I decided to break it up since it was looking like it would run long and that was an appropriate breaking point.
My second experience with shame was yesterday morning (Ash Wednesday) which began Lent. As I mentioned before I am not speaking English during Lent with those people who speak French better than I do. I’m also, for pragmatic purposes, allowed to speak English on the phone and when appropriate at work. Since 75% of my time as of late is hanging around with other volunteers I speak alot of unnecessary English though.
So, tomorrow morning I went by Marc’s to meet up with Margaret to help her with some computer stuff. Carl was there too, so we had the four of us and I passed the entire time almost completely in silence. Marc actually asked me that evening what was wrong because I’d not said anything in his presence for him to know that I wasn’t speaking English.
I talk about my French being bad. Honestly it isn’t wretched. It is what is referred to as “conversational.” I can express most basic ideas though my formulation is often incorrect. Things such as the conditional (“I would go if I have he time”) and often the simple future (“I will go”) I really have a hard time with and it limits my expressibility of complex ideas. My vocab is coming. The large number of cognates helps. Much like with the verbs I can just start defining the word and the other person will pick up on the idea.
I decidedly do not sound either intelligent or succinct though; two things I pride myself on in my language.
To compound things I am the worst French speaker here and sometimes I will say something wrong and someone will laugh at me or make fun of me. I am learning that I apparently have a noticeable accent (and mockable) in both my French and English. I’ve been trying to hear it, but it is hard. That is mostly something I want to leave for later, but is still a source of reluctance in speaking.
The reason that I am doing this French thing is how bad I am at it. My need to improve is important but doesn’t really qualify it as something for Lent. How self-conscious I am about it and how readily available I have an alternative to avoid it does.
As I mentioned in closing yesterday it has, thus far, meant me spending much more time in silence than speaking French. Even though though has been good for me since I get antsy sometimes when things are too quiet for too long. This leaves me to either deal with the silence or try and come up with an ice breaker in French; both challenging to me.
So, I passed the morning in silence and self-consciousness. I didn’t break my discipline though and I’m proud of that. The one time I did was when I was working on the pancakes and someone asked me a question and I simply forgot because I was occupied with something else.
Last night I was pretty happy with the dinner. It turned out to be more like apple cobbler and crepes than apple pancakes, but several people came by and everyone seemed pleased. One thing that turned out well was the syrup that was made with honey, cloves, cinnamon and orange marmalade. It was cooking by the seat of my pants and it panned out, happily.
After the dinner though we were sitting around and I was really bothered by some of what was said. People were just sitting around chatting and gossiping. There’s not very much in this country to discuss other than the other volunteers. Generally I am cool with it. I can recognize most of the characteristics people identify (he get pissed off easy, she is loud, etc.). I don’t usually find things as annoying as most people, but that’s just amicability.
Last night though they were talking about someone who identify with alot and bringing attention to her playfulness. This bothered me. Not so much that they were talking about my friend, since everyone gets talked about and it doesn’t affect anything, but that I share many of those characteristics and I wonder what they say about me when I am not in the room.
As I sat there, in silence of course, I went through another round of doubt about my Lenten discipline. It is decidedly not normal and I don’t like the idea of these people who are my best friends here not liking me because I’m weird. Back home I had a group that was entertained by quirks and was generally pretty accepting. Being mostly honors dorks they were pretty quickly bored with non-challenging things and as people working on emotional development they generally had the discernment to allow others freedom of expression.
I feel like I am leaning toward sour grapes. I’m not calling my friends here stupid or boorish; just that eccentricity is not as relished here.
It sort of makes me sad to be away from home. I’m sure it will pass. I’ve been with these people for the last seven months and I really like them. I just had a moment where I felt very much like a stranger.
Well, I am off to find some supper.