Tonight during my weekly French Skype conversation with Philippe, I said that if I did come to Paris this January, I would probably want to take a side trip to Alsace. He kept asking me to repeat myself because he had no idea what I meant. I said over and over again, “Alsace. Alsace. Alsace.” Finally he exclaimed, “Oh, Alsace!” I asked, “Isn’t that what I said?” Apparently the s in Alsace should be pronounced more like a z.
Immediately after my call, I headed to the laundromat to pick up my wash. I told Millie, the Latina woman who works there, that I was thinking about taking a Spanish class this spring and that if I did I’d start talking to her only in Spanish. Forgetting all about actual conjugation, I added, “Tratar,” which means, “to try,” though I intended to tell her, “I’ll try.” Millie kept asking me to repeat myself. I said over and over again, “Tratar. Tratar. Tratar.” Finally she exclaimed, “Oh, tratar!”
So there you have it. I can learn all the French and Spanish in the world but people are still going to have no idea what I am saying because my ear and my accent are so terrible.
Merde! (Another word I cannot pronounce correctly.)
(Photo: Colin Mutchler)
My new miles credit card arrived in the mail and I was thisclose to registering for the NYU Spanish class with it, but nagging doubts held me back. Is it completely stupid to begin studying one language when you are just getting the hang of another one? Will it confuse my brain and ensure I learn neither French nor Spanish effectively? Wouldn’t it be a more satisfying use of $500 to go on a vacation somewhere Spanish-speaking instead? Or to put the money into my savings account towards my immersion sabbatical? Do I have the discipline to attend three hours of class each week after eight hours at work? And will I actually put in the time to do any of the homework when I already spend two nights a week practicing French?
Then there are the misgivings about my nascent plan to spend my winter vacation in Paris. Why on earth would someone with seasonal affective disorder go to a place that’s even grayer and damper than the one where she lives? Shouldn’t sunshine and heat be on my agenda instead? Why would someone with limited funds go somewhere she has been before and did not feel the need to ever go back to? Is it not silly to spend my one week out of town in another humongous town, doing things that are the French equivalent of the same things I do back home?
Both decisions seem like they come down to one central question: Will I allow myself to embrace plans that are completely illogical simply because I really want to do them?
Stay tuned to find out…
(Photo: my most contented moment in Argentina, posted here to remind me that sometimes the best decisions are also the most random ones, made by an inscrutable heart.)
So thankful I got the opportunity to make these videos.
(The videos are part of a multimedia series called “Typhoon Haiyan: Portraits of Recovery.”)