Category Archives: Ooh Là Là!

Easter’s coming.

One of my professors just suffered the loss of a dear friend, right here before Easter. The next time our class met she told us about it, and even in the middle of that pain, she repeated, “Easter’s coming. There’s sadness now, but Easter’s coming.”

I think that’s one of the reasons the gospel of John calls Jesus “the Light.” John 1:5 says, “The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness can never extinguish it.” We who have Jesus aren’t limited to the dark scope of our pain; we have the Light to see past it into the future. Easter’s coming. Regardless of how deep the darkness of our pain can be – and most of us have known profoundly dark pain – it can’t extinguish the Light, who is our hope. We can see more than the hearts not lit up yet. It may be in the distance, but we can see it: Easter’s coming.

As we know from John 1, Jesus is more than the Light; he’s also the Word. Because John 1 is so familiar to me, I decided to read it tonight from my French Bible. It’s absolutely beautiful: La Bible en français courant calls Jesus the Parole. As is the case with most French words, this is a great one. Parole does mean “word,” as we’re used to in John 1:1, but it also means “promise,” as in, “I give you my word [parole].” So in John 1, Jesus is our promise that Easter’s coming. He’s our promise that we never have to live without the Light. He’s our promise that “God’s got it,” as my hero Anne Lamott says, no matter how big “it” is. He’s our promise that it will all be okay in the end – the paroles of Revelation confirm it.

But parole has another meaning in French. It’s tucked away in English too. If I ask whether you know “the words” of a song, you know I’m referring to the lyrics. Same in French. If Jesus is the Parole, he is our promise, but he’s also our lyrics. And his song doesn’t end with heartbreak, so ours won’t either. His lyrics are the substance of that crazy hope lodged so far in our hearts that the worst pain we’ve ever known hasn’t extinguished it. He’s the reason we believe that the song isn’t over, even though some of the verses feel interminable. He’s our lyrics, our music, our joy.

I’ve known pain in the last eight years. But Jesus is my Light, so I can see past the mess to the hope that lies beyond it. Jesus is my Promise that it isn’t over until he comes back for me. Jesus is my Song that keeps my heart vibrant. And in fact, I wouldn’t trade the pain because it’s shown me where my idols were. As I dealt with years of infertility, I realized I had made an idol of the motherhood dream. I wanted a son or daughter more than I wanted to learn how to serve the Lord without children. As I dealt with a failing marriage, I realized I had made an idol of wifehood, wanting to be in a romance with a man more than with my Savior. No epiphany minimizes the pain of infertility or divorce or anything else, of course, but it can remind me to keep in check where my worship is going and whether I’m trusting my Promise and my Light to guide me. Jesus is the Promise that even the pain has meaning, and it won’t last forever.

However heavy your pain might be, you have a Light. You have a Promise. You have a Song. And I can promise: Easter’s coming.

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The Best French Word

My favorite French verb is tituber, which means “to stagger; to stumble.” The first time I read it was in the poem “A la princesse” by Cameroonian poet Patrice Kayo. The speaker tells his beloved they will tituber hand in hand, toward the horizon. It’s forward progression, however halting and unsteady. It’s hope. Tituber is how I journeyed through addiction.

One of my ongoing questions to Dr. Morgan was, “Where does my addiction come from?” It confounded and angered me that I had such an impossible relationship with food; no one else seemed to. At meetings, get-togethers, and anywhere else social eating was on the agenda, it appeared that people could eat without gorging. If a table of snacks was set out at a party, for example, everyone else seemed able to take some and stop. They didn’t return for a binge when the other guests had migrated to another room. Why did I? Dr. Morgan quickly identified the shame I felt when I compared myself to others, but I was slower to recognize it. He asked me a few questions in my second session about what I saw when I evaluated my perspective of others’ food habits.

“It seems like everyone else makes a conscious decision whether to eat,” I shrugged. “I don’t feel like I have the choice. I don’t make any decisions. I just eat what and when my mind tells me.” After reflecting for a moment, I went on: “In fact, I don’t think I’ve felt actual hunger in months. I eat too often to feel it.” I winced and looked at my counselor. “I’m crazy, yes?”

He chuckled almost paternally. “I don’t use the word ‘crazy,’” he said, lifting an eyebrow and shaking his head.

