Living in the French-Canadian Countryside AKA Jungle

Two weeks ago I arrived in a tiny little village called Charette, in Quebec. I briefly mentioned this in my last post but as my life is a series of hilarious/unfortunate events, I thought it’d be fun to write about what actually happened. 

This whole work-exchange thing was organised by a website called HelpX (read more here). After a few emails back and forth I decided I’d stay with a couple named Sarah and Bruce and their two girls, aged 2 and 4. Sarah picked me up from my friend’s house at around 10pm on the day we agreed and after some awkward car chat we arrived at their little house with the big red roof. In the middle of the forest.

In the pouring rain and pitch black, we took my bags inside and I was introduced to Bruce, not before tripping over a bloody FROG at the front door. Whilst they were extremely lovely and kind, it was really awkward talking to them. I was super tired and I could tell they were a bit uncomfortable having a stranger in their home. I went to bed  with approximately 6785 new mosquito bites, listening to the wildlife outside and wondering what the hell I’d gotten myself into.

The next day was spent with the cat, Chamomile, as the kids were at daycare and the parents at work. Not gona lie- I was terrified. I felt like I was in a horror movie, sitting in a little wooden house in the forest during a thunderstorm. I’d managed to befriend and offend Chamomile in the space of a few hours after accidentally kicking her on my way downstairs with an arm full of laundry. For about two days after, she ran for her life every time she saw me and I found myself talking to her out loud- telling her not to be so dramatic because it was just an accident, jees.

The evening soon rolled round and I had human company again- the children and their grandma, who spoke no English. Awkward. I was under the impression the kids spoke English when I applied to help but they only knew a couple of words. I felt embarrassed that I couldn’t communicate with them and I wanted to leave because it was so uncomfortable.

I received this note the next morning and decided I should stay..

That night the 4 year old asked me (via her dad) to take her for a walk and she ended up taking me to her grandad’s house. I didn’t know whose house it was when she walked inside but I couldn’t stop her because she didn’t understand me. Her grandad also spoke only French and must have been wondering who the hell this strange girl was with his granddaughter. I just stood there awkwardly for a while trying to communicate with hand signals before he gave us some candy and we left.

By the end of the first week, I felt a bit more comfortable and had a new 4 year old best friend. We had absolutely no clue what the other was saying (other than when she would say “come on Chloe” in her little French accent) but I soon realised that you can say anything to someone who doesn’t understand you and they’ll be happy, as long as you smile and act enthusiastic when saying it. We spent most evenings playing together with her baby sister.

When I volunteered in Cambodia a few years ago, one of the other volunteers kept saying that “love has no language” and I genuinely just thought she was a psycho but as cheesy as it is, I understand what she meant now. I didn’t expect such a bond to be built with these two children without conversation but I’m so happy to have experienced that. And hearing the eldest repeat things I’d said to her in English was so freakin’ cute. She showed me her princess dress one day and I told her it was beautiful. Two seconds later she put her arms around her little sister, kissed her cheek and said “beautiful”.

I didn’t want to go outside much for the first week because of the mosquitos- it was like the bloody Mexican jungle out there. Also because Bruce told me that bears live in the forest. After convincing me it’d be very rare to see a bear in June, he gave me this so I could go for a walk free from mosquitos:

I somehow still managed to get bitten so I was walking around looking like a damn bee keeper for nothing. The next day I ditched the mosquito coat when I went for a bike ride, thinking I was smart for wearing a long t-shirt and leggings.

Wrong. Bloody sweating. It was such a sunny day and I was too hot after about 0.4 seconds of cycling. I got to the railway crossing before turning back and stopping for a little break. Obviously I chose to break right outside the wildest dog in the village’s house. I couldn’t see it but could hear it barking ferociously and I have never been so scared in my life. I’d conveniently stopped at the bottom of the hill and I was surprised at how much I still struggled to cycle up it despite being faced with potential DEATH. After that escapade I took my sweaty self straight back to the house and told myself not to be so frivolous next time.

Wild beasts aside, I felt weirdly emotional when getting ready to leave Charette. Although I got bored on my own sometimes, it was nice to take a break from city life and relax. A lot. And it was nice to just roll around looking like an absolute scarecrow without caring what anyone thought. I also got to see what day-to-day parenthood was like and all I can say is I am not ready for my own kids yet. Chaos. I now have so much more respect for my mum raising 3 kids alone at my age (omg) as well as for Sarah and Bruce who are such dedicated parents. I’m going to miss their two crazy girls.

I’m glad I stuck it out because I’ve gained some happy memories, got over my fear of cats and learned a few French phrases. And I spent absolutely no money whilst there which is a bonus. I can definitely add the last two weeks to my (extremely long) list of unusual experiences. What a trip.

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