I spent the past few weeks with very inconsistent internet, and I still struggled to fully adjust to everything in France. Nonetheless, I have remained open-minded and developed a lot of friendships with people at the institute who live abroad. This past week I said goodbye to many of my American friends I had made whilst being here, and we were keen on spending as much time together in places around Tours such as the botanical garden and restaurants in the tiny streets adjacent to Place Plumereau. I was also fortunate to experience “Fete de la Musique”, which is a celebration of the first day of summer. Around 5 or 6 PM, people began to open their windows and place their speakers near them so that others could marvel in the music they had to offer–and this proved quite satisfying after I came across a man who was playing Afrobeats (a sort of pop music that incorporates many African sounds). Throughout the night as my friends and I roamed throughout the town, we walked alongside the many crowds of people. At one corner we would hear techno music and at the other it would be rap, and although very busy, I enjoyed the ambience of Tours that seemed to sustain itself into the night.
But truly, what I wanted to share were the 4 things I truly enjoy about Tours that I may miss once I return home.
- Runs early in the morning. Most of Tours seems to be asleep on Saturdays and Sundays from 8-10 AM, yet this time seems to make for the best type of runs. While the uneven pavement can be annoying, it makes my morning runs slightly more exciting and challenging as I am forced to run up and down hills and through streets and allies previously unexplored.
- The ethnic shops and migrant communities. Being a Nigerian-American, I was excited to come to France and learn about the many migrant communities living alongside the French (obviously some of these people also identify as French as well, given that they are 1st or 2nd generation). Since being here, I have had the pleasure of meeting many people from the Middle East as well as North, West, and Central Africa. Last week I had decided to walk around Tours alone through many unfamiliar streets and I had found a small African restaurant owned by a Congolese woman. It was actually quite funny, considering that I saw a family of Africans sitting outside the shop before actually noticing what I was looking at. When I decided to visit a few days later, I saw the same family and decided to converse with them. I learned that they were from Gabon and had two daughters that were the same age as me. It was funny trying to engage in conversation with them, as they quickly realized that I spoke English both because I am American and because Nigeria is one of the few countries in Western Africa that does not speak French. With that being said, a lot of the conversation was an exchange of smiles and stares, but still, lovely people. I also developed a nice relationship with another family (a woman and her daughter) from Cameroon. I, too, found their restaurant kind of randomly. I got off the tram at a random stop and after finding it, I walked inside to greet the owner. Each day I passed by and I figured I would actually take the time to introduce myself, which later led to a conversation about why they decided to come to France. I learned that the mom had actually considered moving to Canada from Cameroon, but it was quite far, so she settled on the idea of France. She started working in France, taking care of the elderly. She told me that for the most part she enjoyed her time here, and it was quite easy to integrate into society when she first arrived as there were many jobs that the French were unwilling to do that became opportunities for people of color. I have met with many others whilst walking throughout Tours with my friends. We have found some of our favorite spots–a Guatemalan cafe, an Indian restaurant down Rue Colbert, and a candy shop near Place Plumereau owned by an Arab man. Although awkward at first, I have found that most individuals who look like me or may identify simply as the “other” are quite receptive and quite intrigued once they realize that I am not a native-French speaker.
- The sunset and the newly installed ferris wheel. I assume that the ferris wheel installed just on Rue Nationale (the main street that runs from North to South in Tours) was a result of “Fete de la Musique”, but either way, it makes for a great luminescent contrast against the backdrop of the sky as the sun sets at 10 PM, rather than the 8:30 or 9 PM sunset that I am used to back home.
- Proximity. Some may describe Tours as a medium-sized city, but sometimes it feels even smaller than that. In some ways it reminds me of being back at school on a campus where there are only about 8000 undergraduate students. But in many ways, it doesn’t feel like being back on campus. Despite seeing familiar faces on the street and on the tram, I often discover new places each time I step outside.
These are the four things I have truly come to appreciate since being here