15 October 2007

When time starts to fly

I think I’ve been here for six weeks now. Or has it been seven? I’ve stopped keeping track—that’s a good sign. But it feels like almost nothing. It feels like I’m just getting started. Part of that is due to the continued publicity regarding ‘La Rentrée,’ the big back-to-school season. I laugh because, for the past four weeks, stores and clubs and the university have been advertising ‘Solde de la Rentrée’ (sale), ‘Fête de la Rentrée’ (party), ‘Rendezvous de la Rentrée’ (meeting), and you can’t help but giggle and wonder (ok, maybe you can help the giggling), So when exactly does the Rentrée end? When do people stop celebrating coming back and realize that they’re here? Exams?

Saturday afternoon over a steaming bowl of homemade broccoli soup (I make my own chunky soups, since all soups here are puréed), Leslie and I discussed with amazement the fact that we’ve been here several weeks, and were very thankful that we’re staying a year. Really, we feel like we’re just settling in, and yet in only two months almost the entire BCA group will return home. It feels so…transient. Although I suppose since I moved to college I’ve lived on ‘I can do without’s, waiting to buy or do or wash something until I go home on a break. I’m trying to get out of that mindset here, changing from ‘I can do without’ to ‘No, this would really make my life here a lot more pleasant…’. Not that I’m going on shopping sprees or anything, mind you. I’m just settling in, unpacking, realizing that now the word ‘home’ refers (in part) to Strasbourg, France.

Courses

This week in review: It’s a good thing I read linguistics books for fun! This week in my linguistics courses we distinguished content words from function words, and I think I would have been quite lost had I not read Steven Pinker’s (MIT linguist, Chomsky cohort) The Language Instinct this summer. A content word (or mot lexicale) is a noun, adjective, verb, and sometimes adverb; the category is open—we’re always adding new words to it; think ant, bluish, to blog, and standoffishly. A function word (or mot grammaticale) is a preposition, conjunction, determinant, pronoun, and sometimes adverb; the category is closed—we don’t just invent new ways to say and/or/with/he/she/very. If you can master this distinction, consider yourself a linguist. If you think you can invent a new function word, consider yourself an idiot. If you have trouble with the word and but not ant, if you can construct a perfectly grammatical sentence without understanding what it means, or if you have a hard time remembering the names of vegetables, consider yourself a victim of SLD (specific language disorder)—No really, it exists!

Just in case you missed the ball…

Saturday night, France and England took their historic enmity to the rugby field. France lost, but that’s not the most important part. Real amazement comes from realizing that two countries who had been enemies for centuries (millennia?) are now content to play games of sport instead of games of war. And what separates France from Germany? A bridge. No border guards, no customs, no security walls, no barbed wire.

Espero (from the Spanish verb ‘esperar,’ which means both ‘to wait for’ and ‘to hope’) for the day when the US plays Iraq in rugby (or soccer, or badminton, or put-put golf), when all that separates Israel and Palestine is a bridge (you know, over the hot sand), when the lion lies down with the lamb…

French Culture 101

Since I’m not exactly sure who my audience is, I think I ought to clarify the importance of wine in France. Wine is to French cuisine what _______ (cheddar cheese? Meat and potatoes? Peanut butter and jelly? Popcorn? Apple juice?) is to American fare. Alcohol is not taboo here like it tends to be in the States. It accompanies the meal, it accents the taste of the main dish, it’s consumed in company…it’s not automatically associated with drunkenness. In fact, as other study abroad students have remarked to me, there is a certain ‘alcohol consumption etiquette.’ There’s a clear distinction between families drinking wine with dinner and, well, drunkards drinking any sort of alcohol. Here’s a contrast that, if considered, might put French wine in the right light: Yesterday at church a new member was admitted. To celebrate after the service, her husband (a professional wine taster and 5 star chef) catered in an aperitif: munchies and a nice regional white wine. Wine…it’s just here.

I can't disclose whether this was actually taken in France or not, but it was with family, around a meal, with a Reisling.

PS

Due to the incredible cost of peanut butter in the local Match supermarket (3.85 euro per jar…I think at the current conversion rate that’s about $5.75), it is now officially a sin to waste peanut butter. O ye heathens who consumeth not thine entire portion! Just think of all the poor, peanut-butter-starved Colleens in Europe.

I’m doing well, healthy and whole and safe and sound in Strasbourg. Bisou.

4 comments:

dadone said...

I know where that picture was taken. But it will kept secret to see if anyone can guess.

Love, Dad

John Planer said...

1. Rentree: Here in the US we are two weeks BEFORE Halloween. And already the Christmas catalogues have been arriving for two weeks. The principle is to market as long as possible. La meme chose en France!
2. Yes, the lion shall one day lie down with the lamb, but one of them will not sleep.
3. "The blanket lies floge the bed." In this sentence "floge" is a preposition means "half on and half off"--or, following Alice's caterpillar, it means whatever I want it to mean. Am I an idiot, or have I invented a new preposition?
4. It's wonderful that Strasbourg is beginning to feel like home to you and Leslie. Life in France is like life everywhere--undramatic and routine--but nonetheless meaningful, if we make it so.

michmark said...

I was just kidding about the wine Colleenie. And I too know where that picture was taken. Love you.

The Thibault family said...

well just a comment on the cost of peanut butter in France... as French people living here in the US we have noticed the same price increase on a product we usually consume quite a lot of, wine of course! :) Have fun.