Thursday, November 18, 2010

I Have the Cockroach

Each day I’m becoming a little bit more French, I think. This became clear this last week when somebody asked me how I was. Instead of the usual, “fine thank you”, I actually told them how I was. I couldn’t believe I did it! Particularly since things weren’t all that great.

I don’t know if this is true everywhere in the U.S. but normally “ How are you” is a pleasantry. People don't really expect to get much more than a "great...and you?" Here in France, when you ask, people often actually tell you. Good or bad, but frequently the bad. And I’m assimilating.

So my job this week was to learn the French way to explain just how crummy I felt.

So, you ask, how are you Delana? Go ahead, I dare you to ask!

I’m not going to turn around the pot here (beat around the bush).  I need to call a cat a cat (call a spade a spade) I’m really not on my plate (I’m out of sorts) and I have the cockroach (I have the blues).  I have more than fifty brooms (I’m over 50 years old) and I have borrowed a road (taken a path) that, at least this week, I’m not sure I should have taken.

Just one of those down weeks I guess. A week when the French language seemed indecipherable (this article might help you understand why!)  Though I am perfectly capable of telling the well-coifed woman at the salon that her little dog just dropped a pile in the middle of the floor, I still have not reached the point of being capable of having a deep, meaningful conversation with my French friends. And I so want that. I’m sure that it won’t be long before they feel that I am like a beard (boring). I have fallen on a beak (come up against a snag) and sometimes it’s just not a chest of drawers (it’s not easy).

It’s a little like floating all the time. I have no family here though I do have friends. But my friends really don’t know me nor I them, because we haven’t reached that point of communication. I live in a furnished apartment where I own almost nothing; prepared to leave at a moment's notice. Yet I don’t want to take my clicks and my clacks (clean up and clear out). When I visit the United States, I am just that…a visitor. Yet, I’m really a visitor here.

I have no job because it’s against the law for me to work, so I’m really not a contributing member of society. I’m a mother by telephone, a daughter by skype, and a sister through email. And sometimes, at least this week, it makes me feel like I count for butter (count for nothing).

Yes, I want to have the butter and the money from the butter (have my cake and eat it too). This move to France was my choice and I have no regrets. But some weeks it just gets to be too much.

Today it’s raining ropes (raining cats and dogs). Not so good for the mental health.  Maybe I’m just dreaming that I'll ever understand this language. It might just be when the chickens have teeth (when pigs fly). I just don’t want to make white cabbage (to fail completely).

So I need to continue to put my hand in the dough (put my shoulder to the wheel). Because by the time I reach the point of eating dandelions by the roots (pushing up daisies), I want to be able to have a true conversation in French.

The carrots are cooked (the die is cast) and it’s not all cooked (not in the bag). I have not left the inn (I’m not out of the woods).

There, aren’t you so happy you asked how I am?  In fact, the blues have passed. This happens from time to time and at least now I am aware of it and also aware that it will go. But I thought you should see what I’m up against! I mean geez, it’s enough to learn vocabulary and grammar. But when somebody says something like “you’re running on my bean” in French, how the hell am I supposed to know they actually mean “you’re getting on my nerves”. It kind of puts a girl in nice bed sheets (in a fix).



  1. I'm glad you're feeling better now! Just last night I had a Facebook chat with my friend in Dijon. We both have la grippe. Like you, I do the typical American thing when asked how I am. Fine! Thanks. But with Abdel, I was frank. I told him that I was sick (malade) and he said he was, too. We spent the next several moments discussing our identical illness until he shared with me that he doctor told him that THAT is how life goes. You get old, you get sick, you die.

    At that point we had to start talking about something else.

    I admire your bravery to follow your dream.

  2. Oh Delana: It makes us all want to come over there, pronto, and be with you. And yes, the rain surely does not help. Would this help: I DO think of you almost every day and what fun Paris was with Jenny , and how I cannot WAIT to come and "work" on our project (!), and we too can skype any time! Call me, whenever, ok?
    P.S. Just remember: you are my role model for learning French! so there...!

  3. Interesting and a bit confusing. Not sure I could figure the wording out on my own, but it could be fun trying to.

    I imagine that the difference in life there and here in the states is, in some cases, monumental.

    Thanks for the post

  4. That was a brilliant post!

    Don't you find sometimes learning a language is like beating your head against the wall? Then some days your head breaks through to the other side and you start making progress through the next room...

  5. On days when you have a cockroach, just explain that you have a butt-flap malady....they will never ask again.
    Nice goose picture....

