So it's Thursday night, and the week has already had it's fair share of defeats and victories. Some of you will remember my breakdown a couple of Tuesdays back. Well, I'm happy to report that this Tuesday's wasn't quite as bad (at least I was able to contain the tears to just in the classroom).
We were working on concessions . . . you know, words like however, yet, even though, and nevertheless. So my prof wanted us to do an oral exercise that started with making two lists: 1. List all the reasons you should have stayed home. 2. List all the really hard things about where you will be living in Africa.
Now you need to know that my prof is the sweetest, kindest, gentlest woman I've ever met. She created this exercise thinking it would be easy for us . . . we all have a very long list of things that are easier chez nous, but again, I think one has to live through this process of total-immersion-language-learning to fully understand the dichotomy that one feels. There comes a point in the midst of the culture-immersion process that one begins to really enjoy the new culture and finds value and benefit in it. And while this space is mainly painted with my blunders and frustrating moments, there are lots of things I enjoy about being here (okay, unless I do something really stupid between now and tomorrow, looks like I have my next-post subject).
But all the same, this road is difficult and it brings all sorts of things (emotions) to the surface.
So there we were trying to do this exercise. We were paired into groups of two. My partner and I managed to come up with only one reason to stay home: On connait déjà la langue (We already know the language). With that, the tears started.
At first, I began my mantra in my head: You will not cry in class again. Not today. But it didn't work. All it took was the first tears on my friend's cheeks and I was a goner too. We sat there and cried for a moment, then tried desperately to continue. I looked up and another woman across from us was dabbing her eyes with a tissue. At least this time I wasn't alone.
With tears streaming down our faces and our prof standing directly before us trying to figure out what had happened this time, I formulated my very own concession statement (since we were supposed to be doing the exercise after all): Bien que c'est difficile on peut rire (Although this is hard, we can laugh . . . notice the concessional usage of even though).
But despite my every effort, my prof very softly and gently, trying to restrain herself . . . but she just couldn't . . . whispered and said "avec 'bien que' utilisez le subjonctif!" (With 'bien que' [although] use the subjonctif [a different verb tense from the indicatif that I had used . . . sentence should have been: Bien que ce soit difficile, on peut rire.) With that I threw up and hands and let out a BIEN SÛR! (OF COURSE!) So that made us laugh and cry much harder both at the same time!! But maybe this is one of those had-to-be-there-and-helps-to-understand-French-grammar moments.
But as I mentioned early, the week has also had some victories.
My same friend who cried with me in class invited me to come with her yesterday to the prefecture's office to pick up the paperwork we need to renew our cartes-de-séjour which trumps a visa. We tried to get there as early as possible (took a little over an hour with public transport) and, honestly, were expecting all sorts of misadventures and frustrating moments. But much to our surprise (and great relief) we found the office complex without event and managed to find the right building and the right desk and ask the right questions and understand the responses and walk out of there in record time.
After we had gotten everything, we sat down near a window and reflected on all that had just transpired. Surely we had forgotten something! It couldn't have been this easy! But as we read through the paperwork, we realized that, yes, en fait it had been that easy. We made our uneventful way home repetitiously offering up a whole bunch of merci seigneur's.