04 April 2008

What I miss most

I miss my car. I miss my car a ton.

It hit me the other day when I was heading home from an exhibition at the airport with Sophia and Jessica. It was about 20h00, not too late. I had texted my famille about three hours earlier saying that I didn’t think I was going to be home in time for dinner. I had been half hoping that Mark and Collin would still be in centre ville by the time we got back; but they had already gone home. So we were sitting on the bus, and it was pretty quiet. Up until that moment I had been relatively awake, but all of a sudden it hit me that I was feeling a little tired. Not just normal tired, which could be fixed with either sleep or caffeine, but the kind of tired you get when a teacher asks you to complete the same sort of exercise over and over and over again until your brain melts. Finished.

I’m tired of not having liberté of movement. The grand part of my closest friends lives in the suburbs, and if anyone wants to do anything, we have to plan things at least one if not two days in advance. Even then, there’s almost always someone who is suddenly “too tired” to do anything. I would just start staying in Rennes by myself, just hanging out, you know, but it’s impossible to do without paying for something.

I mean, if I want to sit down, my choices are: restaurant, café, library, university. If I just want to be inside, add “shopping” to that list. The French don’t really believe in going into the big bookstores, though, and just reading. And as I live in Bretagne, where the weather is either gray or heading that way, it’s almost always too cold to just go sit in a park. Although, I think I’m going to start just doing that. When I get ready in the morning, I have to get ready for the entire day, cause there’s just not enough time for me to go to school, take classes, go home, rest, go back to Rennes, mess around, and go home again. It takes about 30 to 40 minutes just for one trip back to St. Grégoire. The sad part is that I love my famille too much to really stay angry or unhappy about it for very long. I just miss being able to drive myself places. When Michel drove me to the gare to go to Lyon, it took 10ish minutes to get into centre ville. 10. Not 30. Imagine the freedom I could have if I just had a car. I could eat dinner in St. Grégoire and then drive back to Rennes to hang out with people…If I forgot something at home I could drive back here, get it, and be back in Rennes in just a little bit. I could drive myself to my friends’ houses, instead of either walking 20 minutes to get to Jessica’s or Sophia’s, or heading into centre ville to get to anyone else…oh the possibilities…

Which means I should just stop thinking about it. I mean, there’s not much I can do about it. Actually, there’s nothing I can do about it. We could just start taking taxis wherever we went, but oh mon dieu, would that add up or what? Oh yes. It would. It’s just so frustrating. It even ranks up there with not always being able to express how I’m feeling in French. I can understand pretty much 87% of any given conversation; it’s throwing in my two cents’ worth that gets difficult. My brain doesn’t react quickly enough to come up with a comment, much less a comment that sounds intelligent and well put-together. That’s what’s more frustrating than not having a car. I speak perfect English, perfect Franglais, and a little French. That’s what it is. I can form perfectly complex French sentences with my fellow Americans: it’s simple. There’s this thing people do when others talk, it’s called “assuming”. People assume they know what you’re going to say next. They’re almost always right. I can do it in English and in Franglais, and it’s the reason that my friends know what I’m talking about when we talk in French.

Also because we’ve all had similar education, so when we go to say something, we all tend to say it the same way (whereas talking with non-anglophones can be super hard sometimes, since they translate their speech patterns into their French). But sometimes I’ll be trying to say or explain something in French, and the French people around me will just give me this look. It’s sort of an “Uhhhh…huh” kind of look. Sure, one problem is that usually I’m trying to explain something very American and therefore completely and totally bizarre and silly, but seriously guys…It should not be this hard to talk about the American political system. Ok, no, actually, that’s hard to get even Americans to understand. Uh, another example. Ok, so, the reason I “lost” credit when I transferred from Greeley to Boulder. Whoa now, that’s apparently confusing. And when I said I had to plan my classes for next semester so I could register for them on the 2nd, haha, oh man, Michel was like, “I know she’s saying something worthwhile, I know it, it has to be worthwhile.” But no. I’m half used to getting the “oh listen to the adorable American trying to talk” look, and the other half of me hates it.

I hate it. The funny part is that I don’t think they realize the sorts of looks that are on their faces when they listen to us. I’m sure that my face is a mix of really intense concentration and detachment, since I sort of have to set myself half in and half out of the parole in order to concentrate.

I can’t just listen to someone talking and take in the general meaning of what they say, I have to focus so much as to listen to each word individually, toying around with it in my head, and then grabbing for the next one so that I can figure out how they go together. I’m sure it’s actually a fascinating process. The result is that I can gauge how much French work I did during the day according to how tired I am each night. My brain is doing so much focusing; everything I do takes so much more effort than it normally does. Sitting in class, talking to teachers, talking to friends (when it’s French time), listening to TV…nothing is really automatic anymore. Even when I listen to music and do my homework, I almost can’t do that anymore, cause my brain can’t figure out if it’s supposed to hear the English in the songs or complete the French that’s on the pages in front of me.

And as for forming complex sentences, whoa, watch out. I suck. Maybe I’m just a little bitter with myself because I made some dumb mistakes in homework this last week. I don’t know.
Virginie came in and talked to me for like 5 seconds today. She had an urgence sort of situation this week and had to move out of her apartment, and is moving to the South. In consequence, she stayed here a couple nights. Her brother Julien came today to drive her down to her mom’s house (who is Elisabeth’s sister). But anyway. She studied in Senegal a while ago, and also speaks a little English, and she just asked me if I was doing ok with so many French people everywhere (it was me and six adult French people at lunch, plus Elisa who is 2). We talked for a couple seconds about how hard it is. But I feel like she understood at least a little. At least they don’t think I’m an idiot when I don’t just jump right into the conversation. Of course, that’s the thing that tends to hurt the most. I can hear what they’re saying. I can understand the words, the flow of meaning, everything but how to respond within the time allotted for that subject.

By the time I construct a grammatically acceptable (not to mention correct) French sentence in my head, the thing I was going to comment about is long gone. How’s that for hilarious?

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