8 FRANCE, PART ONE:
Lolita Loizeau, the wife of Fabrice, meets meet in the station with her 7-month-old baby girl named Lilou (pronounced “Lee-loo”). La Petite Lilou is apparently fascinated by me (perhaps it’s the blue eyes?) and her attention is riveted on me practically the entire duration of my visit – if Lilou is awake (and not interacting with her mother), she is likely to be staring at moi, l’Americain. Lolita is very relieved that I speak French as well as I do, as her English isn’t very well-practiced. 99% of all conversations during the rest of my visit with them, we speak in French. We share a cup of peppermint tea (“Menthe”) at an outdoor café facing the train station; we meet up with Fabrice and head over to a meeting room where we have a Laughter Club session with about 45 people (Fabrice was expecting more!). He does the opening and closing, and then we trade off leading laughter exercises. My French is quite functional, and I receive many compliments on its excellence. But a lot of vocabulary has escaped my memory, I’ve forgotten the gender of many of the nuns… and prepositions remain enigmatic.
A reporter/cameraman is at the club and films us all. He interviews me and Fabrice separately (I believe this constitutes my first Laughter Yoga interview given in French!); I suggest that Fabrice and I be in the same shot for a prolonged take of us laughing together. (This makes it onto the evening news the following night – another premiere, first time on French television!) The laughter club atmosphere is very friendly, and about fifteen of us head to a nearby café for after-laughter drinks. The clubbers have brought tons of chips –from exotic foreign manufacturers like “Lay’s” – and between scarfing these, sculpting pistachio shells and sipping drinks (from beer to more tea, we laugh so loud the management asks us to “Keep it Down, people are eating…”
We have a late dinner at the Loizeau home, and Fabrice shows me a small flyer for a workshop on “Cooperation Games.” We can visit this workshop if we want on my last morning in town, and can share some Laughter Yoga games. We agree it will be fun. I start mulling over the prospect of running a weekend workshop which combines Laughter Yoga with Classical (Hatha) Yoga, and having the option that some folks can attend additional hours and become certified Laughter Yoga Leaders. Over the next days’ meditations this turns into the notion of having such a weekend (perhaps a residential retreat, or “in town”) with Laughter Yoga Teachers in France (Fabrice in Rennes), Germany (Gabriela in Hamburg), Austria (Elfi Seher in Graz) and Italy (Margot in Bolzano, or Simonetta in Florence, or Laura in Rome). And maybe one in Switzerland too. I could do the French one without translation; the Swiss one could be offered in English; the others would involve translators. I resolve to make this happen, and chat with Fabrice from time to time during the rest of this visit. So now we’re up to two European projects for next year: these weekends of Laughter/Hasya Yoga (“Spiritual Paths Towards Union with Your True, Joyful Nature”) and the Laughter Club Tourbus. Wheeeee! With perhaps a Teacher Training or two thrown in, 2011 could turn into a big euro-year.
The next morning there’s another laughter club in a smaller town, Vitre. This meeting has about a dozen participants (mostly older adults, along with one youngish woman in a wheelchair). We find that there’s an interview with Fabrice, and photo of the two of us, in the local Journal (community newspaper) and snag a halfdozen copies. A few weeks earlier, Fabrice had wisely sent our press announcements about the impending visit of the Director of the American Institute of Laughter Yoga, along with a photo of the two of us taken in Interlaken a year earlier.
It seems that Lolita has a trick ankle, and after the morning laughter session it gives out on her. She collapses against the side of a car, as I take her baby Lilou in my arms while Fabrice supports his wife. Neighbors run to help, as she is clearly in great pain. A fellow (perhaps a nurse, or doctor’s aide?) gives assuring words and despite declarations that we’ll go the hospital, once Lolita has calmed down she explains that this has happened before, and we’ll just go back to the house - she is sure she’ll be okay in a few days. An earlier-proposed trip to Mont. St Michael is nixed by yours truly; I say (quite honestly) that I don’t want to drive another two hours after yesterday having been a long, train-encased day. (”Prochaine visite” (next visit) I promise.) But I am also aware that after the frightening event of Lolita’s pain-in-the-street, I think we are all better off resting rather than gallivanting around for another prolonged stretch. Instead, I have a nice 3-hour nap (heavenly!) followed by a pleasantly mellow dinner together.