Friday, February 26, 2016

Working out with the French

The french lessons continue and it's slowly, and I mean sloooooowly, seeping in. I still have this hope that I'll wake up one day and suddenly be able to converse in French. Obviously that's not going to happen, but I can still have dreams, right?

This week we had a field trip to the market in Cannes. Not the grocery store, the real legit market with all the lovely produce, meats, flowers, cheeses, etc. The class had a list of questions to ask of different vendors.  Luckily there were only four of us that day so we did it together. My lack of speaking confidence didn't help me with this but thankfully the vendors see classes come in all the time and were very very friendly. I do realize I need to go and try to speak to people all the time and not just walk around like a mute every day. I'll get there, but also as soon as most people hear my attempted french they just start speaking English :)

As a step to immerse myself with more French I decided to try some workout classes. Last week I went to a yoga class at a small studio where the instructor spoke both French and English. Language wasn’t really an issue here... it was more that it’s probably been about nine months since I’ve done yoga so just this light class left me pretty sore in those tiny little back muscles that I never use until doing a bit of downward dog and plank. I might be getting back into running shape but the rest of me apparently has a long way to go!

Following my yoga soreness recovery I was more bold this week and ventured to an actual gym with loads of classes to see how I'd fare. I'm in a bit of Barry's Bootcamp withdrawal and need something to kick my ass for an hour other than running. Also, even though running along the sea is beautiful and I can rock out to the Biebs (yep, don’t judge, I’m having a bit of a Bieber moment right now) with my headphones on it doesn’t force me to listen and follow along to spoken French.

I now know that post workout soreness has no language barriers! My abs are still killing me from my ‘tallie abdos fessiers’ class on Tuesday. An hour of abs and butt work was totally exhausting but at the same time absolutely great. It's rare to do something for an hour, never break a sweat, and be sore for days! In between movements during moments of rest I’d glance over at my friend Jen with a laugh and look of ‘holy shit this is hard’.

Did I have any clue what the guy was saying during the classes? Umm… not really. For now knowing 1, 2, 3, 4, left, right, breath in, and breath out, is getting me pretty far. I should probably learn the appropriate French words for arm, leg, and back since we haven’t gotten to that in school yet. At this point I try to be in the back or on the side of the class, watch the instructor closely, and look around and hope someone else in the class has more of a clue than me :) I don’t know that I’ll venture into any super fast paced classes requiring the use of steps or other serious equipment any time soon. I had enough trouble figuring out how on earth I was supposed to use the band and weights during the abs and butt class. After some fumbling I finally figured it out and dang that band made those Jane Fonda leg lifts really difficult!

As I would at any gym, especially a workout class setting, I’ve been taking mental inventory of all the other people. People watching is part of the French culture is it not? This gym seems to be pretty hopping around 4 or 4:30 in the afternoon but I have yet to see it much later. As for my workout class buddies, well... they definitely run the gamut. A fair number of older ladies, a few guys, and then the younger crowd. Wednesday's 3:30 stretching class was definitely me and the ladies of leisure crew. And I'm still struggling to get the image of the woman last night in her velour one piece jumpsuit out of my head. I just can't imagine how hot and uncomfortable that would have been for squats, abs, and leg lifts.

So next time you’re in a workout class scouting the scene, judging, taking mental note, and you see someone looking totally lost just think of me! He or she might not be totally uncoordinated, they just might not understand the language. Or better yet, they are indeed totally uncoordinated and to make matters worse don’t understand the instructor - that would be me in a Zumba class for sure!

C’est la vie! And as always... fake it til you make it!

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Lovin' the sea... and beginner French week 1

Given that it’s Valentine’s Day I thought it only appropriate to introduce you to my new love… the view from my apartment right out along the sea. Morning, noon, and night I’ve found myself just sitting, staring, and listening to the waves crashing across the street. I can even lay in bed and stare out. Not a bad way to wake up each day!

One of the draws to the south of France for me was the sea. I wanted to be able to run or walk along the water, check out the boats, watch the few brave winter swimmers, and the enjoy views up and down the coast. Having it right out my apartment window is even better. So yeah, I’m in love with the view. Things could be worse...

After a week of settling in, working off the jet lag, hanging out, having a ski day, and just some general wandering my French lessons started. Last Monday I was back to a routine and heading to school each morning at 9AM. Been a while since I’ve actually had to really be anywhere consistently, let alone paying attention, trying to learn, and then having homework. But so far so good. The routine is nice to have and it’s only three hours a day so I still have the afternoons and evenings to do whatever I please. I've got a few local things within Cannes, Nice, and some of the surrounding towns on my list to check out so I need to get cracking!

Sitting in the classroom it’s definitely like being back in 9th grade Spanish class and starting from the absolute beginning - and a few of the people in my class aren’t actually that much older than 9th graders! The week that I started must have also been the week that a semester abroad crew from various American universities began. So my six person class is me and mostly college students. There’s one other 30 year old girl, but she’s Russian and doesn’t really speak English. Luckily I do know one gal who’s in another class so we walk to and from school each day and have our mid-morning coffee break together.

I’ll be besties with the the college kids soon enough, they’re pretty entertaining. They’ve already informed me what pub has ladies night on Sunday and which has Karaoke Wednesday. Not sure I need to partake in any of that, but good to know where I’ll find all of the English speakers on various days of the week. The first day of class last week also happened to be the day after the Super Bowl which in France wasn’t on until midnight. Given the timing I decided that I’d pass on watching it - I caught the Lady Gaga national anthem and halftime show on YouTube later. However, two of the girls in my class definitely had a go at the game and arrived into the first day of class tired, hungover, and still sporting the giant florescent pen markings from the bar on their hands. Everyone in the class was quickly introduced to 'fatiguĂ©', the French word for tired, by our teacher and she now always asks if they’re tired or have headaches. Good start!

It’s going to take a while until I can hold any type of basic conversation and comprehend when people speak to me - it still tends to sound a lot like gibberish the first time I hear anything. But I will say even after week one I’m feeling a bit more confident even just on knowing how to pronounce things and I am a master at telling my name, where I’m from, and where I live. I know a few verb conjugations and if I could ever remember 13, 14, and 15 I’d be counting to 20. That’s not going to get me far, but hey I’ve got to begin somewhere. I do feel that in just the few days of actually be in class with the teacher, despite her not really talking any English to us during the lessons, it makes much more sense to me than when I tried to use anything online.  

On my third day in class I did need to figure out how to tell the teacher that I was going to be out on the Friday. Already ditching in the first week, oops! Only knowing the word for Friday my ability to tell the teacher and then see if there was a way for me to make up the session or know what was covered was a bit limited. Once I said Vendredi though she figured out what I was attempting to send telepathically to her :) It was all sorted so we’ll see what progress the class made while I was out and what I missed.

I’ll do a bit of a refresher and review of my words, phrases, and conjugations this evening and be back at it tomorrow. I might even find some French cartoons to watch which will make me feel even more like a three year old than I already do learning my counting in class! If I can follow a cartoon that will be yet more progress. Dora the Explorer anyone?!? It's preschool hour over here :)

A full five days this week, we’ll see how that goes and hope for some interesting stories along the way.