Hello from Albertville!
We have jumped into French language learning during these past couple months.
Christopher started working with a tutor our second week here. Anne-Marie is a wonderful teacher who is a retired professor from the French school we are attending. Our whole family enjoys her sweet spirit in our home. We have been very thankful for her willingness to offer us her full availability each week.
Amanda has been brushing up her French through self-study of several different French curricula and through getting plugged into the local community. She has especially enjoyed participating in a weekly women’s Bible study that meets on Tuesdays. Amanda is the only American in the group and has been blessed by the deep scriptural study and sweet fellowship with these French sisters in Christ.
The three of us get out around town as much as possible to put all that French studying into practice. One of our favorite weekly outings is the local Thursday outdoor market – full of delicious fresh meat, cheese and produce. The vendors are the same week after week, so it allows us to build rapport with them by visiting the same stalls each time. Matthias especially enjoys the live animals that are for sale. He really would like us to take something home one of these days that clucks, hops or peeps – really anything that is more exciting than a vegetable.
We also get out to the local library as often as we can. They have a great children’s play/reading area, which Matthias thoroughly enjoys, and provides us with a plethora of French kids books to take home each time which helps all three of us to improve our French. The library staff have also been really great about providing good French novel recommendations for Amanda which has been another helpful and enjoyable way of continuing to improve.
After living here the past couple months, we have really come to understand why it was the French who coined the phrase, “Joie de Vivre”. The French certainly know how to slow down in life and enjoy it. Every week or two, it seems there is a National holiday or festival going on to celebrate one thing or another. It’s a great opportunity for us to get out into the community, learn more about the French culture and practice French. The festival pictured below was to celebrate the end of road construction on the Main Street in town and the end of the work season. July and August marks the vacation season in France and people typically are given a whole month off from work, either for July or for August, and so the whole town was understandably pretty stoked for July’s arrival.
This past Sunday was the Military Music Festival, which involved a parade marching through Main Street right past the church we attend. There was a lot of chuckling during the service as the various drum lines and marching bands right outside the church windows provided some very enthusiastic musical interludes during the service.
We are thankful to the Lord for the relationships that are being built, both with those in the Albertville community, as well as with fellow American students who are here learning French.
Below is a picture of some of our C&MA colleagues who are also here studying at the school. We recently enjoyed an afternoon walk around a nearby lake and shared a French meal together afterwards. We are thankful for the time we have had to overlap with them here in Albertville for a few months.
Matthias has also been enjoying making friends with local French kids as well as American kids here at the school. He tends to make friends wherever go – even if we are just at a store for a few mins, he inevitably can be found making friends with another child (or grown-up) in the store. He has started a lot of organic conversations for us by being his smiley, social little self.
And speaking of making new friends, Matthias is going to have a baby sister in November!
Our hearts are so thankful to the Lord for this undeserved gift of another little life joining our little family. We look forward to welcoming our daughter sometime around November 17th.
Thank you for your prayer and support as we are in this season of learning!
A. For relationships to continue to develop, not just for language learning, but to build bridges through which the Gospel might be shared.
B. That our minds would be like sponges, soaking in and retaining all that we are studying
C. That our minds might synthesize all that we are studying to produce a higher French verbal and writing proficiency
D. For our ears and mouths to coordinate such that we are able to speak with an increasingly French accent, in lieu of an American one
Thank you for walking alongside us on this journey!
We are only able to be here through His grace and your partnership with us – Thank you!
Love from France,
Christopher, Amanda, Matthias & Baby Girl
P.s. Amanda here- My biggest challenge with any cultural adjustment is going to the grocery store. It doesn’t matter what country I’m in, feeling comfortable in a grocery store and not acting totally awkward, is always one of the last things to fall into place for me during cultural adjustment. This is true for me even in the States during reverse culture shock, it takes me forever to not feel like a total moron buying groceries. So this time living in France, I’ve been trying to head it off at the pass. One of things that is different in French grocery stores, is that the typical practice is to weigh your fruits and veggies before you check out – they will not weigh them for you at the cash register. When I lived here in Albertville before – I would forget this EVERY TIME – and always felt like a total cultural klutz. There is nothing like holding up the entire check out line because you forgot to weigh your broccoli – AGAIN. So this time living here, I have been obsessively trying to remember to weigh my fruits & veggies before I check out. A few weeks ago I was at the store and picked up a few Kiwi’s from the fruit section. I proudly headed over to the scale thinking to myself, “I’ve got this,” and was playing it cool. Quickly however, my confidence disappeared, as after 3 attempts I couldn’t for the life of me find ‘Kiwi’ in the electronic scale’s database. I tried every category, tried to look it up by number, tried a search function, even made sure the word for Kiwi in French is the same (and it is). By this time a kind, French woman came over to offer to help me – I’m sure between my furrowed eyebrows staring intently at the screen and the fact that I had been standing at the scale for what felt like an hour – it was pretty obvious that the poor foreign girl needed help. And so the kind, patient, French woman proceeded to try and search for ‘Kiwi’ but to no avail. She declared, “Ah! Kiwis are probably being sold by the piece today!” Of the 6 months I had lived in Albertville previously and had shopped at this very store, none of the produce had been priced by the piece. But today, this one produce item – the notorious kiwi – was priced by the piece. No weighing necessary.
I guess cultural adjustment is just one of those things you can’t head off at the pass. You have to ride it out and let it happen to you. Accept the fact that you will be a cultural klutz for a while. Embrace the awkwardness. Laugh at yourself (especially when others are laughing at you). And let people help you – for you might just gain a friend.