New Month, New Life? We're Packing! On Fait des Cartons!
Finally, Some News: We are now squatters...

Superhero in French & What SDF stands for

Les dents de la mer jaws spielberg
If there were sharks near our Mediterranean beach, I'd want to swim with my sister-in-law. She's a superhero--Batwoman and Wonder Woman combined! Read on....

SDF (Sans Domicile Fixe)

    : "without permanent home", homeless

Sans Domicile Fixe--Click here to listen to Jean-Marc read the following French:

Les personnes sans-abri, sans domicile fixe, sans logis ou itinérants, anciennement qualifiées de clochards ou vagabonds, à ne pas confondre avec les mendiants, sont des personnes qui résident et dorment dans des lieux non prévus pour l'habitation tels que cave, parking, voiture, entrepôt et bâtiment technique, parties communes d’un immeuble d’habitation, chantiers, métro, gare, rue, terrain vague, etc. -Wikipedia

Homeless people, people without permanent homes, people without lodging, or itinerants, formerly referred to as tramps or vagrants, not to be confused with beggars, are people who live and sleep in places not intended for housing such as a cellar, a car park, a car, a warehouse and a technical building, common parts of a residential building, a building site, a metro, a railway station, a street, a vacant lot, etc.


    by Kristi Espinasse

Last night, after helping my mother-in-law with her paperwork, my frangine came to visit us. At 9:30 pm, the heatwave was only beginning to lift, so Jean-Marc, Cécile, and I headed to the beach for a swim after dark.

We were very lucky to find parking in Les Lecques--a tourist hot-spot in August. Grabbing our towels we crossed over the one-way street that runs through the small town, and joined the throng along the boardwalk. Kids, dogs, lovers, grandmas...we folded into the lively lane of pedestrians and were carried down the beachfront until we reached some steps and exited la foule.

The light along the boardwalk faded out to the beach, where a few other groups of people could barely be seen. We dropped our towels, stepped out of our cutoffs and threw off our T-shirts to reveal a hairy chest (Jean-Marc), pale skin (me) and tattoos from biceps to knees (my sister-in-law, with the spiked, platinum hair).

"Remember Jaws?" I said to my belle-soeur, snickering as we waded out into the sea.

"Les Dents de la Mer..." my frangine remembered the film that scared the wits out of Americans--and Frenchies--alike. Knowing full well the biggest fish in the bay were dolphins (spotted from time to time off the coast of La Ciotat or Cassis or Marseilles) we were free to joke about sharks.

I've never swam in the sea at night and could not see past the water's surface to the fish swimming around my feet (a favorite sight during our morning baignades). So I turned my attention away from the murky depths and looked back to the lighted boardwalk, enjoying the sea's perspective on the lively flow of people, while hearing the boom boom boom of a band "the city probably got for free," according to Jean-Marc. "Eighties tunes," my sister-in-law remarked.

Fully cooled down, we swam back to the beach to dry off before heading for ice cream. I pulled on my shorts over my wet one-piece, while my sister-in-law took off her two-piece and put on dry sous-vêtements. When Cécile stepped into her culottes a metallic glimmer caught my eye and I turned to see her wearing Wonder Woman briefs.

She is the coolest.

On the way to get ice cream Cécile told me about a homeless woman and baby who she often encounters on the way to her workshop. "I sometimes give her money. Lately, especially along the cement sidewalk where she sits, it's been so hot. So I've given her water and fruit."

Cécile continued:

Recently, I asked if she was okay? Did she need social assistance? Where was it she was living? She indicated a nearby squat--a very dirty and horrible place which I have seen. I asked her which bus she took and she said 38. That was my bus! A few days later I saw her on the bus, sitting with her cousin who spoke less French than she (basically no French!). The baby was filthy.

I walked over to talk to her. Did she and her cousin want to come to my apartment to take a shower?

The young women and the baby took showers and when the cousin saw the mother walk out of the shower smelling like roses, she realized there was shampoo and feared she'd missed her chance. I told her to go ahead and take another shower! I don't know how long it had been since they last washed....

Listening to my frangine's story, I wondered if I would have had the reflex to inquire about a street beggar's well-being. It's easy to toss a coin into a cup, but would you go as far as to ask, Are things OK with you? How are you doing, really? Would I have had the courage to encourage two young strangers (three, not forgetting the baby) to come into my home for a shower?

While I do not know the answer, one thing is sure: those who have walked a mile in a squatter's shoes would have had the courage to reach out.

Postnote: I may have gotten the underwear wrong. Not wanting to stare at my sister-in-law, I only got a glimpse of what looked to be Wonder Woman's insignia--but those could have been bat wings. BatWoman or Wonderwoman--either way, my sister-in-law is a superhero.

Note: in the story I refer to my sister-in-law as ma frangine. But Cécile is really Jean-Marc's frangine (sister).
More about ma frangine, Cécile, here. And if ever you are in Aix-en-Provence, do stop in to the shop (address below) that has a sample of her handmade works.

la frangine = sister
la foule = the masses of people
la belle-soeur = sister-in-law
la baignade = swimming
les sous-vêtements = underwear, underclothing
la culotte = panties


Creatures de provence



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Cécile is definitely cool~~~on many levels. At first I thought her to be brave. After giving more thought, It seems many other words would describe her better: thoughtful, caring, kind, respectful, loving, sensitive, generous, and on and on. She sounds lovely and brave to wear the Wonder Woman culottes!

