Friday, September 19, 2014

Why I Haven't Posted

How can anyone be miserable in beautiful, enchanted Switzerland? I mean, c'mon! But I have been and here's why: despite spending the last year taking college courses in French and then a three-week intensive course at the University of Geneva, I can't understand a thing anybody is saying. Lesson: just because you can read The Little Prince in French doesn't mean you can parlez français.

I was bitterly--and I do mean bitterly--disappointed.

The intensive course was six hours a day. I understood about 25% of what the instructor said. I hated it. Yes, "hate" is a strong word--but not strong enough. Every morning I would lie in bed and loudly groan for a full minute before I got up. I'm sure our neighbors (with whom we share a wall) thought we were having extremely hot sex every morning. I swear they started looking at me differently.

Because I couldn't communicate, in no time I turned into an insecure, fearful, introvert.  I had to ask myself, "Who am I?" Yes, you can spend your whole life pondering this existential question. In the mean time, someone has to buy groceries.

But here's what happens when you can't read the labels:

--You and your husband wash your hair with conditioner for an entire week resulting in a Greaser Look that is not flattering to either of you.
--You serve your guests what you think is a grilled veal sausage but it's really some form of cooked pasta that is now hard and dry. When your guest asks to read the package you cover your embarrassment with another glass of wine.
--You ruin a colored load of laundry because you think think 60º is Fahrenheit and not Centigrade.

Military time, centimeters, centigrade, grams, kilograms: exquisite and insidious forms of torture. Scene in the Farmer's Market:

Seller: Vous bxln tqupr cnxz?
Me: (assuming he's asking how many little containers I want) Deux!
Seller: Vxbdureteaux?
Me: (panicking) Oui, oui!

I watch in horror as he bags two kilos (four pounds) of olives. I hand over the money and then go have a glass of wine.

So I've been miserable for two and half months and then yesterday I decided to be happy.
What?! Decide to be happy?
 Seriously. Here's what I've learned--and as with many spiritual truths it's counterintuitive--there will be no external change until there is an internal change. 

I know, I know our culture teaches us differently: "If only I had x, y and z, then I would be happy." But I know better than that. I also know that I have to feel my feelings (frustration, anger, sadness, depression), give them a voice, ("I hate it here!") and then move on (I'm deciding to be happy).

So that's why I haven't posted. If you're in town be sure to stop by. We'll give you a glass of wine. And some olives.


Anonymous said...

While pre-proficient in italian I went into a small shop to buy a belt for my husband. And asked -in an oh so cool manner - for one made of culo (ass) rather than cuoio (leather). I'm sure the storekeeper's 10 year old son, who snorted with laughter as he ducked behind the counter, is still telling that story...

stlueymo said...

Dearest Deb, I feel your pain! don't let the ANTs come marching in!,(AngryNegativeThoughts). Try to find a friendly looking person that admits to speaking "a little" English, and ask to meet for tea or lunch evry so often so you can mutually help each other by simply trying to converse, first in English, then in French. I found an elderly Italian woman in Assissi that was a delight. Turned out she knew next to no English, but thoroughly enjoyed helping me. The same happened in Gallese, only with a young Hungarian girl that we both struggled with the Italian and had lots of laughs while drinking much coffee everyday that week.
And to relax, listen to French jazz- lyrics are slower, a pleasant way to hear French in the submersion theory, music is my favorite immersion. That, and watching game shows with the subtitles on- game shows tend to speak slower. I tried French again this year before our trip to France, wasn't doing so great -I give! I am jumping back into Italian this fall. Let's FaceTime sometime!

MC said...

Bonjour Debra! Désolée que ce soit aussi difficile... It reminds me of how I felt when we moved to the US. Although for me the very worst was answering the phone (I vividly remember a conversation with a car mechanic as I had no clue what he was talking about). Compared to that, everything else was low stress. It was still hard though.
How I wish we were neighbors and could meet to chat and laugh both in English and in French. Miss you and the rest of the group.
Hugs from California!

Unknown said...

Dear Debra, you were born to be a writer...I already have the book imagined in my palm. It will be a little smaller than most, with the above photo on a linen background. Of course it will be about this adventure, perhaps with a tie-in to "It's not about the hair" with the search for how you get your dog to Europe. I can't wait to have a signed copy, gaze at the lovely cover, gently open the first page and settle in for a delicious read. Of course there will be olives and fake wine! ILY
Patricia Anderson

Debra Jarvis said...

Thanks for the support! And Pat, you are correct, I'm nurturing an idea for my next book.

Anonymous said...

Debra - How much this post resonates with me on so many fronts. Nothing changes until you do. :) Thank you for this story - it made my day.