Bonjour from North Africa + A Gift from Strangers!
6 Postcards from France: Les Cartes Postales

A Common Mistake + favorite English word translated to French

The kasbah Agadir Morocco North Africa
The Kasbah. Agadir, formerly "Santa Cruz", is located on a seismic line. Agadir was rebuilt after the 1960 earthquake that killed 17000 people and destroyed 60 percent of this city. More about our visit to this former French colony, in today's post.

NEW: The audio section has moved and is now a dual-recording. Jean-Marc pronounces the French and you'll hear my Arizona accent for the English! To access the French/English sound-file, scroll to the vocabulary section. Reading via email? You will need to click over to the website for the full edition.

TODAY’S FRENCH WORD: se ressaisir 

    : to pull yourself together, to buck up

A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE by Kristi Espinasse

I love the slightly old-fashioned expression “to buck up” and its various definitions:

To buck up is to become encouraged, reinvigorated. To pluck up courage. To improve, smarten, to raise the morale of, to cheer up… In French, to buck up could be translated to se ressaisir.

After selling his wine shop, and following his last day as a business owner and gérant, Jean-Marc wanted to travel somewhere warm and sunny for some renewal and cheer. He finally settled on Agadir, Morocco--a 3-hr direct flight from nearby Marseilles.

By Sunday morning we were walking along an exotic beach when my husband turned to look at the giant, white-tipped vagues which draw so many surfers to the area.“I wonder if la mer is warmer here?” 

“The sea?” I grin, but it’s too late, he can’t take it back. And now it’s my turn to have a little fun with Jean-Marc:

“But this is not the sea! It's the ocean.”

How my spouse loves to correct tourists who visit our own station balnéaire, who innocently confuse the sea and the ocean as I often did. But here, on vacation in North Africa, it must be the relaxed state he is in that’s caused the confusion. “Oui, l’océan!” Jean-Marc smiles. "Je sais. Je sais."

“But do you know the difference between the ocean and the sea?” Quizzes Monsieur Smartypants, only to answer his own question: "Une mer est entourée de terre…a sea is surrounded by land.”

"I know, I know." But the truth is I'm just scraping by when it comes to geography. Witness this letter I received from a reader, following my previous post: Richard writes: “A lovely story, but if you were in Agadir, the sun was setting in the Atlantic, not the Mediterranean!”

Oups! The funny part is both Jean-Marc and I missed the error when proofreading the essay.

Here on Agadir plage, on the Atlantic, the beach is so wide and deep and smooth the locals play soccer on the endless sandy field. The sun is rising when a young man with a stick draws a large rectangle over le sable. The rectangles extend down the plage for a half kilometer as a dozen or more teams enjoy early morning practice.

There are a few other women walking on the beach at this early hour. Their heads and sometimes faces are covered with scarves. Up on the hotel terraces overlooking the shoreline, bikini-clad tourists (mostly French) will soon be sunning themselves. Just when I'm feeling super foreign, I notice the soccer players are all playing ball dans leurs chaussettes! As a mom, I can suddenly relate to their moms, who are not going to be happy on laundry day. As exotic as the women here look to me, we are all dealing with the “outdoor sock issue” back home.

Back in our hotel room overlooking the pool and the sea—l’océan—I am tugging at the one-piece bathing suit I’ve ordered online. Yay, it fits…even if it doesn’t fit in with the barely-clad Frenchies. I take that back. It looks like more French women are wearing one pieces....

I’ve settled in poolside when another woman arrives. She sets her beach bag down four chairs away from mine. When she removes her paréo, I see she’s wearing the same black one-piece as me. I reconsider walking past my sosie to get to the pool stairs, where I was headed for a swim. Oh buck up! I think instead. I’m tired of hiding from everything and everybody. Vive la liberté! Freedom calls!

Only, the water in the heated pool is not as warm as the “piscine chauffé” sign would lead one to believe. It is so cold that I regret I didn't follow my husband who just dove into the sea. I mean the ocean. Oh, you know what I mean! 

I leave you with my favorite English verb, to buck up. For the rest of this year, I will be practicing it--even if I never did buck up and dive into... l'Atlantique!

Kristi berber horse agadir morocco
That's me being taken for a ride--in both senses. I could have ridden this sweet horse forever, this gentle cheval erased all my fears... for the brief moment we were together. (The unsolicited ride began "for free" and ended up costing a Moroccan day's salary. Thankfully, the berger and the tourist came to a settlement wherein each left with their dignity intact.

Soccer practice agadir
Remember the soccer players? Those are socks--and not shoes--on their feet. Ouch! They also kick the ball barefoot! 
Camels view from kasbah
Part of the panoramic view from the Kasbah.

BOOKS: The Conquest of Morocco
" the mad scramble for African colonies, Morocco had one great attraction for the Europeans: it was available. In 1903, France undertook to conquer the exotic and backward country. By the time World War I broke out the conquest was virtually complete." --from "The Conquest of Morocco"

se ressaisir = to buck up
le/la gérant(e) = manager
la vague = wave
la station balnéaire = coastal resort, seaside resort
l’océan (m) = ocean
je sais = I know
une mer est entourée de terre = a sea is surrounded by land
oups = whoops
le sable = sand
la plage = beach
dans leurs chaussettes = in their socks
le paréo = beach cover up
le sosie = twin
vive la liberté = long live freedom
la piscine chauffée = heated pool
l’atlantique = the Atlantic

Following the vocabulary list, there is a pause in the recording. Then you will hear the sentence below. (I get a little tongue-tied toward the end!) Do you enjoy these husband/wife recordings? Let us know.

Click here to listen to Jean-Marc and me pronounce the French and English

La langue française fait partie de la vie quotidienne des Marocains. C’est un héritage d’une période de colonisation durant laquelle elle avait même été proclamée langue officielle des institutions coloniales. Aujourd’hui encore, plus d’un demi-siècle après l’indépendance du pays, la langue française reste très répandue au Maroc, notamment dans les secteurs des entreprises privées et de l’éducation. (credit:

The French language is part of the daily life of Moroccans. It is a legacy of a period of colonization during which it was even proclaimed the official language of colonial institutions. Even today, more than half a century after the country's independence, the French language remains widespread in Morocco, particularly in the private business and education sectors.

Agadir riflemen war 1913 tirailleurs maroc
The handwriting from 1913 reads "north-east side is camp of the riflemen. What else can you say about this postcard? Share your history knowledge in the comments section and add to this post. Merci!

Camel and shepherd berger kasbah agadir morocco

Moroccan pastries corne de gazelleSWEET OF THE WEEK, NO 8: North African pastries, made by our Algerian friends (thanks Sidi and Sidi's mom who made them). Here's a Makroud, a baklava (my favorite!) and a corne de gazelle. So delicious and satisfying with or without mint tea. Ants love them too so don't hide them in your nightstand.

La ciotat france mediterranean sea paddle board sunrise
January sunrise. From shore to shore. From surfers to paddle-boarders. After the ocean in Agadir, here is the sea in La Ciotat, near Cassis. Please check out the book list in the side column (or end) of this blog. New books have been added.

A Message from KristiFor twenty years now, support from readers like you has been an encouragement and a means to carve out a career in writing. If my work has touched you in any way, please consider a donation. Your gift keeps me going! Thank you very much.

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For more online reading: The Lost Gardens: A Story of Two Vineyards and a Sobriety