Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Back from France. Let's talk about English books.

I'm back from three weeks in France and while I know what every person REALLY longs to do when someone they know returns from holiday is to look at FIVE BILLION photos of boring-ass churches, I'm not going to show any photos right now, but instead, share something I think you can appreciate more.

In 1999, when I was an "au pair girl" in France (as the French like to call it), I had a lot of free time on my hands, because whereas many of the au pair girls had like SEVEN kids to take care of, of which only three were old enough for school, leaving four at home each day to feed, change, burp and take for walks, not to mention fixing meals and ironing underwear (yes, the French like to be very pressed, even in their sous-vetements), my sole duties were to get up, make myself a cup of vanilla tea, make sure the boy I was watching managed to eat at least two bites of his cereal while staring mesmerized at the cartoons on the TV, then put him, his backpack and his lunch into the car, drive him into town for school and wait around until school was out to pick him up. Which left about eight hours of free time each day, which I would spend walking around, looking in shops, eating croissant, and buying cherries at the local market. Near the end of my stay I started to get very lonely, and very tired of getting my hand slapped when I tried to touch the fruit at the market (you're not allowed to touch the fruit!) and trying to speak French, and it was about this time that I discovered an English used bookstore run by two English-speaking women who also had a little tea shop where they'd host English conversation classes for local women who wanted to learn the language. One particularly lonely day, I found Jerry Seinfeld's book, Seinlanguage.

It was like a dream. I bought it, then went outside to sit on a bench by the carousel. Jerry Seinfeld became my BFF. I laughed out loud, so hard that tears would stream down my face. People would walk by and stare at me, but I didn't care. The book was that funny, and it got me through those last few weeks. I wanted to read the whole book in one sitting, but I made myself take days to read it all.

Years later, I bought the CD version for my car. The first time I played it I had to pull my car over because I couldn't see the road through my tears.

On this trip, I mentioned that I was bringing a few books to read. One of these was Happy Birthday or Whatever , a memoir by Annie Choi.

Meg Cabot had recommended it on her blog, and I ordered it online after searching the city for it to no avail. On the day before my trip, it still hadn't arrived, and I was panicked, but I had put a hold on it at the library weeks earlier, and by miracle, it came up and I picked it up right before we left for the airport. I saved it until I'd read all my other books, and then started it on a train ride from Burgundy to Champagne (our trip was dictated by our favourite alcoholic beverages). By the time we reached Paris (the halfway point to Champagne) I had to get off the train to stock up on napkins (oh alright it was an excuse to buy more pain au chocolat) because I had been laughing so hard my nose wouldn't stop running. Annie Choi is my new Jerry Seinfeld. I wish she were my BFF. Her book may be one of my favourite memories of this trip to France.

PS Annie has a blog that's just as funny as the stories in her book.
PPS Next post: When God was giving out hairdryers, the French were eating crepes.

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