Tue 30 Oct 2007
Posted by Linda under General Comments
I had to leave the French class before the end of our semester. My 2nd son was expecting his first son, my 3rd grandson, around the first of December. We dedided to make it a Christmas vacation. We arrived in Texas the 12th of December and stayed until the 26th of Dec. My new grandson, Jackson, was born the 3rd of Decemeber, my mother’s birthday. I wasn’t there for the birth, but got to see his 2nd week on this earth.
Before I went, I had my last day of class. I hadn’t decided if I would come back or not. I loved everyone in the class but I wasn’t sure how much French I was learning. I think, looking back, that I was learning quite a bit, but I just wasn’t using it. Maurice and I weren’t using it at home.
On the last day for me of class we went to, what else, a lunch. Mary, Yoko, Victoria, and I went to a nearby restaurant. They kept asking me if I would be back. I really didn’t know. Maurice and I had plans to go skiing for the last time at a place we were going to sell and Maurice had always had a dream to build or buy a place in Provence, along with hundred of thousands of others. Some Hungarian women in the class, for some reason, started a rumor that we were going to make an around the world trip. This wasn’t true, though I wished it were. I enjoyed the Hungarian girls in our class. They all spoke quiet a bit of English and were lots of fun. Every time a new one joined the class I would say, “Oh, God, not another Hungarian. They are everywhere.” Of course, because we were in the Hungarian Institute, we got a lot of them. They were all very nice women and all of them were married to fellow Hungarians. They were all very proud of their country which would soon be joining the European Community and using the Euro. They were lots of fun. And all very tall.
Anyway, there we were at lunch. They all told me how much they would miss me and how much fun I had made the class.
Yoko said to me, “Are all Americans as much fun as you?” I didn’t know how to answer this, and I don’t know if she expected an answer but I was very touched that she felt that way. Victoria told me how much she would miss me. Mary brought me a gift, an address book with holidays listed. I had them list their names with their birthdays so I could remember them with a card. I had to borrow a pen from Mary and when I left she gave it to me to remember her by. As Victoria and I left after lunch both Mary and Yoko said as we went down the steps to the Metro, “We will miss you!” Yoko didn’t have anything to give me, so she gave me one of her cigarrettes.
I was feeling very sad. They were all such a great group of girls. They had added so much to my life in Paris. I didn’t know what I would do without them. Then Victoria and I were on the Metro and soon she was off at her stop. Without Victoria, the class would never be the same again.
I felt like I grew more emotionally and mentally in 5 months in Paris than I did in the 5 years following my divorce, and maybe even all of the years prior to then. There is a confidence when you reach my age and a certain strength in not caring what others think of you. It’s very freeing. How can life not improve when living in the most beautiful city in the world?
So, how is my French now? To be honest, it is really bad. I’ve never been forced to use it. I’ve had a very spotty education in the French language and in some areas I know alot and in others I somehow missed learning important things. I understand much of what is said now but my spoken French is bad. Whenever I am in Provence, I take private lessons once a week from a very good teacher. I think this has helped my French more than anything. I have taken other French classes but nothing ever compared to my first one.
Mon 29 Oct 2007
Posted by Linda under General Comments
Jane was the most interesting person to me in our class, although it didn’t start out that way. She was from Singapore and was amazingly beautiful and had once been a Miss Singapore. I saw some of her photos from that time when she was in native costume and they were amazing. She was very talkative and often answered someone else’s question that Angela had asked in class. Of all of us, she worked the hardest at learning French. She desperately wanted to be fluent so she could get a job in Paris.
Victoria had met Jane in another French class and so knew a little about her. Right after our class started she missed a couple of days. Victoria said that this was because she had gotten into an argument with her husband and had gone to stay with a friend.
I found out about her and her husband, Patrick, at our class’s first coffee.
“How did you meet your husband, Jane?”
