the meetup chronicles

Meetup attendees

First, as is my Meetup wont, I delayed and dilly dallied. The result of this procrastination was 1. a très chic little black dress from a boutique within a stone’s throw of the Meetup location, and 2. the sinking feeling that the only French I would be hearing all night would be the lovely refrains of “Bonnie and Clyde.” I spent so long biding my time in the shop that the CD looped and the song played twice.

When I finally arrived at the bar it was 2 hours into the Meetup and I figured if anyone were left they would surely be packing up by now. I tried to make myself feel less guilty by reasoning that LBDs are a very Parisian concept, so even if I hadn’t spoken the language that night, I had still practiced cultural immersion. That logic was not very sound, but I’m happy to report that since there was a small but still-going-strong group of people in the bar, I didn’t have to make excuses after all.

Among the crew were a few people I had met before – Dykeman, Anney and Igor (the Parisian-bred teacher from this post).Dykeman and Rohan at Meetup

Above: Dykeman and Rohan, a student from Beijing who was braving a Meetup after only a month of French study. Inspiring!

Anney at Meetup

Above: Anney’s got a lovely smile, n’est-ce pas?

Here are two fun facts that I learned in the course of our conversation:

  • En fer (of iron), en faire (do it), and enfer (hell) are all pronounced the same way. You have to tell the difference contextually. Also, enfer is almost always proceeded by “the,” as in l’enfer.
  • In English, you’d say, “kill two birds with one stone.” In French, you’d say, “d’une pierre, deux coups.” (Two blows from one stone.) It’s interesting how similar in concept and structure idiomatic phrases can be, while still quite different in language. When I noted the resemblance, Igor joked, “Yes, but the French, we don’t kill” – an inadvertent political commentary.

Igor at Meetup

That’s Igor, above.

Speaking of American gun violence… here’s Luna’s cover of “Bonnie and Clyde” for your evening singalong.

enjoy the weekend!

J'irais dormir chez vois - en Amerique

I’m about to head out for a night on the town but before I do… a couple of links to start your weekend. Design Sponge went all out on the French front today with two fun posts:

– a roundup of gorgeous French home tours

– 24 hours in Paris with someone who knows what’s what

This weekend I am due to have my third chat with my very own Parisian pal, Philippe. So far he has introduced me to Peppa Cochon, otherwise known as Peppa Pig, as well as to this Web series about the adventures of a Frenchman abroad in America. It’s hard to watch as an English speaker because the original English audio under the French voiceover gets distracting, but the delightfulness of the show makes it worth it. I sort of want to rip this concept off and putter my way around France butting into interesting-looking people’s lives and making myself right at home after inviting myself over.

To be fair, Antoine’s show is actually derivative, whether unknowingly or not, of an amazing project from the early days of the Internet, Let Me Stay For a Day.

In any case… here’s wishing you an adventurous and intriguing-person-filled weekend! Or whatever else you’d like it to be…

(Photo: J’irais dormir chez vous)

better hurry up!


Though this article reveals the side benefit of learning language at a later age, I choose to focus on its glass-half-empty takeaway: time is running out to become proficient in another language. I better get this show on the road if I ever hope to bavarder with the best of them (not to mention hablar or leh-soh-kheh-ahkh – that’s chitchat in Hebrew).

To that end, I spent my last day off finally figuring out Anki and creating flashcards for the fifty or so words I’ve jotted down so far. I also read a random article about the special needs of refugee children who come to France, and I was delighted to discover that I understood every single sentence if not every single word. And tonight I’m going to queue up another episode of Destinos, which has taken a rather boring turn now that I’m about halfway through and she of the scrunchies and pastel pantsuits, Raquel Rodriguez, is back in Mexico after adventures in Spain, Argentina and Puerto Rico. I’m hoping the energy will pick up again soon, once Raquel is reunited with her Porteño love interest, Arturo, who’s en route to join her at the moment. Not that there is anything remotely sexy about them – I have only ever seen them hold hands and stage-kiss and giggle together. I suppose that’s what’s to be expected from a soap opera made for high school students.

(Photo: Swim Parallel)

foreign food festival friday recap: quel désastre!

the day 1 galette

Today is my last day of a week in the suburbs hanging out with my parents, siblings/siblings-in-law and niece. On Friday I bought buckwheat flour and thought I’d attempt these galettes. I’m not going to link to the recipe I used because the results were horrifying.

The batter was way too thin and looked liked runny sand. The crepes I poured out would neither stick together nor cook through. When I tried to flip them they fell apart and started to resemble roast beef. I gave up and my mother took over with little more success. They came out in circles when she made them but they still tasted the same – like a buttered salt sandcastle. I had wanted to fill the galettes with savory stuff like a fried egg, sauteed spinach and tomatoes, but we spent so much time and effort agonizing over the galettes themselves that there was no energy left for fillings, which I assume would have helped balance out the strong gritty buckwheat flavor.

