Bonjour! Ça va?
Over the past three years, I have become quite accustomed to hostels. I enjoy the way they are set up, allowing travellers to easily interact with other travellers.
This time, however, I decided to try something new. Rather than pay for a hostel, I looked at both Couchsurfing and Airbnb. The former didn’t pan out, so I chose the latter.
I am happy to say that I made the right decision.
My Airbnb is a lovely home located in Northeast Philly. The neighborhood is very nice and safe for walking, as long as one stays away from Kensington. My bedroom walls are covered in Scripture, as are the walls of the house.
My hosts are Jean Claude and Anne, who are both fluent in French. Anne’s sister, Ariet Martine, has visited frequently. She is a French teacher and has been helping me with strengthening my own French. We had an incredible conversation last night lasting around five or six hours, with the first half in French and the second half in English.
Jean Claude is a professor of francophone and religious studies, primarily Catholicism. He is from Côté d’Ivoire (the Ivory Coast) and lived in France after running for his life. Jean Claude penned articles against his country’s dictatorship (he says he was a writer, not a journalist) that greatly upset the government. Had he not fled for France, he would have been murdered.
He stayed in France for six years, but was increasingly unhappy about the French government meddling in his country’s affairs. With a 10-year American visa previously acquired, Jean Claude decided it was easier to move to the US than England or Canada and has been here for several years. He has his citizenship interview set for Oct. 11.
His mother is getting very old and he would like to visit her. It will be safer for him to return once he has American citizenship. He has not been home for six years.
Anne hasn’t said much thus far, but she asks how I am doing and if I had a good day in French every time she sees me, which is wonderful.
Ariet Martine is an absolutely marvelous woman who does not look anywhere near her age. She and her sister are from Cameroon and lived in France for a time, though Anne did not meet Jean Claude until they were both in Philly. Martine’s own husband is also Cameroonian.
She has two children: 28-year-old Gloria who works at the World Bank in D.C. and her 33-year old son (whose name I can’t recall at present) living in Texas. They moved to the US 12 years ago. Gloria was very shy and introverted and hated school because she didn’t know a word of English. Martine prayed with her that God would send just one person. That person turned out to be Gloria’s French teacher, who has become a second mother to her, never misses a graduation and still keeps in touch to this day.
Martine lives in York, a half-hour drive from Lancaster. While her brother-in-law is Catholic, she and her sister are both Protestant Christians. She grew up in the faith, but did not become born again until staying with her host family in Germany when she was 17. She said they confronted people who were racist towards her and treated her as their own daughter. Their love for Christ shone so brilliantly that it amazed her.
Martine’s and Anne’s mother still lives in Cameroon, though many members of their family are scattered. She, too, does not look her age. Martine informed me that there are two sides of Cameroon, due to its colonialist history. The country was invaded by the Nazis and then divided up amongst Britain and France after the war. Martine is from the French side. The English-speaking side and the French-speaking side are currently at war with each other, a war that she has declared is truly horrible. People are dying every day.
I told her one of my closest friends is from Cameroon and I am glad to learn more about the country.
I am staying in an extremely diverse area. I was able to practice a bit of my Spanish at a couple of food shops. I believe one was Mexican, as it was full of products made in Mexico and the shop owners spoke Spanish; the other I am unsure of, since some products were from Costa Rica.
I didn’t speak Spanish until I heard the owners speak Spanish. Otherwise, they could have easily been English speakers only.
This experience, along with many others, has solidified my belief that people (specifically Americans) should try to learn at least one language other than their own.
I also highly recommend Airbnb the next time you’re looking to get away.
A p r i l D a w n
Writer and video editor with a passion for history, culture, food. Often seen creating pictorial etchings. Music blogger for Dreaming Human. Past writings can be found in the Cork Independent and on the website magazine Forever Twenty Somethings.