“Well, I was on vacation in Paris with a friend, Lee. In fact, my boss (also, it turned out, her boyfriend) had paid for our trip. We went to a famous fashion store to buy some things as they were having a big sale.” Many people go to this sale and you see long, long lines out front of the store on Champs Ellysees with only a few people at a time being let in.
“We had been in line for an hour and finally got in the store. I was feeling very crabby and hot and was more or less ignoring our salesman, who turned out to be Fredrick. He told Lee, ‘I think your friend is very beautiful.’ I had my head turned the other way and when Lee told me what I said I turned my head and we exchanged smiles.” As Maurice says, it was one of those “bing” moments.
” He asked us if we would like to go out for drinks that night with him and some of his friends, which we did. We were out until 3 in the morning and had a wonderful time. We went out every night that was left of our time in Paris, which was 3 days. He gave me his phone number and asked me to call.”
We were all very ingrossed in her story. She took a long time in telling it, drawing it out and making us anticipate what happened next.
“Well, I got back to Singapore and the more I thought about him, the more I missed him. So, I called him and we talked for hours. The next night he called me and begged me to come back to Paris and see him. I did and we spent every minute of a long weekend together. He asked me to marry him and I said yes. I went back to Singapore, he followed and we were married 3 weeks after we met.”
Three weeks! We were all amazed. I gathered it was a rather stormy marriage since she had gone to stay with a girl friend not long before. It sounded like all hearts and roses but there were a few thorns there that I learned about as time went on and we spent more time talking. First of all, they lived with his parents way outside Paris in some suburb. They only spoke French and she,too,had those long long dinners every night in the family dining room. She loved to ride horses and they had some so she got to do that in her free time.
One day she and I were having lunch at Victoria’s place. Jane got in the kitchen and made a salad which she said her mother-in-law had taught her how to make. She seemed to have a good relationship with her. After lunch we started talking about personal things. I told them about my ex and all that had gone on there. Victoria said, “Thank you for sharing that. That must have been a very difficult time for you.”
Jane had some photos with her from her honeymoon to show us. I have to admit Frederick was very handsome. That was when she told us that she had gotten pregnant on their honeymoon but had lost the baby a few weeks later. She wasn’t sure if it was a good thing or not. It was too early in their relationship for a baby. Victoria wanted to know if they were using birth control now, sensible woman that she is, and Jane said they were.
Then Victoria did an interesting exericise with us that she used with students or clients. She gave us a regular piece of paper and had us make a fold down the middle then open it up and draw a square on it. After we did that she had us draw a tree in the square.
I drew a palm tree for some reason. I made a slant of land in the right corner and the tree curved off from there to the left. I had three fronds on the left of the trunk and a few squiggly ones on the right. For good measure I added two coconuts.
Then Victoria gave each of us an interpretation of our drawings. It was almost psychic to me although she said it wasn’t.
She said, “It’s very interesting that your tree fills the whole square. The left side of the square is the past, the middle the present and the right the future, so that’s good. That means you aren’t just stuck in one part of your life. Now, there are three fronds here on the left. What do you have three of in the past?”
“Well, I have three children.” I thought this was kind of spooky.
Then she said, “It’s interesting that you have added fruit to your tree. Do you have two things in your past that you consider an accomplishment?”
I knew immediately. “My college education. And, even though it ended in divorce, I think being married for 26 years is an accomplishment.”
She agreed. She said the three little fronds I had drawn on the right represented things I was planning on or working on in the future. I had a lot of irons in the fire at the time and lots of plans for the future.
Jane had drawn a smaller square than I had. She had put a small tree entirly on the left side with no roots, no fruit, no limbs or fronds. She said to Victoria, “I was expecting you to ask us to draw something else in the square so I was saving room.” Victoria said it didn’t matter. This was all being pulled from our unconscious. We put things where our mind told us to.
She said, “Your tree is entirely on the left side which represents the past. Something in you is still drawn to the past. This is where you place the most value. The past is the most important thing to you.”
