La mère est la lumière de la famille

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I’ve always heard that a mom is what makes a home for a family…and it’s absolutely true with my host family in Paris!

Last night, Marie Christine, the mother of my host family, arrived home from her Worldwide Wildlife Fund (WWF) trip to China. I was eager to meet her and talk about our mutual interest in sustainable development and international travel. I was excited to learn that she also works with Michelin (my summer internship will be with Michelin’s Global Leadership Program) and she studied at the University of Salamanca, Spain (as did I in the summer of 2011).

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Source: environmentallysound.wordpress.com

When she arrived, it became clear to me that la mère est la lumière de la famille. Marie Christine truly lit up the home the minute she walked in. Lights literally turned on, and the energy in the home went from somber to cheerful with her presence. She joined us for dinner and talked about her trip to China. Her daughter, my host sister (Marine), was stressed about university exams, as are many of the French university students this week (Quick side note: Your grades determine whether or not you can get free university education in France!). Marie Christine tried to cheer up Marine by giving her a Panda teddy bear which was her favorite animal.

While eating homemade carrot and cheese soup (or as my French translation understands), whitefish, liche fruit, and yogurt, we discussed (in French) our time since Marie Christine was away. I explained that I enjoyed my first week in Paris, and was adapting to the metro system, having classes completely in French, and learning about history everywhere I looked. Marie Christine comforted me by saying I can ask the family to slow down in French so that I can understand. She also clarified any questions I had in English. My host dad (Alexandre) talked about his busy week as an ENT surgeon, although he didn’t go into much detail. Marine discussed her exams and how she thought it was crazy that her fitness class was of equal importance to her other management classes. My first few dinners were just with Alexandre and Marine, where we ate lots of good food (cheese, bread, pasta, avocados, salmon, chicken, and did I say cheese and bread?!) and had brief conversations. I was surprised by the brevity, given the stereotype of long mealtimes in France, but we started eating after 9pm and had early mornings, so it made sense. With the arrival of Marie Christine, though, we spent much more time talking, reflecting, and relaxing. I could tell that Alexandre and Marine were grateful she was back home.

Despite experiencing jet lag, Marie Christine woke up early this morning with her husband. I was surprised to see her and asked her, “aren’t you tired?” She said, “it’s nice to eat breakfast with someone.” How selfless and sweet of her to join her husband for breakfast! I also asked her if I could be late to dinner today because I have a “meet and greet” with my school, and she said “no problem! In our house, there are no problems, just solutions.” What an optimistic mindset that I think could benefit many of us.

While drinking N’Espresso (addicting!) and eating toast with strawberry confiture and fresh fromage, we briefly discussed her work at WWF and how she would work from home today. She described that she loves her job and never feels the need to complain about it. I immediately thought of what I read by Elizabeth Gilbert about planning our lives to include a job, hobby, vocation, and career. Elizabeth Gilbert explains the definitions here and reminds us that they may not always be interchangeable. We must include our job, hobby, vocation, and career when making our decisions for today and the future. Based on Marie Christine’s positive energy, I have a feeling that she balances all of these components of life. I am excited to have the opportunity to learn from her over the next few months. I hope that I can be la lumière pour ma famille en la future.

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