Last weekend, I was invited to attend an international night of poetry, music and dance at my friend Bertrand’s house. Bertrand is an artist with a love of all things cultural; so, when I heard he was organizing a Babel Evening with guests from around the globe, I knew I had to be there.
From Russian children’s stories to traditional Indian dancing, people from every continent were in attendance. We were all speaking a mixture of French, English, Telugu, Spanish, Russian, Italian, Arabic, and Hindi and although we all had a different cultural background, we were able to transcend this barrier through artistic expression. I sang an old Irish song called Danny Boy and it was my first public performance since retiring from singing in 2008.
Bertrand and his wife were excellent hosts and presented us with course after bountiful course of appetizers, entrées, cheeses and desserts. The wine was flowing and people were chatting. Every single person had a captivating and unique story to tell. I was enraptured by the group around me and it was the first time I truly felt at home in France.
Throughout my life, I have sought out friends that are different from me and from each other. I remember in high school that I spent most of my time with the exchange students in the ESL room learning Bollywood dancing and dirty Japanese words than gossiping with my classmates. My best friends were Misa, from Japan, and Susi, from Germany. In Vancouver, my friends came from so many different backgrounds.
It is hard for me to thrive in a place that isn’t a multicultural multiethnic metropolis; so Montpellier was definitely an adjustment. At first, I was really negative about Montpellier, because I felt isolated and cut off. As I looked around me, I realized that I had brought the world to myself. We can build networks wherever we find ourselves as long as we remain open. Even in a smaller city, I managed to build an international group of friends and I have made connections that will last a lifetime. This has served as one of my most valuable lessons from my experience in France, and is one I will carry on with me, even after we have all gone our separate ways.