Jane didn’t really agree with this although she couldn’t say why. I found out a few weeks later that maybe the thing in the past she was still thinking about was an old boy friend. In fact, not only was he her boy friend when she met Patrick, but he had been her boss. She had been his secretary for five years and he had been supporting her in fine style with designer clothes and trips to Paris. Now she was living with a guy and his parents and the money was tight, from what she said. She also told us that Patrick was 12 years younger than she was as well as being an only child.
Towards the end of the semester I got a phone call from her. It was 10 o’clock at night and I was just about to get in bed. She had never called me before although she had asked for my phone number weeks ago. I could tell she was upset.
“I’m sorry for calling you so late but I really need to talk to you.”
“What’s wrong?” I knew it would be something about her husband.
“I’ve been arguing all evening with Patrick and I wanted your advice.”
“What’s the problem?” I was puzzled that she had called me. I am not exactly a subtitute mother type, at least I didn’t think I was. Maybe she thought of me as an older friend.
“I think part of the problem is that Patrick is so much younger than me, but women are coming into the store all of the time and telling him he should be a model and he’s decided to do it.”
“Yes?” He was really handsome.
“What am I going to do?” She burst into tears. “He will be around all of those young beautiful girls and I’ll loose him!” She cried some more. Geeze. What could I say? She was so hysterical that I didn’t know if she would hear anything I had to say anyway. But I gave it a try.
“Jane. First of all, you are an extremely beautiful woman. You were Miss Singapore for God sakes. You could be a model in my opinion, never mind Patrick. I don’t think you would have anything to worry about as far as other women. I know a lot of young, beautiful women must come into the store all of the time and he hasn’t left you for one of them.”
She sniffed. “That’s true.”
“Secondly, do you have any idea of how incredible hard it is to become a model? It’s right up there with becoming a major movie star. Just because he wants to do this, doesn’t mean he will succeed. This may all come to nothing and all of this emotional upset will be for nothing.”
She agreed. “Now, what I think the problem may be is that he wants to do something and you don’t want him to. This will make him more stubborn. The smart thing to do would be to tell him you are behind him 100% no matter what he wants to do, and, as I said, the chances are he won’t be doing any modeling anyway.”
“But what if I lose him?”she cried. “I love him!”
“I know you love him but you have to trust him to be true to you. And you have to realize that you have married a man still in his 20′s. He’s still growing up and changing. Not to mention that he is an only child. That means he will usually want things his way.”
She repeated that she loved him and didn’t want to lose him. By now Maurice had come in to look at me in puzzlement. I sounded like Dr. Laura.
“Well, Jane. Maybe you marriage isn’t going to make it. It has a lot of problems with him being so young and with you not really getting to know each other before marrying. Do you think you could go back to Singapore?”
“I don’t want to go back there. I’m happier in Paris.” She had gone back about a month ago for a few weeks to visit her parents and get her dog. When she came back she told us how happy she was to be back in Paris and sure Singapore wasn’t for her. “I want to stay here.”
“Do you have your legal papers yet?”
“Did Patrick start getting any papers for you?” This was the first thing Maurice had done when we moved to Paris. It was a lot of work but I had a card that made me legal for 10 years and it allowed me to work.
“No. He hasn’t done anything.” That was too bad. If she left him she wouldn’t be able to stay in Paris. Not legally, anyway.
“You know, Jane, when women are young and newly married I think they tend to give too much to a marriage. Once the man has won you he feels his work is over, but women want the marriage to work so bad that they give and give and hope and hope even when nothing is there. Sometimes all that is there is your hope that the marriage is going to work. I have learned, over the years, that the woman has to start asking herself, “What’s good for me? What do I want? Is this marriage meeting MY needs?’ Maybe, your marriage is an illusion of what you want. I know my first marriage was. The whole thing was nothing that I thought it was because I was afraid the face the truth.”
