Thursday, September 28, 2006


3...2...1... (click images for larger view)

rolling out to the pad

conditions A OK

getting ahold of himself before the big moment

Lift off

Life in Lège

Right behind our house developers are busy putting in an entire neighborhood. The houses all resemble one another pretty closely.

Others are more appealing in a quirky way

Wednesday, September 27, 2006


Tomorrow there is a greve (strike) planned by the teacher's syndicates in France. It's strictly a one day event intended to register a public protest against government policies which in the minds of the syndalistes have resulted in layoffs and misguided budget priorities at the expense of quality education...hmmm am I back in Kansas?

I've prepared my lessons and I'm going to show up but I'm curious to see who else is there. When I gave homework assignments in my senior class on Tuesday, one boy politely reminded me that the due date corresponded to the day of the strike. I thanked him, told him that I'd heard about it and that the terms of my exchange forbade my participation in any such activity but that I was keen to more about it and that, in any case, I would be in class that day even if I was the only one.

The last comment provoked some sly smiles in the room. Speaking strictly as someone trying to stay organized (not in the political sense though) I hope either everyone goes out on strike or no one does...anything in between will make hash out my precious lesson plans. I'm still learning to roll with things. Tomorrow may be another object lesson.

Sunset on the Cap

Pointe Belvedere

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Touched by human hands

Riding the bike paths around here is affords an excellent view of the landscape here.

Someone I met here recently remarked how so much of what one sees in Western Europe is the result of having been touched and retouched by human hands. His observation was offered without any discernable ironic intention, nothing more or less than a self evident proposition. It is interesting to consider what human hands are capable of doing. Some of my friends are artists, and some of them explore the aesthetic possibilities of "found objects". Most of those objects, though by no means all, are things that have already been "touched" by other hands, put to some other purpose and perhaps been discarded. I'm tempted to call what they do a kind of aesthetic recycling whereby nothing is devalued as mere trash; rather it becomes grist for the creative and transformative efforts of those who "find" it.

In the beginning of the 19th century the sandy dunes along the Bay of Gascony were encroaching inland at the rate of nearly 140 feet per year. Apparently entire villages were displaced or simply disappeared. Certain French engineers undertook the task of "stabilizing" the dunes... at first they tried stakes and fences but later turned to organic approaches. The results so impressed Emperor Napoleon III that he oversaw a vast tree planting project the results of which can be seen up and down the presque isle where we live. Pine forests growing in the sandy soil, beneath them a thick covering of ferns.

The bike paths and the forests here are maintained to a degree that we would probably find overzealous...but each is a piece of handiwork that in it's own way offers testimony to the hands that had the temerity to touch something. At home we are perhaps lulled by the illusion of a pristine natural world...That illusion beckons "leave well enough alone" seems a natural if also plaintive sentiment, if only we could be sure that leaving things alone was even remotely possible. Leaving things alone is not one of the things we humans least not with our hands.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Les pistes cyclables

Beth went to a flea market (vide grenier) today in Ares. She bought a bike trailor ( remorque) for a hundred euros. It's also a stroller.

The family took a promenade en velo today... just a pleasant spin around the area. One of these days we will ride to the beach and see how that goes. For now, this is a big development seeing as how it enables Beth to have some mobility with and without the kids especially when I've got the car.

Cycling is big here. Even though the roads are narrow and the traffic can be intense (drivers here are keen to put their skills on display) people of all ages are on bicycles everywhere you go. There is a fantastic network of bike paths that link every town on the presque isle from Biganos all the way to Cap Ferret at the tip and every village in between.

Travelling this way takes you away from cars utterly. You find yourself traversing flat forsted land. You pass by homes on the outskirts of the villages and you see everything from a different perspective. The bike paths have their own stop signs, indications of right of way, distances to destinations....the whole works.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Only Local

Maybe you remember photos of us at the beaches here...beautiful but also teeming with tourists?

Well all that has changed. ..almost all.

The weather is still great, but now we have the beaches to ourselves, literally.

