Friday, November 27, 2009
Monday, November 23, 2009
This weekend I went to Trier, Germany to visit two of my best friends who are studying abroad, and it was such a wonderful, happy experience. We decided that since Europeans don't celebrate Thanksgiving, we would have our own psuedo-Thanksgiving meal (I say psuedo because finding the right ingredients...like turkey....was impossible).
Tuesday, November 17, 2009
For the second half of last week, I returned to Fos with Oma and Opa. Saturday I got to see Pauline, which was so much fun! I thought being in the same country as one of my best friends would mean hanging out more, but so far I’ve only seen her twice! I went to Marseille to see her and the day ended up being much more eventful than expected.
I drove myself to Marseille and when I got there, the route the GPS wanted me to take was blocked due to construction. The detour was a nightmare. What should have taken me five minutes to drive through took an HOUR AND A HALF. Why? This article sums it up:
I got to Marseille right as a huge riot erupted. While I was driving, I had no idea what was going on, but I was very literally scared for my life. The roads were completely blocked because thousands of Algerian immigrants were running around waving the Algerian flag, waving flaming torches, throwing objects, screaming, and honking. As I tried to drive down the clogged streets, people would hit my car. And all this because of a soccer match? Geez.
Anyway, it ended up being kind of serious. Before the day was over, the riot had spread all over Marseille. Cars were flipped, smoke bombs and rocks thrown at police and store windows, and the grand finale was that night as I was leaving: boats in the Vieux Port (the famous one from the Count of Monte Cristo) were lit on fire…two of them sunk.
For me, it was a really weird experience; for France, a huge frustration. I know that this riot was sparked by a soccer match, but I think it was propelled by underlying bitterness of the immigrants and their descendents towards French government and society. I really believe that tension is building (there is a huge debate right now about what the “French Identity” is and who belongs) and that a replay of the 2005 riots is bound to happen before long.
on the roads in Lozere
Last week I had a vacation from school grace à Armistice Day on November 11th. The break was very much needed and I have come back to Angers completely refreshed and motivated to finish the 30 days I have left of school here. For le pont (what they call short holidays here in France), I went south. I really am a southern girl in every sense…born in southern France, raised in Mississippi…and it felt so good to be with my people again and in a place that is very familiar to me.
For the first half of the break, Oma, Opa, and I went to the house in le Cellier (“The Cellar” in English). The village is really, really tiny, but it is always such a pleasure to be there, and it is no surprise to me why it is the place where my family has vacationed now for the past 50 years. The region is la Lozère and is in le Masif Central, which is a mountain range (of dead volcanoes) in south-central France. It should be mentioned that this region is the most rural in all of France, having about 3 habitants per kilometer squared (Paris has 20,000 habitants per square km). My guess is that in le Cellier there might be about 20 families (all small farmers)…but no more.
Reasons why I love Lozère:
1. Very often, one is woken up in the morning by the sound of sheep being herded down the street from the barns to the meadows.
2. One must drive for thirty minutes to get to the closest grocery store and to find internet.
3. The landscape is breathtakingly beautiful and very isolated from the rest of France. It can only be reached by small winding roads along rocky cliffs.
4. Everyone is obsessed with mushroom hunting.
5. You buy your cheese, milk, eggs, and sausage from your neighbor.
The region has a sort of ancient mystique to it. All of the houses are old (Oma and Opa’s house is 400-ish years old). I have no doubt that the story of Beauty and the Beast (Belle et la Bête) is supposed to take place in Lozère. Being in such an old place is, ironically, incredibly rejuvenating. It must have to do with being so isolated in nature. Fun fact: Robert Louis Stevenson loved this region and wrote a lot about it. When in Lozère, it’s easy to understand how he must have been so inspired by all that was around.
Sunday, November 15, 2009
Well, I did write a piece on it and I was planning on posting it on November 9 in honor of the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. The older I get, and the more delightfully-yet-oh-so-painfully-intellectually stimulated I am in my Croft classes, I believe more and more that November 9, 1989 is the most important date in modern history; simply put: the fall of the Berlin Wall granted all Europeans access to democracy, and the economic integration that followed suit is completely unprecedented and contradicts the tendency of mankind to pursue self-interests, as is reflected in centuries of warfare in Europe. 1989 marks the greatest discontinuity in the lives of Europeans: it is the triumph of democracy in Europe and made successful European economic integration a realistic goal. Furthermore, the failure of communism in eastern Europe after 1989 was felt all around the world, especially by smaller communist states which so heavily depended upon the support, militarily and economically, of the USSR.
So now it's November 15th and I never published that post, the reason being that I was in the most rural region in France with my grandparents and had zero access to internet for three days (more on that later...). Honestly, it was very refreshing...I'll be the first to admit that I am on facebook way too much. However, now that it is no longer November 9th, I don't really feel like posting the piece I wrote for the 20th anniversary. But--I am going to leave you with two excerpts from one of the best articles I've ever read. These are taken from The Economist (Nov. 7th-13th) "So much gained, so much to lose." I cannot agree more with everything that was said in this article.
"The destruction of the Iron Curtain on November 9th 1989 is still the most remarkable political event of most people's lifetimes: it set free millions of individuals and it brought to an end a global conflict that threatened nuclear annihilation. For liberals in the West, it still stands as a reminder both of what has been won since and what is still worth fighting for....
...Recognising the political shortcomings of globalisation should redouble Western liberals' determination to defend it: to close the gap in the right way (referring to the gap between economic progress and political progress since 1989). That involves a myriad of things, from promoting human rights to designing better jobs policies. But it also requires defending the enormous benefits that capitalism has brought to the world since 1989 more forcefully than the West's leaders have done thus far. And above all perhaps, taking nothing forgranted."
I hope those excerpts moved you as much as they did me. It is true: we should take nothing for granted.
Ps- Y'all are probably wondering what this has to do with my "adventures in Europe"...being in Europe for the 20th anniversary has been special. It's been on the news the entire month, and it is neat being with Europeans for something so monumental in their history. AND...I am going to Germany next weekend and cannot wait!! So, I guess I've been thinking about the Berlin Wall a lot because of all that.