102.They have me at bonjour


Here I am trying to keep up with a French conversation


The good news is that I have had more than one, okay, I have actually had three french people come up and ask me for directions on this trip. And yesterday, someone asked me how much the bus was to get to the train station and not only did I understand her, I actually knew the answer.

So until I open my mouth, I’m a local. Yaye pour moi!

Then I talk.

I have used various techniques to persuade french people to stay with me as I bumble my way around their beautiful language.

Along with a winning smile, I have found owning up by far the best approach:

“J’étudie le français mais Je ne comprends pas tout”  I am studying French but I don’t understand everything (as opposed to anything which is truer but I don’t want to lose them)

I have also tried this to some success:

“Je ne parle pas très bien, mais je comprends si vous parlez simplement” I don’t speak very well, but I understand if you speak simply

And if they’re cute I throw in a:

“C’est gentil de m’aider avec mon français” How kind of you to help me with my French

I know all Im really being is a different kind of phrase book, but a girl’s got to do. You know the rest, I’m exhausted.

94.An introvert in Paris



I’m in the lobby restaurant of the Hotel Jeu de Paume, on a cold and wet Monday in Paris. Nestled between the two arms of the Seine River, Jeu de Paume has been sheltering travellers since the 17th century so it’s coping well with this one.

It’s raining and Im fine with that. So very fine. My holiday will be populated soon enough, but today I have a date with me.

Choosing to do fuck all in Paris doesn’t feel unproductive to me.


screen-shot-2Like many introverts, I crave time alone. Whereas an extrovert might get bored or antsy spending a day in solitude, I’m more inclined to get bored or antsy in company. I’d rather talk in front of 500 people than mingle with them afterwards. Networking makes me feel phony and small talk isn’t a strength.

That said, most of my ‘achievements’ today will involve highly considered small talk – in French. I’ve been learning French, and forgetting what I’ve just learned promptly afterwards, once a week for over a year now. I regularly declare to my three fellow students that I must be suffering from an undiagnosed brain condition, such is my ability to swiftly forget what I have just learnt.

Today though I have asked for hot water for tea, and I have asked about borrowing an umbrella, and I have made friends with two staff and another guest – in French, actual French. I have learned how to request slow talk for the student; I have connected with the power of vulnerability. People want to help.

It thrills me that when I attempt to communicate, I am actually understood. Maybe learning French will strengthen my small talk game. This introvert is up for that.


79. Practicing my french.

So I am in Tahiti. It was chosen as a destination because I’ve been learning French this last term, and I want to practice with humans. My laptop doesn’t flirt back.  Five hours in the air seems like a perfectly reasonable investment to be able to do this.  This is especially reasonable compared to 23 in the air to Paris, which is where I really want to be.

There are challenges that are peculiar to a natural redhead in these tropical climes.  We have no choice but to be shade lovers, no matter how much we yearn for a different reality.  I would actually like to be a reckless blond in the sunshine, goading the Vitamin D to take me with some force please oh please, I don’t care if it hurts.

But I have learned it doesn’t play fair, the sun, with me. It needs to remain the boss.

I’m good.

I have also learned that my unique pallor makes a distinct impression with the native boys in the Pacific. Some seem quite bewitched by the combination of colours and potential textures I present, as I sashay down the path between the coconut trees on my way back to the room.

Bonsoir Madame. Ca va?

The beginning of a holiday is so intoxicating isn’t it. Its like the starry eyed vows we make on a wedding day. This will be amazing. You will love every minute. Let’s not think about the end.

Let’s see what we end up practicing over the next seven days in Tahiti. It could be all manner of things – hopefully in French of course.