06 April, 2007

French Class, French Administration, and Other Things French

I haven't much felt like writing lately....maybe it was my desperate attempt last month to assimilate into this seemingly insurmountable culture. After 6 months, I finally feel like I'm starting to settle in.

Mon Cours de Français:
I spent the last month in school. I met a lot of Asian students, and I have to give them credit, a lot of credit. I mean really, I can take English words and stick a French accent on then and voilà! a French word! Words like pugnacity and ironic become pugnacité and ironique with only a little manipulation. I have used this trick many times...speaking English with a French accent; it fails on occasion, but for the most part it's pretty reliable. I don't know how the Asian kids do it. But then again, most of them are on their third or fourth language, so this is old hat to them.

My favorite classmate is Ghindu, a native Indonesian who owns an antique/resale type shop back home. He is a little guy who wears these tan suede cowboy boots
with a touch of sequins that extend approximately 1 foot in front of him. I love him because he just can't speak French at all. He really has a good command of it, but when he speaks, you really can't tell what language is coming out. He also seems to have no idea that no one understands him. Sometimes we make him write it down. He is also a cook, an Indonesian cook. He applied to a cooking school in Paris and was absolutely aghast that when he showed up at his interview all they cared about were his abilities in French cuisine. Those of us that have been here are not surprised at all. This is France, this is the way they roll. Ghindu basically applied to a conservatory but wanted to play jazz. Another reason I really like Ghindu is that he's always about and hour late to class, not 15 or 20 minutes, like a full hour. And when he gets to class he does this thing where he kind of bursts into the room, completely interrupts what we're doing and then laughs like, hey guys don't worry I'm here, just a touch late you know?

French Administration:
The French may possible be the most inefficient people on the face of the earth when it comes to really important paperwork. I went to the prefecture to apply for my carte de sejour which allows me to be here legally. The French prefecture is incredible. It's like the DMV. I'm not even sure I can do it justice. All I can say is that I was really cranky, had in intense longing to wash my hands, and left with an appointment for August 23rd for something I needed within the month. Fortunately I returned the next day right when they opened and only waited in line behind 30 or so people...upon leaving I still wanted to wash my hands but I left with a much more reasonable appointment.

Other Things French:
I am little by little meeting David's family. I got to meet his grandparents a few days ago. His grandfather is hard of hearing and just had eye surgery so he cannot see well either. He is a whopping 91. He told me a big story about his old farm and the goats and chickens the used to have. I didn't get too much of the story as he talked really fast and didn't sense that every time I said oui, I was a little unsure of what I was oui-ing :) The salad we had with dinner was right out of their garden and the hardboiled eggs where from the last two chickens they had. His grandmother was hilarious. I think once you become a grandmother it is innate that you try and feed your grandchildren as much food as they can possibly stomach. And then when they can have no more, bring them some dessert. She speaks really slowly and is really sympathetic to my learning French. She was always asking David if I understood everything. I also made a lemon tart, by no means a stellar tart by French standards, but they made me feel like I had created a masterpiece.

David's brother, Stephan, and sister, Magalie, were there. Magalie (I'm really guessing on the spelling here) brought us some honey. I was thinking, huh that's a little odd but ok, whatever. Turns out, she keeps her own bees. This was fascinating enough, but I was even more fascinated when David acted like it was no big deal. You know, she has bees, that's all. Oh yeah I wanted to say, bees, just another one of your average everyday beekeepers. Only after asking do I find out that David used to keep bees too; it runs in the family. The mysteries that come out of this guy, really. Just one of the many differences in our childhoods, I used to dig for worms and you used to shove your hands into swarms of bees. Right.