Within everyone there lies the secret desires to fly away to foreign places and recreate the person that you wanted to leave behind. In the wake of those dreams there will lie the answers to the fantasy that you desired to experience. Most of those ideals are not at all what you would have expected or desired yet in their midst lies some pretty amazing events that altered the realities that you had never considered before your embarkation. As a die hard dreamer and fantasist the amount of dreams that I think about daily could not possibly be realized. At an early age I did have the inspiration from a high school teacher who gave us an assignment that would take a school year to complete. We were to make a list of our twenty most important life things that we would want to do in our life. The list would start at the number twenty being the easiest and the number one being the hardest in our opinion to achieve. With each choice we were to think about our choices and make the reason's solid and well thought through.
As with most young adults it was an assignment that was to be easily put off till the end and was quickly put down on paper the evening before it was to be due. This was one assignment that took me asunder. How in the hell could I narrow down the list to twenty things when that list kept growing daily of the things that I wanted to accomplish in my life. While the others shrugged it off I became overtly neurotic about each choice I would write down. Write, erase, write and erase and add and take away, day after day the list would change pending daily life scenarios and ups and downs. I can't explain why it seemed so important to get it just right as there was no right or wrong to the assignment, you were to just search your hearts desire. And boy did I have an enlarged heart full of ideals.
The list was to be presented to the class as a whole with each person sharing each others desires on their list. It was absolutely mind expanding to listen to the people that you traveled through school days with unwrap their private desires and expose them to peer opinions. Each day all of us in class would witness surprising information that matched each personality. I couldn't help but wonder if any of us would really take this on and really follow suit. As I stood to make my presentation I held my own determination to explain how I would achieve my own personal goals and when I finished I swore that I would not rest until each and everything on my list would get accomplished. I kept that list carefully stored and began my journey into solo adulthood. With my trusty pen in hand I was ready to start checking off my list so I fastened my seat belt snugly and took off for the blue unfamiliar skies.
My first dream checked off was put in the order of the hardest, yet it was to be the easiest. My list was upside down and played out in opposite order. As the years ticked by my top twenty list began winding down and not one of the ideals or fantasies that played out in my mind when written was to be seen in the actual realities. In fact the reality was far better than the fantasy and after all was said and done I walked way with far more than I could have ever imagined. I would neatly connote little bits of footnotes with each check mark and ponder just how I came to write down these choices when life had taken so many multiple crossroads not considered, yet I always ended up still facing myself in the mirror which on some days was very frightening.
The many things that were encountered on the flights to each goal were life changing. All of the people that shared the time and those flights also shared my row of seats. When we had reached our destinations they moved on to continue with their own list of accomplishments. Some people left a lasting impression yet others are hard to recall. When my memory flashes back to the fond memory of human kindness it can ignite emotion that had been kept hidden and was finally realized as impacting on my silent psyche.
I took the challenge to take my last list goal and take off to a foreign country where I made it my goal to take on the fluency of a new language and the country of France was my choice with which to do so. I felt ready and prepped for what I thought would be a fun and easy breezy flight. I had been studying endlessly and figured that I would just pick where I left off in my own private studies but the language institute would be the decision maker as to what level I would begin at.
As with any first day of school,at any age, it can unleash the demons of learned school behavior that sneaks out unconsciously and turns your mature mind power back into six grade gibberish. The latent school insecurities unravel any sense of being cool and mentally together and suddenly you feel lost in the classroom and sit and plan your escape. The only problem is you paid for this ride and there are no ticket refunds.
This was a no nonsense school of language and you would not leave the school until you could understand and speak with ease in any situation you may encounter. You may have paid for the ride but they were not letting you step out the door toward vocal freedom until you proved you could survive out in the real world en francais.
As the classes progressed I realized how little I really knew and how easily I could be intimidated for not speaking correctly. It became a total immersion into language translation. I was "Lost In Translation" until my brain finally kicked the habit of translating every word before I could speak. It was a battle to the end and then one day, just like the teacher said, it disappeared and was never to return. What I had, that was different from everybody else, was my very own private translator.
My personal translator gave me lessons most everyday and he really had no idea that he was doing so. His name was Claude and he was a crusty old gentleman who looked as salty as the sea. The ripples in his face told the story of the kind of life that he lived previously. He stood every morning by the long curvy driveway up to his retirement complex which overlooked the Mediterranean sea. As the blue of the sea glowed over everything, it created an even bluer hue to his mariners cap and that cigarette tucked behind his ear. He would stand so stoic as if he were sailing the ship that he spent so many years on. I never saw him smoke the cigarette but he always had it near in case the urge struck to light up.
He was very direct that first morning when I met him and with my broken understanding of slang french, I realized that he was introducing himself to me and wanted to strike up a conversation. The talk was staggered by my trying to understand most of what he said. I finally got across to him that I would be late for school but insisted that we continue our conversation after school. I had hoped that I got that message across well enough and looked forward to the end of the day hoping that he would be out there waiting on my walk back home. Much to my happiness he waited for my arrival on the bench overlooking the amazing view of the Cote d'Azur. I happily took my spot on the bench next to him and it was there that we began our daily conversations.
His incredible stories opened my imagination as if I was being read to by my parents as a child. I learned a whole new conversive language and began to spin my visions of his life in my head. When he spoke I could feel the movement of the sea and the waves that moved him around the world in his nautical career. With each violent storm I felt the fear of hanging on to the ship until the seas subsided. I cried when he spoke of losing dear comrades to the angry sea and the effects of wartime.Yes, I had my own translator who was as dear as a Grandpa and who gave that big bear hug when it was time to leave. I found myself incorporating word skills that he so patiently explained to me. There were times that he helped with the homework that was so dreaded. He approached this whole scenario with such fervor that everyday it gave me more courage to see it all through and melted away all intimidation of language insecurity.
He explained that most of his family was deceased and that the French Navy was taking great care of his needs and that he loved being in the elite retirement home but that he missed the company that had long ago disappeared for reasons that life exposes. We grew together,two total strangers, who were united by a beautiful morning walk and fate. He became a new relative and would always hold the space in my heart as my "Papi". To say goodbye and know that I would never see him again was tough on my heartstrings. On the last evening before I would exit my French ville I wanted to rendezvous one last time on our bench. We watched our last sunset over the Mediterranean and as the darkness fell and we stood to hug and say goodbye, our eyes were pulled up to look one last time at the sky. It was at that moment that we both witnessed the phenomenon known as "Haley's Comet". As we stood in our embrace we watched the white round orb and its streaking multicolored tails sweeping across the sky.
He whispered that he would never see the likes of that again and how blessed he was to share it with me. Through the tears I said that I would not have wanted to see it any other way.
As that comet now flies swiftly through the universe, on its tail rides the the life energy known as Claude. I can't help but believe that fate delivered this vision to leave an indelible inking within my memory banks.
Upon my arrival back home from my French experience I could not help but hear the changes that occurred while training my brain to listen to language. I had never paid attention before. My own English became renewed and for the first time in my life I actually listened when someone spoke and understood information in ways I never thought was possible. My ears took in new sound information and my brain delivered it intelligently.
I didn't get the skills from sitting all that time in those classrooms, no.... I got it from human communication and from stories that would rival any thrilling novel or movie. My channel for learning came simply by experiencing a shared flight on board the Mariner's express. En route to the universal space of words.
Thursday, May 20, 2010
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