Il y a une certaine way of living in France. You keep your hands on the table during meals (no monkey business under the table, pour des petits et des grands)! You keep your showers short, your lights off just until it is so dark that your eyes hurt from squinting beside the window, and your conversations forever long. Waste not, want not.
Because, while my family didn’t calculate water and electricity costs, it turns out that gas costs a small fortune here. At that same moment, I was calculating how to escape the fourth level of French at my Institute. Maybe I have the vocabulary of a four year-old. Maybe I can pretend like I understand conversations flying at the same rate as the TGV. Maybe I can walk about the open-air market completely safe in Tours and get a few compliments about my accent or lack thereof (presque–almost).
But the subjunctif and every other formal grammaire point escape me. My plea for mercy was answered with: non, ne t’inqietes pas, Cassandra! Tu es dans le bon niveau! Well , easy for my prof to say, she is the one that makes my French essays bleed with corrections! This was truly insult to injury as my pride has taken blows at my new gym where I couldn’t express how to sign up (s’inscrire) or where to change (le vestiaire). Then there was my bout at the shoe store with my dear French sister… I liken these experiences to baby pandas born in captivity–no idea how messed up they are until exposed to mountain lions.
In my case, dinner. Each night at the table is one of gastronomic ecstasy and linguistic terror. We partake of such as delicious pork with peas and a tray of cheese and then topple over after desert. In recounting places like the gardens of Villandry and Chatonnière, I butcher my meat and mots and eventually resort to charades in between lots of ll y a’ s (there is), the forbidden phrase back at the Institute. But il y a lots of trees and il y a veggie gardens that put my front lawn to shame AND il y a ten more weeks to learn different ways of il y a-ing! (Then I sigh in a very French way and get back to my cake 🙂