Dijon pt 4: my theories concerning possessive contractions, marriage, feminism, racism, the relevance of hexameter, sex and music, and why jazz could have only come from America.

chouetteI think when I first began speaking French with C, I was trying to suppress how silly I felt by being a bit dramatic about it all, so that when I’d say oui (mostly they don’t say oui, but instead say what I think is spelled ouais) I’d shake one finger in the air and say “ah, oui!” while nodding with an expression of knowing a secret. And because she and S found this funny they would do it too, or repeat it after me, to the point that it’s now habit for me, and I’ve been told a few times that people like when I do it and appreciate it. ‘Appreciate’ may be a word that’s confused in translation. But it’s sometimes difficult to remember that while I take a word and translate it into English before comprehending it (generally—although I’ve been finding that I speak many words without translating now), they do not. This is their language, it’s what their thoughts comprise, it’s their feelings and their dreams, it’s how they cry out in pain and pleasure, and I think that’s something one should not forget or mistake the value of, that ‘oui’ to them is not ‘yes’ to us, it’s not the same word in a different language, it’s a different word with a similar meaning.

And I don’t know if I mean all words are like this, but I think it may be significant that ‘Stephen’s chair’ (which may once have been ‘Stephen his chair’—and if French is any indication of how different rules of grammar may be [from what I can figure, in French the gender of the object determines the gender of the article or pronoun used before it, so that ‘this is Jane and this is her father’ would be translated to French and then literally to English is ‘this is Jane and this is his father.’] it’s been argued that using << ‘s >> to show possession could not have resulted from a contraction with the word ‘his’ because why do we say ‘Jane’s book’ and not ‘Jane’r book’? Perhaps I’d be correct in guessing that in English, where we still, despite the small battles being won by feminists on this front, persist in assuming anything whose gender is unknown is masculine [for instance, when using ‘one’ as the subject, unless otherwise obvious, the correct pronouns to use are all masculine] at one point assumed, grammatically, that the gender of any and all objects, regardless of whether it has an additional gender in reality, was masculine.

Feminists say ‘ah, look at this patriarchal society, men get paid more and don’t have stereotypes against them and even the word ‘woman’ has the word ‘man’ in it, as if we’re a modified man’ and then begin making all sorts of alterations to language, such as changing fireman and firewoman into firepersons while deciding that ‘actress’ and ‘Jewess’ should be done away with entirely in favor of their masculine counterparts. Sometimes they even spell women with letters to eliminate the ‘man’ portion, thus women becomes wimyn or something to that effect. Yet, these feminists still use the masculine contractions—I won’t be convinced of anyone’s convictions, no matter how many balls are crushed along the way, until every object in the English language is given a gender and contractions are dealt out accordingly. There you go, feminists, if you want to show someone you’re serious and want to do it without merely adopting the most repugnant habits of the worst sorts of men, go reinvent the fucking dictionary. And to everyone convinced that marriage is something between a man and a woman, I suggest you go research the origins of the terms ‘man’ and ‘woman,’ and conclude by retracting women’s right to vote, okay, okay, I mean retracting all women’s natural and basic rights, returning them to the status of property, because from what I can tell, if you’re playing by the dictionary, then you’re dealing with terms and concepts from dead languages and societies that understood magic better than you understand how to spell your own name.

Let me spell this out as I understand it: Man meant man. Wife meant woman. Husband meant a married man in relation to his wife, that is, his woman, coming from the words ‘house’ and ‘bóndi’ (‘occupier and tiller of soil’ according to the OED—and on its suggestions I’m also guessing that the word ‘bind’ probably originates in the proto-indo-european language) and unless I’m terribly mistaken I think it’s therefore obvious that the word husband is a word produced by an agrarian society, that without the creation of the concept of property, there is no marriage, and marriage is not so much the binding of two things together as the binding of one beneath another. So, there you go, fuck off, conservatives! Say what you mean, and don’t try to qualify it with casuistries you heard from O’Reilly; you can all go to hell with the liberals! No, actually, you can all go to hell, just leave me the chefs and the prostitutes. And to show how little you mean to me, I’m not even going to close whatever parentheses and brackets I may or may not have left open, because you’re not even worth my going back to figure it out! As I once heard, if you were on fire, you would not be worth my piss.

