It is eleven at night. I have curled into my temporary bed and have begun reflecting on today’s adventure! It is simpler here. The air is softer, the people are more gentle, and life appears to be easier. There is still light remaining as the sun refuses to say goodbye to this beautiful city. I understand its reluctance. I will be at arms when it is my time to leave.
At the memorial for the 29th and 32nd divisions located in Normandy’s oldest building, l’eglise de Madeleine, our guide mentioned the courage it must have taken for a soldier to die on foreign soil. Before I got here, I too shared the same thought. However, I have been here two days and am beginning to understand why someone would be willing to die for it. This place is filled with a captivating beauty that is both mesmerizing and addictive. The grass is greener, the fruit is sweeter. Normandy is, in fact, a place of enchantment.
Offering a homeless man five euros or any money for that matter is not something that is new to me. However, when I decided to give this man money I did not expect the memory I obtained. After he accepted my money he told me to follow him. With kind eyes and a gentle demeanor, I reluctantly followed. As we climbed the side steps to the side of the church, he began asking if I spoke French. I responded with my usual phrase: “je ne parle pas bien mais je comprends.” He smiles again, showing his dated teeth and I can see the holes in his hat. I was too busy thinking of how he is cold and he will only get colder once summer is over and he has holes in his hat and what if he only had one and he cannot get anoth- we enter through the door. He explains he had a cadeau pour moi and he pushes a box out of the way to hand me a religious pamphlet explaining the importance of church. He shook my hand and went back to asking for money.
Sitting around a campfire, à sandwich de mouton dans mon main, I am fumbling over my words and trying my hardest to piece together the many conjugations, tongue tied on the hard, guttural “r’s” and the softer, crisper “s”. I did not know until today, I had been pronouncing the phrase “conduire” as “con-d-oui-re” only to have about five French students correct me “con-d-oui”. Their mouths contorting to form pieces of words I did not have the heart or knowledge to tell them I would not remember. For three hours, these students listened to me speak broken, choppy, ugly French and still laughed along with me and helped me to understand.
As I was about to leave, I met Yesmine. A flower child, similar in thought and style, trying her best to speak English. Excited to meet me and to learn more about the world, she pulled me to the side, offered me les bisous, and began discussing “good vibes”. I am 3048 miles away from the only home I have known and yet in that moment I had never felt more at home. These people share an untapped understanding for the world around them. They are appreciative and patient and understanding. As far as I am concerned, they are the best company to keep.
Roaming the streets of Bayeux, I am lost. I have been searching, without success, for an ATM. I just need enough euros for a few postcards and a coffee. Against my better judgement, I muster the nerve to ask for directions. An older woman wearing a scarf and stripes, quickly begins explaining, the eloquent pace at which she keeps is too much for my five year understanding of French. All I can muster is ” je ne comprend pas,” to save us both the trouble she grabs my hand and drags me three blocks to where the post office is located. It is this type of hospitality that gives me hope for the future.