The Quickest Way to Break My Heart

I really don’t know what it is with me and not sleeping well this week. I must have woken up on the wrong side of the Seine (see what I did there, look at how clever I am) this morning… I couldn’t shake the sleepy feeling no matter how hard I tried. Madame was finishing up her breakfast when Sheila and I went out to have ours. The metro wasn’t too terribly packed today, not any more than a usual Thursday. I did see a mullet, though. There was a woman standing next to me on the train, and she had a mullet. I couldn’t believe my eyes. I’m not sure if it was the subject matter for our theatre class today (a giant lesson in the overall history of theatre) or what, but I could barely keep my eyes open. I knew most of what was talked about in class since I’d just taken both semesters of World Theatre at my college back home, but it was nice to get a refresher course… for what parts I heard, at least…

Rouge and Joan were waiting for me after I left the classroom. I needed to make copies of my scenic design plate and find male and female fashion forms online to print out, but Joan had received a text message from SFR that said her bill was around 57 euro when the contract she bought was supposed to only be for 10 euro. She wanted me to go with her in case she needed to chew one of the employees out since I (supposedly) speak better French than she does, and we’d get lunch after it was taken care of. I agreed to go with them after I printed out what I needed to print out, and after I’d made my copies. Laura (the secretary at Sweet Briar) was busy talking to Mme. Hersant, and all of the computers were taken, so it was taking me a while. Rouge was yelling at me to get my crap together (in French), and Mme. Grée walked by as she said it. When I mentioned there weren’t any computers available, Rouge yelled at me to get Joan’s computer out of her bag to print out my fashion forms, so I grumbled putain under my breath, which Mme. Grée heard, so she started laughing. She made the comment that if I was going to curse at all, she was glad I was doing it in French, so that lead me to tell her that I really didn’t curse at all until I met Rouge (and Joan agreed with me). Once I had everything printed, we headed out. Joan’s phone bill wasn’t incorrect, she’d made too many phone calls, and with her contract, her phone continues to work but charges her an arm and a leg. She didn’t need my help at all, but she definitely learned her lesson. We headed to Monop’ to get lunch. I picked up a small box of sushi for 2,50 euro, and ask I was walking through some of the random aisles, I noticed something familiar… they had a whole stock of gluten-free items, more than I’d seen in Carrefour or Simply Market, and a bit more variety than I’d even seen in the gluten-free boutique in Tours! The item that caught my eye were the mini-muffins that had apricots stuffed in the middle. I’d bought a bag back in Tours and had one for breakfast every morning (among other things, of course). They had strawberry, lemon, and even chocolate as other flavor options. Better yet, the bag was only 3,30 euro! Needless to say, I bought it. The three of us went back to Sweet Briar to eat, and I gave two of the mini-muffins to Rouge and Joan for them to try. There were nine in the bag, so I didn’t mind. I ended up eating four myself… Hey, I lost more weight than I meant to, I can “afford it…”

Up to Atelier d’Écriture I went. We continued our lesson on auxiliary verbs from Tuesday. We’d just started talking about the six verbes de mouvement that can also be used with avoir (sortir, (r)entrer, monter, descendre, passer, et retourner) and we needed to finish up our discussion on passer and retourner. The main thing you need to remember with passer is that when something is definite and concrete (you take it, or it passes by you), you’ll always use être with it, but if it’s something a little more abstract, namely time (le temps) you’re going to use avoir. Case and point, “ten years have passed…” dix ans ont passé Retourner isn’t quite as confusing when it comes to the choice of auxiliary verb. Use the trick we talked about a while back to determine if you have a direct object or not  (I’ll demonstrate it in a second), and that’ll tell you what auxiliary verb you need. Il retourne à la bibliothéque. Direct object? Nope. There’s an à between the verb and the object. In past tense, this sentence uses être and becomes Il est retourné à la bibliothéque. Il retourne le DVD. Direct object? Yes. There’s direct contact between the verb and the object. In past tense, you’d use avoir, and it becomes Il a retourné le DVD. Be careful… when you’re using retourner with direct objects, it doesn’t mean “to return/to give back” anymore. It means “to flip over.” The verb you’re looking for in the sense of “to give something back” is rendre quelque chose. The next thing we went over was subject-verb agreement with each auxiliary verb. We started with avoir. If you think you never have any subject-verb agreement with avoir you’re wrong. Don’t worry, I made this mistake too. I feel like I’d had this lesson ONCE before, and I forgot about it completely. Moving on… The rule you need to remember for avoir is that you don’t deal with any agreement at all unless you have a direct object, and it’s before your verb in the sentence. Let’s practice. Elle a mangé_ les gateaux. Agreement? Nope! Don’t put anything in the blank. Change the sentence and use a pronoun. Elle les a mangé_. Agreement? Yes! Why? Les is the direct object in this case, and it’s in front of the verb, so you should tack an “s” onto the end of mangé. Elle les a mangés. What about the next two? Il leur a téléphoné_. Il les a invité_. Recall our trick for figuring out if these verbs require a direct object from this lesson. We now know that the leur in the first sentence is an indirect object, and the les in the second sentence is a direct object. That being said, the first sentence is fine as is (so it doesn’t require any agreement), but the second sentence needs to have an “s” added to the end of invité because it needs some agreement. There’s one exception to our new rule… Let’s revisit that first sentence (sort of). Elle a mangé_ des gateaux. This one still doesn’t need any agreement, but let’s use a pronoun… and because it’s des gateaux instead of les gateaux, you need to use the pronoun en instead of les. Elle en a mangé_. So do we need to say mangés instead of mangé here? Nope. When you’re using en, you don’t need to do any fancy subject-verb agreement. We moved onto être after this, and we started with pronominal verbs. For the sake of the lesson here, I’ll start with the verbes de mouvement. When you were taught that every time you’re using être, you need to make sure you get your subject-verb agreement correct, this is what your professor was talking about. Il est parti_. Ils sont restés. Elle est venue. Elles sont sorties. Now I’ll move onto the pronominal verb part of the lesson we had today… Mme. Mellado wrote two sentences up on the board: Ils se sont recontré_. Ils se sont parlé_. She then asked us one by one if we thought one (if so, which), both, or neither of the sentences needed agreement. I answered yes for both, as did most people in the class. Madame smiled when all of us had replied, and filled in her blanks to make the sentences look like this: Ils se sont rencontrés. Ils se sont parlé_. That, Dear Readers, is the quickest way to break my heart. Take something I thought I knew like the back of my hand, tell me I’m wrong, and prove it. Everything (forgive the theatrics, but that is my other major after all) I thought I knew about French… gone… in the blink of an eye, in the cruel, cruel grating scrape of a piece of chalk across a chalkboard. I was stunned to the point of complete silence, which is a tall order if I do say so myself. One of my classmates was able to utter “…cette salade…” (French expression for “what in the world”) to express his disbelief. Madame explained… with pronominal verbs, you use the same rules we just went over with avoir: you only have to deal with subject verb agreement when you have a direct object, and when that direct object is in front of your verb. For both of these sentences, se acts as the object. For the first sentence, it’s direct, but it’s indirect for the second. How do you know? You use the trick from that really old lesson I linked to earlier in this post. I felt a little better after we did this bit… I wasn’t the only one who’d fallen into the trap and been led astray for six years of my life. Mme. Mellado said that there are some native French speakers that’ll make that mistake. It’s one thing to make that mistake when you’re a foreigner, it’s another when you’re a native speaker and you have no excuse. We moved onto the next set of pronominal verbs: the reflexive ones. Try these: Elle s’est lavé_. Elle s’est lavé_ les cheveux. In the first sentence, se is your direct object, so you tack an “e” onto the end of lavé. In the second, se is an indirect object, and les cheveux is your direct object. Since your direct object is after your verb, you don’t need to add anything onto the end of lavé.

