It was gray all day today. Gray, gray, gray. When I get off the train in Beaune at 8:45 there is mist in the air but I don’t get out my umbrella because it’s awkward and I don’t want to have to rearrange everything to get to it at the very bottom of my Mary Poppins bag. I walk in the mist and I think that it seems more like six at night than nine in the morning.
At school I unwrap my navy leopard-print scarf and economize its length to cover more of my neck — twice around this time instead of once. I put my peanut butter sandwich in the fridge because there’s a yogurt in the bag and I make my photocopies and I go to class.
The kids don’t want to color the Thanksgiving Hand Turkey in red, orange, brown, and yellow. They do it in rouge, orange, marron, and jaune. A “Sanksgiving chicken” they call it. Do they not roast turkeys in France?
The older kids stare at me when I ask, “Are you ready?” Some of them respond in the affirmative, “oui,” and I tap my foot and ask, “what does that mean,” and find out that some of them think it means, “is everything going okay?”
I’ve repeated this phrase from day one. Lost in translation.
The bell rings for recreation but I don’t go outside for even a minute’s worth of fresh air and conversation with the other shivering teachers. I slump in front of the computer and read the European version of the Wall Street Journal. I can’t find the page of American news.
Last class of the day. We play the same game as last time because they don’t remember the difference between “there is” and “there are.” There is one. There are five. There is one. There are seven. There is one. There are twenty-three. How many? How many? What does “how many” mean?
Last class of the day. We color Thanksgiving Hand Turkeys. “Tous les enfants americains le font,” I say. All the American kids do this.
TUE les enfants?!?! Laurine shouts, giving me a sarcastic sideways glance. “Kill the kids.” Oh, the subtleties of French pronunciation.
“Non. Tous,” I repeat, this time making sure to pronounce the “ou” with my best accent.
Laurine giggles as she puts the finishing touches on her multicolored chicken. “You try to speak French like we are trying to speak English,” she says, in French.
“Oui, c’est ca.” I say and sigh.
It was gray, gray, gray all day today.