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Christina: French yes

February 22, 2010

It’s 6am now, and the morning light is sifting through the wooden shutters and warming the chilled stone floor. The earth below our apartment is beginning to shudder awake, and I know that this will be a day full of new ways to say “yes.”

There’s the tarte de pomme my host mother Collette will offer me for breakfast, the extra wool scarf she will want me to wear to keep out the dry winter winds, the telephone call from a French friend who will want to meet for a drink tonight, and my American friends who will talk about going to Paris for a weekend. It’s so easy, so freeing, and so simple: the way a tiny word opens up all this wonder within the ordinary.

There’s a sinful decadence in the sense that I can use this word in almost every situation, but then perhaps it’s the French culture that makes saying “yes” feel natural. Life is slow, and life is long, so why not enjoy it in every way possible? It’s a different kind of mentality that I’m quickly learning to love. I leave for school an hour or two early because I know there will be something unexpected to do along the way. There will be a new graffiti painting to photograph, a chocolate crêpe I will need to eat, street performers to watch, a language to be learned. I say “oui” to all of these things, mostly because I can.

When I arrived in this country, the word “oui” was my coping mechanism; something I said in nearly every situation to avoid having to explain myself. During those first days, I answered most questions Collette asked me with a “yes,” and often, that meant thirty minutes later I would find myself in her car, inexplicably bound for some unknown place, or trying an exotic dish, or spending two hours sifting through vegetable stalls at the open-air market.

A month later, this language is a little easier, and although “oui” is still what I say more often than any other word, it never gets old, and it never feels anything less than thrilling.

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