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Saturday, September 17, 2011

Les Anglophones

So you know how I get all pissy and uppity when the French talk to me in English? This goes both ways for the English speakers who speak to me in French. I know what you're thinking, you're in France, speak French, dammit! But, it's a little more complex.

The one thing I really dislike about speaking French, is not being able vary my vocabulary. In English I can be much more specific and dramatic when I describe things. One of my greatest pleasures, is recounting stories with hyperbole. I can't really do this with Gui Gui, because the exaggeration doesn't always cross the language barrier.

The other reason I refuse to speak French, is that it invariably turns into a pissing contest.
Person A"So, do you speak French?"
Person B "We jay parlay parfetment frahnsay." Or worse-"Yeah I took two years in high school, so I'm pretty much fluent."


Or maybe they do actually speak it, but it can occasionally turn into this conversation.
Person A-"Ouais, hier j'ai fait une cuite."
Person B (internally)-What the hell is a cuite? If I admit I don't know, they'll think I don't speak French. (outloud) "Uhh, j'aime bien les cuites..."
Person A-(internally) This jackass doesn't speak French! Cool! Moi aussi!

Anyway, it gets worse because while I still make many mistakes in French/sound like a FOB, I have a good grasp on what's right, and what's wrong, which brings us to the next problem, is correcting other non native French speaker's French. I don't ever really do it, unless it's a big mistake. The other day, I was with this awkward little German boy, who speaks little to no French. We were speaking in English, but he was testing out his French, and said "Je ne parle fran├žais pas." This is a pretty big no-no, the pas always follows the verb, to make it negative, so I gently told him the grammar rule. His reaction? "No, you're wrong, that's definitely how you say it."
...Right, anyway, I got my other friend to explain to him that indeed, the pas always follows the verb. My point is, while it's good to practice the fluidity with which you speak, you wont ever polish up your French if you keep making the same mistakes with Anglophones. You might as well cut your losses and enjoy speaking your native language with fellow foreigners.

I'm not alone on this mentality and last night I went out for a drink with some new Au Pairs and a couple of ones that were here last year. The veterans were sitting down when the newbies walked up to us and said something in (incorrect) French. The three of us looked at eachother and said "Why the hell did she just speak to us in French?"

This is an anglo table, speak English!


A month ago my friend Ali left a corkscrew at Gui Gui's house. She's been adamant about getting it back, and Gui Gui has been adamant about ignoring her. We finally found it yesterday, and as she's in California for a few weeks, we took a series of incriminating pictures, here's the best.


Tuesday, September 6, 2011


This is proof that the grass will always be greener. The preceding was a clip of Gui Gui's nephew, Hugo. Hugo is three and a half and lives at the house. Gui Gui was putting him to bed and this conversation ensued. I have translated it for the non francophones.

G-What's the question you asked?
H-Something something doudou
G-No, about Robin
H- Is she's going to sleep here?
G- If she's sleeping here? You like her?
H-Yeah but, not that much, not thaat much
G-Why not that much You like her? But not much?
G-Why not? She's nice with you, you even asked when she was coming back, that means you must like her.
H-Yeah but when's she coming back. Did she say she was coming back?
H-What is she doing at her house?
G-She works at her house.
G-Okay, sleep well.
H-But Robin!
G-She's not here
H-Can you call her?
G-You want me to call her? Why do you want me to call her? I'm going to see her soon. You want to see her tonight?
G-That means you want must like her
H-I want to see her!

Having Friends Over

One of the best surprises an au pair can have are playdates. The kids entertain themselves, and you have no guilt when they spend an afternoon happily locked up in their bedrooms playing with whoever. As Madame S came downstairs and told me that we had adopted three more children for the afternoon, I did a silent cheer and went upstairs to see what the boys wanted for lunch. Mdme S's mother is in town and said to me, "Why are all these children over? Is it a special occasion?" To which I responded "No, they're just over here to hang out." "But now you have to make them all lunch!"

I looked down at the pasta boiling, and the jarred spaghetti sauce in my hands and thought, "I'm alright with it."

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Bipolar Paris, or Bad Luck?

If I was an author, looking for an allegory to show how quickly one's luck can change, I would probably start with a scene in a Parisian summer. The sun is shining, and its just a few degrees from being too hot. Our heroes are three anglophones. They find themselves in a park drinking Fanta and huge bottles of water. The park is filled with families, babies, nannies, and hookers. Our heroes are enjoying the sunshine before they break off to profit from a Happy Hour. They walk to Pigalle and find an Australian place with an expensive Happy Hour, but Happy Hour nontheless. They sip their beers and continue to sweat.

It's dinnertime and the three foreigners head across the street for some cheap crepes. Ecstatically munching away they board the metro. Three stops later, they get off, and the Auburn one reaches in her purse to check the time.

No phone. The darker blonde one calls her phone fruitlessly. Alas, she has been pickpocketed. The three put their heads together and become aware how they had made themselves targets. Line 2, crepe eating, English speaking, they didn't have a chance. The auburn haired one is upset, but the situation will be sorted out. They walk the other blonde's apartment.

"Oh shit," says the dark blonde, "it's raining."
"Oh shit," say the other two, "it's raining really hard."

The three jump under an awning and "wait it out," it doesn't stop, and finally they throw caution (and dryness) to the wind and go into the rain. They take a deep breath (it's raining hard enough that they were scared of drowning) sprint off in the direction of a Franprix. The Auburn, in her deteriorating luck, breaks the strap of her sandles, which renders them useless. She pulls them off and turns the corner full speed in direction of Franprix's impressive selection of liquor.

As she can't come inside shoeless, the other two go in, soaking, and get several "Beh oui, il pleur"s, "Ho la la," and other assinine comments about their appearance.

The three make it into an apartment and strip half naked in the hallway. Two new outfits, one new pair of shoes, and several glasses of vodka later, the two Americans of the group went off to meet with a friend. They landed at a bar in Oberkampf, an incredibly sweaty and loud bar stuffed with young gentlemen eager to cop a feel. After batting them away sometimes violently, the Auburn one turns to the other and says "Robin, would you believe me if I told you my shoe broke? At this point, the redhead lost it, and wanted to leave. To make the situation even more painful, they missed the last train and had to walk an extra ten minutes, barefoot, once again, towards the friends apartment.

They end up dancing to Lady Gaga and jumping on the three or four futons in the apartment, laughing until they drift off to sleep.

The theme would be to show how quickly things can go from happy and well, to dog soakingly wet and miserable. Paris has this magical ability to break you down, and bring you right back up again, within hours. Maybe you could say the city is not a living breathing thing, that it's the people you find yourself with, and it shouldnt matter where you are. Maybe, but you can't deny that this damn city has something about it that makes it damn hard to quit.