The last time we had a beach experience like this was when Beth and I drove up the Gulf Coast from Majahual in Quintana Roo, Mexico into the Sian Kan Biosophere.

(click for larger view)

The natives have taken back their beaches.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Heezahbal and Vile Coyote

  • Lucile reads aloud from her paragraph describing her teacher. "Heezahbal." I write on the board, "He is a ball?" Lucile is startled, then laughs. We work on the pronunciation, "He is bald." It's cute most of the time, but there are times when I have no idea what they're saying to me. Sometimes I revert to French; sometimes I simply hand them the chalk and send them to the board to write what they are saying in English. They all have such beautiful penmanship.

  • Last week I gave the class an assignment that required them to draw a cartoon for the following caption, "Everybody back in the bus! We can look at the Grand Canyon when we get home and watch the video." One very clever student created a pretty funny tableau of a teacher pulling out his hair while his young charges were engaged in various death defying activities (balancing on the canyon rim, playing with scorpions and rattlesnakes, climbing cactii etc...) One kid was facing down a coyote. The artist had labelled the coyote, "Vile coyote." It turns out the student-artist had in fact meant to reference the character from Road Runner. (who, in truth, is neither vile nor wiley) . We had a chuckle and learned two new words, "vile" and "wiley".

  • Last week a boy asked me, “Do you give a lot of homework?”

I said to him, “I don’t kow. How much is a lot of homework in France.”

He smiled coyly and declined to answer.

  • In my two hour class (1es Renforcé). I’m halfway through the class when I hear the soothing tones of the passing bell (our bells are like electroshock therapy by contrast). We’re halfway through, I think to myself. I push on with the lesson. About five minutes later, a girl to my left politely seeks my attention.


I look up. She seems hesitant, but then she plunges ahead.

“Vous voulez prendre un petit café?”

It takes me a few seconds to grasp the situation…is she offering to get me a cup of coffee? is she asking me out? do I look like I need a cup of coffee? and then it hits me. They want a break. I’m utterly charmed by the method of asking.

“5 minutes!” I say. Everyone is suddenly energized and all smiles. I leave the room last to lock up, then I head across the courtyard to the teachers’ room. I see the philosophy professor, a garrulous old veteran.

I ask him, “Is it normal to take a break in the middle of a two hour class.”

“It happens. Some teachers do that, yes.”

Some teachers…. so I’m one of those teachers now, whatever that means.

  • after class today a group of three girls and a boy hung around. When everyone had cleared the room, one of the girls said, “Monsieur?”


“Will you help us organize a ball like the one in your yearbook?”

“A ball?”

“Yes. A dance at the end of the year where everyone wears certain clothes…”

“Yes, I know…”

“And the girls have something on their wrists.”

“A corsage.” I’m thinking to myself, is it a corsage? I never went to the prom or spring formal. Do they realize who they’re asking for help with this?

I hear myself saying, “Sure, I’ll help you.”

“Could we see the book again?”

“The yearbook?”


I promise them I’ll bring the LHS yearbook (2004) next class and let them borrow it for a few days. They seem completely satisfied with the turn of events and they bid me have a good day and are gone.

Alone in my room, I think to myself, what do I know about spring formal? Lets’s see…I could show them the film “Carrie”…then it hits me. I can turn this one over to the real experts, the students at LHS. Could there be a cross cultural exchange brewing on the subject of spring formal?....on verra.


Friday, September 15, 2006

Living by the numbers

Here are some numbers:

  • 6 different classes (5 different courses)
  • 160 students total
  • 18 contact hours per week
  • 8 am start time M,T, Th, F; Wednesday s free.
Each day I have a different schedule, I meet one of my classes once a week for two hours, the others I meet two or three times a week for an hour. Every day my schedule is completely different.

On Monday for example, I meet two of my 2es (sophomore classes) first in large groups for an hour and then in two successive small groups called Modules for another hour each. That’s three hours for each class on Monday alone (total six hours). I don’t see them again until Thursday.

I have one class that I meet regularly every week on Tuesday and Thursday mornings and also on Tuesday afternoons from 4-5 every other week.

