The Insidious Tide of the Unfamiliar

I love beach life. there was a point at which we lived on the US West Coast. The stretch of beach near our home was a fairly safe place to play. The sand was wide and flat, even at high tide. The drop in the surf at low tide was significant enough, though, that warnings were occasionally posted at the entrance advising of rip tides. This isn’t something you see coming; it sneaks up on you below the surface, gripping you and carrying you off to dangerous depths.

A rising tide can overwhelm you, too, though, if you are on a coastline that isn’t all open. We visited parts of the California coast north on Highway 1 that hosted beautiful tidal pools among rocks, sometimes piled up against low cliffs. If not watchful, you could get so absorbed in the tide pools that you could get trapped by the rising tide.

I share this perspective of the beautiful Pacific coastland because that is what life here in France has put me in mind of. Most of the time this land is beautiful, the people are gracious and welcoming, and exploring is a fun adventure. But occasionally, the tide of unfamiliar things and experiences pile up, like mounting waves, and before I know it, I am knocked off my feet. This morning was the high tide of one that had been building since the day before. It was my son’s actual 13th birthday, and a boxed cake mix nearly did me in.

I know how to do laundry. Washers and dryers are familiar. But here they are different. First of all, they vent out front. That would be *into your house.* I open the back door and window to encourage the heat to leave. Of course, when your third dryer load just won’t come dry, you troubleshoot. Door lint filter clean? Check. Other lint filter clean? Check.  Water condenser thingie empty? What? What water condenser thingie?

Our dryer, with indecipherable French instructions and manual (thankful for, with the water-thingie extended. You pull this out and dump the water, which I discovered this morning when last night’s clothes still were a tad damp.

The stove-top had an English section in the manual. Thankfully! Because it is induction. I had barely even heard of a stovetop that cooks using magnets, and NONE of the pots or pans we brought has the correct metal core to work. We were able to find a converter to place under the pan.

Note the space-age touch controls. At first, I thought they were indicator lights only, and surely the controls themselves were elsewhere.

Well, in the mornings, I need my coffee for clear thinking, so I started up the new Senseo coffee maker. We went with the Senseo led by the coffee aisle at the grocery store. There was a narrow section of just your regular coffee, then there was a wiiiide section filled with a variety of Senseo coffee filter pacs, for not much more. Then there was another even more narrow coffee section with alternative maker cups, like K-cups, which were kind of expensive. Looking that over, I decided to get a Senseo machine.

See any problem with my American-sized coffee mug? Most of the mugs in my beloved collection are two-handed sized. It makes for a psychologically warm hug from your aromatic cup cradled in two hands.

And so, drinking my short cup of coffee, I made a birthday cake for my son. I had given up on the from-scratch American style cake when I couldn’t find, the night before, baking powder. I now know the French name, but threw in the towel last night and grabbed a box cake mix, French style. The side showed the addition of 3 eggs and some milk, and that sounded achievable. I didn’t count on my French oven. It is really complicated. It bakes, broils, convections, and even rotisseries. It probably would have mixed my cake had I known how to ask it. This manual defies It makes little sense even translated. I got my cake out of it, though, so I must have done something right.

And lastly, such a tiny thing, but when so many things have piled on to make simple things more difficult, even these little anomalies become exasperating:

No doubt unique in my little apartment, but why can’t I wash my hands with WARM water after using the WC? Is the space two small for two pipes?

Well, there you go…my little rant on a morning that was almost more than I could manage. But then, such wealthy problems I have! What an easy life, when complicated mystery appliances are the troubles that weigh me down. Thank God instead for the amazing church of people to whom we took the little cake I baked, and who all sang happy birthday to my son, devouring his cake. Life is good here in France, after all.





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