Tuesday, October 19, 2010

La Pays du Grève

So one thing that is very noticeable here is that there are so many grèves, which are strikes, all the time. It amazes me as an American, a South Carolinian, and a Seneconian.  I have never actually seen a real strike in my life in the States.  But here in France, in Limoges even, there are strikes about every week. It is so interesting to see and to, in some way, as an outsider, live, this different way of living (I think I just used too many commas, sorry Stutts).

Normally, there is a grève every Tuesday or something like that. Either the transportation system, the teachers, or the students are on strike. But that's not the funny thing.  One wonders what they are striking continuously about.  Who wouldda thunk it? It's all about the retirement age, or retraite. Right now, their retirement age is at a firm 60 and Sarkozy, the French president and others want to raise it to 67.  Maybe it's because I'm young, maybe it's because I like staying busy, or maybe it's because I'm American, but I honestly  don't care.  It's almost more amazing from an American standpoint because the French hardly work it seems.  Everything is closed on Sundays, we're talking that not a thing is open like restaurants and all that.  And if things are open Saturday at any point, then they are not open at all on Mondays.  And also Wednesday afternoons are likely to be free for time with the family. And Fridays, don't even think about going somewhere Friday afternoon that isn't a bar, brasserie (a bar that serves food too), or the movie theater. Oh and you cannot forget about the lunch breaks which last every day for about 3 hours. C'est bizarre à moi.  Sometimes, I wonder why they complain about the age increase. Did you know that to be a full-time teacher in a lycée, or high school, you only have to teach 18 hours a week?

So why do they care so much?

I am finding that in France there is much more political interest than in the US. I learned in my first political science class with Dr. Raber that, for the most part, the average American in politically ignorant and/or apathetic. And even if we do know, we are not likely to act upon it in such a radical way. Of course there are radicals in the US, but it is not the radicals here who are protesting, it is the majority--the regular people who do not have radical beliefs.  And another thing, the strikes here are not seen to be radical, they are  just a normal part of life here.  They are well organized and the police make the roads available to them, the buses change their route. It's amazing. People even sign up for the strikes so that it is ok that they miss work that day.

So what's my point?

Oh yes! I think that maybe the French care so much about this in order to keep their lifestyle. They value simplicity, except when it comes to paperwork.  They value the feeling of family togetherness  that comes with Wednesday afternoons, Sundays, and any long-lasting lunch.  The French want to plan their meals with care, buying the freshest bread from their favorite boulangerie.  And in order to keep this way of life, they march in the streets peacefully and well-organized.  If they can maintain the retirement age, they can retain their cultural values. Family and life is always more important than working.  They think that we Americans work too hard and I believe them.  Just looking at this past summer that was hell for me, but I worked so hard.  I felt like I couldn't take a break for myself.  I was American--overstressed and overworked.

I come from the land of milk and honey, or at least the land of the super Wal-Mart and the good ole 9-5 job.  Perhaps we work too much and don't think enough about the simple things in life. Maybe all this work is what makes us complacent about our lots in life, the retirement age and all that.

I hope that I am making some kind of sense here, but I fear that I am not. Just remember sometimes to take a time for yourself. Read a book, go to a park, eat a long lunch, make a pot of soup for a bunch of friends to enjoy.

Take time to think.

Love what you do. And one thing keeps coming back to me during my stay here.  Right before I left I saw the film "Eat Pray Love" with my mother and it's message is the one I want to convey now.  Don't just exist in a world, experience it.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Bon Apetit

Ok, let's get down to it.

The food is absolutely incredible here!!!!

I haven't even tried the good stuff yet, I'm talking super cheap market brand stuff being absolutely wonderful. I don't know what the French have done, but I have never tasted such incredibly delicious goat cheese, or any cheese for that matter. When I go to the store, I say to myself "I have no idea what I'm buying right now but it costs less than a Euro."  But it really doesn't matter, because everything is so freaking good.

The cheese, the wine, the baguettes, and I can't even get started about the chocolate. The other day, I had a single chocolate covered raisin that completely changed my life and my way of thinking about everything I've ever eaten. It just doesn't compare.

I feel like I've had many a conversation with non-natives and we have several theories about why this is:

Theory 1:  It's France!  We are simply new to this place and the novelty is what is so great. I'm sure the French people don't think "Holy Crap, this is delicious" or more correctly "Merde, c'est tres delicieuse"every time they eat a baguette.  I have to say that I do believe that this is one reason why I'm so taken by the food here. I'm in France! I've only thought about this for so long and now it's a reality. Of course I've idealized everything in my head and maybe that has influenced my tastebuds.

Theory 2:  Everything is made with better ingredients here due to the French people's extreme sense of nationalism.  This theory is linked somewhat to the first.  I don't yet know if the products are actually better here. I have no idea what the processes or rules for manufacture are here. But I have, indeed, noticed the people's sense of nationalism.  It is everywhere; it is prominent.  Even though globalization has allowed for American cinema and the like to make its way across the pond, France is grasping whole-heartedly to its culture.  It will not bow down. The French people are actively maintaining their way of life through greves and political movements like that.  On the whole, they take pride in their country and want it to be the very best. All I can say is if it's pride that is in their bread and their cheese, we need a little bit more in America.

Theory 3: The French are aliens who insert chemicals that produce a euphoric feeling in the brain and body  into the cheese, bread, and wine to better control the population of humans throughout the world.  They want us weak of food comas when they take over.

But for now, I'm just going to have to accept my inevitable weight gain.  But hey, at least I'll be smiling when the aliens take over.