As I write this to you, dear reader, who I adore with nearly all of my heart, I am listening to the church bells across the street play the song they sing at the end of Mary Poppins. I bring this up because in many ways I identify with Mary Poppins. I always have. This is no secret. She has many admirable qualities. She’s uplifting. She wears lovely lipstick. She has a large handbag that has remarkable storage ability. I also possess these things. I am very uplifting–people often stop me on the street and comment on how uplifted they feel just by walking by me. I wear lovely lipstick; see the photographs for reference. I, too, have a large handbag that I carry to work with me each day. From it, I pull out entire futures and whole pasts in the form of stories written by my students.
However, I bring up this song because it is a song Vincent and I sang while aimlessly walking around Brooklyn. This weekend we went to New York and I got to meet authentic French person number four! Yes! Here is a short list of authentic French people I have met:
ONE AND TWO: Vincent’s best friend who lives in New Zealand and her boyfriend. Both are super nice and world travelers. His best friend taught me how to casually say “tres cool.” As in, it was a “tres cool” conversation. I think she is “tres cool.” I hope that Vincent’s brothers think I am the “tres coolest” American they’ve met.
THREE: Vincent’s really good friend from Brittany. We went out to dinner with him and he very politely corrected me in saying “je sais” (I know) versus “je connais” (I know). I still don’t really know when it is appropriate to say each version, but I do know there is a difference. I really hope he moves to the states (which he might!) because then we could all go out to dinner and casually speak French together. Je sais. Je suis tres cool.
FOUR: Vincent’s work colleague who showed us around Brooklyn. Like friends one and two, she was also world traveler and had a cultural awareness that was pretty amazing. She knew not only what it was to live in France but also Turkey, among other places. I found her to be “tres cool” and she showed us all these neat markets in Brooklyn. It was an excellent afternoon. We ate lunch at a French restaurant called “Juliette.” Charming. Tres francais.
Speaking of Brooklyn, we saw a million French people there. Every time we saw them, either Vincent or I exclaimed “Francais!” I did this earnestly; Vincent did it sarcastically. It was totally comfortable when they looked over and wondered why we just said that. Not weird at all. I like to call that “assimilation.” I am learning so quickly I almost can’t keep up with myself!
Another fantastic incident was when I made reservations at this French restaurant in Brooklyn. After I ate pasta with roquefort sauce, I very loudly exclaimed “C’est super!” to the French waiter. He looked at me and said, “C’est super?” I, defeatedly, remarked again, only quieter, “Oui. C’est super.” It was a lovely cultural exchanged and by lovely I mean super weird and uncomfortable. Another uncomfortable moment was how terrible our waiter was. A person in the restaurant who may or may not have been Vincent described the service as being “very French.” I agreed, without actually knowing what that meant. It’s a useful skill to blindly agree with statements you know nothing about. People tend to like you because they feel you are “on their side” when in fact you are really “just confused.” Either way it works out. Anyway, the waiters seemed like they wanted us to buy only the expensive wine and they were not at all delighted when I asked if we could open the bottle we had brought. “Non. We do not do that here,” he said to me, with a sour look on his face like “How can you insult me like this!” Little did he know that I wasn’t insulting him. I was waiting until I was out of the restaurant to do that. I still enjoyed that he was French. I guess not every French person can be totally amazing. I know this is difficult to understand but apparently you cannot group entire ethnicities of people into one characteristic. Funny how that works. It would be so easy to say that all French are totally amazing and delightful human beings, but, this, in fact, is not true. However, so far the scales have been pretty tipped into them being pretty damn delightful, considering all of Vincent’s French friends. Also, I’m sure if we were to have a whiskey with that guy after the restaurant closed, he’d be really cool. He just was a terrible waiter.
Anyway, Brooklyn was lovely. We stayed in a very cool, possibly Swedish, woman’s apartment and tried to read her Swedish books through apps on Vincent’s phone. She was an excellent artist, so it was kind of like staying in a museum, only cozier and there was tea available.
So, my advice is to learn another language, meet someone from another country and go fly a kite today. Up in the atmosphere, up where the air is clear!