Friday, June 10, 2011

Looking Ahead

As my time here in Paris winds down, I feel this enormous mixture of sadness and relief. It feels as if I've been living at a very intense pace for the last three months, which is both exhilarating (hence the sadness) and exhausting (hence the relief). Let there be no misunderstanding -- except for that one week in the middle when I was sick, pretty much every waking minute here in Paris has felt like a gift. But when I was planning this whole adventure, I knew from previous experience that roughly 15 weeks away from home would be enough, and I was right. One more week and it will be time to go home. I love Paris, but I'm starting to miss San Francisco.

Things don't always unfold as you imagine they will. This is, of course, one of the great virtues of travelling. It stretches you in new, unanticipated, ways and rising to meet these new challenges is extraordinarily fulfilling. I've certainly felt that way on this trip. I've written before of the pleasure one experiences when doing even the most mundande things in a new country and a new language -- stuff as banal as getting one's laundry done, mailing a package at the post office, or finally having a relaxed, fluid conversation with the secretaries at school can be remarkably satisfying. Then there's the fun of discovering a whole new city, and with it a different way of looking at the world. I could burble on enthusiastically like this for paragraphs, but I think I've made the point.

The biggest surprise for me during this trip was just how much French I've learned in a relatively short time. Before March 10th, the last time I had spoken any French at all was in (I think) 1993, when I visited Paris with my friend Steven. (The less said about that particular trip, the better; let's just say that we were boyfriends at the outset, by the time we got back to San Francisco, we were barely speaking. As I recall, there was a particularly horrible incident at the Eiffel tower... But I digress) Anyway, my initial language goal was to try to get to level B2 by the end of my 14 weeks here. But, as it turned out, that took probably only the first 4 weeks. My fear that Spanish would end up crossing my wires somehow and delay my progress was completely unfounded. The reverse was true -- having gone through the process of learning Spanish actually ended up being a tremendous advantage, in part because of the reasonably strong parallels between both languages, in part because I kind of knew what I should be looking out for this time around.

This is not something to complain about (because - hey - my French is now quite a bit better than I thought it would be), but it has forced me to reassess my plans. I had figured it would take two years to get to the same level in French as I did in Spanish, which would mean I wouldn't have to worry about how to spend my time for at least another year and a half. Now it seems as if I may have to adjust that timeline. Which, fortunately, is not a problem. Italy does seem like a very attractive option. And I obviously need to schedule some more time in Latin America, to keep my hand in in Spanish.

But that's really speculation about what might be on the horizon for next year. For the immediate future, I plan to spend July and August in San Francisco, then return to Paris in early September for about another 10 weeks. There is some question about the continuing availability of classes at my current level at school, so I will probably end up doing some combination of group classes, workshops and private lessons. One-on-one classes are horrendously expensive, but there are some workable combinations available (still pretty steep) that mix, for instance, daily morning group classes with 10 hours of private tuition weekly (to which I will, no doubt, add a couple of workshops, because I am a driven son-of-a-bitch).

Anyway, the gory details are unimportant. The main thing is that I have pretty much decided, within the last week, to come back in the autumn for another 10 weeks. I am working out a suitable course of study with the school, and have contacted the owner of the apartment about renting it again in September. Tentatively, things are looking good, and I hope to have the details ironed out before I leave on the 21st.

So there you have it. Whipping Cats will undergo a brief summer hiatus, but should be up and running again in the fall. Meanwhile, there's still another 3 weeks of excitement to report one, because, though I normally don't blog when I'm in SF (where the minutiae of my little life are exquisitely boring), there is that Ring Cycle looming on the horizon, which I'm sure you will all want to hear about.

But I was out earlier this evening, roaming around in search of new Space Invaders to photograph (I bagged another nine!), so I'm exhausted. Time for bed. I leave you with these two photos, taken earlier tonight:

It's been quite some time since Monsieur Depardieu looked like this.

Bad Boy Street
The French have the best street names!

1 comment:

  1. Channel surfing tonight, I caught an episode of House Hunters International set in Turin, which is so gorgeous that all my ideas of an industrial city dissipated and I could picture you there. But take your time w/ French!