Saturday, June 20, 2009

Remember that time I herded sheep?

A coworker invited me over for dinner last night. It's the first time she's invited me over, and out of the 20ish people I work with, she's only the fourth to invite me over to her house. She had a bunch of friends coming over too, the family of one of my current students, and the family of one of my former students, so that was kind of cool.

As it turns out, the family of my former student owns a large farm up on a hill above the tiny village. They not only own fields, but also animals, including sheep, which needed to be brought into the barn from the pasture for the evening. The dad needed some help, so my coworker's daughter, her friend, and I were recruited to go help herd the sheep into the barn.

A farm linked to an abbey was first built on the site back in the 5th century. The entire farm was destroyed during fighting along the Chemin des Dames during WWI; it was being used as a hospital for wounded soldiers, and when the Germans discovered it they bombed it. It was rebuilt in the 1930s. The view is gorgeous:

These are some of the sheep we had to herd

Over to this barn

It started out okay. The other girls and I had to try to keep the sheep assembled along the path behind my student's father and not wander off into the grain and the tractors. At first most of the herd followed my student's father into the barn, but there were about six stragglers that kind of wandered around confusedly and then went back into the pasture. When they finally came out of the pasture they ran all over the yard, into the tractors, into the grain.... but they were finally pushed towards the now reopened barn dooor ... and all the sheep we had already driven in ran back out again! Now we really had our work cut out for us, rounding up all the sheep who were wreaking havoc in the yard.

My student's father trying to round up rebellious sheep

After running around after the sheep, which included getting them unstuck from behind farm equipment (luckily that wasn't my job!) we finally got them all more or less willingly into the barn, with the door firmly shut.

I don't think I have much of a future as a sheep herder, but it was pretty fun, and I would do it again if needed!

The dinner itself was nice, although I was definitely the odd wheel among a group of people who were all married with children ranging from 15 to 3 years old, but it was a nice evening.

My coworker drove me back again afterwards, and in the car she of course asked me if I had a good time and all, and then she says "yes, I've wanted to invite you over for a while because I know it must be hard to make friends in France, and you're so far away from your family."

Seriously? I've already been here for two years, my contract is over in ten days, and now she's worried about me making friends and being lonely? Sheesh. I have gotten used to the fact that the French are very private people and aren't prone to inviting strangers over just to "make them feel welcome" like we do in the US, but I will never understand it.


shannon said...

Sounds like an interesting evening!

I found that I had to just invite myself over if I ever wanted a meal/coffee/etc with someone. I started doing that with one of the English teachers near the end. Unfortunately, she received a placement in her home region of Auvergne (finally enough points!), so it'll be difficult to hang with her next year.

You know, after two years, and Claude always promising me things like dinners and such, I finally saw the inside of his house... my last day in Chauny!

Katie said...

That was quite an evening you had!

To this day, the second year of being an assistant, not one teacher invited me over to dinner. I'm one of the few assistants who has never been invited to dinner. I still don't get it. I feel like I'm friendly and funny at the schools and invites. So I stopped waiting.
oh well!

au soleil levant said...

Shannon - I think that if the people I work with were always saying things like "I would really like to have you over for dinner" and just not following through on it, then I would have tried to force them to follow through on it, but it would be kind of awkward to just force myself on people who have busy lives and kids and things. And we know how weird Claude is anyway. :)

Katie - that is super weird. Maybe the teachers assume that because you have a boyfriend you are always busy and would resent them taking you away from him?

I know I've read about how private the home is to the French - I mean, just think about all the gates and hedges and fences and shutters they have vs. us. I think they consider it sort of a violation of their private time to invite people over, and they wouldn't expect us to do it if they went to the US. They would probably find us just as weird for constantly inviting over foreigners just to be "friendly" and "nice."

Mary Community Farm Kitchen said...

sheep are not very smart and are therefore hard to herd. but at least they're small. consider cows (lively, young cows!) as an alternative... :-)

Zhu said...

That's quite a cool place!

For some reason, I think Canadians are more shy than French about having people over. Here, most of the time, we go out for a drink, for a meal etc. I have rarely been to someone's else house, other than to pick them up or something like that.

But in France, we used to have diners have each others' home all the time.

au soleil levant said...

Hi Mary! Actually I was thinking cows would be easier, probably because I am used to them. I am not used to sheep. But the farmer seemed to appreciate the fact that in English we talk about people who just follow as being "sheep." He said "yeah, sheep are the same all over the world!"

Zhu - that's very interesting to know about Canadians. Now I'm wondering if it's some kind of weird combination of anglo and franco culture. We welcome foreigners/newcomers, just not to our homes...