  6. Oh my Delana! I can understand how learning the french language is not only about verbs and conjugations but about idioms and expressions, conversations. Keep at it ~ you've come too far to give up ~ just look at this post it's amazing!
    You've done well.
    Dianne xx

  7. Wish i was there for you girlfriend. Know exactly how you felt! But trust me, after one week being back in New York, I know the move across the pond was well worth it all!

  8. I have the cockroach too.. however my primary attention is now redirected to trying to discern what the "butt-flap" malady may be, Miriam!

    An amazing blog, as always, Sweetie! XO

  9. Oh how I understand how terrible those types of days feel. I may have a husband here, but he is absolutely no substitute for my friends, my real live friends who I wish I could communicate with, in person, instead of phone or skype (but thank heavens for skype!). Sending you warm cosmic hugs from Le Petit Village dear Delana :-)

  10. Lisa, yes I'm feeling better, thank you. And I hope you are as well. Are you able to speak to your friend in french? Do you understand everything? As far as bravery goes, as we both know, sometimes it just goes out the window.

    LibbY-thank you sweetie! I can't wait to get started on our project either. I'm so locked up with school and you with your move. But after Christmas, let's hit it hard! And you can come here for a visit and we'll battle the language together.

    Joanne-Confusing is right. But, I imagine English is just as difficult for the poor sods that have to learn it. Stay tuned for tomorrow's blog.

    Fly-you hit the nail on the head. It's exactly like that. I love those days when I break a bit of that wall. Other days, it's just a giant headache. And, it means a lot when you tell me "brilliant post". Coming from a woman with a long line of them.

    Holly-then get your ass back here!

    Miriam- I still have yet to write about our trip. And how will I ever explain butt-flaps!

    Vickles- Oh this will never do. We can't both have the cockroach! All I can say is, butt-flaps are scientific proof that the ancient drawings in the cave of Lasceux are real. I'll try to explain if I can get my phone working.

    Sara- I know you understand. I often wonder how you did it in your little village....wherever the hell it is! Thank you for your hugs. They mean a lot.

  11. Delana,
    You know way more than you think, at least that's what Michele always said while touching the back of her head...'it's all in here'. And from what I think, it's all in your heart too Delana. Hang in there. It's hard to be a floater sometimes but you know we're all floating out here with you.
    I'm making the eggs for the canadians tomorrow. You?

  12. Excellent post! I was saying all the phrases in French each time you wrote them and it really made me sit up and notice! It's a wonder that any of us get on in this strange language when you take all of this into consideration...

    As for having the blues, whilst I'm not in exactly the same situation as my Husband is French, I do understand exactly what you mean. Most of the time I do not know where I belong, I have firmly slammed the door on the UK now but I don't feel settled in France. My parents are far away and whilst I have lots of great friends here none of them are expats so don't know what I'm feeling, not really truly.

    Anyway, I'm glad your blues have passed and I hope the sun is shining on you.

    Take care

  13. And a something to help you smile... there is a wee present for you over on my blog... xo

  14. Aidan-yes, a lot of us are floating, aren't we? And on the good days it really rocks! Oh, those eggs. Did they turn out?

    Piglet-It's curious, isn't it? Especially since, to me, you seem so settled. Do you supposed having a home (sans murderer) will help? I do have a couple of expat friends here and that really does help. And so does this blog and my friends here. And thank you. I feel great!

    Sara-Thank you for the award. That's so nice. I'd like to thank all my I just need to write those 7 things! Geez!

  15. Delana,
    Everything fluctuates, and just when you start to think you have everything in anything--language, sport, mothering, LIFE--nailed, you tend to get yourself dreadfully corrected. At least that's my experience. Keeping perspective is good, and I agree with other commenters, look what you've accomplished in just this one post! And yes, it's not always right there when you need to use it, but this stuff comes along, because you really are learning the ideal way: immersion. I also think you should give your Frenh friends credit for having a bit more patience and understanding. Try to imagine any one of them making a go of it in an English-speaking country. Keep it up, girl, I for one think you are doing GREAT.

  16. Bonjour Delana -
    Great post. I can very much relate to your story.

    My wife and I have been in Aix for a month now on our own adventure. Months ago when we were deciding on which town to settle in you sent me an encouraging note on Aix. Here is my very humble blog to jog your memory:

    I'm wondering if you would like to get together for a drink with my wife and I. It would be fun to swap some stories. You can send me an e-mail at if you are interested.

  17. I absolutely loved this post! You are such an entertaining, thoughtful writer. I'm barely getting the hang of French and can't imagine what it will be like when I get into idioms!


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