After that fiasco my mom wanted to throw out the batter but I couldn’t bear to so I added a cup more buckwheat flour to it the next day and tried again.

day 3 galette

With the batter a little thicker, the resulting forms were a little more recognizable as crepes. They still tasted like licking a beach but, bathed in marmalade, a sweet beach. For people who can eat anything, a sweet beach is not really appetizing, but for the gluten-free it’s often as good as it gets, and I soon learned to appreciate the earthy flavor.

the day 2 galette

The batter lasted four days at which point I was finally ready to throw in the towel and just pour the rest down the drain.

Upshot of failed galettes experiment: now I need to go to Brittany to see what they’re really supposed to taste like.

un brin de causette

Thinking Please Wait

Last week I had my first “language chat,” with a man named Philippe from the suburbs of Paris. We talked for about an hour via Skype call – he spoke in English and I spoke in French. It felt strangely intimate despite the anonymity. I got self-conscious because his English was way better than my French. I had thought that speaking without face to face contact would make me feel less vulnerable but it almost made it worse. I’m telling you, learning another language takes a lot more courage than it seems. You have to lean in to sounding like a fool on a repeated basis.

One thing that I found helpful about being on Skype was that when I struggled to find words and he filled in the gaps for me, I could write them down to practice later. If I ever figure out how Anki works – it requires some technical setting up that in turn requires patience I do not seem to have at the moment – I’ll program those words in as my first set of flashcards.

Philippe and I had a good rapport so we arranged to talk again this week…

It feels just like Jordan described – online dating with linguistic in place of romantic aims.

(Photo: Wade M.)

:( World Cup sadness

before the World Cup game at Porteno

Well, that was depressing. I watched the final World Cup game at a packed Argentine restaurant in Chelsea. After one brief moment of overwhelming elation when it appeared as though Argentina had scored what could be the Cup-winning goal – unwarranted, because it was invalidated as offside – Germany scored the only true goal of the game in the last minutes of extra time. The room I was in fell dead silent. The owner of the restaurant, who had been leading patrons in rowdy song just moments before, muted the TV’s. We somberly watched the Argentine players cry. I felt fairly awkward knowing I was surrounded by people whose disappointment and sadness knew no bounds, while mine would inevitably be forgotten within a day (though my pity for poor Messi lingers on).

One thing that, unfortunately, will not soon be forgotten as I’m sure it will be stuck in my head for weeks: a gleeful chant taunting arch-rival Brazil, which inexplicably was still considered relevant and applicable for the Germany game and hence was sung over and over and over again til I practically knew it by heart.

To wit:

So at least I learned some Spanish on Sunday.

The words:

Brasil, decime qué se siente tener en casa a tu papá.

Te juro que aunque pasen los años, nunca nos vamos a olvidar…

Que el Diego te gambeteó, que Cani te vacunó, que estás llorando desde Italia hasta hoy.

A Messi lo vas a ver, la Copa nos va a traer, Maradona es más grande que Pelé.

(Photo: before the game, when spirits still ran high.)

este fin de semana, vamos argentina!

Keep Calm Y Vamos Argentina

After Wednesday’s nail-biter between Argentina and the Netherlands that was pretty much the exact opposite of the Brazil-Germany game the day before, I am so excited to cheer on Argentina in the World Cup finals this weekend. (That sounds like I actually know something about soccer and/or have unearthed secret Argentine lineage that would warrant a true emotional stake in this game. I don’t, and I haven’t, sadly.)

In celebration of the footballers I have come to know and love – for their amazing skill, awesome technique and adorable camaraderie as much as for their remarkably good looks! – here are some hispanocentric links for your weekend reading. Though you should really just be watching the Cup.

So, let’s start with one about that: This makes my love for Argentina grow infinitely.

And another: Gooooooooaaaaaallllllll!

And finish it off with something completely unrelated that I’ve never thought about before: language isolation among indigenous language-speaking Mexican immigrants to the United States.

Happy weekend!

two weeks in a row, woot woot!

French meetup attendants

I made it to Meetup two weeks running, woohoo! Granted, I first wasted a half hour procrastinating across the street at Macy’s, which is pretty much the most hellish place in New York City aside from Times Square. This says bucketloads about how much I dread Meetups. Hopefully that feeling will subside once I make them more of a habit.

At this particular Meetup I spent most of my time talking to the two lovely folks above. One is the Chinese woman I had met very briefly last week. Her name is Anney and I found out she works in financial services. The other guy is from Mauritania and he told me he would sue me if I used his name on my blog. I think he was joking but better safe than sorry. 🙂

I was talking to him (let’s call him Pierre, because why not?) about our mutual love of West African music. Mine is a surface level love in that I only listen via a Youssou N’Dour Pandora station, and only once in a while – but I am transported when I do. Pierre recommended Baaba Maal, who I’ve just spent the last half hour bopping along to at my desk.

For your own listening pleasure, I leave you with this gem: