“Ready are you? What know you of ready? This one a long time have I watched. Hmm?.”–Yoda
This, I am certain, is how I sound when I speak French, which is supposed to be lyrical and melodic. My French sounds like a two-year old playing piano. Fortunately, I have two Isabelle’s in my French life. Isabelle, who cleans our apartment each Wednesday and Isabelle, with whom we spent the past weekend. Both Isabelle’s have been my very best French teachers ever because they allow me to speak Yoda French to them and with a significant effort on their part, sometimes they understand me.
The first Isabelle, our housekeeper, still believes Joan to be profoundly deaf. She waves wildly to her when she is leaving and yells, “GOODBYE!” She asked me last week if I was sick. Why, yes. I have been sick since I arrived in Paris or so it seems. No worries, said she. Everyone who comes to Paris is sick for the first 6 months. But I only have 3 months here! “Well…you will return home with a souvenir from Paris!”
Joan and I were thrust upon Isabelle #2–who speaks little English– because our mom’s French friend in the U.S., Colette, insisted that while we were staying in Paris, we must make a journey to the town of Nantes (2 hours by rapid train from Paris ) to meet Isabelle and to stay in her home. There were at least six degrees of separation between us and Isabelle but she happily allowed us to invade her quiet French life for 48 hours.
We arrived Friday night and Isabelle took us to her home where she cooked us a gluten free meal. Then her friend, Marie-Laurence arrived and we were whisked away to St. Nazaire to attend a conference on “Hypnosis and Its Use in Surgery without Anesthesia”. Turns out, Marie-Laurence had just had her wisdom teeth pulled using no anesthesia, only hypnosis. And Isabelle is studying to become a certified hypnotist. They were the guest speakers at the conference!
We returned to St. Nazaire the following afternoon to meet Colette’s older sister, Claudine, who lives there. Claudine gave us a tour of her town then we returned to her house where we had a nice visit talking about the differences between gluten-free and Celiac’s disease, the French versus American health systems, warts, American TV, the wars, and a variety of other things, all in French. We left Claudine’s, each receiving four cheek kisses, and then laughed on the ride home about the French kiss system. Isabelle found four kisses entirely too many but had to go with it since it was Claudine’s preference.
I went to bed Saturday night with my familiar friend, a dry cough. I awoke Sunday morning with no voice. We decided that if only Colette could have been with us we would have the deaf (Joan), the dumb (me), and the blind (Colette–who has glaucoma and is legally blind). Isabelle was a wonderful tour guide. We saw a church, a castle, a giant mechanical elephant, Jules Verne’s former home, the best farmers market ever, and strolled through the skinniest street in town. The highlight for me was the lunch that Isabelle prepared using cheese, bread and lettuce purchased that morning at the market. We ate it with charcuterie from Corsica and toasted to Colette who had brought us together.
We enjoyed a great day in Nantes and at the train station Sunday night, Isabelle kissed us each two times on the cheek and we bid farewell to our new French friend.