Thursday, February 12, 2009

I ate rabbit...And I liked it (Hope my vegetarians don't mind it)

Normally I wouldn't write this frequently, but luckily for you, the past few days have been full of note-worthy events.

First things first: I ate rabbit Wednesday night for dinner, and it was REALLY good. Like, "I can't believe it's not chicken!" good (puns! I love puns! 10 points if you understand this reference, Mollie Fox excluded). The Daniels refused to tell us what we were eating until the meal was over, which was both cute and kind of creepy. As it turns out, the morsel I took was
the bum (apparently the most delicious part). I felt really bad after I finished my plate and had a strange desire to track down the rabbit's family and apologize, but then I got over it. My only hope is that Matt Yashinsky does not read this blog.

Thursday morning after class (Contemporary French Press and Media), some friends and I went out for c
offee with our professor Monsieur Desorgues, an adorable old man from Avignon who is genuinely interested in what his students have to say. We sat down at a lovely little cafe in the sun (on the right, with the yellow awning) getting to know each other and discussing university life abroad. I realize I've said this about a million times, but I really do relish the cafe culture here; there is nothing more relaxing than enjoying a small cup of coffee while reading, writing, or just watching people pass by.

Professor Desorgues rarely misses the opportunity to slip in a word or twenty about how much he loves the french language, and I'm beginning to understand why. Most french people I've met so far (especially professors and adults, b
ut many students as well) boast about the beauty and rich history of the french language and rest adamant about the preservation of its formalities. Traditionally, the French have two words for "you" ("tu" and "vous"), and each is reserved is for specific occasions. The "tu" is informal and familiar and is thus used between family members and friends, while the "vous" is much more formal and polite and is to be employed when speaking with strangers, passerbys, and any figure of authority. During coffee, my professor lamented that usage of the "vous" is currently declining and stood firm that its extinction would be a terrible degradation to the French language.

Just as they are shamelessly proud of its conventionality, the French also seem contented with the simplicities and subtle
ties of their language. Even I find that most, if not all things are better said in French. Actually, I think I have an easier time expressing myself in French, especially when I write. In terms of fine nuances, English just kind of pales in comparison. Example one: there is one verb, "tutoyer" for the entire trend I described a paragraph earlier. In English, the most simple translation of this verb (while still being accurate) would be "to use the 'tu' form with someone in conversation". Buuuzz kill. Example two: the grape versus the raisin. In French, what we call a grape is "un raisin", and a raisin is "un raisin sec" (sec means dry). Someone remind me why we made up a completely different word for the same thing? Example three: clever colloquies. Consider the english expression "to be in a pickle" and its french equivalent "être dans le pétrin" (literally: to be in a tight spot). I don't get it. Cool imagery, but the last time I checked, I wasn't stuck inside a cucumber covered in vinegar. But come to think of it, yeah, I am in a pretty tight spot for waiting till the last minute to do my work. Je suis dans le pétrin. Done deal. Fourth and final example (I promise): the use of the reflexive. Alphonse drinks too much one night and tells you how drunk he is. You turn to him and say "I can tell". Or in French, "ca se voit", which directly translated is "that sees itself". It sounds weird, but makes just as much if not more sense because it places the emphasis on the action (Alphonse being wasteyface) rather than the subject (you noticing that Alphonse is wasteyface).

That same conversation also made me realize how un-PC certain french people are, especially older adults. At dinner, it's not rare for the Daniels to make sweeping statements about a certain political party, gender, or race (their personal favorite). They are admittedly old-fashioned and... how do I say this... kind of in awe of anyone who is not white or catholic. And despite his intellect, so seems Professor Desorgues, who continued to make the same mistake (like, 5 times) of calling my friend Tina Chinese when she is really Taiwanese, even after I corrected him. After Tina left, he commented on how k
een and enthusiastic she was and asked me, "ils sont tous comme ca?" ("are they all like that?").

I am genuinely surprised at the frequency of these sorts of fill-in-the blank statements (i.e. "Asians are good at math", "Jews have a lot of money", "Alberta Wright is dumb"), even though I know they are not meant to be malicious. And I thought I overgeneralized! This is of course not to say that the French are more narrow-minded than Americans (auuu contraiiire mon frere); it's more to suggest that France might be more attached to its history and less ready to adapt to the changing demographics of the modern era. You dig?

On a lighter note, the rest of thursday was pretty funny. On our way home from coffee, Talia and I encountered a theater tr
oupe all dressed up in costume and walking around the city promoting for a play. They happened to follow us all the way home, which provided for some great photo opportunities. Then, on our own street, we bumped into another professor. If I had to make one of those blanket statements based on the compilation of my interactions with this professor, it might be that "Arabs stand really close to you when they talk".

Later that day I happened to run into two other friends randomly on the street. First, a french friend whom I hadn't seen in a week, and that evening a friend from Newton (!) who is here on a different program. Aix is so funny like that. It's not tiny, but you still constantly run into people, kind of like earlier this morning when I literally bumped into yet another professor in the dairy aisle of the supermarket, which is helpful when you don't know whether to buy sweet, extra fine, or half-salted butter. Half-salted, in case you were wondering.

Thursday nights events are worthy of their own blog entry, so for your and my sake I'm going to stop here. Lots to talk about next time, so stay tuned!!



  1. Haha, here's a "stereotype"... the French are blunt.

  2. Hi Danielle, We've loved following your blog, learning more about the culture, enjoying your sense of humor. Here in English we do have the expression between a rock and a hard place, which does evoke the physical sense of the experience. There is something also wonderfully though disagreeably evocative about the expression "in a pickle." A word from Wikipedia on its derivation: "The term refers to being in pickling solution, presumably unpleasant. It was first used in English by William Shakespeare in The Tempest (1611)"
    While I defer to your sense of the "rightness" of the French, Shakespeare's not chopped liver as a source of the term. What's the French version, by the way, of "chopped liver?"
    Larry and Susan M-H

  3. danilk, my spanish family fed me rabbit without telling me what it was, too! you reacted much better to the surprise than i did, though...

    love you!


  4. HA alberta wright is dumb. i get THAT reference. because she is.

    come to greece now, thanks.

    love you,

  5. Well, you've always eaten "sweet" butter at home (unsalted). Love all your bits about language, although I think the English language is pretty neat and would agree with Larry H. that Shakespeare is no "chopped liver." (I wonder why when (Jewish?)people mean to say that something is not insubstantial, they use that phrase??) Ca se voit...would that be analogous to our "that remains to be seen?"
    Much love and keep up the good blog!

  6. danielle. rabbit!?!? bravo to you- you have bigger balls than i do...

    i LOVE reading your posts because i can literally picture you doing and thinking everything you write about...

    i miss you dearly and cannot wait to have such a french friend when we get back to school.


    tu me manques