As I continued to talk, sometimes answering his questions and sometimes my own, I realized two things. First, I was losing every time I compared myself to others. I saw the majority as “healthy,” in contrast to an unhealthy me. The world was well; I was sick. Here’s the truth: not only was that impossible if I believed that “all have sinned and fallen short,” but it’s also ludicrous. You can’t walk through life without being wounded, and hurt does funny things to all of us. For some it creates feelings of unworthiness, for others it instills the expectation of abandonment, for others it’s rejection, and so on. But hurt people don’t escape unscathed. So if we are all hurt from time to time and mistake-prone by nature, some unhealthiness would have to be in all of us. And perhaps the more wounded we are, the likelier we are to develop unhealthy habits. Instead of being the one sick case, I was normal, even by my own logic.

The second thing I noticed was more practical. My addictive behavior was always in done secret. I was willing to go to whatever lengths were necessary – rearranging my schedule, “stretching” the truth, stopping before returning home to get rid of evidence, whatever – to hide my binges. They were more powerful than I was; the draw of the next private binge was practically running my life.

So when Dr. Morgan asked what one thing I could change starting that day, one thing that would get me a step closer to health, I said, “Well, if I do all the ‘bad stuff’ when I am alone, then I would be healthier if I always ate around other people.” And as soon as I said it, I shook my head, telling myself all the reasons that wouldn’t work. I rarely ate in front of others because I believed they would see my shame. I believed I couldn’t eat like everyone else, couldn’t follow all the unwritten rules that they all innately followed.

The rest of the day after I left Dr. Morgan’s office, I thought about not eating alone anymore – no drive-thrus, no picking up something while my then-husband was at work, no gas station snacks while driving home to see my family and friends. That was my way of life, and the thought of abandoning it was painful and impossible. I came up with endless reasons why I simply couldn’t do it.

But the short version is…I did. Even if I felt like I couldn’t make a decision about what or when to eat, I found myself able to decide where. I started getting to school earlier than necessary so I could take my lunch to the graduate assistants’ office. If I didn’t want to eat in front of people who knew me but still didn’t want to break my promise to myself, then I ate out in the open on the school grounds. I asked my friend E to have lunch with me often so I could enjoy her company and unwitting accountability. I fought fiercely against the voice that said, “It doesn’t matter where you go or who you’re with, you’re still sick. Still fat. Still different from everyone else. People don’t change; it’s who you are.” That voice blared, and some days it still does. Nor did changing the location of my meals have any bearing on what I was eating: I persisted in destructive choices. But I persevered with all the ferocity I could manage, and every single meal that week and the next, I ate in front of at least one other person.

By the next time I spoke with K, the friend I first confessed to, I was mentally exhausted from acting against a huge part of my natural instincts, but my brain had just enough space to feel in-control again. I had taken back just enough ground to muster some self-trust. I wasn’t healed in one week, but I had taken back some ground. If I couldn’t run or even walk toward healing, I could certainly tituber my way there. The healthy, redeemed me that I would one day grow into had gotten her first breath of life.

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Hospitality

When people find out I’m a French teacher, most of them respond one of three ways: 1) “I could never teach high school,” 2) “Bonjour!” or 3) “Why?” In general, I’m sure people mean the third question benignly, but since humanities programs are slashed from universities like crazy of late, what I hear is, “Why the heck did you choose that?” In my French courses, in both college and grad school, the fact of being in a discipline that requires a constant fight for relevance was a frequent topic of discussion. It’s an increasingly prevalent opinion that students’ time would be better spent on science or math. So I tell my own students that the only reason our planet is of any consequence at all is that there are people on it. And the only way these people can get anything done is to communicate with each other. So since the brightest people in the world are not concentrated in one country, they speak different languages, and we have to learn them. That is the pragmatic argument anyway.

But that wasn’t compelling enough to 17-year-old Amie to make her choose French. I usually tell people that French chose me, in fact. It allowed me to major in reading, beauty, and travel — all selfish reasons, of course. But as I got further in, I discovered that learning another language isn’t about speaking so much as listening. Conversing with someone, when you think about it, is truly magical. Language, mere sounds your mouth makes or lines and dots scratched from the tip of your pencil, translates your feelings and thoughts into something others can understand. So the act of learning another’s language communicates, “Understanding you is important to me.”

