Yesterday was my last French class. As it was also the last Friday of the month, and a number of students were finishing their time at the school, we had a potluck pique-nique after class in the grand salle. Everyone brought food: cheeses, baguettes, fruit, salads, charcuterie, dips, cake – and the school supplied other treats and very nice wine. It was a lovely way to end the course.
I think my French has improved. Certainly my vocabulary has, but the intricacies of French grammar often still elude me. We had a strangely discombobulating final week. On Tuesday our teacher Vanessa was ill, so did not show up to class. The director/administrator of the school, Annabelle, was also ill. Désastre! Another teacher, Anne-Sophie, came to tell us we had a choice, to join her higher level intermediate class or to get reimbursed for the day. She warned us she would not be able to adapt the material, so it might be difficult. Most us went to her class and it was very challenging, despite Anne Sophie’s welcoming manner. I had a headache by 1:00pm. Then Anne-Sophie reported that Vanessa would not be back for the rest of the week, but she had no idea what the plan for us might be. We left feeling inordinately downcast. I couldn’t believe how attached to Vanessa I had become in a single week, and how difficult it was to imagine continuing classes with anyone else.
On Wednesday, no one came to talk to us. Three of us had decided if the only option was to continue in the higher level class, we’d ask for our money back. We waited for about an hour. Then Annabelle showed up and told us we should join Anne Sophie’s class again, but that she would adapt the material this time. Feeling apprehensive, we obeyed the directive – and it was, in fact, much easier. We left under the impression we would get a new instructor for our final 2 days. As it turned out, the director, Annabelle, became our new prof. We certainly bonded as a group (at least the four of us who continued to attend classes, including a 16-year-old Brit, here for a week to improve his French for A-levels) – and the quality of instruction was high…but the lack on continuity was a challenge. Nonetheless I felt sad saying good-bye to everyone today. Much kissing on both cheeks!
I feel like quite a local and hardly needed to think about my route as I walked back and forth to school. Honestly walking anywhere in Paris is a treat, the architecture is so grand, the avenues so wide and light. The weather this week has been fantastic, warm and sunny – so Paris at its best. I have my favourite boulangerie and supermarché (where I could fill a bottle with orange juice, pressed from oranges while I watched – and excellent wine could be purchased for $10 or less. And the cheese! Say no more.).
On Monday afternoon I walked from the school up to the area of Montmartre where my family lived for a year when I was eight. I first learned French there, via brutal immersion, at a school where even the teacher declared me an imbecile because I could not speak a word when I arrived. The neighbourhood has changed quite a lot, but the house where we lived is still there, as is my old school. I went in and talked to the school secretary, hoping to speak with the directrice to see if she could find class records from my time there. I have written a memoir of that weird year – but cannot recall the surnames of my friends. The directrice was far too pressée to see me (some things never change) but I did get a peek into the old courtyard where we spent recesses. It has not changed at all!
The two schools could not be more different: the most recent one cosy and inviting, hidden on the first floor of an anonymous building; that elementary school cold and forbidding … although memory does tend to cast a golden glow over childhood years.