In a similar fashion to last weekend I finished my Friday classes this week to hop straight on a train, this time to Valance. [That is Valance-sur-Rhône in France and not Valencia in Spain as one of my French friend’s thought I was going to when I said I was going to Valance. (Valance is Valencia in French.)]
My dear friend Anna picked me back from the train station and took me to her host family’s house. Her host family comprises of a mum and dad (who are quite young at only 27) and 4 (yes 4) beautiful little girls aged 6 years, 4 years, 2 years and 4 months. As I work in a secondary school and I don’t live in a host family I’ve had very little (if any contact) with young children during my time in France so I had a lot to learn. Like, what on earth is this toddler saying to me? I don’t speak baby language! I already knew faire dodo (go to beddy-byes) as my flatmate says it sometimes is she is feeling particularly sleepy, and therefore childish, before bed. And the word couche (nappy) had gone in from just wondering round supermarkets (and apparently finding myself in the Pamper aisle?!) And j’ai un bobo (I’ve got a baddy) was self explanatory as even English babies use that word. And thankfully anything else Anna or one of the older girls translated.
The other new cultural thing that I had to get used to was when people in Valance faire la bise (do the French greeting of kissing cheeks) they do 3 not 2! As I went to say ‘hello’ to the host dad and pulled away after 2 kisses he was like ‘oh, right, ok, only 2’. ‘Oh!’ I exclaimed, ‘its 3 here! Sorry, it’s only 2 in Dijon!’ ‘That’s ok,’ he smiled, ‘it’s only 2 in Paris too and that’s where I come from.’ Phew, he wasn’t offended!
Something else I learnt this weekend is that my spoken French isn’t quite as beautiful as it could be! I had already made a mental note not to use the likes of putain, merde, chienne, ça fait shit (if you don’t speak French that was just a nice collection of swear words for you) and made every effort to cut down my mon dieu! and jésus! usage as the Christian family that were so very kindly hosting me for the weekend wouldn’t have appreciated any swearing or blasphemy and anyway these words shouldn’t be said around children. But when I exclaimed that something was dégueulasse (slag for disgusting) the slightly shocked faces of the parents (there were no kids about at the time) followed by a laugh (thankfully they found it more funny than being offended) and then Anna saying “Katie! I don’t think we’re allowed to say that!” made me realise that I never use the more savoury (pun, get it?) word for disgusting – dégoûtant, but perhaps I should! After all, I am here to learn la lange de Molière and not the language of lycéens (secondary school students) in an inner-city comprehensive (which is apparently the type of language that is going in!) I mean I even thought it was appropriate to crack a joke defining the finer details of the fact that I would be domir avec (sleeping in the same proximity as) and not se coucher avec (sleeping with) Anna – that’s hardly tasteful after dinner chat!
Anyway, aside from discovering I could make my language a bit more tasteful one of the biggest advantages of being in Valance (apart from hanging out with the lovely Anna obviously!) was being down South! Down South where the sun shines and the birds sing and you have beautiful views of the mountains!
On Saturday, Anna and I took advantage of the lovely weather and went for a walk in the centre of town, looked round the sales and Anna showed me le Champs de Mars et le Kiosque Peynet and the Hôtel de Ville and the Parc Jovet and then we went ice skating with some of Anna’s friends. When Anna said “I’m not very good at ice skating” I agreed with her (saying “no, nor am I!”) and I’m not, I can’t stop, I can’t do anything exciting on the ice, I can just state forward at a reasonable speed. But at first Anna couldn’t actually skate at all but thanks to the help of a lovely Finish girl who probably came out of the womb ice skating Anna was whizzing the ice like everyone else by the end. When then went to one of Anna’s French friends house for an aggressive game of Mooing Families (or whatever the game is called) and some other fast paced games with colours and shapes we then went home for tartiflette and on Sunday we ate raclette – both local dishes based on cheese and I love cheese!
On Sunday we went to church which was more enjoyable than when me and Anna went to church in the Ukraine as my French is better than my Russian so I had much better chance of understanding the service and the songs! After lunch we went to the Château de Crussol which was the ruins of a chateau on top of a mountain, just outside Valence in the Ardèche. It was really fun tromping round the ruins and it was so beautiful on top the mountain with stunning views of the Ardèche and the Drôme and the river Rhône. It made me want the summer job I’ve applied for in the Ardèche even badly (I find out in 2 weeks if I’ve got it.) And it was wonderful to be in such different surroundings to the rural, but rural in a very different way region of Burgundy. And it was fantastic to catch up with Anna and discuss everything from our views on parenting, our philosophies on life and what we plan to do with our degrees and beyond!
On my last day in Valance me and Anna cooked a traditional roast dinner for a family as a thank you for hosting and cooking for me for the weekend (which I really did appreciate, they really were so lovely to me.) And then went for a nice walk along the Rhône before I caught my train back to (cold) Dijon!