If that hadn’t already hit home for me, it certainly did while I was in the hospital last week. One of my technicians was named Jacotte, a kind-hearted, lovely Haitian woman. On the second afternoon that she came in to check my vitals, she said, “You speak French.” Surprised, I said, “I do. How did you know?” She smiled. “The way you say my name. I said to myself, ‘Jacotte, that girl called me by my name. She speaks my language.’” From that point on, barely two words of English were exchanged between us. At one point Jacotte told me, “It feels so good to speak my language. I don’t get to do that much.” So Jacotte and I had a constant exchange of hospitality: she took care of me physically, and I let her relax into linguistic comfort for a few minutes each day. Following my surgery, Jacotte was the one who took me walking to keep my muscles in motion. She introduced me to everyone, saying, “This is my friend. This is mon amie.” And when my mom went to the desk to ask for Jacotte’s help, she said, “Yes, yes. Anything for mon amie.” I didn’t say anything special to this woman. I didn’t do anything extraordinary for her. But because she was able to communicate in her natural way, because I was willing to be at a linguistic disadvantage, Jacotte showed me every kindness she could.

I believe in studying math and science. I believe in studying organic chemistry and calculus and medicine and physics. But if we let go of language study—as many universities are now wont to do—vital lines of communication will be broken. International trust will be harder to win. Cultures will have trouble understanding one another. Why not study math and science alongside the way to communicate them? This way, we will continue to discover our friends, our amis.

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A Little Less Lonely

This was my philosophy of language teaching, written for my pedagogy class in Fall 2010 at the University of Virginia.

French markets are famous for vibrant displays of every imaginable alimentary substance. The best part, though, is the bread: French bread is sinfully delicious. And of all this delicious bread, one man in Lyon makes it better than anyone else. His chocolate chip loaves in particular are moist, buttery, slightly sweet—perfection itself. The first Sunday I was in Lyon, I stopped just to admire his wares, but his charm quickly converted me into a patron. Over the next four weeks, I stopped by his station weekly for a mouthwatering loaf and a bit of conversation. Despite the fact that our acquaintanceship lasted a mere month, and despite the fact that we never spoke longer than ten minutes, my eyes welled on my last visit to the market when he smiled with disappointment in his eyes and pronounced the final “adieu.” That moment demonstrates why I chose language education as my career. To connect to others, to form relationships, to break stereotypes—these are the most important human functions, the ones that make our time on the planet a little less lonely. All of them are possible only with language.

To this end, my classroom encourages genuine, respectful interaction; everyone’s voice is heard. Every class meeting begins with informal conversation: I greet students and ask what has occupied their time since I saw them last, what they are working on, and how their lives are going. Students eagerly respond to this invitation to share their lives with others. The relationships we form early on are of utmost importance to me personally and as a foundation for our language study. In no time, rapport builds to the point that students no longer hesitate to discuss their childhood, likes and dislikes, or hopes for the future. They learn to trust the other students and me with glimpses into their lives. However, rather than always talking about ourselves, I routinely ask students to adopt the perspectives of others, which simultaneously raises their affective awareness and vocabulary base. Regardless of the assignment, the goal in my classroom is the same: to foster real communication in as authentic a situation as possible for the students’ current linguistic level.

Even when presenting grammar and vocabulary for the first time, I try to take a learner-focused approach. Rather than give rules and immediately expect output, I ask students to look at or listen to authentic texts that feature the concept, and then we work together to construct and test hypotheses about the form. This way, my role can shift from lecturer to guide. In my experience, language students who are guided stay engaged; those who are inundated with new information quickly become overwhelmed or apathetic. A typical lesson in my classroom, then, follows the PACE method, allowing for extra support when the students seem to need it. The extension component of the lesson always consists of thoughtful communication with others while reinforcing the new linguistic form, often via “info gap” activities. This communication might be in written form or spoken, presentational or interactive, but the goal of all language, sharing information, is always at the forefront.

This belief about sharing information leads me to include as much authentic text as possible. Language classes are not about words: they are about speakers. Words alone do not make a language what it is; emotions, traditions, and people do. Consequently, to introduce my students to French is to introduce them to its speakers. We consider questions such as, “How do native speakers wield the words we learn in class? How do the words interact with the cultures in which they are born? How does the language reflect the voices that use it?” Of highest priority to me is that my students see the French language as a dynamic space in which life takes place. It is not merely a phenomenon occurring within our classroom. Authentic text helps students come to this realization. Music videos, film clips, news articles, photographs, theatre programs…these are all vital in my classroom. Not only do these instruments allow us to see the grammar and vocabulary in action, but they are also launching pads for culture discussions. The vast majority of students I have taught, regardless of age, are intrinsically motivated to discover new things about the cultures that share our world. By weaving cultural information with linguistic information, students begin to see the full picture of language and how it works in tandem with the people who speak it. Their comments in class mature from, “That’s so weird!” to “I can see why they do/believe that,” or even, “That makes sense.” As these new points of view are accepted, students’ interest in the language itself tends to increase, which makes the classroom experience a powerful one for all of us, myself included.