Oh, and by the way, jazz and its emphasis on the 2nd and 4th beats is, it seems to me, is a reflection of the iambs that are what make up our English speech patterns. Translations of ancient Greek epic poetry are difficult because we don’t have a language that adapts to its patterns of dactyls. If they’d taught us that in school we’d have less trouble understanding why we have to learn these fucking terms in the first place. Who cares where the stress is? Why does it matter? The music of Hildegard von Bingen I’ve heard, being from the 12th century, was written without regard to time-signature, which may actually mean that there was only one time-signature used in church music, and leads me to believe that the music was passed down in 4/4 with the emphasis on 1 and a lesser emphasis on 3. I don’t find this difficult to relate to hexameter of Greek and Latin verse since it deals with lines of dactyls, which translate naturally—I don’t have any books or internet with me, so I don’t know what the rhyme schemes are, so much of this is based on assumptions and rhyme might change everything—into 6/8 time, being two sets of 3 beats with the emphasis on the 1 and 4; except on occasional circumstances, 6/8 is conducted as 4/4, if not a bit more fluidly, since 6/8 feels as if it has no sharp edges.

My point is that Latin and Greek verse in hexameter, which may reflect speech patterns of their times just as iambic does for us, translates easily into 4/4 time with emphases on the first and third beats which is the heart of all ‘white’ music. But English is not a Romance language, and it plays by different rules. Looking at slave dialects from the American South, it’s obvious that the peculiarities are formed by considering language from sound alone, and never the written word. People in Africa, it is said, had a long tradition of complex rhythms—even in India today this is still normal—so decoding English was probably done by rhythm, which perhaps instilled in their sense of language a sensitivity to iambs that perhaps would have been lost with an initial literacy. I’d say it also has something to do with sexual and social norms—how sexual can one be while dancing according to one’s society? Why is a samba or tango so far removed from swing given what we know of life in Argentina, Brazil, or Spain, in terms of how people act, how they speak, and the emphases on beats in the music? None of these things can be removed from each other, because they’re all tied in so closely with a culture. One can express sexuality while dancing to jazz, but has to do so while barely touching one’s partner. What is it about the way French is designed so that every word connects to the next without awkwardness, so that if one ends with a vowel sound the next begins with a consonant sound and vice versa, and how does it tie into their ways of life? Allow me to make one more mention of 6/8 time and the fact that it is proof that life is not all binaries merely by 6/8’s making 4/4 more round and more fluid—yes, add one more beat, a third option to yes or no, and things suddenly become a little more circular, which leads us even to sexual positions and the way that our grandiose wedding marches and My Country Tis of Thee’s are the perfect soundtrack to the puritanical missionary position and its binary allowances. This is why science movies about amoebas reproducing are set to John Cage rather than the second Brandenburg Concerto; this may also be the reason porn makes me so uncomfortable, because I can’t get over the fact that they actors never thrust in time with the music—music that, I must add, is particularly suited for fucking. Tango is more violent and sporadic, moving between 1-2-3 1-2-3 1-2 and simple 4/4, which suggests periods (which, by the way, do not disgust or bother me, although this parenthetical remark is to confirm that I meant periods of time, not blood) and movement and the need for catching one’s breath at intervals and maybe even most of all the need for violence and pain. Or the aching, clutching, breathless, pathetic and desperate and not unlike the last spurts of energy before one succumbs to death and the way it seems counterintuitive to be so thirsty when sweating oceans, ‘deep song’ and the mysterious rumors I’ve heard of the way Spanish men do not thrust at all but move circularly…

Anyway, I got my chicken sandwich, which was a foot long baguette, a few pieces of lettuce and some mayonnaise, and tasted delicious. So there. Public transportation is a blessing, it runs like clockwork, nobody checks your tickets and everyone seems to follow the rules, buying their passes without a stick being held over their heads. Television advertisements are few. They find American television exasperating because of the number of ads. When there is a movie, it plays through without, if not wholly, then with only one brief interruption by, advertisements. Television shows are much the same—advertisements are memorable if only because there are so few. And in the meantime, people are protesting right now that the government should ban all advertisements on stations for which one doesn’t have to pay.  As it’s nearly 3am now, I begin writing next about going to a bar with many people after leaving this modern apartment, and then about Strasbourg.

