19 March 2010 Dress Rehearsal for village presentation, “La Sauvetat du Dropt sans Frontiers” (La Sauvetat without borders)
About a month ago, our gite proprietor extraordinaire, Isabelle, (not to mention cow farmer, house builder, sheet metal hauler and local village activist) asked us if we would like to participate in an event she was working on with the local village’s Mairie (mayor’s office). She described it as a presentation to be held in the nearby village of La Sauvetat du Dropt that would bring together the “gavache,” or outsider residents with the locals. As the “gavaches,” we were being asked to put together a presentation that would describe where we came from, what it was like in our native countries and why we all chose to live in La Sauvetat. The residents in turn would get to spend an evening “traveling to distant lands” and hopefully get to know some of their foreign neighbors which I know can be tricky thing to do here (or at least can take years), especially in such small communities such as ours where the locals have lived here for generations.
So at first, I told Isabelle “mais, bien sur” (but, of course) we would love to participate and I quickly volunteered Hank as my mind seems to go completely blank, my face turn beet red and I begin sweating (nice imagery I know) whenever I have the undivided attention of a room full of people. Fortunately, Hank was actually game back in February, especially since it seemed so far off and we truly thought that this would be a little local event of no more than 20 or so people as there is exactly one main street with one boulangerie, one tabac, one petit poste and only two restaurants in the whole town, one of which is not open most of the year.
Well, I guess I kind of underestimated things in retrospect. Super Woman Isabelle does not do anything half-ass and the busier she is (last week alone, she sold a few cows, helped install insulation in their third rental home, prepared the fields for planting, and I believe updated her farm’s blog), the more thinly she seems to be able to stretch herself. She planned and coordinated numerous introduction and rehearsal meetings over the past month between all 12 of the presenters, the Mairie, various “Conseiller Municipale” officials as well as members of the newly formed, Les Associations Sauvetatoises which was in charge of sponsoring this event. In fact, I am pretty sure that just about everyone who is anyone from the La Sauvetat had been included in these early meetings. I am also beginning to get the idea that this is going to be considered quite the village event with many more people attending than I could have imagined, especially now that the posters for it include the number 1, to denote that this is just first in a series of future events.
We meet with our fellow presenters over the course of a month. They are all real nice people from England, Scotland, Ireland, Belgium & Italy and we work together to fine tune our newly evolved power point audiovisual presentations. And now seeing how serious everyone seems to be taking this event (the Brits have flags; the Scot bagpipes and a kilt), I have decided to enlist the help of my trusty 81-year old French buddy from Eymet to assist us with some of our translations. Also, because Hank had helped Colette with some floorplan drawings of the new flat in La Sauvetat du Dropt that she plans to move into later this Spring, I suggest that she plan to attend the event as well so she can hopefully meet some future neighbors.
At first she was quite hesitant as she confided, “I have not been ‘out’ in years.” I also know that she was probably worried if her legs would be strong enough for her to walk on her own. I told her to just think about it as Hank and I could pick her up and bring her home and that she could decide at the last minute since it was still a few weeks away. Well, I think that she thought about it for two minutes after I left that day and then began drafting a beautifully composed letter to Les Associations Sauvetatoises offering her translation services at the event to which they graciously accepted. In fact, they asked further, could she come to the rehearsal?
Oh boy. As ecstatic as I am that Colette is going to socialize and get to feel needed again, I also hope I have not created even more work for Isabelle. Colette is amazing and I love her, but with her old Catholic School teaching background, she is quite the perfectionist and she had already taken it upon herself to proof and of course, find mistakes in the Association’s French portion of their newsletter. I could not imagine what she would do to the English speakers’ segments. I try warning Isabelle that they might want to reconsider sticking with the woman that they already had in mind to do the translations, but Isabelle just laughs and tells us to bring Colette anyway and not to worry.
So, Hank and I arrive at Colette’s house about 8pm and although she is slow, her legs have improved considerably and she can walk without assistance. Her complexion is glowing and her shiny, long white and gray hair is pulled up in a bun. She looks stunning and quite alive that evening. Everyone enjoys her company and she mingles effortlessly between the French and British. We make it through our rehearsal, although Hank has chosen a terrible time to tell me that he hates speaking in front of groups and that he is very nervous. After going through everyone’s presentations and sharing some cake and a glass of wine, we drive Colette back home. She is tired, but so excited about her first night out in years and she wants to assist us with our translations and pronunciations as much as we need her the following week. She says that she wants us to really look and sound perfect as our presentation is the most foreign to the French and that the people will be especially interested in our segment. Oh shit…I mean, great.
We help her out of the car and make sure that both she and her cat, Lord Nelson, are safely inside. We talk a little more about how nice the evening was and about our hopes of staying in France should our house in Topanga sell. She becomes quiet for a moment (which is really rare for Madame Delaport) and says with much heartfelt emotion, “I really, really hope that you can find a way to return.” With that, she leans over to signal the ok for the much awaited bissous (the double or triple French kiss that young people give you automatically, but with older people, you must take their lead on this – at least what I have been told). I lean it to the left, when apparently I should have been going to the right according to Hank (there really has not been any consistency to this rule though) and voila! I smack her right on the nose. I’m sure I can hear Hank chuckle as he sits waiting in the car. “Damn,” I think to myself. And although I know she doesn’t think less of me, I’m sure she was thinking something like, “oh, another thing to teach my little Americane friend” when I see her next week J