samedi, octobre 30, 2004

All Saints' Day

Monday is Toussaint and it is a day to celebrate all the saints for the catholic faith. For me, it means a public holiday in France. What people do during this day is to go to the cemetery to pay respect to the dead.

Today is Sat and we went with my granny-in-law to the cemetery. This cemetery is in a small village where my granny-in-law grew up. On the way out, my granny-in-law showed me the grave of a soldier who died here during WWII. It was a 19 year old pilot from New Zealand. There was also a grave of an American pilot and a few Germans soldiers graves. An old woman was standing at the entrance of the cemetery asking for donation. She is part of an association that take cares of the soldiers' graves. The association will maintain the graves and put flowers. We chatted with the old woman and she explained to us that there were even soldiers from the fourteen eighteen (1418) meaning WWI which began from 1914 and ended in 1918. By now, the families of the WWI soldiers are all gone and there is no one to maintain their graves. She even had a thin book for sale. This book is about the life of the young New Zealand soldier. Research was done by a professor through the letters this soldier wrote home and the family of the soldier.

On the way back, granny-in-law pointed out the field, about a kilometer away from the village where a WWII plane crashed and soldiers were parachuting out of the plane. She told us that her cousin found an opened parachute there and in those days, parachute was made of silk. The cousin took it and made it into a wedding gown for a neighbour as cloth was scarce in war times.

With all these thoughts, I wondered aloud that isn't 19 year old too young for a pilot? Seb replied that right now in Iraq, there are 17 year old American soldiers. It reminded me of the movie 'Gangs of New York' which I watched in the morning. Only the poors were sent to war. The rich sons stayed. During the civil war, America accepted all immigrants on the condition that a random 25% of them will be drawn to go to war. And the movie ended with the poor immigrants of New York raising up against this consitution. 200 years after, things did not seem to change. In the recent documentary movie by Michael Moore, it is also the poor being targetted to go to war. Have my thoughts lead me too far again? Have I lost you the reader? War is complicating and where lives is concern, 19 year old is simply too young an age to die.

mercredi, octobre 06, 2004

CFILC Ecole de Langue

I have started my french lesson again. There are 3 Polands, 2 Japanese, 2 Indians, 2 Americans, 1 Thai, 2 Germans, 1 Columbian, 1 Cambonian and me, the Singaporean. It is kinda weird that usually when you are overseas, you tend to have more foreign friends than locals. Ok, these people are not my friends yet as it was only my second lesson.

But right now in Paris, my friends, people whom I hang out with during the weekends are few and limited. There's Anca and Irinel who are Romanians. We really hang out almost every weekend with them catching movie. There's June and Erwan and June is a fellow Singporean. That's about it.

2 months ago, Seb and I joined a group of church members for a hike. Almost everyone is a foreigner as I attend an English church. There was one french and he joined us because he wanted to improve his english. How courageous for a lone French.Of course, there was Seb who is a French too.

Why is it difficult to find locals as friends?
1. Over here, the French do not have many friends in their lives. It is not like the Asians culture. Once you know someone by name, the person is your friend. Over here, friends are usually people who had been to the same school as you for 5 years . For Seb, his 2 best friends are from his high school days. Another good friend is a brother of his friend from high school. Another friend is from his previous work place. That's about all the people he needed to keep in touch.

2. Sometimes, the culture can be such a big barrier. I do not always understand the humor of French. A humor in France is called a 'blague'. As the word sounds like 'black', the joke is often qualified as 'black humor' to me and usually it is laughing at someone/something rather than laughing with someone. My sense of humor for any 'ang-moh' is kid's stuff. This is just an example. If we already share different taste in jokes, it is rather difficult to find something in common like beliefs, values, thoughts and etc.

3. It is easier to relate to someone foreign in a foreign land. You have more or less the same anxiety. When I was studying in Australia, there were so many Asians in my estate that I do not have a chance to know any Australians. I feel ashamed but I managed to redeem myself*. In the University, the Australians do not mix with the foreigners either.

*When I was in US for 3 months and stuck in a 'ulu' part of Fairview Lake for 9 weeks, I got to know many friendly Americans. There was no Chinese in the camp community of few hundred people. After my stint in Fairview Lake Camp, I was invited to stay with Heather whom I got to know during my work at the camp. Till now, we are still exchanging emails on a regular basis.

So, the reason goes on and on as to why it is difficult to find local friends here. But that is not going to stop me. Seb always told me that where ever I go, I can make friends easily. I prefer to count everyone as my friend. But in times of trouble, I counted with my fingers and guess how many I realised I can turn to? Before you know mine, start counting yours. My result is not too far from yours.