We talked for about 30 minutes more. All I could do was repeat what I had said and tell her that she needed him to get going on the papers with her. By the end she seemed to have settled down and told me that she appreciated what I had said and would think about it. In my opinion, although I didn’t say it, was that she should kiss the marriage good-bye and move on.
I called Victoria the next morning which was a Saturday and talked to her about Jane. I was surprised Jane hadn’t called her. We discussed all of the girls in our class and how they had married Frenchmen and moved to Paris expecting, perhaps, glamerous lives and here they were living with in-laws or resentful stepchildren without much money. Then Victoria said something that really made sense to me.
“You know, I think that when they married a Frenchman, they also married their ideal of Paris.” I think she hit the nail on the head. Women, but especially young women, marry with all sorts of expectations and dreams and quickly find out that they are no where to be found in their marriages.
On Monday after class Victoria and I went up to Jane to see how she was. She said she was much better and then she shocked us.
I know both of our mouths dropped open. It was all I could do not to say, “Are you kidding me?” But I didn’t. I just asked how she felt about it.
“I’m happy about it and a little apprehensive, too.”
Victoria asked, “How does Patrick feel about it?”
“He seems to be happy.” She didn’t look happy about it to me. I just couldn’t believe it.
Afterwards Victoria said, “I can’t believe they weren’t using birth control.”
“Me either. Man, what a mess.”
I was out of town a month later when I called Victoria and she told me that Jane had had an abortion.
Jane is one of the French students that I did see again. It turned out that she had divorced her French husband but had a new French boyfriend. I met her for drinks after work-she was working in one of the major department stores helping people from China. This was three years later and she and her boyfriend both said they didn’t like France and that the French were often jealous of them and sabatoged various things. She told me about situations that had happened at work to back this up. They were both talking about moving back to Singapore. She seemed to have grown up alot since that phone call. A month or so later I was walking in the St Germain area with some ladies and ran into her again walking her dogs. She was lucky enough to live in that posh area. One of these days I think I will pop back into the store she worked in and see if she is still there.
Sat 27 Oct 2007
Posted by Linda under General Comments
The first girl I met in my class was Mary from the Philappines. We were both in a different location from the class to take a test to see which class we should be placed in. I could have told them if they had asked. I finished the test in ten minutes simply because I had so little knowledge of French. Mary was there with an older man that I assumed was her husband and she finished about as quickly as I did.
At our first coffee after class I found out that she was engaged to a Frenchman and that the man who had been with her was her father-in-law to be.
She was a beautiful girl with dark eyes and long black hair and a tiny perfect figure. She was from the Philippines but had met Jacques, her finance, in Japan where she was a singer.
We were all enthralled. “What kind of singer?”
“I sang rock and roll mostly in a night club.”That’s where I met my fiance.”
“Are you going to be singing here in Paris?”
We were puzzled. She had a huge saphire ring on her engagement finger so I thought that maybe she just didn’t have to work, but that wasn’t the case.
“Jacques doesn’t want me to sing in a club because he is jealous of other men who would come to hear me sing.”
Well, being an American, I thought this was awful. I don’t think women should stop doing something they love because their spouse doesn’t approve. “Are you sure you want to marry him? It’s not too late to back out.”
She was sure.
We asked what language they spoke at home. “Mostly English. He doesn’t speak Philipino and I don’t speak French. And we both know a little Japanese.” Thus the French class.
The more I was around Mary the more I wondered why she was getting married. Maybe a lot of it had to do with pre-wedding jitters, but she seemed unhappy to me. One day I asked her how her week-end had gone and she replied that it had been awful. “We drank too much and fought every single minute of the week-end.” Once again I said, “Are you sure you want to go through with this?” She never said she wasn’t.
Mary also told me, almost on the first day that I met her that Jacques didn’t want children. “Do you?”
“Yes. I’ve always wanted children. I want to have them while I’m young. My mother had me when she was older.”
