Frenching

Today, I posed a question to myself. Though, I didn’t actually have words to the question until after I answered it. You see, I was looking at myself in the mirror, about to go downstairs to go on an afternoon walk (since I still can’t run after my accident three weeks ago). In my head was French and the excitement of living in France as an adult – something I have only dreamt of doing, but have tasted as a student – due to this Netflix show called Emily In Paris.

I was somewhat lonesome today, and wanted a movie or series to keep me company while I cooked for a long while. I somehow ended up with Emily In Paris, and fell in love. We had a full and satisfying relationship all day long today (think Jim Gaffigan on Netflix shows being like dating), and I was taking an unwanted but necessary break to go on my walk (got to get those hundred miles in somehow). And so, I’m looking in the mirror, French and Frenchmen and France and chocolatines in my head. And I somehow answer this unsaid question aloud, in French.

I say first, before seeing myself in the mirror, “Bah ouais. Je ne parle pas le français comme langue maternelle. Ce n’est pas ma langue maternelle. Mais j’adore le parler….”

Pourquoi ? someone asks in my head.

“Parce que quand je parle le français…, je me sens…,” and I now look directly at myself in this Masaie mirror on the wall, halted just before the first step downward. “Je me sens… un peu sexy…,” and I smile as I admit it, adding raised eyebrow as and a head tilt at the second feeling, “tellement à l’aise… et,” and this last is he hardest to admit, “comme quelqu’un qui en vaut l’envie. Je veut dire, quelqu’un qui mérite être envié…,” and I look at myself with these words having been said aloud, experiencing the fullness of their truth, and somewhat being that person envying his girl in the mirror – woman in the mirror – and I smile, fully content in that moment, give one final glance to the freckles around my nose, and head down the stairs and out the front door for a hearty walk in the chilly late afternoon air, under the overcast, Fall sky.

As I began my walk, I realized that my unsaid question – it felt a bit like playing Jeopardy, I suppose 😛 – was, “Why learn a foreign language?”

I contemplated this on my walk, and even recorded myself for a bit, just to see what it was like as a means of keeping track of my thoughts. (It was cool, but I’m not sure it is my style for sharing those thoughts with others.) I repeated my earlier statements on speaking French, but added the question to the beginning, and continued my statements with a further idea: When I speak English, these are not the ways that I feel. By speaking French, I have discovered and continue to discover things within myself that I previously had not known. By speaking a language different from my native language, I get to experience myself and life in a new way. And that is possibly the best and most valuable part of speaking a different language.

And, to be clear, this is not due simply to saying words in a foreign tongue. It is by having learned the language, which means experiencing its people and culture, as well as its use, that I have gained access to these formerly-foreign parts of myself. It is the Frenchness within me that I have learned and found throughout the process of learning to speak French, the language. I always support immersion as a necessary part of learning a language, because the language and culture not only go hand in hand, but cannot be separated from one another and still remain true to who and what they are.

So, why learn a foreign language? To discover how life and you are better than you ever imagined. 😉

Yeah 🙂

P.S. For those who do not know French and have not already stuck that paragraph into Google Translate, what I had said roughly translates in English to, “Well, yeah. I don’t speak French like a native speaker. I’m not a native speaker of French. But I love speaking it. Why? Because, when I speak French, I feel… I feel… a bit sexy…, entirely at ease…, and that I am someone worth envying.”

Post-a-day 2020

Cinco de Mayo

Perusing the various social aspects of my phone as I get in my final required steps before I am allowed to go to bed for the night, I have noticed a sense of slight oddness…, but I have been unable to identify what is odd, nor really be sure that something is, indeed, odd… I’m just tired, and under the after-effects of a large margarita (from six hours ago, mind you) and lots of tamales and tacos to fill my belly and tire me out.

I had consciously decided to gorge on them in celebration of Cinco de Mayo – truly more of a Texas day of celebration of Mexican culture than a Mexican celebration of boosted morale in the midst of a takeover by France… – and to be delighted with the whole experience… and I have been – today has been great.

But, sitting here on my bed, there is something tickling at the back of my tired mind and body…

I wiggle and trench my shoulders a bit, and it suddenly hits me, as I declare happily, “That’s what’s weird! I don’t have a shirt on!”

As usual when I am really tired, I messed up the order of things in getting ready for bed, and forgot the one that involves putting on a shirt. 😂

So, I popped over to clothes, selected a soft t-shirt, and pulled it on happily.

Aaahhh… that feels good… satisfying.

