I’ve been working quite diligently lately. Days go by in which I get engrossed enough that I’m not actively thinking about living in a foreign country. Often it is the small, mundane things that serve as reminders. The narrow, one-way street I live on is actually the main thoroughfare through the village. Delivery vans, cars, motor scooters and the odd tractor or two pass my window in a constant procession–unless something stalls it. Yesterday, several cars were lined up behind a van which had stopped while the driver went into the house next door. The driver in the first car waited, cigarette in hand, music playing, engine idling. He waited some more. Then a polite tap on the horn. Nothing. Maybe five minutes passed. More cars joined the line. Another horn tap. Then the van driver emerges from the house, throws a casual wave at the line of cars, gets back into his vehicle and everyone drives off. In Long Beach, if I had the nerve to leave my engine running in the alley for just a moment while I brought in a bag of groceries, I would immediately draw the horn honking wrath of whoever pulled up behind me.
Ice is another reminder that I’m living in a foreign country. My refrigerator has a doll size ice cube tray–the ice are the size of dice. One tray chills the contents of a glass. Actually a normal size tray woudn’t even fit into the compartment. Ice isn’t a big thing in France, Julie said. Literally and figuratively. In the hotel room in Sete, she laughed when I mentioned an ice machine and looked around for the ice bucket. At a restaurant a couple of weeks ago, diners cast envious glances at a couple whose rosé was chilling in a bucket of ice. When the couple left, they distributed the slightly melting ice to the neighboring tables. American style refrigerators with built in ice makers are a rarity in most village houses, but they’re sold in the hypermarchés so perhaps glaÇons are catching on.
As I write this, it’s nearly noon and about 88 degrees. I still have the windows and shutters open, but as the afternoon wears on it will get warmer and I’ll have to close everything up. This helps to keep the rooms cooler, but it also darkens them so that it feels like nighttime. By that time the shops in the village will have closed for a few hours. Seems like the perfect time for a nap. Which I suspect is what everyone else in the the village is doing behind their closed shutters.