I moved to Rennes in early June 2006. Now seems like a good time to reflect on the experience: has it been a good year or a year in the merde?
Last night I was dancing at the dangerous Club Pyms again: one night per month of swing and rock. And when the music changed to something more mainstream, which happens around 1am, the Lindy Hoppers moved out. Nicolas invited me back to his home. I accepted but while I was checking that I had understood him correctly we went through another of those fumbled conversations that now so familiar: I tried to rephrase what he had said to be sure I had got it right, he thought I was trying to say something else, I got frustrated and and stormed off in the other direction.
I’ve not acted that childishly since I was, erm, a bit younger I guess. I was not ashamed, however, I managed to identify that I had made a choice to serve my own needs; I had foreseen an evening of apologising and asking for repetition and, finally, withdrawing from any social exchange. I chose not to go there. I composed an apology, in French, and SMSed it to him when I got home, and went to bed around 2am.
After a year its a bit disappointing that language is still such a barrier to my social life. OK it’s not just the language, its that combined with my preferences and expectations about what such life might and should be like. I’ve not learned to speak French. I have not actually been trying particularly hard, though I have been learning and my French is a lot better than when I arrived.
But still not good enough to serve for the level of social interaction I wish to have. And I am choosing to deal with this by withdrawing from social opportunities and living a rather solitary life, rather than immersing myself in the language and taking all the knocks until I learn. My London Lindy-hop friends may be surprised to read that I have often made the choice to be remain socially detached and aloof. Two years in Kenya was good practice at dealing with solitude. Ultimately, though, it isn’t where I want to be.
And with only six months left here in France, I notice myself looking for ways out. I’m spending as much time as I can with my partner Nic: sometimes she comes here or we meet in Paris, but most often I’m visiting London. I’m spending my solitary time reading and learning stuff, but not much of it doing my French homework and I sometimes hear the voice in my head saying “is it worth it with only half a year go go?”.
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