“Why doesn’t Jacques want any children?” I asked.
“He’s an only child so that may be why, but he just told me he never wanted any.” She was obviously very sad about this.
She would never take the metro. One day I was with some American friends in Paris for the week and we got on a bus after my class and there was Mary. She told us she was on the way for the fitting of her wedding dress. She seemed very nervous. We got off the bus before she did and I told my friends about her and the fact that her fiance wouldn’t let her sing.
I also found out that she was living with her in-laws to be with Jacques. She told us about long, long dinners every night.
“I just don’t know how they eat so much. We start at 8 in the evening and we are never finished before 10. I get so tired of sitting there.”
One day we all got to meet, or at least see, Jacques as he brought by a book Mary needed. So at least he was going out of his way a little bit for her. This was the middle of the day. I never did find out what he did for a living but I think there was some money there in his family.
The final week before her wedding she was very nervous. She came every day, though, and on the day before her wedding she brought two bottles of champagne to celebrate. Between the 12 or so of us, we drank it all. I often went home a little drunk after class as someone was always bringing in champagne to celebrate something, usually birthdays. I would struggle to stay awake on the metro, climb up the 3 flights to our apartment and fall on the couch for an alcohol induced nap.
We were all invited to the wedding. Five of us went the next afternoon after our class. And there she came down the aisle. I could tell by her face that she was extremely nervous and once it looked like she was going to burst into tears. She wore the beautiful gown that she had gone to that fitting for and had a long white veil that flowed behind her. It was a long Catholic cermony and I was happy to see that after the ceremony, out in the sunshine on the church steps, that she looked radiant and happy. So did Jacques. What did I know? Maybe they would make it.
She was gone for two weeks on her honeymoon to the Philippines. And a few weeks after she got back she had talked Jacques into singing lessons with a private teacher for her. I bet it wouldn’t be long before she was singing somewhere again.
One day before class she rushed up to me and said, “Guess what?”
“You know I told you I had started singing lessons?”
“Well, my teacher loves my voice. He had a friend come over and listen to me sing. It turns out this friend is in the music business and he wants me to make a CD!”
“Mary! How wonderful! When do you start?”
“Well, first we have to get together and plan the style and pick out songs. Then we have to find an orchestra. We have all sorts of things to do. Lots of work.”
I’m thinking that one day not only will she be singing in Paris, but that she will also have at least one child.
Thu 25 Oct 2007
Posted by Linda under General Comments
Yoko started our class a little later than the rest of us, but she fit in right away with her cute dimples and her wonderful sense of humor, which she shared with another Japenese girl in our class. Both of them were also married to Frenchmen.
Yoko met her husband while on vacation to Paris. After she returned to Japan he kept phoning her and after several trips back and forth they married. They spoke a mixture of French, English and Japanese at home, neither being fluent in the other’s language. I wondered just how much they could communicate. He worked in a hotel and she wanted and needed a job as things were tight financially, but needed to speak French in order to get one. She had so much trouble with pronouncing anything with an s sound in it, like the word Monseur.
Angela would get Yoko to look at her mouth and say “sssss”.
Yoko would repeat, “shhhhh.”
Angela did it every day. Finally, we had a Professor Higgins break though and she said, “Monseur!” with an sss sound. After that everytime she was called on for something she answered with, “Monseur!”
We each had to give a talk, in French of course, about our country. When it came time for hers she had drawn some very incredible cartoons to go with her talk. She was very talented. We also found out that she was an organist.
Her talk was on a group of young people in Japan’s capital who spent lots of time in tanning booths to be very tan, wore yellow lipstick and yellow eyeshadow and dyed their hair blond. They were on the cutting edge of fashion with the girls wearing short skirts and very thick soles on their shoes. I wondered how they made a living and asked. Yoko sat there for a minute trying to think of the French word for prostitute and failing made a circle with her hand and did the up and down international movement for hand job. Our class started howling. We all understood exactly what she meant.
