this is the one where i get schooled in English from non-native speakers

… schooled in the sense that these people, you know, non-native English speakers, speak to me and I hear them but I don’t hear them … and, well, it makes for some funny stories.

So here’s the deal. Today I’m chatting with a friend and he says he’s going to ride his bike to the barrier. Now this is something my friend has said before, not to me, but he has typed on Facebook.

Now let me tell you something about this friend, Christopher. From what I know about him, and I promise you it’s not much, he was born in Vienna and now lives in London. Vienna as in Austria, people. London as in that place far away but where everyone speaks English, well, I guess the way it’s supposed to be spoken.

I say all that because, you see, Christopher speaks English better than I do, I’m afraid. But that’s beside the point. The story is still funny.

Get to the point already. Christ.

So here’s the funny part and why this “barrier” talk leads me to my other story, which I should have written months ago. The one about my trip to Paris. Alone.

But first, the barrier.

Now this use of the word barrier wasn’t really a confusion based on language skills or one’s background. No. It was just Kasey being silly and dramatizing the entire conversation and Facebook post to be something more glamorous and lovely than maybe it really is. I mean, I’m sure it’s lovely, but not what I was thinking AT ALL. I tend to let my mind go wild sometimes.

Case in point: Because Christopher can write to melt your heart, I immediately assume when he  says he’s riding to said “barrier” that he means he’s riding until he can ride no more. You know, barrier, as in a limit. A boundary.

So in my mind, he’s riding till his legs are numb and he can’t bear to ride another moment. He can barely breathe. He’s smiling, but shit. He’s hurting. He’s hit his boundary. He’s hit the wall. The barrier. Yes?

Now this story is really absurd, come to think of it, because he’s a biker. No. I mean REALLY a biker. Like the man rides along entire countrysides with friends. So hitting a barrier in London would be silly, right? I mean, I’ve never been there (obviously) but it can’t be THAT big. Right?

Of course it can be, but this story is already ridiculous so just play along. Thanks.

So today, I ask him. He mentioned riding to the barrier. And I type “Barrier?”

And he sends me a wikipedia page link.

Which makes me LOL.

And I f’n HATE LOL.

But christ. I was laughing. Hard.

Not as lovely as I assumed. I had images of him riding and sweating and giving it his all and hitting his personal “barrier.”

Hee hee.

Language is lovely, no?

So all this time, he’s been riding to a physical barrier. As in the Thames Barrier. Read about it. It’s kinda funky. 😉

Who knew?

Which leads me to my next story.

God, this is already long. I knew this would happen. I get carried away.

This story is about this:

This is a photo of the train tracks, taken from the station in Geneva, Switzerland, where I was to take a train to Paris.


And this is exactly where my story about my first trip abroad took a turn. At first, a scary, horrible turn. But then, one I could laugh about. And still do.

I’ll try to get to the good part fast. I’m not promising it works.

So I’m going all out and heading to Paris on my own against my parents’ wishes (ha!) and I have it all figured out. I have popular French phrases not only sorta in my head but also on my iPhone. I have everything tightly packed so I only have a backpack, small bag and roller suitcase.

So I head to the train station early. Like really early. I’m the first one there for this train. So I linger in the hallway of the station. People watching. Shooting photos with my phone. Like this one:

Finally, it’s closer to time for the train to come, so I head in.

Through these doors:

I am on my way to France. I’ve got it all figured out. The signs say to have your ticket and passport ready and in hand. I do. All the while I’m being very careful with my stuff because everyone has warned me of pickpockets at the train station. I’m not going to let that happen. No way.

So as I’m standing on the platform, the first one up there, after not too long a few people wander up the ramp. Another few minutes, and a couple walks up near me. I can hear their conversation.

The man is sweating. He’s going into detail about how you just can’t trust people. Explaining how he had run after some man he thought had stolen his wallet. Going into detail about how he ran him down, yelling at the accused pickpocket.

His wife was silent.

Ahh. Americans.

He’s telling his wife how he then realizes the man actually had NOT stolen his wallet. He had simply put it in a different pocket or something.

Seriously. I was trying not to listen but it was funny. I glanced over my shoulder, made eye contact, smiled.

The dude was sweating like nobody’s business from his run after the man who didn’t steal his wallet.

Next thing I know, he and his wife are walking up to me.

“Can you help us figure out where we should be?” his wife asked as she handed me her tickets.

I look at their tickets, compare to mine, and show them where on the platform it seems they should be standing to board the train.

And then, everything changes.

It’s like something from a movie.

Suddenly, you can hear the train barreling toward the platform, and out of nowhere, people rush up the platform. It’s as if someone has opened the floodgates. It’s a madhouse. The Americans thank me in a rush and the woman takes the tickets from my hand and smiles.

And then … they disappear into the swarm of people.

I reach down to get my bags back in hand and stand there, ready to head to Paris. My heart is fluttering.

It’s happening.

And then …

I realize my passport is gone.

And with that, I’ll pick this story up again tomorrow, when you’ll find out just how I learned a little more about English and how it can be so different when coming from, say, a French-speaking man on a train headed to Paris.

Stay tuned.


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