Thursday, June 17, 2010

A Week for Visitors

This was our second visit with wonderful, good friends that we have known since our days in Toulouse. Marie was actually in my first class at the university; the mish-mash of foreigners all hoping to improve our French for as many reasons as there were students in the class; for love (a popular one), for a better life in France, for fun, from boredom, to keep a student visa, to enter university with the "normal" French students.

So Marie from Poland, very sweet, blond with a cherub's smile that hides a wicked sense of humor, along with Eva, from Denmark, blond, creative and funny, Derya, Turkish, smart, more sophisticated than the rest of us, Omega (I hope she'll pardon me, but that is her real name and it is the funniest one I have ever heard, she was child number eight and her parents named her quite literally), from a French island, determined and possessing already perfect French, were in this class together, for better or worse, through rain, wind, grammar lessons, French lit. and strikes of teachers and students, for one special year. (The wind and rain come in as the campus had been designed for a school in some hot country in Africa. It won second place in the design contest, so they built it in rainy Toulouse instead. We got lots of puddles in classrooms and very cold when walking through the open hallways meant to cool off students in 90 degree weather.)

Most of us have kept in touch and Marie and her family have remained special friends. She is Aragorn's godmother and her husband, JM, a musician, is a huge influence in our lives as well. They have one daughter, Bella, and all of them are warm, funny, intelligent and wonderful to be with.

They have been to see us in the US, and last time we went to Toulouse, their house was our first and last stop. Even though Marie went to work each day, we would come home to a meal she had prepared for us before leaving. Bella is fifteen and loves dance and drawing . She would take charge of the kitchen in her mother's absence as though she had been in charge forever. JM was the most hospitable, easy-going, interesting host you could ever meet. Both Marie and JM love languages; they actually met at an Esperanto conference, they both speak and teach this language created to help break down linguistic and other barriers to bring about peace in the world. Marie speaks several languages fluently. JM can find the word for just about anything in either French or Occitan, the first language spoken and written in southern France. The house is full of instruments, almost everything with strings (non-orchestral) that has been invented; guitars galore, balalaikas, mandolins. (I just got the story from JM on the balalaika; it means "to mock" in Russian, it was, at one time, forbidden, by the tsar, to make musical instruments. By making them in their homes, they were mocking the tsar. That is why they are small, they could be hidden under one's coat, and the triangular form is easy to make.) They let the children try all of them, even the electric guitars! and our time was filled with music, Youtube videos J.M. had discovered or filmed and photos of their trip to Scotland last year. Here is one he filmed while we were there: it is titled, "A Retired Punk Rocker" and it is in Occitan, but don't worry, the video is funny enough that you don't need the words!

They came to return the visit this weekend here. It was glorious, so much food and so much fun! Sadly, lots of rain and time indoors as well, but that was all right because the World Cup is going on and you can't tear either guys or children away from the tv during a game. I would have liked to show them the sights of Mont-de-Marsan or hang out at the beach, but one weekend only has so many hours in it. Marie and Bella came to mass with Lily and I on Sunday, it was fun to have company in church. We ended up at Pierre's parents' house for the afternoon, hoping for a little sunshine to enjoy their beautiful, flower-filled yard, but we had tea inside instead. Now we know why the English invented tea.

Thank you, all the friends who have visited and who are yet to come see us, we appreciate you coming to us, as we are without transportation, and you have made this trip everything I had hoped it would be by your presence.

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