When we first moved to the Atlanta area we were kind of isolated in both the physical sense and with social connections. We knew some of the neighbors and we saw people at work but being far out of the city had its disadvantages. The first weekend dinner group that we joined was called Out in the Country to give you an idea of our remote location. It took a few years after that to discover another social group for us that actually had Georgia’s capital city’s name in its title. Luckily, within two weeks of moving to Carcassonne we were part of a discussion group and after this past weekend’s Rendez-vous des Associations, things are looking even brighter.
Carcassonne has a lot of city squares where a variety of cultural activities are held. Last weekend, square Chenier, up by the train station and the Canal-du-Midi, was pulsating with the music and dance of Spain in celebration of La Feria. This Saturday, in that same square, we were definitely back to France with an assemblage of about 150 of the city’s clubs and organizations, all hoping to add participants to their ranks. My guess is that about half of the booths and tables had something to do with playing sports: football (soccer), basketball, tennis, badminton, cycling, judo, archery, and petanque. We could join a club for stamp collecting, astronomy, quilting, chess, line dancing, singing, drum playing, or cooking. There were volunteer opportunities at the animal shelter, youth hostel, with senior citizen groups, and with disabled people.
This annual event, always scheduled right after the summer season ends and kids are back in school, is celebrated across the country. It seems to have sprung from a national legislative act in 1901 that officially recognized the contribution of non-profit organizations to the quality of life of French citizens and authorized some limited funding to groups that wanted to help their neighbors enjoy their surroundings. Considering the crowds we saw on Saturday morning shortly after the Mayor’s opening address, it appears that idea continues to be very popular.
While many of the clubs were tempting, Bill and I are going to start logically with the AVF, a nationwide organization whose goal is to help new arrivals, both French and us not-yets, assimilate into our adopted city. The annual membership fee is 30 euro per person that will give us access to a range of activities including lectures and visits to historic sites, sports activities, card and board games, and the all-important French language conversation and instructional classes. Another club that we joined when we first got here and look forward to more fun with is an English conversation class. Sure it’s easy for us but we’ve made such good friends with local French people learning our language we certainly want to continue.