Meeting the Neighbors

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

This time of year in Paris is when Parisians decidedly make an excuse to meet the neighbors. It’s called the Fête de Voisins, and it’s the equivalent to a block party in the States, only instead of closing down neighborhood streets, folks take it to the common area of their buildings (although I learned that when the weather is particularly great, buildings on small streets will put up barricades and have a combined Fête de Voisins). I’d been looking forward to this for over a week now. We had to sign up for what we planned to bring, and after waiting to see what others had put on the list, I decided to bring a pasta dish, hummus with warm pita, and a liter of Coke.

Even though I’d been the one to convince Gui to go to the Fête in the first place, I was a little nervous about the whole thing once the day arrived. All those questions start rolling through my mind...will they hate the fact that I’m American?...will they be offended that I can’t properly speak French, yet I’m living in their country?...will anyone speak English to me?...will they like my pasta or think its weird?

The poster said everything would begin at 8pm, so right at 8, I hollered at Gui to help me take everything down. I knew we’d be one of the first to arrive, and we were, with the exception of one tenant and the host of the party (who we later came to know as the “president” of our building, even though he didn’t live there). We chatted for a bit – Gui let them know I didn’t speak French very well, and the first female we met, who happened to be young and very Austin-y I thought, spoke perfect English to me the entire night.

It all turned out pretty well, but there were some noticeable differences in how things are done around these parts compared to what I’m used to. No one served themselves from someone else’s dish until the person who brought the dish started serving it. So, that meant that no one touched my pasta until I finally got up, served myself and Gui some and asked if anyone would like some pasta. Same for the hummus. It was pretty bizarre, and it kind of bothered me that I had to ask if anyone was interested in eating the food I’d prepared – talk about being put on the spot.

We met the lady who lives next door to us, and found out she’s been living in her place for the past 50 years - we learned a lot about our building from her. Apparently, before she lived there, during the war, a bomb blew out the fourth floor of the building and when the got around to rebuilding it, they added another (5th) floor – which is the floor we live on now. It’s pretty neato, actually. The rest of the folks who live on other floors are a great mix of young and middle-aged peeps, all who were incredibly nice and completely welcoming to us newcomers. There’s only one proper family that lives in our building, and I’m not complaining about that. The two kids, though, were rather well-behaved and their parents seemed to have them in check, which is always a good thing.

I was definitely nervous for no reason, since everyone seemed to be interested in my story – how I got here, how I’m adjusting, what I’ll be doing. It was comforting to have my worries laid to rest, and to now know a few familiar faces around my new ‘hood.


lulu said...

That is so crazy that you are so French. lol I love it!

I am sure you will make many more friends and aquaintences. sp?

Way to get out there and get over that nervousness. You got gumption girl.

JV said...

Perhaps one of my six uncles and dad who served in France during WWII visited your building. WOW!!

Love, Mama

PS: I called my only surviving uncle (Daniel) on Memorial Day (May 27th)and I mentioned to him that you got married and living in France. He said, "When I served in WWII in France, I learned to speak some French, but now that I'm old, I don't remember any of it." My Uncle Daniel received the Silver Star for Bravery and will turn 87 in October!

Love ya! Mama

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