It’s not often that I receive any phone calls on my French cell phone. It’s even less likely that I receive a voice mail. So you can understand my surprise when I came home today to two missed calls and a voice mail. They were unknown numbers but I had a feeling that it might be Madame Mustard, because the last time I saw her we exchanged contact information but I never thought she would actually reach out to me.
My heart started to pound as I retrieved her business card from my wallet. Were my eyes playing tricks on me? No. The numbers matched up. She called me not just once but twice. And the voice mail was from her.
My nerves kicked in as my heart beat faster. What was she going to say to me? Was she going to back out of growing kale? Was she going to tell me the entire idea of bringing kale to Paris is stupid? Or was she going to ask for money to grow it? I had no idea. My hands started to sweat as I fumbled with my iPhone touch screen (I find those things tricky when I’m calm and cool) but managed to play the message.
Her voice was soft and she spoke slowly – thankfully for my benefit. It took me two listens to confirm it was actually her. Then I listened two more times to try and capture exactly what she was asking and telling me. I think I had gathered most of it. I heard a lot of si vous voulez acheter and je voudrais this and that. She would need a organic certification for the seeds. She proposed a price she would want to charge for a kilo of le chou kale.
While I didn’t catch everything, I was pretty confident I’d understood the main points and decided to craft a response email as talking points for when I called her back. I much prefer writing in French over speaking French, so I knew that writing down some notes to aid in our future conversation could only help.
I finished my notes and at this point it had been a few hours since she’d called. I could feel my mind making up excuses as to why I shouldn’t call her. “She’s probably in the green house, picking her gorgeous mustard greens for this week’s market or she’s just come for the day and is taking a deserved hour break before she dives into the accounting for her business.” I could not have made up any more diversions. So I just went for it.
No answer. The machine. Oh no! I had not bargained or prepared anything for leaving a message… You can imagine how great it sounded. But I think I got the point across.
Within the hour, she called me back. My heart started to pound the hardest yet as I pulled up my talking points and clumsily answered. I could feel my throat thicken and face turn red, making any ability I had to speak disappear.
It went ok but I’m my own worst enemy. I screwed up asking her how she was and was as careful as possible to vous-voyer her the entire time (of course!) and while that may seem simple to someone fluent in French, it is not always that easy.
We discussed the organic certification and she confirmed that it’s alright if it is in English – she apparently has used ones before that were in Chinese. One less thing I will need a translator for. Then we discussed price and I got about half of that… should make sure we clear those things up before the kale starts growing!
Was it horrible? No. Did I feel completely exhausted afterwards? Yes. Who would have thought a five minute conversation could do that to person!? Either way, the best thing that I am taking away from this entire day is that Madame Mustard is in! She’s taking seeds and certificates and prices! One step closer my kale-loving friends!