September 30, 2005
Did you know, have you ever, and so on
Did you know that the Beach Boys' Kokomo is a real place?
Did you know that in France, the Tooth Fairy is not a fairy, but a girl mouse? Her name is "La Petite Souris."
Did you know walking to the bakery to get fresh bread daily is a national pastime in France? You see people every day with the baguettes under their arms striding down the village streets at lunchtime.
Did you know that in France they have started serving brownies as dessert at restaurants? Only you have to say you'd like "uhn brooneez" even though it is spelled brownies just like in the U.S. and even though "un" is a singular article. They taste good, though! Especially with crème anglaise...
Did you know that writing checks in France is upside down from how they do it in the U.S.? In the U.S., the date is at top right, then comes the donee and then the amount, and then there is a line for the signature at the bottom right. Well, here in France, there's nothing at the top right, and the first two lines are for the amount, then the donee, then a short line for the TOWN you're writing the check in (!), then finally a line for the date. Both the donee and the location spaces have the word "à" before them, so it's hard at first to remember which one is which (the first à meaning "to" and the second one meaning "at" or "in"). Finally, at the bottom you are supposed to sign your name, but there is NO LINE for it! Which has led to my forgetting to sign checks several times. People don't like that much. My final comment on this subject is about signatures. It seems to be frowned upon around here if your signature actually has anything to do with your name (such as any legible letters in common with it). Typically a very brief undecipherable scribble meets with more approval and less attention. If they can read your name in your signature, they practically accuse you of just writing your name instead of signing. Hmmmm.
Did you know that at French public middle schools there is a body called the "Conseil de Classe" which consists of the teachers, plus two parents AND two students from each class (parents and students not necessarily related to each other, in fact more likely not to be)...and that at the end of each grading period, all of the the children's grades are revealed to this body, which then votes on whether each student should get "congratulations," "compliments," "encouragements," "warnings" or "blame?" The vote is based on the grade point average plus any testimony from the parent and student members of the council. The two student representatives are elected by their classmates. I was floored at the revelation of the grades to the parent and student elements. And by the fact that classmates will have a say in my child's report card remarks. Sounds like a popularity contest. Good for the popular kids... On a related note, today in French class Jason and the rest of his class had to recite a poem. The delivery was then graded by each member of the class. The average of the students' grading counted for half the final grade! The other half was left up to the teacher. At least she had some part in it! I suppose this does make the kids want to try harder, being evaluated by people whose opinions they may care more about than the teacher?
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When I went to a PTA-type meeting a few weeks ago, there were 12 people there. 8 out of 12 took smoke breaks during the 2-hour meeting. 2 rolled their own cigarettes. Only the three people running the meeting and I didn’t go out to smoke. I noticed. I am surmising that a lot of people here smoke because everyone else does and they don't notice the stench so much that way. What I find really sad is the 6th-9th graders who smoke outside the school gates before going in for their classes. Those poor young lungs being polluted already. Yuck! Then again, I suppose they're probably filled with smoke at home by their parents' cigs anyway. At least there's no smoking inside those school gates.
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Have you ever seen a pregnant lizard? I am quite sure, based on her thick middle and slow movements, that I witnessed one lying in the sun on the step outside our bedroom the other day. All the other lizards I've seen were narrow and lightning fast. This one sure looked wide and sluggish. In any case, it sure reminded me of how many pregnant women feel!
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Ever seen (or even heard of) a black radish? They look yucky. Saw some in the store today.
By the way, I noticed at Hyper U the cashiers wear plum-colored trousers with matching plum blazers over a white T-shirt with blue writing. I guess the blazer thing is really in (given the red ones at Intermarché).
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Where do your avocados come from? In California they were local and had ads all over the place for all the wonderful things you could do with them. Here in Southern France, they come all the way from Kenya!
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I am right-fruited. That is to say, I have to use my right hand to choose fruit at the grocery store. My right hand is particularly trained in determining whether a kiwi, avocado, nectarine, or plum is of the desired firmness. My left hand is somehow clueless. How about you?