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Dijon, pt 3: efficiency and prudence

The mindset I mean is that in the US, so far has been instilled in me is that the purpose of life is to assure oneself and one’s ‘clan’ (of sorts) prosperity. That is, you should be wealthy, but you should also bring along with you anyone that you’re prefer in your life, which may be some of your family, and may be some friends, or may be nobody. You live to work, your children are an investment to ensure that someone can continue to work when you cannot, and so that you will be somebody’s child when you have the strength of one again. We drink coffee to wake up and wine to sleep, parties are mostly to find mates or to drown sorrows, our blockbuster films are about checking dreams off a list before death, our bestselling books are about places you must go and things you must do before dying. We demand results, we demand objectives.
‘”Play by Ear.’”
‘Uhm…is it what comedians do?’
‘Improvise?’
‘Yes.’
‘No. I think improvising is what you do when…well, yes, like on the comedy shows, and when, for instance, you need to make dinner but all you have is a cabinet full of spices.’
‘Like we’ve been doing.’
‘Right.’
‘To play by ear, that’s something you say when you want to avoid making plans immediately and would rather just put it off until later. That’s actually part of the American Civil War, that nobody wanted to deal with the Blacks problem until it had already exploded. We also say ‘let’s cross that bridge when we come to it,’ to mean the same thing, as in, we’ll deal with it when we reach the problem. Does that make sense?’
‘Mm, no.’
‘Alright, when you improvise, you know what the outcome will be, but you don’t know how you will reach it. The comedian’s outcome will be a laughing audience, ours is dinner. How we get there, we don’t know. To play by ear, you’re not sure what the outcome will be, but you know what you’re going to do in the meantime.’

On the night of the party, we forgot to eat dinner on time, or we ruined it when it was being cooked, or something like that, and so we didn’t eat. Everyone at the party had a piece of bread in one hand and a drink in the other. One after another of the girls sat down next to me to speak in English and suggest that I help with studying for the upcoming examination and talk fondly about America. Someone made me a strong drink with rum, and someone else had me try anise, and Scott always told me to stick with one drink for an entire evening—except beer, because beer is good anytime—which is probably why I was dizzy when I got home and unhappy the next morning.

But my point is that the amount of time spent eating, drinking, singing, dancing, and conversing, by which I mean, all the activities that lead Americans to call the French lazy, is really, so far as I can tell, the only reason to live. They delight in other people, they delight in their senses, and they delight in their bodies, and as far as thought goes, I think it was Abelard’s school in Paris that influenced the direction of Cambridge and Oxford, and in recent years my preferences in the arts tend to be French—and if not, then first widely accepted by the French. When we think of lazy we think of fat people or drunks or dogs sleeping under trees, so that when we call the French lazy we think of them as lazy Americans, when what seems more the truth is that the French swim through pleasure in the same way that girls can swim through love. But they work when they must—and seem much more serious about their work when they do, perhaps because on the other side of work is pleasure again. The customer seems to always come first at stores, everything is always clean and well-ordered in even the shittiest of restaurants, nobody seems to become exasperated at their jobs and things move very quickly. Things are always very clean here—I mean, when I see shit on the sidewalk, it’s always fresh shit, and despite the scarcity of trashcans, there’s almost no litter. Everyone always finishes everything on their plates—I mean everything, every last grain of rice, even every last droplet of salad dressing, even a mound of mustard, if that’s all that is left, it will be eaten. I’ve been told it’s because it’s been paid for and, even if one cannot eat another bite, it must be eaten because otherwise you’re not getting your full value. I think this may be how they treat life: why blush about diarrhea? why refuse an experience? why deny yourself a single thing that is or has the potential to be amazing? and why turn it into an item on a list, like a vaccine, when you can have it again? I don’t mean that I have this mindset, but I do mean that I wish I did. That being said, I’ve also heard that in France I will always be hungry, that their meals are very tiny. It’s not true. I’ve never seen so much food as I have here, and I’ve never seen so many people so consistently eat so much food. Yes, their meals last twice the length of American meals, but they eat four times the amount of Americans, and somehow do so without needing their napkins and still talking twice as much. I ask how it’s possible that the French can all be so thin if they eat more than Americans. “That’s because all you eat is grease. Pizza, hot dogs, hamburgers, Coke, nothing but sugar and fat. We may eat more than you, but we have a balanced diet.” I was shopping for clothes recently and the only sizes I could find were smalls and mediums. There were very few mediums.