At last, the oddness is gone, and I feel whole in my bedtime preparations. 😂

Silly, silly… 😂

Post-a-day 2020

Crazy lady travels free

I was just thinking about when my coworker and I took a group of kids to England and France a few summers ago, and things associated with that.  At the end of the trip, I stayed in France to go visit my old stomping grounds down south, and so I left the group to go home on a flight with my coworker (per our own full agreement and arrangement ahead of time).  I waited too long to decide to do that, so I had to pay $350 for the flight change (Ugh).  We also each had to pay $937.50 for the trip in the first place (Meh).  Therefore, I had to pay a total of $1287.50 for a 10-day trip that included all accommodations, food, tours, and transport, and another ten days on location at my own expense, which is really not bad at all.  At all.

However – and this is a BIG however – as part of our arranging and hosting this trip in the first place, the tour company gave us each a training trip.

Mine, as I selected it, was a long weekend trip, with food, housing, tours, and transportation included, to downtown Rome, Italy.  Therefore, my just-under 1300 dollars actually got me two separate trips to Europe, with almost all expenses paid for most of the time on the trips.

I really do come up with the craziest stuff to have happen in my life.  And – what is possibly the best part of this all – I don’t even seem to notice how absurd it all is, until I find myself ruminating on this and thats one afternoon, years later, and it suddenly hits me that, say, taking a free trip to Europe is not a normal thing in life.  I take this moment to nod my head to my cousin for the question she exasperatedly declared one evening at my apartment a few years ago: “Hannah, do you even know what real life is like?”

Indeed, fair cousin, it seems I do not know that most of the time – reality bites, so I live somewhere else, and I love it.  🙂

Post-a-day 2018

Women can, but can we see that?

It is amazing to me how, back in the time of Jeanne d’Arc, it was astonishing that she could do what she did, and especially so, – and this is the biggest part – because she was a girl, and not a man.

Rather, it is amazing to me that such a thing was seen as utterly spectacular back then, in the 1400s, and yet society still has not altered to accept such accomplishments from females.

It kind of makes me wonder what kind of accomplishments would alter society’s view of women, if such acts as those of Jeanne d’Arc fell as a mere anomaly, – even the smallest matter of her dressing in trousers or armor, or being a member of an army, let alone leading it – something that could never otherwise be expected.

Post-a-day 2018

Eat up, dearest

“Ah, well, have your way if you must.  But he that fasts must attempt but little and stop early.  When shall you be back?”

A God-loving man once said that to Jeanne d’Arc (in French, of course), when she denied breakfast, because she was in such an excited and exhilarated hurry to get to the day’s task (of reclaiming the rest of the the river).

Sonething about it just struck me very strongly, and gave me an experience of delight.  I suppose it was the fact that it was someone who was Catholic giving such an idea, making it an odd sort of contradiction to modern practice in the religion.

Post-a-day 2018

Pastries

It wasn’t until I had lived in France for a few months that I found out about the secret bags of pastries.

You see, normally, I would have one to three pastries a week.  That was all that I could afford reasonably, really.  And fresh pastries in France are kind of the bomb dot com.  Period.  Sometimes, during the morning break in class, my classmates and I would walk to the bakery the next street over, and all have a pastry and coffee together.  It was fun and always delicious.  And, compared to the US, the prices were fabulous.  However, there was still a limit – we couldn’t really do it every day on our college student budgets.

But, my life was somewhat transformed when one of the girls in my program told me how she always got her pastries.  D- found a way to try them all on a budget.  She said, ‘Yeah, you just look for these bags up on top of the counter, in a basket, and they’re filled with whatever didn’t sell yesterday.  So, it’s different every day.’

After several days, if not even a couple weeks, of psyching myself up, I finally went to the bakery she’d mentioned, to find these secret bags.  And there they were, crammed full of various pastries, and they were only a few euros.  I think it was that very first time that, even though I totally knew what the bag up on top of the pastry case was, I asked casually to the pastry chef what it was.  He explained it all to me, and how they didn’t want to waste anything, so they bagged it up and sold it cheap the next morning.  I semi-feigned surprise at what he told me, but I was also genuinely surprised that D- had been right and it really wasreal thing.  For the price of one or two fresh pastries, I could get a whole bag of ones made only yesterday, and of all different types.  No, if you grow up on fresh French pastries, they aren’t nearly too delicious.  However, we didn’t grow up on fresh French pastries – we delighted in even the day-old pastries like it was some of the best stuff we’d ever eaten.  (And it totally was.)

