Hello world! I have been meaning to update the blog for a while (and already have a couple of blog entries written out), but the lack of wifi in rural France has made it rather difficult. Luckily, the secretary at the collège where I am working and living has kindly allowed me to use his office computer on the weekends, when the school is closed, so I thought I’d give a quick update on my first week in Domfront!
I am very happy to say that after one week here, I’m beginning to think that country life suits me! I was really nervous about coming to live in Domfront for several reasons; the size of the town, the limited public transportation options, the fact that I knew nobody here, the and lack of information about Domfront and what it has to offer were all big concerns. It turns out that while Domfront is definitely tiny, I think it’s actually quite an interesting place to live. Not only is it an absolutely STUNNING hilltop town, there is no shortage of sights to see: a neo-byzantine-style church, another church (12th-century), castle ruins, the medieval city centre, fields of cows/horses/donkeys/corn EVERYWHERE, a war memorial, the palais de justice and the mairie (city hall) … Also, even though it’s small, most everything you need is here. There are three banks, two bars, two bakeries, two grocery stores, a sports centre, several schools, at least one or two tabacs, a shoe store, several restaurants, and even a tea room. Most things are only open several hours per day, and not at all on Sunday or Monday, but hey, at least they’re there! And the lack of choice means that it has been super easy to narrow down my favourite boulangerie-patisserie 🙂
More than anything, though, I have been struck by the kindness of the people here ever since I have arrived. In a town of about 3770 people, I stand out like a sore thumb, but ever since I arrived last Friday, people have been going out of their way to help me out in any way they can. The teachers that I will be working with have invited me to dinners, family reunions, bars, and Canada vs. France rugby games, my roommates (also teachers) have helped me settle into life at the collège and have been great at explaining French cultural quirks that confuse me, and even random people like bank employees have offered to help me out if I ever have questions or just want to chat. The students are generally friendly, too, and always say “bonjour” or “hello” to me in the hallways, depending on their particular devotion to learning the English language. Most people know very little about Canada and have no idea where Edmonton and Halifax are, but they are still curious and want to know things like how the Canadian climate compares to the Lower Norman one. I feel like I have been warmly welcomed into a close-knit community, and I am very grateful for it!
In short, I’m beginning to think that perhaps I was lucky to get sent to the French countryside instead of to the big city. There are definitely drawbacks, like no wifi and no possibility of getting any until my next trip to the city, but I think that if I were in Caen or somewhere bigger, it would be easy to keep to myself and not be nearly as integrated into the community and schools as I am now. And for now, I am enjoying a slower-paced, (nearly) wifi-free lifestyle that includes early bedtimes and a ton of reading. Whenever I do need to use the wifi, I hike up the hill to the castle ruins and sit in the garden, using the very slow but free wifi that is provided there (a handy hint to future teaching assistants: if you ever need wifi, just go to the nearest castle and you are sure to find some there). I’m hopeful that I’ll be better connected and less cut off from the world fairly soon, but until then, this laidback rural lifestyle is quite the experience and alright with me.
Bisous from the middle of nowhere,