Saturday, January 15, 2011

Three Communities of Metz

Our visit to Metz over Thanksgiving brought us back to three different communities. We felt connected with each.

The first community was Georgia Tech-Lorraine. Jim Foley, my Georgia Tech colleague who made it possible for Susie and me to teach at GTL last spring, was himself at GTL this fall. We had the chance to have dinner with Jim and his wife Marylou at le Bouchon, the very restaurant where we had our first real meal in Metz a year ago. We were also lucky that Jean Sands and Henry Owen, our GLT colleagues, were in town, and so we had a wonderful dinner with them. At GTL proper, we said hi to all of our staff colleagues, whom we were really happy to see.

The second community was the Association Lorraine-Etats Unis. On Monday afternoon I accompanied Susie to the meeting of the association's English conversation group, in which she participated weekly last spring. I'd been to only one meeting, because I usually taught class then. So Susie (and somewhat I) caught up with the regulars, who were as warm and welcoming as usual. Then, on Thursday, we were the association's guests at their Thanksgiving dinner. This proved to be more elegant and elaborate that our usual American celebrations. The dinner took place in the great hall of the Metz Officer's Club, a room lit by chandeliers, decorated with columns, and looked over by an enormous portrait of the Emperor Napoleon I in an ermine robe.

The meal started with a regional cocktail of Champagne and mirabelle liqueur. The main course was, of course, turkey, accompanied by French side dishes. Our contribution was that I read Art Buchwald's traditional Thanksgiving column about the Jour de Merci Donnant. I translated on the fly, but because much of the column involved Frenglish, I'm not sure how effective my recitation proved to be for my audience; people were gracious enough to say that they liked it, though. As someone whose life has bridged both the U.S. and France, I felt completely at home in this gathering of French and Americans dedicated to each other's culture and to their ties across history--and that history resounds with special acuteness in Metz.

The third community was Metz's Jewish community. Susie and I attended Friday night Shabbat services at the Metz synagogue and then, at the invitation of Rabbis Fiszon and Bamberger, joined their families for a celebration of the wedding, in England in three weeks time, of the Bambergers' youngest son. Mme Bamberger and the whole family welcomed us with great warmth. The Bamberger brothers are amazing singers, and they sang through the evening with emotion. We weren't able to attend the wedding, but you can still hear the brothers' celebration via YouTube. We abandoned our Saturday plans of visiting Strasbourg so we could rejoin the congregation for Saturday morning services, which were joyous and moving.

So these were the highlights of our stay in Metz, not only for Thanksgiving week but as the summary of our whole winter and spring. The squares, the markets, the restaurants, the forts, the history, and the arts draw visitors to France and to Metz. The connections to communities stay with us and draw us back to visit again.

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