Copy helps to have someone clean up after you.

The Huang family newsletter

Outside of our French classes, child-rearing, homework and studying, grocery shopping, errand running, etc, we have found that it is surprisingly difficult to make friends outside of the classroom. Part of this, naturally, is our age. (One of the worst things about being an adult is the increased difficulty in finding and making new friends.) Part of this is the sheer effort it takes to keep our children clothed, relatively clean, and fed (not to mention the entire delivering-a-baby-in-France thing several months ago). Part of this is probably our natural introverted inclination to find solace and refuge in our small apartment after a day’s worth of stumbling through French grammar and composition.

So it’s very much a good thing that we are forced to interact, at least once in a while, with a real, live French person outside of our classroom. These are our French language partners: people with whom we sit down weekly and just chat for an hour or so. There simply isn’t enough time in the classroom for everyone to practice conversational skills as much as one would like, so the school encouraged us to find a French language partner soon after we first started classes last fall. We were fortunate enough to find language partners within a month of moving to France, and we thought it was time to introduce you to these special people.

anDrew and his language partner Romain on a hike together

anDrew actually inherited his language partner Romain from Greg Sund, a student from the previous year who now works in Burundi. Romain is not a native of the départment de la Savoie, but he moved here nearly 20 years ago because (as he put it) of the good skiing close by. By profession, he is what’s called a masseur-kinésithérapeute, which is the French equivalent of a physiotherapist but with a bit of massage therapy and chiropractics mixed in. He is married to Angélique, a dentist (and in fact, now, our dentist), and has two girls – one about to finish high school, and the other soon finishing junior high.
Romain has turned out to be an incredible language partner: generous, funny, and welcoming—all of the things that we thought French people weren’t before we came here. Together, we’ve done hikes, gone mushroom hunting, Christmas shopping, and visited each other’s homes.

Romain called anDrew's buzzcut "reminiscent of the hairstyle of right-wing extremists." Fortunately, "no one will mistake you for an actual neo-Nazi, since you don't look European."

Kimberley was not so fortunate to merely inherit a language partner from a former student, so near the beginning of the year, we placed a (undoubtedly poorly written) letter in French in each of the 20 mailboxes in our apartment building, asking if anyone would be willing to meet with Kimberley as a language partner. One person responded.

Denise, Kim's language partner, visiting us soon after Solène's birth

Denise is a widow who lives several floors below us. She’s a native of the area, and though her children and grandchildren don’t live in the area, her brother and his wife live just above her in the same building. She doesn’t own a car, so she walks about 2 kilometres each way to the grocery store by herself. She likes to jog, and can easily jog 6 or 7 kilometres, even with a 10% grade. She works part-time as a cleaner and housekeeper for a couple lawyers who have their offices in our building. She can’t speak English, and she doesn’t have a computer, but she can knit and sew almost anything (and in fact, she got a diploma in home economics as a teenager). She adores our children, having bought toy cars for Nolan, knitted socks and sweaters for Solène, and baked a cake for us during Christmas. The best part of it all: she’s 69 years old. We have a hard time imagining any other 69-year-old quite like Denise. She is the picture of stereotypical French health: slim, sportive, and consummately well-dressed.

Denise with the kids. She made the "bûche de Nöel" cake from scratch.

These people don’t get paid or anything: they just meet with us, chat about whatever we want, and occasionally (or more than occasionally) correct our vocabulary or grammar. It takes a special person to sit down with a foreigner, listen to their native language get butchered, pick up the pieces, and try to comprehend what was just said. Certainly it can be hard to tell if we’ve made much progress over the course of the academic year, and there are times where we feel like we’re stumbling over our words just as much now as we did eight months ago. But then, once in a while, one of our partners will say something like this:

“L’amitié ne s’achète pas.”

Then we’ll go: wait, we just learned this in class! Use of pronominal verbs in a passive sense!

And then we’ll reflect a little longer and realize what was really being said:

“Friendship cannot be bought.”

And now...for some family pictures!

We recently spent a few days as a family at a retreat center in the village of Entrepierres, several hours south of Albertville.
The highlight for Nolan wasn't the medieval citadel, the hike into the mountains, or even the playground: it was going to McDonald's to get a Happy Meal. 
For the record, the haircut wasn't entirely planned. Kimberley is anxiously awaiting the regrowth of anDrew's hair.
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Spring break support report
French should be easy!
The question we get asked a lot by our doctor friends...
The quirky French life
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Copyright © 2018 The Huang Dynasty, All rights reserved.

This newsletter is about Andrew, Kimberley, Nolan and Solène Huang: their journey from the US to Canada to France and, ultimately, to Bongolo Hospital in Gabon, West Africa, with the Post-Residency Program of Samaritan's Purse (World Medical Mission).

The views and opinions expressed here are solely ours, and they do not necessarily represent those of Samaritan's Purse or World Medical Mission.

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