Vous Comprenez?


There was a point in my life when I was FLUENT in Spanish. More specifically, fluent in Spanish with the buying and selling of expensively priced costume jewelry. Oh how the mehee-canas loved me. Shortly after that, I moved up to the great northwest and lost all but those phrases exclaimed by my favorite mouse and yours, Señor Speedy Gonzales. El Gringo Pussygato, “¡Arriba, arriba, arriba, ándale, ándale, olé, olé, olé, ándale!” But, I was fluent. I used to be. Now, as I learn French the crazy roman idiosyncrasies that English left out as it evolved (linguists can splian I’m sure) comes naturally. Spanish and French structures are not all that different. Pero, Mais, But the verbs are far apart. For the first eight months, I’ve been slack on my French language study. There is too much sun, too many baguettes and too many types of cheese to distract one from learning zee language. But the farm looms. We are to hoping to direct our sales to that of restaurants and niche markets. Which means, I must learn French parfaitement … d’une forme parfaite! And so, I’ve been hardcore French study girl cranked to eleven rated XXX, 24/7 you-buy-it-we-pack-it, word. Which has been quickly improving even in the last five days. I used to be that smiling foreigner smiling in the corner smiling and saying, “it’s good! It’s good!” It’s AAAALLLLL good. When people would ask me if I understood what they were saying (vous comprenez?) I would nod and say, “it’s good.” This is no longer so. I now hear “vous comprenez” with confidence providing a firm retort of “oui!” Yes, I understand!! I do. I can give people things. I can say I’m doing fine. I can buy things. I can go places. She runs fast. They are tired. Really, I could go on and on. Faut que je m’arrête. Okay, so maybe I google translated that one, but I knew “but,” “must,” “stop,” and “I” … just not in that order. There will be a point in my life when I’m all Bjourn Identity, speaking French naturally, rolling off the tongue like bullshit at a status meeting. Today, on disc two of twelve with five or so episodes each I approach with enthusiam because this will grow our business. My superb French will help us kick arse with our superior products. I’m excited and motivated. Fuck yeah! Or whatever the French equivalent is for that…


Chariots A Fire

Mastering the French shopping cart is not for the weak minded. After sticking in your Euro to rent a chariot that is immediately refundable when you bring the thing back (a method that eliminates trolly litter in a car park), you are in control … or so you think. Each wheel moves independently. In America, the two back wheels are fixed while the front two are there for steering. The second you take hold of these French beasts, your inner geek screams “vector math” as do geeks within a two meter radius. “Don’t you know vector maths?” they’ll crow. Watching the chariots maneuver their way around e.leclerc (pronounce that sultry starting with a breathy ‘eh’) it’s like taking part in 2009 Nascar Sprint Cup championship mixed with driving in New York in the twenties. The chariots are on fire. They’re everywhere. Do we pass on the right? The left? What, you want to get to the yogurt? No one knows what’s going on. After a bit of sweat and groceries in hand (mmm a special on fois gras!), heading back to your car uphill is no laughing matter. Some push the car sideways with a half smoked fag out of the mouth. Others struggle to align the cart so that with a steady forceful push it arrives perfectly to the car. Some forget the cart entirely. Using the little hand held/rolly basket inside, dodging vehement chariots then carrying the stuff to the car thus shopping more frequently. Me? I park in direct line with the front door of the shop. Simple, easy, no stress. I pop on my sunnies (that’s sunglasses to the Americans) in the light-up-your-cigarette exit compartment and away I go. Up, Up UP to my car then returning to collect my Euro.

Les BON BON!!!


Moving out to France with the family also means leaving American holidays.   A lot of holidays are celebrated around the world with slight variation and enthusiasm.  Halloween, I assumed, would be tuned to day–of-the-dead rather than trick-or-treat.  I wasn’t sure if the children of France dressed up in costume.  So, I prepared my daughter as Halloween grew close, not to expect to dress up and go out trick-or-treating.  Instead, we could have a little costume party and eat candy and cakes at home.  But that was all before we received the note from her school about the Halloween Train.  Which in my newbie French read, “A l’occasion de la fête d’Halloween.  Les enfants … Invités … de bonbon … en petit train”  and was signed, “Merci, La Sorcière.”  For those following along in English, a local witch invited the children to wear a costume and ride a little train around the village for candy!   Voila!


Halloween at last arrived after many demands from the children for it to come early.  Lucy, Otto and Clementine got in costume and we were off to see what this train business was all about.  The train was a white, tractor sort of thing pulling three covered carts.  There were piles of balloons to be blown up along with pumpkin streamers and hanging plastic decoration.  Parents brought cakes and juice.  After the train was decorated, we got on our way to yell at the village to come out and give us candy.  The train would stop at each house, the children would chant from the train at the top of their lungs, “LES BONBON!!!! LES BONBON!!!”  (Actually, they never really stopped yelling LES BONBON and after a couple hours on a train with forty or so chanting goblins and witches, I can still hear it ringing in my ear.)  At last, a person emerged from their home bearing a bag of candy and sometimes juice for the train to take with them.  After a large cheer, we’d move along circling around the village finally ending up at the village hall.  The whole experience was joyous and energetic.  Kids ran around, yelled and screamed eating cake and candy.   The event was spectacular, but it wasn’t until it was all over that I realized that it was actually magical.   This Halloween party never had a committee.  No one was in charge of decorating the train.  No spreadsheet was used to figure out who brought what.  No flurry of email passed through the PTA inbox with progress and concerns.  The Witch told us where to be and what to wear letting the rest unfold naturally.  Everyone arrived.  The train got decorated.  The cakes were brought.  Fun was had by all.  Further, the trick-or-treat experience was turned into a community event. Bags upon bags of candy were collected and then mixed and bundled for the children to take home after the party.  My American children were boggled.  They’re used to hitting the streets on their own, everyone out for themselves not knowing many of the neighbors.  Complaining that so-and-so got a Mars bar while they only got a bag of gummy bears.  On the train, each child left happily with the big bag of mixed candy.  And the villagers got one visit by all the children who cheered at them.   I left having chatted with all the parents, the kids played with all their buddies we all cleaned up and enjoyed the rest of the evening.   What I enjoyed was the community.