29 December 2009

French Culture 101: TV

I haven't watched much TV since I've been here.  It's still really hard for me to understand, so I don't find it entertaining or relaxing.  While they have many of their own shows, they also like to watch American and British TV dubbed over in French.

Some shows maintain the same title: Friends, Dallas, and Smallville
Others change just slightly: House, MD is Dr. House, The Sopranos is Les Soprano, and  The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air is Le Prince de Bel-Air.
Some are direct translation from English: Everybody Loves Raymond is Tout le Monde Aime Raymond.

But my favorites are the ones they change:
CSI is Les Experts (literally: The Experts)
ER is Urgences (literally: Emergency)
Third Watch becomes New York 911
The Wire is  Sur Écoute (literally: Taping)
Without a Trace is FBI: Portés Disparus (literally: Missing)
One Tree Hill is Les Frères Scott (literally: The Scott Brothers)
West Wing is À la Maison Blance (literally: At the White House)
The Dukes of Hazzard is Shérif, Fais-Moi Peur! (translates to "Sheriff Hazzard," but is litterally: Sheriff, make me scared!)
Full House is La Fête À La Maison (literally The Party at the House)
Carnivale is La Caravane de l'Etrange (literally The Caravan of the Strange)

25 December 2009

Joyeux Noël . . . Skype makes the world pretty small

I am Skyping with my family RIGHT NOW . . . it's not the same, but it's as close as I'm going to get to being with my niece and nephews as they open presents.  I love technology!


24 December 2009

Niger in the News

Nigerien President, Mamadou Tandja, has changed the country's constitution to be able to stay in power for a third term.  According to the BBC News, back in August he "dissolved both parliament and the constitutional court to push through the referendum."  In line with the original constitution, his second term would have ended on Tuesday . . . and, as per a new article from the BBC, as of Wednesday the US has suspended aid to Niger. 

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/africa/8429739.stm

23 December 2009

All This Because My Mother Isn't French.

The other day I found a FANTASTIC recipe for meringue cookies (okay, I admit . . . I didn't even read the recipe, I was sucked in by the beautiful full page photo depicting the super-model of cookies . . . they were lovely!).  I had decided that since the French (in general) really like meringue I would make a special batch for my language helper, to say merci for her patience and grace as I butcher her heart-language.  I bought all the things I'd need, including cookie sheets (special trip to Ikea for those, as the ones at the shop down the road were 20euros . . . nearly $30 US!!!  THIEVERY!) and for two nights now I had planned to make them.  The problem is the recipe called for three hours in the oven.  Bizaire!  So finding the time has been tricky.  But I was scheduled to meet with CL today at noon for lunch, so I really wanted to have them ready and waiting.

I got up this morning ready to go.  When I got to the kitchen, two of the women who work at the school were there.  When I told them I was making meringue cookies their response was a bit suprising: Vraiment??  C'est TRÈS difficile!  (Really?  Those are VERY hard!!!)  One continued to tell me that she used to try every year and couldn't get them right and has since given up. 

How hard can they be, vraiment??  I've made meringue before . . . and that was by hand in 100F+ at Galmi.  Surely this will be EASY!!  (How does that verse go . . . "pride cometh" when???)  I took out all of the necessary ingredients.  Converted the oven temp from farenheit to celcius.  Pulled out the hand mixer and started separating the egg whites from the yolks. 

I followed the recipe exactly.  As I began to whip, the woman who oversees the facility here at Les Cedres came into the kitchen.  Tu fais quoi?  What are you doing?  I told her, she wished me bon courage! and promised to make sure I wasn't here fluffing until tomorrow.  ONE HOUR LATER I was still mixing the same concoction, which had grown significantly in size, but was still lacking stiff peaks.

