|A Note from Professor Erable:
What follows are some reflections from the six students who traveled
to Paris and Provence: Miranda Banks, Cassie Engelau,
Dustin Faulstick, Kate Lockman, Amber McGowan, and Bralynne Meunier. We were in France between January 13th and January 27th
and were accompanied by Professor Kristin Wasielewski. I know you
will find what these students have to say insightful as well as thought
| Miranda Banks
| 16 January
Today was our last day in Paris before taking the TGV south to Nice.
The metropolitan French lifestyle has its way of confusing me at times.
Meals are entirely laid back and time seems to flow as freely as wine.
The streets, however, are swarming with urgent professionals, students,
tourists and wanderers. It’s ironic to me that conversations and meals
can be long and drawn-out (i.e., two hour lunches, three hour dinners) but
if you’re walking down the Métro steps too slowly, it’s not uncommon
to pushed or “shouldered” out of the way. I think as we go into the
countryside and begin to explore the smaller cities, the relaxed life will
become much more visible.
I had a breathtaking experience today at the top of the Arc de Triomphe…the
peaceful view of the city from the top of the arch is misleading.
Around the arch runs a myriad (literally) of cars, and horns sound through
the streets. All that seems so distant though, atop the arch.
A nice new perspective.
| 24 January 2003
Our last day in southern France was actually spent in Aix-en-Provençe.
I’ve noticed that the French love extremes–everything is done to the exact
extreme. I saw extreme history in Arles and Avignon. A museum
commemorates every major and minor historical happening. Cuisine is
packed with spices and flavors in order to provide extreme taste.
When a group of us walked into a body piercing store this afternoon, I saw
extreme body art, with fishhooks and daggers to choose from. My point
in all this jumble is that no matter what the circumstance/lifestyle is,
the French take their experience to the extreme. No wonder we don’t
get salt and pepper at dinner – the food is already spiced and flavored enough.
The French seem so arrogant to foreigners because those foreigners don’t
understand the culture, but the French take great pride in their work, and
modesty has not clouded their appreciation. I guess what I’m trying
to get across is taking life in itself to the extreme is fuel to the French
Impressions of Provence
Time’s a Wasting: Comparing French and American Concepts of
We were approaching the third restaurant we went
to in Paris and it was 7:30; we checked our watches and somebody made
the comment, “We can’t be here yet, we’re not going to be late.”
Fortunately, it took us a few minutes to find the place and we walked in
at 7:37. Similarly, after eating a few three-hour meals, we experienced
one that only lasted two hours and we admittedly felt a little rushed.
It’s amazing how quickly something like the French acceptance for being
late or their habit of eating long meals can catch on with open-minded people.
The French way of dealing with time is advantageous
in a number of ways. For example, whereas Americans are busy every
day of the week, hurry through meals, and rush to appointments, the French
take time to enjoy what they are doing; they are rewarded with an identity
that isn’t defined by what they do for a living; rather, they define themselves
by their more intimate relationships, and by their leisurely attitude toward
While closing stores on Sundays makes it difficult
for tourists to pick up last minute gifts for their little sisters, the
relaxed atmosphere and time away from shopping, working, etc. provides
the French with a break from the monotony of everyday activities and an
opportunity to be more than just bit players in monotonous situations.
In both my Old and New Testament courses at Franklin College, we have discussed
the reasoning behind keeping the Sabbath—at least one day per week—free from
work. It need not be solely designated as the day when people worship
God--every day should be dedicated to a relationship with God. If people
think only of work every day, however, they begin to define themselves by
their jobs—or as is often the case in America, we run errands and do busy
ourselves every day of the week, even if it’s not necessarily at our place
of employment. Our extraordinary dedication to being busy contorts
our relationship with God. It also contorts our personal identity.
We forget that we are more than just the things we do. In France, people
are given the opportunity to remember they are more than just their business.
