There’s a term we learned in missionary training, “twang” which describes the feeling that you get when your expectations are different than the reality, it feels like a rubber band snapping on you. The degree of the twang, of course, all depends on how far your expectations were from reality.
We had been told by many of the missionaries on our team, who have gone to language school here in Albertville, to expect a hard year. I believed the hard year would mostly be due to the difficulty of language school and the less than encouraging mode of French education. But, I thought, we’ll be living in a small French town in the Alps, our time outside of school will be amazing!
And then we arrived, on a night that was so hot and muggy, the van pulled up on the side of a busy street and our apartment was pointed out to us, above a kabob shop bustling with young men. All our suitcases were unloaded and lugged up the dirty staircase to our 3rd floor apartment. The staircase also went down from the building’s entrance into a labyrinth of storage areas. I went to sleep thinking how I never wanted my kids coming in or out of our building on their own in fear of someone following them in and pulling them down the stairs. My first big twang.
The next twang was apartment living with children.
Anyone who know our son knows that words like quiet, still or boring would never be used to describe him. Biniyam has a big personality, he has a lot of ideas expressed in many words often at top volume. Biniyam and apartment living were a hard mix. He simply lives life loud, he shuts cabinets with a bang and bounces across the floor. And out of my mouth came constant correction for things that weren’t actually wrong, but just normal 7 year old boy noise ricocheting off the walls of our small space and being heard by the neighbors above and below us.
Through the fall and winter we went through our routine, getting home at around 5 PM, making dinner, eating, doing dishes by hand, hanging laundry around the living room to dry, kids homework, our homework, kids to bed, and then trying to convince Biniyam to go to sleep when he could hear any movement taking place in the apartment. We usually spent all day Saturday in the apartment studying and Sunday, our day off from studying, we’d be itching to escape the walls around us and we’d head out for a hike. In all of this Bini was getting way too much electronic time and way too little time playing outside.
Life outside our apartment was hard and uncomfortable due to all the French and cultural differences (and yes, there are many cultural differences) and life inside our apartment was difficult too. One of my friends here described it best when she told me “I have no place here that feels tranquil” and that was just it. Things weren’t bad and I felt petty complaining, but there was no place that felt tranquil, for even those lovely Sunday hikes in the Alps were accompanied by at least one grumbling child.
In January Greg and I were talking about all this when it occurred to me that there was a family who had left France early, and that they had lived in a house (rented by our school). So, we inquired, and found out that the house was sitting empty. We got the keys and went to see it, it had a yard, a dishwasher and a dryer! But the rent was more than what we paid for our apartment. We spent the night talking and praying about whether or not we should move. That night we got notified that we were getting another check, one we hadn’t expected, back from the sale of our house. The money we were getting back would cover the difference in rent for our months remaining in France. Praise God for great timing and for the comfortable home in which we’ve been living since mid January. It has made a huge difference in our enjoyment of daily life here in France. We now have a place that feels tranquil.
(the view from the Ella & Mekdes' room)
And Biniyam, he’s has been profiting well from our new pad.
Soon after we moved in we were able to host his birthday party in our yard, 10 active boys, 5 French, 5 American, doing an obstacle course, climbing trees and playing soccer.
How many Sunds can you find in this tree?