Où est toi, stiff peaks??  Est-ce que ça viens??? (Where are you, stiff peaks?? Are you coming????)  I suddenly had deja vu and saw myself back at Galmi whisking those God-forsaken egg whites.  But this time I had an electric hand mixer.  IL NE MARCHE PAS!!!!!  (IT'S NOT WORKING!!)  I searched the internet for a solution.  Google's search of The Secret to Perfect Meringue yielded the truth: cream of tartar.  Bummer.  I don't have any.  Google: Substitute for Cream of Tartar in Meringue.  Answer: lemon juice.  So I added more. It didn't work.  I tried more sugar.  It got worse. 

I gave up.

I dumped the stiffless-peakless-marshmallow-fluff into the sink.  Round Two: you are MINE! 

Determined not to be beat out by the goo, I scrounged around for a few extra eggs and set to work again.  This time, a fourth woman who works the school helped me out.  L is deaf, so she signs to me with French Sign and I respond back with American Sign, mouthing words in French . . . we're quite a sight.  Anyway, she watched me closely: beat 6 egg white with 1tsp lemon juice and 1/8 tsp salt until foamy.  Done.  Add 1 tsp each vanilla and lemon extract.  Done. Slowly, but continually, add sugar while beating at medium to high speed.  It started to work.  It was growing and becoming a bit more firm.  But still no peaks, let alone stiff ones. 

L. signed something in French.  I was pretty sure she said that I should have beat the egg whites first, then added the sugar and all the other stuff.   Oh.  Mais, la recette!  (But, the recipe!)  She didn't care.  She insisted.  In walked the woman who oversees the facility.  Déborah, you are still here?!?!  She then confirmed L's diagnosis.  Beat the egg whites first.  Then add to it.  Oui, mais la recette . . . . She looked at me very compassionately and in English said, Déborah, there is no recipe for meringue!  We learned this from our mothers when were children.  VOILA!!  That was it.  My mother isn't French, therefore I hadn't learned the generational secret of perfect meringue!  But, ce n'est pas grave, I am learning now . . . it's never too late.  Merci Seigneur pour toute la leçons Tu as pour moi!

As the cliché goes, third times a charm! 

That's right, round three.  I was determined to win. 

This time I not only had to steal someone's eggs (okay, not steal, just borrow) but their sugar as well. This time L was in charge: separate the egg whites.  Whisk.  Keep Whisking.  Whisk some more.  Voila.  STIFF PEAKS, JE T'AI TROUVÉ!!!  (Stiff Peaks, I found you!!)  Then we added the sugar.  More whisking.  Then the lemon juice and vanilla.  The more we added the less stiffy the peaks were, but they were still there. 

Until the time came for me to pipe them onto the cookie sheets.  I ended up with little blobby discs, but hey, they kept their blobby-disc form so I really didn't care. They were in the oven.  That meant I won.

They stayed in the oven at a very low temp for several hours.  All of the school employees went home, so I had no way of knowing for sure if they were in fact done.  I tasted one.  Sugar coated cardboard.  Hmm.  So they definately aren't my favorites, but hey, c'est la vie at least I now have something to put in the jar for my language helper (and I didn't toss round two, going to try to salvage it and make a lemon meringue pie . . . wishful thinking perhaps).

22 December 2009

Vous Êtes Ici.

My new least-favorite-thing about France: the general abscence of You Are Here stickers.  I mean, really.  How hard is it to place a little round sticker that reads Vous Êtes Ici on those big maps in malls and metro stations and outside very large hospital complexes.  S'il vous plaît, tout le monde!!

So my friend had to spend the day back at the hospital having a procedure . . . she has to sit there ALL day attached to an IV, so I offered to come spend a few hours with her.  The last time I went to see her, it took three buses and over an hour to get there, so I thought, SURELY there has to be an easier, faster, more efficient chemin via public transportation.  I searched the internet, and sure enough . . . take the RER B train from Massy to Denfert-Rochereau, change and take the Metro #6 toward Nation to Daumsenil, change to the Metro #8 toward Créteil-Préfecture and get off at Créteil-L'Échat (okay, so maybe you didn't need to know that, but I like typing in italics and using ácçënt marks when I type . . . that and I can't tell a short story.).  Simple.  And it was.  Until I got out of the metro. 

