Friday, 1 April 2011

A lighter shade of green

We drove through the countryside before dawn, the three of us; me, Claire who was doing the driving and Michelle. It was an early start at 7pm as we set off to attend a day-long seminar at the Institut Universite Technologie at Mantes-la-Jolie. We were providing some information on courses there at a display stand.

I greatly enjoyed the trip through the forests, wide countryside, the beautifully maintained stone villages in picture-perfect condition in that neck of the woods. There was a comical scarecrow in a ploughed field, fields of lucerne just beginning to flower. We passed by the Chateau de Thoiry. Aside from the castle on the site there is a zoo, gardens and an African Safari (photos from the internet).

Everywhere there were trees sprinkled with fresh light green, backyards with blossom trees ablaze in colour. What natural beauty. In NZ there are so many evergreens the effect of Spring's arrival is somewhat muted but here, in France, it is displayed with a fanfare of delicacy and colour.

The seminar was challenging. Maybe I knew a few more words but I still miss what I need to make sense of the speeches. 7.5 hours of sitting on a hard wooden seat in a lecture room listening to french about ecological economics and sustainable development.

Had it been in English I would have learned something though I know a fair bit having worked for Waitakere City Council, NZ's eco city before it was demolished by politics. But that's the thing. No-one knows how much I know because I can't display my knowledge in French. This rather undersells me but there's nothing I can do about that. I need a few years here, at least but I'm trying hard. I may have to go to bed with lists of vocabulary or a dictionary to speed things up because listening to something I don't recognise or understand doesn't teach me the language.

Yes, I recognise many more words than I use myself because a lot of words are not yet indelible in my brain, however a few words stick each day. The colloquial phrases take longer. It's surprising how many nouns of people and places are included in everyday language and if you've never read or heard those words you'd never know what they were- they sound like any part of speech. However, once you know a few place names, politicians names and key issues here things get a bit easier. The important thing is to read and listen widely via books, magazines and TV. That's the way I start to recognise such words because no one's around to teach me.

It's been a long day so I'm going to have an early night. Jean-Claude is picking me up tomorrow morning and we'll do our grocery shopping together (helps me) and my clothes washing at his place (a big help with bed linen). Then he wants to play it by ear. He doesn't seem to like being organised which is a bit frustrating for me as I like to know what's ahead, to be prepared, and he likes to chill out whereas I like to do things. Guess it's another lesson on living in the now.

Photos of Mantes-la-jolie on the river and the Chateau Thoiry.


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