In a lifetime of turning points, this weekend was a turning point for me, for us, in our life here.
The neighbour that shares our floor rang our doorbell on Friday night. She asked to borrow a chair for a party they were having the following night. We said, "but of course!" and she turned to me and said, "what a lovely accent! where do you come from?" And thus we chatted for ten minutes.
On Sunday afternoon, she rang the doorbell again, thanked us profusely for the use of our chair, and invited us over for dinner next Friday night.
Whilst I was picking my jaw up off the floor in surprise, Sylvain rushed in with a "but of course".
A turning point, indeed.
I have lived in this apartment for 5 years, Sylvain for 6. We have only exchanged the bare minimum of pleasantries with our neighbours, a fact that I have lamented frequently. Conversations about this subject with the French people around me have always resulted in the declaration, "well, that's the Capital for you..."
I still recall being looked at like something that climbed out of the sewer by a new neighour when I offered my help if they needed anything. In this city, you tend to keep to yourself. A far cry from the concept of neighbours I grew up with - people that you knew and trusted, who could walk through the back door and turn up unexpectedly in the lounge room, saying, "I put the kettle on, let's have a cuppa".
And if that wasn't enough, we needed to buy something from the Little Man who runs the tiny general store down the street. We didn't have enough cash, and Sylvain said, "I'll just go get some money out and come back". The Little Man grinned and said, "just pay me the rest tomorrow."
Am I in an alternative dimension? I might have to pinch myself.