A long series of stories in 8 weeks


Enrolling French at Alliance Française de Manille for one ‘session’ is already a big story; I do not know where to start even if it was only eight weeks.

I like the idea of trying new things, pushing the limits to the next level. Skipping several modules of French without prior exposure and academic background is a big adventure. I took the placement exam last December and attended the first day last January without knowing anyone at all.

Having mixed feelings is an integral part of a true adventure. I initially felt nervousness because it was my first time to hear everyone around me talking in French, and I am required to talk in French for the first time and to reply appropriately. Naturally, I was worried that I am already left behind in their lessons, yet I still opened my vulnerable self to potentially humiliating myself in front of other people (or worse, strangers). I was also worried that my mom might discover that I am spending on tuition instead of saving them. She still does not know this (or so I hope), but she might have some idea. This factor adds to the adventure.

Having different backgrounds (e.g., law, business, IT, tourism, international relations), different countries, and different reasons for studying French (has a French husband, has a French girlfriend, for the love of the French cuisine, for no particular reason), the class can be as diverse as the movie L’Auberge Espagnol. Despite those differences, friendships have been developed because in the end, we are like-minded in other ways. It feels like I have known them for a long time. Because there are a lot of topics that can promote human bonding to the class, it feels like experiencing the good parts of High School and College again. Every after class, I would go out with some of my classmates for dinner, that is why I usually go home very late, but my mom does not seem to be suspicious about it.

The main feedback of the students about the teacher is that his method of intimidation is so effective that the students would definitely be forced to study. Even if he seems less friendly on the surface, he is unexpectedly friendly. We can casually chat with him about anything outside class hours about anything, including: He wants to teach forever (I was inspired when he said « you would not notice the time passing by if you love what you are doing »). He likes the idea of talking to people, instilling fear on the students (I am a victim) and imposing high standards.

While I was eating at an Italian restaurant with a classmate and the teacher an hour before the last meeting for that module. While I was away from the table for some minutes and busy answering a phone call, the teacher mentioned that I really have what it takes to take the next module. It feels good to hear from a brutally frank teacher.

Getting the lessons is what I have been wanting to do since last year. My module should be just a review because I know many of the lessons already, but I learned a lot of new things along the way, and it increased my confidence through practice. I was only after the lessons, so I did not expect to get more than what I wished for. The entire experience did not feel like it all happened in eight weeks. I am still a basic speaker, but I feet that my knowledge has truly increased one more step. Enrolling a module of French in media res is worth the risk, indeed.

The best way to celebrate the last day is to eat together at a French restaurant. After the class, we (including the teacher) had a dinner at Cuillére (I prefer being busy chewing over smiling):

Endless words are not enough to summarize the experience. It is a sad reality that students get fewer and fewer as the modules become higher. Some classmates stopped halfway in the module, Vicky and Luis would not enroll next session, Remy would go back to India then study at New York University, Ryan would work in the US months from now, Kat would transfer to the weekend schedule, Thelma would not continue after two modules, and I am not yet sure whether I would continue studying this next session because I need more money and I must fix other things in my life too.


Valentine’s day


While the rest of the world was on a date, I was having French lessons and exams. Right after the nosebleed-inducing experience, we suddenly decided to go to Cuillère.

The setting reminds me of Les Deux Moulins (from the movie Le Fabuleux destin d’Amélie Poulain), a café in Rue Lepic, Montmarte, Paris.

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The food is expensive as expected, but for me, it is worth the money.

Where are my gazillion letters?


If there is something that I would like to change about my own mother, it is her being nosy. (Years ago, she was even listening to the first few parts of a conference call that I received!)

I used to keep the letters that I receive in a small box under my bed, then transferred them to a big clear book and kept it at the bottom of my clothes, because I kept on receiving more letters and I want them to be organized.

When I thought I have too much clothes to hide the collection, my mom suddenly transferred all of them to a bigger cabinet, with the unexpected loss of the precious letters. Considering her I-should-know-everything mentality, I am sure that she placed the letters somewhere else. I even know that she had read the love letters of my brother!

The first thing that came to my mind was to ask her personally, but the scenario that I imagined is not good:

Me: Where are my gazillion letters? *raising eyebrows
Mom: Which letters are you talking about? The one from [friend #1] who talks about [sensitive topic #1], or the… (and the list goes on) ? And as far as I remember, there is also a condom there. *raising eyebrows, higher than mine
Me: But it’s an unused condom! But [sensitive topic #1] is none of your business! But… *faints

At least nobody will ever see the melodramatic and desperate letters. I had thrown those « love letters » away not because they are from the past, but mostly because I am worried that someone else in the house would see them.

The ones I collected are just from my friends, mostly high school and college friends, but the set of topics is very diverge. Cheesy things that we considered interesting way back then, about common friends, some fiction that would sound completely nonsense to the people outside that certain circle of friends, inside jokes that are open to misinterpretations, even references to green jokes. Those are definitely not the topics that I would like to share with my own mother.

The letters are far from the usual inspirational books, but it reminds me that I inspire so many people and they look up to me, and I have shared a lot of happy days with a lot of people. With the advent of blogging nowadays and the efficiency of e-mail, I would most probably not receive these kinds of letters anymore (or not that way at least). I usually read the letters all over again when I need inspiration, so I miss them.