From South Bend to Tours: L’Apéritif

After 9 hours on the airplane and 8 hours of bus ride (in total), I finally arrived in Tours with two plastic adaptors, some fresh Euros, and a +33 number. My host mom picked me up from Gare de Tours and, while driving through the petit downtown, started speaking a language that seemed to loosely resemble ROFR 20200.

We arrived in the appartement before I could finish my third sentence, at 21h00 (that’s how they say 9pm here). Within five minutes of arrival, I was having my first French meal: le pain avec le rillet de canard (bread with a meat spread), la galette (a savory crêpe), la salade, le coulommiers 

(a type of cheese– so good!) and crème à la vanille (for dessert!) I should’ve also taken le cafe with my dessert, but, being the little kid I am, I refused in the fear that the caffeine will kill my sleep. (only to learn later that the French drink decaf coffee at night) This is the four course dîner that I fell in love with immediately and continue to look forward to every night : l’entrée, le plat principal, la salade et le formage et le dessert.

After dinner, I finally showered since leaving my dorm at Notre Dame. All relief washed over me as I looked back to the 50 things that could’ve prevented me from making it to my host family in this small town in Val de Loire, from my 20-minute connection in PHL to all the SNCF strikes in Paris. But I didn’t have time to get too sentimental– I was to show up at 8am the next morning at my language school, L’institut de Touraine.

The apartment is four minutes away from l’institut by foot, which is even shorter than walking from my P-dub (my dorm) to O’shag. I’m truly blessed. On my first day, I took a very brief placement test and immediately went to class. With around 10 other students from all over the world, we would go over different grammatical points, discuss French legislations and culture and engage in all sorts of activities to enhance our oral comprehension. Each morning for three hours, we sit in an antique, high-ceilinged classroom. It only seems right. The institute is diverse: with many students from Korea, Taiwan, Japan, Canada, the US, Europe, the Middle East as well as the rest of the world. Even though a lot of us speak other common languages, we still prefer to communicate in our broken, robotic French. How neat is that.

On Tuesday, I made a Swiss friend. Twenty words and three awkward smiles into our conversation, we’ve already decided to travel to Bordeaux together this Saturday, the only long weekend I will have during my six-week stay in France. What’s funny is that it’s not even weird; everyone here is so friendly and approachable. All you need are a Bonjour and whatsApp (sub for other chat apps).

After l’ecole each morning, I would go to the nearby Carrefour or the cafeteria for a local university to have lunch. The French cuisine is life. In fact, I’m living my best life right now. I’ve adjusted so well that I’ve started to wonder if I was born into the wrong country. I’m not even jet-lagged. The only thing that slightly troubles me is that I occasionally starve. The French eat a very small breakfast, with only baguettes with jam/butter and a cup of coffee. Lunch, often only a cold sandwich or a rice platter, rarely lasts me until the 20h00 dinner. At around 5pm, about the time I eat at Notre Dame, I start having flashbacks grilled chicken breasts and taco meat at NDH. Other than that, I have nothing but the highest respect for all the French cheese, chocolate, flan, yoghurt, bread and wine. The list goes on.

My host family truly feels like home away from home. It consists of an amiable couple in their 60s and two other students like me: a graduating senior from Toronto and a 17-year-old girl from Bangkok, Thailand. Dinner is my favorite part of the day, both for my growling stomach and for the conversation we have at the table– from the little things we have done that day to fashion in Thailand and military service in Taiwan, all in French. Over the past four days, I’ve spoken more français than I’ve in the past two years at Notre Dame. Besides feeling at times defeated by my poor French (especially after my quiz yesterday), my life in Tours is all elegant streets and savory food.If my stay in Tours is a traditional French meal, this is only L’Apéritif! A bit of French never killed nobody.  À bientôt! 

View from my bedroom: @Heart of Tours