In the spirit of sharing aspects of our life here in France, one of the interesting, intimidating, and necessary aspects of language learning has been getting to know French people outside of the classroom. We've all approached that in different ways through the year. Most of us have French language partners who we meet with weekly to work on specific language exercises or just to practice conversational skills with a patient friend willing to correct the many pronunciation and grammatical errors. We've gotten involved in church and John has even been a member of the parent school board at the kids' school. And almost every Wednesday at 3pm you will find me at the nearby nursing home (La Maison de Retraite).
Several McCropders have joined me at various points through the year as I've chatted with residents, played memory games, and celebrated monthly birthdays. Heather came weekly in the fall and was a huge encouragement as she's always been a level ahead in French. I remember one of the first times I was on my own without her talking with a resident. I could say very little at that point, but I could ask "What is this?" So we spent close to an hour labeling "head & shoulders, knees and toes", etc. - language learning is great for teaching humility!
As my French has progressed I've been able to converse more with residents and have heard some interesting stories. Our classroom assignments to ask a French person about childhood memories or favorite vacations have also been helpful. The most interesting stories have come from an 82 year old retired priest who was a missionary in the Congo (quite close to the Burundian border) for 22 years. He began an orphanage and hospital and taught philosophy and theology at a seminary there. He was forced to leave Congo due to health problems but it's clear in talking to him that he left his heart behind there. He speaks with love and compassion of the orphans, the parishioners, & the seminary students, and he continues to be quite involved in fundraising and keeping up with the work there. He's very well read and has copied many articles for me on the region and even on Burundi specifically - also good French practice! I enjoyed an interesting last conversation with him yesterday on secularism and declining faith in France compared to the thriving, growing churches (Catholic and protestant) in Bukavu, DRC. It's encouraging to be able to discuss such things in French now! So I'm thankful for God's provision of these unique opportunities for language learning and for getting involved in our local community here in Albertville.