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Tickle · the · Pear

Sylvia's first (and only) law of French language

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For every person who says I speak French well, there is an equal and opposite reaction from another French person.

That's what I've learned in my three days in Paris. I'm glad I took the mellow approach to my visit here. Instead of feeling rushed to take everything in, I've been leisurely exploring the city and only seeing things I really want to see, and allowing time for occasional pleasures.

Yesterday I attended church in the Paris 1st Branch, in a lovely restored building close to the Centre Pompidou. There were quite a few visitors, and I sensed that it was a small branch otherwise. When I introduced myself (in French) in Relief Society, the RS president asked me how long I was staying. When I said I was only visiting, a look of regret passed over her face. I'm used to that look. I've seen it in every branch that I've visited - a look that says "we need help and it's too bad you're not sticking around." For the first time ever I bore my testimony in French. One of the other visiting Americans told me afterwards that she couldn't understand what I said but she was glad I said it!

Afterwards I made my way to the Musée Rodin for the exhibition on Cambodian dancers. Unfortunately the exhibition was cancelled but I happily took advantage of the free Sunday admission and wandered around the beautiful gardens in a light rain.

Later Sunday afternoon I took the Balabus which covers a circuit taking in all the tourist sites in the city. It was a great way to see the highlights for the price of a bus ticket. Perhaps someday I'll actually venture inside Notre Dame but it was enough of a thrill to see it.

This morning I went to visit the Institut de Monde Arabe but found it closed, along with the HUGE gift shop appropriately called "the medina." I walked down Blvd Saint-Germain, had some hot chocolate (with the chocolate syrup and milk served separately) in a café, and had a nice discussion with a young French woman working in a bookshop specializing in the Middle East/North Africa.

Then I made my way to the Opéra area for more shopping. I bought a tie for MoBob in Celio* which was one of his favorite stores in Morocco. Then it was on to the Les Galeries Lafayette. Heck, I've been to Bloomingdale's in NYC, so why not do the same in Paris? Happily I was able to buy a tasteful enough gift for my mother (a painted serving platter with an abstract design of Paris) and chatted with salespeople from Madagascar and Morocco.

I'd read that the Musée de l'Orangerie had been renovated so I decided to finish my cheese and salami sandwiches in the Jardin des Tuileries before continuing on to the museum. (Yes, I actually thought of bringing pork into the Institut de Monde Arabe.) I sat in front of the duck pond and a few minutes later an older lady sat in the chair next to mine along with her toddler-aged granddaughter. When I offered them some bread to feed the ducks, we got to talking, and it turns out that she had lived in Kinshasa for 10 years and her children were born there. Her husband was a professor of economics and they also lived in Boston and Washington DC, and her son just returned from five years in San Francisco. A small world indeed.

The best part of the Musée de l'Orangerie was the full display of Monet's water lilies. Absolutely spectacular and well worth the admission fee and the wait. Another delightful find was Marie Laurencin's Portrait de Madame Paul Guillaume.

Tomorrow it's off to Little Rock via Atlanta.

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On September 5th, 2006 08:52 am (UTC), flemmarde commented:
seems like most things were closed!

but sounds like a lovely few days nonetheless.

there's no pleasing francophones with the language. here i find that as soon as they detect an accent, many service staff start speaking in english, which is often a little dispiriting. and those people who don't or can't speak english, tend to not know about slowing down and ennunciating clearly even when they can hear that i'm searching for words.
On September 7th, 2006 07:09 pm (UTC), clynne replied:
The contrarian in me would be tempted to respond in Spanish when they addressed me in English...

But of course both my French and my Spanish are sucktastic these days. :)
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On September 7th, 2006 07:28 pm (UTC), flemmarde replied:
yes i've often felt it's a bit presumptuous to assume i speak english... but then again, i do. and i couldn't carry off anything else convincingly either. i just have to accept they're trying to be nice

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On September 10th, 2006 08:51 pm (UTC), ticklethepear replied:
I have a new theory which is that I speak French well enough to be induce higher expectations in native speakers - I hope that makes sense in a convoluted French philosopher way!
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On September 11th, 2006 06:09 am (UTC), flemmarde replied:
ah... yes well perhaps that's the problem. people don't get that every little thing one learns in french is an effort and once you get over one hump, it isn't just all downhill from there.

i was helping india learn every conjugated form of avoir and etre on the weekend. it will take me a very long time before i could confidently use, for example, the passe subjonctif, or to write passe simple and all its various forms :(

but helping her with french homework is bound to push me along a bit
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