Today, I noticed I am halfway through my stay, and I… well, honestly I don’t really want to think about it. I also noticed I haven’t written in a while. Coincidently, I recently stumbled upon an experience I find “bien bon” to recount.

I might briefly add that this is not my only exciting or notable experience since I arrived, but perhaps the one that can say the most in a single moment.

This week is “semaine A;” I start school at 9:30 a.m.

The bus to get me to school on time at this hour is a bit unreliable. The bus is scheduled to leave at 9:15 a.m., and allows for a perfect amount of time to get to our class “tranquille.” However, if it is late, if the driver takes too long to smoke his cigarette or drink an espresso, well, then we are either running to class, or late.

This Wednesday, though, there wasn’t even a bus.

I made my way to the bus, and since I was the last to leave the house, I knew I absolutely couldn’t miss my bus. As I approached the corner store that’s on the route to the bus stop, I neared a mademoiselle walking in the opposite direction. The habitual smile appeared and I said “bonjour.”

She asked if I took the bus at 9:15 a.m. and then explained that there was another “grève de bus”, (a strike) so the buses wouldn’t be running again until it was time to return home from school. Well shoot. How was I going to manage? But of course, how could I forget? Not only I am in southern France where the people are nothing but sweet and the regional culture is strong, but I was in the best little village of the province: Bernis!

Not long after presenting me with the bad news she turned the whole situation around by offering to taking me my high school herself. Not previously warned about the grève, she had been planning on the bus to get her to her own school at a college in Nimes, and Milhaud was on the way.

“That would be awesome if you could!” is somewhere along the lines of my reply.

From there we continued together in full conversation to her house and little red car that “bugged.” She commented on my accent, once the worries about the greve were set aside, and asked where I was from. I started my story, and from there we weren’t shy on discourse material. By the end of the 10 minute drive to school, I was filled with delight. Not only had this new comrade listened to what I had to say, and was fully engaged to what I had to say, but she continuously complimented my French. My spirits were definitely lifted.

After hanging out with friends that love to give me a hard time about my language skills, and a Brazilian exchange student that is about three times better at French as I, her comments were very much welcomed!

It was an introduction into the fourth stage of my cultural exchange, the “sunny side.”

I would say it was a miracle I ran into her and for the ride to school, but honestly with all the warmth surrounding this town, I don’t think all hope would have been lost without having found her. However, it did make things easier and definitely gave me a story to recount. Additionally, I have no doubt this memory and experience will stay with me well beyond my return home.

***

Two days later I ran into her again. While in conversation she revealed that the first time she saw me, her first impression was that I was French. Hearing my accent, she had just wondered from where I was from in France.

A big smile lit up my face, and I guess all the teasing towards my accent has really just been a bit of affection.