The way I know on the bus drops me off right in front of the main entrance of the hosptial, but I decided to forgo what I know and try something easier . . . more time efficient . . . which put me out on the side of the hospital.  But I wasn't sure which side, since they all look the same.  Oh, but wait, there's a big map of the complex!  Fantastic!  I LOVE MAPS!! 

I began to search for the big round red Vous Êtes Ici! so I could commence my journey.  Hmmm.  Where is the big round red Vous Êtes Ici!??  Not here.  Not there.  Nope.  No Vous Êtes Ici!.  WELL, I began to think, I KNOW I'M HERE!  SOMEWHERE, BECAUSE I'M STANDING RIGHT INFRONT OF YOUR MAP HENRI MONDOR L'HÔPITAL!  I began to compair the buildings I could see with the 2-D map in front of me.  But the shapes didn't seem to match.  That's when I realized they must be posted north-to-south . . . but which way was north.  I checked the location of the sun.  HEY!  WHERE'S THE SUN??  Today was a perfectly typical Parisian day . . . the sun was neatly tucked away behind all the clouds. 

PlanB.  (I love PlanB's . . . I always seem to have to come up with them . . . but they are often very short lived and eventually it's PlanD, E, or F that works)  PlanB: wander around the complex until I find the main entrance.  I figured if I stuck close to the outer wall of the hospital I'd get there eventually.  Well, Henri Mondor l'Hôpital won't let you walk it's perimeter toute de suite . . . and there's no yellow-brick-road either.  I wandered outside the hospital until I eventually found an entrance. 

It was the mortuairy.

The next door I found was the med school.  Strike two.  I retraced mysteps to the metro station and turned left instead of right.  I found the ER and the helicopter pad . . . and then, there it was.  Like the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow . . . the main entrance.  It was beautiful.

I wish I could tell you all that this was the only time today that I got lost.  But when is my life ever so uneventful.  After I left my friend at the hospital, I headed toward the bus (because even though I could get back to the metro with my eyes closed, I needed to do a little shopping on the way home) and went to the mall.  After I got what I needed, I made my way to the bus stop.  Now, I know from past experience that the bus would only be running until 8pm, so I figured if I got there by 6:30 I'd be fine.

I checked the marquee indicating the arrival of the next bus, ten minutes.  Parfait.  10 minutes came and went.  Then 15.  I checked the marquee again: ten minutes.  Wait a minute!  Ça ne marche pas!  Hmm.  I thought.  I checked the posted schedule.  Wait, what's that!?!?  There were three pieces of paper over the schedules.  Something about holiday hours and the schedule for the week of Christmas and certain bus stops, but they had the number of the other bus, not the 319.  Finally someone came to the stop.

Excusez-moi, je parle un peu le français.  Est-ce que le bus trois sent dix-neuf va arrêter ici? (Excuse me, I speak a little bit of French.  Will the 319 bus stop here?)  He read the posted message.  Oui.  Je pense.  (Yes.  I think.  Famous last words . . . even in French.)  After 45 minutes waiting at the stop, a small crowd of about 10 people formed waiting for the 319.  Everyone read the sign and all came to the same conclusion.  Yes, the 319 will in fact stop here.  But it hasn't.  And it's cold.

A collective decision was made to dash across the parking lots to the opposite side of the mall and hope that the 319 would be stopping at the TVM bus stop.  I had no idea what was going on, so when a woman who was also heading to Massy grabbed my arm and said On y va! (Let's go!)  I went.  Sure enough, the 319 pulled up as we all arrived at the stop.  Merci seigneur!  We elbowed our way through the even-in-France-there-are-last-minute-Christmas-shoppers crowd and boarded the bus.