That evening we met up with friends and went to a bar. We walked down cobblestone streets until reaching a place in the wall that I did not recognize as a door. With effort we pushed the giant metal door open and then pushed it shut again, and once inside the dark, stone room, I felt like I had found my way into a castle’s walls. We crept up a winding stone staircase towards a light and knocked on a wooden door, and then—we were inside a gorgeous modern apartment, unremarkable except in how comfortable it was. C  gave me a number of rules when I got here. One was that our yogurt is on the middle shelf on the left. Another was that it’s very important that I never wash any of the teapots because much of the flavor in tea comes from all that buildup. Another was that I need to wait five minutes after I turn off the water in the shower and then turn it off again. The hot water is only produced twice a day, I’m pretty sure. But, as I learned over the summer, you only rinse yourself off with it, and then wash off the soap, and then rinse out the tub. During a shower, the water doesn’t run for more than a minute or so. I learned this by asking her over the summer. I learned also about how we shouldn’t keep anything electric running except when we’re in the room. None of this has anything to do with saving the earth: it’s about bills. All the windows here have shutters—not for decoration, but for keeping heat in. They are often used as window blinds also. My own windows stretch from the floor to the ceiling and have handles as if there was a porch outside. Sometimes, for what reason, I’m not sure, they open on their own. Now, it’s snowed a few times since I got here, and when I woke up this morning and they were open, I found that I hadn’t even noticed the difference in room temperature. We don’t keep the heat turned on. We wear warm clothes and when we’re stationary, we’re generally wrapped up in blankets and drinking something warm or alcoholic. And furthermore, beginning with kisses on the cheeks, people are much physically closer to each other all the time. [At first I found it unusual, but by the time I left I didn’t mind it at all, in fact, I enjoyed it…while here I’m ashamed to wipe my nose in public, there it became easy when I saw everyone was always doing so…they accept that they have bodies, and two months of being cold became easy, and a wonderful excuse for hot drinks all day long–coming back the cold US I immediately reverted to more wasteful habits when it came to heat, not intentionally, but because I found myself shivering much easier. There’s so much we take for granted.]

A few times when girls meet me, they hesitate and then put out their hand for me to shake. Everyone goes silent, and when, a moment later laughter erupts, the girl looks around and then offers me her cheek. When we ate lunch at somebody’s parents’ house yesterday, when wine and anise were being served the girl’s father ran in and, a little embarrassedly and a little concernedly, asked “would you like a coke? Not cocaine! I mean—I mean that we have found one bottle of coca cola—would you like it?” I asked C, do Americans have such a reputation? And she said we do, that when one thinks of an American one thinks of someone eating a hamburger and drinking a Coke.

So I am always sitting next to people very closely, or walking closely, or speaking closely, it’s very easy to make eye contact with people I don’t know, and everyone has been very friendly. When I went to a restaurant (I didn’t know if it was a restaurant or not…it was mostly a bar) to grab lunch one day when I went to school with C, I went to the bar and asked if I could buy something to eat there. The woman asked me a question I didn’t understand and when I told her so, what would be customary in the US, that is to repeat oneself at the same speed but to speak very loudly and make the person feel like an idiot, she asked me simply if I want something to eat, and I said I did, and she pointed towards a door that connected the place to another building and then said “non, non!” and motioned me to follow her, and ran to the door herself and came back a moment later asking if I’d like a sandwich and I said yes and asked what sort of sandwiches there were, and when she began speaking I didn’t know what she was speaking about and just looked confused until she said poulet, and was on the verge of doing a chicken impression with her arms when I exclaimed “poulet! Oui, oui!” [Knowing the word for chicken is second most important to knowing the word for bathroom, and what I didn’t express here at the time was how pessimistic this experience led me to feel, unsure of whether I should be sitting at the bar or a table, knowing how remarkable it was that I’d gotten myself food, and wondering how the hell I’d ever do it again. People ask me now if my French is good. No, by the time I left my French was not good, but I could travel and thrive easily without speaking a word of English, buying strange things, navigating strange cities and transportation that didn’t make any sense, and doing all these things fearlessly—perhaps I didn’t know the language very well, but by the time I left I knew enough to communicate effectively.]