One day we were listening to Angela with vaying degrees of attention when Yoko suddenly violently shivered and made some sort of remark in Japanese to the other Japanese girl asking her if she felt the devil come in. I guess it was sort of like a ghost walking over her grave. She seemed genuinely upset so I did a little Catholic cross over her but she said no, it had to be the Japanese thing with hands together moved up and down rapidly in front of her face while making little bows with her body.
She decided we had to go to a Japanese restaurant after class. She took us to a place that involved a long metro ride. The restaurant itself was one of those very plain, basic places with no ambience to speak of. They were happy to seat the ten of us. We had a variety of sushi, or tempura for the less adventurous of us. We were also slamming back the saki.
“Does anyone here remember the Sukiaki Song?”I asked
For some reason that tune entered my head from my teenage years and I started humming it.
Everyone else knew it at our table and at first several of us started humming-Yoko, Mary and I. Then the others joined in and soon with were doing it with loud la la la’s. I couldn’t remember the words except for the last line that went: “You took my love and now your’e gone.”
Then Yoko said, “I can sing it in Japanese!” and did, joined in by Mary where we all first got to hear her really great voice. She raised her arm at the end like a singer on stage. At the end the staff in the restaurant along with some other people eating in the restaurant applauded us. It was a fun, rather extraordinary, moment. Followed by a long nap at home.
One day Victoria and I were at lunch with Mary and Yoko and they started asking us a lot of questions about having babies.
Mary asked, “Once you have a baby, do you still want to have sex?”
“Sure. You don’t loose the desire.” We didn’t tell them that you were often so exhausted with a new baby that the last thing you wanted was sex.
Yoko was usually all smiles with her dimples but she turned very serious and asked if you could have a baby after an abortion. Her eyes filled with tears and she told us that four years earlier she had had an abortion and someday she and her husband wanted a baby, if their finances ever improved, and she was afraid she wouldn’t be able to. I told her that an abortion shouldn’t affect her chances. I felt so sad for her that she had this worry underneath her happy face.
Tue 23 Oct 2007
Posted by Linda under General Comments
Natasha was from Russia. She was a very tall girl, about 5’10″, with long brown hair and sad brown eyes. She often sat in class with a tissue in her hands wiping tears from her eyes. The few Russians I have met seem to have a melancholy nature, and she certainly did. She often seemed bored in class and she, along with Yoko and Mary had a bunch of colored pens which they colored in our language books with. I didn’t think she would be interested in joining us on any of our outings, but she always did.
“How did you meet your husband?” one of us asked.
“He was doing business in St Petersburg and we met.”
“Is he French?”
“Yes.” They spoke mainly English at home. (On an interesting sidenote, she could speak with and understand the Polish girl in our class.)
“How long did you date before you got married?”
“Almost three years. He wanted to marry earlier but I didn’t want to leave my family. He was also taking me for granted. He would be in St. Petersburg for several days and then show up my place expecting me to be glad to be with him so I started telling him I was busy. That’s when he started wanting to marry me.”
He finally wore her down and she did marry him. She spent several months with a private tutor learning French and I always felt like she was miles ahead of the rest of us in understanding French and she had a wonderful accent. Angela wanted her to move to a more advanced class but after one day she came back saying it wasn’t as much fun as ours.
After a few coffee dates we found out why she was so unhappy. Her husband was a lawyer and had a very busy practice. Once he had won the hand of Natasha, his work was over. He had her in his home where he wanted her and he started back to work and often wasn’t home until 11 or 12 at night. She told us, “He loves his work more than me.”
Victoria and I said, “You know, maybe your marriage was a mistake. You could always tell him that you made a mistake and were going to return to Russia. It’s not a sin to make a wrong choice. You can go back home and be with your family again.” But she didn’t even give what we told her a thought. She told us that first she wanted a baby. And then, if things weren’t better, she would go back.”
