Once upon a time …

First of all, allow me to apologize for the delay in writing something for you, but things have been in a state of flux since we officially became a French family a fews weeks ago. That little red family register has changed a lot of things for us, the most immediate of which is that now I don’t have to be a full-time student to stay in the country! Given that I was already feeling both overqualified and overwhelmed in my last academic pursuit, I decided to just drop out. In the long term, that means that my schedule will be much more conducive to holding down a full-time job. In the short term, it means my schedule will be much more conducive to pursuing all kinds of personal projects ranging from the mundane like writing for je parle américain, to the utterly useless like learning Irish Gaelic, to the extremely ambitious like … writing a novel.

Yes — writing a novel.
Now, I know that might sound like a pipe dream, and
I know that living in Paris hasn’t transformed me into Ernest Hemingway,
but bear with me for a moment. Continue reading Once upon a time …

Beautiful Ambiguity

© Paramount Television

One of the most charming things about French family life is the way one expresses both the “step” and “in-law” relationships. In English, we use the prefix “step” to denote that a relationship has been created by the marriage or coupling of a new, non-biologically-related person with one’s parent. For example, your stepfather is the man who marries or co-habits with your mother after the end of her relationship with your father. Stepbrothers and stepsisters are pre-existing children that come into the family because of this new couple. Think of The Brady Bunch: Mike was Marcia, Jan, and Cindy’s stepfather; Carol was Greg, Peter, and Bobby’s stepmother; the girls were the boys’ stepsisters; and the boys were the girls’ stepbrothers. Conceivably, one could extend the prefix to other family members, as well. We use the suffix “-in-law,” however, to describe the relatives of one’s spouse. For example, your father-in-law is the father of your husband, and your sister-in-law is his sister. Again, one could use the suffix for extended family members as well.

Fairly clear and straightforward, right?

For an anglophone, though, the French way of describing these relationships can seem quite confusing. Continue reading Beautiful Ambiguity

En famille

© 2011 Samuel Michael Bell, all rights reserved

It’s been a week since my last post, and I apologize for the delay in posting something new. It’s been a very hectic and discombobu-lating 7 days.

Right after my last post, we traveled from balmy and sunny South Carolina to cold and drizzly Washington, D.C., to visit friends and ready my apartment there for a tenant. Being face-to-face with my good friends after such a long separation was like a homecoming for me. These little visits (my second one to Washington since leaving last August) remind me of how much I miss that city and the life I built there: my apartment, my church, my circle of friends … but being there this time with Michel also reminded me that my home is wherever I’m with him, whether that’s in Washington, in South Carolina, or in La Courneuve.

Continue reading En famille

The Saturation Point … or Drunk Bees

I don’t speak French fluently—not by any stretch of the imagination—but I have spent two semesters in intensive French courses. I graduated from the niveau supérieur in May with a pretty good grade (if I do say so myself), and my French family has even noted how much progress I’ve made in recent months.  Just this weekend, one of my sisters-in-law remarked how much better I now comprehend naturally-spoken French … something about how they don’t have to slow down and talk to me at half-speed anymore.

Nevertheless, if you’ve ever lived abroad while being “short of fluent” in the host country’s language, you know how exhausting it is to be immersed in that language non-stop. The point comes when you just can’t process it anymore. You space out, the words just become background noise, and your brain takes off to another place where everything’s in English. I call it the saturation point, and it happened to me this weekend.

Continue reading The Saturation Point … or Drunk Bees