I have two other classes where we first meet in large group on Tuesday and then the large group is split with one part coming on Thursday, the other part coming on Friday.

My Terminale group (seniors) is a mixed group with kids from three different tracks (Literary, Science, Social Studies/Economics). All of them are preparing for end of year national exams called BACs. But two of those tracks (L and S) are preparing for three hour written exams (for English) whereas the ES group is preparing for a twenty minute oral exam. I meet this group once a week as a large group and then I meet the L/S groups on Thursday and the ES group on Friday….

got it? Me neither…but I’m starting to. If you were to walk into the teachers room at Lycée Nord Bassin and by chance see me there, odds are that I’m staring at my schedule as if it contains the secret to life. I know one thing…I must never lose that piece of paper.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Getting a word in

Transcript (taken from memory) of a conversation in the car today while driving to Arcachon to pick up our papers:

Tess: Maman? (Mommy?)
Beth: Oui, mon coeur. (Yes my love)
Tess: eh...le requin... (the shark)
Beth: Oui? (yes)
Tess: le requin est mechant? (the shark is mean?)
Beth: Oui, il est tres mechant. (yes very mean)
Tess: Le requin est mechant (the shark is mean)
et il mange le dauphin... (and he eats the dolphin...)
et les poissons nagent? (and the fish swim)
Beth: Bravo, ma petite! (that's great!)
Kevin: Oui! Tu parles bien le francais! (you speak French so well!)
Colm: Papa? (daddy?)
Kevin: Oui, ma colombe? (yes my little dove?)
Colm: My little horse is pooping. (I speak very well too)


Tuesday, September 12, 2006

You sort of feel like you're in a Woody Allen film when...

Monday, September 11, 2006


September 11, 2006

I was hurrying to class this morning when one of my colleagues (the syndicaliste, I’m not getting names yet) appeared at my elbow. He asked me if it was emotional for me this day. It was obvious that he was inquiring in a way that was much more than perfunctory; indeed, he seemed almost anxious on my behalf. It took me a second to grasp that he was referring to 9/11. I was in a hurry, and we were in a crowded hallway, so it was tempting to simply nod yes, but instead I admitted to him that until that very moment I hadn’t realized that it was in fact the 11th. He seemed a little surprised – intrigued not shocked - but it was clear, I think to both of us, that there was much more to be said about the matter, some other time.

As I made my way to my room, I backtracked mentally to the drive I’d taken to work that morning. I realized that the morning French radio commentary had been all about subjects related to 9/11. One commentator had talked about the immediate and spontaneous expressions of solidarity with the American people that had occurred in France and how all that had dissipated in the ensuing months due to what he characterized as the arrogance of American foreign policy. I had been listening to all of this while driving to work early in the morning through a light rain. Somehow I had managed to understand the gist of what was being said by the radio pundits without realizing why they were talking about it this particular morning.

My colleague’s question snapped me out of a reverie. It was without a doubt my identity as an American that had prompted him to risk the inquiry. I had not only forgotten about the anniversary of 9/11, I been unconscious of my americanness for a time. That is not to say that I had blended into French culture; rather, I had become profoundly distracted by the effort it takes to even try. Immersing oneself in a culture and a new job is not unlike entering a hermetically sealed environment. Then every once in awhile something pricks the bubble and you wake up to find one foot here and the other wobbling about that other world you used to live in.

Twenty years ago, nearly to the day, I was living in Poitiers, France striving to learn French without having had even the slightest language training. I remember submerging myself in the project. I studied signs, posters, menus; I made countless notes to myself; I made lists or words which I then braided into sentences; I invented simplistic stories; I even stole into the Facultés des Lettres twice every week to listen to an aging and acerbic history professor intone drearily about the causes of World Wars I and II (everyone else was falling asleep but I loved him because I could make out some of his words). My own progress was slow, it seemed to me, but my immersion (and to an extent my isolation) was so thorough it effaced any external landmarks by which I might measure progress or the lack. I was beguiled almost night and day by my own toils.

