Friday, April 29, 2011

Why France?


This is my very first blog. And I want to begin my contribution to the correspondance by sharing why I think the visitation to France is important to me. First and foremost, France is the birthplace of European democracy. Ironically, what precipitated the unrest that led to the rise of democracy was the French assistance to our revolution, which in turn contributed to a fiscal crisis and subsequent peasant revolt. Who knows, if it weren't for assistance from the French, we might not have our freedom today!!

But the French are contentious folk. From that point they pushed the concepts of freedom and democracy, I believe, much further then we have. For example, the French, according to the World Health Organization, have the finest health care system in the world-everybody is covered, and, the sicker you are the less you pay for treatment. The burden of care is shared. As I understand it, it is mandatory that French workers must take four paid weeks (or is it six?) of vacation per year-imagine how many trips we could take with Bob et al if that system were in place here!!

Well, anyway, that's a start of why I think it is important to visit France. More on that later....
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Mountains of France

France has a variety of mountain ranges as illustrated in the above map.

These mountains have a variety of habitats and impart different effects on the local climate patterns. Upon consulting the book: Wild France: The Animals, Plants and Landscapes by Bob Gibbons I learned that one might observe 100 or more butterfly species while hiking in the Pyrenees or Maritime Alps in week long summer visit.

Many flowers in the higher altitudes tend to be brightly colored to attract insect pollinators while others use the strategy of producing lots of nectar with a strong aroma.

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Thursday, April 28, 2011

I'm a new blogger!

Hi Everybody,

I'm Barb, I will be on the France trip coming up. I'm looking so forward to meeting all of you that are going. I'm coming from the Seattle area. I'm new to blogging but think I'm kind of figuring this out.

I'm currently taking the Study of Wine course. It is very interesting and can be very scientific. We have just learned all about cork, wow! To cork or not to cork, that is the question, lol The other options are synthetic corks and or screw caps. Yes, you heard me, screw caps. I have tried Hogue Wine recently (screw cap and all) very good!

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Monday, April 25, 2011

Dogs and Conservation

Okay. I am offically joining the world of bloggers. In looking for books about France I was excited to see one tying one of my favorite things-dogs with conservation of wildlife. I read the book Bear Country: Predation, Politics and the Changing Face of Pyreneon Pastoralism. Here is a link to it if you are interested.

Bears were hunted out of France, but they are an important predator which helps promote a balanced food chain. The bears were re-introduced and efforts are being made to help them succeed. Dogs are used to protect the sheep from predators especially in the higher mountain regions. The milk from the sheep is of course important in cheese production and a good portion of the book discusses the process and lifestyle of these hardy French people.
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Sunday, April 24, 2011

Welcome, or welcome back.

Suddenly, we're less than a month from our CC trip to France, set for May 16, 2011. We have a good size group this year, lots of teachers and classes, a brand new set of scholarships for students, and as always, a very busy trip ahead. More on those details later--hopefully from a good range of writers this year.


But I want to jump in with to share some information from one of the texts for my Travel Writing course--Graham Robb's Discovery of France. This, before packing tips and itinerary might seem strange, but really, learning about the places we go is the basis of Study Abroad as education. That is, we could travel naively, and see many wonders, and perhaps not get in too much trouble, but much, too much, will be incomprehensible without some knowledge to build on. So--being an English teacher, I'm going to share what Robb has to say about the French language. Here goes:

Robb starts us with the 1794 investigation by Abbe Gregoire (the man who coined the term 'vandalism') into the status of French as a national language. Specifically, "the dialect of Paris and the Ile-de-France" had been made "the language of official documents" by the "Ordinances of Villers-Cotterets in 1539," and this was the "French" that the government was concerned with.

What the Abbe found was "a muddle of incomprehensible dialects," which might change even between nearby villages, so much so that "even plants and stars had their local names, as if each little region lived under a different sky." Worse, "while French was the language of civilized Europe, France itself had no more than 3 million 'pure' French-speakers (11% of the population." Travelers, even those who had boned up on their formal French, often were at a loss: "Large parts of France were barely French at all. Foreign visitors often claimed to find Latin more useful than French," while Lyons, for instance, "was a hive of micro-dialects." The Abbe found that "peasants...were 'too ignorant to be patriotic,'" and "the republican vision of a united country began to look like the fantasy of a small Parisian elite."

The French Academy had been busy trying to "tame" and regulate the language, determined "to eradicate the rabble of synonyms, onomatopoeias and vulgarities," for "French was supposed to be a product of the rational mind, a beautiful estate carved out of a jungle of strange sounds and obscenities."

Robb titles this chapter on language with various then-current forms of the word "yes," which I, barbarian that I am, render without any diacritical marks:

O Oc Si Bai Ya Win Oui Oyi Awe Jo Ja Oua

Although there was a major division between the "French" of the north and the Occitan of the South, even by the late 1800s, "about 55 major dialects and hundreds of sub-dialects had been identified, belonging to four distinct language groups: Romanic, Germanic, Celtic, and Euskaric/Basque." Napolean's Minister of the Interior had sent out a request for the tale of the Prodigal Son to be translated into the local patois, and got back 90 versions, while even the Virgin Mary, appearing at Lourdes, had chosen to speak in the local dialect rather than the purest, official French.

To the leaders in Paris, French was "the language of authority and everything else...a sign of chaos, barbarism or rebellion." A 200-year campaign ensued to give France one national language.

Into this arena, we will venture, offering up our best high school French.
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