My dear soul-lovers, this past week I have been tragically remiss! Burdened by the weight of end-of-semester torments, I have been feigning a studious demeanor for several days. I say feigning because most of my attempts at focus and responsibility were casually thwarted by my interest in reading books, drinking wine, and general merry making. That being said, no matter what your intentions, the last week of any semester always creates a potential atmosphere of anxiety. In addition to all of my own tasks and teaching engagements, my head was full to the brim with the cruel reality that a year's worth of French classes focusing on the crippling nuance of grammatical intrigue has resulted in a Victor Hugo-length pile of notes but very few speaking skills to show for it.
As I tackled my way through this final week of 8:30am phonetics classes followed by two hours of grammar there was no room left in my brain to embrace anything new. My classmates and I had to combat the increasing desire to rip our hair out and light it on fire while simultaneously recreating the storming of the Bastille. I will be honest that my one great saviour throughout was an American phenomenon... An elixir of life that remains one of the few things that I miss from my daily existence in the States... Iced Coffee. I love Iced Coffee, possibly worship it on occasion, and find that it is truly like an early morning deus ex machina that can fly me out of any negative situation, preferably gilded in sparkles. The problem, however, is that France, while a culinary metropolis of truly decadent fare, does not endorse the Iced Coffee. Which frankly gives me no choice on the run but to dish out my patronage to none other than Starbucks... Yup, I said it... And frankly, I refuse to be ashamed because, despite its overrated subpar offerings, it is one of THE HARDEST places to stake my claim as a resident of Paris and therefore speaker of French. They hear your accent, are always anticipating tourists, and proceed to speak to you in English no matter how many times you say merci. However, amidst this week of seeing the world through Iced-Coffee-Colored-Glasses, I finally discovered the secret to my Starbucks in Paris success: Never give your name in an American accent. Simple advice when you think about it, but let's be real... How often do you feel compelled to say your name with foreign flare? It feels awkward in your mouth, and as names are names, seems to go against your inherent impulse. But as I learned every morning before class this week, if you say not Angela (with the A as in ant and the el as in ULL) but Angéla (with the A as in ON and the él as in ELLE) the result is profoundly different. After a year of French classes I can now say my name in French... The process is complete.
Or rather, the process is on its way to beginning as I am now finally starting to realize how I must go about learning the French language in reality, rather than on paper like the horrifying final exam we all took at a post-apocalyptic-looking building outside of Paris this past Saturday. No joke, it's a graffitied cement complex called “La Maison des Examens” or the House of Exams. I pretty much felt like I was being sent off to the reaping rather than taking a test. Regardless, my classmates and I basically agreed it was a torture chamber of evil and I proceeded to have a whiskey and ginger ale with my American friends right after. In the evening, I was lucky enough to meet with a couple I know from New York. We had a lovely dinner near Bastille and I was officially cleansed of the disastrous examination process. Today was my oral test, whether the words that were flowing out of my mouth created coherent sentences is still a mystery, but it is done... C'est finiiiiiiiiiiiiiiii.
Now onto the summer where I shall possibly be a tour guide, continue teaching, maybe write some songs on my guitar, renew my visa, and certainly travel. I anticipate the stories to come can only be more ridiculous and divine... Stay tuned!