La Fouillouse is a tiny village bordering the much larger St-Etienne. Surrounded by incredible countryside, it is here that I am to call home for the next six months. I live here with a family of four: Edward, Marie-Charlotte, Marguerite (12 yrs) and Josephine (11 yrs). Having had au pairs before, they have been incredibly welcoming, kind and patient with me as I become accustomed to this very new situation. Edward is Irish, yet has lived in France for the past 15 years. As he owns and operates his own company, he is often away for the week. Marie-Charlotte, a preventative health doctor from the north of France, is often working until roughly 6pm. They are all fluent in English, but for obvious reasons prefer to speak French. Though they are very busy with their work, it is obvious how much they love their little girls.
As an au pair, my life has very quickly become a daily routine that is centred around Margeurite and Josephine. I wake with them at 6am, help them organise breakfast and their school things. By the time they leave for their bus, I am off to classes of my own. A few hours of the afternoon are mine for the taking, whether they be used for basic tasks, homework or a nice walk (a little harder when snowing). I collect the girls from the bus stop around 4:30, after which we do homework, play boardgames and prepare for the next day. By 9pm, we are all in bed.
The joy of each day is found in the little things. The funny, basic, French conversations that the Koreans and I struggle with. The scenery of each bus trip, waking up to a world of white, or the cold snatching my breath away each time I step out into the cold. There is so much that Australia does incredibly well. Sandy skin and salty hair. Salad sandwiches. A good old sunburnt landscape. But these small, albeit sometime cold, treasures are things that only La Fouillouse has been able to give me.
Last weekend, Kate and I visited Lyon for the day. The markets were bustling and stocked full with delicious produce and stunning flowers. We walked down cobbled streets and zig-zagged up hills. Finally, we stumbled upon the Theatres Romains de Fourviere – an ancient amphitheatre set into a hill that overlooks the city of Lyon. The theatre was built in two different blocks, with construction commencing around 15 BC with final touches added at the beginning of the 2nd century. So… it’s old. Australia has an incredible Indigenous history, with sacred land and traditions that I am yet to have the honour to experience. Our ancient history is more tied to the land and nature than to detailed buildings and elaborate stages. But to stand amongst a structure that has existed for so many years is phenomenal, and a feeling that continues to blow my mind.
I spent the afternoon at church. The ICCL is a beautiful, small church that sings Gods praises and teaches the bible. It was so lovely to share conversation and stories with such friends. As we looked at the life of Joseph, and his struggle with Potiphar’s (very persistent) wife, we talked of fighting the many temptations that we are faced with daily. We sung of Gods amazing grace, and I chatted to a guy named Jasper from Singapore. I met a young lady with the longest hair I have ever seen and giggled with an adorable, chubby baby girl. There was the classic in-charge-of-changing-the-slide-so-we-know-what-we-are-singing guy who failed miserably. This always makes my brain laugh. I mean, we all know what I am talking about. As each slide ends, the group is left mumbling words and death staring the poor guy who has forgotten his duties. Seriously man, you have ONE JOB. There are considerable challenges as I attempt to attend each week, but my hope is that I will be able to make it as often as possible. Such encouragement and joy is so important to my stay here in France.
As Kate and I strolled around Lyon, conquered the tourist-friendly Metro and chomped on delicious market food, we would occaisionally laugh at the surreal reality of our situation. We have been planning this life for months, dreaming of it for years. And now, we are actually doing it. I am living in France. Learning a second language. Experiencing a different culture. With each day, I am shown another part of God’s diverse, incredible creation. And gosh, am I loving it.