I hope to continue learning ways of maximizing the linguistic and cultural interests and abilities of my students, particularly as it relates to bringing down the affective filter. It is my firm belief that as the affective filter is dissolved, language learning skyrockets. When students are no longer intimidated by the language itself or by the teacher, they engage more voluntarily with the material. And as they become more comfortable with the others in the classroom, they find it easier to use the language to discover each other. In the future, I want to work with others to research and develop classroom materials and practices that encourage the affective filter to dissolve as much as possible. The more positive associations a student has with the language, the more likely she will be to study the language in depth. What can teachers be doing to reach and appreciate their students as individuals, rather than viewing the entire class as a single entity? What types of activities work to quickly dissipate the natural reservations students bring to the subject? How can teachers build motivation and creativity within the short space of a class period? These questions fascinate me: I am eager to learn more about how students learn so that I can become a better teacher and servant for them.

I have benefited through the years from excellent instructors from whom I learned the value of a teacher’s enthusiasm and passion for the material. As I have gained experience teaching for myself, I have learned more practical lessons: keeping students in their seats for long periods of time is counterproductive. Lecturing about grammar rules tends not to be effective. Listening to students’ specific needs as it relates to language instruction raises productivity and confidence. Every day I enter a classroom, whether as a student or a teacher, I learn something brand new about the profession. My primary career goal is to continue this process forever, so that each day my students have an increasingly effective teacher in the classroom. Nothing is more beautiful to me than the moment when a light bulb clicks on for a student, when she discovers yet another way to use language to make her neighbor a little less lonely. If I can continue finding ways to make that happen, I will feel that I have been a success.

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Patriotism

The night before we left, everyone got together for a final group dinner.  Before long, as always happens at such functions, conversation wound around to our thoughts about leaving France.  Some of us avions hâte (“had haste”) to return to the States; others were more saddened that it had come to an end.  At one point, someone asked, “What will you miss most about France?”  Although I said nothing at the time, my answer was definitely “the people”.  As I have said before, I believe that learning a foreign language is all about learning to listen—decoding others’ ways of speaking, if you will.  This trip only confirmed my beliefs, as I listened to some incredibly interesting people during my time in the country.  Their stories amaze me and made me grateful for the professors over the years that have taught me how to listen to French.

One such story came from Madame D, whom we met at the Museum of Resistance and Deportation.  Mme D was not even a teenager when World War II broke out, but she became a Resistance fighter in Lyon.  She was raised speaking both French and German because her father believed that World War I wasn’t over, and if the Germans came back, he wanted his family to be prepared.  Whenever they complained that other families didn’t have to learn other languages, he replied, “Il faut parler la langue de l’ennemi” (“It’s imperative to speak the language of the enemy”).  But it wasn’t just at home that she learned how to fight the Germans:  at school she was taught that France was the most beautiful, most intelligent, most strategic country on the planet.  If she and her classmates stayed in school and then used their knowledge as employees of the State, they would make France a formidable opponent for Germany.

With such patriotic and idealistic talk swirling constantly around her head, it’s no surprise that Mme D began believing it.  When Hitler and Pétain signed the armistice on 22 June 1940, 12-year-old Mme D (at that time, Mademoiselle D) was already looking for a way to fight the Germans.  She didn’t have to look long before she was given a task:  Libération-Sud, a Resistance group in Lyon, gave her clandestine newspapers to distribute every evening.  Each morning, Mlle D went to school like every other 12-year-old girl in her country, innocent as a butterfly.  When school let out, she rode her bike to the secret headquarters of Libération-Sud to collect an armful of newspapers, which she distributed swiftly to other members of the Resistance group, a vital cog in the greater communication machine.  This 12-year-old girl was willing to put herself in risk of death every afternoon because she loved her country and believed in its potential for victory.

We U.Va. students were floored as we listened to Mme D’s tales of bravery.  She didn’t tell them in a proud way; she didn’t even seem emotionally affected by the words coming out of her mouth.  I found myself wondering, Would I have been willing to do what she did?  Would my students be willing to go to such great lengths for freedom and country?  Is this woman extraordinary for answering the call of duty, or would most of us do the same in her shoes?  I have to admit, I don’t really know the answers to any of those questions.  But I do know that people her age often have much more patriotism, regardless their native land, than those my age and younger.  Why is that?  Have we become spoiled in our less war-torn era?  Are we only willing to do that which increases our own social or economic statuses?  Have we simply become too angry about the decline of the global economy?  Is the crevasse between the political parties eroding our love of country?  Why don’t we put our hands over our hearts when we hear the anthem?  Why do we only think about our country during national elections, heated political discussions, or while watching Harrison Ford action thrillers?

