24 September 2009

Victory Comes To Those That Try

I've been staring at a blank "new post" screen for 10 minutes.  I know I want to type something, but my left-temporal lobe is trés fatiguée!  Which means that my whole body is, as well.  I think I've spoken more French today than the past three weeks combined!  I know it's good for me, but oy, my brain hurts!

At lunch today I met a new student from Germany.  I was able to introduce myself and tell him where I was from and why I was learning French and what kind of work I'd be doing in Niger.  I asked him similar questions and we actually had a real conversation!  And it was ALL en français!!  WOO HOO!!  Then a little bit later an more advanced student asked me about my family.  I was able to "introduce" her to the members of my family!  I felt like I stumbled through the whole thing, but she reminded me of the first conversation I had with her.  It was entirely in English because three weeks ago I knew nothing

I have to keep reminding myself that I'm not going to sound like a native speaker, but I am infact learning and making some bit of headway. 

In church on Sunday one of the passages that was read from the Word of God was Ps. 73.  I was able to recognize verses 25 & 26 . . . two of my favorites:  Whom have I in Heaven but You, and there is none on earth that I desire more than You.  My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart, and my portion forever! 

I know that I am not absorbing some of this language via my own effort.  God is good to me!  I am so thankful that even when I am exhausted He gives me the strength to keep going.

23 September 2009

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the . . .

When I was on the train the other day this well dressed guys walks past me and says, into his cell phone: "WHUUUUZZ UUUPP?" and then started speaking in French. I wanted to laugh really loud. But the French don't do loud, and I was all by myself so there was no one to laugh with, and every time I laugh on the train and I'm by myself people look at me as though I'm really crazy. So I've tried to stop doing that.

21 September 2009

Biblical French

Have you ever looked at a Bible translated into another language?  Not only are the words of the text different,  but the names of the books are different too!  In French, some of the book titles are similar, but they are definately pronounced differently! 

Genèse                                 Lamentations de Jérémie          Matthieu
Exode                                  Ezéchiel                                    Marc
Lèvitique                              Daniel                                       Luc
Nombres                             Osée (oh say ee)                       Jean
Deutéronome                       Joël                                           Actes
Josué                                    Amos                                       Romains
Juges                                    Abdias                                     1 & 2 Corinthiens
Ruth (“root”)                        Jonas (like the brothers)            Galates
1 & 2 Samuel                      Michée                                      Ephésiens
1 & 2 Rois                          Nahoum                                    Philippiens
1 & 2 Chroniques               Habaquq                                   Colossiens
Esdras                                Sophonie                                   1 & 2 Thessaloniciens
Néhémie                             Aggée                                       1 & 2 Timothée
Esther                                 Zacharie                                    Tite
Job                                     Malachie                                   Philémon
Psaumes (the p is pronounced!)                                            Hébreux
Proverbes                                                                            Jacques
Ecclésiaste                                                                           1 & 2 Pierre
Cantique des Cantiques                                                        1, 2, & 3 Jean
Esaïe                                                                                    Jude
Jérémie                                                                                 Apocalypse

20 September 2009

You Know You're a Linguist When . . .

Yesterday was Saturday.  I decided to forgo the studying and get lost with my camera in Paris.  So I pulled out the guidebook to see which direction to head first.  I found Cemitère du Père Lachaise.  It's the most prestigious cemetery in Paris.  It holds bragging rights to the remains of Simone Signorett & Yves Montand (they were a big time movie couple back in the day), Oscar Wilde, Molière, Edith Piaf, Jim Morrison--lead singer of The Doors, and Victor Noir.

Figuring it would be an interesting subject for my camera, I made my way there.  While on the train I overheard some folks talking a few seats away from me.  For some reason I was particularly drawn to their conversation . . . as I strained to hear them I realized that I could understand what they were saying!!  I wanted to jump out of my seat and shout HALLELUJAH!!  I'M GETTING IT!!!  Thankfully I hesitated with my jubilant display of victory . . . because in that moment it occured to me . . . they were speaking in English.

When you're all done laughing at me, here are some photos from the cemetrery.  Enjoy.

16 September 2009

Top 10 Tuesday

Okay, so it's Wednesday. But when I sat down last night to do this, the internet was down . . . so we'll just have to pretend.

