I had something else entirely planned for today but thought it appropriate to share something with you instead. One of the things that I have always tried to do consciously here was to share the good along with the "bad"about my life in Provence. This post will be leaning towards the latter, possibly, so if that is not your cup of tea I understand and will look forward to seeing you at the beginning of next week...
To say that I have a temper, well...it isn't an understatement but it isn't something that defines me either. Not these days...although when I was younger I used to point to the color of my hair in explanation. Such a redhead. But if you do push me over a certain line on certain subjects, I will explode.
When you live in a big city such as Paris or New York, there is always a cushion of anonymity in your daily interactions. Even in Arles, there is such an enormous influx of tourists that it took years for folks in our neighborhood to really pin us down. Not so here, in this tiny village that is very proud of being "off the map."
I have never lived before in such an environment, having grown up either in the country or smallish towns or big cities but a village is an entirely different animal, one where I will call out "Bless you" thinking that Remi has sneezed only for him to call up, "It wasn't me!" Oops. "It takes a village..." Yes, it can, when everyone sees eye to eye. But when things devolve into petty differences, they can quickly escalate into disproportional arguments. Especially when you are the new kids in town.
We are extremely fortunate in that the neighbors en face or across from us are discreet. Mr. M, the retired coiffeur, is barely at home and is delightful when he is. The other house that overlooks our courtyard is lived in by an elderly man and his son, who, since they don't have a landline, talks on his cell phone outside in order for the signal to pass. It echoes like a rocket chamber and we hear every word. We have been patient - save for on one of our first nights at this house when he sat on our front steps to talk - but it is tiresome.
Yesterday evening, after a nearly two hour long phone call spoken at high volume, Remi stuck his head out of our gate and politely asked if he could keep it down a bit. Fifteen minutes later, our bell rings and the young neighbor is back with his visiting twin brother. Remi is a Libra and a champion diplomat. I sensed already that the brothers were looking for trouble and so, confident in Remi and less so in my temper, I receded into the house as it was time to open up the shutters and windows after a long, hot day.
My instinct was right and I heard the brothers voices rising despite Remi's insistently calm tone. He would later tell me that threats were involved, directly and indirectly, all because we had asked him to speak more quietly! But no, it wasn't about that finally, not really. It was about the fact that we aren't from here. For as I reached the top floor windows I heard one of them declare that they were pur race or pure blood of long date from this village, implying that they could do what they wanted.
Am I proud that I came downstairs at a run and shouting? No, I am not. But I can't abide by such language, especially in a country which was controlled by Hitler not so very long ago. I made my point that while a foreigner I had every right to live here despite that the village had voted Front National in the past elections. "Je suis FN!" the twin brother responded, "I belong to the Front National!" I told him that I didn't doubt it and then finally respected Remi's heed for my swift return indoors. Amazingly to me, Remi was able to forge a verbal bridge and the brothers left him with a handshake. But I was still shaking with rage.
And yes, as Remi would later wisely say, a confrontation between us has been long in coming. The tension started on that night a year ago. Their family has never returned our "Bonjour" so I have stopped trying. There are others in the village that are cold to us, making it clear that we are unwelcome - and my strong reaction undoubtedly came off a recent series of rebuttals - but happily, there are many, many more that are kind - the amazing folks at our local garden being just one example. But still, last night's interaction made me well aware that there is an undercurrent to keep in mind and a balance to be found. I doubt we will have any other such interlocutions with the twins as in the South people explode once and since we didn't retreat, it will be dropped and we will politely ignore each other.
So, all of this is to express as I have said before, it isn't always La Vie en Rose when one lives overseas as an expat, even in such a gloriously beautiful region as Provence. It is a learning process. And while I don't regret sticking up for my (very American) ideals, I still have much to learn.
I have written a few other posts in this series, some having to do with the FN, some not.
If interested you can find them at:
Have a wonderful weekend...
...and may the light shine bright for you wherever you are.