26 August 2014

How to Embarrass Oneself and Still Earn a High-Five

Today we went to the market in the town just outside our little village. A town with about 15,000 people that houses our grocery store, library, bank, shops and school for the children. It takes us about 15 minutes to drive in and it's such a gorgeous drive that the time passes very quickly. And some of the tiny villages we pass through on our way just about take my breath away with their charm. Sometimes I feel like I am existing in a movie set ...

And like any movie set community in Northern France, you must have an open-air farmers market right outside a stunning 16th century church. (Year-round, 2-3 times a week.) I wanted so dearly to take some photos, but I felt a bit sheepish about it. This is regular life, not a tourist experience, for these locals! Perhaps later I'll find a way to take some covert photos, but for now you'll have to trust me ... it was idyllic.

In my mind I picture myself strolling through the vendors trilling my orders in gorgeous French and chatting with the vendors as if we are decades-old comrades ... but the reality is that the dialog in my head drastically exceeds my abilities and my whole body shuts down in a frightened stupor. Suddenly, I don't know my name or who my children are much less how to ask if the whole loaf of bread costs 1euro15 or just part of it. So instead, I point and grunt and laugh manically as if to express, "Oh dear, isn't this funny, I can't even ask a proper question about bread." But the vendor looks at me quizzically and perhaps sympathetically, as he surely wonders how this woman has managed to stay alive and function for all of her years.

But, que sera, the bread is bought and we still have energy enough to go buy some lettuce starts for Jane's garden. We order with just the slightest awkwardness, but we speak softly and with a confident glint in our eye, so the man isn't quite sure of our level of competency. Quickly and with a winsom wave, we say our merci-s and au revoir-s and jet. Aha! The perfect strategy. Until monsieur chases us down to return some of our money, because we just paid 2euros for one tiny lettuce plant and the sign clearly states 2euros ... for 12 plants. I then fall back into maniac laughter mode and make miming motions of smacking my head, garnering sideways stares from my fellow shoppers.

Inhale, take a deep breath.

I was skyping with a friend today and mentioned that while the language difficulties provide a very large and obvious challenge ... I am a bit surprised to discover that my ego is taking a bruising. I am realizing that a large portion of my identity has been in being competent, reasonably intelligent, and fairly well-spoken. These days, I am none of these things. This isn't necessarily a bad thing ... learning to endeavor without the assurances of success ... but still fodder for contemplation.

In the meantime, I choose to remind myself that we came home with lettuce starts for the garden and a full loaf of bread. Even in the midst of bruised egos and scrambled thoughts, I am still managing, albeit in small ways, to function and even accomplish. And to that, I give myself a big 'ol American high-five.

*Did you note my potted greenery? A few fresh indoor plants potted into some perfectly battered pots I found in the barn really make me feel like I've added a piece of myself to this beautiful home we are borrowing.

** Also, above is the gorgeous loaf of said bread. I realize now, at this angle it looks like a giant deceased caterpillar and am kind of grossing myself out ... but it really was excellent.


  1. How cool to live in a movie set, well, fictionally.

  2. I am cracking up at the computer screen. Your lines "as he surely wonders how this woman has managed to stay alive and function for all of her years..." and "I realize now, at this angle it looks like a giant deceased caterpillar..." LOL, I am dying! You are awesome. I miss you.

  3. Humor is the best way to view "simple" everyday outings that are anything but! I love gestures and making it seem silly, and I think you're handling it fabulously.

  4. Anna!!!! I am just catching up on your life in France. It is all so beautiful, and I am just so thrilled for you guys!! Keep blogging so I can live vicariously through you!!!!

  5. I have been thinking about this post all week. You are really modeling making mistakes to your kids! When we travel alone, it is only ourselves and the direct company who witness our mistakes. But you are all making mistakes and learning cultural things together... which is maybe easier AND harder...but definitely different than traveling solo. I was thinking that maybe it would make me braver to be in a foreign land with my children...but then I pondered that my eldest would be horrified at some of the things one does to figure out another land. :) I don't know. It really made me think and I am continually amazed that this actually happened for you. God is amazing!! (and so are you!)

  6. Jill- Thank you!! Yes, God has been so gracious in His provision for us. I am reminded that our strength comes in our weakness when we have Him to rely upon. And as you mentioned, I am realizing that making mistakes and dealing with struggles in front of our kids can be a good thing!

  7. Hi Anna,

    I had to laugh when I read this post. I can sympathise with you wholeheartedly on the language and communication front. We love to visit France, have done so many times and although my partner and I can get by, I too find it difficult to articulate myself in a different language when it comes to anything out of the ordinary. I comfort myself with the knowledge that I do try, although more often than not I fail abysmally, as the correct word or grammar evade me. On the occasions where I do seem to get it right, I find that a better knowledge of the French language is then often assumed by the person I'm talking to and it is at this point that I fall down.

    I'm sure you will very quickly get to grips with the language in you new country of residence, especially when your children begin pick it up themselves whilst at school. I admire your courage for making the move and wish you well.