I did one of these a while back and I really enjoyed making the list, so I thought since I'm in a new phase I'd do another one. When I made my initial list of the Top 10 Things That Have Been Occupying My Mind Lately I only came up with 4 items (since most everything on my mind these past few weeks falls under category number one: FRENCH), but on further thought I've come up with 7. So I'm hoping that after typing the list out, I will be inspired with the final three (and if not, I may just make something up).

1. FRENCH. I know, shocker! Living in France, studying French, watching movies in French, learning French praise songs, wandering the shops, skimming the newspaper, flipping through the diction . . . ALL of it is in French! I am currently eating, sleeping, and breathing French. Some moments are discouraging. Others are victorious (if you are new to this blog, just skim down to the past few posts for a good laugh at all the stupid things I've managed to do and say since I've arrived).

I have to say I think I've learned more in the past two weeks that would fall in the realm of "spiritual" than I have of French language. This process is not just about learning a new way of communication, it is part of the maturing process. I pulled out my (English) copy of The Green Letters: Principles of Spiritual Growth by MJ Stanford and reread a little excerpt this morning:
Norman Grubb shares a good word on the principle of labor and rest: "Take for an example the learning of a foreign language. You are faced with a series of hieroglyphics in a book, you hear a medly of sounds around, which mean absolutely nothing. Yet you know that it is a language that can be learned. More than that, you have gone there to learn it. Now that is the first rung in the ladder of faith. However weak or waveringly, in your heart you do believe that you can and will get it. Otherwise, obviously you wouldn't try to learn it. So you plod on. Many a time faith and courage fail, the mind is weary and the heart is heavy, and you almost give up. But not quite. To give up is faith's unforgivable sin. On you go at it. MOnths pass. It seems largely to go in one ear and out the other. Then--the length of time depends on the difficulty of the language and the ability and industry of the pupil of course--a miracle seems to happen. The day or period comes when, without your hardly realizing it, what you are seeking has found you; what you are trying to grasp has grasped you! You just begin automattically to speak the langauge, to think it, to hear it. What was an incomprehensible jumble of sounds without, has become an ordered language within the mind."
He goes on to compare this process with our journey toward Christian maturity through the Holy Spirit. I know that it will come. Developing new neuropathways will not be easy. I already leave at the end of the day exhausted . . . but the Holy Spirit is helping me to keep perspective and recognize that His grace is suffencient . . . and abundant.

2. JESUS CALLING. When I was finishing up my training at SIM's US office two April's ago, the women from the Member Care department gave me a fabulous gift. It's a little orangy-brown devotional called Jesus Calling by Sarah Young. The pages are short, but the words are such a gift! Each devotional is writen from Jesus' point of view . . . taken from the scriptures that are included. Everyday there is something included (often the entire page) that speaks to what is happening in my life. For example, the devotional for August 23, which was the day of my commissioning service at my sending church, was about entrusting those you love into the care of Jesus. It was exactly what I needed to read at that moment in order to say some very difficult goodbyes. This book is definately on my list of Books-Every-Disciple-of-Jesus-Should-Own (along with The Green Letters mentioned above).

3. 2-HOLE PUNCHES. I'm pretty sure that a few days ago I blogged about not being able to find a single-hole-punch anywhere, and when I asked about, people responded as if I was crazy. I considered getting the double, but in the midst of my mini culture-shock episode I decided against it. Anyway, the other day I came back to my room and there on the floor in front of my door was a little box. One of my classmates had bought me a double hole punch!! I know it's the silliest little thing, but it's my first real gift since being here in France. It made me so happy! (And I just found out this morning who it was . . . so I think I need to make a very holey thank you note!)

4. FLASH CARDS. This is what I do with my free time. I make and review flash cards. One night at dinner, some of the already French speakers went around everyone's plate and taught me the words for the different items. So I have flash cards with "green beans"and "mince meat" and "peas" and "carrots" and . . . well you get the idea.

5. SKYPE. Skype is free "phone" service that is used online. I have been able to phone friends for FREE all over the world! I got see my niece and nephews the other day via webcam! B even sang a little song for me . . . she's got great moves! It is such a blessing to be able to connect and hear voices and see faces! Makes the world seem a bit smaller.

