By tradition, in France, two minutes of silence are respected at 11 am, the 11th day of the 11th month: it is at this time that the armistice was implemented. Listen to this sentence in French, just below.
JOUR DE L'ARMISTICE
: also known as Le Jour du Souvenir, and Veterans Day, November 11th is an official day to remember those who sacrificed their lives in WWI and other wars
Armistice soundfile: Hear Jean-Marc read the following sentence
En France, il est traditionnellement respecté deux minutes de silence à 11 h, le 11e jour du 11e mois : c'est à ce moment que l'armistice a été rendu effectif. -Wikipedia
A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE by Kristi Espinasse
The following story may seem an unusual rememembrance, on Veterans Day, until you read to the end.
In the winter of 2001, I left work at the vineyard each night to drive myself to driving school, careful to take the back roads and to park several blocks from the Auto-École Rivière. Though I had driven for ten years in the States, and another six in France, I had failed to exchange my Arizona driver's license for a French one, having had two years to do so. Time and again, Jean-Marc assured me that I had the right to drive in France (convinced that my AAA International Driving Permit was enough, never mind the expiration date), until one day he realized that his wife was driving without insurance (!!!); that is, should she get into an accident, the insurance contract would be void ($$$) without her having a French permis de conduire.
Having spent weeknights at driving school, attending class with would-be motorists half my age, and having finally passed l'épreuve théorique, or written exam, in the town of Fréjus, I would soon be navigating the streets of Draguignan... with a stone-faced inspecteur seated beside me.
On exam day, I shared the test vehicle with a wide-eyed eighteen-year-old who had just been ordered to pull over and get out. "Out! You are a danger to yourself and to others!" the inspecteur shouted. Seated in the back of the car, waiting my turn, I tried to understand just what my unfortunate classmate had done wrong, but was jolted out of my pensées when the inspector resumed his tirade.
"FAILED!" the inspecteur barked. He shouted a few more insults before the French kid got into the back of the car, at which point I was ordered into the driver's seat: "A vous, madame!"
"Allez-y!" the inspecteur commanded, checking his watch. I said a prayer to Saint Christopher, patron saint of safe travel (not knowing who the saint was for driver's-exam scoring), put on the left-turn signal, and drove out of the quiet neighborhood into the chaotic streets of Draguignan at rush hour.
"You don't need to be so obvious!" the inspector snapped when I threw my chin left after turn-signaling. Moments ago I'd signaled a right turn and thrown my chin over my right shoulder for good measure. We had been warned in driving school to exaggerate our gestures during testing to show the inspecteur that we were aware of those dangerous "angles morts" or blind spots. "Et les vitesses!" the inspector grumbled after I'd ground the gears once again. "Oh, but aren't cars automatic in America?!" he snickered.
Though I had been stick-shifting for sixteen years, seated next to the inspecteur I felt like I was operating a vehicle for the first time. Having completed the twenty-minute parcours through the center of Draguignan, where the unpredictable French pedestrian is king and capable of jumping from sidewalk to street center in the blink of an eye, I followed the inspecteur's instructions, pulling up in front of the American cemetery, which seemed like a bad omen to me. The inspecteur sat silently, filling out paperwork, before announcing it was time to check my vision. He ordered me to read the sign across the street. Squinting my eyes, I began:
"World War II Rhone American Cemetery and Memor...".
Before I had even finished reading, the inspector scribbled something across the page, tore off the sheet, and mumbled "Félicitations."
Ornery as he was, I had the urge to throw my arms around the inspecteur and plant a kiss beside his angry brow; only, the commandant was no longer facing me, but looking out over the quiet green fields dotted white with courage, lost in another place and time.
* * *
Books about the war in France...by our readers! If your French war-related book isn't mentioned, remind me and I'm happy to add it to the list
La Réunion: Finding Gilbert by Diane Covington-Carter
Alan's Letters, by Nancy Rial
Your name is Renée: Ruth Kapp Hartz's story as a Hidden Child in Nazi-Occupied France
Auto-École Rivière = Riviera Driving School
le permis (m) de conduire = driver's license
l'inspecteur (l'inspectrice) = inspector
la pensée = thought
A vous, madame = Your turn, Madam
Et les vitesses! = And the gears!
le parcours = driving route
les félicitations (fpl) = congratulations
le commandant = captain
It is soon to be 11 a.m. and Smokey and I are on our way down to the beach, to join others in a few moments of silence. Feel free to share something about Le Jour du Souvenir or Veterans Day, in the comments below.
Meet Jean-Marc and our son Max in Texas and in Portland.
Max and Jean-Marc will be pouring the very last US bottles of Mas des Brun and other delicious wines next December in TX and OR. If you live nearby, don't miss
Houston, TX : December 13th at 7 PM
- Winemaker Dinner at Bistro Provence, 13616 Memorial Drive
, Houston Texas 77079. Tel : 713-827-8008. Reservation needed.
Portland, OR: December 15th :
- Blackbird wine Shop ~Drop in tasting, 6-8 PM
Portland OR : December 16th :
Nous n'oublierons jamais. We will not forget.
