Before I start, look at this wonderful picture I took (unedited version…I’ve got little time and I’d like to use it to sleep).
So I’ll begin with this: two nights ago, I had dinner with my host family. It’s beautiful here, because the humidity is close to nothing compared to my 100% humidity back home, and these people take their food very seriously. After each course, my host mom took out different foods, explaining to me what each one was. Very explicit. No I did not drink wine with any of it. Yet, it was all very healthy. And it lasted three hours.
Is it because we eat slowly? Not really…they definitely eat slower. If we had no conversation, I probably would have eaten my meal in about thirty minutes, when I usually eat in about five minutes. Either way, these people engaged me, really testing how much French I know. I said I was very nervous and scared when I got here (link), and I’d be wrong to say I wasn’t. This is getting a lot easier, though, and I think I may actually get comfortable.
Today, I visited a museum with one of my friends/classmates. I found her at the train station telling some French guy that she didn’t know the answers to his questions about directions. Go, Americans! But we made a vow to keep speaking in French to each other, even when we’re alone. At first, it didn’t work out too well, because even when we did, people somehow knew we were American and spoke to us in English.
However, it was different at the museum. We’ve been practicing for a while, and we’re used to how each other speak. After talking about one of the paintings, a police officer came up to me and started speaking rapidly in French about an elderly couple he helped onto the elevator. He was talking about how amazing this ninety year old couple could walk and how strong they were. It definitely took me by surprise, because I couldn’t understand him at first.
A few minutes later, my friend and I were looking at a picture of the Angel Gabriel. I wanted to
know how to say “wings,” so we looked it up on Google Translate (original, I know), but we couldn’t pronounce the word “l’ailes.” We asked the police officer, and he was shocked that we didn’t know how to speak French that well. He politely told us how to say the word, and before we left, he complemented us on our French. He thought we were natives.
YES TO EIGHT YEARS OF TRAINING! #SUCCESS
Eight years of French, however, may not save me at the dinner table. You see, dinner is fun and interesting, but it’s also scary as hell. This is the one time of the day that I will definitely spend time with my host family, and I’m so blessed that they take advantage of this time. With some host families, they just fulfill their obligations by providing dinner and having a little conversation with you. This one will full-on lecture me about the political environments and biodegradable fads in France – an education I would probably never have been able to obtain in a college classroom.
Last night, I had a dinner conversation about the economic crisis in Greece. That was hard, because I haven’t been keeping up with the news. But you know you haven’t been keeping up with the news when your host begins to talk about ISIS when you’re researching international terror regulations…
#freakout. But I learned a few phrases (sort of cool):
“Je suis repu.”: I am full. But politely. Here, you’d be surprised how much these families want to feed you. It would seem that shaking your head at the third helping of cheese stuffed mushrooms seems rude, but, if anything, they prefer that. These people are really blunt, which may be a good thing to be honest.
“Lever de camp.”: My family likes to say this at the end of each meal. In the military, this is what the French commanders told their troops when they needed to finish eating and go continue the war. So my family likes to use this expression when saying that we’re finished, and then tell me to go away with a polite “bon soir.”
They’re like my grandparents. They take care of me and feed me, of course. Yet, specifically like my grandparents, they have basically the same personalities. They love to talk about serious issues, things that are important. It’s been a few days and I think I’m getting used to not translating everything into English because I just don’t have the energy or time to do so. Keeping up a political debate or consistently questioning them about why they know so much about telephone companies is not easy.
I keep asking questions though, and I think they’re liking it. I sometimes forget that they can’t speak English, and it’s strange because now their expressions seem normal to me, now. Just like me saying “hello” in the dining hall to a friend. It’s not alien, because I know the minute I leave the room, I’m not going to turn to my friend and talk to her in English. There’s no one with me.
I like this, though. It’s only been a few days and I’ve learned more than I have in the past eight years just by eating a few meals.