6. ONLINE SERMONS. It is very hard to sit in church when you don't understand anything being said. But through the miracle of the internet, I am able to get some soul feeding every week from my home church. Every Sunday morning at 9:30 and 11 EST, Fellowship Baptist Church livestreams their sermons. Can't make it at that time, or your connection isn't fast enough, no worries! There's a media page that allows you to catch up on old messages.  Right now their going through a series called Conversations on God and Christianity.  

7.  THE COLOR RED.  I absolutely love the color red.  And not just any old boring, mass produced red.  But red-red.  Deep, real, stunning red.  Like swiss-army knife red.  GORGEOUS! 

8.  NUTELLA.  If you're reading this and you say, Nutella?  What the heck is Nutella?  Then go get your car keys and head to the closest peanut butter aisle.  No it's not peanut butter . . . nutella is what brussel sprouts will taste like in Heaven!  Nutella has only recently been readily available in the States, and may possibly be the nearest solution to world peace we have this side of eternity.  You can put it on bread, use it in place of ganache, dip apple slices in it, or just eat it straight from the jar.  I will warn you, the chocolatey-hazelnuty joy is quite addictive . . . but it can't be too many points on the weight watchers scale. 

Okay, so I came up with one extra.  My mind is pretty blank at the moment.  Think I need a nap before I start studying again.  À bientôt!

14 September 2009

Keyboard Shortcuts

A great big MERCI BEAUCOUP to mon ami Deb for the instructions on using the International Keyboard setting on my computer!  Deb & family arrived in Niger as I was arriving in France.  Looking forward to being with them at Galmi in a year!

So I thought I would take a minute and practice some of my short cuts.  So here goes (so I actually tried to use the accents here in blogger . . . but they wouldn't work, so I've cut and pasted something from word.  We'll see if this works): Só Ï dîdn’t dø ånythíng stúpïd tödåy, ät lèast thåt ïs wörth typìng.   Makes for a boring blog, but hey, we've all got to have one of those every once in a while.

13 September 2009

The First Communion is Always Interesting

So in church this morning (of which I understood NOTHING) we had communion.  It's always interesting to me how differently churches in other cultures observe communion.  We were told that most places use wine, regardless of denomonation, so I was a bit suprised this morning when it turned out to be grape juice.  Also, at this church I attended this morning, they didn't wait for everyone else to be served before partaking . . . which made the Americans very easy to pick out as they were the only ones left holding the elements at the end.

Another difference . . . which actually made me quite nervous . . . was when they pass the little juice cups around in the metal holder, each person would drink their serving while still holding the metal thingy!!  So not only does one have to hold the metal thingy without dropping it as you pass it, now you've got to ballance it while drinking!  And then quietly and delicately place your little glass back in the holder.  Now, I learned a lesson in South Africa back in '05 . . . ALWAYS watch what everyone else is doing! (The holders in SA are open on the bottom, so if you place your hand underneith, you push all the cups up through the hole . . . yeah, that was a close one!!) 

But, I do have one complaint.  France is the land of bread.  Every day there are people wandering down the street with brand new baggettes and other artisan breads.  The US has Starbucks on every corner, France has a bakery.  With that in mind, I was expecting something happy in the plate when the bread was passed around.  Needless to say, when I got the plate I was majorly disappointed.  There, cut into little rectangles, was WONDER BREAD!!  You know, the stuff they make in a factory and it comes in a bag and its pre-sliced in identical sizes, and tastes like chemicals.  Unbelievable.  All this fabulous bread, and they use wonder bread to symbolize the body of Christ that was broken for us??   I mean, come on . . . it doesn't have to be a brioche, just a simple, happy, yummy, fresh baggette.  Am I asking too much??
Well, the rest of today was spent in a very quaint town called Anothy, just down the road.  They had a wine and cheese festival all weekend.  This event has captured the escence of France!  It was FABULOUS!!  And a great opportunity to practice a few key phrases.  Here are some pictures.  Enjoy and au revoir!

