Colleen's thoughts on writing, directing and coaching, and her unique take on life itself!

Saturday, September 05, 2009

Meeting like-speaking folks ...

Well, sort of.

I went to a meet-up of French speakers (about 20) at a Seattle coffee shop today, and had a really wonderful time.

It's been *years* since I spoke French, when I spent five weeks apartment sitting for a Seattle couple who lived in the 11th arrondissement (section) of Paris, where few people speak English and everything is done the French way. Initially it was a culture shock - but I quickly acclimated.

The trip was one of the highlights of my life; I actually miss several of the places I visited even in that short period of time, and it was definitely special experiencing it alone. Next time I go? It's going to be a romantic adventure!

The couple wanted someone from their home town to take care of their domicile while they were visiting their parents in Seattle during the annual national French vacation (I repeat - 5 weeks).

Every morning I would fill my backpack with food and water and strike out in a new direction in the City. I'd walk for miles (I lost 10 pounds, even eating the divinely rich French food), take bus trips, take train rides and special tours to areas around France to round out my experience.

There are few historical landmarks, art museums, public exhibitions devoted to writers, artists and famed French folks, tourist destinations like the Moulin Rouge and palaces I did not see, as well as performances at La Comedie Francaise (Molier's theater) and other cultural sensations.

I was fortunate to find restaurants that were not tourist havens - where the food was delicious and very reasonably priced. Tourist spots are exorbitantly expensive (a friend from Seattle visited, we stopped at a cafe in the tourist section - my hot dog and soda cost $16, and that was several years ago!).

Anyway, the day I arrived at the apartment, I said something to the taxi driver in (my version of) French. He turned to me and asked, "What part of America are you from?" In perfect English of course.

When I left five weeks later, there were no such incidents. Only polite (yes, polite!) responses and smiles. (OK, maybe smiles is a stretch, but you get the idea.)

Back to today's meet-up.

Some 20 people showed up, slowly filling up an area of the coffee shop from the single table that started with just two of us chatting.

I felt a little flummoxed in the beginning since it had been so long since I spoke French I was a little tongue-tied. I tend to understand far more than I can easily speak (I listen to French music, watch French film and TV5 - the French cable network), which is why I joined this drop-in group.

The fluency rate was extensive, from folks who could barely parlez to those whose primary or secondary language is French. All were welcoming and the fluent among us were extremely patient with the rest of us who battled to remember tenses, grammaire and des bons mots.

Likewise, the vocations and interests of those attending was vast.

Since the part of the coffee shop we met at was outside today, it was harder to hear people speaking, but I settled in with a lovely little group, becoming more comfortable and fluent as the two hours pushed on - though I have a way to go to get back into the groove!

Which means that I'll be practicing intensely for our next session in two weeks!

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