Not that the situation in France is any better.  On Bastille Day, as I was enjoying a fireworks show at one of the grad students’ apartments, someone asked my theatre professor whether she was feeling especially patriotic.  She said, “Absolutely not.  Today everyone gets drunk, lights fireworks, and sings ‘La Marseillaise’ [the French national anthem].  That’s all.  And that’s such a violent, xenophobic song.  None of these things inspire patriotism in me.  Besides, the fireworks aren’t even good tonight.”  N, one of the grad students, said that he had heard several other French people answer his question similarly.  Somewhere between the Mme D generation and the Professor B generation (the two women are about 40 years different in age), the patriotism evaporated.

Of course, the fierce nationalism that brought on World War II is to be avoided at all costs.  No country is inherently better or more valuable than another, and that’s important to remember lest we start feeling too sure of ourselves.  And a more peaceful world is certainly a goal worth working toward.  However, what country can withstand national trials and hardships without a basic love of homeland?  Can we survive without patriotism?

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Adieu

French, like English, offers its speakers a number of ways to say goodbye, most of them dependent on when you expect to see each other again.  A tout à l’heure has one of the smallest lapses of time between departure and reunion:  it translates loosely to “within the hour,” although in conversational French it’s just used for “see you very soon.”  There is the weekday staple a demain!, which means “until tomorrow.”  From there, you have your generic goodbyes of indeterminate length but with certain reunions, expressions like salut for your friends and au revoir for your superiors.  Then, there’s the scary one.  It connotes a forever goodbye, quite literally translating “to God,” as in “I commit you to God.”  This is a very certain goodbye, not one that had ever been said to me, not even mistakenly from a student, until today.

E and I were at the market for the last time this morning, picking up our final selections of bread, cheese, fruits, and vegetables.  On our way out, I stopped at the Bread Man’s stand because I just couldn’t pass up being his customer one last time.  Besides, he had my favorite bread, pépites au chocolat, which he hasn’t had since that first week.  It was a sign.

When we approached his display, he said, “Ah!  You were in Avignon, no?”  Surprised at his remarkable memory—he must see a few hundred people pass by every Sunday—we replied that indeed we were.  “You went to see the plays of the festival.  I remember.  I went there myself once, spent an enjoyable weekend there.  This is a good tradition of France.”  We agreed that we too had had a great time in southern France but that we were glad to be back in Lyon.  I ordered my pépites au chocolat loaf and then informed him that it was our last market visit before returning to the States.  “I had to come back once more for your bread!” I said with a smile.

He raised his eyebrows.  “Your last market?”  He shook his head.  “When do you return?  You are American, no?  Going back to America?”  We told him he was right and that our planes for America would leave on Saturday.  “What city will you go back to?”  For simplicity’s sake, E and I just gave him our home states.  “Well, I must take my breads to America then!  You have nothing like this in America.  All factory breads!”  We all chuckled as he handed me my box.  “Well, I guess this is adieu then,” he said with a regretful expression.  “Yes, adieu.”  I nodded, tearing up, and echoed his goodbye.

It’s amazing that someone I spoke to for only a few minutes each week could cause such emotion in me.  But this, this is why I chose language for my career.  You learn a language so that you can hear other people speak:  their stories, their joy, their pain, their fragility.  You learn a language so that you can appreciate the Godlikeness of other people.  You learn a language so that you can laugh with them, understand them, be welcomed by them and welcome them in return.  That’s why it’s so close to God’s heart.  He said at the dawn of mankind that it’s not good for us to be alone.

The Bread Man and I never spoke more than ten minutes at the time.  We don’t even know each other’s names.  But for four weekends, we looked forward to seeing each other and exchanging a few words of conversation in his native language.  He clearly enjoyed regaling E and I with brief stories of traveling to Avignon and America and with proud claims of the superiority of his bread to anything else at the market or across the ocean.  I enjoyed hearing it.  That, if you ask me, is a little bit of God showing up in everyday life.