The kind woman who made sure I got on saved me a seat next to her.  At one point I thought she might be an angel, but I think if she had been she would have also been able to speak English, or at least speak French slowly enough for me to understand her. 

The first twenty minutes on the bus we didn't move.  The pre-Christmas-traffic was HORRIBLE!  But my neighbor was chatty, so I didn't notice . . . too much.  The trouble was, I couldn't understand a single word she said to me.  I just kept smiling and responding to match her facial expressions.  We were going along nicely like this for quite some time when I heard a phrase I did in fact understand: Nous sommes perdue! (We are lost!)  Now, I think she used far to few exclaimation points with that sentance, but at the moment I was just happy that I understood something she said . . . okay, more, bitter-sweet, considering the context.

I looked out the window . . . even though it was dark, I could tell she was right.  This was not the typical way home!  She went up to talk to the bus driver.  She came back and said Ça va and shrugged her shoulders.  When the bus finally pulled over for the first stop, but it was really about number 15 into the route.  Guess the traffic was so bad and the bus was so off schedule he had to do something to catch up. 

Good news is, I got home.  Finalment!  I think I will give up public transportation for lent.

19 December 2009

Le Corps Humain

I ventured back to the library last night.  My new favorite thing about France: no late fees at the library!  God bless 'em! 

My partner in crime, SP, wandered around with me, searching for new books.  The first shelf was teenage romance novels . . . way over my head.  I turned around.  Ah ha!  Picture books.  "This is what I need!"  SP responded "English books??" It was the Anglais section . . . right next to books in Espagnol and Allemand.  Ooops!

As I wandered through the shelves, I found lots of books on the anatomy and physiology of the human body!  Parfait!  But the best find was L'Encyclopédie Visuelle Bilingue LE CORPS HUMAIN (The Bilingual Visual Encylopedia of the Human Body)!!!

I checked the book out (along with one on the sensory system and another on the circulatory system) . . . without event this time.  As I searched through this gem I found, I began to feel really overwhelmed.  Over my seven years of post-high school education, I have taken two anatomy classes (one complete with cadaver lab), kinesiology, biomechanics, neuroanatomy (that lab was fun too), and even classes specfic to injuries and rehab of each region of the body.  If there's one thing I know, it's human anatomy. . . IN ENGLISH.

Being a lousy memorizer by nature, this knowledge I have of terms has come from almost 10 years of repetition and use.  But now, I have to learn the same terms I know, but IN FRENCH . . . and that's when it hit me . . . and for some of the terms, IN HAUSA TOO!  AAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHH!!!!    

I've always been better with pictures than words, so for every anatomy-related class, I would spend hours sketching the bones, muscles, ligaments, systems, etc (my grad school notes are even color-coordinated to match Dr.FrankNetter's paintings).  So I guess it's time to dust off the old sketch book and sharpen my pencils. 

Some of the terms are the same (ribosome), others are similar (crête mitochondriale -- mitochondrial christa), but so many are are night-and-day different (épaule -- shoulder, or rachis -- spine, apophyse odontoïde -- dens, aileron du sacrum -- ala, ligament de Bertin -- iliofemoral ligament, os spongieux -- cancellous bone, tête -- head, fossette du ligament rond -- fovea, col -- neck, diaphyse -- shaft . . . you get the idea).  And then there's the wonderful world of pronounciation!

Merci Seigneur for this great opportunity to study the complexly fantastic human body You created!  AIDE-MOI! (HELP ME!)  Ni par la force, ni par la puissance, mais c'est par Mon Ésprit, dit le Seigneur! Zacharie 4:6 (Zecharia 4:6, Not by might, nor by power, but by My Spirit, says the Lord).