She was one of the ones very interested in me and my life in America and always had questions for me. She seemed to enjoy my American sense of humor.
Like some of the rest of us, she spent many boring meals with people who only spoke French and came to dread any business dinners, not to mention family ones. Her husband was divorced and I only found out months later that there was his 14 year old daughter living with them. I asked Natasha if she got along with her and she replied with one word, “No.”
One day she came to class and looked radiant. The night before had been their first anniversary and her husband had taken her to dinner and the opera. I think it must have reassured her that he cared. That morning was the first time I ever saw her wear her wedding ring.
She was very superstitious, another Russian trait I’ve run across before. She had recently been to a funeral of a family member of her husbands’and was appalled at how the whole thing was carried out. She said in Russia a type of wake was held at the home of the deceased and someone sat with the body at night and this went on for several days. There was eating and drinking and talking about the deceased and his life.
She said she never drank milk because of her grandmother and an old Rusian tale. It was about 2 frogs. Each fell into a bucket of milk. The first frog was a pessimist and decided that no one would ever rescue him and that he might as well give up,which he did and drowned. The other frog wasn’t going to give up without a struggle and started kicking for all he was worth. His kicking turned the milk on top into butter which he was able to sit on and live. Natasha said that her grandmother kept her milk in a bucket that was lowered into a well to keep it cool and that there was often a frog in the milk. To this day Natasha can’t drink milk.
I noticed that Natasha started dressing better and better with what looked like expensive clothing and wearing Channel sunglasses so maybe she had decided to take advantage of her husband’s income. At least as we neared December, she stopped crying. My husband had told me to tell her that the first year of being in a country can be very difficult and she just had to give it some time, that things would get better.
She was going to miss the whole month of December as she was going back to Russia to be with her family. She was so happy and was busy going around buying Christmas presents.
We didn’t see her for a month. When she came back she looked pale and unhappy.
“How was your trip, Natasha? Did you get to see all of your relatives?”
“It was wonderful. Everyone loved all of the presents that I bought for them. It was so great to see all of my relatives, especially my mother.”
“Did Frank go with you?”
“No. He was too busy, but he did come for one day to see me in the hospital.”
“You were in the hospital? Are you all right?”
“Yes.”She paused. “I was pregnant before I left and I had a miscarriage.”
Oh, Natasha. I’m so sorry.” I gave her a hug.
“Before I left for Russia, after I lost the baby, I kept having pain and I told Frank but he told me it was nothing, all in my head, but it was worse when I got home and my mother took me to the doctor and he put me in the hospital. I had to have a D&C to remove some tissue that had been left when I had the miscarriage.”
“Are you all right now?”
“I think so.”
“So, Frank only came to St Petersburg for one day?”
“Yes, he brought the plane ticket to show me how much money he had to spend to make the trip.” She had a disgusted look on her face.
After class our group went out for coffe and she told me that she had been talking to Frank and told him she didn’t think their marriage was working and that she thought they should get some counseling. She had done some psychology studies in Russia before she left.
“So, did the session help, Natasha.”
“No. It was a woman psychologist and she sided with Frank and told me I was the one with the problems. A few weeks after we had been going in separate meetings with her, Frank told me that she had ‘made a move on him’. She was interested in him.”
“How unprofessional. In the States you could lose you license doing something like that.”
A couple of days later our group went out for lunch. Natasha and I were sharing a caraffe of wine. She poured me a second glass and then one for herself.
“Whenever I have more than one glass of wine at home my husband always says, ‘Are you sure you should have that?’ It makes me feel like a child.”
“He says that and he’s a Frenchman? My husband always pushes me to drink more. Tell Frank that you are a grown-up and you can drink as much as you want. Does he think you are going to become an alcoholic or something?”
“I don’t know. Probably.” (I have since found this trait to be very common with many French men. They think you are on the verge of becoming an alcoholic if you have a glass or two of wine in a bar but a kir-champagne mixed with a little cassis-is ok. Go figure.)