Plus, if someone had given me a bag of pastries anyway, I probably wouldn’t have eaten them all at once.  It would have taken me most of the day to get through them comfortably, and I’d probably even save something for breakfast the next day.  So, for a huge fraction of the price, we got to do just that.

Usually, I’d share a bag with others, so we all got to try the different pastries.  But I got my own a few times, for sure.

So anyway, if you go to France for vacation or whatever, ask the bakeries in the morning if they have bags of yesterday’s leftovers.  I think there’s even a specific term for it, but my brain is not producing it right now, if there is one… I totally used it, whatever it was, though, word or phrase or whatever… I loved trying out all the different pastries.  However, despite trying so many different pastries, I still almost exclusively get a chocolatine (pain au chocolat everywhere but the southwest), a croissant, and/or a baguette (though those guys aren’t pastries, they are still one of my favorite foods ever).  But whatever.  I got to test out all the stuff and see that I enjoyed it all, as well as discover that I really just love the simple stuff best.  (It’s like a cliché about life or something, but it’s just how I feel about French pastries.)

Post-a-day 2018

 

::Sigh…

Sometimes I wonder if it wouldn’t just be better to get a high-paying job in an office, and start saving up.  Then, after a couple or few years, start the process for adoption.  The only work so far that I have loved doing, without almost any question ever, is doing things with other people’s kids (nannying).  Maybe having a somewhat terrible corporate job in suits is worth it for having a kid…

I just don’t see myself happy each morning and each bedtime in a job like that, and that means bad sleep each night and a tough start to the day each morning.

I don’t know… sometimes I get depressive, and then desperate, and start calculating what ‘makes sense’ for life, as opposed to ‘listening to my heart’.  Come to think of it, I’m not sure I’ve even asked my heart what I/it want/wants to do with my life and time…

Now is as good a time as ever, I suppose.  🙂

 

P.S.  I’ve noticed that, whenever I get upset in the depressed, my life is going nowhere experience, I have an almost panicked desire to move to Europe, and it is most often France.  It’s not like I have any idea whatsoever what I would do there, or how that would solve any of my current issues.  Plus, it would create the issue of being away from almost everyone I know and love and who loves me, since most of them are in the US.  However, there’s just this feeling that arises that living in Europe somehow would just make everything okay, and in a good way (not just tolerable okay, but good okay).  Anyway, just something I noticed tonight.

Post-a-day 2018

It really is all relative

Tonight, I was reminded of a girl I met, while I was living in Toulouse, France.  She was in school (high school, I believe), and doing a temporary internship at the place where I was doing my volunteering.  She was from a small country that was at war (and it might still be, but I haven’t kept up with the news).  She had a boyfriend and a baby of her own, in addition to a younger sister, I believe.  She taught me much.

What I was discussing with my mom tonight is how relative things are in life.  Just as in Aesop’s last fable today, with the bunny rabbits about to drown themselves in their exhaustion of living in fear, and suddenly discovering the frogs at the pond afraid of them, causing them to realize that someone had it worse off than they did, so is life.  No matter what one’s struggles and turmoils, there’s always someone worse off.  And I feel like our turmoils and struggles are saddening next to the real turmoils and struggles of other parts of the world.  This girl spoke to me about her country of origin, and how they moved to France.  And, when she spoke about it all, it were as though she were telling me about a class project, or how she went grocery shopping yesterday.  Those, however, were not the subject matter.  What I remember most of her story, is how people broke into her house one day/night, beat up her parents (and possibly her, too), and then took her father.  Her family tried offering money as a ransom for her father’s return, but no information was even received regarding her father – they never found out if he even was alive or dead, or who had taken him.  Just some men, she’d said.

I mean it that it were as though she were telling me about what she did yesterday after work/school.  She was not sad in her words, nor was she hauntingly depressed in her eyes or spirit.  She was living life as I was, and merely sharing about something.  ‘Yeah, I don’t know where Josh went after dinner, but he left.  We called him, but never got a response.  Maybe he went home, instead of coming for coffees with us.’  That’s was the easiness with which she spoke – no premeditation or practice.  It was just what’s so, and so that was how she told it.

I say a prayer for the world tonight.

Post-a-day 2017

My real voice

In college, I spent a summer studying in Germany.  It was a language school setup, filled with foreigners, but in such a small town that everyone knew that we were studying German, and so everyone always spoke to us all in German.  I had already studied abroad a few times before this adventure, and I had learned firsthand about what works and what doesn’t work, in terms of language immersion.  I was dedicated to learning German, and so I made sure that I only spoke in German with others, even if they spoke to me in English.  This made friendships hard among the people in my program’s group, since they all used English together; I came across a bit snobby, but I was just really committed to learning German.

