THE WINE TASTING… and the rest of Day two

I finally managed to sleep through the night, and I know what my alarm sounds like now… Even an hour is plenty of time for me to get ready in the morning, despite having a lot of trouble trying to put my hair in a bun multiple times… I noticed that I’ve managed to misplace my sunglasses and the case, which is definitely a little worry some, but not nearly as much as having the case and not the sunglasses. I remember putting my sunglasses “down my shirt” when I hit the buzzer to have Madame let me into the building, and since I set my bag down when I got into the house instead of putting it in my room, I think that’s where things got a little odd. Madame had picked on me about my sunglasses before (they’re Juicy, so I have a giant hot pink case), saying that I have such a large bag because my sunglasses’ case is so big. I told her that I couldn’t find the sunglasses or the case, and she said today was a good day to misplace it since it’s going to be cloudy. I told her I was sure the sunglasses were in the house somewhere, and I’d looked all through my room and through my bag a few times, but they had to be in the house because I remember putting them in my shirt before I came in the building. Madame said she’d look around the house, and ask the manager of the building if anyone had found the glasses and the case, since they’re so distinct. It’s a bummer, since they’re brand name (though I got them on a super sale), but more so since they’re the only sunglasses I brought.

It took me about 40 minutes to leisurely walk to l’Institut this morning, in some sideways misty rain. To anyone who knows how much I hate rain, I hope you’re proud of me for not pulling out my umbrella on the entire walk to school. Using as a shield doesn’t really work. Again, it was only misting, and my hair was on lock. I did okay. I hung out in the WiFi zone for a while, checking email and sending some off, and since yesterday’s blog post was really easy, I was able to upload it right away instead of adding all kind of pictures which took me a couple hours.
The first part of today’s writing/language class was absolutely terrible. We went over the subjunctive tense (obligations), which I’d managed to forget a bit. Even the French don’t use the subjunctive all that much! When I say I have to do something, I use devoir and another infinitive after, and that works just fine (meaning Madame doesn’t correct me afterward). Here’s an example:
“Je suis mal à la tête; je dois prendre une aspirine.
“I have a headache; I have to take an aspirin.”
You can definitely do the same phrase with the proper subjunctive conjugation, which looks like this in French:
“Je suis mal à la tête; il faut que je prenne une aspirine.”
But the translation of that looks like this: I have a headache, it is necessary that I take an aspirin. It obviously sounds a lot more canned. Maybe it sounds worse in English than it does in French, but needless to say, I don’t like using the subjunctive, and I’ve never been explicitly told to use it instead of using my preferred method of devoir + infinitif. That method wasn’t talked about in today’s lesson, of course. I was doing fine with the written exercises, and when we went over them, Fabian called on me, and I got my answer correct, even with the pronunciation. After the exercises, everything went to hell for me. Fabian said (in French) “Say I smoke, and I want to quit. Give me advice. Claire, what should I do?” This is really hard for me. I obviously know I have to say “Il faut que vous…” and something after that, but actually coming up with legitimate advice for him is another thing in itself, because I don’t know many people that smoke, nor do I know people that smoke and want to quit. So I try to say “talk to friends about it” and I got stuck. The verb for “talk” is parler and the proper conjugation for that in this sense is parliez, but I said parleriez which was the conditional tense at first, and from that point on, it was like my “le” and my “r” were glued together and I could get them apart, so I kept stuttering! The word vomit that came out of my mouth was something like this:
“Euh… il faut que vous… vous parleriez… non. Il faut que vous parleriez! NON! Il faut que vous parl…er… NON. Merde. Je ne peut pas! UGH. Il faut que vous parleriez avec vos amis concernant le fumer…
For the heck of it, here’s a rough translation: “Um, it’s necessary to… should talk to… no. It’s necessary to should talk to! NO! It’s necessary to talk… should talk… NO. Crap. I can’t! UGH. It’s necessary to should talk to your friends about your smoking…” I absolutely failed. Miserably. For someone who rarely fails… I was near tears the entire time. I’ve been trying to forget this all day, so I’m near tears again recalling it. Fabian was impressed with how well I could get a thought across yesterday, so the look on his face today was “I know you can speak so much better than this, what’s happening?” and I’m just upset that I failed him, and more importantly, I failed myself. I’m sure my classmates think I’m a complete idiot, but frankly, I don’t care what they think. It only got worse from there… The next time Fabian called on me, it was to ask for my advice on how to get someone to stop drinking, which is another hard topic for me because I don’t drink, which is why I don’t know how to properly conjugate the verb boire AT ALL. So I stuttered again until he gave me the word (for the record, it was boives, and I knew it, but the last time we used it in class was with the vous form, which is spelled buviez and that threw me off), and I suggested that the classmate could drink tea instead of drinks with alcohol, to which she snarkily replied that she didn’t like tea, so that wouldn’t work for her. Tant pis…
