Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Bittersweet moments

Add to Google Reader or HomepageThe countdown has begun. We leave Vaison la Romaine in six days.

We leave Provence as EVERYTHING is in bloom and becoming green. The plane trees are green, the orchards are filled with blossoms and one can see the beginning of new growth on the grapevines. When we were out on Sunday, we saw the first of the red poppies. The temperature has been pleasant (warm but not hot) and the days are filled with sun and low humidity. We have been having our “apero” on our balcony watching the sun move west. Two evenings ago, we ate outside at our neighbor’s house. The days are long even though we are still two months from the solstice. Il fait beau, quoi! 

Leaving is bittersweet. We have made more friends here and have a very nice vie quotidienne. On the other hand, we have wonderful friends in the states, most of whom we have not seen since October. We will miss the long summer here but hope that summer 2010 in Lansing is as nice as last year…

Nonetheless, I will miss the people here – especially the friends we have made, the wonderful foods and wines, the children and the staff at the crèche, the “good energy,” and the beautiful vistas. I can rarely walk anywhere in town without seeing someone whom I know – someone from our French class, a parent of a child at the crèche, our favorite shop owner, etc. Life is good.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Work clothes?

We helped Margaret and Phil paint the shutters (les volets) on the front windows of their home. As we were getting ready to go there, I realized that I had not brought old/work clothes to France. I found a pair of pants that I had last year (too large) and a long-sleeve shirt that is also too large. We spent the next few hours painting and we did a good job of turning the medium-blue shutters into a dark blue.

The concept of needing work clothes is sort of foreign to me here. I might need to amend my list of reasons why I love France to include NOT working. We had fun helping with their chores but the idea of needing “work” clothes is one aspect of my wardrobe that I completely ignored – and I think the plan to avoid work works (mostly).

My time at the crèche has never been “work” for me – I have too much fun with the kids and the staff. Confucius (I think) said: “Give a man a job that he loves and he will never work again.” That is how I feel about going to the crèche for my volunteer time.

As for the staff, one of the teachers invited us to come to a play in which she performed. The play was called: Exercises de Style by Raymond Queneau and includes a number of skits describing the same two scenes. Ellen was afraid that it was going to be clever nuances and plays on words beyond our French skills but the performance contained very funny and very understandable skits. For instance, there were two women – one English or American talking in French with an Italian woman – both with very accurate accents. There was the church choir that sang the description of the two events as well as an operatic duet in which the singers described the events to an aria from Carmen. There was the jogger’s description, the vamp’s description and, Ellen’s favorite: the person with a tooth ache who tried to describe the two events through a mouthful of cotton… VERY funny! (and we didn’t have to work to enjoy it.)

Wednesday, April 7, 2010


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I have discovered a neat feature in MS Word. You can go to “Tools” and set the language in which you are writing. When I write in French, the “spell check” function works pretty well and catches the spelling errors, most of the missing or incorrect accents and, occasionally it suggests verb-tense changes or corrections when I use a masculine adjective with a feminine noun.

My computer has an American keyboard, so every time I need to insert a letter that has an accent, I either have to go to the ASCII codes or click on “Insert/Symbol” and then choose the correct one. French keyboards have all of the letters with accents but to accommodate them, they had to move a few things around so the layout is similar but different enough that it usually causes me to groan or curse or both.

French keyboards are similar to French word formations. Peoples’ faces appear very similar to American faces but when they start to say a word, they purse their lips as if they were getting ready to kiss. Whether it is “ooh la la!” or a stammering “euw,” the way they form words starts with a kiss. Americans seem to make words by starting with a smile and thus our words are broader.

I am getting better at predicting who are Americans even if I can’t hear their conversation but can see the lips making words… Of course, we Americans also LOOK different. I am happy to say that the distinction is becoming less noticeable, but I am still surprised at how often a vendor will speak to me in English even though I have not said a word or how I can guess the nationality of someone that I see on the street. – in truth, I can usually guess “French/not French,” but it is a start…

Spring is definitely in the air. When Phil and Margaret took Ellen and me to Avignon yesterday, you could see the fruit tree blossoms everywhere. The sky was bright and warm and we had lunch on the terrace of a little café in Vacqueyras. An American that we met on Sunday said that we should definitely change our schedule and plan to be here in May and June. She said that those two months are like heaven. Maybe next spring…