Tuesday, July 9

I have many thoughts about my classes, continue my hunt for the grammar textbook, and enjoy a terrific lecture about Versailles.

Have now reverted to Skokie sleeping habits. Came home from lecture at 6 pm last night, picked up some crackers and salami at Franprix for a quick dinner, then crashed and burned. Got up at 1 am. Will do housework and study until class at 8:30. I've always loved these dead middle of the night hours. Big hole though: no kittens.

Fun encounter yesterday afternoon. Got stopped by a pretty young woman asking for directions to Boul St-Michel. Conversed for a minute or two in French about how to get there. She slipped in an English word. I recognized the accent. I gave her a puzzled look and said "American?". She said yes. Completed directions in English. Told her she looked French. She said she's Lebanese but can pass for all three (French, American, and Lebanese). LOL indeed. Happens all the time here.

Actually got stopped and asked for directions by two pretty young French women yesterday. But the other one really was French.

When giving directions in French you really only need a single gesture plus one phrase. Point and say "tout droit" (straight ahead). Of course, nothing is "straight" here, so these directions never work.

EVERYONE who doesn't live here gets hopelessly lost. If you're walking quickly and not gawking about at all the pretty things around you like you know where you're going and have a purpose in life, you immediately get taken for a local and get stopped and asked for directions.

I see lots of men here wearing those short pants that end half way between the ankle and knee. I think it looks really goofy. But actual shorts you only see on tourists, for the most part.

Dehydration and foot cramp problems solved. Bought a bottle of concentrated lemon syrup at Franprix. Came home and drank about 7 glasses diluted with water. Really needed fluids yesterday. Not a good idea to walk long distances without drinking on a hot day.

The waiter at La Contrescarpe is in a good mood this afternoon. I'm worried about him. He even let me order in French. Salade Niçoise et une limonade pour le déjeuner.

Opened box of new graph paper. Folded, not perforated. Suspect this will be a problem.

Today, on my third try, I think I finally got the right kind of graph paper. The papeteries here have walls and walls of shelves stocked with a million different kinds for "les étudiants". The Prof is quite insistent about the rules: The margin on the left must be just right, we must double space, our names must be at the top on the left, the date on the right, etc.

Prof informed us yesterday that now that we've had three days to get used to the schedule, anyone arriving late will be counted as absent. Attendance is mandatory in order to pass the class. Strict.

Here's the story my group came up with yesterday, after corrections and suggestions from the prof. The five words we had to use were mât (mast), âme (soul), pelle (shovel), galet (beach pebbles), and éclair (lightening).

Cher Michael,

J'ai eu un rêve étrange la nuit dernière. Quand j'étais dans un 
bateau un grand orage est arrivé. J'ai vu beaucoup d'éclairs, et 
un grand coup de foudre a cassé le mât. J'étais étonné et j'ai cru 
que j'allais rendre l'âme. Le bateau a échoué sur la plage. Il a 
fallu utilise une pelle pour creuser les galets et libérer le bateau.


Dear Michael,

I had a strange dream last night. While I was on a boat a big storm 
came up. I saw lots of lightening, and a big lightening bolt broke 
the mast. I was startled and thought I was going to die. The boat 
was thrown on the beach. We had to use a shovel to dig out the 
pebbles and free the boat.

Not bad for "intermediate" French! Think we can get it published?

The sentence my group came up with that used the word "âme" was evidently awful, because the prof laughed and said "oh, non, non, non, c'est bizarre en français." Then she recommended that we use "j'ai cru que j'allais rendre l'âme", which could be well-translated "I believed I was going to give up the ghost."

From my phonetics lab notes on Monday: Les liaisons sont interdites devant et après "et". So in "et une" there's no /t/ sound. It's pronounced "e_un", in the notation we use in class. Consider "Il est une pomme et une orange". There's a /t/ liaison in "est une", but none in "et un". Probably because if they both had liaisons, they'd sound the same, and you couldn't tell the difference between them.

Went to a very good lecture about the gardens of Versailles and their creator André Le Nôtre, French landscape architect and the principal gardener of King Louis XIV, the "sun king". The lecturer's main thesis was that the gardens are more important than the château itself. Louis IV felt the same way.

Now Versailles has become a must-see on my to do list. But not this weekend. There's something else big going on here this weekend that I must attend. :-)

So does anyone remember how when I visited those châteaux in the Loire I said that the buildings were OK but what I really loved were the gardens? VINDICATED!

My grammar textbook. Finally located it on scribed and downloaded a copy (for $9 American money).

Oh god - it's a PDF photocopy, with someone's scribbling all over each page. Legible though. This is a bitch.

Technology is so wonderful when it works. I now have my textbook in iBooks on my pad, and in Preview on my MacBook Pro. I'm ready to show it to the prof this morning and ask if it's OK. I hope so. What a hassle.

Big clue! The FNAC bookstore on Boul St-Germain looks like it has "stock limité" of my grammar textbook. It's out of stock at all their other stores in Paris, including the one down in Montparnasse that I marched to yesterday. I will go right past that store this morning on my walk from class to lab. Wish me luck. This is all much more difficult than it should be.

I'm being slowly assimilated I think. Just noticed that I said "marched" instead of "walked" above. "Marcher" is the French word for "Walk".

Turns out that quite a few of the pages in the PDF version of my grammar textbook are illegible.

In our brochure the Sorbonne lists two big bookstores where we can buy our textbooks. Those were the two I visited yesterday. Both were out of stock. Hence the big hunt on the net this morning.

We had to practice saying the following poem in phonetics class today. It's a well-known "texte difficile" used to torture French children in school. The title in English would be "I hate the hedges". If you speak it correctly and with the right rhythm it's quite musical. While repeating it with the microphone and headphones today the prof broke in on my session and told me over my headphones that I was doing it "parfait". Nice! The point was to practice what we'd learned about when you do and don't form liaisons with words that start with "h". Sometimes yes, sometimes no. None of the h's in this poem are pronounced - that's not the issue. The picture above was drawn by a young French student ("un élève") as an interpretation.

Je hais les haies 
Qui sont des murs. 
Je hais les haies 
Et les mûriers 
Qui font la haie 
Le long des murs. 
Je hais les haies 
Qui sont de houx. 
Je hais les haies 
Qu’elles soient de mûres 
Qu’elles soient de houx ! 
Je hais les murs 
Qu’ils soient en dur 
Qu’ils soient en mou ! 
Je hais les haies 
Qui nous emmurent. 
Je hais les murs 
Qui sont en nous.

The last four lines could be translated "I hate the hedges that imprison us. I hate the walls within us."

And note the subjunctive "soient", third-peson plural.

Raymond Devos, the deviant who wrote the poem "I hate the hedges".