Not all French people use the day off to remember their relationship with
God, of course, but they still benefit from the time devoted to cultivating
their personal identity. Work is not everything; it is just one of
the things they do.
| The structure and theory of
American society makes keeping one day a week free from work difficult and,
as a result, we have less time to ourselves. Since my New Testament
class last spring, when I really started learning/thinking about the advantages
of not working one day a week, I’ve been trying it. In the fall when
we have football games on Saturdays, I play football six days a week and
take off Sunday. I study every day except Saturday. It might
be bending the rules a little, but I think it helps me. In the spring
when we don’t have football games anymore, sp it’s harder for me to keep
Saturdays completely free of academics. If I could get five hours of
homework done on Saturday, I’d only have to do five more on Sunday, rather
than ten. And I imagine many people in America feel this way about
shopping, running errands, working, etc. "If I can just get this stuff
done on Sunday, I won’t have as much to do during the week," they must
think to themselves. But things build up and pretty soon we have ten
hours of work to do on Saturday and Sunday. And then we need Wal-Mart
to stay open 24 hours and maybe a Steak N Shake if we get hungry while shopping
at two in the morning, and the mall has to be open at least until six on Sundays
or we’ll never get everything done. Pretty soon, all we do is work.
One of my professors told our class that she doesn’t take breaks on the
weekend; instead, she works nonstop through the semester and takes her break
on Christmas, spring break, etc. I think hers represents many Americans'
attitudes. She’s not a bad person—nor are most Americans—but she is
caught in the American obsession with work.
Taking Sunday off provides us with more than a
break but with quality family time, and a chance to remind ourselves of
who we are. During my early childhood, Mom worked as a waitress on
Saturday nights. She brought leftovers home for Sunday’s lunch and
we ate cereal for supper. Unless it was harvest or planting season,
Dad didn’t work on Sunday. Before high school or college, my brother
and I didn’t have any homework to do, so we went to church as a family, came
home to eat nachos (Mom worked at a Mexican restaurant), watched some kind
of sporting event, played euchre, ate cereal for supper, and played with
putty before bed. Since Mom and Dad didn’t work or cook, they had
a lot of time to spend with us. We had some great euchre games, cheered
as a family for Indiana basketball, and spelled words out of putty under
Mom’s direction. Even the fact that I remember these events that happened
15 years ago is a tribute to the impact free Sundays had on my life.
Mom and Dad both worked hard and usually long hours, so I’m sure they enjoyed
the chance to relax and to think about their lives as parents and as husband
and wife. My brother and I certainly enjoyed having them to ourselves.
| In France, meals
can serve as the entertainment for an evening. Families and friends
sit for hours enjoying the food and atmosphere and, more importantly, each
other’s company and conversation. People talk. Several American
public service announcements ask parents to “Talk to your kids.”
Long meals in France offer a built in time for French families to talk
to each other. It’s also not unlikely that in the States, after one
visits with an old friend, one might say, “I wish we would have been able
to talk more.” Mealtime with friends in France allows friends time
to talk. Not having to rush through dinner in order to “get on with
life”—as a new Chili’s commercial sadly advertises—fosters less stress and
more relaxation. If we are constantly trying to “get on with life,”
when are we ever going to live it? The French know how to live life,
and part of living is in dining, talking and spending time together.
Fast meals and entertainment that doesn’t involve
talking gives Americans less time to grow closer to one another.
Americans don’t make a meal the entire entertainment for an evening.
The classic date, for instance, consists of “dinner and a movie.” But
between rushing through dinner to make it to the 9:30 show and silently watching
a two and a half hour movie, a couple doesn't have much time to converse.
People can’t get to know each other by seeing how fast the other eats and
how he or she sits in movie theater chairs. Similarly, families don’t
get to know each other by dropping McDonald's in the middle of the kitchen
table and going off to watch three different television programs on three
different televisions in three different rooms. If a traditional American
meal lasted two hours, Americans would have two hours to talk each evening.
