Ode to Madame Hélène Penot
I hope to find myself at this door again someday:Tonight is my last night in Tours, France.
I want to write a little bit about my host mom, Hélène, who has taken such amazing care of me since the minute she picked up me and ma camarade de chambre. Hélène has been more than accommodating to my eating habits (um, I eat a lot) and my recent dedication to becoming a vegetarian. The fact that I am a vegetarian was not at all mentioned in the student information that she had about me yet she quickly and kindly obliged to my needs. Also, my room mate (well, we shared a host home, not a room) has horrible food allergies and Hélène was so kind to do her best to fix all the right meals for Diana, too.
Hélène made me (and Diana) spectacular meals, helped me find my way around Tours with the map she gave me and kindly corrected and helped me with my French. With that said, her helping and hosting skills are not what make her so special.
Hélène has an incredible heart and glorious personality. I think I cried in front of her three times, total (including today) and she was always absolutely superb at making me feel better. She swung into English mode each time I was upset and was practically a walking dictionary when I couldn't find a vocabulary word I needed to use in French. I can tell that she is very intelligent, driven and passionate (my kind of lady, indeed!)
Before she retired, she taught kindergarten in a school fairly far from where she lives. Her school was home to two major minority groups in France: Arab and African immigrants. I felt so blessed to be in a home with a mother who was willing to dedicate her life to those who are less fortunate. At the end of this month, she is going to Madagascar for three months to work in a school for little children. The other night we learned that she will also be taking some medication from a hospital here in Tours where some doctors have been doing some research and creating a new medication for treating lice. I can't even explain how happy it makes me to know someone who is truly getting to do what she wants with her life: traveling and serving little ones. What an extraordinary opportunity.
Today was my last full day with Hélène, obviously, as it was my last day in Tours. I am so sad to leave her and very anxious to meet my host family tomorrow. I really do hope & pray that Hélène and I will stay in touch for many years to come. She and I went on a short walk today to fetch some produce from a friend and we discussed the possibility of me coming back to Tours with my mom to learn how to upholster furniture from one of Hélène's friends. Mom and I would, of course, stay with Hélène. She wants to practice her English more; I would love to have her come to visit my family in the United States.
So, here's to Hélène! May she remain beautiful, loving, charming, elegant and wise in the years to come. She has been such a joy in my life (in the short time that I have known her, already) and I wish her all the happiness that life has to offer... I only wish I knew how to give more praises in French!
There were multiple photos of Hélène in this post but they included a child, for whom I did not have permission to publish, and therefore they have been removed for the child's privacy.
December 30th, 2013