Fish out of water
The floor in this room where I'm staying slopes downwards and away from me. When I sit, my chair rolls forwards to the desk. It feels as though I'm on a boat. Which is apt, since I've felt a little lost at sea over the last few weeks.
It doesn't matter how wonderful people are, it's always alienating to be in a place where you don't speak or understand the language. It can, at times, be a very lonely-in-a-crowd-of-people experience. There's a round of laughter and then someone explains the joke to me in my language, and everyone waits expectantly for my reaction. Or no-one translates and I wonder whether it's better form to laugh anyway or to look away.
More than once I've been chatting away to someone, only to have them reply in French to another conversation - one I had been oblivious to. I need to be aware that what is background noise to me, may be fascinating stories/questions/anecdotes to my companions.
More than once I've felt as though it's hard work for those speaking to me. But along with that, there are several others who have made me feel as though I'm doing them a favour by being here with them, allowing them to practice and develop their English. And whether or not that's entirely true, they've made me feel truly at home with them.
I'm trying, with my French, and soon I'll be able to join in where now I'm isolated, cut out, cut off. I'll be laughing in the first round of the joke and aware of what's being said around me. I'll be pronouncing my 'R's correctly and slightly less confused about why the garbage is female in French, and a vagina is male. I'll say le instead of la and vice versa - when it's appropriate - and I'll answer "Bonjour" instead of "Hi" when greeted by a cashier.