So a friend mentioned this week that she hadn’t seen a new blog post in a while. It’s true. I haven’t blogged since I got my partner in crime back in late June. I hadn’t really felt I had much to write about. (Though it often feels that way until I start to type.) Life is good. The husband and I have managed to have some fun in the nearly two months that he has been back here to enjoy the Saguenay summer with me. But since I finally seem to be settling into this strange life, I wasn’t experiencing the same highs and lows that I’d felt previously, plus I haven’t been as bored since I had my best friend back at home with me.
But there are still highs and lows. They just don’t derail me as much as they used to. Today was a good day. And since my husband won’t get NEARLY excited enough about how awesome my French is, I guess I can scream it out into the internet. (Seriously, would a small party with party hats and a cake be too much to ask??)
For nearly a year, it has been on my list to check out the paddle boats or canoes at Parc de Rivière du Moulin. The park is nearby and very inexpensive, especially with a discount of a few dollars through the military. A couple of weeks ago, I had a proud moment when I managed, completely in French, to purchase a ticket for canoe rental from the “grumpy lady” at the base recreation desk. Apparently she’s less grumpy if you speak to her politely in French. Today, a friend and I finally met to use the coupon and try out a short canoe trip.
We had no trouble navigating the process of renting the canoe in French. I told the nice young man at the park’s information desk that I had a ticket for a canoe, and he spoke slowly to me in response at my request. I was able to understand most of what he said, and my friend and I had no trouble finding the canoe rental shack. The nice young woman there told us it wasn’t a problem that our French wasn’t very good, and she even used some English as she went over the rules and gave us instructions.
The river was GORGEOUS! Today was perhaps the most glorious, summery day that we have had this season. Probably around 27°C/80°F, brilliantly sunny, and with just enough breeze to make you appreciate it. The water was so calm it was nearly a mirror around our canoe, reflecting the vibrant greens and the rocky shores. It was mostly quiet and peaceful, though we did encounter a few others out in canoes or kayaks. I was even able to exchange some pleasantries with the strangers there. A man in a passing canoe exclaimed that it was beautiful out. I agreed, and I told him there was a “very big bird” up ahead. (I don’t know the names of any specific birds.) I then learned that blue herons are simply called big herons in French when he then said something about “un grand héron”.
I also had my biggest phone victory to date this evening. The husband and I had decided to do the “great pizza experiment.” (A lot of the food is a bit different up here, and we’ve heard not-so-good things about pizza in the region, but we had both been craving pizza for some time.) The husband was at home, but I decided that, as I can pretty easily make restaurant reservations by phone (and as he DETESTS using the phone for anything other than texting/looking up facts on the internet), I could probably handle ordering a pizza. If not, I certainly know how to say, “One moment, please, my husband is here and he is bilingual.” So I called the pizza place. I planned to drive the 15 minutes or so each way to pick up our pizza, as delivery was not mentioned at all on the restaurant’s website.
Before I could even begin to place my order, the questions started. What is your name? I’m pretty good at that, and I’ve even learned how to spell my first name and make it easy for Francophones to spell our (Italian) last name (“comme ‘Olivier’ avec un ‘o’ à la fin”). Phone number? Okay, my pronunciation of numbers isn’t great, but I give my number enough that (as soon as I’m able to recall my own number – I don’t call myself often!) I am okay at that. My address? What the hell? Is this some kind of French test? I didn’t sign up for a quiz! I gave her our address. Is it an apartment? Um, no, it’s a house. But WHY do you people care? Do I have to submit a tax return for a take-out order? Do you want to know my sign?!? Finally done with the questions, I placed my order with no real difficulty in making myself understood. Then things got a little confusing. I didn’t quite understand what the woman on the other end of the line was saying, until a light went off. “OH! Tu as livraison!?!” (You have delivery?) Suddenly the questions made sense, AND I didn’t have to drive over to retrieve my own pizza. Parfait!
The real test, however, was to wait and see if the pizza arrived. It did. It was exactly as ordered, and (after taking just a few seconds to translate in my head) I was even able to understand the delivery driver when he gave me the total. I even got an English, “Thank you!” from him after I paid. The pizza was not the most delicious I’ve ever had. But it did mark the largest victory every achieved in obtaining a pizza. It tasted like success and progress.