"Help me understand this," I stated, leaning forward with eyes squinted in as much concentration as my sleepy brain would allow.
And so he launched into another lecture and while I was charmed at how professorial he seemed - with the waving of arms and pointing at equations - I still wasn't understanding his request. "It's simple," he concluded forcefully and I sat back.
"I..." Letting my voice trail off, I glanced at the group around me. "I'm sorry if this is simple, but I'm trying pretty hard here and I'm not sure I understand." After which everyone admitted confusion and we tried (and failed) once again.
So I defined a plan and actions and owners and we decided to talk again in a week.
"How did you do that?" she asked and I raised my eyebrow in inquiry. "Not give him what he wanted without him getting mad," a younger colleague clarified.
"Practice?" I guessed, not completely sure. "I have to reject people at times and it's been everything from fabulous to catastrophic. So I've learned what works and how to listen and ways to encourage people to at least understand the decisions and how they're made so they have more influence the next time they need something."
Somehow despite the myriad of accents and the melodic babble of French I don't understand, the patterns and rhythms seem remarkably similar. There is often a sense of comfortable predictability even in novel environs.
Yet there are, of course, moments where I feel half a world away from the everyday routine. Where time is measured by television shows and dinner is picked up as I drag myself home from work to cuddle Chienne and smooth Sprout's coat and amuse myself until it's time to snuggle into bed.
The mattress is harder here - the headboard prettier. The television only speaks French I don't understand so I spend time catching up on work and reading and looking at recent photos. While my cat and dog are doing well without me, I do miss the clatter of paws on the tile floor or the warm cuddle of Chienne behind my knees. And there's dinner - not alone, but with a dozen others - across the courtyard for which I'll be late if not for an immediate departure.