And then one day while walking through the city square of Poitiers, I found myself in front of a tabac transfixed by a photograph in the front page of a French newspaper. It was an arresting image, a giant plume of white smoke arcing across a blue sky down towards earth. The enormous headline read, “LA REVE EN FUMEE!” For a moment I thought the reason that I was so captured by this display was the fact I had understood the text of the headline instantaneously (The Dream Up In Smoke), the kind of linguistic success I was craving those days; the truth, however, revealed itself to me a moment later when I realized that what I was looking at was distinctly and disturbingly American news. It was the Challenger disaster. Beneath the fold of the paper were the photos of the seven crew members, all of them poster material for the American melting pot, all of them smiling forthrightly beneath the plume of their recent immolation. I was only barely aware that they had even been about to embark on this launch. My self imposed linguistic exile had marginalized me at least to that extent from my native culture.

It is much different for me now 20 years later. I have resources now that were unavailable to me then. I speak, read, and write French well enough. I have a mate with whom I share all that and much more. I have two small children with me whose proper life trajectories have lifted my eyes and my spirits far beyond the meager horizons I ever spied on my own two decades ago. I have a job here and colleagues who in their own way look in on me. And there are the technological accoutrements: mobile phones, email, internet, Skype, and this blog. In a sense I’m equipped to see and hear and feel so much more than I ever was…then this morning came and along with it the disconcerting sensation that maybe I’ve been sleepwalking.


Saturday, September 09, 2006

Cutting out the middle man

Tess and Constance

Constance lives across the street. Since she goes to a different school we don't see her much except on weekends or maybe Wednesdays.

Today however, Tess, Colm and Constance spent the entire afternoon together. For awhile Beth and I served as interpreters, each kid in turn would come to one of us.
"How do you say, "Come in the house and look at the fish."
"What does 'a toi' mean?" (It means "your turn")
"C'est qui, Kevin?" (Who is Kevin?) The big tall bald guy, I told her.

Interestingly enough the requests dried up pretty quickly as they eliminated the middle man and began working it out between themselves. I think we'll look back on today as perhaps the day a switched flipped for Tess and for Colm...but it's not really about speaking French; it's about connecting with Constance.

Then at dinner this evening, a first for Colm. He asked me, "How do you say, "Can I get down from the table?" The table etiquette alone would have been enough to make me do a double-take but the abiding desire to sort out things in French was a sweet surprise indeed. I offered him something I thought he might recognize..."Puis-je descendre?" He gave it back to me as clear as a bell.

He climbed down from the table. There was a beat and then Tess said, "Dad?"
She had that expression that signals us that something is coming from way back in the furthest reaches of her brain. She made some false starts, the suspense at the table was palpable. She was intent but not at all frustrated...finally, it came all in one breath. "C''est a moi, descendre?"

I said, "Oui mon coeur." But what I really wanted to do was shout, "That's what I'm taking about!" and jump up and exchange high fives with Beth. I know I'm bragging here but I don't care...what she did was to coin a novel utterance fashioned from elements she had acquired separately and in different contexts...for all you language teachers out there, you know what I'm talking about...for the rest of you, know's golden.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Into the cockpit

September 7, 2006

Into the cockpit

A few impressions and observations having to do with the lycée here...

I think I’ll begin with the goodwill shown me by all of my English teacher colleagues – Anne Marie, Regine, Hélène, and Annick…Cécile too except that she belongs in another category – exchange partner and all around impressive human being.

Both Annick and Hélène met with me during the days leading up to the rentrée scolaire. They helped me sort out the textbook situation, and began the daunting task of familiarizing me with the alphabet soup of acronyms that I have very little hope of mastering in a mere school year.

When I reported to work last Friday, I met the staff and my department. The feeling that I get from the staff is very friendly. It’s a very button-down, laid-back atmosphere (administrators wearing suits and ties, teachers decidedly not) but there is a palpable and self conscious sense of professionalism at the same time. The half hour coffee before the general meeting allowed me to get around to quite a few people. We exchange pleasantries, there a few tentative feelers about tennis, some small talk about the weather (it’s heating up just in time for classes to start…sound familiar?) As you might expect, Oregon is not necessarily a place with which many people here are familiar. The same is true for this place…I never heard of the Bassin d’Arcachon before this exchange…the beaches here are definitely not a secret to the rest of Europe however.

