Of speaking French

In the light of day, I am not sure how good the movie Le Jardins du Roi was really. In my research I discovered it was pretty much a fabricated story. Which makes sense as a female landscape artist in that day and age didn’t seem realistic. And it was a bit heavy in the relationship – too serious and sad and well, whatever. This is supposed to be a blog about Paris, not a movie review column. I leave that to the Roger Ebert wannabes.

Today I reflect on some changes I am observing. I am no longer uncomfortable with the bise – the kiss on the cheek. I stand and step into it with anyone. In fact, when we parted last night, Anya the English friend after the movies, and I – I found myself wondering if two non-French were supposed to bise upon leaving or not. I was instinctively going to but then reason made me hold back.

I met Chantelle today for conversation before the conversation Meetup. First I had to find a Tabac to purchase the phone coupon so my French phone will continue to work tomorrow. Because I do not have a French bank account nor a French credit card, the only way to have a French number is to buy a month plan and for that I have to buy it at the tobacco shop. Coupon in hand, I hopped the metro to meet Chantelle at the Tuilleries – the garden just in front of the Louvre on the way to the Champs d’Elyeese. The metro seemed uncommonly crowded for midweek non rush hour – but maybe I haven’t ridden it noonish?   Maybe it’s all the Parisians on their two hour lunch break? And it seemed odd because all the women had short – really short – hair cuts. Except me. Is there a new fashion trend?   Can’t be. Michel would have cut mine shorter if there was. He is all about a la mode.

2015-05-13 13.02.22-1We lunched at an outdoor café in the Tuilleries. Heaven. Really, this was the first time in Paris this trip where I truly felt the moment was perfect. To sit in the beautiful weather, high puffy clouds, in front of the Louvre, and just BE in Paris. Priceless.

I continue to mangle the French – but Chantelle is patient and seems to understand me. Sometimes the sentences just flow; other times I go perfectly blank. We then went on to the Over a Certain Age Meetup that I regularly attend on Wednesdays. That’s where I met her. And there I spoke French for the most part of the two hours. And then I went on to see Camille, my publisher friend. Our conversations are interesting as they seem to have evolved into her speaking English and my responding in French.

Today she brought something to edit. She has an apartment that is going on AirBNB. She brought the FAQ she wants to leave for the renters- a copy in French and the English translation. I was happy to use my metaphorical red pencil.

The exercise actually helped me understand French better. It took two pages for the French and only one for the English version.

I have to slow down my communication and expect to use more words. In English, I like to be brief. And sometimes ignore the grammatical constructs of noun verb. Why take the extra time with a noun if it’s implied? Just like the issue of articles in front of nouns – the waiter says what do you want? We or I say – coke. Or tea. Here it must be du the.   Some tea. Some water. Not THE water… Never just water because then what about the water?

Nice to meet you. We even contract it to Niceta Meetcha. French: Je suis tres ravi de faire votre connaisance. To speak better French, I have to get my head into a place of taking the time for more words.

And when I was editing, I would cross out five or six words and simply use Please. This really did give me a better understanding of the French language construction.

One of the things Camille included on the FAQ was mention of the “inventory.” I recall this from the time I rented a house in Brittany – before AirBNB existed. The Frenchman sent me a huge list of inventory of everything in the house. I just ignored it actually. Camille says they count everything! Every dish, cup, spoon. I explained that AirBNB doesn’t do that – it’s less formal. And if the fridge breaks, she takes care of it – not the AirBNB rentor.

I like these kinds of conversations – where I really find out more about the French approach. More practical.

Coming home, I had time to stop for the baguette at the boulangerie in the Metro. As I walked home (oh my, I so enjoy being able to write that!), I noticed dots appearing on the sidewalk. It was starting to rain. But it seemed to be missing me – a good thing because I had no umbrella. I felt like my dog Gypsy- when she would go outside when it was raining, she would look up, feel the raindrops, and then duck her head down close to the ground, as if she thought she would avoid the raindrops if she could just get her head lower. As if the rain drops stopped 2 feet about the ground. Get under that space and she was home free. I felt somehow I was able to thread through the rain drops unscathed. And then it stopped altogether and I got home dry.

Blogging in what I now consider to be real time is a joy. Trying to catch up with the activities of Shivaun’s visit was becoming a burden. A death march. I hope you didn’t find reading it the same?

And speaking of reading – or communicating…

I welcome comments – on the blog or in email. Most of you appear to read it through your email. So I have no idea then if it was read.

And to take this further, for my good friends, don’t forget Skype. I have one person with whom I regularly Skype. Others seem to think that I am too far away for “real” conversation. Or that it’s too expensive to call Europe (Skype is free, as is FaceTime and there are others). So even though I am trying to learn French, it is also nice to catch up with you and your activities in real time – video or voice. The only small challenge is the time difference but that is not insurmountable.

And a photo of a store window selling beautiful pens – for you my dear accountant!

2015-05-13 17.02.29

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