16 December 2009

First Time in Germany, Hopefully Not My Last

I'm in Heidelberg, Germany until tonight.  My brother is here for work, so I came over for a quick visit.  He had some last minute changes to his itinerary, so I had to hunt down a place to stay for Monday night.  There is something very beautiful about facebook . . . this networking site has allowed me to keep in touch with people who have come and gone from my everyday life.  I posted a little sentence on my wall: Anyone have a friend in Heidelberg, Germany.  I need a last minute place to stay for Monday night!  While I waited for a response, I began hunting down youth hostels in Heidelberg.  Thankfully Germany is a bit more Anglophonefriendly than France tends to be, so their entire sites were available in English!  I found a little place that looked clean enough and was affordable.  I sent them an email.

While I was waiting to hear back, I got a reply to my facebook page . . . Deb. I live 40km north of Heidelberg, I will pick you up from the train and you will stay with me!  I met J.W. when she was working as a nanny in the Philly area last year.  She started attending our Bible study, but returned to Germany last Christmas.  We've kept in touch a little bit, and even tried to get together back in the fall, but it didn't work out.

Her family is LOVELY!  They took me in and treated me like a princess.  J. took me up to an old church that over looks a little old town (and by old I mean buildings dating back to the 1200's!!).  There was snow on the ground, the air was crisp (okay, maybe a little biting), but there were STARS!!  We don't get stars in Paris.  And I even saw a shooting star!! (btw, what's the time frame on those wishes??)

It was nice to be in a home, with a family.  J's mom speaks only German and Russian, but she tried talking to me anyway.  I continually answered her in French!!  It was habitual.  But maybe that's a good sign.

I arrived in Heidelberg around 1pm yesterday.  All I had was the name of my brother's hotel . . . I had no idea what time they were arriving, or even if his room would be registered in his name or his companies.  I didn't even have his cell phone number.  But as I walked into the hotel, there he was, about to get on the elevator!  Perfect timing!

We wandered around the old part of the city last night, through the Christmas Market.  It was really weird hearing a language I couldn't understand.  It's only been four months that I've been in France, but I've gotten used to being able to pick out something of what people are saying!  I got quite a few stares and weird looks when I would thank someone or say excuse-me . . . and that's when I realized I was automatically responding in French!  Oh well, what are you going to do??

So today I'm going up to the old Heidelberg Castle with one of J's friends that I met at her house, and hopefully Mike will be able to call when they are done with their meetings.  Otherwise, it's back on the train at 5pm, hopefully home by 9.  I will post some photos when I get back.

13 December 2009

Word Finding Difficulties

15 of us had dinner together tonight.  At one point I was sitting across the table from the professor who lives here on the property.  She was saying something about someone (in French of course) and I was following along.  Until all of a sudden I heard "Y yez endi seize y yez."  I had to think about that for a second: "Y yez endi seize y yez."  Hmmmm . . . what does that mean?  I thought harder.  "Y yez endi seize y yez." 

Well, seize is French for sixteen . . . and y is a pronoun for a place (kind of like there . . . kind of) but yez??  and  endi??  And just because I don't know the words, doesn't mean they aren't French. 

And that's when it dawned on me.  The sentance was in EnglishHe is and he says he is.  They tell me this is a good sign, but really it just makes me feel like an idiot!

12 December 2009

Breakfast in America Parisian Style

There is a diner in Paris.  Yes, a diner.  It has red diner booths, Frenches mustard, and those true-to-a-diner sugar pourer glasses . . . you know, with the round silver top, and the greasy-never-been-washed ribbed glass sides. 

I had heard about Breakfast in America from fellow American students, but I really had no interest in going there.  I've only been here four months, and haven't really been feeling the need to "eat American" yet.  But one of the prof's here at the school invited me to join her and small group of students for breakfast this morning.  And when a prof asks you to join it's best to accept. 

I had no idea what to expect upon arrival . . . but I confess, I suprised myself with the feeling of giddiness I had when I saw the neon red "DINER" above the door!  I laughed . . . "A diner . . . IN PARIS?!?!?" As I entered, I found myself feeling happier and happier.  The chalkboard of todays specials: PASTRAMI with MUSTARD!!  Not sure if it was on rye, but it was pastrami!