The staff is young, a few graybeards like myself, and roughly the same size as LG. I am noticeably taller than the vast majority of people here. It’s a comical sight to see me with my English colleagues, all diminutive women. I’m fighting barely conscious impulses to slouch. The process of getting the actual meeting started is a familiar albeit painful one. I can’t think of more recalcitrant set of people than high school teachers fresh off summer break being asked to sit down for nearly three hours so that they can be reminded of things like new construction, policies regarding keys, cars, and cell phones. Certain phrases are intoned in a almost liturgical manner, “let me repeat”, “I remind you”, “we are required”, “it is the law”…an so it goes. The principal holds forth, from behind a table, flanked by his administrative team. The acoustics are terrible, the murmuring in the room swells at times to a point that very nearly drowns the words of the principal. His manner is cool, detached, and occasionally ever so wry. He regards the assembly without betraying any sense of frustration, if everything is not as quiet or as attentive as it might be, it is as it is. He taps the table with his pencil. The swelling murmurs subside a little, enough to render clearer both the principals comments and those of a couple of persistently self absorbed types behind me. He introduces every single staff member by name. Some of the younger ones give each other loud ovations, they are tan and sporty, not much older in appearance than their students.

When I’m introduced, I receive a very nice hand as well. Fortunately, I’m not invited to say anything and I sit down immediately. I should have taken another second or two to look around because I’m not sure we’ll meet again as a staff during the year. There’s no attempt made to either to invoke or to elicit anything like the pervasive “school spirit” meme of the American high school. I am visited by what I confess strikes me as a bizarre but maybe not entirely inappropriate analogy…I remember Hollywood films about WWII fighter pilots. There were always the obligatory pre-air raid briefings where the commander handed out assignments to squadrons. There was never any “let’s win one for the free world” kind of rhetoric. To the contrary the officers and pilots were always glib, laconic, and disinclined toward gratuitous expressions of formality and/or sentimentality. Off they went each to his separate cockpit and an uncertain fate, a cigarette dangling precariously from his lips…you get the picture. In a similar fashion for me (without the cigarettes though…smoking’s not allowed on campus) the teacher-as-fighter pilot appears to be sovereign here. They go their own way. Academic freedom is not just an idle notion; rather, it seems to be part and parcel of the French teacher’s professional ethos. I’ve had it explained to me that French culture is a repository for many contradictions, not the least of which is the following: it is a decidedly hierarchical culture where chain of command, demarcations of responsibility and authority are accepted a priori; it is a culture populated by people who are stubbornly individualistic. Thus, mandates are handed down from the higher up and then simultaneously acknowledged and ignored by everyone else. His primary groups seem to be those of his discipline and the teams with whom he shares students.

In the beginning of the meeting I’m a model staff member, upright, attentive, smiling. An hour later I’m fading badly. The murmuring is once again approaching high tide. Then I pick out a strangely familiar item from the principal’s discourse. He is presenting the staff with a brand new innovation which has been recently mandated for all high schools in France. It’s called the “conseil pedagogique” , a group comprised of teachers appointed by the principal, parents and administrators, charged with looking for ways to improve the instructional program. To my ears this sounds an awful lot like what we’ve been calling “site council” for the past decade or so. I wonder, is this an example of globalization in the educational marketplace? The principal doesn’t get too far into his explication of the conseil pedagogique when a teacher rises to his feet in order to be recognized. He is animated by this subject clearly but not in a positive direction. He is the syndicaliste, (labor union representative). The conseil pedagogique, he warns the staff represents a clear and present threat to academic freedom. I for one appreciate at least the sound of a human voice animated by passion. Once again I am awake. The syndicaliste, I can tell, is used to holding the floor for extended minutes. I watch the principal who seems not at all surprised, perhaps faintly bemused but not enough to register the slightest objection…at first. At some point however his internal clock signals him to bring the meeting back to order. The principal diplomatically suggests to the syndicaliste that his concerns are unfounded but that he welcomes the vigilance of all concerned, and furthermore if we want to make it lunch on time (we have reservations at a local restaurant for 12:30)…he pauses and gestures at the neat stacks of stapled packets in front of him – they are our teaching assignments and schedules - judging from the reactions of all present, that final point seems to carry the day, and in a heartbeat we have resumed the droning, incantations about calendars, emergency exits, the photocopy machine. There is genuine suspense in the room regarding teaching assignments. Most of us do not know yet exactly what courses we’ll be teaching nor do we know when those classes will meet.

