Lost in Translation

Our first morning at IS-Aix language institute, we stopped in at Café Joseph across the street for a jolt of caffeine. It has added free WiFi service since our last stay seven years ago.  On the wall was the “mot de passe” or password.  Only the cafe had written “mot de passe = plug you and enjoy.”IMG_0095

Then again, people who live in glass houses — make that us — shouldn’t throw stones. Today our third day, my class was in an animated discussion about economic policies, unemployment and the rising gap between rich and everyone else when I blurted out something about les poivres.  That would be “the peppers.”  What I’d meant to say was les pauvres, the poor.

Some years back in Paris, Kathy and I sat down exhausted and hungry at an outdoor café after a day of visiting museums. When the waiter came, Kathy announced in French, Je suis une quiche, I am a quiche, which idiomatically in French is like announcing, “I am stupid.” The waiter didn’t miss a beat or crack a smile. He brought Kathy quiche, as ordered — almost.


We are getting into the rhythms of Aix and our life here for the next half year.  Each morning we leave our quiet, comfortable and high-ceilinged apartment at 8:30 a.m.

We walk past the replica of the Eiffel Tower outside the Ecole Superieure d’Art.  Then we pass the Pavillon Vendôme, a peaceful space, four minutes from our house, that was built in 1652 at the request of the duke of Vendôme. (Pictured here, the property was bequeathed to the city a few hundred years later.)IMG_0101

Next we pass the Maison des Associations, a place I suspect could help guide me with my research here once I gain the courage to introduce myself. And finally we enter the old city, passing a flower market and two fruit and vegetable markets on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Door to door, it takes about 20 minutes.

Today is our first lazy afternoon after our 46-hour trip here and various shopping outings for everything from fresh eggs to clothespins after class on Monday and Tuesday. We’ve thrown open the windows and turned off the heat because the sun is out, the temperatures have climbed to about 60 and the soft Provencal air, similar to that of our years in northern California, beckons. So I’m putting aside work for the rest of the day. More homework after dark.

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