Also on the menu: hamburgers . . . and chicken nuggets . . . and cheesecake . . . and breakfast burritos . . . and Dr. Pepper and RootBeer . . . and bottomless cups of coffee . . . and (drum roll please) BAGELS WITH CREAM CHEESE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 

I was with three other Americans, my French professor, and a German student . . . but the three Americans are from either the south or the midwest, so when I exclaimed "BAGELS!" and "PASTRAMI!" my joy was met with "DR. PEPPER!"  While I know they enjoyed the little slice of home, I don't think it meant as much.  Diners are definately specific to the culture of the northeast . . . or at least to the greater New York City and Philadelphia and Jersey Shore areas.

I never thought I would be so happy over a bagel.  But as I sat there, thinking about it, I wanted to cry.  I didn't order a bagel.  I didn't actually want to eat one.  But just knowing that if I did, I could have one.  It was a wonderful feeling. 

And a bottomless cup of coffee!!  Now, when it comes to wine or cheese or pastries, the French are experts, but I have to admit, I think they know very little about coffee.  So to purchase a good cup of coffee that came in a real mug that the waitress kept filling was about as close to home I'm going to get right about now . . . granted, I would never describe diner coffee as "a good cup of coffee," but hey, I'm in France, not everything can be authentic!

08 December 2009

Hearing From Home

I haven't lived close to my family in 10 years . . . but God has always provided pseudo-family for me wherever I end up.

When I moved to New Jersey in 2004 good friends in South Africa actually got me connected to the church that would become my home.  After about a year at FBC I ended up in a community group with the folks that eventually became my New Jersey Family.  These wonderful people have loved me and cared for me and treated me like I was one of their own.  And I was.

As I wrestle with off and on culture-stress, looking ahead to Christmas in a few weeks, and press on learning French (with all the regular highs and lows of life), I have come to find myself facing a very new feeling: homesickness.  It isn't always there.  But sometimes.  And I feel it right now.

I received a box in the mail today from my New Jersey Family!  Getting mail is always a blessing and it always cheers me up.  They sent my favorite kind of coffee (French Roast . . . which you can't get here, believe it or not) some happy chocolates, granola bars (!!!) and even a pair of Christmas socks!!  But the best part . . . CHRISTMAS CARDS!!!  Each couple had written one for me! 

I was never into Christmas cards before.   I hated writing them, and really, what does one do with them after Christmas is over??  But these are the most beautiful Christmas cards I've ever received!  The French don't really do Christmas cards.  You can find a few, but mostly the ones in the shops are for New Year's.  I find that strange, but hey, it's their way.

So thank you!!  THANK YOU!!!  I love you all and miss you very much.  My Sunday nights are not the same without you. 

And for all the rest of you out there, if you know a m!ss!onary somewhere out there in the world . . . WE LOVE MAIL!  (and you can send Christmas cards to me at: 17 voie de Wissous, MASSY 91300, France)

07 December 2009

Nothing Funny Today

Actually, I'm sure if I step back and think about it hard enough I will find something from today that was funny.  But was just sitting here working on a personal study (that I've actually been doing off and on for several months now) on an aspect of the character of Jesus that I really love . . . His willingness to get His hands dirty.  Literally.  A while back I was taking a course on Christianity and Health Care, and we did a case-study on the woman from Mark 5 who had been bleeding for 12 years.  I began to wonder how many times (that have been recorded in the Gospels) Jesus willingly put Himself in a position to become unclean as according to the Levitical laws that the Pharisees and religious leaders of His day were enforcing.

I'm finding it fascinating to read portions of Leviticus along with the account of Jesus that we find in the New Testament (I know what you're thinking . . . Deb. the French is messing with your head!!  Leviticus??  REALLY??) . . . anyway, I'm not done with my study, so if and when I do, I will be sure to fill you in. 

