he so wished i spoke french

The sun shone warm and heavy today. I woke up alive and well, smiling because of my sore legs, evidence of walking miles on miles these past few days.

We followed a slow morning of writing, reading, and scrambled eggs with a venture in a new direction, eventually finding ourselves at the Bassin de la Villette, a man-made lake that sits between the Canal de l'Ourcq and the Canal Saint-Martin in the 19th androssiment.

he so wished i spoke french | seekthewelfare

We sat in the sun a moment, feeling its weight, before Roommate decided to wander and explore on her own. Already having set my sights on a rooftop across the water I wanted to capture, I happily watched her go and sharpened my pencil.

Lost to the people around me as I measured, studied, and tried to absorb the colors, I didn't notice the tall Frenchman who approached me. It wasn't until he had folded himself into a crouch next to me and had asked what I was doing that I realized he was there at all. In a comfortable mish-mash of French, English, and hand gestures, we established that I was watercoloring, -- "c'est beau" -- that he was a photographer, that I was from America, and that he was originally from Mali, Africa. Next we moved on to whether I wanted to get coffee and whether I was married or not. I interjected to let him know that my friend was coming back soon -- "Mon ami revient bientôt" -- a phrase I did not expect to need and which I now think every traveler should know in their host language. We proceeded to get stuck on whether I was single or married -- "Es-tu marié?" -- despite my clear understanding of the situation and desire to stay where I was. And so Roommate found us, him typing into google translate on my phone and me knowing what he was saying but not knowing the words to decline politely. "Ah! Mon ami est ici." He looked up, excited to see her, quickly asking if she spoke French. She doesn't. Everyone thanked everyone a couple times as he still tried to ask me to coffee. Finally we all said goodbye and Roommate and I walked back along the canal.

...

Turns out I understand a lot more French than I thought I did. Apparently it's all about finding people to practice with who are determined to communicate with you.