As a child, I was fortunate to attend thirteen years at one of the best public school districts in the country--Clayton in St. Louis, Missouri. This city of predominately wealthy retirees allowed us few young folks to bask in the privileges of their high tax dollars. The school supplied us with pencils and art supplies, we received free swimming lessons at the high school natatorium, and had the opportunity to go on amazing field trips.
When I was in the eighth grade, I took a field trip to Paris, France for a week with seven other students and my poor French teacher. This was one of the most amazing experiences of my childhood, but unfortunately, the last time Ms. Silberg took a class out of the country.
The nightmare began at Notre Dame Cathedral shortly before Easter. My friend Judy picked up a spray of holy leaves that she carried through the paved area in front of the church. A stranger stopped us to ask Judy where she'd gotten her holy weeds. Having only studied French for a year and a half, it took us awhile to translate what exactly the gentleman was saying and figure out how to answer him. By the time we finished talking to the stranger, something one should never do, the class had disappeared.
We wandered throughout the grounds of Notre Dame looking for our teacher and classmates, but no luck. Not to worry. Knowing we were smart, fearless kids, we'd just jump on the subway and get off at our stop, Bastille. Unfortunately, we did not know that there were two Bastille stops, and of course, we jumped train at the wrong one. So, we were forced to wander the subways shouting, "Parlez vous Anglais?" to any passing stranger.
One woman stopped to tell us, "Yes. I speak English," but she looked totally frazzled when we spat out our predicament in a language that she just thought she spoke. This was surprising because it seemed like many of the French speak English. For example, at another part of the trip, we tried to get off at our subway stop but found ourselves blocked by a rather large passenger.
We said, "Excuse-moi! Pardon!" but the woman wouldn't budge until Laura said, "Move it, lady!" See! An English speaker.
Anyway, we wandered the Paris subways for two hours and amazingly found our way back with the help of a woman from North Carolina who spoke both languages. By the time we reached our dorm, the teacher's hair shot out in every direction, her nails were chewed off, and she didn't know whether to hug us or slap us. Sorry Miss Silberg!
Tune in tomorrow when I tackle the letter M and my amazingly ridiculous moving situation.