Most of you, my dear readers, are probably a lot like me. You loved your high school French classes. You were seduced by the magic of the French language rolling off the tongue. And then you were further seduced by the cutting edge fashion, the world-class wine, the irresistible member of the opposite sex, the unmatched gastronomy, or a combination thereof. You can conjugate verbs as if your life depended on...especially that pesky subjunctive. You most likely smile politely as the French compliment you on your *amazing* French skills, before going into your history as a practicing Francophile. Ah, the French life. You're doing it right.
And then you hit a brick wall that's called getting sick.
I don't know about you folks, but when I get sick, I go from a put together, confident woman to a sloppy, crying baby who just wants to bury her head under the blankets. Needless to say that it becomes a bit more difficult for me to convey my thoughts in cohesive English, much less le français. Imagine, then, the shocked..nay the absolutely mortified look that came across my face when I realized that I did not have the vocabulary necessary to convey my symptoms to a doctor. Humble pie, table of 1.
Preparing for a visit to the friendly doctor's office leaves me sweating bullets. I look up words, so that I can prepare my medical script. I'm gonna spare you some medical queries, because yea, not polite dinner convo. But key phrases like j'ai des courbatures (I have body aches) or j'ai la tête qui tourne (my head is spinning) are not completely apparent in a dictionary. And Google Translate comes up with some long winded translations of things such as cystitis. Heaven help me if I ever have a real emergency, because then I won't be able to make my handy dandy symptoms list like a guilty student who takes their cheat sheet into an exam.
Speaking of emergencies, I had an eye opening experience today at work. Today was our Community Service Day, and we partnered up with the Red Cross. My teacher must have thought that I was retarded because she gave us a quiz on what to do in an emergency in France. I failed, and I shouldn't have. We often get these little "Important Numbers" lists on our doorsteps here in Paris, with the police, ambulance, and fire department numbers (as well as lost cat, lost dog, and plumber numbers). Maybe it is because I don't worry enough or maybe it's because we get 20 per month from guys paid to sneak into my apartment building and put them on my doormat...but I don't pay much attention to those slips of paper.
So here I am, flipping out, thinking of what I would do in a medical emergency. Would I have the composure to describe the victim's symptoms in French? Would I know what number out of seemingly dozens of options to dial? Shit, what if I have Frenchy babies one day and I have to call a doctor for them? I am literally leaning over my inflatable CPR doll, hyperventiliating. Screw the doll, I am about to become the one in need of some medical attention.
In the end, I'm glad today happened, because it showed me that just when you think you've got living in a new country down pat, you still have much to learn. It's hard to navigate your way through the vocabulary, the procedures, the timings of the medical system in a different country. Just take it in stride, don't be afraid to ask questions, check your Embassy for a list of doctor's who supposedly speak your language, and make a cheat sheet. You can't be a perfect Francophile all the time, especially when ill.
I'm also glad today happened because I got to keep my inflatable mannequin. Which I hid under the covers and then freaked out the hubby. But that's another blog for another day. :-D
US Embassy Paris English-Speaking Doctors List
Medical English-French Français-Anglais Dictionnary (Reverso)
Emergency Numbers in Paris (AngloInfo)