Tuesday, July 27, 2010

As the world turns

Last night we went to a Rhumba concert at the summer festival here in Lyon, France called Les Nuits (Nights) de Fourvière. The aura of the evening was absolutely surreal. What makes this concert series so unique is that we are sitting on huge slabs of stone in an old Roman amphitheater that was constructed when they founded Lyon in 15 BC. We are up on the hill above the town and there are no city lights here, just the effects from the stage and the full moon above. The moon quickly passed over us and we could see and feel rotation of the earth through space.

Roger chose this night to go because of the 2nd artist in the lineup named Peret, an iconic musician from Catalonia known for his invention of the guitar technique known as ``fanning``.  His latin groove was absolutely infectious and eventhough he didn´t speak more than 3 words of french everyone there was dancing.
Here´s a silly little song of his and the video from the 70s is just great.

We enjoyed his performance so much and didn´t want him to leave the stage for the rest of the night. We were both a little concerned for whoever would have to follow his act.

However the third and final group had no problems holding their own. The lights came back up and four men in wheelchairs and one on crutches came out on stage along with 3 other band members. I was completely surprised and curious not knowing anything beforehand other than the last band performing was from the Congo. As I´m sitting here writing this I am still struggling for the words to adequately describe how electric, energetic and phenomenal they were. The You Tube recordings do not do them any justice because their voices were so unique as well as the unusual instruments one of the members was playing. Plus one of the men in a wheelchair absolutely rocked the guitar. They are on a tour set to go through October and will finish in Tokyo, pretty inspirational for coming from the streets of Africa and being stricken with Polio.

I recommend checking out their CD Tres Tres Fort and reading more about their struggles they fight to make a name for themselves.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Restaurant the beginning

Today at school the director came and taught our oral comprehension class. In france it's not taboo to talk candidly about all the different stereotypes surrounding various nationalities. He did a little Q&A session with us and went around the room asking each of us a couple of get-to-know you conversations going. He asked one Polish student if she was good with pipes because the french think that all Poles are plumbers. I'm not sure she understood what he was saying but I must admit I was a little shocked at his bluntness and this is not the first time one of my professors has crossed this line since I've been here. My turn came, and he said 'Sarah, [everything was in French] you come from America, ummm, why do you hate french?' Seriously? What a loaded question but I tried to be diplomatic with my response, because french is after all the language of diplomats, and said simply that I like french but I find it very challenging to change between english, spanish and french all the time, blah blah blah... I thought about asking him why he asked me that but I figure maybe that's exactly what he wants is to get a rise out of the students or maybe it's part of the French child-like curiosity.

However, they also have a wild sense of humor of themselves and love to hear what outsiders think of them. Besides the typical association of croissants and berets here's a few more stigmas about the French:
•Lazy : people who do not work and demonstrate in the streets (when they are not on strike)

•Cowards : they always surrender, unreliable allies

•Rude, anti-American and ungrateful, people who don't speak English, distant and difficult to meet

•Communists : people who live in a bureaucratic Socialist system and who are totally dependent on the State

•Dirty : people who do not use soap (recently, I received a message : "why do French women use perfume instead of taking a bath?")

•Arrogant and conceited people, always giving lessons to the others

•Not democratic : people who do not respect religous freedom

I think these are not completely accurate but are slightly humorous because the French are just so French and you'd be mad to take them completely serious. I think it's like the child being afraid of a spider and the mom says not to worry because they are more afraid of you. As long as you show you are willing to bend a little, they will too. As soon as you make a valid effort to speak french, more times than not they will respond in the little english they know and it usually ends up being a comical exchange of bad grammar on both parts. Plus I must admit I don't completely disagree with their work ethic: they don't live to work, they work to live. However they do live to eat!

One of the topics the director covered today was how the french believe they invented the restaurant so I've been doing a little research on wikipedia and it seems his statements are valid. Here's what I've found:

"The term restaurant (from the French restaurer, to restore) first appeared in the 16th century, meaning "a food which restores", and referred specifically to a rich, highly flavoured soup. It was first applied to an eating establishment in around 1765 founded by a Parisian soup-seller named Boulanger. The first restaurant in the form that became standard (customers sitting down with individual portions at individual tables, selecting food from menus, during fixed opening hours) was the Grand Taverne de Londres (the "Great Tavern of London"), founded in Paris in 1782 by a man named Antoine Beauvilliers, a leading culinary writer and gastronomic authority[13] who achieved a reputation as a successful restaurateur. He later wrote what became a standard cookbook, L'Art du cuisinier (1814). "

En greve = on strike. They really do love to strike especially in areas of mass transportation.
French kiss. Some classmates and I were discussing this yesterday and the french don't understand how that term was coined. In French slang, a "French kiss" is called a "patin" (ice skating shoe) or a "galoche". Doing a French kiss is referred to "rouler un patin" (roll a skate, as in ice skating shoe) or "rouler une pelle" (roll a shovel).