Je suis Ergotherapeute

For these first two weeks, I've been trying to explain to people here what an Occupational Therapist is. The closest title they have given me is Kine (Physical Therapist) . . . but I'm not a Kine anymore!!!! I (finally) went online to the World Federation of Occupational Therapists (http://www.wfot.org/) and looked up the French site. Sure enough, I'm an Ergotherapeute (minus two accents). I've found all kinds of wonderful information about Ergotherapie and how its done (and said) here in France. There's also two publications from the Association Nationale Francaise des Ergotheraputes that I've written away for! So, if you're feeling adventurous check out http://www.anfe.fr/.

Yesterday, while in the post office (of all places), I found two great resources: one is a petite guide . . . a fold-out laminated booklet that is all about the human body! It breaks down the cell (la cellule), the 5 senses (les cinq sens), the heart (le coeur), the kidneys (les reins), the eye (la vue), the ear (l'ouie), and the liver (le foie). It's quite fascinating. Many of the parts are labeled similarly, but many are completely different terms as well. I also found a large chart of the major muscles of the body!!!

I'm going to give you a test . . . lets see how many of the muscles you can get:
1. deltoide
2. brachial anterieur
3. rhomboide
4. trapeze
5. long abducteur du pouce
6. triceps sural (soleaire)
7. semi-membraneux
8. semi-tendineux
9. grand fessier
10. peaucier du cou

12 September 2009

One Small Blunder, One Giant Victory

The public transportation here is fantastic! At least that's what I thought before I arrived. Okay, it really is very reliable and logical, and the buses all have maps of the route and helpful tidbits clearly posted and easy to understand. The problem is that I still don't speak or read French yet, so I have to rely on the generosity of others willing to share this fantastic knowledge.

I've been buying my bus tickets on the bus. 1euro70. That's each time I get on a bus . . . even to transfer. But, as I found out on Wednesday, if you buy tickets in packs of 10 they come out to 1euro15 each and you can transfer once with that same ticket onto any other bus within an hour and a half of when it was validated!

So, I wanted to buy some bus tickets. I knew I could buy them at the bus office at a train station 20 minutes away, so I figured I'd just get them whenever I go there again. But as we were all walking to the library yesterday, my Aussie fellow student was telling his wife where to get the tickets (closer) and the correct pronunciation for "I'd like to buy a book of 10 bus tickets": Jay-vou-tray an carnay an tee-kay du bous. So I practiced the mantra in my head. After the library I went with this woman and another friend to a little shop (Tobac . . . they are everywhere, it's the place to go for magazines, cigarettes, lotto tickets, and refill cards on pay-as-you-go-phones) to buy the tickets. I kept saying in my head: Jay-vou-tray an carnay an tee-kay du bous. Jay-vou-tray an carnay an tee-kay du bous. Katherine got up and perfectly said Jay-vou-tray an carnay an tee-kay du bous. What I should have said was: Pour moi, aussi, s'il vous plait (the same for me, please), but what came out was: Jaaaay-vou . . . tray . . . an . . . carnay . . . an ticket-ay . . . du bus. The lady behind the till was neither impressed nor entertained. I got my tickets and joined my friends outside the shop who were laughing very hard. "I said ticket-ay didn't I?" "YES YOU DID!!!" Unlike Spanglish, in French, you just can't add an ending onto an English word and expect everyone to understand!

But from there we need to head into another shop and each pick up a few things. In most stores in France, you bring your own bags, or you pay for one (anywhere from a few cents to a euro). So as we were going through, I said, in perfect French, Jay-vous-tray an sac, s'il vous plait. And what did the lady behind the till do?? She pulled out a bag and handed it to me!! She didn't look at me like I had seven heads. No, she simply did what I asked. VICTORY!!!!

11 September 2009

Coffee Break

We had coffee together in class today. Someone brought coffee & tea, someone else was responsible for cups and plates, I brought muffins, etc, etc. The point was for us to learn all the words related to having coffee along with phrases like "May I take your plate?" "Would you like milk and sugar with your coffee?" and so forth.

At one point I asked a classmate to pass something to me and said (without thinking) "Por favor" in perfect SPANISH! The best was that no one caught it except our teacher who errupted into laughter. Once again, I've done my best to provide unintentional comic relief to our day.

French Music Video

Here is a French music video. Just a taste of the culture for you.


Here are the words (in French) of the song . . . it mentions the days of the week (Lundi, Mardi, Mercredi, Jeudi, Vendredi, Samedi, et Dimanche). Maybe at some point I'll be able to translate it for you.

