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Thursday, August 16, 2012

The gift my mother gave me

At a time in my life when I had a good job, great friends, and what I thought was the perfect boyfriend my mother gave me a gift.

 I had already refused this gift when offered by my sister and my very good friend. Both of them had tried to help me see that my relationship was not good for me, was not nurturing me, and was making me unhappy. "You are not yourself when you are around him." "You are setting yourself up for a big hurt"; and various other very true things were said to me by these caring people.

I ignored all of them. I loved the guy. It would all work out one day.

One day during a visit, my mother said to me

"I notice that you don't sing any more".

It took me a couple of years and a heart broken nearly in two before I really got it, but I finally understood.

After all, if your heart is not singing how can your mouth?

Discover what makes your heart sing, and do it as much as you possibly can. My new rule for a happy life.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Seeking a Common Language Part 3

Growing up I always believed the French had something over us in the area of love. Well who didn't think that really? I mean who ever heard of an English kiss? A Canadian kiss? But a French kiss we all recognize as the ultimate. Now that I am here working my way toward some level of comprehension, I have noticed a certain subtlety in this area that is certainly worth some effort to appreciate. Notice the differences below:

In English I say I have a friend or I have a lover. The words have very different meanings.
In French I might say copin or ami, but unless I give other indications you will not know whether this is my friend or my romantic partner.

In English there are two different but equally polite words, "sex" and "making love" for a similar act with perhaps a different levels of engagement.
In French on fait l'amour, whether in a casual or more involved sense. Yes I realize there are other words in both languages, but they are not typically used in polite conversation.

And of course I like my friend and love my lover. In English.
In French J'aime bien a friend, and j'aime my lover. 

French is clearly more subtle and more complicated. Learning the simple vocabulary is important, but perhaps not sufficient to stay out of trouble. Stay tuned for my many mishaps as I work toward French fluency.


Seeking a Common Language

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Returning to my roots

For the first time since moving here I had a recent attack of "Oh my God what am I doing here? I am not Parisienne!"
I am not sure what brought this on, probably the complexity of life here, not knowing how to get every day things done, realizing I had not done what I should to declare my French revenue (all fixed now), or just waking up to what a struggle it is each day to listen well enough to understand the conversations around me. 
This took me to a somewhat typical thought process, something like "If not Paris then where?". Clearly Canada is a good option to be close to friends and family, and the US was home for several years already with many good friends so it also makes the list. Other European countries? Other continents? I am just not feeling it right now.
While deliberating I took myself to my beautiful salon, and asked the stylist what I should do with my hair. He said "Retournez a vos racines", or Return to your roots.
So rather than move home to Canada, I returned to my natural hair color, which I have not seen for at least 20 years. I didn't even remember what color it as. Here you have it. Much easier than a trans Atlantic move!

Monday, August 6, 2012

Seeking a Common Language - Part 2

And so it continues, this struggle to understand and to be understood. See previous post Seeking a common language.  At  a relaxed and entertaining brunch this weekend, several mis-communications lead to hilarity. 

Let's start with my conversation with the young Colombian woman who was in Paris to complete her master's in commercial law, which I somehow heard as martial law. Imagine her confusion as this witty conversation unfolded.

Me: What exactly does an attorney do under martial law?
Her: I don't know. Why?
Me: Well if you are doing your masters I thought you would know already.
Her: Commercial law isn't anything like martial law.
Me: No I don't imagine so.
Her: Just a very puzzled face and a quick search for someone smarter to talk to...

Next a guest who explained that her carte de sejour, her photo identification which shows she has permission to work in France, indicates that she is divorced. Unfortunately this typically gets printed on name tags as  Jennifer Divorced Huntsmeyer, simply due to the placement of each respective word on the id. Nothing like a little free advertising as you are introduced to your new colleagues. Please note: the conversation below took place only in my warped little mind.

Her: Let's not waste any time. As you can see I totally screwed up my first marriage. Want to see if the next one will be any different?
Him: Er, uh, I think I see someone or no one over there I need to speak to most urgently...

And little things can be confusing. For example
Host: Would you like some more food?
French Guest: Why not? (This means yes please)
Canadian Guest: No thanks (This means please convince me to have a little more)
Indian Guest: Normally that would be finished (This also means yes please).

As the time passed, and the champagne was swilled, we became ever more brave, venturing into such topics as religion and politics. We discussed whether certain fundamentalist religions are cults, and if women really are exercising free choice in wearing dark wool over their entire bodies, and yes I mean a burka. We talked about a man with 50 wives and 300 children, and whether he speaks to them over a public address system or leaves the child rearing to someone else. Looking back I wonder at our bravery, having already destroyed the reputation of one country, one (divorced) woman, and several former dieters!