*warning: Julie if you read this you will find out what your birthday gift is*

A formerly simple task turned into a real test of my French … and resulted in an amazing sense of accomplishment today. I went to the post office (La Poste) to mail a package.

I started at the tiny Poste in town. It’s one room and one guy sitting behind a counter amid piles of I’m not even sure what. He was very, very friendly. As soon as I walked in, he was chatting up a storm. I couldn’t catch most of what he was saying. I just smiled, nodded, and plodded ahead to my task at hand. I pulled a bottle of wine out of my purse and said (not very well) that I needed to send it to the US. He was sorry, but he didn’t have the right box. Of course, they have special boxes made to mail wine bottles. Maybe they have it in Uriage. Maybe I couldn’t conduct my business with him, but he was determined to hold a conversation with me. He asked me if it was a bottle of the nouveau Beaujolais. It’s apparently just come out. We’re actually planning on going to a nouveau Beaujolais soiree tomorrow night at the school. Anyway, I said no. Then, to my own amazement, I told him that it’s a bottle I like and that it is for my sister-in-law’s birthday. My grammar wasn’t exactly right, but it didn’t matter. He understood. And that made him even more apologetic that he didn’t have the right box. He seems like one of those people who if you manage to make up reasons to go to La Poste often enough, he’d make extra sure to help you out.

He’d suggested La Poste en Uriage, so I went back to my car (stopping at the boulangerie on the way… need to become a familiar face in there, too) and drove down the hill. The Poste there isn’t huge, but it is bigger than in St Martin. The clerk is behind a window, and there’s a room behind that. There’s also a door that I think leads to the bank area of the Poste. The Poste there is also busier, and I had to wait in line. Normally, nothing more than a nuisance but of course this morning, I was watching the clock because I had to be out in 25 minutes to get Kaitlyn from school. That had me a little worried, since fast and French do not go together.

Once I made it up to the window, I started again with my half-French half-mime routine. Je voudrias poster cette van aux etas unis. Probably a grammatical hatchet job on the language. But the woman knew what I wanted. She wasn’t sure if she had the box, and disappeared into the back room. It felt like she was gone forever. And since she is the only clerk, I was worried the people behind me were getting impatient. I forgot, that’s what people in line do at home. This is France, where you just wait patiently. She finally reappeared with the box and the guy from the bank who was apparently charged with putting the box together. I filled out the shipping form – missing only the spot for my signature which I’d looked for but didn’t see – while he struggled with the cardboard puzzle. He came out into the lobby, took my bottle and carefully boxed it up. Watching him I realized that folding the cardboard into the box isn’t easy… and that he isn’t an engineer. But he got it done. Merci, boucoup! Je ne fais pas! Another hatchet job, but again I think he got the idea.

Now, the bottle of wine is on it’s way to California. I’m thrilled I tackled a little French all on my own, and got done what I wanted. Tomorrow I need to send a letter to North Carolina. I think I’ll go back to the Poste in St Martin and let that nice man know that I got that box… now if he can just help me with this letter…

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