Ken Curtis

Most people try their best to avoid eye contact with homeless people on the street, but miss a valueable lesson in the process. Years ago I was living in Laguna Beach, California where many homeless drifted partly because of the beach and partly because it was warmer than more northern locales. I would always see one homeless guy who appeared quite young - maybe 18-19 years of age. I had passed him many times in walking to the store and he would be sitting on the curb and would always look up at me assessing whether he'd ask for spare change. You could see the process of this assessment written in his eyes as you passed. One night I had gone to the deli up the street to buy dinner and across the street to the liquor store for a couple six-packs of beer. This night as I looked him on the curb it occurred to me that I should ask him if he'd like a beer since it was quite hot that evening. What I said to him turned out differently than what I intended to say. I asked if he'd like to have some dinner with me and drink a few beers. His eyes lit up like candles as he jumped to his feet and shook my hand while nodding the affirmative to my offer. In all he spent a couple of hours at my place while telling me all about what had brought him to be homeless. It was an incredible story which detailed a difficult and rather tragic series of events over the past several years. But, in the end he told me that he'd adapted to life on the street and had many good friends among the homeless. He said he was planning to go back to the east coast for a job, but in the meantime was spending his time on the street with the people he'd become acquainted with. He thanked me profusely said he'd enjoyed dinner and the beers because I was the first non-homeless person that had ever even spoken to him in several years. I never have looked at a homeless person the same again.

Catherine Berry (But you are in France, Madame)

Very cool, Ken, to just let the evening happen. You were clearly a moment of friendship that was appreciated.

Catherine Berry (But you are in France, Madame)

Cécile sounds like a breath of fresh air. Good on her.

Jean Briggs

Swim, swam, swum?
Loved the SDF stories...


How fortunate you all are to be able to swim in the Med to cool off after sunset. Your story is a good reminder that we are all truly in this together. Have a wonderful day.


Me too! And drink, drank, drunk. Swing, s___(?),swung. And sneak, sneaked(?), snuck. So many of these odd ones are just not used anymore, but they sound so right to me. Maybe I'm showing my age. Junior high grammar classes are a long ways away now!

Kathleen from Connecticut

You sister in law is a good person. Artist see things differently and are willing to take risks and put themselves out there. Kudos to her.


Karen Matic

SDF also stands for Scouts de France.... Boy Scouts of France. I have two teenaged step-grandsons who are very active in their area, Marne la Vallée, east of Paris. I was surprised the first time they used that shortened form, knowing more commonly your explanation.
BTW, thank you Kristi for sharing your life with so many of us readers. I've been a followers of your blog for many years. I, too, am married to a Frenchman and enjoy sharing half my year in France, the other half in Chicago.
Vive la France! Karen

joie in Carmel

the world needs more Cecile people.....or even just a small bit of what she appears to have in her heart.

Patricia Sands

A beautiful, kind story. Good for you and thanks for this lesson to be less judgmental.

Patricia Sands

Bless, Cécile! And you, for sharing this story from which we can all learn a lesson.


Our dear Kristi,
What an important lesson you have inspired us with today:The Golden Rule.
(AND best of all, followed by smiles!)
Beautiful Cecile truly sets an example for the rest of us (as did Ken in the above comments);alas,I must sadly confess that many times I have not gone the distance as they did.
Never mind dancing to her own drummer in wearing Wonder Woman pants!
(Please tell her that Girl,You Rock!!!!!!!!)
Natalia XO


Dolphins aren't fish. They are mammals. They are warm blooded and suckle their young, like whales. We'll let you off the hook though.


Hi Kristi, Your family's closeness is lovely, beautiful, and full of blessings!! God bless, C-Marie


Belle et bonne! thank you for sharing this story, as courage is contagious.

Eileen deCamp

Hi Kristi,
Cécile is a kind and thoughtful person! There are usually people begging at several stoplights in our town. Sometimes it is hard to ask any questions because then I would hold up traffic behind me. I usually buy a sandwich, chips, cookie and drink and pass it out the window along with the hope that things will be looking up for them soon and that I will pray for them. There are so many people struggling in the world. Thanks to Cécile for reaching out a bit further than most people feel comfortable doing!

Diane Covington-Carter, Eight Months in Provence, A Junior Year Abroad 30 Years Late

Such a vivid scene of swimming in France--and your sister-in-law being able to change right on the beach. I love that in France there is not all the underlying Puritan stuff as we have in America! Can't wait to swim in the Med again--will be there in September. Thanks Again Kristi. You always bring us there.

josephine maurer

I was wondering how you stay sober thru all your festivities. I am very impressed with your lifestyle. Love you josephine

Leslie NYC

I love the security Cecile showed by opening her heart and home. I tend to be afraid that if i were so open I would have homeless people living with me forever. There is a middle ground. I have to remember that. Thnaks to you both for the reminder.

Diane Young

We had a vagrant who showed up every day for noon prayer service and also on Sunday. One of our sextons got him some clothes and gave him money for a daily meal Some of us chipped in too. Alas! he is missing. We suspect he was attacked by someone or was picked up for vagrancy. The sextons are going to check with the police. The main person who cared for him washed his clothes in the church's laundry. We miss Mr. William and pray he'll be found and return to our church soon. We feel that God sent him to be a message for us.


Cécile has a beautiful ♥ Love this!


I have a question about the word "frangine." Is it colloquial? I understood the word for sister to be soeur. How are these words used differently?

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