Expect the Unexpected

Take a good look. Photo taken by AnnaLeah Chantry

La Rochelle, on the Atlantic coast, is a major city in the region called Poitou-Charentes.  For publicity purposes, the region has adopted a motto: Poitou-Charents–Préparez-vous à l’inattendu (Expect the Unexpected), a phrase that Longwood students have come to live and breathe over the course of the past two weeks.  One of the first curveballs was learning to type with a French keyboard, which switches certain keys, includes new keys for accent marks, and flips numbers and punctuation on the top row.  To type with an unusal keyboard takes considerable amounts of patience; if I type q couple of sentences zithout looking; it turns out like this^^qll the letters qre in q different plqce qnd the nu,bers qnd punctuqtion ,qrks reauire the shift key:

Seafood is a major part of the diet in La Rochelle, so students have learned to expect some unexpected new tastes at the dinner table.  During a Saturday excursion to the Île de Ré, we visited an oyster cultivation farm where, in a kind of initiation rite to the region, we all consumed fresh oysters for the first time.  Some students mentioned that it took the courage of a bungy jumper to ingest something so fresh and unusual.

Finally, on a personal level, my family and I have come to expect unexpectedly kind people all over town.  For the French national holiday, we were invited to dinner with some new friends, where I learned what 90-year-old cognac tastes like.  My host told me that his grandfather used to work in a cognac factory and offered a bottle to his sister every Christmas.  Since she didn’t drink cognac, she simply added the bottle to the collection in her cellar, year after year.  When she died, her grand-nephew (my dinner host) was delighted to discover a tremendous stash of really fine spirits.  That he was willing to pass some on to an American he’d known only 10 days was certainly inattendu.

— Wade Edwards

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