Last week I was forced way out of my comfort zone on several different occasions. The good news is that I survived to tell you about it. The bad news is that I may have bought a villa in Nice by accident.
I take French lessons once a week from a delightful woman named “Mette”. She is Danish and has incredibly thick hair that I covet. We sit in my kitchen and have conversations about social issues or how to work my microwave or whatever. Sad to say the conversations tend to be rather one-sided. Poor Mette talks and talks and tries so hard to pull the French from me, but the words seem to get caught somewhere between my head and my mouth. And truth be told, the words often aren’t even in my head to begin with. “Il faut parler, parler, parler!” she tells me. (You must speak, speak, speak!) To that end, she suggested that I take a cooking class in French, along with a friend of mine whom she also teaches. Ever compliant, my friend and I dutifully searched web sites and found that Les Atelier des Chefs gives courses in various department stores, as well as in their own facilities across the city. The classes offered ranged from 30 minutes to 3 hours, and from 15 euros to over 100 euros. Many of the classes were already full, but we found one that was not too expensive and lasted for one hour. Unfortunately, the menu was not that great- a hamburger, pureed sweet potatoes, and a pancake with fruit and whipped cream. We laughed it off and agreed that we were going for the language experience rather than the dining experience. And so it was that we traipsed into a kitchen in the back of Printemps department store and confessed to the perky teacher that we were learning French and our teacher sent us. The young chef was very friendly but did not feel compelled to slow down her speech a bit for us. There was only one other woman in the class, and she likes to take these classes during her lunch break, which I thought was really cool. I understood enough of what the teacher was saying that I didn’t ruin anything, at least, I really enjoyed it. The burgers were actually ground chicken and spices and a slice of pineapple, topped with a delicious sweet/spicy sauce. Of course, one can’t buy ground chicken here, so I probably will not be using the recipe unless I choose to buy a grinder (no thanks), but that’s OK. I was happy that I was able to ask the French woman eating with us a few basic questions and to answer hers to me, so who cares if I never make the stupid chicken burger?
Last week I also investigated other language classes that I might take to get more conversation experience. I took an on-line placement test with an Anglophone organization that I joined and I received a reply that they were happy to tell me I would be in French 3, and there was plenty of room for me because it was a very small class. I knew that they described French 3 students as being able to carry on conversations in French with some mistakes, and I knew that did not describe moi. I can stammer out some French words in some weird order with many mistakes, and I might or might not be understood. The registration fee was not cheap,so I asked the woman if I could try the class before registering. Secretly I was thinking there was no way in hell I was going to walk into a French 3 class, but maybe a spot would open up in the French 2. The next morning I found a reply that she had told the French 3 teacher that I would be in the class that day to try it out. Help! I felt like I had to go, and I also knew deep down that if I wasn’t pushed like that I never would have the nerve to jump in. SOOOO off I went- thirty minutes or so on the bus and metro to the 15th arrondissement and into a classroom where three students and a teacher waited to devour me. And guess what? It wasn’t that bad! So now I have two French lessons a week, one for two hours and one for an hour and a half. I had to pay for the whole semester, so there’s no quitting now.
My final dare was to call the number that Mark gave me to order a new iphone, supposedly in English. Wrong. The poor woman who answered asked everyone else in the room if they spoke English, and no one admitted to doing so. So we plodded along, with many pauses and repeats and giggles, and I think I ordered a new iphone in white, to be picked up tomorrow at some random store that accepts packages, I guess. And that is why I might have bought a white villa in Nice. I guess we’ll find out tomorrow. I imagine that retrieving the package will be yet another adventure into the unknown. Stay tuned.
So that’s why the word of the day is “oser”. I dared to do some things that made my palms sweat and my stomach churn, and I survived all of them! What doesn’t kill me really might make me stronger. Or at least score me a villa in southern France.