We visited a friend of mine, an American Chinese who met her French husband a few years back when she came over to France for voluntary work. After she went back to the States, they started a long distance relationship. Few years later, they got married despite parental objections and they are now living in France. They have a beautiful daughter and another baby boy on the way.
We visited their new old house situated 45 minutes away from Paris. They bought the house recently. It is a house with a huge yard. They got it at a good price and you can’t find anything this big at this price within Paris. 3 days out of a week, my very pregnant friend commutes to the fro Paris for her part time job.
Because the house is considerably old, there are a lot of fixing and cleaning to be done. The wooden floor creaks, the windows need better insulation, the heater is not working, the gate is pending to be built. When we visited them, they had their truck parked right in front of the house as a temporary gate. It cost a lot of money to get all these fixed especially in France where everything is expensive and labour cost is exhorbitant thus they needed to prioritize and fix the most urgent things first. They bought a wood burning furnace to temporarily solve the heating problem.
Despite the condition of the house, my friend was really happy with their new home. I could see from her eyes and through our conversation how excited and proud she is with her new place. She especially loves her backyard which yields numerous fruits and vegetables during warmer weather and her husband loves the garage which allows him to store all his working tools. He is very much a handy man.
My friend’s husband is a tree pruner who takes pride in his laborious work. We call him the tree doctor because to be a tree pruner, he needs to be able to tell the sick trees apart from the rest. Different measures are taken to deal with different types of trees. One may think that being a tree pruner means going around chopping down trees indiscriminately. On the contrary, his job is to help to save trees and he believes in the world’s conservation efforts to help save the earth. Unlike in Paris where they use large machines to chop and prune the trees to shape, he climbs his trees with the help of harness, and then cuts the branches with hand held tools.
He truly believes in what he is doing and it is this belief that sees him through working more than 12 hours a day, waking up at 5 in the morning every day.
Her husband pretty much spends his off days working around the house. Chopping woods, gathering and aging them, preparing for colder weather and working on projects for their home. My friend and her husband have huge plans for their home. They want to extend out the kitchen area, grow an organic vegetable farm, install more glass panels for the kitchen area and many many more. All these they intend to do themselves.
When we were there, my friend and I bought groceries from the open market opposite her house. We cooked simple lunch while the men worked hard in the backyard chopping woods. Malcolm was happy to hang around the fireplace, occasionally helping to manually fan the fire. Once a while, the daddies will bring in yet another pile of aged wood, ready to be used. Life was simple.
It was the first time that I met up with my friend’s family and the visit left me thoughtful.
In my friend, I see a courageous woman who is brave enough to leave her comfort zone to be with the man she loves. Living in a foreign land can be hard without family support but I admire her optimism and her ability to find joy in the simple things in life.
In her husband, I see a hardworking man who is driven by belief and dream. A man with big dreams for his family. A man who seem to have reached the apex of Maslow’s ladder. I can’t help but to compare him with many whom are deemed ”successful” in our society yet can’t tread beyond the D-needs.
For a while I felt that he had bypassed the law. Or perhaps it could be flawed. Then maybe he did not. Maybe all he did was defy the conventional belief of infinite and insatiable wants. Yet how many can even come close and I know I may just be one of the guilty ones.