Wednesday, March 26, 2008

My French Faux Pas - Part 2

As we continued our travels in Canada in our motorhome, I soon realized just how badly my rusty memory mis-translated phrases into French.

We noticed that most of the patrons in the cafĂ© ordered the daily special (“le plat du jour”) which we also ordered. We thought it would give us a little taste of adventure, as well as a taste of local cooking. In addition, I felt confident that I could actually make myself understood. The special turned out to be two huge slices of ham loaf with a delicious creamy mustard sauce, served with two diced vegetables that were not familiar to us. After much confusion and dictionary searching, the waitress went into the kitchen and returned with samples of the two vegetables prior to preparation. We were finally able to determine that they were parsnips and rutabaga. The whole meal was tasty and satisfying, due in part to our little escapade into unfamiliar territory.

On another day we visited the pretty little church [town?] where my husband’s earliest ancestor was supposedly buried. When we entered the church, we were greeted by four elderly matrons who served as docents to visitors. We were charmed to see each of them dressed up in their Sunday-best clothes from the proper hats on their careful coiffures all the way to their spotless white gloves and their stylish shoes.

Unfortunately, they spoke not a single word of English. So I pulled out my painfully prepared translation which said we were looking for the grave of my husband’s ancestors and bravely spoke in what I thought was relatively good French. They looked at us with blank expressions, then looked at each other and asked “Que?”, which is “What?” So my confidence level in speaking fluent French was shot down a little lower.

After much confusion and skillfully pointing at individual words in my faithful dictionary, we were finally able to understand the location of the oldest part of their cemetery. It was a shame that the oldest headstones had weathered too severely over the years to be read. Apparently they were made of sandstone that did not stand up to the elements. But we were confident that we had indeed found the right cemetery.

Two of the lovely mature ladies insisted on giving us a tour of the old church. It was very obvious that they were exceptionally proud of the architecture and history. Our ancestors had emigrated from here in Canada down to a small section of land in central Illinois, where we saw surprising similarities in both the building structure and ornamentation of our church. We had not previously recognized the correlation between the two towns.

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