The meeting grinds to the end but not before each member of the administrative team has also made some remarks. It is the vice principal, I discover, who has been charged with creating the master schedule. He will be the one people will want to talk to as soon as we are allowed to get up. When the meeting ends there is a general move, slow but intent toward those packets on the table. The vice principal attempts to serve them out, they are stacked alphabetically but of course the teachers come at him from all angles and all points on the alphabet. I watch as teachers take their packets off to a chair, sit down and take their first look at what this year will have in store for them. Even as he is attempting to hand out the rest of the schedules, the vice principal is already being approached with questions and/or requests and/or complaints. I finally reach the table and receive my packet. I open it and there on the first page is my teaching schedule. The first thing I notice is that I begin almost every morning at 8:00 am. The very next thing I see is that Wednesday is open…that’s the day Tess and Colm are also not in school…perfect! The closer I look at my schedule however the more I realize that I need help interpreting it…it’s a bit like the Rosetta Stone, bristling with symbols that I’m not yet in command of. My fist impulse is settle down over this document and work it out, but then another impulse drives that one away…I’m hungry. I search out my English colleagues. We’re going out. It’s already 12:30.

à +


Tuesday, September 05, 2006

American pop culture question....Chucks?

Ok gang, I imagine this is the sort of thing group emails and blogs were invented for. I've photocopied some pages from the La Grande High School yearbook 2004. I'm using them in my classes here as part of a language/culture lesson. Anyway, the page shows four LHS students each dressed in different styles. (sorry no photo included for you here)

Below each kid are a few bits of info like: style motto, favorite brand/store, and style essentials. One of the kids is clearly a punk/gothic type. She lists as her style essentials "my jewelry and Chucks". I don't know what to make of that last term...can someone help me?... and no I don't know if it's a brand name or a typo or a good friend of hers...
I'm waiting patiently... an entire generation of young French kids is waiting also.

p.s. they didn't have to wait long...on second thought maybe I was the only one who didn't know...whatever, talk about instant gratification...Adam emailed a response to the email I sent just a few minutes before I posted this. Chucks are Chuck Taylor Converse shoes... I knew that once upon a time, like 25 years ago. anyway, thanks Adam.

Monday, September 04, 2006

Mairies Mortes

The big news here is that the oyster fisheries have been forced to close due to test results indicating possible health hazards to consumers. It all began about a week ago, starting with a single port on the bassin. But since then the entire basin has been closed to the oyster fishermen.

The mechanism for assessing possible health hazards is a mouse-test. Chemicals are extracted from oyster samples and injected into three mice which are then put under observation for period of 24 hours. The most recent test resulted in two dead mice and the subsequent closure of the bassin (they actually waited for the weekend to be over, claiming that they needed to inform all of the involved governmental agencies before taking action...the fishermen are skeptical).

The oyster fisherman have demonstrated publicly expressing outrage over the closure. They have criticized both the methodology (why observe the mice for 24 hours? why not 5 hours?) and the legitimacy of the test (how do we know those didn’t die of something else?…old age perhaps?...sorry, couldn’t resist).

My favorite quote so far – “Comment peut-on arriver à mettre en danger une profession à cause d’une souris.” (How can it be that an entire means of making a living can be put en peril by a mouse?)

