Tonight, I finally made it to Café des Langues in Metz City Center.
As you might remember, my first attempt was thwarted by a much-needed nap. My second attempt was short-circuited by stubbornly ignoring black ice on a hill. But tonight, as Tom pointed out, was already starting better than last week, since warmer weather and a metric shitton (exact measure) of rain has melted all the ice (except for a little bit in the lake). La glace disparaît. So, if I was going to injure myself, it was going to be from something else.
Spoiler alert: I didn’t!
To be honest, Le Café des Langues was exhausting. My arm is still not fully recovered, and I forgot to take my oral anti-inflammatory this morning, resulting in throbbing pain all afternoon and evening, despite the miracle that is Voltaren gel. I have taken to dousing the whole length of my arm in the stuff, to get the sore shoulder muscle loosened up as well as the elbow, which is recovering enough to turn a lovely shade of yellow-green.
The point is, I was in enough pain that the conversational point of no return was three people speaking in French. I truly believe that focusing on people speaking in French, even when I understand one in twenty words, is helpful to the diffusion of français into my brain, but tonight I found myself setting an intense “listening” look on my face and mentally drifting away. It probably didn’t help that by about nine pm or so, there were 15-18 people crammed around three tables in a rather echo-y upstairs room, and half the time when someone was speaking to me I had to cup my hands around my ears to hear them over the other conversations.
Despite this, I kept asking “Comment un dit ?” over and over again like a not particularly bright parrot, and repeating whatever I had been saying in French (like an amazingly intelligent bilingual translator parrot?). I had to ask how to say “What do you do?” approximately three times (the French I was given is “Que tu fais?”), and I still had to look it up with Google translate just now. I also discovered that spoken slang for “Il y a” is just “y a,” although I have no memory of what prompted me to ask for something that got this response.
My go-to order at an…anywhere, actually…is now thé noir: black tea. This prompts a variety of teas to show up, but tonight’s was Assam, and I savored every sip. (Except the first sip, when it was too weak: I promptly popped the tea bag back in the cup.) But after a while I was hungry enough, and envious enough of the young man with what was obviously a cherry lambic beer, to venture downstairs and order une bière fruitée and “Je mange…” The proprietress, who evidently had been overjoyed at the change of venue from Café des Langues’ regular venue, was happy to prompt me slowly with types of sandwiches. I asked if she could please add cheese to my ham and butter sandwich. O.o
Both other times I have managed to spend long periods of time talking and drinking with locals (oh, right, remind me to tell you about the second time; it was awesome), they have asked if I have tried a mirabelle. No, I haven’t, and I don’t like prunes, but hell, I was trying new things tonight. Public service announcement, people: a mirabelle lambic is fucking delicious. It doesn’t really taste like a plum, it just tastes warmly yellow (but not citrusy), with that perfect lambic balance of sweet fruit and fermented beer.
I discovered that two of the Café regulars were PhD students at GTL, which definitely makes the total of GTL students (that are not in Tom’s class) I know higher than Tom’s total. (Yeah, sad.) It was nice to be able to complain about the grad student dorms and internet with someone who would commiserate and not take offense. It’s not that we’re not grateful for the cheap housing near campus. But, OH GOD, anyone who has ever been to college and then graduated, would you want to move back into a dorm with undergrads? Yeah, that’s what I thought.
Case in point: one of the grad students, Manas, also lives in my building, so he gave me a ride home after the Café. As we were walking to our building, some boys from SUPELEC (local university for which our housing is one of the main dorms) started setting off fireworks from close enough that burned out rocket stems hit Manas in the head. Twice.
At any rate, from today came: our deposit paid to the dorm, finally; good design work on a Sekrit Project; and two Facebook friends + two GTL grad student acquaintances (that Venn diagram overlaps by one). Good enough for me.