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Beyond the guidebooks- a homestay in Provence

My Scholarship entry - A local encounter that changed my life

WORLDWIDE | Monday, 23 April 2012 | Views [69] | Scholarship Entry

The sky was fading, stars starting to peek out from behind the trees. My host mother Michelle swerved the old Toyota down a narrow dirt path in rural Provence, kicking up a cloud of dust before stopping by a large, battered circus tent. Endless fields of lavender surrounded us, the fragrant blossoms making the warm night air heavy. “Come, come,” Elsa said with a grin, pulling me through the crowds. We found a spot next to the ring, the packed dirt floor cool against our bare legs, our shoulders nearly touching our neighbours. Kissing her friend on the cheek, Elsa grinned and pointed towards me. “Mon Americaine,” my American, she declared.
I sat dazed in the front row, my head full with the buzzing of rapid French and the thick smell of ripe fruit and salted popcorn. Dust glittered in the rays from coloured circus lights, leaving a shimmery haze over the ring. Young painted faces peeked out from behind a makeshift backstage, nervous and grinning. This was a far cry from the structured tours through Avignon and Monaco: chaperoned and cleanly packaged, itinerary bound. This wasn’t in the guidebooks. This was just part of their life.
Elsa leaned over to me, saying “I usually am juggling tonight, but we had to pick up you, so…” But her words were drowned out by the sudden burst of music. The crowd erupted as acrobats in shimmering costumes flipped and twirled into the ring. We watched as they climbed silk ribbons to the ceiling, tracing complicated patters in the sky, a tangle of arms and legs. Around me people chatted, waved to their neighbours in the ring, cooled themselves with makeshift fans in the warm summer night. As the circus continued, I could feel my anxieties about the home stay melting. I couldn’t know then that this moment would stay with me, becoming a rediscovered craving for new places and situations. For in that instant, I was just sitting amongst the dancers and dust, far from home, and excited for whatever came next.

Tags: Travel Writing Scholarship 2012

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