They also claim to be the victims of selective regulation. Why not ban swimmers and pleasure boats as well? The locally elected mayors have gotten into the act and have publicly supported the fishermen. Yesterday there were some “manifestations” (protests), some “baggares routiers” (road blocks) on the busy highway from Arcachon to Bordeaux, and some “operations escargots” (traffic slowdowns). But my favorite was the “degustation d’huitres” an event that combined fresh contraban oyster-tasting with petition-signing….the oysters were free to anyone willing to put their name down. Talk about putting your mouth where you money is.

I bring this to your attention for two reasons. The first is that it is topical and newsworthy, around here anyway. The second is that it offers a glimpse into cultural traits of the region and perhaps the country at large.

This being Monday, Beth and I had planned to go to the Mairie (city hall) to take care of some official business that had been mailed to us from the Prefecture in Bordeaux. We dropped off Tess and Colm at school, drove another two blocks and parked between the La Poste and L’Hotel de Ville (another name for the building which in every French town houses the mairie or city hall). As we approached however it was clear that the building was dark inside.

On the front door we found a typed note with this heading in large font, “Mairies Mortes” (Literally - dead city halls - bit more poetic than that however)

The text of the note follows below. (my translation)

“The absurd and unreasonable closure of the oyster fisheries ordered by the Prefectorate has lead us (the locally elected officials, mayors and the like) in solidarity with the oyster fishermen of the area to close down the city halls and all their annexes and operations for the entire day.”.

As Beth and I read the note and assimilated not just its contents but the changes it would effect on our plans for the day (not very large, in truth) a couple of other people came up, did likewise, shrugging their shoulders and moving on.

One of the first things Gerard told me about life here was that people operated on a different clock. He called it the "quart d'heure d'Aquitaine" I think... basically it means that many if not most things have a tendency to begin about fifteen minutes late...perhaps it would be more accurate to say that fifteen minutes late is pretty much right on time. I've been told however this will not apply to my classes. In any event, I see that it may not be wise to be too rigid about timelines or plans and the like...all in all, a good thing in any case, I think.


Friday, September 01, 2006

editing previous posts

Usually the kind of editing I do on posts that have already been published comes under the category of proofreading, just to satisfy the English teacher voice in my head.

I try to avoid doing anything substantive since the probability that anyone will read the second (or third) version is pretty slim. Last night I posted something on Tess in school. I decide this morning to rework it. If you already read it yesterday, you might appreciate the changes. If you just read it...that's it.

In the future, I'll try not to mess with things after I've published them.

Below are pics of day one at it turned out, a half day was plenty for little Colm.

The great transition/translation...(cont.)

Tess has finished her second day of school. Colm didn't go today as the little ones got the day off. Beth and I are in amazement at the way both kids continue to carry on as if they were inside a magic bubble. But in Tess's case there were a couple of blips.

Both days she has come home complaining bitterly about ice cream. The first night we quizzed her about this...her version was that the teacher kept talking about ice cream but he never ever gave them any. It seemed outrageous on the face of it, I had to admit, but we let it pass.

Today when Beth and Colm went to pick her up, Tess repeated the same complaint. Beth decide to try to find out what was up with the ice cream and why Tess wasn't getting any ( I'm sure she was much more diplomatic than that).

The teacher, speaking in French of course, denied ever mentioning "la glace" (ice cream), and then he smiled and gently suggested that what Tess was hearing was "la classe" - something he indeed said many times each day. Case solved.

Imagnie poor Tess, her head on a swivel each time she thought she heard something like, "Bonjour glace!"(Hello ice cream!) "Ecoutez glace" (Listen! ice cream!) "Regardez, glace!" (Look! ice cream!) "Asseyez-vous glace/ Levez-vous glace" (Sit down/stand up ice cream!) She must have felt like Alice in Through the Looking Glass.

I was impressed with both the teacher and Tess. The former because he was able to sort it out, and Tess because she clearly is listening with interest to the French being spoken, especially when she thinks it might have something to do with dessert.

When we explained the difference between la glace and la classe to Tess, she seemed satisfied even if she was a tad bit disappointed.