Tuesday, January 12, 2010

French Lessons

French Lessons I

So, we called the number listed on the bulletin board just outside the tourist office in Eymet advertising a woman teaching French conversation. Hank had just purchased another telephone card so we had 1.5 hours of time so I was ready to go. The sweetest sounding woman answered the phone although it took her a while to get up to speed in speaking English as she was a bit rusty she said. I asked her if she thought she might be able to help us and explained that it was primarily for our daughter, although my husband and I would also benefit should it be something we could all do together. It was difficult to understand her, but I did gather that she was immobile so that we would need to come to her. I suggested that Hank and I stop by on Thursday after the Eymet weekly market and discuss what she could offer and she agreed and gave me directions to her place.

Oh boy, it will be an absolute miracle if we find it and even if we do, I am not sure if the reward is worth the challenge of finding her in this maze. But for some reason, I think we should at least try and so we are on for tomorrow. First, she explained, we need to look for Rue de Temple. OK, we have that sort of; it’s near the square. So we look for the magazine store in the square and she is on the same side of the street. Ok, we can do that. Then we pass a mini supermarket called “Spar.” After Spar, there is a dark alley around the corner that we should go down as she is not actually on Rue de Temple, but on a little offshoot of that main street (or something to that effect). Then we will see a painted white shop and she is in the building or room behind that. Her place has light green shutters which are unique as she has them painted based on her preference rather than the blue of the rest of the village. Good, she is an independent minded woman I think to myself... Lastly, if all else fails, she says that the cheese and chaucaterie vendors usually park just under her place on market day. No, there is no house number. Okay, Thursday at 11am I say as I try to get off the phone #1 to save our limited phone time as I have now used up at least 15 precious minutes and #2, I really don’t see us finding her place. So, we say our good-byes and I hang up and have to take off my sweater as I had actually begun sweating after the conversation and look at Hank as if, “What should we do?”

Well I guess we should at least try to find her I think a little later. She sounded incredibly nice and it could possibly be a great experience. Well, we will just have to see. First of all, see if we can even find her in the maze of the village she described, and later decide if it seems that she can actually help us with speaking French.

To be contined.

french lessons II

Today may have been one of the more interesting days of our trip, at least for me. We met with an 81-year old French woman in town who had advertised French classes on a bulletin board in the town square. When I spoke to her on the phone a few days ago, I hung up thinking to myself that this was probably not going to work. First of all, she was quite rusty with her English at first and I was really looking for some young, hip, twenties-something woman that Caleigh could relate to. Also, when Madame gave me directions, I knew it would be a miracle if we found the place as they were kind of tricky; what without an actual street name (she lives off an alleyway) and a number. But lucky for us, it was market day and part of her instructions were to look behind the charcuterie and fromage stand, and after walking in circles in the rain, voila! we found it.

When we walked in, I had my second doubts. It was a tiny little place. Just a bedroom and kitchen and it was packed with stuff, but only one cat, so that was a good sign. It also had a slight odor of I don't know what. No a stinky odor, just a medicine, older-person smell. We knew she was immobile which we found out to be due to rheumatism and arthritis, and we sat down and I seriously wondered how this could possibly work. Luckily, this was just a meeting to talk to her and see if she might be able to help us, so we knew we were not committed to anything.

Anyway, we sat down and she began talking and we found that she was very interesting and well-educated, and had traveled extensively. I could tell that she must have been attractive in her day as her complexion and long silky gray hair were both very beautiful. We talked over an hour and then got down to business and she suggested swapping our French instruction for some help in taking her to the market or cleaning up a bit in her apartment. I had actually mentioned the same exact thing to Hank on our drive over as we knew that we really did not have the money to pay for this so this was actually perfect. We told her that yes, we could try that out and see how it worked for everyone.

So, that's what we are going to do. I really hope it goes well. I am excited to go shopping with a real French woman who can teach me about all of the meats, cheeses, etc. that I seem to get so intimated over when going to those open air marches. I love them, but I truly don't know how to order or what exactly is in some of those saucissons :) I have been reading up on the different cuts of meats and various kinds of cheeses to get over these silly fears, but now I'll have a pro with me so I'm excited.

I've also wanted to do something more rewarding for years in the form of volunteer work and I just haven't had the time. If we can help her and get a little educated in the process, this will hopefully work out for all of us.

So that was today. Tonight is volleyball in the nearby village of La Souvatat du Dropt with our farmer and vintner friends. Tomorrow we look at another cottage for the second part of our stay should we be able to continue here after April. Then it's the weekend and the "soldes" are on for another week, so Caleigh and I just might have to go for a little shopping together. Oh yeah, she is doing great and is happier than I have ever seen her (for a 13-year old).

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