Monday, November 12, 2012

Comparing life in rural Carolina to life in my Wrinkle-in-the-Outskirts of Paris is like comparingwatermelons and lemons. If you search hard enough, you can find some similarities, but there are many differences. Growing up in the Carolinas, when we passed someone on the road, we greeted them with a wave or a nod and a smile, even if it was someone we didn't know. It's just the way it was. We said hello to the people we met, and we complimented people on their children, their gardens, and anything else we felt moved to recognize. Here, that sort of thing is seen as eccentric at best when talking to people we don't know. I pass by one woman's house every day on my way to the bus stop and other times when I go to the bakery, hairdresser's, pharmacy, or the fruit and vegetable market. She has a wall around her yard, but she also has openings in it where we can see through into the yard. Often the gate is open, and sometimes I've seen her standing out there talking to other little old ladies as I've walked by. One day when she was outside and didn't seem to be terribly busy, I stopped and told her what beautiful flowers I had seen growing in her "garden." In the Carolinas, it would've been well-received with a smile and a thank-you, but this lady's only reaction was a somewhat ferocious, "Where do you live?!?" I pointed to the end of the street and told her, "There." ... but she said not another word. Lemon. I haven't given up yet, though. I think many people are simply afraid. I try not to overdo it with eye contact and smiles, though old habits die hard. One day this week coming home from the other bus stop, I saw a man outside a house where I've often noticed a tree that seems unique to me. I decided to give it a shot - I asked the man if he knew the name of it and told him how unusual and pretty I thought the tree was. I was very pleased that he didn't snap at me at all; instead we had a pleasant if brief conversation in which he explained a little about the tree - araucaria, commonly known to the French as "monkey's despair" because the leaves are razor sharp and monkeys can't climb this one (or to the English as "monkey puzzle", as I later found out) - and complimented me on my French. He didn't know the origin of the trees, but said that they're common in Bretagne (Brittany). I came home and looked up the French name, "déséspoir des singes", on the internet and found that they're native to Chile. Watermelon. Another kind gentleman, when I told him how beautiful his flowering quince was and how it reminded me of my childhood, not only agreed to let me take pictures of it, but also offered to give me some cuttings to root. I thanked him profusely but declined because our apartment really isn't a good place for growing a big bush like that. The south terrace is far too hot and sunny in summer, and the north terrace doesn't get enough sun. Ah well... his kindness was as sweet as any bouquet could've been! Watermelon. Don't get me wrong. Lemons have their uses and their place, and the world is better for their existence. But isn't it refreshing to find watermelons from time to time as well?

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