We had a break after that, and I talked with Joan (Rouge’s roommate) who thinks she belongs in a lower château (I don’t think so) about how upset I was. She told me not to be, because everyone makes mistakes. I’ve NEVER spoken French this poorly in my entire academic career. EVER. I’m a little over-tired, and I mentioned that, so Joan told me that if anyone jerk asked me why I did so poorly in class today, I should just tell them that I’m hung over, which is hilarious, because I don’t drink (except for wine, and that’s only here), but I decided that I’d do it (of course, no one asked). Krystal came over a little while later, and said she knows I speak better French than that, and not to worry, because I always make marvelous come backs. For those of you think think I’m too perfect to be true, there you have it, I’ve got my faults…
Thankfully, the second part of Fabian’s class was much easier. We had a worksheet filled with expressions that the French use on a daily basis, things like salut (informal hello) and bof (use this when two things are presented to you, and you don’t care for one over the other) and je suis crevé (use this when you’re really tired, it means “I’m dead tired”) among many others. Out of the 23 that were on the sheet, I got 16 right on the first try, which we learned is a stellar grade in the French system yesterday (though not so great in the American system). That made me feel a little better. The second worksheet brought me right back down to my subjunctive level of despair (this is when I’m supposed to use the expression j’ai le cafard which means I’m depressed). This one gives us a sentence in French with a verb in parenthesis and a word bank with other verbs. We’re supposed to find a synonym for the verbs in the parenthesis in the bank, and I haven’t heard of most of them… Rouge suggested a Larousse French-French dictionary/thesaurus app for my iPod to use to complete the sheet. All of Fabian’s homework (so far) isn’t necessary, but I’m going to do it, since I definitely think I need the practice after today… Dear lord…
I had my meeting with Mme. Parnet for the Paris housing situation after this. I explained that I kind of made some mistakes with my original set of paperwork, and that I really wanted to live with a family, so she changed my preference (whew). She said there were a few families with two open rooms, and that I might be able to live with another Sweet Briar student, and asked if that would interest me. I said it would, since I like being with other people (more people to practice my French with). She asked if I had a preference for who, and I said I’d definitely like to be with other students from my usual college (since I know them), or another student going to Paris III. Mme. Parnet mentioned that there’s another girl who’s also gluten-intolerant, so it might be easy to put us both in the same family! I said that’d be a good idea. She went over my information sheet about things I like to do, and asked if I’d brought my ukulele with me. I said no. She asked what a didgeridoo was, that was hard to explain in French. She’d never heard of photobombing before she met me, but I opened her eyes to a whole new world! I also told her about my insurance mix up, and she made a note that I’d need to see a doctor in Paris to get a new ordonnance (prescription) and since it’s only another month’s worth of medication, that’ll be easy.
Because of the meeting, I was a few minutes late for my oral expression class. We talked about stereotypes today, but it ended up being a lot about things that we thought were bizarre about France. I told my espresso story, and I found out that when I talk about Madame, I’m supposed to say “ma dame” to someone else. I think ma dame is derived from ma dame (ou la dame) de ma chambre/maison which means “the woman/mom/caretaker of my room/household, so it makes sense. It took me a while to understand how Mme. Geai was trying to correct me, but I figured it out after talking to friends. We also talked about the health care systems in France and America a little bit. I can’t remember tomorrow’s topic…
We tried finding the restaurant in the school that Madame had told me about, but no luck. We ended up going back to Carrefour to split another lunch, and when we got back to the school, we ate in the cafeteria. The usual group has been joined by Suzannah, a girl from Georgia (originally Texas). She’s the only one from her school at Sweet Briar, so we took her in, and now she has people! We talked about a lot of things for a very long time, then eventually moved to the WiFi zone so I could do some work, and we talked a lot about Grey’s Anatomy
Now for the moment everyone’s been waiting for… How I did at the WINE (and cheese) TASTING! …yes I took notes… yes I can read them…
I was a little nervous for this. I’d had some strong coffee from a vending machine at the cafeteria, and it had made me a little sick to my stomach… Anyway!
First wine: White from Bourgogne paired with Sainte Maure de Touraine cheese (goat). It was a little on the yellow side, and with all the tricks I learned, I figured it out that it was a young white wine, and on the drier side (white will be dry or sweet, reds will be light or strong), but it went down nice and smooth. I definitely liked it! During the tasting, we were never given specific brands of wines, just the regions. The cheese is the special cheese of this area.
Second wine: Red from Beaujolais paired with Cantal cheese (cow). This one ended up being my favorite wine! It was more of a purple-pink in color, which meant it was a younger wine (for whites, a younger wine is yellow, an older one is gold, and for reds, a purple wine is young, and the redder or more orange a wine is, the older it is). This particular wine was from 2006. It was lighter and sweeter in flavor, which I liked.
