Yes it is August again and I am in France. I will be here for only two weeks therefore my French brain dropping are limited to this post.
Many assume that I go to France because I am simply a Francophone dismissing any further contemplation. After all, why would anyone want to leave Texas in August? One of the things about France which is immediately clear even to the casual tourist is that nothing is convenient in this country. I could recite a litany but let’s take their language for starters. Every noun has a gender. There is no neuter. It follows that this creates a sense of the object being alive, this informs everything. A bridge is masculine and a window is feminine. There is no convenient way to remember. If you ask they smile and say, “On sait.” (One knows) For example, when a train is late , they say “he didn’t want to come”. You might scratch your head and wonder how they are acquainted with the train’s engineer but if you inquire they will look at you as if there is an alley cat attached to your face. Determined to get it right and certain that you “know” you ask for “la livre”. Alleycat.
It does seem that the French unnecessarily make a lot of things inconvenient and explain it away saying that is the way it is giving nary a second thought about how it might be made less inconvenient. C’est la vie! As further evidence I offer this: One cannot buy a phone card to use the public telephone anywhere other than a special store called at “tabac”. (This isn’t completely true, you can buy them at the post office, if you don’t mind waiting in line for six months.) If you don’t have a French cell phone, a public phone booth is your only way to speak to the outside world. These public phone are abundant but they don’t accept French money or American credit cards. Ergo you must have a “phone card”. The tabac also has special hours as do all different types of French businesses. The schedule of operations is posted somewhere but certainly not on the front doors. Did I mention that the greater preponderance of tabacs are closed for the entire month of August? I have a French cell phone, I threw the towel a few years ago. Whenever I question the logic of an inconvenient way to perform a task, they answer that I am too “American” to understand why things work the way they do. As I only speak “Blanche Dubois” French, I am also fairly isolated. Absent the interminable list of to do, real and imaginary, that lives in my home brain, I am more able to concentrate. Being isolated give me more time to observe. It normally takes me about a week to clear my brain of the home self-talk of to do which coincidentally is, at my age, is about the same time it takes me to recover from jet lag.
Now you are quite ready to demand that I have my head examined. Actually as foolish as it sounds I accept, welcome the inconveniences and isolation as an inseparable part of what creates my ability to experience and live in the present. The language alienation and inconveniences are not so complete as to paralyze me. The inconvenience and isolation are like being slapped awake from a summer snooze. I am able to think and observe more clearly.
There has been a lot of rain but today is a fine and beautiful day with wonderful clouds. I will go to the village of St. Catherine de Fierbois. This is where Jeanne d’Arc (Joan of Arc) was instructed by the town’s patron saint to find her magic sword. What can be said about a country whose greatest warrior is a 16 year old uneducated peasant girl?