Back, now, from the beach. Smokey and I were seated on a bench, waiting for the 11th hour when a man walked into this very scene. A newsboy cap on his head, scraggly hair sticking out, and a fuzzy salt and pepper beard, he stood beside that tree and began to stare out to sea. His face was puffy and his eyes were glazed. I thought, He, too, must be observing Remembrance Day
I had the urge to say something to him. Instead, I looked around to see if others had paused, as it was now exactly 11 a.m. There was a woman in the sea doing aerobics. A couple jogging by with their dog. A kid on a skateboard whirled by, right between the sad looking man and I. The man's seaward gaze broke. No, he, like the others, is thinking of something else
, I thought.
Another moment later, a woman appeared a few meters away and the man turned and walked toward her. That's when the tears broke. He wiped his eyes on the back of each shirt sleeve. He had spent his moment of silence alone, as planned, and returned now to his companion.
I woke up this morning thinking about my grandmother, Audrey Young. I was remembering a phrase she shared with me at the end of her life, in a nursing home. "The squeaky wheel gets the grease!" she would say. It meant that if you don't pipe up people will not help you!
Sister Emmanuelle, who we learn about today, would have high-fived my Grandma Audrey--and then the two might have enjoyed a gin and tonic together :-) Here is today's word and a profile on a most amazing femme française as part of our discussion on homelessness.
: a person who is a pain in the neck
AUDIO FILE: Listen to Jean-Marc read the following sentence in French
Click here and Listen to "enquiquineuse"
Mieux vaut passer pour une enquiquineuse qu'on respecte que pour une gentille qu'on piétine.
Better to be regarded as a pain in the neck that one respects than a nice woman that is trampled on.
--from the book
Etre femme au travail: Ce qu'il faut savoir pour réussir mais qu'on ne vous dit pas Livre d'Anne-Cécile Sarfati
To Be a Woman at Work: What you need to know to succeed but what no one tells you...
Looking for an original gift? Have a look at this doormat...or find something else unique via this link.
A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE
by Kristin Espinasse
Y A L L A !
Soeur Emmanuelle was a French nun, well known as one of France's favorite personnages. Born "Madeleine Cinquin" in Belgium, at the age of 22 she left her dancing shoes behind--along with that devilish grin (ah, men!)--took her vows, changed her name and became a professeur.
Diplômée in Philosophy at the Sorbonne, she went on to teach in Egypt, Turkey and Tunisia. Though she taught Literature and Philosophy, such intellectual heights never interfered with her street smarts which kept her--and her giant heart--close to the pavement: the pavement that is pauvreté: cold, walked upon, fragile and cracked... and littered with trash. Trodden and overlooked, this "pavement" was something she would never let herself forget.
Poverty... ignited a revolt within her, leading to her outspokenness, to her famous "franc-parler," which often ruffled the feathers of her frères and led to her being labeled an "enquiquineuse": a veritable pain in the neck, a pro-action pest!
Which brings us smack back to the pavement and to those poubelles. You might say (in a chuckling way) that trash defined her. She might have been "Soeur Chiffonnière," for she "housed" herself next door to the trash gatherers, or "zabbaleen" (many of whom are children), in one of Cairo's worst slums, where she settled after her "retirement". Troisieme âge, for her, would be spent in combat, always a "combat du coeur": from the heart, for the helpless.
There in a lice- and rat-ridden bidonville, home for her was a 4-meter square room--without water, without electricity. According to Dr. Mounir Neamatalla, a leading Egyptian expert in environmental science and poverty reduction:
"She was living right among them, the garbage collectors, the pigs, the whole mess. I had never seen anything like this in my life... You could see one of the worst qualities of life on the planet, but in this inferno was an enterprising population that worked like ants."
Working side-by-side with "les misérables" Sister Emmanuelle advanced toward her goal, raising money to build schools and hospitals. She also created vegetable gardens for the poor to nourish themselves. Her roommate, Sister Sara, spoke of her character, saying that when a problem arose, Soeur Emmanuelle exclaimed: "On va foncer!" to which Sara softly suggested that they might first pray for guidance and direction. For Sister Emmanuelle, "direction" seemed to be something you sought after first jumping to your feet!
So is it any wonder that, asked about her favorite word, Sister Emmanuelle shouted with glee: "Yalla!" Asked to translate the word, she responded, "En avant!"
Amen, Sister! "Forward march" all the way. Your lumière may have gone out, just three weeks shy of your 100th birthday, but your legacy lights our consciences today...and tomorrow--and for as far into the future as the pest that is poverty stretches its condemning claws. Thank you for showing us that a selfless heart, coupled with awareness, is just not enough. It also takes yalla (yalla-yalla-yalla!) to relieve misery. First we must jump to our feet... then inquire about those directions.
For more information on Soeur Emmanuelle's charity: visit www.asmae.fr
le personnage (m) = character, individual; le professeur (m) = teacher; diplômé(e) (from "diplômer" = to award a diploma); la pauvreté (f) = poverty; le franc-parler (m) = outspokenness; le frère (m) = brother (religious); la poubelle (f) = trash or garbage can; chiffonnier (chiffonnière) = rag picker; le troisième âge (m) = retirement; le bidonville (m) = shanty town; les misérables (mf) = the destitute; on va foncer! = Charge! (Let's get to it!); la lumière (f) = light
A must-read! Pick up a copy of Soeur Emmanuelle's book in French
ALTRUISM, OXYTOCIN, AND WHY WE FEEL BETTER WHEN WE GIVE
After posting Soeur Emmanuelle's story the first time, in 2008, I read a fascinating response to it in the comments, by Intuit: