On the Upbeat, Positively Carolan

Kinks of Life in France

I’ve wondered if I would have gone overseas years ago, when my then husband was drafted, if I had known the conditions we’d be living in. I’m not sure, but I’ll bet my folks would have had more to say! As it was, my dad even built 4 good-sized waterproof plywood crates to ship all my stuff.

And, as it turned out, the kitchen in our Orleans apartment had a dirt floor (seriously — until we bought a big sheet of linoleum). And it had NO cabinets, so we set the packing crates on end side by side, threw an oilcloth over them and they became a passable kitchen counter!

We learned and did so many more strange things:

  • Nobody spoke English, and at 19 I was too chicken to even try French, but we got acquainted with a few Army couples, some with babies, and we did make some friends.
  • If we wanted ice cream my ex would bring a pint home from the PX and with no refrigerator we would eat it before dinner.
  • Also with no refrig, nor hot water, imagine formula for our baby: Boil water on the 2-burner gas hotplate, wash bottles, then mix the formula, fill bottles & set them in a pan of the coldest water possible.
  • I did discover I could cook a mean beef roast in my pressure cooker on the little hotplate.
  • We had no phones or other way to get in touch with each other during his work day –- and now that seems like the most scary part of the whole thing.
  • Our little apartment had no tub or shower either — just a big pedestal wash basin in the bedroom — more heating water, urgh!
  • The WC (water closet) was a long trek — out our apartment door, down the marble (!) hallway, out the building’s back door to what was barely more than an outhouse.
  • This was way before disposable diapers, and at first I tried washing by hand and diapers on clotheslines in the back yard. But my hands were not strong enough for wringing. But miraculously we found a laundry that did 24-hour turnaround for nominal rates.

Summer in Orleans - crop

That was the biggest lifesaver we could ever have imagined! And in the long run — 14 months — I did love France, living in Orleans and traveling around the country and beyond.

In fact, I do believe the experience gave me a permanent case of wanderlust, at this date adding up to a fascinating 123 cities visited in an amazing 21 countries!



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