Sunday, August 24, 2008

Welcome to Mayberry

Nancy and I have often marveled about how we fell into this wonderful village full of great people. We acknowledge that we’ve got more friends and acquaintances here than we have back home. (Not sure what that says about us, or Moab.) I suppose it is something about being in a foreign place and not having a good handle on the language that makes you seek out and embrace others that you can communicate with. Then again, perhaps it is the spirit of adventure of the people that we have met here. Australians, Irish, English, Canadians, and Scots: they have set off to a new land and left behind the familiar, their friends and family and the language they grew up with. Some are here for the duration and some are very frequent visitors. In any case, it requires a little bit of craziness, optimism and bravery to go off and purchase a house in a foreign land. (We include ourselves in this group, but to a much smaller degree. We’re not selling out in the U.S. and spending all our time here.) These are rather adventurous folks. And, granted, this is not like setting off to parts unknown across an ocean in a small ship, or crossing a continent in a prairie schooner, never, ever to return to your homeland. But neither are these the kind of people who sit at home, watch TV and grow old complaining about the goddamn weeds in the lawn.

Of course, Nancy and I aren’t the only ones who have noticed the remarkable fellowship of the English speaking community here. We’ve discussed it with others and many agree. Others say that they have more of a social life here than back home. Some say they have made lifelong friends that they would never have met back home, much less socialize with.

But there are other considerations. It is a small town and you meet a lot of people at the bar where everyone congregates. It is not just THE place to congregate; it’s the ONLY place to congregate. The Marche Nocturne Leran forces everyone to get friendly. You can’t eat paella with a plastic fork and swill wine at a picnic table and not talk to those beside you. The other thing that crosses my mind is that for the English in France, any social barriers that may still exist in Great Britain are gone. But, I don’t have enough knowledge or experience about British social customs to discuss that topic in any depth.

As in any migration, there are push factors and pull factors. That means there are reasons that cause people to leave their homeland, and factors that pull them to another place. You can have strong push and weak pull or vice versa, or even-steven. Push factors can be religious, lack of economic opportunity or something more personal. Pull factors can be relatives that have already resettled, a booming economy, religious freedom and a host of others. The influx of English speakers to France seems to have one major pull factor; the quality of life, including better weather. The push factors are numerous and it seems all our friends have different reason for leaving home.

Now, if this was only being read by our American readership, I’d give you some photographs and profile of a few of the friends we’ve made here, but if they saw it they would be embarrassed and I’d probably get the facts wrong. In any case, I’m not a good enough writer to give you the lurid details of someone’s life and expect them to approve of the way I characterized them, much less what their friends here in Leran would say. So don’t worry, all you good folks in Leran are off the hook.

But the fact remains. This is a seriously friendly town.


Anonymous said...

Good piece. Sentimental. Are you guys lamenting the end of summer?

Anonymous said...

I think it's truly wonderful that you have found a "community of friends" there in Leran. Life is always far more enjoyable when you have friends with which to share the pleasures (and sometimes pains)of daily living.

Luke is grateful every day that she has life-long friends that have enhanced her life! I hope some day to have the pleasure of meeting your "Friends in France".