White Teeth

June 23, 2014 § Leave a comment

I have seen a few ads for teeth whitening products on TV this trip this far. Never saw them as a kid. Americans have whiter teeth on the whole than the French. My mother commented on the “Hollywood chewing-gum” white teeth smile Angelenos all seem to have when she visited. She was impressed. I don’t think she knew it was a teeth-whitening trick. Then again, though the trend might be reducing, the French tend to be heavier consumers of red wine, coffee and tobacco, all teeth stainers, than Californians so maybe  Californians don’t even need a trick.

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This could bring us to discuss and compare the French  and the US attitudes towards appearance, aging, the body, and natural vs. artificial. Yes, we might get into that discussion sometime.

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Private rave en Leberoun, Oaï Star for the Aptésiens

June 23, 2014 § Leave a comment

The French celebrate the summer solstice with « la fête de la musique ». Even small towns, like Apt, will have several stages with local bands. Well, Apt would probably not have been very exciting without Oaï Star, all the way from Marseille who honored our boonies with their presence, new concoction from former bandmembers of Massilia Sound System. I’d say Oaï Star is provençal punk, happy festive punk with a dose of humorous lyrics. The crowd is all ages and all denominations, with bands of children running around or watching the show atop their daddy’s shoulders, couples getting up there in age avoiding the mosh pit, young women in pretty summer dresses, and also burned out-punkrockers and bands of « zonards » with their dogs (homeless punks, travel in packs with dogs). People drink openly and the police only intervenes to put out road flares.

Did not record anyting that night but here’s some Oaï Star if you’re curious: 

Before Oaï Star got on stage, we took a walk around the town to see what else was happening, which was not much. One group had their stereo set up with lights and teenagers and grandmas were dancing on the street to it. They seemed to have fun. At the other end of town, they had a cover band, playing some Telephone songs. At the other end of town, they were playing some Dalida songs from a bar. Yup, nothing too exciting.

I bump into a very dear old friend of mine in the dancing crowd so we spend the rest of the evening together, along with my sister. When the concert ends, we dance in the back-patio of a bar to techno music. Here too, all ages. A ten-year old boy is copying the moves of an excentric dancer, studying. We decide to leave before people get too drunk and stupid.

Back in Buoux, I hear the beats of someone’s party closeby, more techno, bassy beats. It could be tempting to walk to it and crash whatever’s going on but I prefer to dance by myself under the constellations. I call it my private rave.

Retour au pays natal

June 21, 2014 § 1 Comment

I’ve registered this blog for some years now and have a couple of unpublished drafts I might complete one day but I will be starting off with new texts and a slightly different angle. My intention originally was to present cultural observations based on my experience as a French woman living in Los Angeles. I am however going to start this as a journal. I am also not starting this in L.A. but back home in France. Some sort of cahier d’un retour au pays natal.

I will be publishing several entries at once because I am behind on some of them. But this is good, I think, you’ll get to know the type of French I am before I can speak about my experience with the US.

***This blog was supposed to include videos but having technical issues with that right now, hopefully soon resolved.***

June 6th, 2014.

My sister picked us up at the airport and we are spending a couple of days at her place in Picardie, a region of France just North of Paris, presumably where Captain Picard would have originated from way back (the inhabitants of Picardy –en ingles– are named Picard or Picarde depending on their gender).

I have missed the sound of small town church bells without realizing it. I suppose I could have waited by the church around the hour for the bells to ring but instead I have footage of Ozzie the dog to the sound of church bells. Sunday mass calling.

June 7th, 2014

We had a really cool rainstorm explode at the end of a hot day. The clouds lit up from the inside. All these videos are captured with a very basic Flip-cam, forgive the basicness of the quality.

June 13th, 2014

After a few rainy days in Paris and riding the train during yet another train-workers strike (insanity at the station, crowds of travellers packing themselves in overfilled cars, suitcases everywhere, « train is unexpectedly delayed » annnouncements followed by « train is cancelled, catch the next one in 7 hours » and not a passenger bulging followed by the SNCF’s decision to move us all into a larger train – they must have sensed the pending riot), we made it to my homeland, Buoux.

