Not Quite the Same Thing
We were takikng a walking tour through Marseilles this week with a Covenant Missionary when both our eyes were drawn to the logo of "Starbucks", but then.....not quite. Being the coffee addict that I am, we could not help but get this picture in front of the pseudo-Starbucks. But this picture tells so much of what it's like to be a foreigner immmersed in France, or any other culture I would guess, for an extended period of time.
There is a lot about this culture that is the same as the one I grew up in. In fact, so much of our language and habits come from France. Art, architecture, music, landscaping, and the food is so great! I resonnate with much of this culture. I love the long noon meals, where even the large stores all shut down from noon tills 2:00, or 2:30 or 3:00 (it varies!). I love late evening meals that drift into evening walks through villages greeting each other. It's hard to adjust back to rushed dinners in time for evenng meetings, or snarfed lunches in drive throughs on the way to other appointments. This is a pace I can live with.
But there are the differences as well. There are profound divisions between churches, Roman Catholic and Protestant, Reformed and Free, and don't even try to factor in the Pentecostals! There is also a sense of what it means to be French that I'm not sure I'll ever get, like it's a secret recipe only passed on in the family. The immigrant issues here are profound, being a magnet for African peoples who access France from the Mediterranean. France is simulanteously more multi-ethinic than the USA and more internally divided. The sense of beauty is curiously fractured from the church. We attended an marvelous womens chorale in an ancient (8th century) church that was totally secular, but with fabulous music. Then the protestant churches are almost studiously plain and bare, almost stark. Music is haphazard and informal.
I am coming to terms, again, with what it means to be a resident alien. We live in the world, but don't belong to it. Living apart from my culture helps me appreciate so much of what I have in the USA (a language I can read and speak) but also what is foreign to the faith, our materialism, consumerism, pride, and power.
So, here comes Martha right now with a strong little cup of coffee from the Hotel Ibis in Ales, France. Only one cup, in china with a sugar cube and spoon (and chocolate). No refills, but potent. Not Starbucks.