It’s amazing how being in a foreign country expedites language learning (duh). I am constantly hearing words and phrases that I want to incorporate into my vocabulary. In Zambia, we kept ethnographic notebooks to record and process cultural observations and thoughts on Zambian life. I have a small notebook where I’ve been keeping a list of all the new words and phrases I’ve learned in French. Inadvertently, it has become my new ethnographic notebook. I’m keeping a list of cultural differences in two categories (things I can adjust to and things I just don’t understand). Anyway, Sylvie was talking about her chattiest group of 13 year olds at school the other day when she said the equivalent of “You have to watch them like hawks” which turned out to be “Il faut les surveiller comme le lait sur le feu” (You have to watch them like boiling milk). I just love when I stumble upon new fun phrases.
One fun phrase I learned the other day was just perfect for my life the past few days. Admittedly, I stumbled upon it while watching Netflix in French, not while glamorously chatting it up at a café.
On ne gagne pas à tous les coups.
Our English equivalent would be, “You win some, you lose some.”
Okay, so it’s actually been a really great few days with only a few minor (and mostly funny) mishaps.
You win some: I started school this week! I observed Monday and Tuesday and spent my first day of actual teaching yesterday. I couldn’t be happier with my coworkers or kiddos. A fellow teacher told me at work yesterday, “I was a Spanish assistant in America for one year. In South Carolina. The Bible Belt! I was in a Presbyterian school. I got in trouble every day for PDA. That means public display of affection.” It probably sounded funnier in French, with the only things in English being The Bible Belt and public display of affection. At any rate, I loved it. I pointed out Massachusetts on a map for a class of 10-year olds and afterward, one girl came up to me wide-eyed and asked if I see any “stars” in MA. I said, “Like who?” and she exclaimed, “Selena Gomez!” She was disappointed to hear that Hollywood and Boston aren’t exactly neighbors.
You lose some: I had finally worked up the courage to bike in the center of town and I started to cross the street in a crosswalk when in the middle of crossing… I lost my shoe! I considered leaving it for a split second and then realized that wouldn’t exactly solve my situation. So I awkwardly pedaled myself backward a bit to retrieve it. Yeah… I probably won’t bike in slip-on shoes again.
You win some: My best friend sent me flowers on my first day of school! He had dropped enough hints that I probably should’ve picked up on it (confirming which school I’d be at that day, double checking my French phone number, etc.), but I was totally surprised! When the secretaries called down for the first time, I told them it was a mistake because I don’t know anyone who could’ve sent them! They assured me they were for me and then surrounded me eagerly as I opened the card. They were all as surprised as I was that they came from my best friend in the US!
You lose some: Google maps is great at telling me the shortest distance to my desired destination, but it doesn’t always tell me whether that’s practical on my bike. The combination of cobblestone one-way streets and nervous bikers (AKA me) means certain danger. As I biked around a corner in the center of town, I chickened out from biking in the street. I tried to hop the curb to get on the sidewalk, but my bike decided that was a little too ambitious. Thankfully, my bike took most of the impact and I was fine, other than a few bruises on my legs. Three cars stopped to see if I was okay, so I must’ve looked pretty pitiful. I got right back on though, so it hasn’t totally turned me off to the idea. My bike and I are just going through a rough patch.
Truthfully, life is just so fun right now. In about an hour, I’m heading to my teacher Sylvie’s house to have a meal with her family. Then, the local English assistants are going out for dinner tonight!