Wednesday, March 20, 2019

In a Nutshell

Les fleurs sauvage: Primevère Acaule

Sometimes I feel like I’m in my 30s and retired. I’m writing a memoir, gardening, going to the weekly village knitting club, and recently, started a French and English Café Exchange. That looks like the schedule of a retired gal in Southern France, right?! I guess what is not mentioned and not so retire-y is that I am in the process of job hunting, for what I’m not sure, whatever feeds my gypsy soul.

Happy first day of spring!! I know it’s been a while since I’ve been here, my apologies. Life happens fast. No excuses though, I really want to me more present here. I miss Garden Gallivanter and sharing my thoughts here with you all. I feel a shift today, maybe because it’s soon to be a full moon, and it’s the Spring Equinox; and it’s also the first time both are happening at the same time since 1981?!

I want to say that since I’ve been living in the south of France and this life close to nature, I am aligning more to her rhythms. Or, maybe it’s just all in my head, I’m not sure, but I know something is happening. Like today, I took a long nap, knocked out for 2 hours! I love naps, just normally don’t take them, but today, I just really needed one. I’m going to say the Spring Equinox and full moon coming has had something to do with it.

The first day of spring is quite special, especially for beekeepers I suppose, since it marks the first day of the season I would venture to my beekeepers out there, would you agree? The season though, began long before today, months before. Jorris has been working in the workshop up in Villetale building frames for the new hives we will soon pick up in Montpellier (city in Southern France) since January? And, he has been very preoccupied with paperwork and taking mandatory formations in Nice while caring for our hives, which are still on the coast in L’Esterel (I think my favorite place of the French Riviera!)

La bonne brood @L'Esterel.

So much has happened since I was last here, so I’ll try to be brief but thorough. We went to Holland for the holidays. It was picturesque. Northern Europe, if I can call it that, is like the birthplace of Christmas. It felt like that with the Christmas markets and traditions we experienced. Unfortunatley, Jorris' Grandma on his French side, Leonie, passed away, so we made our way back to France, to the Alsace, a north-east region of France with a long historical border conflict with Germany. Despite the circumstances, it was a beautiful opportunity to be with family, and for me, meet new family for the first time.

Colmar Noel Marche

Mon bus route a Nice pour la cours intensive Francais pendant Janvier. 

Mes grandparents, ma Ama et Aye avec mon petit frere Kevin et moi.  

The month of January was busy busy since I was taking an intensive French course in Nice everyday and rode the bus for 3 hours everyday for the month! I loved it and it was so worth it. I made friends and had a superb professor. I really learned so much that one month. I continue working through the text book on my own. I also did two days of important French immigration formalities, which having already gone back and forth to Nice for the week and then having to go on the bus again on Saturday, to spend a whole day of lecture, was extremely exhausting, but I made it.

At the end of February, my Grandpa Ma passed away. He was 96 and truly lived life to the fullest, at least in my eyes. My heart was broken and still healing, just because I loved him so much, and we were so very close. So, I flew home to Los Angeles to pay my respects, read some words from my heart and cried with my family. I got to see my cousins, aunties, uncles, my father, brother, mother, and it really was a most special celebration of life. Perhaps I’ll share my eulogy to my Grandpa with you sometime.

La famille en premiere. Photo: Kevin Ma

It was a whirlwind, emotionally, and physically, since I was fighting terrible jet-lag and was only in L.A. for 3 full days before flying back to France! I did get to fly back however, with my mom, cousin Kitty (Kat), and my brother Kevin. We landed in Paris where Steven, my soon-to-be brother-in-law, would meet us. They had planned to come visit me months ago, since the end of last fall I believe. Kat was the surprise element, though, with the whole change of plans with my Grandpa leaving us, the “cat” was out of the bag when I was talking to my mom about my seat selection and she said, “I wonder if there’s a seat near me...well, I’m sitting next to Kat, and there’s maybe...oh shoot!...”

Truthfully though, I had known a few weeks ago about the surprise when my sweet Nimbo Thin told me with such enthusiasm for Kat to see Europe for the first time and go on a vacation! I really was so honored to be the one to introduce her to Europe and France.

Ça fait longtemps <333

Mon autre demi devant Monet. 

Le Louvre

We had a wonderful time in Paris for the weekend; I played pushy tour-guide and got us around the landmarks and museum must-sees of Paris. I won’t bore you with the details, unless you’re interested; but suffice it to say that no time was left squandered because we were either walking, perusing through impressionist paintings of Monet or eating yummy food. I will say though, that my favorite museum was L’Orangerie, for it’s serenity, beauty and it just left an “impression” on me.

