After my second year of theology, my formator informed me that I would be doing my international exposure in France as part of my formation. I was a little surprised because I was thinking of continuing my theology studies. I was a little hesitant because I was afraid that I would easily forget all the things I had learned during two years of theology and my knowledge of French was really at the A1.1 level. But amid these hesitations, I respectfully accepted and submitted myself to these new missions: to learn the French language and to have training in economics and management.
I opened my heart for a new mission in France last 2019! Thanks be to God, it was a few months before the pandemic! I was warmly welcomed by the brothers of the Denfert-Rochereau community. I felt the family spirit when I first step on the door. For that reason, I was convinced that God has placed me on a new mission. For this first part of the article, I share with you some of my discoveries and difficulties of my stay in France as a missionary. Fair enough to say that living abroad is quite exciting yet challenging. This might also be a little orientation for the brothers who would be assigned to Europe one day, especially in France.
Voila, Bienvenue en France!
Food. I love French cuisine. In France, good food means authentic cooking using quality natural products from different regions. Each region has its own story to tell and has the pride to show in gastronomy. I should never forget to mention my favorite Baguette and Croissant for breakfast. Expect that good wines, diverse cheese, coffee, and sweets served during lunch! Unlike us Filipinos, we always look for rice every meal! Yet, I was able to discipline my stomach to eat only natural and healthy foods. Among the thousand specialties in France, still, my number one favorite is Choucroute Garnie, a hearty Alsatian dish.
Language. Aside from being a diplomatic and romantic language, the French language is conventional. It builds up people to be united and more relational. In a high society like France, people are engaged in politics, economics, spirituality, and real issues in society. For that reason, one has to learn the language first in order to be more involved in the things around. Thanks to the congregation, I studied this beautiful language at ICLF or Institut de Culture et de Langue Française at Institut Catholique de Paris. Truly, it was not easy to learn and practice. I spent nights and days just learning. In the end, I was able to enjoy the fruits of these hardships. My favorite French word is simply “mangez”!
The Parisian Lifestyle. Who does not love Paris? This city of light lights up the whole world with its magnificent beauty. The Denfert-Rochereau community where I stayed belonged to the 14th district in Paris. Around that area are the Catacombs, Jardin de Luxembourg, the Pantheon, accessible metros, Visitation monastery, and many more. Each district has its history to offer. Since Paris is the world’s most visited city, expect that nothing is free! You have to use your allowance wisely! People, in general, are very friendly and welcoming. Aside from learning French, I think that they also learned English from me. Parisians are polyglots and love to converse!
Arts and Culture. France embeds to love arts and cultures in every citizen. It is evident enough wherever you go! One thing that I appreciate about France is their preservation of heritages. I visited museums, parks, palaces, buildings, and churches. They invested so much in these. No wonder that millions of people love to visit this country. It sounds weird but my favorite place to visit is the cemeteries. Simply because, that area lays down many posthumous people such as philosophers, artists, writers, theologians, historians, and many more. French people in general are art lovers. Thanks to them, I learned to appreciate more the beauty of arts as well.