Bad Kitty.

Eek! How did I ever let a month (close enough) go by without posting anything?

Bad, bad kitty.

Truth is, I have still been writing constantly, albeit mainly doing lines over and over again, in French.

I’ve always loved languages – writing it, reading it, hearing it – so keeping myself motivated wasn’t hard at all.

As it happens, it is only too easy for me to get over-motivated and started banging away on French everything like a language-learning Nazi really. I have my beloved secondary school to thank for that – Diligence  is one of the school values widely extolled. Where did the fascist attitude come from? Well… we were chased from spot to spot by someone blowing on a police whistle; our hair lengths were scrutinised frequently (nothing below our cold, trembling earlobes). Read: Discipline (and Nazi-ish nitpicking). Can I just say though, I honestly LOVED that school. But that’s another story altogether.

Anyway… Not contented with just taking my tutor’s word when it comes to the prickly subject of ‘en’, ‘à’, ‘de’ and the million other split personalities these annoying lil’ buggers come in, I *had* to go research on what it means when the same word morphs and mutates into partitives, pronouns, prepositions and monsters.

Sometimes I made progress and I feel like the champion of the world. As if my legs had grown two-inches longer.

Other times… many times (Though not most times, thankfully.)… La tête just goes… vide.

Like when I figured out preposition à is for ‘going to’ and preposition de is for ‘coming from’ and then I turn a page and the article de that roughly translates to ‘some’ and ‘any’ swings by to say ‘Hi’ while swiftly being chased down by en, which can be both a preposition and also a pronoun.

Oui.

And I can’t let it go.

I. Can’t. Let. It. Go.

My school motto demands that I get to the bottom of things. And to the bottom of things I got to.

With these…

Yes. I applied a filter to make it look nicer. Hurhurhur.

So what did I discover at the bottom of the pile?

Me. Lying rather lifeless. With a very firm and fit writing arm all sinewy and Michelle Obama-y from all the copying and writing and rewriting I was doing.

Not too bad, I’d have to say. (I’m shallow. You mean you didn’t know?)

Just last night I’ve started dreaming in French… though I can’t be sure if it was actual accurate French, at least I can say that without a doubt, my subconscious recognised it as awesomely fluent French.

So now the conscious me just has to catch up with my subconscious half.

Tonight, we conquer French Gender.

Ninja! Peace out.

 

Three Month Mark

It’s been three months since I left work and I have…

Gone for a music festival – St Jerome’ Laneway Festival (Does Coachella over Youtube count as a second one? =D)

Gone for a concert – toe, Mosaic (I see me =D)

Attended a Butoh Workshop with Alb and Kai

Watched a play

Ironed all my darn clothes

Studied French

Watched movies – 300, Amélie, Any Given Sunday, Delicatessen, Fight Club, Infernal Affairs, L’Auberge Espagnole, La Combe Lucien, Les Petits Mouchoirs, Lost in Translation, Machuca, Melancholia, The Descendants, The Girl who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (Swedish and English Versions), The Godfather I, II and III, The Iron Lady, The Lady

Read – Olivia (in French), Lady Chatterley’s Lover, The Great Frustration, There Once Lived a Woman Who Tried to Kill Her Neighbor’s Baby, Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal?

Worked out (almost) every day

Made crème brúlée (got my own blow torch), made pasta, bread, jam.

Picked up driving

Visited the museum – Titanic: The Artifact Exhibition

Organised the wardrobe and accessories …

Supported Soccer games…

Made new friends…

Most importantly…

Reconnected with loved ones I’ve neglected – Momo, Sis-es, Melb, K, Hui, Xiu, Shus, Bestie, SQ, B

Three months have passed.

And that feeling that time is running out sneaks up on me and teases that panic button ever so often. But it is also that sense of the inevitable end; those limits, that force us to get out there and push ourselves further and harder, so I am thankful.

No time to lament or feel sorry. Not today at least.

Loads more I’ve yet to accomplish, and loads more to come – driving examination, Arts Festival performance, N’s wedding and my long-awaited Berlin visit. (Tokyo soon, I hope!)

And oh yes. I’ve started this humble little blog. This is my 80th post.

The French Withdrawal.

Yup. My French term has officially ended and I’m feeling so lost, so grumpy, and so terribly unhappy.

For eight weeks, I looked forward to waking up at 7am every Tuesday and Thursday morning for French Class. Even if that meant an hour-long journey. Even if that meant train rides with too many grumpy (sometimes sweaty) commuters. I fight for room to stand most of the time, and sometimes I fight for air to breathe. But always… I’ll be revising my French.

I met an old friend a month back, who was shocked that I had left work.

“To do what?” he asked. (Demanded, almost.)

“Study French.”

“What the heck for? Who are you going to speak French to? Go back to work!”

I smiled and changed the subject. How can I explain the joy that language… that learning brings? I would fail miserably. Besides, if he couldn’t see the reason behind exploring something new, how would he be able to accept my explanation… or any explanation for that matter.

Three months into my self-imposed sabbatical, I realised nothing gave me more pleasure than when I am learning, experimenting and doing something new and challenging. My days were filled with driving and French. (And I had initially intended to take either Swedish or German at the same time. Multi-tasker alert.)

I’ve lost count of the times I’ve had people shudder in disgust on the train when I attempted the French ‘R’ sound. Know that awful sound some people make when they are hacking up phlegm? Yea. That’s the one.

I almost cried in frustration at home – twice – because homework was difficult. (Yes. When I told B I wanted to be the top student, I was only half-joking. What to do? NYG Syndrome.)

