Nantes, De Vinci & more French

While I’ve been falling in and out of sickness for the past two weeks, things continue to happen outside my petite chamber– it was more than refreshing to read about the Trump-Kim summit from a local source and in the French language. The French’s detest for the current White House is often avidly pronounced, and I appreciate their honest expression and genuine concerns for current affairs, which I think is lacking in my own country or even at Notre Dame.

I passed a young weekend in Nantes, a city of rich history and green innovations, the hometown of Jules Verne and the LU biscuits. A beautiful episode of human kindness occurred when, while trying to buy a ferry ticket from Trentemoult to downtown Nantes, I had stepped aside because I was slightly short of coins (for the machine), the family behind me simply bought an extra ticket for me. Touched by their generosity for a total stranger, my hope for humanity restored.

Taste of Heaven

While France is a wonderful country, I’m also learning about many of her struggles– immigration, racism and many safety issues. At Nantes, I’ve had the fortune browsing the exhibition on slavery at the Chateau des Ducs Bretagne. What a reminder it was that the French also participated in the transatlantic slave trade– not just the United States who committed this horror. From what my host mom would say about her past students, I think there is an element of racism here that is geared towards the Arabic population. Oh, and the weather. A comfortably sunny morning of 26 degrees could easily turn into a 17 ℃ thunderstorm by lunchtime.

Apart from the the few kilos that I gained from all the saveur vanilles and biscuits, I’ve also noticed my own thickening skin when mispronouncing a word or making a grammatical error in French. People here are fierce about their language: my host mom noted that I will have flan for “dessert” ( like “de-sssss-ert”), not desert (de-s-ert); the negative affirmative question between “si” and “oui” always draws a few minutes of silence contemplation at dinner; and when I failed to utter the “s” of “Amboise,” the SNCF ticket vendor made sure to hiss like an offended python before taking my bill.

I don’t always free ride on other people’s guided tours, but when I do, I’m unnoticeable among a group of French businessmen and women.

At the institute, we’re fighting on all fronts– reading, writing, speaking and listening. Repeating and self-correcting are big for improving one’s language. After the teacher returned our graded essays, it was extremely beneficial for me to cross out my mistakes and correct them even if I was just copying what the teacher had marked. In class, when the teacher corrects my pronunciation, it doesn’t hurt at all to repeat– three times louder and half the speed– that impossible syllable. Pronouns, the subjonctif, the future, the conditional, the proceedings of a French lawsuit, ecological footprints, and so forth.

As I begin to shop for local olive oils and supermarket chocolates while keeping a keen eye on how much Euros I have left– you know the beginning of the end has arrived.