The Foreign Service Journal, February 2010

S ince April 2006, I have been en- joying my retirement in South- west France. I own a house in Lauzerte, a picturesque hilltop town of about 1,500 people in what is called La France Profonde, or “Deep France.” The area is famous for its wine (Cahors), duck, fruits and vegetables, foie gras and dishes like cassoulet. I am enjoying myself so much that I’ve begun to wonder why I didn’t retire earlier. There’s nothing that I have to do, only things that I want to do. And fortunately, that list is pretty long: Integrate into my new life here. We have all lived abroad as students, re- searchers, teachers, embassy employees or Peace Corps Volunteers, but this is the first time I have done so without being “on assignment,” with a prede- termined role. Yet as the years have passed, I have discovered that I am ful- filling a multitude of roles here: neigh- bor, confidant, friend, consumer, em- ployer, café denizen and barfly, host, guest and, oh yes, eccentric foreigner. My French-language skills have im- proved greatly, and that has helped me participate more fully in the village’s so- cial and cultural life. Work onmy house. Owning an 800- year-old house is a blessing and a curse: You have the pleasure of stone walls, an- cient tile floors, fireplaces and high- beamed ceilings; but you also have to keep warm in the winter, deal with con- stant dust from the walls and blend the old and new. Recently I’ve installed central heating, creating a balcony and added a second bathroom. Own a dog. I should probably say raise a dog child. My family always had dogs, but I realize now that I was a slacker in their upbringing. The feed- ing, walking, grooming, training and en- tertaining of Bosco—now a 4-year-old Boston terrier—often seems like a full- time job. But he’s been worth it. Boston terri- ers are a rare breed in France, and Bosco draws admiring attention and comments, even from strangers. I often joke that Bosco, as my entrée into soci- ety, is better known than I am. He is a great traveler, a loyal companion and— like a true Frenchman — his favorite hangout is the local café. Indulge my interests. I’ve always loved food, wine and cooking, so one hobby has been traveling and finding great new restaurants, farmers’ markets, fabulous local produce and terrific wines. In the process, I have become a consultant for the local Cahors wine as- sociation as it embarks on a marketing campaign in the U.S. I have also taken cooking classes at restaurants and cook- ing schools in the area. And, most importantly, I have be- come involved in the SlowFoodMove- ment, an international movement that champions local produce, organic farm- ing and diversity of produce. I have at- tended conferences in Turin and become involved in local chapters of the organization in this area. Stay in touch. I’ve tried to keep my weblog about my life here updated and interesting for family and friends (www. . Fortunately, I have a DSL line that gives me high- speed, wireless access to the Internet. And for my birthday, my sister pur- chased a Slingbox; she plugs it into her TV cable box and Internet router; and, voilá, I am able to access all 400 chan- nels on her TV in Washington, D.C., through my computer here! Amazing technology! Finally, as much as I savor retire- ment, I have not been immune to doing short-termwork for State. The English Language Programs division occasion- ally approaches me to do some teacher training, and last year I enjoyed a won- derful trip to Chile. Living abroad gives me what I al- ways loved about being an FSO: the discovery of something new and stim- ulating on a daily basis. Indeed, as a colleague put it aptly, retirement is “underrated.” ■ Gregory Orr, an FSO from 1987 to 2006, served in Budapest, Moscow, Kiev, Bratislava and Washington, D.C. He held various positions in English-language programs, cultural affairs and public affairs. There’s nothing that I have to do, only things that I want to do. 84 F O R E I G N S E R V I C E J O U R N A L / F E B R U A R Y 2 0 1 0 R EFLECTIONS Orr d’Oeuvres from “Deep France” B Y G REGORY O RR