Whether with family or friends, this time spent developing personal relationships
is amont the best times we can possible spend. John Donne realized,
and shared with us, “No man is an island.” To borrow his metaphor,
the better we know the land surrounding us, the more complete our lives will
Eating longer meals can indeed be quite effective
in the United States. I certainly haven’t practiced the French method
of spending time eating with family and friends my whole life, but during
the times I have eaten longer meals with others I’ve had great family talks
and have met my best friends at college. Especially now that my younger
brother and I are both in college—Mom, Dad, and our younger sister are still
at home—our family looks forward to dining and discussing together.
My younger brother enjoys sharing his newfound collegiate knowledge, Dad
loves the chance to represent his conservative views, Mom always reminds
us of love and peace, my sister (age 12) thinks for a long time while trying
to come up with something intelligent to say, and I’ve found that if I listen
a lot and word things well, everybody thinks I’m really smart. I love
it. I love knowing what my family thinks; I love debating ideas; I
love growing closer even as we have moved farther away geographically.
When I first started making friends my first semester here at the college,
I often made them at the dinner table long after we had finished eating.
The cafeteria is a good meeting place—just as a good restaurant can be—and
I got to know my best friends during and after meals. I continue to
enjoy sitting and talking with friends in the cafeteria well after we’ve
finished, especially when I’m sitting with my friends who don’t live with
me. It’s not the only time we see each other, but we know we are going
different places when we leave, so we stick around to talk with each other.
The French acceptance of being casually late—especially
for a person used to doing everything on time—can be quite annoying.
But the advantages of not having to live by a clock—at least for me—outweigh
the annoyance of waiting a few extra minutes. Advantages include
patience, less stress, and more flexibility. Indeed the patience may
come as a lesson to the person who is less casually late in France, but
I imagine there are enough instances that everyone gets used to it.
A system that allows for a little leeway is naturally less stressful for
both parties. A person on his way to an appointment doesn’t have to
stress out if he misses a metro train by 30 seconds, and the person waiting
doesn’t have to worry about the person she is meeting if he is a few minutes
late—this can be especially helpful if the person waiting is a mother.
And there is a lot of flexibility offered to someone who doesn’t constantly
have to look at his watch. If a Frenchman is meeting one of his buddies
for lunch and on the way he sees another one of his friends across the street,
he has the opportunity to wave him down and talk to him. He might also
invite his other friend to lunch—even if he still has to stop by the post
Americans worry so much about being late that they
do things they wouldn’t normally do. When I was younger and my family
was late, Mom would drive 90 mph down our country road to shave two minutes
off of our arrival time to someplace five miles away. It was silly.
She’s never had a speeding ticket in her life; she barely goes 65 on the
interstate. But if we were late to church on Sunday morning, she’d
drive 30 mph faster than she would in almost any other situation. People
who are ordinarily friendly won’t even stop to shake hands when they are in
a hurry; maybe they’ll say hi on their way by, but they can’t afford a minute
to chat. If someone realizes he has to be somewhere, he will stop having
a conversation in order to go to the next thing. Normally, these people
aren’t rude at all, but they can completely drop a conversation if something
they need to do something. And, of course, they don’t feel that they
are being rude at all; they just feel that they are being punctual.
People leave professional baseball games before they are over to avoid the
traffic of getting out of the stadium. Who wouldn’t watch the end of
a game if they were sitting in their living room? Changing our actions
and personalities to avoid being late is too extreme a measure to be justified
by the result.
I am probably prejudiced toward the French casualness
because I am usually late, but even with my prejudice, I think there are
good cases to be made for the advantages of a more relaxed interpretation
of time. I like to arrive at class right on time—9:59, 10:00, 10:01.