Third wine: Red from Chinon paired with Reblochon cheese (cow). This one was one of my bottom two wines, maybe my least favorite, which is unfortunate because it comes from the Loire Valley. It was from 2010, and was also a purple color. I didn’t really note any particular flavors with any other wine, but this one tasted kind of salty (which was actually nice) but it had an odd almost dirty (or dirt-like) flavor to it. It wasn’t necessarily a bad flavor, it was just different.
Fourth wine: Red from Cahors (Limousin) paired with Ossau-iraty cheese with confiture cerise noir (black cherry jam) (sheep). This one was my second favorite wine, and my favorite cheese. The combination with the jam was genius. As you go further down the list of these wines, they get stronger and stronger (and as the reds go, more red and less purple).
Fifth wine: Red from Bordeaux paired with Camembert De Normandie (the real deal, accept no substitutions). Bordeaux is way too strong for my taste, so it landed in my bottom two wines. It’s an older wine, so it’s very red, and not purple like the others. When you taste an older wine, it’s important that you swish it around your mouth, and the tannins in the wine will make the gums in the front of your mouth tingle.
That’s the important stuff… As soon as I had the first bit of cheese and wine, my stomach ache went away. The servings of wine we had were maybe 2.5-3 ounces a piece (per wine), so not too much. The sommelier told us that it was okay to give our “leftover” wine to our neighbors if we didn’t like one of the selections, or if we were getting a little tipsy. To call a girl tipsy, you say pompette. I got a little worried when I was halfway through my glass of the third wine (about 45 minutes had passed since I’d finished the white wine, and I had all of my second), and I was feeling a little tipsy. Sandra was sitting next to me, so I turned to her and said “I think I’m feeling it” which is almost expected with me, since I don’t drink at all, and this is obviously more than my usual lunch or dinner serving. She laughed. I gave her the rest of my third glass “just to be safe”. More of the tipsy feeling set in, and when the sommelier was serving the fourth wine, the cheese was being passed around, and someone down the table from me had asked for it. I got a little flustered, handed Sandra the cheese, and told her to “pass the frommage.” NOT “pass the fromage.” I actually said “frommage,” as anglicized as you can possibly imagine it, which never happens with me. Mind you, Sandra, Rouge, and myself are already decently red-faced (Sandra swears it’s just because the room was warm) from the alcohol, so we completely lost it (because if anyone was going to screw something up, we knew it was going to be me). Sandra cries whenever she laughs, so that made me laugh harder. The sommelier walked past us, stopped, pointed at each one of us and said “pompette” to the entire room as an announcement with every point (in part to embarrass us, in part as a joke, he’d done it to one other girl already). By the time we got ourselves under control, I told Sandra to calm down by saying “Tranquille, Émile!” at another inopportune moment when the sommelier passed by us again, and picked on not only me for saying the phrase, but on Sandra for being called it, so we started laughing again. Then every time he passed us, he’d say it, and we’d burst into laughter. We couldn’t win… There were a couple of girls across the room who were also drunk that were picking on us for being just as drunk as they were (but they were acting sober). Excuse us for at least being fun drunks, and sorry we’re not sorry. At the end of the tasting, the sommelier went to people who were taking notes and let them choose their favorite wine, then he handed them the bottle so they could have more. I took the most notes, but he ignored me. I was kind of offended, but in reality, I knew I’d had enough, and I would have politely said I didn’t want anymore wine anyway…
I walked home after the wine tasting, and I sobered up just fine on the way. It wasn’t all that much wine, after all, and I had food with it. I found my sunglasses (and the case) under the chair I sit in with my computer, so that’s a good thing (it’s supposed to be sunny tomorrow, so I’ll need them). Dinner involved a nice tomato and mozzarella salad for entrée, (sisters please forgive me) lamb and potatoes for plat principal, some new cheese (including Roquefort), and a nectarine for dessert. I told Madame and Anna all about my problems with subjunctive, and Madame said it’s still necessary. While using the devoir + infinitif bit works, it’s definitely better to use subjunctive, though she couldn’t really explain why. I spent all of dinner working subjunctive into my speech, saying things like “in America, it’s necessary to eat lamb with mint jelly” and “it’s necessary to practice my subjunctive” which Madame thought was hilarious, but she praised me for doing it.
Tomorrow, I should have time to buy some stamps to send the postcards I’ve written so far. I think I filled them out incorrectly (I think need to put USA or ÉTATS UNIS on the fifth line after the Zip Code boxes, but I didn’t see that line until I bought a post card without the boxes, so I’d been writing the line before the boxes as “city, state, USA”), but I believe I can buy something akin to white out at Carrefour

Dis-moi ce que tu mange, je te dirai ce que tu es. –Brillat-Savarin.

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