Thursday, October 20, 2005

vivi finds her voice (but doesn't like what she hears)

Saturday night, we went to a small dinner party consisting of another couple and our host. I've known all of them at least as long as I've lived here, so it was a comfortable atmosphere. Over a dinner of moules frites, I found that I was following the conversation with little difficulty (it's still rather a strain and I confess, I pooped out at the end) and, for the first time, found myself attempting to join in the conversation. Once or twice I asked a question, and understood the response. I was able to tell a couple of anecdotes, like one does at a dinner party.

Towards the end of the evening, I realized with horror that the majority of my contributions were anecdotes about living in the states. Granted, 99% of my life-experience occurred in the states, and they were "everyday" anecdotes, meaning that I never tried to compare living in the states to France as better or worse. Actually, that's not true - we were talking about the television control tax that is due at the end of the month. The French pay around 100 euros per television owned, and this helps keep down the number of commercials during a program (an hour long program might have one commercial break, for example). So I asked if they would prefer to pay the tax or have commercials every ten minutes. We don't even watch tv that much, so even I don't know on which side of the debate I fall. But I digress - I don't have a problem being "the American," but I don't want to be "the American who won't shut up about America."

Steph and I talked about it on the way home that night, and I expressed my concerns. He told me that he knew exactly what I meant, because he's found himself doing he same thing in his new school - "at my old school we did this" sort of thing. It's a comfort to know that I'm progressing in my French, but now I need to learn the art of conversation again. One thing at a time.

Tuesday night, Steph came home from work and announced that we were going to a dinner for the teachers of his present school, and I had an hour to get ready. Granted, going out for dinner (and I'm not talking about McDonald's here) here is generally quite casual (the majority of teachers arrived in blue jeans), I would have liked to have a little notice. Turns out he knew about the dinner but hadn't wanted to go, so he never mentioned it, but was asked especially if he was coming that day, so felt like we had to go. Luckily for him, anytime I don't have to cook and can be treated to a nice meal is a-ok in my book, so I didn't complain at all.

Once again, I found myself following the conversation and, for the most part, able to answer questions. The funny thing was that the person to my left was from Marseilles, with (according to Steph) a strong accent from that region, but I was able to understand her better than the person to Steph's right, who has lived in this region all her life. Maybe we need to move down south.

Oh - and for the first time, I had duck à l'orange. Now I get what the fuss is about. That is an incredible dish!

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