Saturday, August 26, 2006

reverse culture shock

This afternoon, Brett and I visited our friend Kevin's moped shop, where Brett picked up a new spark plug boot and we hung out with Kevin and our friend Tim.

While we were there, a guy walked past the back door. I heard him start to walk by, and just after my mind registered that he was there, I realized he was talking/yelling at a girl who was also back there. For the first four or five seconds after he started talking, I was really taken aback by the fact he was speaking in English instead of French.

It was completely strange, and made me realize that I guess I was more entrenched in French culture and language while I was there than I thought.

Honestly, though, it shocked me how easily I adaped to speaking in French, thinking in French, reading in French. Even the first night we were there, when I was completely jet lagged and exhausted, I was able to communicate on a purely automatic level in the language. I barely had to think about what I was saying...I didn't have to think it in English and then translate it into was just there, in my head, in French.

Weird. And extremely exhilirating.

I guess part of the ability to merge with the language sprung out of the knowledge that I was it, that I was the one everyone was relying on to figure things out. That responsibility motivated me to be much more bold than I would have been otherwise, I think. And that's a good thing: I know my French improved a great deal while I was there, largely because I gained a lot of confidence in speaking it and reading it.

Not to be a total braggart, but I had several people, many of whom were native French speakers, and some of whom were complete strangers, tell me I spoke French very well. That is a huge compliment coming from a French person. I even had one French woman think I WAS French.

All that simply rekindles my desire to continue to grow in my knowlege of the language. I know that while I do speak it well, there is so much I need to learn in the way of vocabulary, idomatic elements, and finesse. I'm hoping I can find people here in Seattle with whom I can talk and learn from. There's a cafe in the U-District that does language conversation nights, and Wednesdays are for French. I am going to go, maybe this week or the next. I really miss hearing the language since I've been back.

Anyway, while I was in Paris the last weekend before we came home, I wound up being by myself a lot, which I enjoyed. There's something about being alone in a big city that gives me a sense of...I"m not sure how to describe it. Maybe it's a sense of freedom and independence and, well, possibility, a feeling that the world is a really big place and I am just one small cog in it, and that anything could happen and I could go anywhere and do anything.

It was rainy that weekend, and cold, which was a welcome change for me since it had been extremely hot the whole time we were there. On Sunday, I got up and went to mass at Notre Dame with a few of the girls on the trip. (That was an amazing experience in itself.) The girls I had gone to church with went their own way after the service, and I went to do a few errands (relating to my duties as the French speaker on the trip). After that, I had the rest of the day by myself, since I had no way of getting in touch with any of the students.

I had wanted to do some last-minute shopping, so I left our hotel on the Ile St. Louis and walked across the Seine to catch the Metro Ligne 1 up to the Champs Elysees. I was standing in the train, near the door, as the train stopped at one of the stations; I don't remember which one -- maybe Franklin D. Roosevelt. As the loudspeaker sounded the tone that indicates the doors are closing, I recall looking out the door at the station, seeing the artwork on the walls, the advertisements, the people -- the entire scenario -- and feeling completely a part of the culture, and feeling like I could live there forever.

I wish I could describe it better. It was such a surreal and wonderful moment and something I'll remember my entire life.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Home again.

How can I even begin to condense my month-long trip into a blog post or two? How can I choose which photos to post from among the nearly 500 I took? How can I adequately convey the experience of being in French culture?

I don't know the answers to those questions right now. I'm exhausted (my flight from Heathrow to Seattle was canceled and I was re-routed through Atlanta, which added about 7 hours onto the day), jet-lagged, and I have a ton of stuff to get done today before I start my new job tomorrow.

For now, I'll just say that it was wonderful. I loved being in France, and as happy as I am to be back home in Seattle, I have to admit that I miss France today. I miss the buildings, the language, the pain au chocolat...

I guess I'll just content myself with the thought that I will be back, hopefully sooner rather than later, and I'll leave you with one of many great photos.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006


Finally!! Here is a link to my Flickr site, where I've put a bunch of photos from the France trip. Please visit, comment, enjoy.

I will try to add some more soon -- Brett has 2 more CDs full of photos at home with we'll try to put them on as soon as possible.

Sorry I've been bad about updating recently...not much access to the internet. I will try to be better and I am trying to remember and write down stories to share later.

Gotta run -- someone else is waiting for the internet!