~The Simple Sophisticate, episode #215
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“It’s worth the effort.” —Patricia Wells
(The following episode was taped while traveling in Provence, France, using a handrecorder. Please excuse indulations in volume.)
The legions of birds and their signature melodies, the playful butterflies that promenade amongst our meals, the clock tower reminding us that indeed we are not dreaming and the vintner on his tractor tending to his vines.
The sounds of Provence.
More specifically, the sounds of Vaison-la-Romaine.
As my fellow classmates and myself sat down for our final lunch together with Patricia and Walter Wells concluding a week long experiential cooking class, the words above were shared with the group. Speaking not only of the effort to plan, prepare, and shop at the market, but also to have the patience with our lives to curate them carefully so to provide the fertility for a beautiful life to grow, the Wells demonstrated that a good life can be simple, slow and yes, thus absolutely luxurious. In this particular moment the effort made by the Wells was to welcome a group of people that would appreciate in their own way the gathering as well as the food (which was exquisite and seasonal).
Traveling abroad to a country which doesn’t speak a language we know well can be intimidating, and for some seemingly dream crushing. But it need not be. In fact, as a language teacher, when the words are removed or pared down to the essentials of living an everyday life (thank you, please, how much, where is, I love, etc.), we are invited to see the world through a different lens. We begin to observe actions far more carefully, to value the importance of kindness and thoughtfulness. When we rely only on our words to navigate in this world we forget how influencial our body language, our facial expression, our tone can be on any given situation. Yes, even a smile can be sinister or sincere, and if we are studied in the skill of physical observation, we can ascertain the slight and subtle difference.
Yes, undoubtedly, words are powerful, and to live well in a civilized society such as ours and much of the modern world, knowing how to communicate well in the language of the country and community in which we live is fundamental, but it isn’t the only skill we should practice and improve regularly to build the relationships we want and need in our lives.
So if there is another world (country) you long to see, to experience, to taste, but the language barrier is currently the dilemma, fear not. Ironically, I have found that the best way to pick up a language, for it to stick in my long-term memory, is to be amongst as it is used in the world. It has been with each trip, moreso with each subsequent trip, to France that while I do not understand 60-70% of what is said, I understand more and more and feel less of someone on the outside. What we fear is not knowing French, but what we long is to be amongst the French culture. What better teacher than a Francophone country?
When you step into your fear, the language will gradually come. Not an immense amount, but in spurts and stalls. Give yourself the gift of one more language, even if you speak it poorly (which I do when it comes to French) because as the Chinese proverb reminds “To learn a language is to have one more window from which to look at the world” and as the Czech proverb teaches, “You live a new life for every new language you speak. If you know only one language, you live only once.” And so if we each have one more window to broaden our perspective and provide a deeper understanding of the world and then one more life, how rich and wise are we?
What does making an effort look like when it comes to our dreams?
For the Wells it was purchasing a farm in the hills of Provence, remodeling for decades, little by little and choosing, taking the risk, to share their lives, a glimpse, but an intimate glimpse, eight weeks a year (one week at a time) with strangers from around the world. Effort.
Let’s take a look at other examples of effort:
1.Waking up early to begin the day with more time than needed so you do not have to rush
2. Saving each month money for retirement
3. Choosing to get to know yourself
4. Recognizing you can grow and becoming a student of the skills you can learn
5. Not doing as others do, traveling every weekend or every summer and instead, saving, planning or living where you love calling home.
6. Being thoughtful in your relationship building
7. Taking the time to understand someone who is good, but communicates or lives differently, in order to strengthen and express love
8. Giving yourself permission to feel what you feel, but also recognizing emotions are like the weather, not the climate – temporary.
9. Taking care of your health and body
10. Strengthening the muscle that is your mind
“It is astonishing how much enjoyment one can get out of a language that one understands imperfectly.” — Basil Lanneau Gildersleeve
As much as we are advised and even tell ourselves to live in the moment (heck, TSLL talks regularly about being present), we are given the gift of perspective as human beings. And it is through effort that dreams can be realized that are worth savoring upon not only attaining them, but making the journey towards them.
My trip to France as I mentioned a few weeks ago has been years in the making. I might even suggest it began the moment I made my first month long journey in 2000. In some ways my trip to France is part of a larger journey toward other visions I have for my life, so in many ways our lives contain dreams within dreams that we pursue. Which when you contemplate this composition creates a beautiful life quilt consisting of many dreams that bolster and provide foundation for one another.
Effort is worth being given, and your dreams are worth being pursued. Have the patience to let them fertilize, mature and grow when they have the strength to emerge. This requires of each of us careful awareness, a flexibility, but also a courageousness. All of these are skills; therefore, we all can learn them and use them.
