Chez Les Ch’ti
Pronunciation (Shay – Lay – Shtea)
The first time I heard the word Ch’ti was when I received my letter about where I had been placed in France for my year abroad. I was told I would be going to “Le Nord” the north of France, that home of “Les Ch’ti”. I went on a search to learn about this place I would be moving to and found the movie “Bienvenue Chez les Ch’ti” a French comedy poking fun at the people and land of the North of France. I watched the movie and watched the people of the North portrayed with ridiculous that were impossible to understand, bizarre eating habits, crazy mannerisms, and rain, rain, and more rain.
When I arrived in the Lille, the capitol of Nord-Pas-de-Calais, to no surprise it was raining. ‘Raining ropes’ as they say in French, I was very thankful for my raincoat. I tried to understand all the people speaking to me in their ‘accent Ch’ti’ and well, seeing as I barely understood French as it was, I was already terrified. In school they put out little plates of Maroilles, a specialty cheese of the region. They had to cover each plate with saran wrap because of the horrible stench it let out. I went to the dining room one day and found my host dad eating Maroilles on a piece of toast with butter and dipping it in his coffee.
Before I knew it I was picking up the accent and expressions of the north. I found myself craving Maroilles to go with my coffee. I caught myself thinking how beautiful the intense grey sky was. Not long after someone from another region of France commented on my funny Ch’ti accent. I came to love the Ch’ti accent and how expressive and free it allows you to be, everyone spoke with exuberance and a liveliness that made you feel cherry. I completely fell in love with the life of a Ch’ti, and all the beauty of Lille.
I put my Ch’ti heart and soul into “Chez Les Ch’ti” painting my favorite buildings and showcasing some of my favorite cheeses. I painted the buildings at the Lille Chamber of Commerce which was always the designated meeting place for my friends and me. I painted the cathedral of Lille, the grey building with the stained glass windows. We would often picnic underneath the cathedral and play card games, exchange stories, and eat cheese and baguette. Also featured is the bar where we would go to wait out the rain and many exchange students would gather, this is why I named it ‘Etrangers’ in the painting, which is French for exchange students.
The flower box on the building in front of the cathedral is a small version of the giant polka dot tulips sculpture outside of the Lille Flandres train station. The date on the clock is the day that I received the letter telling me I would be living in the Nord-Pas-De-Calais. There are several other small hidden details regarding to my life as a Ch’ti and relating to Lille. I look at this painting and feel that tug at my heart that tells me that I perfectly captured the essence of my life in Lille.