Monday, 26 September 2011


One way for us to integrate into our new community has been for us to volunteer to help out at the various events going on around here. This has not been as easy as we thought it would be, to say the least. There are different groups of volunteers involved in each event, each has their own clique and whilst they do need extra help from time to time, they are not screaming out for new regular people to join “their club”. Our attempts at volunteering have been hampered to some extent by our poor French (us misunderstanding what is being said and/or us failing to get our message across) by cultural differences in how things are done and organised in rural France compared to our previous manic Dutch world, but also by a natural suspicion within some in the organisations themselves. For instance when volunteering for one group we were told that we had to be paid-up members for at least a year before we could volunteer, the logic of that escaped me at the time, but the then president said “C’est normal”, well it may be normal in France but it comes across as pretty weird and unfriendly to two foreigners just trying to help. Not living inside the village of Chazelle itself and having no neighbours to
point the way and explain what’s going on, hasn’t helped either. So every two steps forward seemed to be met with one step backwards, but over the last 12-18 months all our chickens have come home to roost with a vengeance ! We now seem to have little time to ourselves as we have volunteered or been volunteered for everything going, from helping man the Office de Tourisme in St-Gengoux (OT) and being treasurer of the group that organises Cormatin events (the bingo, the old people’s meal etc) through to moving chairs and manning the entry at Guitar en Cormatinois concerts and building tents for any and every event in Cormatin that wants a 10m, a 12m or a 16m tent built (that one is Cees not me, when I helped out building the tents there was a tangible air of confusion – what is a girl doing this for, she should be preparing food). But now we are accepted into Cormatin life, when we walk down the main street we get stopped every couple of meters or so to kiss one or other acquaintance, complain about the weather (too hot, too cold, too dry, too wet) and talk about what’s going on (did you know a motorbike was clocked doing 140kmph down La Grande Rue in Cormatin yesterday at 5 in the evening and have you seen that ghastly pyramid [*] being built opposite Christophe’s house?) and I am happy to say I feel that at last we really belong here.

* That one is for another blog !

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