Monday, April 26, 2010

Strangers in the midst

When we moved out to this tiny hamlet of seven houses in rural France, three and a half years ago, we harboured no illusions as to how we may be accepted by the local community.

We knew it would take years before we could consider ourselves to have integrated into a close knit, farming orientated environment, that we would be regarded with suspicion as foreign former city dwellers, that we would be strangers in the midst for a long time.

This morning as I strolled up the road with my water container, going to check on the job Milla has done of eating back the grass in my elderly neighbour's garden, singing back to the spring cuckoo and the migrating hoopies, waving to the farmer tending his cows in the adjoining field, I realised how much a part of this place I feel.

We have renovated our house ourselves, installing electricity, plumbing, a septic tank, solar panels, building walls and floors, fitting windows, and replacing the roof.  Alongside that we have established a vegetable garden that grows enough to support us as a family, growing organically and traditionally, experimenting, sometimes succeeding, sometimes failing. We have kept pigs, raised lamb, and have poultry and waterfowl as well as rabbits for our meat.

Brendan has built up a group of farmers who he sees regularly with their tractor woes, I work caring for the elderly and sick locally, Thea has made good friends and adapted to a non-city life wonderfully and continues to do well at school.  Sometimes it seems that three and half years has passed in the blink of an eye.

We don't feel like the strangers, we feel like villagers.  And the villagers treat us like villagers.

Sometimes it is this sort of positive affirmation that we need to make us happy, not money, not things, but a smile and a wave, a quick flurry of greeting kisses and a hug from an octogenarian.

No comments: