Posts Tagged ‘Chez Nous Autres’

Music That Moves Me

I should be asleep by now, but I discovered this song through a friend and can’t get it out of my head. It’s songs like this that remind me how beautiful Cajun French and my home state can be. With its pining melody and powerful imagery, this song definitely makes me miss Louisiana. It also makes me want to sing. But since it’s 1 a.m., I think I’ll spare the neighbors…

Music and lyrics by Zachary Richard

French Lyrics:

Dans le Sud de la Louisianne, dans le bois d’Attakapas,
Où la rivière rejoint la levée.
Planté dans l’anse est un vieux chêne vert,
Au bord du Lac Bijou.

Dans son feuillage, où les branches font leur crochet,
Les hirondelles reviennent chaque printemps.
Ils se réfugient dedans ce chêne vert,
Au bord du Lac Bijou.

Chorus: Tourne, tourne dans mes bras.
Tien moi serré encore.
Reste avec moi en bas ce chêne vert
Au bord du Lac Bijou.

C’était l’année, dans cinquante et sept,
La première fois je les ai vu.
Les deux ensemble, se bâtir un nid
Au bord du Lac Bijou.

Ils revenaient quand l’hiver était fini,
Je les appelais Pierre et Marie.
Un grand monsieur, noir comme la nuit,
Sa demoiselle avec lui.


Pendant le carême ce dernier moi d’avril,
Je lui ai vu une dernière fois,
Un oiseau seul, posé sur sa branche
Au bord du Lac Bijou.

Il restait tranquille, son coeur après se casser,
Guettant du matin au soir,
Jusqu’au dimanche qu’il est parti aussi
Du bord du Lac Bijou.



English Translation:

In South Louisiana, In the Attakapas wood
Where the river meets the levee
Planted in the cove is an old live oak
On the shore of Lake Bijou (jewel).

Amongst its leaves, in the tangle of the branches
The swallows return every spring
They find refuge in that old oak
On the shore of Lake Bijou (jewel).

Chorus: Turn, turn in my arms
Hold me tight once again
Stay with me underneath the live oak tree
On the shore of Lake Bijou (jewel).

It was in 1957
The first time that I saw them.
The two together, building their nest
On the shore of Lake Bijou (jewel).

They would return when the winter was done
I called them Pierre and Marie
A big «Monsieur » black as the night.
His lady by his side.


During Lent this last April
I saw him one last time
A lone bird, waiting on his branch
On the shore of Lake Bijou (jewel).

He was still, his heart breaking
Watching from morning until night
Until that Sunday when he was gone
From the shore of Lake Bijou (jewel).



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Another week has gone by and that means today officially marks the half-way point of my time in Europe! It also means I am more than half-way done with my assistantship (I finish teaching at the end of April). It is incredible that time has passed by so quickly – it seems just one month ago I was cavorting around Switzerland on a weekend whims, trying to figure out all my paperwork and still getting to know all of the other assistants in Annecy. But no, tomorrow is February 1st, and the days aren’t moving any slower.

Things have been pretty busy for me lately. I wrote another article for the newspaper about keeping in touch

Contemplating Beauty - Lake Lugano, Switzerland

long-distance (I think it’s still online if you want to check it out – http://ponchatoula.com/ptimes/),  and am wrapping up a story for the magazine about Annecy and it’s quest for the 2018 Olympics (which will hopefully be published in the March issue). But in the spirit of “live life to the fullest,” I decided to fork over some time (and money) to attend a cultural event this weekend – an evening at the Lyon Opera. On Saturday evening I boarded a bus at the lycee with a bunch of other teachers and wondered what was in store during the two-hour journey. As a music minor in college, I’ve studied and have been to my fair share of operas – not all of them interesting. But I am happy to say that the music in Puccini’s “Manon Lescaut” was mesmorizing – sung in Italian with French subtitles (which I understood for the most part). The costumes were also beautiful, and it put us in such a good mood that  we didn’t even mind our horrible seats (we were practically on the side of the stage and had to lean over in our seats to see what was happening in the up-stage, right-hand corner).

Speaking of singing, choir is still going well. I’m really glad I joined – it’s so convenient (right next to my apartment), and I get to sing + have a free French pronunciation lesson each week. I’m also enjoying learning all of the mass parts in French – it changes things up a bit – and the director asked me to lead the agnus dei at mass yesterday. Even this tiny bit of cantoring makes me feel good – a bit more like I’m back at home 🙂

On a more serious note, I took a full stock of my revenues/expenses for the month of January (haha, yes I’ve become slightly obsessive about finances – I actually enjoy making spreadsheets…) and am happy to say that even though the time period included all normal expenses, the tail end of my Christmas trip (starting in Chamonix and coming back to

Sporting my new faux-leather jacket from the "soldes"

Annecy), a weekend trip to Besancon, 2 ski day forfaits + equipment rental, the purchase of 2nd-hand ski boots + helmet and goggles, the evening trip to the opera in Lyon (opera tickets + bus), and a well-worth it last minute trip to the January “soldes” (“sales” in English), I still managed to spend only 140 euros more than I earned for the month!

You may not think that’s a good thing, but don’t worry. I’ve got it covered. lol. For comparison purposes (and anyone considering being an assistant), my monthly take-home pay from the assistantship is only about 800 euros (after social security is taken out), so I strongly advise coming to France with a little cushion of cash saved from previous jobs so you don’t get stressed out over money issues. And always watch what you spend!

Note: This month also included my CAF refund from November and December’s rent. This miracle check allowed for a little extra spending leeway!

Finally, the countdown to my real-life re-enactment of the opening scene of “Love Actually” : 12 days. I love the entire movie but this scene is one of my favorites – think airport – reuniting – hugs and happy tears. I’ve never been so excited for Valentine’s Day!

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Students from the LSU Department of French Studies recently published the first issue of a new Francophone literary & arts journal, Pages d’art. This trial-run printing was met with approval by the department, but the publication’s future is yet to be determined (until funding becomes available).

Several of my photographs of France were chosen for the publication. You can view them and the journal in the following links:

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What a whirl-wind September has been so far!

The week after my birthday was filled with three lovely dinners: one at a quaint restaurant on River Road courtesy of my boyfriend, a second French-inspired, home-cooked meal by my best friend, and finally a third at the Islamic Center of Baton Rouge.

This dinner was particularly interesting because it was a special informational evening held to allow community members and non-muslims to visit the Center, ask questions about Islam and view prayer celerbations/rituals during the holy month of Ramadan. I didn’t realize how little I really knew about Islam until this night. Everyone was very welcoming and answered all of our questions knowledgably and with a good sense of humor too.

As females, my boss and I were particularly interested to learn about Islamic traditions and guidelines in regards to women. We were suprised to discover that what we’d heard from the mainstreem media and movies is quite the extreme – more beliefs of Islam so tightly interwoven with strict cultural traditions of some middle eastern countries that non-muslims are led to believe they are one in the same – than just Islamic religious teaching (and what most muslims in the U.S. practice).

To top off the informative evening, the food was delicious! Dinner began with traditional light snacks to break the Ramadan all-day fast and led to a savory plate of lamb curry with rice pilaf and the best eggplant I have ever tasted (I normally hate this vegetable!). We parted several hours later with our minds enlightened, our stomachs full, and colorful gift bags of informational packets on Islmaic beliefs and traditions – should we have further questions. It was my first visit to an Islamic mosque and hopefully not my last.

The rest of the weekend was spent in Ponchatoula celebrating my birthday once again (and my dad’s – Sept. 5th) with the family. Mom went all out with three cakes that were all very tasty. On Sunday, I visited my friend and former roommate Amy. Her family was finally getting together to celebrate HER birthday (which is a day after mine) as well as a family friend’s. Now, I had heard of their family tradition of rolling the birthday person under the kitchen table, but I had never witnessed it until that day. It’s quite a long table, made by Amy’s dad specifically with this tradition in mind. All the family members gather on two sides and join in rolling the birthday girl/boy/uncle/etc. back and forth according to how many years old they are. They decided that I needed to be rolled under the table as well, which was quite a funny experience!

Now that the birthday celebrations are over, my time is consumed with the final stages of packing and running last-minute errands, along with attending good-bye parties for several of my friends. September seems to be the month of change, and I must say, I’m looking forward to it!

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Each time I meet someone who speaks French fluently and I am able to converse with them in a relatively civilized manner (understanding most of what they say and limiting the need for charades), I feel like a baby that has learned to walk or a child finally riding her bike without training wheels. There’s just something amazing about being able to communicate with people in their native language – they respect me more it seems, and new doors are opened that I would have never known otherwise.

This has been on my mind thanks to Louisiana Vintage Dancers practice Tuesday night. It was good to see everyone again (after being tied up with The King and I for the past couple of months), and, surprisingly, the dances came back to me quickly. But I got a little surprise when I discovered that a lady from Bretagne was among our group that evening, visiting a friend in Louisiana. She didn’t understand a whole lot of English (plus the terminology for some of the dances is a bit confusing to new-comers anyway, even if you are fluent in English), so I introduced myself and chatted en francais with her in between sets. I know this was a minor accomplishment, but it felt good to put her a bit more at ease, to let her know she had someone else to converse with.

One of the other dancers noticed our coded conversations and asked me afterward,”Were you speaking in French?”

“Yes,” I smiled, and left feeling quite proud of myself.

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Last night I attended La Table Francaise, a French conversation group that meets at La Madeline restaurant and bakery on Jefferson twice a month. It’s a great place to go if you know a bit of French and want to practice listening/speaking in a real-life setting, but it’s also great if you’re pretty much fluent and just want to converse en francais! The group meets at 6 p.m. on the first Monday and the third Tuesday of every month, and conversations generally last at least 1.5 hours if not more. Join the Yahoo group to receive regular reminders about meeting dates (you may have to make a free Yahoo account in order to join the group).

Also, CODOFIL (the Council for the Development of French in Louisiana) has a list of French tables, classes, etc. around Louisiana (though I’m not sure how up-to-date it is since it lists the Baton Rouge French group as being held at Coffee Call). I’d suggest calling any group you are interested in joining ahead of time if possible to make sure their information is still current.

If virtual is more your thing and you want to study conjugations or practice your reading, Instant French is a great source with the “Top 49 Learn French Sites.” A few of my personal favorites are:

  • BBC French (lots of great videos and games – you barely realize you’re studying)
  • About.com French (sign up for the weekly email newsletter)
  • Carnegie Mellon Free French (like a free French course, but not really for beginners)
  • Interactive French (by the University of Texas – contains long lists of categorized vocabulary along with audio pronunciation files for each word – great if you want to brush up on a certain subject!)
  • French Mystery (a lot of fun – takes you through a French mystery and helps beef up your reading skills while trying to solve “Who done it?”.

Finally, most second-language learners agree that the best way to learn a language is to be immersed in it. So if you’d like to get out of Louisiana for a little while, have about $3000 in change and 5 weeks to spare, I highly recommend checking out the summer French immersion program (official website) offered by Université Sainte Anne in Church Point, Nova Scotia. The total program fee for classes, housing and meals ends up being about $2400, plus your plane ticket (my round-trip flight was $500) and bus fare from Halifax to the University ($100 round-trip).

For an insider’s view of the program, check out my guest post on Instant-French.com.

Sunset on the Bay - Universite Sainte-Anne's beautiful "backyard"

Sunset on the Bay - Universite Sainte-Anne's beautiful "backyard"

I had the pleasure of attending this fun-filled “French camp” last summer and have only positive things to say about my stay! The best part about the experience was that I had no time to be homesick with all the activities that are offered, and I greatly improved my French speaking skills by getting over my fear of making mistakes! The immersion program has a “3 strikes, you’re out policy,” so we really were speaking French 24/7 (except when  occasionally calling home, of course). By the time the program was over, I had a hard time switching back to English, and the first week I spent back at home was littered with accidental French phrases thrown into my everyday conversations with non-French-speaking friends and family.

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On Thursday I had the priviledge of meeting with Dr. William Arceneaux and two other 2009 La Fondation Louisiane scholarship winners for a taped interview session with Louisiana Public Broadcasting (LPB). It was a special treat to be on TV but was even more interesting for us three girls because we each have a mass communication background: journalism, PR and advertising (in addition to French). I always enjoy getting a behind-the-scenes look at how things are created, but the broadcasting world can be particularly fascinating because of its “theatrical” nature.

The interview process took about 40 minutes. We met in the LPB lobby and were taken down a long hallway filled with posters of past TV shows that have aired on LPB. Framed Seseame Street characters like Big Bird popped out around several corners, while the children’s cartoon “Arthur” bounced around on several TV monitors and a long-haired musician rhythmically stroked his violin to the tune of a classical concerto on another monitor. Charlie Whinham, correspondent and producer for LPB, led us to the second stage area where our interview would take place.

On the LPB's news set - where one of the New Orleans stations aired news 24/7 right after Hurricane Katrina

LPB's news set - where one of the New Orleans stations aired news 24/7 after Hurricane Katrina

Once we were settled in front of the camera, Vincent, the camera man, positioned lights and adjusted booms. He shot close-ups of each of us saying our name, hometown, and school, and proceeded to stage us “listening to each other talk” as we tried extremely hard not to laugh. Charlie asked us questions about our pending adventures – for Connie and I, our teaching contracts in France; for Lizzie, her year studying abroad in Mons, Belgium. He had no problem prompting us for answers, partly because of his easy-going interview nature but also because we love to talk about living and working in France! Finally, Dr. Arceneaux closed the segment by explaining the mission of La Fondation Louisiane and how the scholarship winners are chosen.

Before we knew it, the shooting was a wrap and it was time for a tour around the studio. We were told that the interview will air on LPB 2’s segment, “Louisiana: The State We’re In,” sometime in September. The really good news is that is will also be streamed online at www.lpb.org so that you can watch it any time you want, where ever you want! Once I learn the exact date, I’ll post the link here on my blog.

Click HERE for a link to the press release announcing the 2009 La Fondation Louisiane scholarship recipients.

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