Dinner with Mme Marchetto and a Cassis holiday

12 September 2011 § Leave a comment

12 septembre 2011

This evening we had our first dinners with our host families.  We are split up into several groups of varying numbers of students, and four nights each week we eat dinner with one or two families.  On Mondays and Thursdays, two other students and I eat with Mme Marchetto, and on Tuesdays and Wednesdays we eat with M and Mme Zarb.  Mme Marchetto was very kind and served what she called her “repas d’Espagne”, starting with cold tomato soup.  Considering my newfound love of tomato soup, thanks to consuming ridiculous amounts of tomatoes at the farm this summer, and my love of soup in general, it was a good beginning, especially because Mme Marchetto speaks clearly, and I understood everything she said.  She next served a yellow rice-vegetable-shrimp-other things mélange, which was also good.

We discussed various and sundry things, consisting mostly of whatever questions happened to pop into the minds of me and Chloe, the other girl.  (The boy with us did not speak much.)  At one point, she asked me what foods she should avoid preparing, and I had to be honest and tell her that le fromage n’est pas ma chose favorie.  She was a bit shocked, but recovered, and then came our cheese course!  Luckily I had said that I wanted to try everything, so it was all right, and then for dessert came dark chocolate mousse-y pudding-y concoction.  At the last moment I discovered that she likes War and Peace, so that might occupy much of our next dinner conversation.  The entire dinner-with-French-people situation will be valuable for improving speaking skills and developing friendships with people who are in quite a different place in life.

Earlier in the day, we had a few different orientation sessions and several walks around town.  I finally found an open post office (one is undergoing renovations and the others seem perpetually closed for lunch) and mailed letters (see the new link on the side—send letters!) and had the second macaron of my entire life!  It was cassis (blackcurrant) flavoured and delicious.  Maggie and I also keep buying calissons, which are roughly almond-shaped candies made of crystallised melon and a white sugar glaze on the top and a barely discernible wafer on the bottom.  They don’t really taste like melon, or like anything in particular, but they are quite yummy.  They are a specialty of Provence, but I think recently it became legal to sell them in other parts of France.

The really exciting part about today was learning more about the courses and internship and volunteer things.  If only there were a thousand hours in every day…

Since this post is already in backwards chronological order, I may as well mention our visit to Cassis yesterday.  It’s about forty-five minutes from Aix by bus, and it was blue and sunny and bright.  We took a boat along the coastline and saw magnificent cliffs . . .

Apparently, Cassis has the highest cliff in Europe. This isn't it, though.

. . . and then we bumbled around the town a bit and went to the beach.  The best part of the day was swimming in the Mediterranean Sea for the first time.  It felt delicious.  In the morning (still going backwards), I went running for an hour and found a quiet country road and even ran by a small vineyard.

Also, yesterday, when Maggie, Sara, and I were eating lunch in a brasserie, we talked some about 9/11.  It still seems so strange, especially considering that I was ten years old when it happened.  Perhaps this merits a long discussion and less of my words and more of others’s, but my thoughts now are not so very different from my ten-year-old thoughts: there is a spark of purity in the horror and speechlessness one feels in the face of terrorism.  I do not mean that in the sense of having a vague warm emotion in considering a certain group of people above the evils of terrorism, but that there is a wordless truth in the state of being appalled by the uncontrolled spiral of the same evil we can see within ourselves.

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