Ode to isabelle

This post is dedicated to my amazing French teacher (and friend) with whom I have spent almost 40 hours over the past few months!

In fact it amounts to more because of the gossiping pre, during and after classes!  Girls always have a lot to talk about and our student-teacher relationship made no exception of this wonderful phenomenon!  English, French, a jumble of the two (usually me!) but always always so many interesting and insightful stories.  Now that i think about it, 40 hours really isn’t very much although it has felt like it and I know deep down that it has been a significant period in my life and one I will always remember as part of this transition period in my life.

For anyone whose had a bad experience in Paris or thought the French are arrogant, rude or unaccepting, you must meet Isabelle.   While I am certain there are many more wonderful French, I am also certain she is a rare exception.  She certainly has been for me.  She is a Breton, hailing from the most north-western tip of France, Brest.  She is unlike any French I have met because she is real.  She has a genuine interest in others, is accepting, is sensitive and is one of the kindest, most modest people I know.  This is not to say the French are not nice people but what few Parisians I have met have  disappointed me; this is particularly the case in the professional sphere.  She says – there are Parisians, and then there are the rest of the French!  What power the Parisian has to influence the perception of a whole nation!  ( I am secretly hoping I will meet an incredible Parisian to disprove this during my time there!)

I recall one class during which we were talking about her many professional adventures and how random and unrelated her choices to pursue them have been.  She laughingly told me her husband often teases her about being unambitious but that her true ambition in life is to be happy.  She chases happiness.  I was amazed by this wise person sitting before me who in fact understood her purpose in life so much better than all of us corporate junkies.  Her carefree, risk-taker attitude meant she was someone who followed her dreams and her heart and didn’t give a damn about anything else.  No self-inflicted pressure, no interest in dealing with stress or politics or bureaucracy or social taboos .  To me that day, she was a queen.  How many times I have dreamt of breaking these corporate chains that bind me in pursuit of just that…i can no longer even count!  I am a coward next to Isabelle who’s conviction renders her braver than so many including myself.

During one of my earlier classes with Isabelle, she launched into a few questions about my origins and the Palestinian situation.  After years of struggle, and despite being a topic that tugs at my heart strings, I robotically retell my sad tale of how i lost my country.  I remember looking up after a brief pause in my story to see tears in Isabelle’s eyes that created an emotional next few minutes for the both of us.  I have never in all my years of living seen someone so far from the cause be so affected by it.  She touched me beyond words and i will never forget that moment.

Isabelle – I will immensely miss our Starbucks rendevous.  I will miss your carefree and genuine spirit.  Thank-you for teaching me, for always encouraging me and for allowing me to exercise my vocal French chords for an entire 1.5hrs twice a week.  Thank-you for all your tips and advice on life in France.  For answering my text messages on weekends, for bearing with my crazy schedule, for lending me your DVD’s, for your book recommendations, for finally helping me conquer my issue with ‘les chiffres’ and for being a great friend.  I will miss you.  

A bientot j’espere! xxx



  1. Bravo Dana! You managed to make me cry again… C’est très bien de ne pas être filmé quand on écrit parce que la (avec accent grave mais l’ipad ne le donne pas) tu as frappé très fort! Tu m’as bouleversee et j’en suis toute emue. Tu resteras toujours quequ’un de très important pour moi parce que tu es quelqu’un d’exceptionnel! J’adore ta façon de parler ma langue et ton côté fleur bleue est trop mignon. I just know that you will just do great in Paris. I already miss you a lot! Hope to see you soon! And if some French people are nasty to you, don’t forget that they are not all like that! Xxx

  2. Isabelle, thanks so much for the really sweet words! N had to translate it for me because I didn’t understand all of it. Ditto to everything you said and I will remember all your advice while there. I miss you a lot too and will definitely see you soon! Gros bisous X

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