I left class a little crestfallen, but reaffirmed in my newfound knowledge of my second language. I had a new text message from Mme. De Lapisse (host mom). She’d gone to her doctor this morning and taken that empty bottle of my prescription with her, and said she’d obtained a prescription for me! I thanked her and said I’d pay her back for the medication. After a few messages back and forth on my way home, we managed to figure out that I needed her to pick up two boxes of 28 pills to last me until I go home (I take a bizarre dose), and it’ll cost me 52 euro. She’s going to pick it up tomorrow. I’ve hit my health insurance deductible back home, and I’m pretty sure I pay less than $15 a month for the same medication now, so this is a little upsetting, more so when you add the fact that the only reason I had to get the medication here in the first place is because my insurance refused to give me four months of it since my neurologist changed my dosage right before I left. We had pork with a cream sauce, potatoes, and lima beans for dinner. All of my medication issues prompted an interesting dinner table conversation… Madame had gone and looked up what that medication is usually prescribed for (partly because she knew her doctor would ask). The prescription at the center of all of my problems is Topamax (Topiramate). It’s an anti-epileptic drug, but it’s been approved by the FDA to be used as a migraine preventative, which is why I’m on it. She asked if I had epilepsy, I said no, and that I was taking it to prevent migraines, that’s when she admitted looking up the drug and discovering what it’s main use was. She told me I can’t be on the drug when I’m pregnant (definitely not going to be a problem anytime soon). I explained that I’d been on the drug for a while, but we’d discovered my blood disorder after I’d started the Topamax, and my blood disorder can cause my headaches. Since Topamax has a lot of side effects, I mentioned that I wanted to talk to my neurologist when I go home and stop taking the medication since I’m being treated for the blood disorder, and that may be enough to stop the headaches. That’s when she started asking about the health system in America, like how much it usually costs me to go see the doctor, to go get my medications, things like that. I explained that the health insurance we have now has a set amount that we have to pay by ourselves, and once we reach that amount, they pay for almost everything. If I go to the doctor in January, I pay a decent amount, but by May, it’s free. She knew that Obama had done something to make the health system better, so she asked how that worked. I explained that in my case, before Obama, some health insurance companies could look at me (someone who has pre-existing conditions) and say, “you’re too sick, we don’t want to give you insurance” or they could look at my history (conditions involving blood and the gastro-instestinal system) and say “we’ll cover everything but these systems” so if I break my leg, I’m covered, but if I have a stomach problem, I have to pay for it all myself. With what Obama’s done, those companies have to give me insurance. Madame had assumed my Celiac Disease was all that was wrong with my GI system, so that resulted in me trying to explain the car accident I was in when I was 12 completely in French. I have no idea how that ended up being more difficult to explain than the American health insurance system, but it was… Sheila doesn’t have to take anything daily, nor has she broken anything. Madame broke her elbow when she was 10, and she’s only taking one medication regularly. I’m almost 21, I have to take two medications regularly, I’ve had three major surgeries, I’ve broken a bone, I have two “incurable” conditions and three allergies. I think I got the shortest straw ever manufactured… certainly the shortest straw at that table… According to Sheila (who hadn’t talked to me much about things like this in English at all), she understood everything I was trying to say, so I think Madame must have understood the gist of it… all I know is that I’m cursing myself for not having brushed up on all of my medical French before coming here… I should have known this conversation was going to happen at some point…

Sheila and I should be having an interesting weekend. Kyle is going off to Nice to visit Charlotte, Joan is going off to Milan, and Beaujolais Nouveau just came out. We’ll have to see what all we do… I’m hoping a lot of cultural stuff is on the list!

Il est doux de périr après ses ennemis. Corneille: Rodogune

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