Being 15-20 minutes late to a college classroom probably isn’t accepted
anywhere, but I think it’s funny how a lot of people get to class 15 minutes
early. The society loves it; it shows preparation and an eagerness
to learn. I don’t think I can argue against being a little early, but
I also don’t think there’s anything wrong with being right on time and if
the situation dictates even being a little late. If I’m walking across
campus and I see one of my friends while I’m on my way to my girlfriend’s
room, I stop and talk to him or her, even if it means I’m going to be a little
late. But sometimes I get the impression my girlfriend would rather
I didn’t. The society she grew up in tells her that I should be
there when I say I am going to be there, regardless of what happens along
the way. I feel the flexibility of being able to talk to someone
in all situations gives me opportunities to foster personal relationships
that people who only talk to other people when it fits their schedule don’t
have. She likes things to go exactly as they are planned. In
the past two years I’ve loosened her up a little; now she jokes that if
she wants me someplace, she’ll tell me to be there twenty minutes beforehand.
Naturally, Americans do some things better than the
French and the French do some things better than Americans, but when it
comes to dealing with concepts of time, the French have the advantage in
casualness, more family time, and not being tied to a clock. Americans
have the advantage in convenience, speed, and quantity. Each of these
advantages also holds disadvantages: casualness in meeting times leads
to a lot of waiting around in France, and convenience in America leads
shoppers to shop all the time, to stay busy every day, and to spend less
time on personal development.
I’ve never lived for an extended period of time in
a society with France’s ideas of time, but during the times when I’ve been
exposed to these concepts—either in another country or in my experiences
in the U.S.—I’ve been more impressed with what is generally associated with
how the French live. Sometimes when I’m in another country and I see
the stores closed on Sunday, I think, “Maybe someday we’ll try this in America.”
Then I realize we won’t. Americans started with that kind of structure
but long ago moved past it and they don't seem to be in a hurry to to get
it back. It would be inconvenient: inconvenient not to shop on Sundays,
inconvenient to eat for three hours when there are other things to do, inconvenient
to have to wait fifteen minutes for a meeting to start. But convenience
is not as great as connection. The French concept of time provides
more connection opportunities: connection with oneself, connection with other
people, and connection to real life.
| One of the most intriguing
aspects of the trip for me was to watch and study the interaction between
my fellow travelers and those we encountered while in France. The
French, in general, are stereotyped as being rude to foreigners and having
an underlying hatred for Americans. I noticed, however, that as long
as we students were giving it our all to speak the French language and mind
our manners, the French welcomed us, often times with jokes and laughter.
Many of those we met, complimented our group on our determination to try
our hand at the French language, as well as the many strange and foreign
foods placed in front of us. It seemed as though the more open and
willing we were to embrace the new culture around us, the more willing the
French were to welcome us. Honestly, I believe they were just as intrigued
by us as we were by them.
One of best aspects of the trip was the amount of time
we had to go off and explore the cities for ourselves. Several of
us had been to Paris before, and set off in the afternoons with a small
group to venture into the smaller and quainter parts of the city.
I think we all felt a sense of independence as we struggled to speak as
much French as we could and find our way around on the metro. We saw
many of the must-see tourist sites, but also ventured into the less-traveled
parts of the city. We spent over an hour navigating through the narrow
and winding streets of Montmartre in search of the Moulin Rouge. Dustin
and I woke early Sunday morning to ride the metro to Notre Dame, where we
sat for several hours listening to Mass in both Latin and French.
These are the kind of experiences and memories of the trip that I will never
One of my favorite memories of the trip to Provence
took place in the city of Nice. Several of us decided to spend the
afternoon shopping in the older part of the city and we discovered a small
chocolate shop. We rarely passed up an opportunity to venture into
these shops, even just to look at the intricately decorated chocolates.
Amber and I walked into the shop and were cordially greeted by the shop
owner, who immediately recognized us as Americans. She asked us about
our college and complimented us on our French. As we looked around
the store, the woman offered us each several samples of chocolates.
