When you’re working it seems that there are always meetings to attend; sometimes so many and on such a regular weekly schedule that you can’t get your work done. The higher up the corporate ladder you go the more time you spend away from your desk and around a conference table giving and receiving information. Once you retire and have the luxury of choosing which meetings you will attend, that word takes on a whole new meaning with an emphasis on those first four letters—MEET—as in becoming acquainted with new people and that has definitely been true here.
The city of Carcassonne does a great job of promoting itself via social media including posting short videos of what has happened in town the previous week. From the US we were able to watch interviews, see inside of government buildings, sample concerts, listen to the mayor’s speeches, and feel as if we sitting in the audience. Bill and I had talked about one way to see and be seen around the city would be to go to as many of these meetings ourselves even though we weren’t going to understand a lot of what was being said. Considering that there is some kind of public event almost every day here, we’ve gotten off to a slow start but at least we have begun.
Every Tuesday night we help out at a class for French speakers learning English. We really just provide an American accent and sometimes answer a question or two from the students, but it’s interesting and we’ve made some nice local friends. The association that runs this school where we could learn to draw, paint, write, dance, or at least 50 other activities held their annual membership meeting and we decided to attend. Did we understand what was going on? Not so much, but our classmates were ready with quick translations and by the time we got to the wine table (where do we live?) everything was crystal clear.
When the homeowners’ association in our new neighborhood had their annual membership meeting we naturally wanted to go to that. To make sure that we could hear clearly we sat on the front row where the president, who lives a few doors away, recognized us and kindly made the effort to speak slowly and it paid off. We even understood their request for someone with a computer background to help them get a blog started and guess who said that he’d give them a hand. Since Bill got the blog that you’re reading set up for us, he might as well try it in French, oui?
The mayor of Carcassonne is clearly proud of his city and we’ve run into him on numerous occasions when he has been acting in an official capacity or simply shopping at the Saturday market. As new residents of the city, we were invited by the AVF: Accueil des Villes Françaises (we think of it as the “Welcome Wagon”) to a reception sponsored by city hall and in the photo above you see the mayor addressing the audience. What you don’t see is earlier when all of us “newbies” had to stand in front with that same microphone and introduce ourselves to the crowd with details of where we were from, why we chose Carcassonne, etc. I guess our efforts at speaking French went well enough since afterwards a reporter wanted to interview us and around the amply-filled refreshments table many of the group’s volunteers talked to us about all of the cultural, social, and educational opportunities the AVF has to offer. I already attend a weekly conversation and grammar class on Fridays, Bill is probably going to start with a different class on Tuesdays, and we both are thinking about the frequent walking and historic tours available. These are all of the kinds of MEET-ings that we now like to attend.