I won’t write about Paris, there are enough guides out there. It was already starting to be packed with tourists. We ate well.

In Buoux, there remains one little cherry orchard. There used to be more. We got here right during cherry-picking season so I join in. It pays very little but I have attachments. This was my first summer job ever. There are two families here who own cherry orchards but the other family, the Reynaud, two « vieux garçons » brothers have abandoned their fields and all their other cultures, lavender, honey. They are tired and have no heirs, their needs are met. The Chabaud are still working hard but have pulled out most of the cherry trees, it just doesn’t bring in very much money. I feel a tinge of pain to know my dear cherry orchards are facing extinction in Buoux.

It’s more physically intensive than I remembered (still way more chill than grape-picking or lavender-field weeding). Ring ring 7 am, I wake up, have breakfast, pack a picnic and walk downhill and through fields to the orchard. Other pickers are already there, an old Renault parked under a tree. Piles of crates of different colors, ladders all around the trees and buckets with a hook so you can hook them to a branch or to a step of the ladder.

A good number of pickers are friends of the Chabaud, all locals. They speak in a heavy provençal accent, occasionally switching to their dialect. They have funny expressions like «  le tambour des limaces » for tonnerre (« drums of the slugs » for storm ). They talk about boar tracks, rain and hunting season. There are also two Russians, a tourist girl from Paris who was hiking by and asked to join in, and a couple that fascinates me, skinny and all creased by the sun, the man has such a heavy accent and funny elocution I sometimes have trouble understanding him, the woman smiles a lot, she climbs trees like a twelve-year old, they smoke rolled cigarettes.

On the way home, I cut through fields, come across green walnuts (still unripe), I pick a few to make walnut wine, come across one of the abandoned cherry orchards, all outgrown with weeds, I don’t enter it, scared of vipers — I’m wearing sandals.

Franco-American

April 12, 2014 § Leave a comment

A couple of days ago, I took on American citizenship. I am now a citizen both of France and of the U.S. and these are indeed the two nations I know best. Hence, i will begin by comparing these two cultures.

Let’s see. I had some rapid notes:

fridge privacy individualism family cars 50s postwar glorious vs reconstruction 1sthand experience WWII and its passed on trauma

Now, let us decipher this.

Fridge:

I have noticed that when Americans visit their friends, they open the fridge freely. It seems to be a sign of friendship, of hospitality. My house is open, and so is my fridge, but generally only as far as beverages, and more specifically beer generally, although with closer friends it could be food. Is it just that I happen to have rude friends? because in my French culture as I remember it, it would be perceived as extremely rude to go for the fridge without being asked to (and asking permission to access the fridge would be seen as socially very awkward).

However, the fridge in the US is generally very compartmentalized when roommates live together. I say, generally because I have also seen communities of roommates sharing most of the foods. In general though, it is like sharing closet space. Roommates do not eat together and therefore do not share food. They have separate lives and separate fridge shelves. The phenomenon of roommating in France is not as common and usually reserved to students or alternative communities but from what I have seen, French roommates tend to eat together and their foods generally belong to the community rather than to themselves. The French generally treat the space shared as communal rather than individually compartmentalized. However, for the French the communal living is very much a phase of youth – associated with the university life, and it transitions rapidly into an individual space, only shared with one’s family. The idea of living with roommates past 30 is uncomfortable except for some idealists.

Then again, Americans tend to have much more individualized diets. It might begin with lunchboxes vs la cantine. Hence, the need to compartmentalize fridge shelves. I don’t eat your animal derivatives, you don’t eat my gluten.

To be continued and refined. Forgive me if I seem to take sides.

A French in L.A.

September 11, 2011 § Leave a comment

This blog will offer observations on the differences and similarities between our two cultures as well as reflexions on how my own identity has changed from living here, what I value from my French roots and what I have gained here.