So back to my horror story part II. I think I left you at the night before when we were drowning our sorrows with cheap French red wine and cursing Johan to the depths of Hell… sound about right? Ok, then to continue on: Hazel decided to do some last resort apartment/villa searching on the net and found a couple places but we could not be sure if they were already taken so we did not get that excited. There was one in particular that when we saw the picture of the place, we laughed out loud. We decided to message the guy just for kicks, because seriously what are the odds that we would get an answer to our prayers in less than one day, before we were doomed to sign the contract with Johan? (Turns out he didn’t have a way to print out the contracts and called to say that he may have to have us sign the next day, Sunday so he could go to the city and get them printed) So the next morning arrives, at 7 o’clock and we had stayed up a little bit last night to fall asleep watching Juno to try to cheer us up a bit… I think we ended up going to sleep around three. So when I awoke I decided I would just start the day like it was on purpose, why not? So I brewed us some coffee (we had been drinking the hazelnut blend that I got from Bay Village on TJ’s beach trip this summer and it was very tasty!) and started blasting U2’s “Beautiful Day.”  I would have torn open the curtains but they were already parted and the sun was fiercely streaming through the glass. We started cleaning, called the residence to see if we could get the place in Juan les pins for a week but they would not pick up at the desk. We figured they were probably checking people out of their rooms like they were about to be doing to us in countdown: 02:29 hours. So Sasha and Olga packed and left some of their belongings with Hazel and I while they took their first load to the bus stop to secure the residence in Juan les Pins. Luckily, Olga had gotten her French phone the day before so we could keep in contact. So Hazel and I went to work cleaning the room and the kitchen, bathroom and balcony and finish JUST as they inspector guy comes through the door. Ok, maybe he came in and told us we had 5 minutes to get all our suitcases out.  So we piled everything right outside the door and he approved of the cleanliness of the room and gave back our security deposit. So Hazel and I lugged down the rest of our baggage plus Sasha’s many travel items and second suitcase.

So as we waited on the corner next to a mountain of luggage awaiting a call of success from our other party of two, an unexpected thing happened. We were blessed in meeting someone amazing and also very sweet.  A dearly aged gentleman pulls up in his car and notices us sitting there with all out belongings and asks in French if we are waiting for someone. We try to the best of our French-speaking abilities to describe our situation and he smiles as we tell him about our friends who we expect to return with good news. He then gives us a Palmier pastry (the one affectionately called “elephant ears”) that he had just picked up from a pastry shop and said that we must be hungry. We say “No, no we are fine!” but he insists with a gentle smile. We realize that in all our recent misfortune we have become a bit emotionally numb and are furthermore startled to receive such a simple yet unbelievably kind gesture. It is a very warm feeling that flows through you when you are bestowed with such selflessness that you can’t help but stand there in awe. We then notice that he has a basket of food in the seat of his car and several more in the back and is about to attempt to carry them all himself. We instantly hurry to his side and ask to help him take his purchases to his room and he obliges, saying “Merci. Vous êtes très gentile, très très gentile. Merci, merci,” and I leave it this way, in the beauty of the language and the moment but it translates to “Thank you. You are both very sweet, so very sweet.” And we help him to his room and then back towards his car when he pricks his finger on a thornbush and starts bleeding! What is strange is that earlier when sitting with just the two of us we had been too tired to even get some lotion out of a bag, but all of a sudden we find ourselves leaping forward with energy, scattering the contents of our suitcases upon the road just to find this sweet soul a bandage for his finger. Ha ha ha =)  He then offers us a ride to our destination but we have just received a message from Olga saying that by the grace of God and all that is Holy that they were able to book the residence and were thus on their way over to us. We politely decline and so he bids farewell with a sweep of his hand from his lips out to us and away as he drives off.

So Hazel and I are filled with this strange joyful energy and suddenly life is not so bad and our bones don’t ache as much, we feel light and bubbly. We start to talk about gestures of kindness and character and why are we here, in this place, now. I confess a few of my real reasons for coming to France and Hazel tells me a little bit more about her life, and her journeys to Cambodia and Vietnam.  She showed me pictures of the most beautiful scenery at water’s edge – the sun just dipping down beneath the clouds into the ocean, casting a grey-blue haze over the sea of fishing boats that seem to lay still in eerie silence. She tells me about her travels into the markets when she would sit down around a cookpot with other Vietnamese villagers and watch the man tending fire reach his hand into a bucket and take a handful of a meat  (and not the parts you are used to eating) and drop them into the pot. She says he then offered her the most unusual parts- such as cow’s brain, small intestines, large intestines- and stared at her with a smirk on his face, watching closely for her expressions. Of course, she ate whatever he gave her, in a “bring it on” sort of way. She said it was pretty unsanitary, yet it tasted pretty good. She then told me about how when walking along the streets she would see many children who were missing limbs, had extra ones – all these children who had been affected by Agent Orange in the Vietnam war. Instead of going to school, most of their parents would make them go out to the streets to get pity money from foreigners, so they learned the art of selling… anything, exceptionally well. For instance, there was one boy who called out to hazel in almost perfect English, (which they pick up from listening to the foreigners who pass through) saying “Miss, would you like to buy a book? Come on, you know you want to” and Hazel would reply “But no, I don’t” and the little boy said “What if I could name all the provinces of Canada?” And she thought about it and said “If you can name them all, then yes I will buy a book from you.” He listed them all off rapid-fire, impressing everyone around him. He retained all this just from learning from the travellers who pass through. If only he could go to school… and there are schools there, apparently it’s just that the parents will get more money from what their kids bring home than from sending them to school.  It is so interesting to listen to people and their stories… especially about travelling… I would love to keep travelling and learn as much as I can, experience as much as I can. Hazel has four years on me, but she has seen a lot – listening to her really makes me want to get out there too. You only have one life to live, right?

  Oh, P.S.?  About our dear kind friend? He was Italian.

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