I will post more about our church experience but I wanted to write down my first Relief Society activity experience. It took place on Monday, August 4th. I was invited by the Relief Society President, Clairelynn (not sure how to spell her name…I will have to correct it when I find out) and signed up to bring bread. It sounded like the easiest thing to pick up on my way into Nîmes. It started at 10am and a member of the ward, Myriam, was going to demonstrate and prepare a Lebanese meal. I was so excited until my alarm went off to get out of bed. I was still experiencing jet lag and my body felt so tired that I just did not want to go. I took my time getting up and realized I had signed up for bread and I needed to go. There were only 8 women in Relief Society on Sunday so I know no one else would cover my absence!
I drove into Nîmes and arrived at the church around 10:45. The demonstration was going on but it was so informal. I loved it. The ladies all did the “bisous”, kisses on the cheeks and I was immediately thrown into french conversation. It was awesome and a little overwhelming. No one there spoke any english. There were 14 of us total, 3 of which were children. Myriam made houmous (humus) and a beef dish. I helped cut tomatoes and tried to follow along with the conversations. I am pretty good at following the general topic of conversation if I am concentrating, but if my mind wanders a little I am in a completely different world. I learned a few new words like pignons (pine nuts) and viande hachée (ground beef). I was trying so hard to stay engaged!
Before I left the house, Aaron and I jokingly said that this activity was going to take the whole day because that is the french way. You prepare, you eat and you just stay! I laughed and said “well, I should be home by 1″. We didn’t even start eating until 12:50. The demonstration was so laid back everyone just talked and laughed for hours. I knew I was not going to be home by 1!
When it was time to eat Myriam served up everyone’s plate, one by one. It was actually a beautiful presentation on the plate. She put the houmous in a thick half circle and then filled the middle section with the ground beef mixture and then roasted pine nuts were sprinkled on top. I learned that pine nuts in France are actually cheaper. Surprisingly, because everything else is more expensive than the States. It was good, but way too much houmous for me. Then after everyone finished this first plate, which took about 45 minutes because of all the conversation, etc. we started on the lettuce and tomatoes. After about 30 minutes of this course, everyone cleared the table of plates and then made room for the dessert. It was a chocolate cake. It wasn’t the typical American rectangular chocolate cake, it was a beautiful and delicate round and thin cake. It was a little dry for me but it was still very good!
After dessert was being cleared away I looked at the time and noticed it was around 2:45! I laughed to myself and decided it was time to slip away. I did not want to be rude but I had already been there 4 hours and I knew the rest of my family at the house were wondering where I was and wanted me home! I said goodbye to everyone and thankfully no one gave me a hard time about leaving, just one “oh, you are leaving right now?”.
I had a great time but I had a headache by the time I got home. I had been concentrating so hard on the language that my head hurt! I needed a nap! I learned all kinds of stuff that Monday afternoon, especially something I knew before, that the French love to argue, but not in an offensive way. Most French do not get offended by someone speaking their mind. The French speak their minds ALL the time! So to hear the ladies “argue” about % of alcohol in certain things or whether someone likes escargot or not, is humorous to me right now.
They set the table the same way as I would, except the small dessert spoon was placed above the plate at the beginning of the lunch. This was done by one of the children like it was an everyday place setting. I found it cute and fun!
I am grateful I decided to go to the activité de la Société de Secours! Thanks Nîmes ward ladies for the interesting and fun experience!