Ch. 9 – Letters from home
September 5, 1984
Guess I should be writing this in French, but I’m in a hurry. Hope you are settled in and having fun – also hope you are at work learning enough French to say NO! to the wrong questions.
I am keeping busy and trying to get caught up. I had a call yesterday from your “pest’s” father – he really called your mother – Guess he is going to call everybody. I tried to call him last night but missed. I’ll get that taken care of today. I haven’t heard from the guy with the other car problem but I have that pretty well taken care of.
I stopped in Metairie yesterday and left your loan application. It is being processes, and I am calling USL this week. There have been some changes in the program, so this may drag out for a while. Don’t plan on a whole lot out of this: I believe that $1000 per semester is max. I’ll know soon.
I have worked into a pretty good deal with Pelican Oil and the client that I got from Sandpiper Oil looks like a couple of weeks work this month at $200 per day, so that will help. Things are looking up!
The maid was out yesterday and she is ready to pack up your closet. She also wants to clean the bathroom cabinets out. Guess I’ll try to get her to come work one day a week on the packing routine. I can’t see the house selling quickly, but I might at well get prepared.
Pablo called on Sunday, and was very nice. He and I are going to try to get together sometime and compare notes. I will try to keep in touch with the gang at El Torito and others and report from time to time – in case they don’t.
I haven’t heard from Elaine and there is not much news- besides, I don’t want to write a great deal as I am not sure this will get through. Keep in touch and have a good time. Don’t worry about cash – it will work out.
September 3, 1984
I guess by the time you get this, you will be completely settled! I’m going to try to write often. Who knows? Maybe this will get me into a letter-writing habit. I might even write to your grandparents.
We had a relatively pleasant Labor Day (do they have Labor Day in France?). Some people came over and we had worlds of food. Someone made three pies and I had a piece of each.
I put a brisket in the oven last night and set the oven at 200 degrees. It seemed like a good plan to your Aunt Mary and me. This morning, it was slightly overcooked – like a ½ inch thick charred crust! I don’t think that my blackened brisket will give K-Paul’s blackened redfish any competition! I was able to salvage about ½ of it and made barbecue. Mary went out and bought a ham to augment it.
Elaine came by last night and said that she had moved in – with Richie. I’m really not too wild about the idea, but there’s not a whole lot I can do. I’m concerned about Richie not telling his parents. From what Elaine said about them, they will heartily disapprove. Elaine is going to the house tomorrow to work with the maid on your room, etc. We are having an Open House in two weeks – hope we get some prospects.
I don’t know what we are going to do about the car. I just found out from your father that there was no insurance on it. I had planned to pay the deductible and get it fixed. Elaine my drive it while you’re gone, but I feel she should pay something as long as she’s not in school – I am going to talk to her about it tomorrow. It will cost $392 just to get the light and grill fixed. Nothing is simple.
Your father found a home for Chelsea with one of the next-door neighbors’ ex-daughter-in-law. She has an eight-year-old and a fenced yard. It sounds like an ideal home for her. If it is the girl I think it is, she really seems to care for animals. I’m sure you can go visit when you get back.
I know that you are going to have a wonderful year. I really admire you for having the intestinal fortitude to commit to going. I know how scary it must be, but it might help you to remember that there are 20 some-odd others with you that are having the same feelings.
I hope you got some sleep on the plane. I know that you must have been exhausted. Elaine said that you didn’t leave until midnight or so. That was really probably best for you to stay up so you could confuse your body clock. I know my mind is really confused about the time.
P.S. – Remember to bathe and to shave under your arms! See you Christmas!
P.P.S. – Don’t marry a Frenchman!
Addendum – (9/7/84) Enjoyed talking to you, but I was excited and didn’t get to ask some of the questions that I wanted to:
1. Who’s your roommate?
2. How was your flight and how long was it?
3. What is your room like?
4. What is the best time (yours and mine) for me to call and give me your phone number!
I had supper with Elaine and Richard last night while washing clothes. Their apartment looks cute. Elaine is sporting an engagement ring. At least that’s encouraged her to remove all other rings from conquests! (no more “notches”) Write!
September 6th, 1984
Guess you are already in France and busy trying to find the things you have to have and wondering what in the world you are going to do with the rest. Hope you had a nice flight. What airline did you fly on?
When we were in France the whole tour got sick and we did not get a chance to see very much. I hope you stay well and take very good care of yourself. We love you and wish you a wonderful experience.
