Went round to an ex-student of mine's house for dinner this evening. I'd only taught him a handful of times and, despite the language barrier, we seem to have got on really well. So, we've decided to continue meeting up for language practice, but in the meantime I got an invite to spend Saturday evening with him and his family. I was extremely touched by this considering we'd only really met in a work capacity, and how unlikely this would have been replicated in England.
I even got a lift to and from his place by his sister who happens to live only a short walk from my house. It felt rather embarrassing accepting a lift from someone I'd never met, and I was extremely relieved to find that the sister was also invited round for dinner and hadn't merely been my driver for the evening.
And a really enjoyable evening it was too: nibbles, champagne, dinner, wine, cake, tea, cheese and biscuits. Very touching indeed. It was also wonderful French practice as we spent virtually the whole evening chatting in French. I was under the impression that we'd also spend some time chatting in English as part of the deal with O, but he seemed more than happy to only speak in French.
It also made me realise what a difference it makes when people speak to you slowly and clearly, and you are relaxed enough to be able to tell them to repeat something. All very different when out coping with everyday scenarios. There were of course several occasions where I didn't follow the whole conversation and just smiled and nodded at the appropriate places, but I did understand the gist of about two-thirds of what was said that evening.
A completely new experience for me, and one that I'm sure did me the world of good.
Had one slightly unnerving moment on the drive back. The sister had drunk a couple of glasses of wine and was probably still under the limit, when we suddendly came face to face with a huge line of police cars on the side of the road busy carrying out their pre and post-Christmas crackdown on drink-driving, widely advertised in Belgium as their 'Bob campaign,' with the slogan: "Pas de fête, sans Bob." In Belgium, 'Bob' is the fictional name given to a driver, with the message being: "don't party (especially around Christmas time) without a Bob." In other words, have someone who could drive you home at the end of the night.
Not the first time I've encountered dozens and dozens of police on the side of the roads randomly breathalysing people. And, they did seem to signal for us to pull over, but she just seemed to carry on driving, and amazingly that was it. They didn't come after us, so maybe they weren't asking us to stop after all, but it did look that way to me. Phew! Again, especially since I didn't have my passport on me or any other form of id.