But as I'm sitting here taking a mental break from all the French, I'm listening to a mix of some of my favorite music.  I have been listening to I Surrender All on repeat for about half an hour now.  What a concept.  Surrender.  I have been learning a lot about surrender recently.  When experiencing a new language and culture there are a lot of things completely out of my control.  But I like control.  In fact, I LOVE control.  Control, je t'aime!  But as a disciple of Jesus, living today, I am not called to control, I am called to surrender. 

One of my most favorite conversations in the Bible is from Job 38:2-5 & 42:2-6.  Job has been up to his knees in bad advice from his nearest and dearest, and he's in so much agony he's getting a bit desperate. But as we learn later, he was still found righteous throughout his questioning and searching and struggling.
(God to Job) Who is this that darkens counsel by words without knowledge? Now gird up your loins like a man, and I will ask you and you instruct Me! Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth? Tell Me if you have understanding. Who set its measurements? Since you know. Or who stretched the line on it? (Job to God) I know that You can do all things. And that no purpose of Yours can be thwarted. 'Who is this that hides counsel without knowledge?' Therefore I have declared that which I did not understand, things too wonderful for me which I did not know . . . I have heard of You by the hearing of the ear; but now MY EYE SEES YOU; therefore I retract and I repent.
I love this!  God says to Job: Yo, who do you think you are? Where were you when I . . . .  And really all Job can say is: Uh, You're right God . . . my bad.  I've got nothing. 

I love that: WHERE WERE YOU WHEN I LAID THE FOUNDATIONS OF THE EARTH?  So if that was true for Job, back before the time of the great patriarch Abraham, surely it's true for me.  WHERE WAS DEB.??  Exactly. 

So, here I am, in the southern suburbs of Paris, learning some much needed French, so that I can head off to a place that typically doesn't even make it onto the map.  Because I come from the school of thought that God can use anything to bring Himself glory . . . in my case it's the process of surrender, taking my skills as an OT to help bring healing those in the desert (or at least at the edge of it).  To God be the glory.

03 December 2009

Tu Vous or Not Tu Vous

Around here we use the second person plural form (vous) when speaking to a stranger or superior, etc.  And with the vous form comes a whole socially appropriate vocabulary (and likewise, an inappropriate vocabulary).  Things like Vous allez bien? for How are you doing? or Vous avez passé une bonne journée hier? for Did you have a good day yesterday?  So, likewise, it is very impolite to say to a stranger Salut! Ça va? for Hey! How's it goin'?

If you've been following this blog since I arrived in France, you are very familiar with my continual screw ups and geniale ability to make a fool of myself.  Well, the other day was (of course) no exception.  My dear friend S-P was with me in Lidl (our favorite little German shop just down the street from the school).  Now a while back I had posted a few entries about the security guard that was always talking with us and helping us with our French.  Well, for the past month or so, he's been MIA.  Until the other day.

Or so we thought.  Since it's been a month since we had seen him, we weren't really sure.  As we waited in line we tried to figure out if this was the same guy or not . . . he looked a lot like him, but maybe just a twinge thinner . . . but it had been a month after all.  As we approached the till, the guard stared at us.  Feeling the pressure of the culture of the French till and his staring, I looked at him and said Salut!  Ça va? 

He stared at me.  I realized it was, in fact, not the security guard that took so much pleasure in helping us learn . . . it was a different man.  A man I had never spoken to before.  He stared again as we squeamishly wiggled past him.  We didn't even make it to the door when the laughter began.

"DID YOU JUST ÇA VA HIM?!?!?!" S-P said, roaring with laughter.  "I DID!!!!!!!!!  THAT'S NOT OUR GUY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!" 

We giggled all the way home.  Maybe it's not really so funny, maybe we just needed a laugh.  Maybe all this French is getting to me . . . because, quite frankly, I'm still giggling about it.