Coucou! As I write this, I’m sitting in my new home for the next seven months: a lovely, many-windowed apartment at the heart of La Réole, France, where I arrived almost three weeks ago now. La Réole is a tiny town of less than 5000 people situated about 40 minutes southeast of Bordeaux by train. It’s nestled along the beautiful Garonne river, which flows by peacefully within view of my bedroom window.
The apartment where my roommate and I live is on the second floor of the town’s high school (or the first floor, if you want to count like the French do). We’re both here to work as language assistants in our respective tongues, mine English, hers Spanish and Italian. For twelve hours a week, I’ll be conducting conversations and activities with high school and middle school students to help them improve their English skills. In return, I have the privilege of living in La Réole among its very kind people, drinking wine, and eating a lot of bread (oh, so much bread).
The schools have just spent two weeks on vacation (quelle chance pour moi), but before the break started, I had two days of in-class observation during which the students asked me questions about myself and where I came from. Some of my favorites:
“Do you really make the bacon and eggs for breakfast?”
“Are American high schools really like they are in the movies?”
“What is a… a fy-dle? Feedle? Fiddle?”
And, from a young student who wanted to ask if I had a boyfriend, “Do you men?”
Many students also asked me what I thought about La Réole. “How do you feel about living in the middle of nowhere in La Réole?” one demanded.
“I love it,” I said earnestly, and the whole classroom erupted into laughter. To many of them, it seems there’s not much to see in La Réole. But for me, everything is thrilling. Just walking down the cobblestone streets feels like a treat, let alone the fact that each day I get to marvel at incredible architecture, delicious food, the intricacies of the language, beautiful natural surroundings, and warm, friendly people. I can’t think what could be better.
Right now, that marveling is slightly more limited, because France went back on lockdown on October 30th. We’ll be locked down until at least the 1st of December, and until then, I hope to read plenty of books, play lots of fiddle, and maybe learn a few words in Spanish from my roommate. I’ll also still be working with students at the schools here, since they are staying open during the lockdown, and with my own music students online.
Highlights from my time here have included my first meal in France, which was cooked and shared in the home of the family of the assistant principal who lives above us; a four-hour promenade with my roommate to a beautiful, still stream lined by yellow-red trees; a stroll through the outdoor Saturday morning market on the strip by the Garonne; a morning spent enjoying a chocolate éclair and reading beneath a tree in the local park; and an evening spent over glasses of bordelaise wine and conversation with my roommate. Even in quarantine, I’m thrilled to be able to practice my French all day, every day.
And speaking of that mysterious instrument, the fiddle, I’ll still be teaching and playing while I’m here. I hope to make some new musical discoveries during my stay (France is, after all, the home of jazz manouche). I’m still happy to offer online lessons from my new home, and I’ll still be involved with many Fiddle School projects (there are lots of exciting things coming down the pike!) I’m grateful that I can bring music with me wherever I go.
I’ll be posting more updates throughout the year as this adventure continues. Until then, send out a song for me.