Friday, September 16, 2005

My first French entry (not in French)!

I could lie and tell you I’m writing this from a hot, stuffy lab in the top floor of the “Faculte Economique” where the computers quiver and nearly shut off if anyone taps a lab table, and where it seems a slower connection than the dial up I had at home in 10th grade.
I was there this morning, But now I am typing on Jeff’s laptop on the front porch of our tiny Mobile home at Camping du Petit Port (see previous entry for an idea). I hope to have some pictures up soon of our little abode. It has its ups and downs. However, at the moment for me, it is up; it’s a beautiful clear evening, we’ve just-finished dinner – sautéed veggies with Provence olives from the market, couscous and the requisite baguette, local cheese, and local wine – and I can finally use an “American” keyboard. The ease of which my fingers glide across these keys is a beautiful thing compared with the backspace-heavy typing I do in the University lab. Several of you have probably received short, concise emails from me with many colons and other odd punctuation and letters that are in “the wrong place.”
I have an ongoing list of blog topics in my written journal because just a week here has produced many a thing to ponder. The problem is I haven’t much had time to do so, as the settling process is longer and more involved than I’d expected. Much of this may be due to the French University Beaurocracy (one of my potential topics) and the ridiculous amount of time and and energy it has taken to get fairly simple things accomplished. Another large reason for the long-spent acclimation process is that we don’t speak the language. An outside, multi-lingual observer would no doubt find many of the conversations I have been engaged in quite amusing, such as this exerpt of me and the Dept of Law & Economics Administrative Secretary who processes enrollments:
“hello, we are students American we have grupo de..papers…white…from Mr. Agnes Plessis”(..she is actually a Mrs.)
“(long French response involving…I call…you pay…wait at office of Agnes….)”
“yes. How much we you pay? We have need pay social security?”
“(long French response..i get about 10% with a puzzled look on my face, say..’okay, je compre’…more French…another puzzled look…then “okay, I don’t understand”. Turn. Katie exits stage left.)
Apart from such encounters, we are having a great time. I feel no frustration toward folks here not speaking English, we are after all at a French University. I’m actually quite amused at the surprised looks we receive when telling people we are from “Etats Unis” (the U.S.). Nantes…not a tourist town.
Any advice on what French phrases I should go to work on learning this first month?

**post script...i'm posting this from the first computer I've found that's relatively fast and can take my USB storage device...yeehoo!


Matt Elliott said...

I'm reminded of the immortal words of Steve Martin ~

"Chapeau means hat. Fromage is cheese. It's like those French have a different word for EVERYTHING!"

Can't wait to see some pics. I know you guys are having an unforgettable time.

(When you can, email me and tell me which email address to you for you now, okay?)

Katie W. said...

You mean to tell me that the word "fine" in french isnt some bland response to the " how you doing" question? is word used most specifically to describe the delicacy and intricacy of a wine or a cheese. Un vin fin.
...and that though they sound similar "montrez-moi" is a MUCH different request than "montez-moi". fun with language!