I am in the midst of my third week of my French class. I have no idea if I am making in progress. I seem to have hit a wall when it comes to using conjugations of verbs while speaking. I can painfully do it if I am writing but as soon as I start to speak I am back to the “Me talk pretty one day” type of French.
It turns out that we are going to have two teachers. The first one was very elegant and very well-dressed rivaling anything I’ve seen in Paris as far as fashion sense goes. She had long, blond highlighted hair in casual ringlets, a svelte body to die for with a waist size almost in the single digits. She wore a different dress or top and skirt every day that looked very high quality and that were all lovely. A different pair of shoes graced her feet each day and a different purse matched each outfit. I also happen to know that she had fabulous underwear, a different bra each day, as a strape would show now and then-not the serviceable plain white strap, but one in peach satin or blue and pink flowers and lace. Noticing things like this always make me realize how unimaginative my underwear is. Anyway, other than her fashion sense, she was a very good teacher, really drilling us and making us speak French quite a bit in class. The other students thought she was a little intimidating but she didn’t bother me, probably because I am older than she is and it takes alot to intimidate me. So, she left for a trip to Vietnam.
Today the new teacher showed up. She is a very sweet and friendly woman with a lovely smile and no fashion sense that I could see. The first impression I had of her was that of a hippie, maybe an earth mother. Her hair, turning slowly naturally gray, was pulled back off of her face in a rather severe way, more function than form. She wore a simple tank top and plain skirt with shoes that were worn at the heels. I really don’t care about how people dress but it was interesting to see the difference. Her teaching method is totally different and she takes more time to teach us things, such as verb conjugations and explanations on how they are used however we don’t seem to get much time to actually speak French in class. She loves words and French history and gives us all sorts of information. We learned alot about Marseille and its very interesting history the first day. The class is much more relaxed and less stressful and I’m not feeling as pushed as I was by the first teacher.
The students in the class, as always interest me. On most week-ends they take the opportunity to visit other cities in Europe. Two returned a day late from Rome as there was some sort of major transportation strike-normal for Italy-and they missed their train. They finally caught another, slower one, and one of the girls had all of her money stolen, another lost her passport, and the train conductor charged them 45 Euros because they had filled out the dates on their train tickets incorrectly. All just a normal day for young people traveling by rail in Europe.
Another girl-they are all staying at French homes where they are provided with room, board and, hopefully, some French conversation-has ended up in a bad situation with an older lady who expects the student to stay in her room with the door closed at all times. She is served dinner but is given dirty looks if she tries to come into the kitchen during lunch time to get something to eat. Once she opened her bedroom door to come upon a naked man getting into the bathtub right across the hall. She isn’t happy and has written to her university to see if she can changed. The other girls seem quite happy with their living arrangements. I’m glad I can just go home but the long trip each way is getting old and I will be glad to finish this class.
Most of the students wander into class late, if at all. Most of them are checking out the party/nightclub/disco scenes in Aix and I hear them talking about how they didn’t get to bed until 3 AM, some of them 6 AM. I feel exhausted if I don’t make it to bed by 11 PM, being an old party animal.
We are in an old beautiful building with no air-conditioning, as I have mentioned before. France is in the midst of a canicule which is a way of saying that it is hotter than hell and it gets hard to pay attention in class when you are so miserably hot. There are three classes of students up on the second floor, probably about 50 people in all, and two toilets on the same floor. We ran out of toilet paper a week ago and I went and told the secretary and she said she would call and tell whoever to replac eit. Then a light went out in one of the toilet rooms. I did occasionaly use my own kleenex and sit in the dark. When, a week had passed, the toilet paper was still missing and the light went out in the second toilet, I went roaring down to the office. With all of the money we are paying, this was unacceptable. I went up to the secretary sitting on her can in her air-conditioned office and demanded lights in the bathrooms and toilet paper. She told me she had called the person responsible three times and I told her that wasn’t enough that toilet paper was necessary and to give me the blinking money and I would go buy the blinking toilet paper. (I was thinking, “Why don’t you leave your air condtioned office and go down the street and buy it yourself?”) By then, several women had come out of their offices sort of fluttering around but I was on a roll. Enough was enough. Well, it worked. We now have lights in both of the bathrooms and toilet paper. I wonder if I threw another fit if I could get us a fan in our room?