Cleaning out the Cahv


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Europe » France » Aquitaine » Marmande
October 2nd 2008
Published: October 2nd 2008
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La Bretonie

I'm pretty sure this is the town I'm in. I got off the train in Marmande...this seems about the right distance.

I have hit the Mecca of help exchange. One of the reasons I picked this spot, other than the location near Southern France, was the large number of positive reviews from previous Help Exchange participants. It's always a little nerve-wracking showing up at a train station, and getting in a car with complete strangers. It even crossed my mind that some people could write reviews of themselves, posing as Exchangers...if they were really twisted. I saw their picture from their website, and they looked like a sweet, old British couple, both with glasses and white hair, one balding. Very grandparent-ish. Of course, maybe they put up a picture of someone's grandparents because they were deformed in an acid accident, and went crazy.
When i got off the train in Marmande, I realized I had no way of contacting them when I showed up, so if they weren't there, I'd have to wait around the station until they did show up, which could be never.
Luckily, as I disembarked in the dark, I spotted a sweet old, white-haired couple waiting near the door. I went up to them, with timid hope, and said Hi. "Jackie?" they asked, and I felt at peace the first time that day. It's like in those movies, where an adpoted kid is finally going to meet his real parents, and every time someone kind walks in he looks up in hope, only to have it dashed. My movie, however, was one of those cheesy Disney ones, where my "real parents" are royalty of Endorriada, a tiny, unknown country in Central Europe, and I've just discovered I'm a princess.
They had duck confit and potatoes, and a glass of wine waiting for me when we arrived to their house. That was enough to win me over. It gets better. They've been rennovating a large farmhouse, which is mostly why they need extra help, and they've turned part of it into a bed and breakfast. Their busy season is winding down now that the summer is over, and when they have an empty gite, they like to put their helpers in there. Lucky for me, this is the current case. I have an entire building to myself, with a kitchen, living room, and television with digital cable. Upstairs (yes, it's two stories), is the bedroom and bathroom, with fully equipped shower. This room would cost someone $600 a week, and I get it for free, plus gourmet meals cooked for me. I feel like I'm ripping someone off, but that they're fully aware of it.
Last night, eating my duck confit, I joined the couple, Kevin and Enid, for a little BBC. Enid has a penchant for trashy tv. She likes to watch Reality shows, and make fun of the contestants. Definitely my kind of woman! She's obsessed with "The Restaurant", where British couples have the opportunity to start a restaurant with a very prominant French chef. Each week they have to complete a challenge, and be judged on their performance. Pretty standard reality fare, but extra fun for me because of the British accents. Enid kept saying that one of the contestants looked "quite simple", which was a remarkably astute observation, but it was a funny way of saying that someone acts mentally disabled.
Enid is clearly the dominant member of the couple. On the drive over, she gave me an intensive tour of the "town", neglecting no detail. After about 15 minutes of talking, she turns to her husband and asks, "What's wrong dear? You're so quiet!" It was all I could do not to laugh. But Kevin has the patience of Job; instead of saying, "I'm quiet because you won't let a word in edgwise, woman!" he simply said he was fine. The way they interact is how I hope I will be someday, as half of an old couple. They're constantly bickering and making fun at each other's expense, but in such a playful manner, it's evident how in love they are. They got in a fight over whose glass of water I would like better. Then Kevin will say, "would you like the coffee now darling?" and Enid will say, "isn't he a star!" and it's the most adorable thing ever.
I spent all of today helping Enid clean out the basement, which she called, "the cave", pronouncing it like "cough". They've turned their farmhouse into a five bedroom house, with gorgeous professional details, all of which they've done themselves. We finished sorting and "zoning" the cellar, and Kevin grouted some tile in the kitchen. After lunch, they said that since I was so tired from travelling that they'd let me off early. I insisted on working more, but they wouldn't hear of it.
If only I didn't have so much darn ambition, I could make a career out of this.

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