Learning To Speak A New Language



Paris Metro - Elizabeth Harper 2010


During my recent visit to Paris with my sister Margaret, she snapped this shot with her iPhone on a crowded Metro train (can you see how small I’m trying to make myself and the disembodied hand over my left shoulder) All over Paris we kept seeing signs advertising classes designed to teach people how to speak Wall Street English. Reading them, I had visions of Michael Douglas as Gordon Gekko standing before a chalk board with ” Greed Is Good ” in large letters and a class full of French folks repeating the words slowly one at a time.

Success in any field is contingent upon many factors only one of which might be understanding the language and language can expand to include the necessary knowledge of the industry such as in my case yesterday with regard to news reporting versus feature writing.

Yesterday, I sent off what I thought was a fairly well crafted letter to a large US newspaper suggesting that perhaps there might be a place for my type of writing. I was clearly thinking of my style as being one easily adaptable to feature writing, but I was quickly and very nicely informed that the kind of writing I proposed, ” does not fit with our mission to cover local news and features. “

The woman who sent me the nice response did say that she enjoyed my blog, but it still felt a bit like getting the ” Miss Congeniality ” award to me. I was glad to receive a response at all though and sent back a short thank you while thinking to myself that even though I don’t speak the language of the newsroom, I certainly could do excellent feature work for them on a variety of topics including some more serious areas such as healthcare in the UK versus America … based at least in part on the personal experience of a medically savvy American living in the UK. This suggestion did not get my foot in the door either.

Having spent a great many hours researching the newspaper and the changes it has been through in recent years, I thought (maybe naïvely) I might have a chance and while I don’t think I need to go back to school if I want feature writing to be part of my future, perhaps I might need to work on presenting my ideas using the language of the industry a bit better.

Thanks to everyone who has commented on my first giveaway post if you haven’t had a chance to stop by, do take a minute to listen and comment here. The contest ends this Friday at 2:00 am Eastern Standard Time.

Change Of Plans – Suggestions Anyone

For the last six or eight months, John and I have been planning a big trip in September. Having walked the 105 miles of the Tour du Mont Blanc almost two years ago, I have been looking forward to doing it again with him this fall to celebrate a big birthday I have coming up. To make it even more special, we’ve been planning on taking my sister Margaret with us on the long walk through the Swiss, French, and Italian Alps.

Things got a bit complicated when Margaret and I began to plan her travel arrangements so that the timing might work with the schedule for the TMB. Because she was coming from Alaska, most of the flight options had her traveling for a minimum of 19 hours (it was difficult to find these) or up to 38 hours with the exception of one airline which could get her here within about 10 hours with connecting flights, but only flew from Alaska one day a week.

After all three of us had put in too many hours at the computer with no real progress and loads of frustration, I offered up an alternative plan … one that seemed less like an endurance event (which the TMB really is) and something more restful and less time restrictive.

Instead of walking a path that looks like this … or sleeping in places like this, I suggested a totally different sort of trip to Margaret and she decided it sounded good to her as well.

Even with the change, she will still be here for most of the month of September and for the first time since we were twelve and fourteen, we will be able to celebrate each others birthdays in person. She’s a September birthday too and since John’s birthday falls between ours, we’re going to be eating a lot of cake that month. The big question is, where are we going to be when we are blowing out our birthday candles.

A few days after she gets here, we’ll head for London for a week of exploring. My 50th birthday will happen while we are there, so John will come up the day before and stay overnight in order to celebrate the milestone with me too. Now here’s where you come in, I’m looking for suggestions for things you think we should see and do during our week in London and I’d like to have a plan that includes something special for my birthday.

Having been there a few times, I do have some ideas, but I would love to see if you can surprise me with something I haven’t thought of yet. I’m not sure what is on Margaret’s list, (we just decided on the change recently) but I do know that I would like to photograph London from the top of the London Eye on my birthday.

I would also like for us to see a show or two in the West End, but I am not sure what might be enjoyable. I’ve seen several there in the past. I loved Billy Elliot when I saw it in 2005, and Miranda and I saw my all time favorite musical, Les Miserables when we were there in 2003. I’m not opposed to a more serious production either as I was thrilled to see Ralph Fiennes in Brand on the same trip with her when she was fifteen. If you’ve seen or heard about a production that you think is too fabulous to miss, please let me know so we can consider it for our list.

After our week in London, we’ll be a bit closer to home as we do up the southwest part of England for a week or two. Then we’re off by plane to the next place on our list. It’s one of my favorites and if you’ve reading me for long, you may have already seen some of my photographs from there. Can you guess where we will be by the images below?

A Gift for Abelard & Heloise

This is one I snapped on our honeymoon.

I can’t wait to show Margaret where I was standing when I captured this familiar Paris scene. The seventh picture holds a clue.

Margaret and I will be spending seven days in Paris on our own for a sister’s week. We have a lot already in mind to fill our days, but tell me what you’d want to see and do if you were joining us. I’m looking for things I may not have thought of yet.

Lastly, I could use suggestions from my Paris blog friends on short term holiday lets. I’d like to book a place soon and I have scoured the internet looking for a place that is not too pricey, works well for two, and is in a decent location. We don’t mind walking, (I’ll need it to offset my bread intake) and I have used the Metro before so we are fairly flexible. While I would prefer a studio apartment, if you have a hotel recommendation that is reasonable, I’d be open to having a look at that as well.

I’m so looking forward to spending this time with Margaret. We’ve not had a chance to travel together since we were children and I don’t think our memories of fighting over who had more room in the backseat of the car on road trips in the late sixties and early seventies is going to compare at all with the memories we’ll be making in September 2010.