishwasher. Or how to get cash from the ATM-like machines. Or how to bag my groceries at the supermarket. Or where to find a birthday card and how to mail it to the U.S.
Thanks to Amazon.fr, I can order some items I need without troubling my family to drive me to a store. I have to wonder, though, if the delivery guy thinks I have an online shopping addiction.
I try to ignore the way he looks at me when he hands me yet another package. If my French were better, I’d explain that I’m an immigrant and am starting from scratch. But my current lack of fluency might make him think I have mental problems as well.
In time, I hope to make new friends. Until then, I’ll force myself to spend my days memorizing French verb conjugations (ugh) and adding to my vocabulary. I’m hoping my memory holds in my senior years and that if I persevere, I’ll able to say more than “Bon jour,” “Bon soir,” and “Merci.”