Lundi oui, l'autre dit non
Plus de maison, plus de saison
Mardi on est déjà morts
Mercredi que ce n'est plus le hasard
Jeudi je me dis au pire
Vendredi moi que je suis fou
Samedi si ça te va
On se tait au fil du temps
Si c'était le temps
On se détache maintenant

Semaine ne mène à rien
Semaine se moque de tout
Minutes s'enchaînent jusqu'au petit jour
Mais il n'y a plus d'amour

L'un dit oui, l'autre aussi
Maintenant que c'est fini
Mardi n'est plus fatigué
Mercredi qu'est-ce qui nous est arrivé ?

09 September 2009

Bus Faux-Pas

So we don't have class on Wednesday . . . hallelujah! The French public schools are off on Wednesday, but go on Saturday mornings. So we get the day off. I'm not sure why, but I don't really care. I get a day free of the classroom.

I ventured out beyond the Massy borders into a town called Thiais today. Two classmates came with, and journeyed on bus to the nearest Ikea to pick up a few things the school didn't provide for us.

We made it there without event (apart from a messy episode of major motion sickness by one of the girls . . . just thankful it was at the stop and not while still in the bus!) and enjoyed wandering around Ikea learning some house-hold words like duvet and armoires . . . oh wait, I already knew those . . . um . . . okay, I enjoyed wandering around Ikea reinforcing the words I already knew.

Our bus rides home were much more crowded. On the first, it was standing room only. In an attempt to not make much of a scene, I squeezed my hand around the nearest pole, shared with a nearly elderly gentleman. Pardon. I said politely. He stared at me. I turned toward my friends so as not to stare back. The bus jerked. My hand slipped, bumping on top of his. Merci! I turned to him. He looked confused . . . in my head I corrected myself, "No, dummy, you just THANKED him! What you should have said was Excusez-moi!" The bus jerked again . . . same thing. "Merci, monsieur!" CRAP! I did it AGAIN!! Come on, Deb. you can get this right!!! As I continued to repeat my new mantra of excusez-moi, monsieur, excusez-moi, the bus skretched to a halt and I lunged backward STEPPING ON HIS FOOT!!!! Oh if looks could kill! "EXCUSEZ-MOI, MONSIEUR!!" Surely I left him with crushed metatarsals, but gosh-darn it, I got the phrase correct!! VICTORY!!

07 September 2009


That is the literal translation of the French for the number 91. Yes, you read that correctly: Four-Twenty-Eleven. So not only am I horrible at math in English, I now have to be able to do math in French just to be sure I'm counting correctly!! OY!

And let's not even talk about spelling! Cause I certainly can't do that in English . . . and French doesn't spell anything like it sounds!

But I did have a really funny moment in class today. We were learning through the conjugation of etre (to be) you know: I am je suis, you are tu es, he/she is il/elle est, we are nous sommes, you plural are etes, and they are ils/elles sont. Well, I asked a question related to the second person singular formal versus informal, the answer was the verb form es remains the same (even though vous is the second person singular formal word for you along with the second person plural formal or informal . . . or at least that's what I gathered from the answer I was given in French). ANYWAY, we were then reading through a series of examples and mine was with the second person singular informal. So I said "es." My teacher responded with "Bien. Ecrivez." Write it. I was confused. Why would she want me to write E-S. So I picked up my pen an drew E-S in the air. The entire class erupted into laughter. Clearly I had done something funny. But once again, the French-train was speeding down the track, as Deb. stood helplessly on the platform. I couldn't for the life of me figure out what I had done wrong. Someone in class said "Well, guess we know who the visual learner is!" I was still confused. "Ecrivez??" I asked. "Oui! Ecrivez! Ecrivez!" Then it occured to her . . . "Epeler" Spell. "OH!!! E-S." (which sounds like "ooouh-essss" in French.) I guess write and spell are used interchangably here. Oh well, gave everyone a good laugh. Which really is necessary for survival!