Bonne journée from Vaison-la-Romaine, Provence, France.
~SIMILAR POSTS FROM THE ARCHIVES YOU MIGHT ENJOY:
~Everyday Life in Paris: A Fashion Show in the Palais-Royale (I was not invited)
~Back to Paris (summer 2018)
~9 Life Lessons From French Women about Women
~View allFrench-themed podcast episodes of The Simple Sophisticatehere.
~View allTSLL French-themed blog postshere.
~Follow TSLL on Instagramto see all of the pics from my France trip.
~Sign-up forTSLL’s weekly newsletterand never miss a post or exclusive news (delivered each Friday to your inbox)!
~My Twenty-Five Years in Provence: Reflections on Then and Now by Peter Mayle (his final book)
If you are just beginning to read Peter Mayle’s work (he has published 14 books, 7 of which were novels), begin with the memoir that caught the world’s attention A Year in Provence, and if you love cozy mysteries set in France, begin with The Vintage Caper (2009) Sam Levitt detective series, there are four in the series.
~Visit Peter Mayle’s website
~Read my full review here – Peter Mayle’s Love Letter to Provence
~Sponsor of today’s episode:
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7 thoughts on “215: French Trip Travel Musings (Why Not . . . Make the Effort?), Part Une”
I always love your posts, but I must admit a little something bothered me in this one.
‘Travelling abroad to a country which doesn’t speak our language…’I know you are someone who does make the effort to learn another language, but putting it that way is a very American way of speaking (if you don’t mind me saying that). As a European from a trilingual country, I (as most Europeans) would never assume another country would speak my language. I find it intimidating when I don’t speak theirs, not when they don’t speak mine…
I think you misinterpreted my intention, and for that I apologize. The “our language” was meant as a collective “our” not as an American “our”. No country’s language is better than another, we simply have the language we are most comfortable with even if we have learned many language which is awesome that you know three. I think the more languages we know and understand the better as I tried to convey in my post today. My verbage should have been better to reflect this idea. You stated well what I meant, and I have adjusted my diction to reflect that point, some people “find it intimidating when [they] don’t speak theirs (the country that they are visiting’s language)”.
Ah yes, I totally understand that that was what you intended to say. You are after all definitely not what we consider the stereotypical American tourist (and I’m very sorry for that stereotypical image!)
Being from a trilingual country and all learning at least a fourth, if not more, we are used to adjusting wherever we go. I guess we are the other extreme to many American (and other, many French are guilty of this too!) tourists who assume all speak their language… Then on the other hand we all love speaking English so much, expats complain they never get the chance to practice our language.
Anyway, lovely post as always!
Thank you for commenting back and having this conversation. I admire people like yourself who know more than one languages like yourself (4 – that is awesome!). That is one of the wishes I have regarding my own education – that I had more exposure early in my learning. Thank you for your insight. I truly do appreciate it. 🙂
I live in France, and I, too, find that people want to speak English most of the time. The United States, despite our political problems from both sides, is held in very high esteem. I can’t tell you the number of times French people have questioned me as to “why” I would want to live in France, when I could be back home in the US. They ask me, “What do you miss?” and my reply is always the same, “…my friends, my church, New Season’s grocery store, because of the many choices we have, and shopping, again, due to the many choices, not found so much in France. I felt chagrin at a luncheon with new friends, all older, and only one who speaks English, when I heard a guest mention that “..the Americans have not progressed much in our language.” I’m sure she thought that I would not understand, nor perhaps hear what she said. I quickly spoke up saying that both my husband (who speaks, maybe 20 words of French) and I, are now taking private tutoring in French. I had three years at Portland State University, and a month at the University of Nice, but those courses finished in 1990! Almost 30 years ago. Despite several trips in France before moving here, the language goes away, just like muscles, if not used. It takes a long time to acquire proficiency in a second language, especially when starting at an “ahem” older age! Bravo, Shannon for your travel and your efforts!
Anna, Thank you very much for sharing your experience and insights.
This was a really wonderful and impactful episode. Just before I turned it on, I was worrying about all kinds of things- some I can control and some I cannot. My mind was spinning and I was able to still it and find that I was worried about being “good enough” in my various roles- a good mom, good employee, good Christian, good wife, etc. This episode gave me some great motivation to just make the effort in all of my roles (just effort, not perfection) and I know I will see the results and improvement. I decided to start with some self care and took a long shower, and I’ve planned some fun and easy things to do with my kiddos tomorrow.
Thanks very much for this, I really loved it.