Making do

First things first.  I “passed” my French “test.”  My score was a S-2/R-2.

I can’t say much about the assessment since I signed a non-disclosure agreement, but suffice it to say it was a LONG couple of hours that taxed my brain more than it has been taxed in a long time.  In good news, the assessors were quite complimentary and basically told me that they thought my childhood French was trapped somewhere in my brain.  So hopefully I’ll have the opportunity to take some classes in the spring that will be able to coax the French back out again a little more fluently.

What does my score mean? Well, a “2” is generally considered to mean I have a “limited working proficiency”

I am, according to the assessors:

  • able to satisfy routine social demands and limited work requirements
  • can handle with confidence most basic social situations including introductions and casual conversations about current events, work, family, and autobiographical information
  • can handle limited work requirements, needing help in handling any complications or difficulties; can get the gist of most conversations on non-technical subjects (i.e. topics which require no specialized knowledge), and has a speaking vocabulary sufficient to respond simply with some circumlocutions
  • has an accent which, though often quite faulty, is intelligible
  • can usually handle elementary constructions quite accurately but does not have thorough or confident control of the grammar.

In about six months B will have to take a similar test assessment and he’ll have to get a S-3/R-3.  The score B needs is that of someone with a “Professional working proficiency.”  He will be expected to:

  • able to speak the language with sufficient structural accuracy and vocabulary to participate effectively in most conversations on practical, social, and professional topics
  • can discuss particular interests and special fields of competence with reasonable ease
  • has comprehension which is quite complete for a normal rate of speech
  • has a general vocabulary which is broad enough that he or she rarely has to grope for a word
  • has an accent which may be obviously foreign; has a good control of grammar; and whose errors virtually never interfere with understanding and rarely disturb the native speaker.

I know he’ll do it. He’s an annoyingly determined human being.  But, wow, my 2+ hours of “assessing” made me realize what an amazing, and difficult, feat it is to learn a language, basically from scratch, to the point that you “rarely have to grope for a word.”

Besides stressing about the French assessment, we have not been thinking much about Kinshasa in the last couple of weeks, at least C and I have not.  B has been in “area studies” learning about Africa, so he’s probably a little more focused, but C and I have been enjoying fall in D.C.

For me, with fall, comes a strange need to cook.  Something about apples and pumpkins and the feel of crispy leaves under my feet makes me want to get into the kitchen.  So C and I have been finding fun things to cook, and having fun in some unexpected ways.

We started with some banana bread.  We had a couple of browning bananas, so I found my mother’s awesome recipe (which is really Nigella Lawson’s awesome recipe – we skip the nuts, but don’t, whatever you do, skip the rum…) and set about baking.  I gathered all my ingredients and then realized that the corporate housing gods do not include a bread pan with the kitchen.  So I made do with the casserole dish we do have and tried to fashion a tin foil “basket” to keep it contained in a loaf-like form.  This is how it came out of the oven:

IMG_0622 Luckily it still tasted pretty yummy.

Then with an extra day off last weekend we decided to make some sugar cookies.  I was sad to discover that I had not packed our Halloween decorations (who knows where those are…), but my bigger problem came when we needed to roll out the dough and I discovered (not surprisingly, I suppose) that our corporate apartment also does not include a rolling pin.  So we made do again – this time with something that had the additional benefit of being drinkable.

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C thought it was pretty funny with the wine sloshing around while we rolled.  And again, luckily, the cookies tasted pretty good (even though we also found we only had Christmas colored sparkles…)

I suspect these will be the first of many (many) times that we’ll be compromising in our FS life, but if the results always turn out as well as our banana bread and cookies then missing a rolling pin, a pan, the right color sparkles – or something bigger – won’t really matter.  We’ll just keep making do and enjoying the fun of finding something that will work just as well (and even better if I also get a glass of wine as part of the deal).

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