The last several days have been a whirlwind of adventures, so I hope you are all ready for a flurry of blog posts!
I began noting things that were different for me in France–things that were a sort of culture shock for the better or worse. Some of the things are physical differences, like busses being super clean or dogs often going off leash even in the city, while other things are related to manners, like saying “bonjour” to everybody all the time (when you are on a walk, when you walk in a store, when you check out at the grocery store, when you get on a bus…). I also barely speak French, so a lot of the time I feel adrift at sea because of the language difference.
So naturally (or because I am still a little sleep deprived and out of my element) I was chalking up my occasional lack of understanding to either the culture shock or the language barrier. But I realized something when I ended up quite confused while speaking English to someone last week.
Even when using the same language, culture shapes our thoughts and expectations and experiences, which all shape the way we speak and use words.
So with my cultural background, a walk means strolling around the neighborhood for half an hour–or maybe if I am somewhere new and exciting a walk might mean exploring for an hour or two, or if I am somewhere not so much in the city a walk might involve some nature.
If a French person asks you to go for a “walk,” question them. They don’t mean a “walk” even though they use the word “promenade,” which sounds like it means a beautiful and casual stroll under the stars.
At least in this part of the country, at least with my host family and the people I have met, whether using the French word “promenade” or the English word “walk,” they mean something much for adventurous and sporty than I do.
So when I was asked to go for a “walk” in the mountains last Friday morning, I was like YES PLEASE! It was a day off of school for a bank holiday and I crave ways to escape the typical tourist things when I am abroad. I was told to wear good shoes, and I was thinking that my very supportive athletic sandals should be perfect, particularly since I neglected to bring sneakers. My host family was skeptical of me, but a walk is a walk, right? Even if you happen to be in some mountains.
We hopped in the car and drove about 15 minutes, heading up into the mountains next to Lake Annecy. As we climbed the mountain on a narrow road with hairpin turns, we continued to pass viewing points, and I continued to think we were about to arrive. Not to be the annoying foreign girl sitting in the back of the car complaining about not reaching the destination, I did not want to ask where we were going or how long it would take–so I waited, thinking time after time that we had arrived.
Eventually we parked and got out of the car. The view was stunning, and again, I assumed we would walk up to the actual viewing point before walking along the road or returning to the car to go elsewhere. But no, we walk/hiked along the road and off the road on a sort of hiking path. Don’t worry, my shoes were perfectly fine 😛
After about an hour on the mountain we headed back to the car, and headed off to our second destination. They described it to me as a natural area at the end of the lake–which makes sense grammatically and everything, but now I was so skeptical about what they meant by “natural” that I was half excited, half concerned about what I had gotten myself into!
Turns out the natural area was a Nature Reserve to protect the natural plants and animals of the area as well as to protect the health of the lake, which relies on water from the streams running down from the mountains and into the lake on this side. Also the paths within the nature reserve were more along the lines of what I mean when I say “a walk” so it really wasn’t too challenging to keep up even with my lack of athletic skills.
Also this portion of the day in particular was a stop-every-few-feet-to-take-another-picture kind of walk, which is exactly how I prefer to do things! I got some great pictures, even with my lowly iPhone 6 camera and pathetic photography skills >_<
The one thing I want to point out before I let you look at the pictures in peace: the white flowers are actually wild garlic! People here cook with both the fragrant flowers and the garlic bulbs that develop underneath–and the floor of the forest was literally covered with them. Because of this, our entire walk smelled of garlic (a sharp contrast to the smell of cow feces up at the top of the mountain!)