One of my good friends from back home who is a high school French teacher in the Bay Area was here in France a couple of weeks ago. She brings a group of about twenty of her students to Paris every 2 years. They usually spend a few days visiting the city, and then they head south to Toulouse to stay with their host families for about a week, giving them the opportunity to fully immerse themselves in French culture and life. It’s funny because when I saw my friend and her students 2 years ago, I didn’t speak a lick of French. I felt like an imbecile because I thought to myself, “these high school kids speak much better French than I do, even though I’ve been living here for 6 months already!!” I often find myself frustrated with the impossibly slow and lackluster progress that I’ve made in learning how to speak French coherently. I think that part of my problem is that I’m super self-conscious about my accent and my lack of vocabulary, which inhibits me from speaking as much as I should. I also only speak Vietnamese when I’m at home with my husband and family, which further hinders my progress.
At times, I feel like my English is also starting to deteriorate as my tiny French vocabulary grows. So, it felt like such a relief to let loose in English when I saw my friend again! While it was fantastic catching up with her while playing tourist with her students as they wandered around Paris, the cherry on top was the bags of tortilla chips (the good stuff, no less – Xochitl!!) and the jars of salsa that she brought for me! Though Paris offers a smorgasbord of goodies from all over the world, it seriously lacks quality Mexican foods and ingredients. The ethnic food aisles at the supermarkets only carries Old El Paso brand “Mexican” products. I’m afraid to even venture to try them, not even during my extreme moments of desperation and cravings for Mexican and Tex-Mex! With such a limited selection at the grocery stores, I can’t even make anything myself. So, you can imagine how ecstatic I was the second I tasted those chips and salsa again, especially after not having savored them in nearly three years! It was also my husband’s first chips and salsa experience (I know, unreal, right?!?) and he, too, is now hooked on this deliciousness. I can’t wait to stock up when I’m back in the US again (hopefully, this Thanksgiving holiday-all fingers and toes crossed that this trip home will actually happen!!).