Monday, November 30, 2009

L'identité nationale

"Le débat de l'identité nationale" is all the rage right now in France. And by that, I mean the meta-discussion of whether France should even be having the debate over their national identity is all the rage in the French media right now. Perhaps the lede of the Times article on the subject said it best: 

PARIS — France, a nation endlessly fascinated with itself since at least as far back as the Gauls, is again engaged in a bizarre and deeply political debate over its identity.

There was a poll done this weekend which came up with some interesting results. More than 2/3's of the French population (in the range of 72%) think that this is a ploy by President Sarkozy and the UMP (the center-right party) to drum up support for next March's regional elections. This is important because out of the 22 régions in France, only two are controlled by the right (and one of them is Corsica--oh, Corse, you aren't really French). The rest are controlled by the left, notably the PS, Partie Socialiste.

However, 57% of the population, meaning at least 15% of the people that think this is a UMP ploy, STILL think having a national identity debate is a good idea. Oh, the French. The intricacies of their culture make me laugh. Until I start thinking about it, and realize how alike our cultures are. The roots of the national identity debate are a changing demographic and waves of immigration. If we were to have a similar debate be proposed in the United States, the results of such a poll might not look so different. Of course, because of different definitions of the words "equality" and "liberty," the poll results would probably look quite a bit different when broken down by race, class, state, gender. The French don't have those distinctions (legally speaking). They only have "les citoyens" and "les étrangers."

Which is fine. Although, as a result of that very black-and-white distinction, the national identity debate makes even less sense to me. But then again, I am not française. I am a white, female, Roman Catholic(ish), California/New York, city-dweller, liberal thinking American. So I just don't understand.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Oh, Sunday

It's raining, as it is apt to do in Paris these days. And I am inside, holed up, doing homework. And listening to 90's music.

Saturday, November 28, 2009


Sometimes, I like to tell people that I am a farmer's daughter and I grew up on a farm in southern california. It's rather hilarious to judge their reactions. They don't know that I'm afraid of dirt. :) And this is Indiana, not anywhere near where I am from.

L'ode to rugby

ast night I found myself at Stade Jean Bouin to watch Stade Francais play Stade Toulon. There are many reasons that I have fallen in love iwth rugby since being here. But this photo really sums up the most important of the reasons:

Who wears short-shorts? Rugby players wear short-shorts. And pink, in the case of Stade Francais. Then they get really violent with absolutely no padding, and run around kicking the crap out of each other for an hour and a half. And people pay money to see it, and it's fantastic!

(Photo: Presse Sports, by way of Stade Francais website)

And then they do things like scrum. It's funny because on the way to the game last night in the metro, we were discussing the female equivalent of porn. We came up with ice cream. But obviously, the answer was right in front of us. Rugby. No other game in the world combines pink short-shorts with bleeding from the head and calls it a good time.

[Photo: Independent (U.K.)]

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

en français et anglais

Finally some new material! In French! And in English!

Monday, November 23, 2009


I was reading this article that my sister published this morning when I got a really vivid image of childhood rushing back to me. I have a feeling that this could be the start of a lifelong thing, reading Nancy's articles, but I digress.

There is a line about never having a Spice Girls faze, and then it goes on to divulge that her first CD was the soundtrack from Dexter's Laboratory. I remember that. I remember that mostly because we went to get our first CD's together. My mother took us, we went to the mall. I picked out Spice World, and Shaunacy, Dexter. This was shortly after I came to the conclusion that a taste in music isn't something that just comes to you in order to make you cool/when you become cool/when you become a teenager. It's something that you have to work on and develop. It was a mind-blowing conclusion to come to as an 8-year-old. It would take work to be cool. I started that work with the Spice Girls.

I remember unwrapping my CD as soon as we get in the car. We were driving around the back of the mall, back by the trees and the garbage cans. Of course "the mall" at this point predates the construction of 2nd floor and gigantic parking apparatus. Back when it was called Ventura Mall, rather than "Pacific View." It also predates the period when I actually lived in Ventuckalicious. My knowledge of the town was fairly limited: there was that "other" skating rink where I started skating, the mall, St. Bonnie's where my cousin went for a while, and Pierpont Racquet Club/smelly beach. Oh, and the rope swing at Harbor Beach. Never forget the rope swing. I didn't know how these places were linked, though. I just got in the car, put my head in a book, and a chapter or two later we were there.

Anyway, we were driving through the back parking lot, and I remember my mom asking me (in a mom-like way, and before I knew that she knew the word fuck), why in the world I was opening it. This may have predated the Volvo and its CD player. I replied that I just wanted to look at it. And promised not to leave the trash in her car. I may have lived up to that promise. This was about time that I stop thinking of the pouches behind front car seats as personal trash cans. But no promises. I can't remember if Shaunacy followed my lead in unwrapping hers. The crinkling of the wrapper is always contagious. But it's possible that she followed instructions. She always had more patience than me.

After many painful minutes of trying not to leave residue on the case while trying to get off that annoying sticker off the top of the CD, I finally succeeded in taking my first CD into my grubby little paws. Of course, my hands have rarely ever been grubby, and I had seen my parents hold CD's enough to know how to do the two finger thing, with the pointer through the center piece and the thumb on the outside. And that's it. That was my first CD. Spice World by the Spice Girls.