I would love to find Natasha again and see what happened in her life. I had her cell phone number but when I tried to call it wouldn’t go through and no e-mails were ever answered.
Sat 20 Oct 2007
Posted by Linda under General Comments
Zima and Lamur
One of the sweetest girls in our class was Zima from Iran. She was stunningly beautiful with classic features, perfect skin, big dark kind eyes, and black hair. There was another girl in the class from Iraq named Lamur who looked like her sister. We didn’t get to know her as well because she was pregnant and often tired so she didn’t join us on many of our exursions.
About a week after the French class started I was shocked to go home and after a phone call from Maurice to turn on the TV and see the second plane crash into the World Trade Center. I spent the rest of the day, and all of the rest, watching CNN in disbelief. The first two people to come up to me when I walked into class were Zima and Lamur, both telling me how sorry they were. This from two people who I assumed had every reason to hate America and Americans. They couldn’t have been sweeter. Maybe politics isn’t real life.
Lamur was in her 8th month of pregnancy. Of all of the women in the class, she spoke the least English. One day she came into class and I asked her why she had missed class the day before. Tears filled her eyes and she said she had been at the doctor. Through her French and English I understood that she was worried and afraid of delievering her baby, a son, in a hospital that didn’t understand her language. Not only was there the fear of the unknown in delievering her first baby but just the fear of no one there to listen if she had a question or a problem, other than her husband. Victoria and I did our best to reassure her about having babies as we had been there. She pointed at her back and mentioned the French word for pain. She was talking about an epidural that the doctor had told her she would be given and she was worrried about the pain of that. I, fortunately, had also had this with my second child, and reassured her that it was wonderful, and, in my opinion, the way to go for the hard and painful work of labor. I like to think we helped reassure her a little. She had to quit the class before the end of the semester as her doctor wanted her to rest and because she had a long metro ride to get to the class, often crowded and hot at the time we were on them. She soon safely had her little baby boy and everything went fine.
On our first excursion to a restaurant we went to one Zima recommended in her neighborhood which served Iranian food. We decided we should take turns going to places to eat that served food from each of our countries. We never did find one from Australia, though. Would you believe there are some serving Tex-Mex?
Zima was married to an Iranian, but he had lived in Paris for 20 years and was a French citizen, and, of course, fluent in French. He drove a very nice taxi.
“How did you meet your husband?” we asked on our trip to the restaurant.
“He wanted a wife from Iran and asked some friends in Iran if they could introduce him to someone. They gave him my name and he called and we spent months talking to each other on the phone before he finally came to Tehran and we met. I knew before he even came that I loved him, but when we met we knew we were right for each other.”
“How long did you know each other before you married?”
“For a year.” He came to Tehran for their marriage. She showed us a picture of them together, her in a beautiful dress and him in a tuxedo. She seemed to love him very much and seemed very happy and stable. It turned out that Lamur, from Iraq, met her husband, also an taxi driver, the same way.
I got the impression that Zima came from a wealthy family although I have nothing to base this on except she wore nice clothing, didn’t work, and once gave a beautiful gold bracelet to a classmate for her birthday. She missed her family very much, especially her mother.
I saw a picture of her apartment once and it looked really small. She and her husband were saving up for a small house somewhere in the suburbs.
I didn’t like some of the food at the Iranian restaurant that she took our class to. I’m not a big fan of yogurt and a lot of the menu is based on it, even some sort of drink which Zima loved. It did serve shish kababs with rice which I loved.
When I took our group to the Tex Mex place Zima really loved it. She had faitas, which, though good, still had a French flair to them, and she and I knocked back more than one margarita. Another day for a long nap.
What a nice lady she was. Always pleasant with a greeting and smile for everyone. Her husband was the one wondering how much French we were speaking on all of our excursions. All we knew was that we sure were having a good time.
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