On American Hospitality

09 July 2014

The French aren’t the most warm, welcoming people in the world; I don’t believe anyone would argue with that gross generalization, even the French themselves.  They just aren’t, and I knew that going there, but it was still a little bit surprising for this American who has lived in the more-than-welcoming and extremely warm climate (not just in temperature!) of Africa for the last five years.

The place I felt the most welcome? Among foreigners, of course. This is not surprising, but at the same time, it was a similar experience to that of short-term volunteers on the Africa Mercy - who often say they feel they can’t connect, that there’s an attitude among long-term crew that if you’re only here a short time, you’re not worth the investment of my time in relationship. 

Anyhow, one of my favorite memories of my time in France? The crazy Americans I found myself saying Yes to one day on a park bench and in the process made two lovely friends and sweet memories filled with laughter and joy.

Back to the beginning.

I was sitting on a park bench overlooking the beach one afternoon after class, studying my French notebook, when these two guys came and sat down next to me.  I smiled but returned to my book, when they started talking and it was obvious one of them was an American.  After a few minutes, he turned to me and asked in broken French if I would take their picture – to which I replied, in English, yes of course, where are you from? They were from New York and we chatted for a solid ten minutes when they asked if I wanted to go out to dinner with them that night. 

So here I interject – I’m not accustomed to saying yes to strange men in a foreign country, but these guys seemed really great, and I sensed the need to just say yes and not worry about silly things like sleep.  And really, if truth be told, I could probably take them both out if needed.  So I said yes.

And we went out to dinner that night and had So. Much. Fun.   
First we wandered around Bayone, which is beautiful.  We were headed to a restaurant that the guys knew the owner. We were not disappointed!
The wine they gave us was Antonio Banderas's label, and he gave us a picture, too. 
The guys (in the jean jacket and the aqua sweatshirt) can make friends with anyone at anytime, I think.  The others in this photo were random people at a different table that joined in the conversation and picture taking.  
Guy was really excited about the Antonio Banderas photo :) 
The food was incredible and so was the atmosphere.  I think just about every person that was in the restaurant was a part of our conversation at some time or another.
A couple days later we went out for ice cream together just before the guys left.  You can just see the park bench on the right of this photo where we met :) Thanks guys for being awesome, warm, welcoming Americans.  Also, let me know when you plan your next international travel adventure so I can insert myself on a park bench in the middle of it somewhere.  :)

It's interesting that in the days since then I've experienced the overwhelming graciousness of many foreigners, mostly Americans.  In talking with some non-American friends, one of the things they always say about visiting America is that the people are so great.  I'm glad we're known for that.

In other news, I'm heading off on the next adventure today; driving up to the north of Sweden, where the sun literally never sets, and will explore this gorgeous country a few more days. On Saturday I fly to England and Sunday I fly with a group of English doctors to Uganda to help with a pediatric anesthesia course for Mercy Ships. Will write more about that later - but expect quiet on the blog again for awhile. Thanks for your support, dear friends and family, couldn't do this without you!


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