Everyone asks: What’s it like to be back? Well, a lot has changed, actually. The following is a list of feelings that overwhelm, on being back home. There’s good and bad, but I’m not complaining---we’re blessed to have both experiences. Photo, Looking Both Ways: a wall mural by Jacques Cocteau in Menton, on the Cote d'Azur.
So here is my list of assorted emotions. Fellow expats, do you have more to add, about returning to your country?
I feel: connected. In the last week I’ve been called Sweetheart, Honey, Darlin’, and Baby, by anybody and everybody. EX: a guy showed up to fix the roof in the house where we’re staying, a total stranger. “It’ll just take a minute, Sugah,” he said. I do so love the south! We don’t bother with political correctness down here, Honey Pie.
I feel: frustrated. They don’t do round-abouts here, which are standard in European intersections. Traffic has gotten much worse and it’s all wait, wait, wait, endlessly, at traffic lights. Such a simple solution could keep that traffic moving! Photo: Betty waits in traffic (snapped at a French flea market).
I feel: sad. The culture of violence is omnipresent in the states. It’s everywhere: on TV, in the news, in movies, on people’s minds.
I feel: surprised. Kale. It was nowhere. Now it is everywhere.
I feel: nournished. The fruits and veggies, Lordy me, they've changed! So much of the produce is local, and the selection is incredible. The grocery stores are dazzling, as is the Charleston market. They've taken the French philosophy and run with it--the produce outshines anything I’ve seen in Europe, with the exception of the Bon Marché in Paris, for sheer variety and quality. Of course Charleston may be exceptionnel, it's a foodie mecca.
I feel: bombarded. The noise! It’s everywhere. Restaurants and bars are so noisy that conversation is nearly impossible. Loud, annoying music blasts from speakers in every restaurant, even in the dress shops. Am I getting old? Well yes. But this is SO the opposite of Europe that it’s just completely shocking.
I feel: nostalgic, for the fine French bistro. Even the food in casual restaurants here in Charleston is homegrown, homemade, lovingly presented. How I wish it were still so in the French brasseries. Good ones are getting harder to find.
I miss: Friends, our cat, quiet, civilized French dining, the peaceful life in the countryside and the gorgeous scenery. But I’m also glad to be in beautiful, fabulous, happening Charleston, with old friends all around. Photo: Coming back has induced lots of mixed emotions (these dolls-from-hell were spotted at a French flea market).
And one last thing: a very happy new year to all of you! I hope you too are surrounded by old friends, new adventures, and a great year to look forward to.
In the COMMENTS: More drinking songs! Rachel, I'd never heard the beautiful "Se Canta" before, but I listened to it here. Vagabonde has another one to teach us, the charming "Ah! Le Petit Vin Blanc" which you can check out here. And Colleen painted a wine barrel for charity, which you can see here at her blog. Frank, I can almost smell that French bread baking!
In the Fabulous French Gifts department: A Small Village in France is one of my favorite blogs, by artist/entrepreneurs Susan and Tom Vieth, who live in the Dordogne. They've put together a line of tea towels, with Tom's artwork, from several of the wine regions of France (two are pictured at the right). You can purchase them at their website.
One more book by our readers: Spanish resident Karen McCann wrote the charming book Dancing In The Fountain: How to Enjoy Living Abroad, and check out her blog: the holidays are just getting started, in Seville.