Thursday, July 31, 2014

Say That Again

Bon Jour from Quebec, the largest French speaking part of North America.  After spending two days near Montreal, we drove east along the St. Lawrence Seaway, passing through small villages and larger towns until getting on the freeway to make better time in getting to our destination, the Isle of Orleans, just east of Quebec City.  Quebec City is the capital of Quebec and, along with Montreal, is largely inhabited by French speakers.  The Isle of Orleans is east of Quebec City, linked to the mainland by a high bridge.  Once you reach the bridge and cross onto the island, there is one two lane road that encircles the island.  Traffic moves very slowly by Texas standards, only about 35-40 mph, so you have plenty of time to look at the countryside, see the small farms here and there, and stop at the farm stands to buy fraises (strawberries), framboises (raspberries) or bluets (blueberries), all of which are in season right now.  There is also fromage (cheese) of every imaginable type produced and sold in this Province.  Lots of vegetables, also, including Quebec sweet corn which we bought yesterday and plan to cook this evening.

We are staying in a house that is 250 years old.  It is owned by a nice lady who actually lives here but moves out of her house to allow visitors to stay here.  She goes to stay with her mother who lives in Quebec City when visitors rent her house.  She gave us the house tour yesterday and told us that the house dates back to the late 1750s when the British were driving the French out of Canada and after they got through with the Acadians in Nova Scotia they came after the French speakers in what is now Quebec.  The British burned their houses and the house where we are staying was partially burned by the British but not destroyed.  The house is two stories with two bedrooms downstairs and enough sleeping space upstairs for 10 more people.  She said that 14 people can easily sleep here but she allowed us to stay here, just Doris and me and Bo, our dog.  She left us on our own after the tour and we enjoyed the backyard breathing in the 60 degree air and looking across the St. Lawrence at the villages on the north shore, one of which is St. Anne de Beaupre, a famous church where many believe miracles happen.

We slept very well in this historic house and rose to have coffee outdoors enjoying the 55 degree air and the bright sunshine.  Then, because we had no bread, we decided to drive the 5 kilometers or so to the next little village to a bakery that opened at 8 am.  We parked the car and I walked to the place where the sign said "magasine" which means a small store and as I entered a young woman said, "Bon Jour" to me, which is what they always say to you when you enter a store in the day time.  I said "Bon Jour" back to her (one of my 5 or so words in French that I know) and then said, "Hello.  I came to buy some bread."  She looked at me with a puzzled look and paused.  I repeated what I said and she held up one finger and then went away.  She returned with a young man.  I said "Bon Jour" to him and told him I wanted to buy some bread.  He too looked puzzled and I motioned to the bread in bags and said it again.  He held up one finger and went away too.  Finally, a nice woman returned with the other two and said "Hello" in English.  I told her I wanted to buy bread and she asked me what kind and I told her and she asked if I wanted anything else and I said maybe something sweet and she pointed and said they had turnovers with strawberries and I said I would take them.  I finished my purchase and said "Merci" (one of my other words I know) and the young man said, "Have a nice day."  I said to him, "You too" and departed.

This interaction at the boulangerie (bread store) made me think about how often we take communication with others for granted.  It is not until we are placed in a situation where we are in the minority and others cannot understand what we want that we think about what it must feel like to others who live among us and cannot speak our language, either because they are immigrants from another land or they are hearing challenged or they are slow to understand us.  We may get impatient with such people and even think that they need to try harder to listen to us and speak to us.  We may even lose our patience with such people and avoid them rather than strive to communicate with them.

It is not just talking to others who speak a different language than ours that is difficult but perhaps speaking to others who do not share our views on certain topics or issues.  We may think that talking to them is difficult and we need to avoid those touchy topics lest we find ourselves angry or frustrated.  Communication is key to growing closer to others and we do not have to agree all the time in order to be friends with others.  Having an open mind and accepting them for who they are is more important than simply being in agreement always.

So, whether you say "Good Morning" or "Bon Jour" you can find something to share with others whom you meet.  And if someone does not speak your langauge, either literally or on topics close to your heart, we can all learn from one another and accept one another if we simply continue to try to listen more and talk less.  We can all share what is important to us if we just continue to strive to communicate well with others.

I love visiting foreign lands and hearing others speak their language, even if I cannot understand all they say.  I love to try to figure out what the signs say and to eat new foods I have never tried (such as "poutine"--french fries covered with gravy and then you add whatever else you want that the place offers; we have not had that but definitely think we will have some before we return home.)  It adds a lot to life to experience it from another point of view.  You may be puzzled or confused at times but eventually you find that it enriched your life just because you experienced it.

Until later, I bid you adieu and say Au revoir.

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