One of the BEST things about traveling is the language barrier. For example, when I lived in Paris 1999-2000 there came a moment when I spoke French so well that I really could communicate with anyone. Anyone! It really was a fine moment in my life. I had such confidence. My sweet French roommate Estelle, who contributed greatly to my French learning since she refused to speak English with me (EVER), invited me to go with her to Poitiers, France to visit her grandmother. Now, this is her beloved grandmother. Who she speaks of every single day. This grandmother lived on a working farm where Estelle’s uncles also worked alongside many hired hands. When we arrived I could tell right away that everyone was really excited that Estelle was there and that she brought her American roommate with her. They were so curious about me and American culture and American life. Grandma showed us around the farm, around the house, before we all sat down at three long picnic tables off the kitchen. Everyone came in from the fields for this lovely lunch with Estelle and her American roommate. And I had center stage. CENTER! They asked me about movie stars. And guns. And politics. And Bill Clinton’s escapades. And then we turned towards calmer waters; what was my own grandmother like? Where did she live? What did she do? I remarked that many, many things are similar in America. Everyone was listening to me with rapt attention. They were all slowly eating while I spoke in my magnificent French, “for instance, my grandmother also has freezers like grandma here in France….freezers full of…” (now, I’ll just digress here a moment to tell you a secret–lots of words in French are the same in English, just spoken with a French accent. Lots of words that end in –ion or –ive for instance. So, because I was so advanced in my French at this moment, I dug around in my brain for the word for food that you freeze. Preservatives. That must be it. Now, back to the story…) …”freezers full of preservatives!” SILENCE. “Preservatives!” ODDLY SILENT AND NO EATING. “PRESERVATIVES!” I now notice that Estelle is bright red and is slowly shaking her head, “non” to me. Meanwhile I’m thinking, what is wrong with these people? One of Estelle’s uncles then asks me, in beautiful French, “do they work better that way?” And it is then that I realize that I have been shouting–SHOUTING–“condoms!” “condoms!” “CONDOMS!” at these utterly divine French people. Needless to say I think the fine people of Poitiers are still laughing about that funny little American who insisted her grandmother had freezers full of condoms. And, for the record, my own grandmother LOVED that story. Language barriers.
So, here we are in 2014 and I still haven’t learned much. I scheduled to get my hair cut and colored yesterday and instead of preparing my vocabulary ahead of said adventure, I took a nap. A NAP! Now, my Spanish is absolutely shit compared to my French and so I didn’t enter the salon with any bravado. In fact, I was quite sheepish because I realized while on the way to the salon I didn’t even know how to say “cut” in Spanish. Or specific colors to describe the kind of highlights I wanted. Or layers. Or not too short. Or shorter. Or darker. Or lighter. Or really even WTF are you doing to my head? So…I did in fact get highlights and a haircut. But…you could say it wasn’t a typical salon experience for me. mmmm. Not exactly.