08 July 2014

Game nights

Instead of those languid summer days we had in Provence the past few summers or that I seem to remember from my own childhood, I've had an exceptionally full June and July.  My teaching schedule is much lighter and my kids are out of school, but those same kids seem to have more activities than ever, plus we had a French exchange student for a few weeks.  So, the food and organizational demands on this household have been much greater than ever before.  That said, over the past weekends, we haven't done anything too much out of the ordinary for a summer spent in the U.S.: some swimming, some shopping, some fishing, a summer solstice festival day in town, a World Cup and birthday party, a day trip to Mt. Rainier, and a 4th of July weekend on Hood Canal.  From our visitor's perspective, several of the activities were probably no different from the ones he and his family would participate in at home, such as the various summer festivals and day trips.

The big difference though is in the weekday activities this summer, especially the scheduled kids' activities that persist year-round in the U.S. In France, music lessons and sports trainings are on hiatus for the summer so the weekdays are much, much quieter.  Being inner city dwellers the past few summers in France, our only real recreational options on foot during the day were to the neighborhood pools or parks, which weren't that attractive, to be honest.  There wasn't much to do at the parks in the broiling heat, and the pool area wasn't even properly shaded.  (This summer, that same pool in Aix is closed for renovations, which I really find to be strange timing!  See my blogger friend's post on this at Aixcentric.com.)   Here in the U.S., we easily fill each summer weekday and evening with sports camps, trainings, music lessons, games and competitions.  Just this week, I've already driven a carpool to soccer camp, am attending two evening swim meets, and am sending a child off to a five day national soccer tournament in North Carolina. I am hoping to fit in a water aerobics class or two for myself, make some raspberry jam, and get to the grocery store again, before I collapse on the weekend!

Apparently, our U.S. style summer did not overwhelm our exchange student like I thought it might; his father reported that his son arrived home to Marseille this past weekend radiant and 'very pleased' by his visit to the U.S.  I think that our activity level here in the U.S. does appeal to many: we just don't sit still much around here. (I've commented earlier on my quieter and more reflective life in France: En famille Oct.2013, Un été en Provence Aug. 2013 )  Even unscheduled activities seem to be more engaging or involved here: musical jam sessions between the boys (our guest brought his saxophone, one of my sons plays piano and guitar) became recording sessions and mini jazz concerts for the rest of us, casual fishing off a dock became a game of how many can you catch, the lighting of an enormous pile of safe and sane fireworks (the only kind I buy) morphed into a late night teen campfire circle, and the pile of board games in our basement led to a few game nights à la façon Américaine.  The fireworks and the game nights were especially novel to our guest because such fireworks are interdict in France and playing board games en famille is just not a common activity.  Both ended up being great ways for our guest to practice English and for us to share how we spend our time here, in this family, in this community, in this society.  And that is what a cultural exchange is all about.

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