This encouraging French phrase literally means (as one might guess) "good continuation". Which doesn't mean a whole lot in English. It's something like "keep up the good work," but with a slightly more admiring tone. Absolutely a balm to a tired soul. Another unbelievably cheering thing to hear on a difficult day is "bon courage". Now, there seems to be a slight difference between the two. If you are propping up your fellow neighbor with a "courage," this is usually reserved for especially trying situations. Such as, we had plenty of practice shouting it up the climbing wall last Sunday, while we took turns clutching footholds barely wide enough for an ant to have a tea party on. Those two words are enough to get you up to the next (equally tiny) handhold. "Bonne continuation" is also meant to give you a boost, but it tends to appear in less dramatic, possibly mundane affairs.
It doesn't seem to me that we have the habit of saying these sorts of phrases in English very often, but they seem to be everyday fodder in this country. For example, you start to chat with the bouquiniste (bookseller) selling his wares along the Seine, and pretty soon you find yourself launching into your life story because these guys are just so darn curious about how a young American finds their way to a career in Renaissance French Literature. Forty-five minutes later, they're clapping you on the back with a hearty "bonne continuation!" Suddenly, you feel quite certain that you could defend a doctoral thesis any day, even if the committee was made up of a host of dragons.
Or you're running in the park, and another jogger pulls up alongside and starts to chat. They pepper you with questions, until they discover that you're American and want to know why you're in France. After your run (which you've prolonged, because of the complex and fascinating conversation you found yourself in about America's foreign policy), you part ways, your new running partner exhorting you with a good-natured "bonne continuation!" You could run a marathon on that sort of encouragement. (Hmm. There's an thought.)
Then there's always the sheer tenacity and hard work it takes to carve out a musical life in a new city. So, you go to a music store to ferret out helpful resources, in paper or people form. Soon, you are comparing notes with another musician on places to gig out, a conversation which could easily be capped off with a cool, laid-back: "euh...bonne continuation." Practice the next day rolls around, and there's a new spring in your step.
It's the kind of thing that we're ready to hear at this point. We've been here for three months, and things are settling into a sort of routine. Paris is forever spontaneous and dear, but our lives here are not meant to just be an extended vacation. (Believe it or not.) We are discovering that our days here are meant to be shaped around purpose. Many of these remain to be defined, but we take comfort in the truth that "we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them." (Ephesians 2:10).
It's the kind of thing that I am always needing to hear. (So insightful of my fellow Parisians to notice.) I don't know about you, but I'm the sort of person that gets really wound up about something new, but I tend to peter out on the follow-through part. Like, I'll do a regimen of sit-ups religiously for exactly four weeks, and then somehow completely forget about them. Ok, maybe sit-ups are forgettable. But it's still frustrating. Imagine what a "bonne continuation" from time to time would do for my abdominal muscles!
Not to mention my spiritual muscles. In fact, one could argue that this is why regular and robust meetings between fellow Christians must take place. So, whether you are in need of a heavy dose of courage or simply a renewed fervor to keep going strong in your lives, we offer you all a most wholehearted:
Bon courage et bonne continuation!