All triumphs, great and small

Living in a foreign country can make you inordinately proud of small accomplishments.  For example, the sight of my laundry hanging to dry on the clothesline I rigged up myself made me very happy the other day.

The process of arriving at a “situation régulière” is protracted battle here, and every tiny step forward counts for a lot.  This weekend we took a giant leap forward when we successfully installed our internet and landline connection.  But karma won’t allow consecutive triumphs so I had to scratch today’s plan to pick up my bank card and buy a new SIM card; I had forgotten that almost everything in town is closed on Mondays.  Rebuffed on one front, I was surprised to find how happy buying earplugs and lip balm at the pharmacy made me.  But considering how essential both these items are to life in Barcelonnette, maybe I shouldn’t be surprised.  You may be thinking, “yes I can understand the lip balm part since she’s up in the cold dry mountain air, but the earplugs?!”  Just one trip on a bus to or from Barcelonnette, listening to the driver’s soccer-centric radio programming, would probably convince you of the importance of these small bits of foam.

Besides various bureaucratic concerns, one of my main topics of reflection so far has been what to make for dinner.  (What else is new, right?)  My favorite day of the week is without a doubt Saturday, when Michela and I go to the market and buy tons of produce from our (now) favorite farmers.  Of course we ruin the pastoral idyll by heading straight from the market to the European version of Wal-Mart.  In Carrefour’s defense, they do carry a good number of local products.  I was excited to find yogurt and milk from a dairy collective here in the Ubaye Valley.  Despite its enormity, however, Carrefour still suffers from a pathetic spice selection.  Everything comes pre-mixed, with labels that yell “cuisinez à l’italienne!” or “cuisinez à la méxicaine!”.  I’m looking forward to my next trip to a big city, where I can find some exotic ingredients.

This past Saturday we did more than our usual share of shopping because we were expecting guests.  Four language assistantes from Digne had responded to our invitation to the assistants in the region to come to Barcelo for the weekend, and so we planned a party at Mariangela’s and Francesca’s house.  Fearing that the gender ratio would be wildly out of balance we had gone out to “Les Choucas,” the main bar in town, on Friday, looking for boys to invite.  The two lucky boys we played pool with on Friday night found themselves on Saturday night at a table with eight girls, two vegetable pot pies, two salads, and an apple pie–a seemingly simple feast that counts as a major achievement since it came from my miniature oven, stove, and fridge.

Whether the day consisted mainly of achievements or failures, walking home through the crisp, wood-smoke-filled air of Barcelonnette while admiring the orange-tipped mountains can be refreshing, especially if it is accentuated by the appearance of one of the town’s many independently-minded dogs, most of whom seem to have border collie blood.  Since I miss Spring I always want to make friends with them, but how does one talk to a French dog?


About adventuresofaleece

Senior Project Manager at The Working World, a non-profit CDFI with an investment fund that focuses on loans and equity investments for worker-owned cooperative businesses. Recently graduated with an MA in Urban and Environmental Policy and Planning from Tufts University. Formerly Executive Director of the BerkShares local currency program in Western Massachusetts and Director of Programs at the Schumacher Center for a New Economics. Former line cook and prep cook at Txikito Cocina Vasca. Writer, teacher, and traveler.
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8 Responses to All triumphs, great and small

  1. John McManus says:

    You speak French to a French dog!!! LoL
    Al, great hearing from you!

  2. Beth Greeley says:

    Oui, bien sur, on parle francais aux chiens francais. Ils ne parlent pas meme l’anglais chien, n’est-ce pas? Ils ne disent pas “bow wow” mais quelque chose d’autre.

    J’ai faim des “pot pies”; ils semblent (?) delicieux!

    Ou sont les photos des garcons? lol

  3. Catherine Poisson says:

    “French supermarket’s usual affliction: a pathetic spice selection”.

    QUOI? COMMENT ? Chere Alice, je ne suis pas du tout d’accord. Comment oses-tu faire de pareilles generalisations ?
    J’espere que tu corrigeras cette monstrueuse erreur 🙂



  4. Catherine AKA Madame says:

    Quel plaisir ça me donne de lire Les Aventures d’Aleece! Je me souviendrai toujours de la petite fille dans ma classe de français qui avait le meilleur costume d’Halloween de toute l’école. (Fuzzy Math!) Merci de m’avoir envoyé ton Blog.

    PS: Le chien français dit OUAF OUAF!

  5. Janice says:

    Always a delight to hear about your wonderful adventures!! Your apple pie looked yummy! Stay well!
    Many hugs,

  6. Melissa says:

    Geraldine speaks to her dog in French, and he seems to understand.. you could give that a try.

    I definitely understand the challenge of adjusting to the rhythm of life in a foreign country, although in mine they always spoke English! But in the end, like you said, it’s pretty dang rewarding.

    Keep writing, we’ll get a link to this on our website like we talked about! Emily will have to do it though, because I’ve no idea how..

    ps gorgeous pie

  7. Nathan says:

    I remember “choucas” (what the bar is named after.) They are those beautiful little mountain birds that dart around the Alps.

  8. Amy Macdonald says:

    Alice, Check out Orangette — Molly Wizenberg’s food blog — that is utterly charming. She ended up publishing a book of her blogs, A Homemade Life.

    Sent your blog to Vicki Croke and she forwarded to Sheryl Julian, the Globe’s food writer!

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