While studying at ULB, I am taking a course called a Linguistics Tandem. It is the opportunity for students to find a partner with whom they can exchange languages. We meet with our partners fifteen times for two hours each time. We speak for one hour in each of the languages we are exchanging. Throughout the process we note our struggles and improvements and put together a journal about the experience at the end of the semester. It is a great way for me to practice French, to help someone learn English and to get course credit at the same time! There is an online forum where you begin your search for a partner. Posts are something like "Anglophone Seeking Francophone." I wanted to find a partner early so I could get someone who I would get along well with and because I have a strong type A personality and wanted to get started on the project right away so we would have a sufficient amount of time to complete the work. I emailed a few people who had posted on the forum and I also created an advertisement on the forum myself. After a day or two of searching I came across Lilian. I have always loved the name and so I was immediately drawn to the advertisement. Lilian is from France, studies architecture and is looking for someone to speak English with! I responded right away saying that I was interested in partnering, that I had been to France a few times and loved it, and asked if we could meet up for coffee later in the week. I searched for her on Facebook without any luck, but that just left all the more to my imagination. Immediately I began day dreaming of how Lilian and I would become best friends, she and I would travel all over France together, I would visit her home, she would visit me in the U.S., we would discuss fashion and go shopping, we would go out for delicious French meals, and after many years of staying in touch as friends across the globe I would name my own daughter Lilian after my beloved French friend. When we finally set a date and time for our coffee date I was on cloud nine. I got there a few minutes early (type A personality) and anxiously waited. I received a text from Lilian saying that she was running a few minutes late because of problems with her tram (typical Brussels) and I giggled as I pictured us laughing over the trams and all of the other interesting aspects of life in Belgium. I waited in between the doors to the building and the small entrance into the coffee shop so that there was no chance we could miss each other. After a few more minutes of waiting, a male came in and walked right up to me. He asked if I was Emily and introduced himself as Lilian my Tandem partner. I cannot even begin to imagine the look of surprise on my face. I was so thankful for the Belgian way of greeting someone with one kiss on the cheek in that moment so that I could take a second to myself to regain my composure and evaluate the situation I had gotten myself into. Lilian is a HE! I couldn't believe it. We ended up finding lots of things to chat about over coffee, and even though he isn't the beautiful French girl I imagined naming my daughter after he is very nice and I think we will get along well for the project. Instead of a new best friend I am left with only a funny story of how I was completely confused about the gender of Lilian.
|Lilian and Me at Delirium Cafe|