In another happy turn of events thanks to Couchsurfing, I have been invited into the home of a lovely woman named Estelle, who lives with her husband and two children, a boy and girl ages 8 and 12. Estelle’s family resides in Louverné, which is about a 10-15 minute car ride from Laval. She lives in a recent housing development, so don’t even get me started on how modern the toilets in this place are!

But seriously, this is the toilet flusher. And it is attached to the wall above the toilet. (I even took the picture this time and am writing an absurdly long caption because showing it to you is THAT important.)

Fascinations with toilets aside, I have been truly floored by the continuation of generosity Couchsurfing hosts here have shown me. Estelle has offered me a place to sleep for a week as I continue my apartment search, and I eat three delicious homemade meals a day with her family. I am staying in her son’s room while he sleeps upstairs in an unfinished bedroom, and I have not heard a peep of complaint from his end.

Not only has Estelle offered a roof over my head and delicious food, but she has actively sought out apartments for me and driven me to look at them. She’s even offered to lend me a bike, tableware, and furniture for the year if I end up renting an unfurnished place. What I have done to deserve such hospitality I am unsure, but I am incredibly grateful for it.

Besides all the help, another wonderful aspect of staying with a family has been the opportunity to immerse myself in both the culture and the language. A couple days ago, Estelle took me to Carrefour to go grocery shopping because she wanted to pick out food I liked and see what I hadn’t tried yet. We ended up eating shrimp and manta ray for dinner, along with a course of five different cheeses and grapefruit for dessert. The shrimp came unshelled, and if you’ve never eaten manta ray before (because maybe like myself you didn’t even know it was edible), this is what it looks like on the pan:

I’m not sure if the things on it are eyeballs, but they probably are.

I have also learned that, at least in this family, sauces for meats and vegetables are a pretty big thing and they usually have some type of mayonnaise or cheese base. When Estelle asked me what Americans dip their shrimp in, I tried to explain the classic red cocktail sauce but realized I actually had no idea what it was made of. It was nowhere to be found in the supermarché aisles, so I found a recipe for it online and whipped it up. (Just in case anyone is curious: lots of ketchup, some horseradish, a bit of lemon juice and a dash of worcestershire sauce, which does not exist in France.)

Estelle’s husband seemed to quite enjoy the sauce, and I was glad to see there was at least something I could contribute considering all that this family has already given me the past few days. As for the apartment search: I have a good feeling. If all goes well I will know by tomorrow where I’ll be living, and I can’t wait to share photos of my new neighborhood.