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Day 141 (20 weeks + 1 day)

I haven't counted the days in such a long while. I can't believe how much time has passed and how much has changed since I first arrived in Lyon.
Yesterday was the Le Fete National which is basically the 4th of July for France, except they only won independence from themselves in the French Revolution. Anyways last night there was a beautiful fireworks show that lasted about 25 minutes. We stood by the river and watched the bursts of lights form palm trees and rain showers in sky between the Cathedral and Le Tour Electrique.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Summer Reading

I recently finished Angel's Game by Carlos Ruiz Zafron, and recommend it to anyone who's looking for a mystery, sort of supernatural story with a twist of love. It was hard to put down but wasn't a quick read being more than 500 pages.  This follows the author's book The Shadow of the Wind which I've just started. Both books take place in Barcelona in the beginning of the the 1900's and give you a bit of a histroy lesson on the grueling past of the not-so-distant Spanish Civil War as well as various historical landmarks that are still visible today.

Besides my normal classwork I'm attemption to read Charles De Gaulle, a brief history of the former french president written in french. OOOh lala, c'est dificil and I'm thinking learning french is going to be a much longer and treacherous road than I expected. At least I started a new school yesterday where the teachers seem to get the class involved in many conversations which is great. Plus the class size is about 7 students instead of 20 so we get to ask questions and read outloud more. My favorite thing about Inflexion is that you can pick and choose which classes you want to go to each day, some of the classes include: Phoenetics, Written Comprehension, Listening Comprehension, and so on.

The weather has been stifling here. It's hot in Texas but at least everything there is air-conditioned. Here it's about 35 C or 94 F but the best you can hope for is an oscillating fan, the schools don't even have that much. The public transportation can be best summed up with the word "stench". People packed in buses to avoid walking in the heat only to be crammed in like sardines with their arms in the air and doing what Richard Simmons does when he listens to the Oldies.

Monday, July 12, 2010

A brief history in pictures - Discovering Futbol Club Barcelona

Tonight was an amazing victory for Spain and especially for the players of Barcelona's soccer team. Pujol, Iniesta, Busquets, Pedro,Villa, Xavi and Piqué were just some of the keyplayers in Spain winning the World Cup.

Me at my first Barça game in January - Barça vs. Villareal.
I've never heard such a loud crowd in my life.

 View of the "camp" and the Catalan flag.

The next three are from a game on a perfect day in April.

Outside Camp Nou on May 15 when Barça won the Spanish League.

Shortly after we joined the celebration party in the center.

Two happy fans.

 In June, we returned to the stadium so Roger could place his vote for Sandro Rosell to become the new Futbol Club President and after we got to tour the stadium inside and out.

The Players' locker room.

Mes Que Un Club - "More than a Club"   Sitting on the Barça shield

Gerard Piqué, one of my favorite players and one of the frontrunners on the national team during the cup.
You can see him here in this video, he's the first one with the "It's time for Africa" t-shirt on.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Big Weekend for Spain

Not many outsiders know that there was a peacefully rally yesterday in Barcelona where more than 1,100,000 Catalans, officials, and supporters protested the Spanish government's recent decision to remove certain rights regarding taxation and the Catalan language that have been in place for years.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

I love to say it....

"I told you so!"
Well, at least me and the octopus told you.

Last night Spain did what everyone thought was impossible and they beat Germany.
Seriously though, since the World Cup started I've been telling the half-dozen proud & boisterous Brazilians in my french class that Spain would be going all the way. Nobody saw them coming. I started following the FCB (Football Club de Barcelona) this past year, which the Spanish team is basically the same roster of players, and it's obvious can tell that there is just an amazing dynamic and chemistry there. Simply put, they're an exciting group to watch. The team should have gone further in the Champions league race this year but were robbed by Italy's Inter. At first glance it's easy to think that Argentinian star Lionel Messi makes FCB successful, but after taking him out of the equation during the World Cup games it's evident that's not the case.

Anyways, I was fortunate enough to be in Barcelona this past week and able to watch them beat Paraguay in a nail-biting match last saturday and play confidently against the Germans last night. On Saturday we happened to run into the newly-elected FCB president Sandro Rossel on a mountain 50 km NW of Barcelona while visiting the very obscure beautiful and spiritual Montserrat! No big deal.
    Thanks Roger for the vote!

Good-looking Catalan guys!