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Have you ever gotten mango or rhubarb yogurt in your hair? You should try it sometime. But not recommended for right after your shower. It can kind of flavor your whole day. I have experience in the matter. Pesky long locks. Fortunately I don't put my mop into my plate as often as Emily. We have taken to keeping hair elastics in the dining room so we can sweep her blondness back after the first trespass into the pasta sauce and avoid the next five dips.
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For the first few months I lived here, I avoided restaurant dishes containing the word "pistou" because I was under the illusion it was some unknown kind of local produce that was probably a cross between a pistachio, a date, and fennel. If you can imagine that. Then I discovered it is actually a local kind of light pesto sauce, made, of course, with garlic and olive oil and basil! Yum! I'm steering for those meals in the future.
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Here in Baillargues, look for small village mentality. For instance, outside the electronics store there is a sign asking people, in case of absence or closure, to leave packages with the butcher across the street!
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One of the best things about lunch at home for the kids during the school day (beyond seeing their beloved mother three times a day and getting some true downtime amidst the language immersion) is that on these fickle September days, they can wear long pants in the cool morning and then change into shorts for the hot afternoon.
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I seem to recall my mother driving us to school a few times in her pajamas. I never really understood that until this week. I did it myself, but just to the bus stop once, and then another time I would have done it all the way to the school, except that I was saved by it being carpool morning, when a neighbor takes Jason along with her daughter because they go in late and can't take the bus. Love those long, lined raincoats, though.
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You've heard of a watch dog, but have you ever been greeted by a watch rooster? One crowed at us on our walk the other day, all the way along the wall of its property. We were debating whether it was saying cock-a-doodle-doo or cocorico or quiquiriquí. I think David ended up deciding it was saying cock-a-doo, since the call was too brief to accommodate all those other syllables.
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Words I've learned lately that you might just need some day in French:
betterave = beet
essuie-glace = windshield wiper (windscreen wiper in England)
raclette pare-brise = squeegee
chahuter = heckle, horse around
proscrire = banish, ban, forbid
le cas échéant = if the need arises
échéance = expiration date, due date, deadline
or = nonetheless, however (can also mean gold, of course)
Abbreviations you'll most likely never need to know or understand:
FCPE (Fédération des Conseils de Parents d'Elèves) = a school parents' organization (Federation of Councils of Students' Parents)
PEEP (Fédération des Parents d’Elèves de l’Enseignement Public) = another one of those (Federation of Parents of Students in Public Education), pronounced PEP instead of PEEP.
OCCE = Office Central de la Coopération à l’Ecole (not too sure what this one does, but you have to pay them for it)
PPMS = Plan Particulier de Mise en Sûreté (safety plan for emergency procedures at school, e.g. what to do with students during regional "Red Alert" due to sudden dangerous weather such as the severe thunderstorms and flooding we had earlier this month)
But when I want to know a really useful term, like "wasp exterminator," can I find it anywhere? The dictionary says it is "exterminateur" but I cannot for the life of me find any topic remotely related to this in the phone book or online. I guess people around here take care of their own wasp nests under the roof tiles. Can anyone tell me where in the French yellow pages I can find someone who will come and take away our wasp nest on the roof? Why didn't I ask my local friend during our 1.5 hour walk amongst the vineyards, pumpkin fields, canals, hedges and trees this windy afternoon?
September 30, 2005 | Permalink
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Wow! So much information all at once. The Black Radishes do not look appetizing.
Confession: I drive my girls to school while wearing my pajamas almost everyday. At least they are capri pants from Old Navy and a t-shirt of mine or my husbands. And I only do that on days I know I won't be getting out of the car until I get back home! The girls have gotten used to it!
Posted by: Melene | Sep 30, 2005 3:08:41 AM
Personally, I would give the black radishes a try. But I like testing out different produce. I wonder if you're supposed to cook them? Some asian radishes are used in soups, so that might be what they are used for. They might be good, never know!
Posted by: Sami | Sep 30, 2005 5:35:31 AM
I love these missives from the cultural interstices. Thanks for sharing!
Posted by: jeffy | Sep 30, 2005 5:57:00 AM
Wow!!! All that info on the differences is so fascinating!
Posted by: jenny | Oct 9, 2005 7:17:39 AM