After breakfast at Hotel Fibonacci, he circled the block before heading towards the beach. Amazed by the foreign environment, his mind expanded to take in the island’s exotic, colorful details.

By the seaside, a magnificent picture opened up: a vast, turquoise-blue sky over warm, vanilla-colored sand. In the background, the mighty, azure-blue sea and in its center, the showpiece: two sisters, with long, coffee-colored hair over tanned shoulders, sitting on generously big, impeccably white towels.

Overwhelmed, he stopped a few seconds to admire the picture before stepping into it.

In a plastic bag, he carried a faded, small towel and a pocketbook, The Pearl by John Steinbeck. Glancing over to the girls, he saw sunscreen, hairbrushes, combs, sunglasses, hats materializing from their elegant tote bags. Two books: Sartre and Camus. Smilingly, he tested his school French by reading the titles out aloud: “Le Mur” “L’Etranger” They heard him and echoed him mischievously by pronouncing the title of his book, “Ze PeRl,” while giggling.

The wall was torn down and they were not completely strangers. The girls were thrilled at having a conversation with the white-skinned, blue-eyed young man who was mauling their beloved French like a German tank. They counter-attacked the English language, keeping their uvular R’s, stressing all word-endings, and fighting a courageous battle with the mysterious h-sound.

After interrogations about favorite philosophers, musicians and authors, they went for a swim. He wondered why they screamed, “Oh, messieurs!” after each dip. They insisted that it was “Oh, mes yeux!”, “Hand hin Hinglísh, zis meanz ho, my highs!” When he didn’t understand, they challenged him, “Yu put yoR hown ‘ed hundéR ze oatéR, hand yu oill zee!” Indeed, the salty water did hurt his eyes.

His nose had turned intensely red by the time they had to break up. The girls proposed a rendezvous next day, “Yes? TomoRóv? Oui mit ‘eaR? Hat ze zame time?” Overwhelmed, he smiled, “Wee, che vieng demán!

An invisible, creative spiral had started to take shape. In its further sequence lay hidden many trips to France, French language studies – a life dedicated to French culture.

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Fuji
Fuji(@fuji)
10 months ago

Incredible picture, incredible story, Christer! From the first mention of the Hotel Fibonacci, I was hooked. Your description of the scene was so complete, I was right there on that vanilla sand. But the best part is your imitation of all the accents, fractured and otherwise. Something tells me this is a true story from your past. I know you were a language teacher and a linguist – how many languages do you speak? Is French one of them? I hope someday you will record an audio version of this story. I want to hear all those R’s pronounced correctly!!

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Voice-Team
Voice-Team(@voice-team)
Admin
Reply to  Christer Norrlof
10 months ago

Hi Christer – At the moment, all voice recordings are published in the “Featured Recordings” sidebar, and on Alexa. However, Alexa is only available in the USA at this time. We are exploring the possibility of expanding Alexa to other countries, but that feature is expensive, and so depends on the amount of patron support we receive. In the meantime, your story is currently being featured!

Fuji
Fuji(@fuji)
Reply to  Christer Norrlof
10 months ago

You did it! I just listened to your recording which is really wonderful. Not only do you bring the story alive, but your French sounds like a native speaker. I also love hearing a few Colombian birds in the background. Thanks so much for doing this, Christer. Your voice is perfect for these recordings.

Juma
Juma(@juma)
10 months ago

Hello Christer – I also enjoyed the story. I had to read the phonetic pronunciations out loud to get the gist, but it was fun! I admire your knowledge of so many languages!

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Lotchie Carmelo
Lotchie Carmelo(@lotchie-carmelo)
10 months ago

Hello, Christer. Hats off to you. I am impressed and amazed by your linguistic ability. I learned a lot and enjoyed it so much.

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Lotchie Carmelo
Lotchie Carmelo(@lotchie-carmelo)
Reply to  Christer Norrlof
10 months ago

You’re welcome, Christer. It is a bit difficult for me, but it’s kind of interesting to learn. 

Marianna Pieterse
Marianna Pieterse(@marianna-pieterse)
9 months ago

Christer, I really enjoyed reading this. I love the line ” The girls were thrilled at having a conversation with the white-skinned, blue-eyed young man who was mauling their beloved French like a German tank.” It made me laugh, thinking how it must sound to try and speak French in a German accent. I read your comment to Fuji and find it fascinating, first of all that you can speak all those languages, and to realise how one event could change the course of your life, whether for good or bad. This is a great story!

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Julie Harris
Julie Harris(@julie-harris)
Reply to  Christer Norrlof
9 months ago

Christer, that is so interesting! There’s a fascinating episode of Midsomer Murders called “Ring Out Your Dead” where some unknown person is avenging a murder over a hundred and forty years earlier. Not quite as old as your Joan of Arc story, but indicative of a mindset! No country is immune – some people here are still fighting the US Civil War.

Julie Harris
Julie Harris(@julie-harris)
Reply to  Christer Norrlof
9 months ago

I know this kind of attitude exists in parts of this country. I live within a few miles of three major universities. Most of the baristas and waiters and cab drivers in town have advanced degrees. Please don’t tell anyone in the Midwest about our little spot here, which we think is paradise. I love being around educated people from all over the world, much like this club! I’ve never understood the antipathy toward education and knowledge, both of which I prize highly.

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Marianna Pieterse
Marianna Pieterse(@marianna-pieterse)
Reply to  Christer Norrlof
9 months ago

I agree with Julie, this is very interesting. It is fascinating how people’s mindsets are not easily changed, no matter how much time has passed.

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