Friday, April 28, 2006

Un, deux, trois . . .

When people asked me the level of my French speaking abilities, I would use a three year-old child as a comparison. Yesterday, I ran into my three year-old neighbor, Axelle, in the hall and she struck up a conversation. She said "chaussures de cours" and generously hinted by grabbing her little foot. I gave her nanny a perplexed look. "Running shoes". I knew the meaning of these words independently, but out of context and all in a row, I was lost.

When Fred came home, he shared a story about his coworker’s three year-old daughter. Apparently, the toddler is making all kinds of cute verb conjugation errors that her mother finds hilarious. He recounted one such mistake for me as I sat waiting for the funny part, which in my mind never came. I was too impressed that the little girl could form a sentence in the past tense. I’m hardly at the point, or in a position, where I can detect grammar flaws and double entendres.

Looks like I’m back to hanging out with two year-olds. Mom, could you please send me my Barney costume?

P.S. The photo is of Fred, by the way. You can tell by the blue romper. Plus, my parents didn't buy me shoes until I was twelve.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Finally, Sun!

Many people have told me that I have a lot in common with Rocky Dennis, but it wasn’t until I read some of his poetry that I truly understood why.

These things are good: ice cream and cake, a ride on a harley, seeing monkeys in the trees, the rain on my tongue, and the sun shining on my face. These things are a drag: dust in my hair, holes in my shoes, no money in my pocket, and the sun, shining on my face.
Rocky Dennis, Mask (1985)

Signs of spring are finally beginning to show in Paris. The other day, while sitting at my computer, a ray of sunlight pierced through my window to reveal its warmth on my face. My spirits were instantly lifted, however, the glare on my computer screen made it impossible for me to work and I was forced to lower the shades. The sun on my face, a blessing and a curse.

It’s interesting. As a child, I was oddly fascinated by the sun-deprived twins in Flowers in the Attic. I wrote several letters to Mattel begging them to come out with itty-bitty, pasty-white, sunken-eyed, brittle-haired twin dolls (this was before the Olsen twins). My wish was never fulfilled by Mattel, or Santa. But arriving in Paris in winter and having had the opportunity to become a sun-deprived, sunken-eyed, pasty-white, holed-up person, I can tell you, it’s just not as fun as I had always imagined.

My friend Todd reminded me the other day about Paris Plage, the period between July and August when Paris turns the strip along the Seine into a beach. They even have a volleyball court set-up in front of the Hotel de Ville (the 6th picture down is the Hotel de Ville during winter). It's especially exciting because my new friend Phillippa is a bit of a volleyball star and I'm going to go cheer her on in my Team USA jersey as she makes some Frenchmen eat sand. We were a little tipsy when we made these plans, but I hope she was serious. My Igloo full of Coors Light, Oakely shades, and neon Mossimo shorts have been waiting for this day since 1988!

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Check (her) out!

There was a crazy lady in the check-out line at Monoprix today and, for once, it wasn’t me. A French woman ahead of me was going off on the cashier and holding up the line. It took two managers to calm her. The customers in front of me were appalled, as was the one behind me. I was amused and terribly curious.

Friday, April 07, 2006

Say what?!?

Today a Chinese immigrant continuously corrected me as I placed my lunch order. I ordered “riz blanche”, she said “riz nature”. I ordered “une Coca Light”, she said “un Coca Light". I didn’t know free French lessons came with lunch. I’d much prefer a fortune cookie. One that says: "You'll Soon Learn French and This Restaurant Will Suffer a Terrible Grease Fire". I was tempted to say “ĂȘtes-vous française?” (are you French?); but I hadn’t tried the food yet and didn’t want to get black-listed so soon after moving to the neighborhood. The food wasn’t that great. I'm going to bring Fred (and a pocket full of cockroaches) there on Saturday so he can mock her accent as a little pay back.

After lunch I headed over to Monoprix (think Target) to purchase some flash cards (ironically, to help me learn French). As I stood in line someone tried to cut in front of me. There were two registers and a single line (a guy, and then me) waiting for the first cashier to open up. Then, this little portly woman in her mid-20s formed her own line at the register on the left. I started feeling anxious, hoping that that register would open up first so the guy in front of me would handle it. I’ve experienced similar situations in the past and the timing has either worked to my advantage or the cutter hasn’t challenged me when I step up to go next. This time both registers opened up simultaneously and ol’wimpy went to the right to avoid confrontation, which opened the door for portly to belly-up to the register on the left.

Having showered and put on make-up this morning, I was feeling unusually confident and thwarted her attempt. She mumbled something between her gritty teeth. I turned around and said “pardon?” She repeated her stupid self, and I said “pardon?” again. I really had no clue what she was saying, but I acted as if I couldn’t understand her because she couldn’t speak proper French. For all I know she was explaining that she was legally blind and didn’t see me. Though the smug look on her face told the truth! As I turned around to leave, she was right behind me. (I towered over her, which I know is hard to imagine, but she was border-line midget and I was wearing boots, aren’t I tough?). I said very loudly right in her face (with my certain nasty Chinese food breath) “SNEAKY BITCH”. Then I walked away (quickly).

My new expat friends taught me that it’s okay to talk to people in English when I’m upset because it scares them (and having an American accent probably helps too). So much for being the Goodwill Ambassador; seriously though, she soooo deserved it. I’m learning that just because I’m a foreigner, I don’t have to defer to those with red passports when they're being idiots. Like Fred says, stupidity has no nationality. However, I have to remember that this also applies to me.

By the way, does anyone know how to say "DUMB BITCH" in Mandarin? Because I'm pretty sure that the waitress yelled it at me as she handed me my lunch tray.

P.S. Despite my afternoon, I'm feeling great and we love the new place. More on that later . . .