The current state of my secret identity

I’ve been to my French discussion group three times since the day I accidentally assumed the role of (amateur) photographer, and I have some good news and some bad news. The good news: my secret identity as an economist-turned-heiress-photographer is still intact. The bad news: the instructor Laurine seems to think that having a photographer in class is the best thing since, well, sliced baguette.

Twice now, Laurine has used my photography as a framework for the whole day’s discussion. (The third time, a fellow language learner took the prize for most interesting conversation topic when she announced she was pregnant. Naturally we spent the rest of the class discussing baby names.) I’m happy to be good fodder for conversation, but Laurine’s attentiveness to my photography is keeping me on my toes.

For example: Two weeks after that first class establishing my photographer creds, Laurine introduced me to the group as an amateur photographer and commented that she was surprised to see me on a Wednesday, since I had been going on Mondays. Because the point of discussion group is to, well, discuss, I explained that on Monday I had been in Italy.

“Ah, génial!” she exclaimed, immediately following up by asking how many pictures I had taken there.

“About 100,” I answered honestly. Laurine asked what I liked to take pictures of, and because my vocabulary is limited, I said de la nature et de l’architecture—two words that are conveniently the same in French and English.

Laurine then turned to each of the others in the group: “Where is the most interesting place you’ve visited? And what should Claire take pictures of there?”

Over the course of the 90-minute discussion I learned that I should take photos of the beaches of Sardinia, mountains of Alaska, Buddhist sculptures in the Philippines, and carved stone houses in Petra, Jordan. This worked great for me—I got to nod appreciatively at the group’s suggestions without having to answer hard-hitting, investigative questions about my expertise and money-making potential.


One of many photos from Italy

The next lesson that I attended began more or less the same way. Laurine wanted us to practice the future tense, so to start us off, she again turned to me, her conversation-starter muse: “Claire, tell us, what will you take photos of next?”

With all the visitors we have coming this fall, I had plenty of answers to choose from. I opted to talk about my upcoming trip to Switzerland.

“I am going to take photos of the Swiss Alps,” I said.

Laurine asked what I like about the Alps. I tried to say that, compared to the mountains in the US, the Alps are geologically younger and so seem taller and more craggy. It was probably a combination of my limited vocabulary and limited knowledge of geology, but Laurine wasn’t exactly following my description.

“The mountains in the US are smaller?” she asked. “Vraiment? Can you ski on them?”

Luckily there was another American in the group and he had spent quite a bit of time skiing near Denver, so he jumped in to help describe the Rockies and to keep that conversational (snow)ball rolling. We spent the rest of the class discussing mountains and skiing.

I’m skipping class this week to go take those photos of the Swiss Alps, but I’m already anticipating a long discussion next week about just how many I took, of what, and what I’m going to do with them. I look forward to reporting back to you (and Laurine…) on all those details next week. In the meantime, you’ll find me studying up on my mountain vocabulary.


One of many photos from the French Alps

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