05 September 2009

Flooding in West Africa

There has been an uncharacteristic amount of rain in West Africa during this year's rainy season. There have been many floods over recent days. I haven't heard if Galmi has been affected, it is further northeast than Burkin@ Fas0, where this article focuses. But for those of you who pray for the region, here's the link http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/africa/8239552.stm

5 baguettes et 2 poisson

In chapel (culte) yesterday, one of the professors had us open our French Bibles to Luke 9:10-18. I was completely lost until all of a sudden I heard "poisson" and "garcon" . . . "fish" and "boy." It was the feeding of the 5000! I slowly began to understand the concept: it's impossible to feed 5000+ people with 5 loaves and 2 fish, unless of course you're Jesus. I wanted to stand up and shout "I'm the 5 loaves and 2 fish!!" when he continued and said something along the lines of "You have 5 verbs and 2 adjectives. With man, this is impossible, but with God, all things are possible!" So that's were I am . . . not sure I have any verbs yet . . . but it will come.

It's funny, when I was in the States, I couldn't comprehend the reality of this massive undertaking I'm currently experiencing. But the more I get out of my room, the more I am learning. There are so many things I have been able to pick up just from context: the neon green "sortie" above every door means "exit." And after wandering around the grocery store for several hours, I was able to write out half of my list in French: Poulet (chicken) Fromage (cheese) Legume (vegetables) Pain (bread) Nutella (okay, that was a joke to see if you were still reading), Lait (milk) vin blanc (white wine, which poached my salmon BEAUTIFULLY tonight!!! MMMMMM.) Well anyway, you get the idea.

Our internet is down at school right now, so I'm sitting at McDonalds with a classmate using their free wifi. I actually managed to order our coffee!! "Bon soir. Je voudrais un espresso et un double latte." I was quite proud of myself when the woman went and got the coffee and handed it to me. VICTORY!!! I know . . . I know. It's the little things in life!

Well, I really must do a little bit of homework before they close in half an hour. That's all for now. Tomorrow will be spent in Paris. The museums are free on the frist Sunday of the month, so I'm going with a family that I met at a training course in the States for an afternoon at the Louvre. Hello MonaLisa. Will take my camera and try to post some photos soon.
Au revoir!

Let the Games Begin

Today was the first day of class. I think my teacher spoke in English twice, the rest of the time I had to try to figure out what she was talking about. Even when asking for clarification, she would respond in French. I guess that’s what ‘total immersion’ means. My instructor, grew up in Burkin@ Fas0 (which borders Niger to the southwest) with an American mother and French father. She is expecting her first child in December (it’s a boy).

My class is level 0 . . . none of us have had any French before. In my class are four other Americans, all heading to different parts of West Africa, a Korean woman heading to M0r0cc0, an Australia going to Burk!na Fas0 with SIM, and a Norwegian serving in Mal!. There is a student who has been here for a year already from Medford, NJ! She will be going to Ch@d when she is done here. There are many others from the UK and the States, a lady from Germany, and few New Zealanders as well. So we are a mini UN here at Les Cedres.

When I arrived last week, two friends met me in Paris and we flew to Italy for four days of rest before my classes started. We spent the first two days in the city of Lucca which is in Tuscany. Gorgeous! The other days were in Riomaggiore which is one of the five seaside villages that makes up what is known as Cinque Terre. We had a wonderful time, full of laughter, breathtaking views, and fantastic olives.

Since coming back to France it is finally hitting me that I am living in Europe. And I will be here for a year! And somehow in that time I will learn a new language . . . enough to get around town without saying “Sorry, I don’t speak French.” But in majority, I have found most people here to be very helpful. For example, yesterday when I went to buy notebooks and paper at a local store, the Texas Instruments vendor who was restocking the calculators willingly attempted to understand the French I was butchering. Turns out they don’t sell single hole-punches in France . . . and it really is quite an absurd request. Two or four; not one or three. Silly me. What was I thinking?? But I saw him again as I was leaving the store and he smiled and waved.

There are more stories of kind strangers willing to help, but some involve me catching a ride in the bus driver’s own car when I got on the wrong bus . . . going to the wrong city . . . on the last run of the night. And my mom (who reads this faithfully) would be upset with knowing that I took a ride from a stranger (but there were three of us . . . and his name is Philippe, so he’s really not a stranger any more), so I won’t tell that story.

Here are some photos from Italy. Enjoy. Au revoir.