As the weeks tick by, I can hardly believe how much time I’ve spent here and how many things have happened. It seems like just yesterday I arrived, bewildered, in the airport in Merignac after many long hours of travel. Although I hardly spent any time in school in February, my French somehow was still able to improve. According to my host family and friends here, I’ve made serious headway since the beinning of January. Though, it doesn’t feel that way to me. I still feel like I’m drowning in French conversation most of the time and I have to strain my ears to understand phrases, even when they are said slowly. There are the rare-but increasingly more frequent-instances when something is said, whether just a phrase or an entire sentence, that I understand immediately with very little thought or subconscious translation is required. I live for those moments.
I spent this past week skiing in the Pyerenees at the resort La Mongie. If there is one thing that has seamlessly translated from my normal life to ma vie fraçaise, it is my ability to ski and be willing to make a fool of myself in the process. Don’t get me wrong, I’m quite good at skiing, there are just many occasions when I look like an absolute imbecile while doing so. Luckily, France got to see that side of me too. Joy.
I’ve equated that the Pyerenees are better than skiing on the East Coast but slightly less than the Rockies. I can only imagine that the Alps, another popular skiing destination in France, is even better than the Rockies but is more expensive. One thing that was nifty about the skiing system was there were no coat tags to be left on your ski jacket for all of eternity, but rather a sensor card that could be kept in your pocket and a sensor machine that would read it as you went through it. Much more eco-friendly because after one week of skiing, I only had one card (you could reload your card daily) instead of a billion tags to show for it. Another huge bonus was the apartment that my family owns is right on the mountain so all we had to do was take the elevator down and step out to the slopes. Not gonna lie, it’ll be a shocking reality when I have to drive to the mountain and deal with the whole changing-in-the-car ordeal.
One significant realization I had this week was due to a lift-line conversation I had with my host sister, Melina. To give you a bit of background, we had decided to picnic on the mountain that day, therefore requiring that we bring our lunches with us. I didn’t want to take a backpack so I stuffed all of my goodies into a cross-body purse that I could wear under my coat. When we were in one of the lift lines, I made a joke that it looked like I was pregnant (because of hoe the bag was positioned) with a food baby. But, I didn’t now the word for pregnant in French (it’s enceinte). Enceinte happens to be an extremely difficult word for the English tongue to pronounce and requires a lot of trying before even moderate success. So, Melina and I were going back and forth saying “enceinte, enceinte, enceinte, enceinte, je suis enceinte, je suis enceinte, ENCEINTE, ENCEINTE” and I still wasn’t able to say it correctly. By this point, we were starting to get some weird looks from other skiers about our conversation and it wasn’t until I translated the conversation to sound like “pregnant, pregnant, pregnant, pregnant, I am pregnant, I am pregnant, PREGNANT, PREGNANT”that I understood what they must be hearing. Because when I think of it that way, it is enormously funny and absolutely ridiculous. No wonder we were getting so many sideways stares! It was just a humorous realization understanding a conversation like that makes perfect sense in context, but out of context, it makes us sound crazy. SO, the next time you hear a bizarre conversation between a few people, don’t be so quick to judge because you have no idea what they could really be talking about.