I felt like Grandpa Ma was watching over us because things would happen like it was raining a bit the last day and we wanted to go to the Eiffel Tower and while it rained during the car ride, it stopped just as we got out! And it stayed dry and sunny through all the pics and then when we got back in another uber, it started raining again! I saw out the window this woman pushing against the strong gusts of wind with her umbrella that looked like it was nearly going to break!

Sacré Cœur.

Poor Steven had been sick so actually had to change his flight and come to join us the last day we were in Paris, only to fly again that same evening to Nice, since that was in our itinerary. Kat, and he and I did get to go to Montmarte and Sacré Cœur, which was quite special, as we clinked les cafés and roughly ripped off pieces of la baguette to share.

Les tous que on a besoin! Santé!

Ils sont heureux dans Montmarte. 

After arriving to Nice, we drove through the alps to their air b’n b which was right across the bridge from our apartment which was great! We spent a few days here, showing them around the village, Entrevaux, Guillaumes and dinner in Valberg so they could meet my French entourage. Ma belle mère, my mother-in-law, was also here! She had planned to visit as well and it just so happened to be at the same time of my family's visit. I was happy for her to have met my family and shared a brunch at the air b 'n b. That night, it was a cozy dinner at our favorite L’Italiano, in Valberg where we had our marriage luncheon 6 months ago!

I was happy that they now have faces to names I always talk about. We were all hungry and happy, stuffed with comfortingly decadent pasta dishes all-around, and wine, of course. My Mom was so sweet and paid for dinner for everyone! She has such a generous heart. And the best part was when she said, “Thank you all for taking care of Tiffanie.” My friends were touched and so was I. I felt like my Mom had come a long way from where we started in this French journey. It hasn’t always been smooth, nor easy. But, I think she’s arrived at a place of peace with it all, even happiness for me.

Dans le médiéval village d'Entrevaux. 
Le dîner @ L'Italiano dans Valberg, notre resto préféré. 

On a apprecié les mimosas dans L'Esterel. 

I’m proud of my family for coming all this way to visit me. It meant the world. We shared many beautiful moments, which I’ll cherish forever. I’m proud of them because it takes a lot of physical strength and an open heart to ride through the windy roads of the French alps and being in any new culture can be challenging. And it was all done in a short time and all of us having some jet-lag, plus, perhaps having been emotionally exhausted with my Grandpa’s funeral.

It took me a week to recover, to get back into my routine without missing them. The goodbye was more emotional than I was expecting. We hugged at the bus stop at the corner across from Galeries de Lafayette (shopping mall). I was catching the 2pm bus. I think I cried a little when I saw my Mom’s eyes well up...and then after hugging Kitty and seeing her eyes change with a little glimmer of tears. I stayed strong through my last embraces of everyone. It wasn't until on the bus ride that all my tears fell like a waterfall. I tried to contain myself. But, they were more tears of utter joy for having been able to spend such precious time with each other, since time is really so precious.

Ma mère, aka Mumsy. Photo: Kevin Ma

Tout les sourit.  Photo: Kevin Ma

Which is why I am starting a new routine by not staring my morning off with Instagram. I used to sip my coffee and scroll through Instagram and noticed with the new screen time app and just in general, that I was on there too much, like an hour in the morning and then there were more hours throughout the day. I realized with all those hours, I could finish the door-stopper of a book, Vietnam: A History The First Complete Account of the Vietnam War by Stanley Karnow, and in turn, finish the family memoir I am writing with my Auntie Barbara about our family's escape from Vietnam to America. It was my Grandpa Ma’s mission to flee Communist Vietnam with the whole family, and it really is an extraordinary tale, which needs to be written. I had wanted my Grandpa to see it in print, but I know he’ll be proud either way that we preserved a piece of history not only of our family, but of the world.

Le dernier dîner. 

Anyway, it’s not to say that I don’t like Instagram or against it; it’s just I have many projects to give my time too and while I find the app inspiring and a great way tool of connection and expression, I want to live life more presently. I want to see something beautiful in nature and just appreciate it without thinking of pulling out my phone for a photo or feeling the need to document everything I do. I just want to do the things I do and enjoy them. Who else feels me out there?

I also enjoy writing here at Garden Gallivanter and sharing pictures on this platform that better tell a story with more thought and reflection. Stories can be beautifully told on Instagram too, but I guess I’m just an old-fashioned gal at heart who prefers using word to write and blogpost to blog. If I had it my way, I would have my typewriter (next on my list of what to bring to France next time I’m back in CA) here and typing this all out and snail mailing to subscribers! Ok, maybe that is a little over doing it. Call me old-fashioned, but I am also a 21st Century woman ;) Until next time, hopefully à trés bientôt! Ciao!

         Ce qui? <333  Photo: Kevin Ma

*photos by Tiffanie Ma, otherwise noted, or by kind strangers.

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