Waking up at 1:30am and anxiously staring out my window is fun. Especially when neighbors begin to wake up so I can gawk at their lives, even more fun can be had when Tom and Julie arise to entertain me. I decided to make today’s goal: Observe the Locals. I also agreed with myself (when we had our last conversation) that I need a change of pace, so I moved to the top bunk. Much cozier, I was even able to nap there today.
To begin, I needed the perfect game plan which was nicely falling into place as Julie and Tom’s agenda involved me getting cross country skis and the groceries for the first time. Bien Sur (but of course), this provided me with the perfect opportunity to show off some of my French skills, take pictures of people’s faces to show the local emotion in my latest blog, and sport my high fashion long underwear while still trying to reassure some of these people that they are loved and accepted in this cruel world. As always, the joke is on us. Fortunately this time, I helped anonymously write the joke, so I was able to laugh at it with as much gusto as I do for my friend Stephanie’s canoe joke.
We drive up to the ski rental shop where they ask me all sorts of questions, including my shoe size and other things I really don’t know the answer to. Why couldn’t this just be simple like asking me the meaning of life, or about how to levitate your friends and family at parties? I don’t know what size shoe I wear! Nevertheless could I tell you whether or not I want gliding or skating skis. I just want skis. I think. Do I even want skis? Do I want to be in France? Do I want to dye my hair and get lip injections? Before the nervous break down commenced, I was fitted and ready with some bright red (I’m just assuming they’re all the rage) ski boots and Rossingnols. I instantly flash back to the same feeling of 14-year-old naivety. The ski shop folks apparently DIG the dumb, clueless Chalet Girl act because I got myself invited to a couple parties. So this is OK, I’m going to keep playing off this. Tom and Julie speed off, leaving me with euros and a looming grocery task, saying I can just ski down to the house, drop off the groceries and spend the rest of the day cross country-ing my brains out.
All is fine and well, throwing a few “Bonjours” here and a couple “Holas” there…until I walk into the Market. “U Marche”. I think that probably is translated to, “You march your English-speaking butt right out of here you red neck American.” I walk in and instantly lose track of myself; while searching for myself in aisle 5, I realize I’ve forgotten a shopping basket. In order to get one, you have to go BACK through this whatever-they-are-called-spinny thing that they have at subways and airports to keep people in when they’re in and out when they’re out. You know what I mean…THOSE things. So, I look anxiously across the spinny thing and realize, even with the 68 inches of arm (combined length) I possess, I can’t reach the baskets. The cashier reads the plea in my eyes and says something that sounded polite and kind while handing me a basket. “How friendly,” I think, and thank him.
I run around the store, throwing in things that look captivating and delicious and would mix nicely together: Tuna and jelly, Matzo balls and chicken gizzard, and of course, my personal favorite black beans and anchovies. “These people are going to just ADORE my cooking,” I reassure myself in a healthy, reassuring yourself, kind of way. I can hear it now, “Emily, nous vous adore.” Hopefully they will say it in English though because I had to translate that in my handy “How to Pretend You Speak French” guidebook.
I asked some lady at the meat counter for help, but I am pretty sure she hated my guts and wanted to stab my eyes out with one of the hams back there. Trust me, she would have found a way to use a ham as a stabbing weapon. I could see it in her eyes. “Please lady, just tell me where the herring is, I know HERRING is the same in every language, I just asked that Jamaican guy who was looking for herring too. I’m really a smart person, I can even spell antidisestablishmentarianism, which is a really big American word and I can even sorta explain what it means. Isn’t that wicked cool? Aren’t you impressed, lady?” I left her bloodthirsty gaze and ran off to feign an interest in baby diapers and cotton swabs. Speaking of cotton swabs, I do want to mention that the French have GREAT taste in toilet paper. Not that I tasted it, but it’s really soft and furthermore, when you change a roll it’s so easy. No annoying toilet paper holders, no springs attached.
Then, I decide if I buy anymore, I will not be able to ski down with it all on my back, so I check out. Imagine if we had the shopping stipulation in the states, “Never buy more than you can ski with”. The man at the counter and I share little interaction. He announces the price, which sounds fair, considering I couldn’t understand him, and I hand him a wad of cash which he recognizes as currency. We’re in business. Then, the fatal moment. Emily decides to speak. “Bon swa!” I belt out, as happily as a snowman with frostbite. Oops. That means “Goodnight” and it’s 12pm. What I meant was, “Goodnight TONIGHT, and tomorrow night, and…” Then my cheeks turn 50 shades of orange (I’ve been eating a lot of carrots) and I race out the door, through the never-can-you-leave-swingy-thingy before he can make fun of me, in front of me, with his friend.
The next tragic American girl doll moment has to do with my attempts to cross country ski with a back pack on. I probably should spare myself the humiliation of the details, especially because I would imagine that EVEN an American girl doll could do a better job. Suffice it to say…if you could literally TRIP, rather than just fall, on a pair of skis, I somehow figured out how to make it happen. I ended up looking super cool and carrying my skis down the roadway through the village, just a mere tree line away from the cross country trail. I’m going to give this another attempt when I don’t have the weight of a dozen anvils, and a dead muskrat on my back. Or if I ever master Sherpa Chic.
The day came to a perfect close with a solitary walk that made the high altitude seem like a really nice drug overdose. I followed my boots, which are tied to my heart, on a long hike through trails and neighborhoods, with many a successful “Bonjour”. I also had a nice talk with the caretaker who I taught how to use salt to melt the ice on the porch through sign language and interpretive dance. Why can’t everyone be open to such expressive communication? Maybe I will just stick to prolonged and uncomfortable staring, with occasional note-taking, in my attempts to people watch?