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.