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Regina Caputo | USLHC | USA

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Fête Nationale: on being an American in France

Today is July 14th – also known as Bastille Day or Independence Day in France. Since most of my meetings were canceled, I decided to take a minute to reflect on being an American abroad.  Last night there was a fireworks celebration in St-Genis. It was nice to see my requisite fireworks display for the year since I didn’t get to see any on the 4th. It’s always interesting to discover that you miss most about the United States. It’s really not something you can prepare for in advance. I know whenever someone is traveling back my friends and I give them a laundry list of bizarre things to bring back (things like BBQ sauce, brownie mix, Reese’s Pieces, brown sugar, garlic powder… just to name a few).

Professing my love for Stubb's BBQ sauce

Professing my love for Stubb's BBQ sauce

It’s nothing essential, but usually something you take for granted back home. I suppose this is just part of the American abroad experience. It takes a while to get used to the pace of things around here. Sunday is family day, so none of the stores are open. Good, bad, or indifferent, it’s something we have to learn to live with, and is really the adventurous part of the abroad experience.

It’s always fun to talk to someone who has just arrived. They’ll complain about the grocery stores closing at 7:00 p.m., and not being open on Sundays – or the Y bus line. At this point, I’m a pro – and can usually offer some advice like – this particular store is open late – until 9 p.m., or this other store has maple syrup… yumm. My roommate and I have even attempted to make some French-ish deserts.

Our attempt at a caramelized pear pie

Our delicious attempt at a caramelized pear pie

On the flip side of this, I know when I do return to the U.S. there will be things I miss equally. I’ll never be able to find the same kind of cheeses back home, or a bottle of good wine for under 5 EUR, (around $7.. depending on the exchange rate :)), or croissants – ooh how I will miss them. Flakey, buttery, and delicious… I digress… Back to the fireworks.

The first thing you hear as you approach the festival is a band playing a strange mixture of accordion music and vintage American top 40. It was quite an experience to hear “December, 1963 (Oh, What a Night)” in French. (Which – in case anyone was wondering – is most definitely an American song). However, instead of the usual piling on blankets in the grass that I was used to for fireworks celebrations, we were sitting on a picnic bench drinking red wine. Quite a mixture of cultures is all I have to say. At least we’ll be prepared for next year.

On that note, back to work. I already celebrated my Independence Day 10 days ago eating biscuits and gravy, and nachos… although not at the same time.

Until next time

(Regina Caputo, Stony Brook, NY)

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