Rita and Tim
Ch. 10 – Letter to the Grandparents
I made it a point to check the mail bin at the CIDEF regularly (obsessively?). I was so happy to have mail. The first month flew by. One of the highlights of the pre-stage was that excursions were planned to tourist sites within driving distance of Angers. I bowed out of the first excursion, the son et lumiere at the Chateau Lude. Sound and light shows are given at night, and I was much too sick to sit out in the already cool weather. I did make the other excursions, though.
I wanted to make sure that I was a good correspondent, and spent a lot of time writing postcards and sending letters. My grandparents in Texas especially coveted letters. Rita and Tom were my mother’s parents. The story goes that my grandfather, macho ranchman that he was, didn’t cotton to the idea of being called “Grandpa.” Instead, he insisted that his grandchildren call him by his first name, Tim. My grandmother then had no choice other than to let us call her Rita. She certainly wasn’t going to be the elder one – “Grandma” and Tim would sound too silly.
September 19, 1984
Dear Rita and Tim,
Yes, I got to France in one piece. Angers is a beautiful town. It’s much larger than I thought it would be, but maybe it only looks that way because the buildings are so close together, and the population seems so concentrated in one place. In Lafayette, things are more spread out! There are two beautiful churches and all sorts of gardens everywhere. There’s even a castle only three blocks away from my dorm! It’s huge and very medieval looking. It’s fun walking around town – and good exercise, too. I’ve lost about 6 pounds since I’ve been here.
Aside from our tuition, room and board, several excursions have been paid for by my scholarship. So far, we have visited Mont St. Michel and the Chateaux of the Loire. The Mont St. Michel was truly spectacular. It’s an abbey and a cathedral built on an island, which resembles a big rock in the ocean. There’s a touristy town built on the rest of the available space, but it really is a spectacular sight.
On that same excursion, we visited St. Malo, a resort on the English Channel. It was beautiful and the sun was out and shining. I walked around the ramparts above the old city, which is walled in. I also went down to the beach where we walked out onto a jetty that led to a lighthouse. From there, you could see all of the little rocky islands, some of them with little buildings on them. One of the islands has a fort on it and, at low tide, you can walk out to it. That day, I didn’t chance it – I had this vision of the tide coming in, trapping me on the island and making me miss the tour bus.
We also took a tour of the Chateaux of the Loire. We went by bus and passed by a lot of chateaux, seeing them from the outside. We only actually stopped and visited three of them. Believe me – that was plenty! I was exhausted after touring the interior and gardens of just the first one! We visited Azay le Rideau, Chenonceau, and Chambord. Azay le Rideau was very pretty – it is built over water, so it looks like it is in the middle of a moat! The turrets were so beautiful! Chenonceau was a castle I’ve always wanted to see, and it was super! The gardens were really magnificent and the castle is built over the River Cher (cher means “dear” in French!) – it looked like a fairy castle!
I was also impressed by Chambord. It is the largest of the Chateaux and has 440 rooms! The extensive grounds are now used as a park and game preserve. There is also a big old-fashioned stable where people can keep their horses. We saw several people riding horses and driving teams of horses in front of carriages. I went to the stables and fed a few horses some sugar cubes I swiped from a café. I even talked with one of the grooms (in French, of course!)
Next weekend, we are going to see the monoliths of Carnac and the seaside resort of Morbihan in Brittany. But, for now, we have schoolwork. Today, I gave an oral presentation about Texas in front of my conversation class. Everyone was interested and surprised that life there was not like that on “Dallas” – that TV show is the only reference that many Europeans have of Texas! My teacher told me that I did a good job because I drew a map of Texas on the board, I had pictures to show the class, and I knew a lot about the different regions (I should, shouldn’t I? I was born there, after all!)
I also have a special class called Enquete. In enquete, we have to pick a topic and research it by interviewing the citizens of Angers. Some people did their projects on Cointreau (it’s made right here!). They visited the distillery, and even were given tiny bottles of liqueur! Some of my classmates interviewed the French about the change in the vice-presidency, asking how they felt about it. I am doing mine on – are you ready? – THE DOGS OF ANGERS. Seriously. I noticed how many dogs there are, and they are allowed everywhere – restaurants, banks, department stores… I’ll report back to you with my results.
Y’all take care of yourselves. I’m going to try and write as often as possible. Until my next letter, au revoir!