I made friends with other foreigners rather easily, though, and especially ones in higher levels of German, which was even better for me.  My German was improving immensely.  But this led to a unique situation one day.

One day, near the end of either my time at the school or my friend Paul’s time there (he’s British), I found myself faced with a desperate Paul, actually begging me to speak English.  Why?! was my repeated question to his pleas.

“Because I want to hear what you sound like!”

I don’t know if he was pleased or not by how I sound in English, but I spoke a little for him.  And it was way weird, using English with him, despite the fact that I’d heard him speak English loads, and that it’s our common native language.  I had just never used it with him.

And then this brought up a unique and interesting sentiment.  He wanted to hear me, and that meant speaking English.  I can guess that my native tongue was the one in which Paul believed my identity to lie.  I know that it felt like I was setting aside a sort of mask when I switched to English with him.  I even felt a little called-out… as though I had been hiding somehow, and it had been behind German.  The real me (I) lay in English, in the English part of me.

Yet, years later, here I am, missing the parts of me that belong to these different languages in which I have lived.  A part of me, true me (I), exists only on German, and others in French, in Spanish, and in Japanese. So much so that the real me (I) is this whole combination of languages – I feel a huge emptiness and feel not myself when I am using only English in my daily life.  I listen to Spanish-speaking radio when I’m in Houston, mostly because I don’t get to use Spanish often enough.  I read every night in French, and trade off an English book for a German one at times for my evening reading, too.  I regularly pull out a Spanish book to read, or my German audiobooks.  And I have noticed that I have been searching for a tolerably satisfying way to have Japanese in my near-daily life, too.  (For now, it has just been the occasional music, and a perpetual repeat of a certain song being stuck in my head.)  When I don’t have them all, it is as though a part of me is missing, and suddenly getting to speak with someone in them, almost reminds me of that mask I was setting aside in Germany with Paul… like I am again setting aside some mask I have been wearing.

Perhaps it is now a mask of monolingualism, pretending that I only speak English, while I long for the world to talk to me in several languages, all the time.

Anyway… I’m exhausted.  And I miss Paul.  He was studying opera, and was a really great guy.  I wonder if he’s been really successful with opera these past several years.  Maybe I can go see him perform one day.  That would be awesome.  🙂

Post-a-day 2017

Normal or normal?

I guess that whatever we are accustomed to having around us, ends up being what feels like “normal” to us.  Like how my life never seems to feel very exciting or special – it has become my experience of “normal”, and therefore can’t seem exceedingly exciting or abnormal to me.  

I regularly feel as though everyone can speak loads of languages, and so I’m nothing but average (or even below average) in that field.  But who are my acquaintances?  Well, we tend to end up spending time with people who, in some way or other, are quite similar to ourselves, do we not?  It is no wonder, then, that I have so many friends who are bi- and multilingual, and who have not only visited but lived in at least one country other than their own.  This isn’t to say, of course, that all of my friends meet this criteria.  Certainly not.  I just happen to have a lot of friends who do.

So, when I have a night like tonight, where my friends and I sound to an on-listener like we can’t seem to pick a language, as we constantly switch around between English (our one common language), French, and Japanese, I all too easily forget that this is not normal in the world.  Sure, it is normal for me and for my life, but that doesn’t mean that everyone does it regularly.  It doesn’t even mean that half the world could do it regularly, even if they wanted to do so.

Or perhaps they could.  I think, nonetheless, that I severely underappreciate my language abilities, by subconsciously expecting that the people who most closely surround me are an average sample of the whole.  What is normal for one person simply is what is around that person in life.  And two people with closely aligned lives might find the same things as one another to be normal.  So, of course the people who are out doing the same things I live to do, tend to see the world in a similar way to how I see it, and hold a subconscious standard of “normal” that is similar to my own.  That’s why our paths cross in the first place – we’re all into* this particular kind of awesome.

Filing a room with awesome people doesn’t mean that they aren’t all still awesome, just because the standard in the room is about equal.  It just means that you have an extra-awesome room that is full of a ton of awesome people.

I guess what I am aiming to say here is that, despite my feeling below-average and utterly “normal” and boring at times, I realize now that I am not viewing things outside of my nearest surroundings (so to speak), and that I realize that I am, in fact, awesome.  And I’m proud and happy about that.

Peace, y’all. ❤
Post-a-day 2017