I am convinced that the lesson Guillaume had with us on Numbers: Seventy to One million etched permanent frown lines on my forehead.  I went home and ‘screamed’ on my Facebook status “I THOUGHT I WAS LEARNING FRENCH, NOT MATH!”

But to have the freedom to do whatever I want and learn whatever I like is such a treat… and luxury. So how can I not be thankful?

Now that the term is over, I still find myself waking up early on Thursday, all ready to go. Only now, there is technically nowhere to go to.

I’m not sure when I’ll be able to register for the next term – an important journey in June will interfere with French plans. I’m going to miss Guillaume – who is everything I want my teacher to be: attentive, meticulous, and so generous with his time and knowledge… I’m going to miss my supportive classmates…

In the meantime, I’m learning phrases and sentences on my own, twice a week. I scroll through my friends’ numbers on my phone so I can practise reciting their numéros de téléphone in French. It’s an uphill battle, not knowing if I got the nuances correct; missing out on the much needed interaction.

But when I started on this journey, I had a goal: to be fluent enough to watch French movies without the aid of subtitles. By hook or by crook, I’m going to get there.

 

Driving Lessons Lessons

When I finally announced that I was going to pick up driving, I sent shockwaves around my community. Top five questions I was asked:

“School or private?”

“I’ve always thought you were a driver! You look like one!”

“Tell me when you are on the roads. I’m gonna stay home. Hur hur…”

“Why didn’t you pick it up earlier?”

“Does this mean you will be our ‘safe guy’ when the rest have a bit too much to drink?”

(School. Never knew there was a look. Sure, stay home and miss out on all the fun. I can’t quite fathom looking into mirrors for oncoming traffic – mirrors are meant for looking at yourself and checking if there is food stuck in your teeth. $40 per trip; additional $250 if you throw up.)

When the day finally arrived for my driving lessons, I was really excited. I got to the driving centre early – 40 minutes before my class to be exact. Only problem was… I had absolutely no idea where to go from there. I walked around for a bit, hoping to gather some clues on my own (‘cos I’m genius like that…), but everyone seemed preoccupied with something much more important or exciting than helping.

That was until I spotted an instructor who was about to head to the canteen for his break. I smiled – very apologetically – and explained my predicament, and he was kind enough to take a break from his break to show me what I needed to do. (And Evie. For the last time. I was in a long-sleeved boat-neck top and a pair of culottes that were loose-fitting and reached my knees. )

Thanks to him, I managed to find Instructor #1 and our car. And tada! I was officially a student again.

Instructor #1 was a soft-spoken and gentle character, who was extremely polite. He dispensed useful advice and gave clear instructions, while giving me the freedom to explore and make mistakes. He even said I look as if I’d driven before – I haven’t. At the end of the lesson, he summed up what I had done well (calm and confident on the roads), and reminded me of a few areas of improvement (I tended to oversteer when I turn, and he thought I was going too fast when turning – even though it was all of 15 km/h. Speed demon. That’s me.).

Exactly four days later was lesson two… and I was late. Fortunately, Instructor #1 had already told me where to locate my training car if I ever am late, so I was not too frazzled.

I apologised profusely. Instructor #2 was really understanding and not at all annoyed. As we moved off, he told me he would revise some of the stuff I did last week with me. We joked quite a fair bit and I found him to be a jolly fella. I brought up the problem I had with oversteering and he addressed it immediately, and followed up with an analogy. Problem fixed, right away! I liked that. Until I was left to practise my turns while he… texted… and texted… and texted. I felt like I had progressed, but he wasn’t paying attention. I was eager to learn something new this lesson, but I didn’t want to seem rude. Eventually, he put his phone aside and we started on my sharp lefts. When he finally gave me his full attention once more, he asked the same question as Instructor #1: “Eh. You’ve secretly driven a car before is it?” (Still no.) He said my turns were excellent and he was very surprised. (Yayyyy!) Before we ended the session, he asked when my Advanced Theory examination would take place, and told me to focus on some key areas.

So, two lessons so far and I am doing okay. It was extremely stressful, but I had fun. When I walked out of the school last week, I realised that I had learnt a lot more than driving. I had the chance to reflect on teachers and teaching itself, and also myself as a learner. Although I am already aware of many of these things, re-learning them from the actual perspective of a student once again was refreshing.

And here are the lessons I’ve learnt from my driving lessons:

1. When you start on a new topic, expect students to be completely lost. It doesn’t mean they are not keen. It would help if you ease them into the process by giving them some directions.

2. Be generous and sincere with praise. Do the same with feedback.

3. Be patient.

4. A good teacher may not be someone who is fun all the time, but being aware of your students’ needs – absolutely essential.

5. Celebrate mistakes. They are the best way to learn.

6. Students did not wake up early, beat rush hour traffic, (and in my case, pay good money) to go to school to watch their teachers text/update their FB statuses. We do all that to learn something beneficial.

7. Challenge students. Revision is great, but repeating something you have already mastered doesn’t stimulate at all.

8. Give students a little more. A little more love,  a little more knowledge beyond the syllabus, a little more time, a little more guidance, a little more faith, a little more nudging… So that they know they can. Just that little more, so that you open up that little crack that makes them want to take a peep to see what’s on the other side, and their natural curious instinct and determination to succeed will get them there.

And students (of all ages, shapes and sizes)… Nothing is boring unless you decide it is so. Invest yourself fully when you learn.

xx