Shortly afterward, I was hanging out with my grandma, and in some stroke of insanity she decided that we should rent a video. One of the two or three times in my twenty years with her that I saw her VCR in use. No idea how the two of us got the stupid thing to work. But I, of course, rented Spice World the movie. There are only two things that I remember of that movie. The first is wondering, an hour through, when the previews were going to be over and the movie with the real plot was going to start. The second was when the bus jumped the bridge. That was pretty cool. But that was pretty much the end of my Spice Girls faze. I had discovered 'NSYNC. And a cute little girl named Britney.

Thursday, November 19, 2009


I decided that I'm no longer in such a place that I need to use my blog extensively as my therapist. Therefore, I no longer need to block my blog from being posted to the entire world on Facebook.

Yes, this is a logical fallacy as my blog is also open to the entire world. But there are only a handful of people that read it if I don't post it to facebook. I found that I would write things very personal, and as a result of Facebook people would add comments that were pedantic and only served to depress me more. Now that I'm posting things about France (and arguably more mentally stable), publishing my blog seems more efficace.

Notice I got lazier as time went on with this one.

In the spirit of non-existent Thanksgiving, and after reading Nancy's blog (which I feel I must at least try to live up to, malgré tout I will never be the rapper she is), I have decided to bring some optimism into my life. Not that I'm not optimistic, I am. I just feel that enumerating the list might just make me a little happier.

Of course, this "Paris is great for these reasons" list is shortly to be followed by "Paris is great, but...I still love New York for these reasons"

1. The architecture. Nothing can beat the sheer beauty of Paris. It's buildings are diverse in some ways, but uniformly beautiful. I try to spend as much time as possible walking with my head up (which can sometimes cause bumping-into-people problems). But it's so worth it.

2. The changing of the leaves. Not that this doesn't happen in my part of the world, but something about the beauty of the colored trees against the beauty of the buildings makes it striking. There is also a better blending of the nature with the landscape here. There are trees on the streets, rather than just in Central and Riverside parks, and I live in a house with a courtyard, which means I can really see the day to day change. I remember the evening when I looked outside and realized that the green vines growing against the living room wall had turned a vibrant pink.

3. French. I am going to miss French a lot. It's frustrating, and hard to understand, and I am far from fluent. But at the same time, it's a gorgeous language. More often than not when I get lost during a lecture, it's not because I can't understand, but rather that I've fallen into the beauty of the rhythm, just enjoying the sounds instead of comprendre them. And yes, sometimes I can't think of a word in English, so I just use the French. I also have a great appreciation for the opportunity that I have to speak French all the time. I am finally starting to notice my French getting better, so I want to use it all the time. I can't believe that in just a month I won't be able to use it every day.

4. Reid Hall. There is the small-school atmosphere that I don't have at Columbia. It reminds me a little of foothill, where I felt that I trusted some of the staff more than most of the students. There is just enough bureaucracy to remind you that you aren't the only person in the world, but also plenty of room to find an administrator's office to cry in when you find out that your world is breaking down and you have bedbugs in the same day (theoretically, of course).

5. Europe. I love the fact that I can plan 3 weeks ahead of time and be pretty much anywhere in western europe for generally less than 200 Euro (of course, add getting to and from the airport and staying places and museum fees and the bottom line starts creeping up, but still, cheaper than from New York).

6. Meeting new people. This is pretty much my favorite thing in the world. Anyone that knows me well knows that I'm a fantastic ice breaker (woot for high school leadership) and good at the first steps towards developing new friends. It's when it gets to that middle stage where I tend to drop the ball and not be the best communicator. Bu, luckily, when you are in places for a short amount of time, that is never necessary.

7. The appreciation that I have for my own culture. Maybe this is cliché (thanks to Hansie for this realization), but I really have discovered what it is about my own culture that I love. This was just one more (giant) step in the direction of self-discovery. But now I know so much about what's really important to me. See corresponding post for this.

8. My host family. They are just awesome. And so many people got crappy housing situations, so I just have to count my lucky stars (mes étoiles de chance). Especially because they have an American coffee maker and let me use it whenever I want. It might as well be my personal coffee maker save for the few times they have guests for a meal and make some for afterwards. Also, the grandbabies. They are basically what I see Riley and Logan being in about 3 years. And so adorable.

9. Raw milk. SOOOOO good. Raw milk cheese is the thing (my) dreams are made of.

Now, on to the American in me. Things that I am thankful to be going back to:

1. My BIKE! And the ability to ride it whenever I want. And all the things that go with exercising 6 days a week. And the GWB, and 9W, and River Road, and Piermont. Mon Dieu, you have no idea how many times in a row I would climb Tweed to be able to get back on my bike.

2. The cycling team. I miss them so much. Probably more than I miss my bike itself (maybe?). Liz and Rob and Sam should all have their own numbers here, but that's not very efficace, is it?

3. Living near campus. Taking the smelly and dirty metro 40 minutes each way each day really cramps my style, and my sleep schedule.

4. A kitchen. While I technically have one, my family is usually using it, and I feel awkward making things that aren't microwavable. I am pretty sure they think I am a cooking failure.

5. Sushi. M2M, where are you????

6. Coffeehouses. Café culture there is here, but coffeeHOUSE culture there is not. It's French. It's all about the conversation, not about the coffee. The Starbucks here can't even make a proper latte. I need an Abraço latte so bad it hurts. I need someone who knows how to make a heart in the foam.

7. The New Yorker and its relavence to me. Mon Dieu I miss living in Manhattan. Also, file under this heading, Time Out and NY Mag

8. People, people, people. God, I miss you people so much. I feel like the holidays are going to be difficult to get through. When did I get so emotional?

9. English Literature. Reading, writing, playing with words in my home language. It's harder to have fun with words that you don't know the meaning of intrinsically.