Dijon, pt 2: language, body functions, customs, comparison to US.

Nov 30 11p My jet lag is still significant, I think, so much more of this past week has been slept away than I’d prefer, but still, I’ve done quite a lot, and not a single touristy thing. What I’m most pleased about is the fact that I spend the majority of the day speaking in French, even though my French is still very poor and I can’t even get through a simple café transaction, though, as in America, the moment anyone realizes that I’m not a native speaker they treat me like I’m retarded and then things go much smoother. Céline says I’m actually improving each day, although I think I’m having more trouble each day. The only explanation I can come up with is that with each day I become a little more invested in normal conversation, take for granted things I don’t have difficulty with, and long to say more complicated sentences in the meantime. Or it may be that I can only fake it for so long before becoming exasperated and resorting to charades or list-making. But I’ve even made some jokes that were understood within the past few days. Everyone speaks a little English, especially the students, who can speak very well, but I generally refuse to speak English to anyone except, when necessary or when having a more meaningful conversation, with Céline, who will stand back until I look at her with the expression that says, ‘translate, please!’

What we call the bathroom they call les toilettes. It’s a term that makes Americans blush, but it’s also what the British call it. But the reason they call it that is that the toilet is generally in a separate room from the sink, shower, etc. It’s a dedicated toilet-room. The other room is the bathroom. Just being with the girls over the summer made me a little less self-conscious about body-functions and the like, things that are rarely discussed in the US, or at least inappropriate. Here, it’s fairly common to see people pissing on the sidewalks, and I don’t mean in a corner, I just mean, in the middle of the day, against a wall on a busy street. Homeless people and drunk people. It’s legal to be drunk in public as long as you still have an open container. Yes, you read that correctly. Otherwise you’re considered a drunk. When I told you about how Céline has a remarkable ability to find money–$70 during the first few months she was in the US—and everyone tells me it’s just because I don’t pay attention to my surroundings, well, perhaps also it’s because not a day goes by when Céline does not instruct me to step over some river of piss on the sidewalk or a trail of fresh shits. And so, on the fourth morning, after going out to a housewarming party the night before and going to sleep dizzy, it was a considerably unhappy morning as I sat curled up under a blanket and watched French game-shows and Céline finally asked, “Stephen, you’re not going to like this question, but I’m sorry, I have to ask it, I’m really sorry, I know you’re not going to like this or else I won’t know what to tell you to eat to make you feel better…when you poo, is it…uhm, er, liquid?” I put the pillow over my face and cried “ouiiiii.” At the party, one of the first questions Céline was asked was ‘is it okay for us to burp in his face?’ She told them no, and she told me that things were probably going to be crazy, that there would be a lot of noise, dancing, and people ‘blurping’.

Almost immediately, kissing cheeks to say hello and goodbye became tedious rather than nerve-wracking because I had to greet so many people who insist on it—nearly everyone insists on it. I have trouble with names because they’re all new to me, and sometimes people say their names when I meet them, and sometimes they greet me with a word I don’t know—so I’ve taken to just repeating whatever they say and I assume that 66% of the time I’m correct (either I’m just repeating their name to show I’ve heard it, or repeating their greeting as my own, or sounding like an idiot.) As with body functions, everyone is significantly more open about sex, and the majority of their conversations, if not revolving around it, at least reference it freely, along with body motions and far more slang than English has seen, I’ll venture to guess since the Elizabethan age if Shakespeare is any indication of what common people understood. A room packed with people, more bottles than persons, loud music, baguettes, red peppers, pork ribs. But one of our roommates did not come, even though the rest of us did, and her boyfriend also. It was because she didn’t receive an invitation. Parties for us in my experience are generally word-of-mouth affairs, anyone can attend so long as they blend in, if you invite someone, it’s understood that their roommates and partners are also invited because it’s understood that if one of those persons is specifically not invited, it’s only polite to not attend yourself. Not here. If you’re invited you go, apparently even if that means leaving one of your close friends or girlfriend alone for the entire evening. I was given a glass of wine, everyone seems to prefer a sweet white wine from the region, good wine costs almost nothing, and nobody sniffs or swishes it. I still cannot get over how well everyone dresses. The dress boots with zippers that are so difficult to find in the US, they’re in every shop window. Everyone wears black, and nearly all their clothes seem to be black—I’m just constantly astounded by how everyone of all ages look like models.