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Livebox

You might have seen on FaceBook that E and I had a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day yesterday.  An explanation is in order.  E and I are 21st-century Americans:  we want our Internet, and we want it fast.  We use it for communicating with people back home, for entertainment, and also for receiving messages regarding where we should be when because we are cell-phone-less here in France.  So on Friday at 1:15 p.m. when it stopped working, we panicked slightly.  Not on the level of Peyton-Manning-has-retired, but more along the lines of I-have-a-zit-two-days-before-prom.  So it didn’t work right before we left to read our World War II assignment in the park?  It surely would when we returned.

It didn’t.

Our panic level rose from yellow to orange, in the manner of the Homeland Security Advisory System.  It was now prom day, so to speak, and the zit had grown to hairy-mole size.  We played with it for a bit, but ultimately decided just to go to bed and assume it would kick itself back on in the middle of the night.  You can sleep off a headache; why not Internet malaise?

You can’t.  At least not in France.

By Saturday morning, we were on full alert.  Batten down the hatches, boys; it’s Internet or bust!  After becoming completely disgusted with both the troubleshooting manual and the piece-of-crap Internet box itself (called “Livebox”), we decided to visit McDonald’s to take advantage of their free Wi-Fi.  The priority was making sure our families knew that our silence and missed Skype dates came from an Internet malfunction, not abduction by angry French World Cup soccer players.  But wouldn’t you know it:  our computers simply would not hook up to McDonald’s Wi-Fi.  Our vexation mounted.

We went across the street to an Internet café.  At least we knew it would work there.  And it did.  From a computer attached to a French keyboard, which is laid out far differently from an English-language one. (For example, the placement of the letters compared to where they are on your keyboard is scrambled.  The punctuation marks are also in different locations.  Plus, the numerical keys include two additional symbols apiece. Yeah, that’s not easy to finagle.)

In the end, we spent 25 minutes and a euro each sending two emails per person of three to five sentences apiece, something that takes less than five minutes using our own computers.  After that, we were back to the issue at hand:  fixing the Internet in our apartment since we’d each paid 26 euro for it.  Remembering the exorbitant price and feeling the anger mount again, we tried to call our landlord.  Unfortunately, he lives in Avignon, which is nowhere near us.  We got a busy signal anyway.

We returned to the apartment and fumed, frowned, and spoke harshly to Livebox.  Nothing happened.  Livebox is a jerk.  E read the troubleshooting directions to herself.  Then out loud.  I did the same.  We restarted Livebox.  We restarted our computers.  We turned off everything.  We turned it back on.  We seethed.

Leaving the apartment, we headed toward Orange, the company that makes blasted Livebox.  They sent us to SFR, the primary Internet provider in Lyon.  They sent us to France Telecom, the centralized French telecommunications company.  They sent us to Orange.  We noticed a pattern.  We tried another Orange.  They sent us to France Telecom.  We tried a second France Telecom.  They sent us to…wait for it…Orange.  Our problem seemed to be no one’s but ours.  We returned to the Internet café and dialed up France Telecom.  There’s no toll-free number, but by that time, we didn’t care how much it cost to get the Internet running again.  That is, until the café owner told us we owed him fifteen euro for the phone call.  Then, admittedly, we cared quite a lot.

Raging anew, we lamented the fact that we’d spent money at McDonald’s, the Internet café (twice), and the landlord, and ended up with no Internet.  Discouraged and forlorn, we returned to Quai Claude Bernard, growling and murmuring all the way there.  Eventually, I said, “This may sound like the stupidest idea ever, but we could ask the guy at the café who speaks English to help us.”  (We live above a café.)  E said that she’d thought of that earlier, but was afraid to mention it since he was unlikely to be of any help.  But he was our last option, and no one else in France cared that we desperately wanted to talk to our families.

Upon returning to our apartment, we found English Speaker and breathlessly explained our troubles.  We handed him the troubleshooting manual, Livebox’s serial number, and several phone numbers.  Expecting him to do what, I don’t really know.  In the end, English Speaker was indeed able to help:  there was a particular username and password that had to be changed periodically, and it was time to do so.  It wouldn’t let us back in until we changed said information.  Showering English Speaker with a deluge of Merci!s, we hiked up the 10 flights to our apartment and tried the password-changing.  It worked!  For two minutes.

I could go on, but suffice it to say that we pushed every button on Livebox and our computers, and everything was finally functional again, after another hour or so of work.  We consider our connection to be pretty tenuous at this point, but at least it’s running again.  I’d make a comment about how dependent E and I are on the Internet, but the fact is, it’s actually our families we’re addicted to.  More than anything, E and I just wanted to be able to communicate with the people who are so special to us.  So this post is dedicated to you.  May we never have to be cut off from one another again.  Cheers!

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