Totally Frenched Out

From the blogger formerly known as Samdebretagne

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Nice is a four-letter word

During the flight back to Paris yesterday, I was thinking about my trip to Morocco and the common theme of it - so many people told me how "nice" I was.  Over and over again, I kept hearing "Tu es trop gentille, Samantha".  It was also something I heard repeatedly in Bulgaria and in Turkey, over and over about how nice and smiley I was.

Now I don't know about you guys, but  "nice" and "smiley" are not two adjectives I would use to describe myself.  Maybe the American me used to be, but French Ksam is pretty closed-off and often slightly suspicious.  What? You just wanted directions?  Too late, I thought you were going to ask me for money so I am now hurrying away from you. 

Nowadays, I would use a lot harder words to describe myself - things like ambitious, self-sufficient, assertive. All qualities I needed to succeed in a man's domain.  But nice?  That doesn't really get you very far in my world.   So it got me thinking about how I could come across that way to these people, and I think it comes down to the situation. I  have so much compassion for the folks I meet in these sorts of places, who often have to make do with so little.  It literally hurts me to see how some of them live, and I think the niceness is just my way of trying to make things a bit easier for them.

I tweeted yesterday that my driver for the week was chiding me about not having any children, and saying I needed to stop traveling and start birthing.  It's a common topic of conversation in these sorts of countries, and I never have a satisfactory answer to give them.  In their minds, women should be at home and not at work. And certainly not traveling to foreign countries without their husbands.

I asked him in return if he had any children, and he said yes - a 9 year old and a 5 year old. As he showed me pictures of them (while weaving through a road full of multiple lanes with cars, people and sheep all crossing at random points), he explained that his wife had had five miscarriages, all at seven months, before the arrival of these two.  And I swear, my heart just about broke.  I just can't even imagine the pain of carrying five different babies so far along, only to have the pregnancies terminate when you think you are in the home stretch.

When he dropped me off at the airport yesterday, I did the cheek kisses with him, and I think he was a bit taken aback. Maybe I broke protocol, but the courage of this man and his wife touched me.  And I mean really touched me - I don't even know how one has the strength to keep trying again and again, after so much heart ache?  None of this really has anything to do with where he lives however, so maybe it's more their willingness to share pieces of their lives with me, a complete stranger. And if that doesn't merit a little extra niceness, I don't know what does.

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Blogger Jadie said...

you have a heart of gold, and the air of self-sufficiency and assertiveness is your armor and your strength. What a wonderful combination of traits!

March 8, 2013 at 6:55 AM  
Blogger Animesh said...

Who would think you are _not_ nice?! :)

March 8, 2013 at 9:10 PM  
Blogger Princess Dreams said...

Thank you for sharing such a touching and personal post. As a person who works in a charity and sees lifes ups and downs, I understand the need for compassion and udnerstanding. these peopel you touch in travels that think you are 'nice' are those that you leave a lasting a impression. They will forever remeber the nice lady who was a small part of their lives. Embrace it and know that you are so much more to so many, but being nice is such a great thing!!

March 12, 2013 at 5:28 AM  
Blogger Anne said...

I know what you mean about the miscarriages. My grandmother lost four pregnancies at 7 months before she had my mother. Even though I've known for a long time it's only really starting to hit me now just how mind-numbingly awful that would have been. One of the babies died in the birth canal because he got stuck and the doctor had to squeeze his head to pull him out :(

And re the nice thing ... I get that ALL the time in France. No one in Australia would describe me as super sunshiney but here I am often told what an "optimist" I am ..

March 12, 2013 at 1:03 PM  
Blogger Mil said...

Keep staying nice. It's who you really are and people will appreciate that.

March 20, 2013 at 4:14 PM  

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