Tonight I was having an English conversation with Alexandre, who I met in the US and so have an English-language relationship with him, so that when we were talking alone I felt fine speaking English. And we were discussing differences between the US and other places, how, for instance, getting through customs was instantaneous here, where I didn’t receive a passport stamp or need a visa or have my bags checked, whereas arriving in the US, they were all fingerprinted, made to remove most of their clothes, had their bags searched and required significant paperwork even for brief visits. I’ve been told many times that entering the US they were treated like criminals. Alex finds Canada attractive because it has the benefits of the US but hasn’t its shortcomings, one of the benefits being that if you work hard you can be paid more. And this is, I think, the beginning of the American mindset. I may be about to briefly discuss a few conclusions I reached after the events that I will sometime later recount, only because I remember them now, but the events themselves will serve as illustrations and if later disputed, are true now, and are, further, conclusions I did not expect.

Dijon, pt. 1

November 25, 8:55pm It’s funny, firstly, to think that there are other places, but it’s even more funny to actually go to these places and have to deal with them up close. The most wonderful part is that I don’t have to deal with them as a tourist, that is, I don’t have any serious connection back to my own world, and I don’t have to deal with them as a backpacker, so that I’m stuck in a certain role, I’m just here. The plane ride was fine, although I’d hoping to get the two seats to myself, because that’s what the computer showed, an old scowling French lady was there when I came to sit down, and made a comment about something, maybe she was making a joke when I took my tranquilizers, but anyway, I couldn’t understand her, and afterwards she did not want to speak with me, except I asked her “est-ce que vous aimez vole?” and she looked at me like I was crazy before answering j’aime! And I thought she was correcting me and I exclaimed j’aime! And she turned away. I was afraid she would die during the flight, though she showed no signs of it, which made me begin wondering if perhaps the French don’t die of old age, or maybe they don’t die at all. But if they do, oh, it would not be good to have her die during this flight. All around me people were speaking, even an American woman in front of me, middle-aged, who reminded me of Martha Stewart, flirting incessantly with a young black French man, very hip. It was a long flight, and took off more than an hour later than it should have. We flew into Paris as the sun rose and I thought it was the largest brightest city I’d ever seen.

Nov 26 8pm Once off the plane I waited for my luggage and getting through customs was very simple, and I could not be bored waiting just to hear the language and see how everyone acted and dressed—perhaps it is just selective blindness, but everyone seems much more fashionable here, even the people who I was on the plane with. I received my luggage surrounded by hasidim and young couples with babies, and customs took less than ten seconds, unlike in the US where it will take no less than a prison-sentence to make it home. Céline and her family met me at the gate, standing right in front, and things began feeling so surreal now as I said my bonjours and shook hands with her father and was taken by surprise, C. noticed, when her mother offered me her cheek and I slowly remembered that this is the equivalent of shaking hands, but I did not know I would be doing it so very often, later her sister and her roommates. I remember very little about walking through the airport, a reunion and also being a bit overwhelmed by hearing and seeing French everywhere. To the car, still before 9am, and most of the cars on the road were by companies I’d never seen before, all French, including the one we were in, and we listened to that music still popular in France that sounds 20-years dated in the US, they gave me a bag of croissants from McDonalds marked Le Petite Dej’ and spent a long time driving slowly down highways in traffic jams in the rain. But meantime, the houses and buildings were, even the modern ones, like nothing I’ve seen before, even when boring, there was something about them un-American, like I’ve seen in photographs but thought I never really paid attention to. Celine lives in a neighborhood of old houses, chestnut trees, which I’ve never seen before, spread out in flat layers, iron gates and children with pompoms on their hats, a neighborhood in which she says the houses begin at 500k euros. Her family lives in what used to be a farmhouse, and they point out that the upstairs they think held hay and the downstairs held cows, and it is part of a long building in a complex that her father is in charge of, as a mechanic, so when we drive up a gate opens. And behind another gate is her house, very pretty, a little dog named Awen jumps up and down at the window and she pokes at it before we go inside. She plays with her dog by dragging it by her legs and throwing a tennis ball and doing all the things I’d be afraid would damage a little dog, but he loves this, and when he runs and jumps at me, he jumps into me and bounces off like rubber and does it again.

I just received a message from Celine’s sister, and it says I am invited to dinner with their family, followed by “I hope you are not boring,” the whole sentence being “I hope you are not boring in Dijon.” Céline and I discussed this word only this morning, the difference between being bored and being boring. Celine says that once I asked what Solene was doing and she replied ‘she’s being boring,’ and when I looked shocked, that’s when we figured out what she meant.

The streets in her neighborhood are only wide enough for a row of parked cars and a row of driving cars, and so, if two cars meet as they’re driving, the one driving in the direction of the parked cars has to park. Every two weeks the cars switch which side they’re parked on. We went to the train station to get me a 12-25 pass so I can get discounts on train tickets for being under 26. And then back to her house for lunch, which is an extravagant event, beginning with fish-stuffed olives and a salad of cucumber and tomato on which we chopped up shallots and put on a mixture of mustard and oil, I think, and delicious bread with yellow raisins in it and all their butter comes in large molds with under a plastic cover and is sweet and, well, completely unlike butter I’ve had before. And then lamb, and potatoes, and butterbeans. And then, for dessert, many different cheeses. And then coffee. And then we sat and talked, and a few people have been surprised that I’ve learned as much French as I have in five months, perhaps because it’s quick, perhaps because it’s quick for an American? And, by now, I was very tired, so I slept for a while, and when I woke up Céline’s parents drove us to the train station where we met Celine’s sister, Nathalie, and then caught a small train to Paris. In Paris everyone is stylish and a bit brusque, which would have offended and surprised me had I not been with Céline to follow around and provide commentary. As we were standing there a woman came up to us and begged—actually, on the small train a gypsy woman boarded and I thought she was speaking with her daughter until I noticed how often she kept repeating s’il vous plait, and realized she was begging, so I looked away like everyone else. At the train station a woman asked me for money and I said je ne comprend pas and she began speaking to Celine who turned her away, and the woman said to her ‘you are mean, pretending to be Americans.’ And we caught the train, where we had reserved seats and for a few hours we were on our way to Dijon, and I thought I might be sick from the motion of the thing, so I was very sad, but we arrived in the cold wet night and, since there were no more busses for nearly an hour, we dragged our luggage down the dark streets, where I could not see how beautiful the city truly was, and to her apartment, where her friends and dinner awaited us. Sometime very early I suddenly became very tired and had to go to bed, where I slept until late. Dinner also was extravagant also—I love how much emphasis is placed on enjoying food and drink. Oh! And as for her family, they were not how I expected, I expected her father to be a little cold, and her mother to be silent, but not at all, I think the words Celine used to describe them lost the true meanings of what she meant, because they were both very funny, and very warm, and I felt quite at home visiting with them.

We went food shopping on the next morning, which was an adventure too, as they have so many more delicious looking foods than we do, partially because everything we see in storybooks as children, food as it is supposed to look, this is how the food looks here, it all just looks appetizing. So, we bought many foods, came home, and I spent the whole day sleeping. Dinner. And more sleep. And then this morning, waking up late. And spending the day with Celine, as we did on weekends, helping each other study, having breakfast and lunch and then she took me out to see the city—it looks like something from a storybook, just as Whitney’s little town at Oktoberfest did, so does this one, cobblestone streets and medieval churches and bread and pastry and meat shops and stands on the streets selling gingerbread and mustards, and many, many streets without cars, and everyone dresses in black, so stylish, the shoes I’ve been looking everywhere for, are sold in every clothing store window.