Cassie and Miranda walked into the store shortly after and by the time we
had purchased some chocolates for friends back home, the woman had given
us each at least 8 samples. She was so intrigued and impressed by our
determination to speak French.
The following are excerpts from the
journal I kept during the trip.
17 January 2003, Nice
Today we rode the TGV to Nice and the Cote d’Azur. It was great to be
able to pay a reasonable fee and arrive at a reasonable time by riding on
a train. My first impression of Nice was not wonderful. I was disappointed
and couldn’t figure out what we were going to do in this city. Then, we walked
to the Promenade des Anglais and found our hotel, Flots d’Azur. The water
and seashore are amazing!! The view from our balcony gives an unbelievable
panorama of everything. We unpacked some stuff and then went down to the
shore. The water is so beautiful. It is teal and turquoise at the edge until
a wave breaks, giving a flash of white. Out a bit, the water turns to a deep,
shimmery blue. It’s hard to imagine that it could so beautiful. Next we
walked down the Promenade and one street back to some shops. The prices of
some things were unbelievable. A hairdryer was about 30 euros, as was a curling
iron. I wonder if Europe uses different plugs for electrical appliances so
that Americans can’t manufacture cheaper appliances. It would make more sense
for the world to use something universal. Dinner at Le Crocodile was interesting.
It was definitely Americanized in a bad way. I had Tagliatelle Crème
et Basilic for dinner and Fromage Blanc for dessert. I would never recommend
this dessert unless you’re looking to eat a bucket of sour cream.
20 January 2003, near Arles
Today we went to Les Baux. The castle had so much history in it. It was
easy to imagine what it would have been like throughout the centuries. The
castle also provided awesome views. I realized two things while I just stood
and looked. The first was why Peter Mayle loves Provence. You can just look
and feel so much at peace. The landscape is so comforting and magnificent.
The second thing is why Van Gogh, Gauguin, and Cézanne painted Provence.
Not only is it beautiful but also the light plays such important role.
There are many colors and shadows that the painters captured to add subtle
touches that made their paintings famous. I can only imagine the landscape
at night under a starry sky. It’s amazing that these painters could transmit
the beauty through a few strokes of their paintbrushes. Today I also bought
a santon. She is wearing Provencal fabric and is carrying lavender.
22 January 2003, Arles
This morning we went to an open-air market. It would have been more exciting
if I had had to haggle over food prices. Then we shopped more and went
back to Sainte-Trophime. It was interesting to take a closer look at some
paintings and buy a book on it. When we finished walking through, we sat
in the pews and kneeled to see what it would feel like. We got lunch at
a sandwich shop and ate it in front of the hotel. After lunch we went to
the Antiquities Museum. This was one of my favorite places on the whole
trip. I loved seeing all of the antiques, especially the tablets with Latin.
It was a thrill for me that I could read them. It was also a challenge since
some letters were missing or left out. This entire museum made my study
of the Latin language and history worthwhile. Next we took the SCNF to Avignon.
Trains are such a reasonable, fast way to travel. We arrived at our hotel,
Le Splendid, before the car! We left the hotel to do laundry. I discovered
why the French don’t wash clothes very often–it’s expensive! Dinner was
very intimate tonight. I think it’s because we were all seated so closely
and circularly, rather than rectangularly. I had an aperitif with cannelle
(cinnamon), white wine, and blackberry liqueur. I had Tian du Thon and Palet
de Mendiants avec abricot confiture. After dinner, we went back to the hotel.
Kate and Cassie left to make phone calls, and as they were coming back down
the dark, isolated alley, I yodeled out of our third floor hotel window.
They were very frightened and ran to get into the hotel. Then we all talked
for a while, and the Mistral began to pick up. When it did, our door began
opening and closing on its own.
31 January 2003, America
I’ve been back in America a few days now, and I’m wishing that I had
stayed. I’ve discovered that I hate rushing through dinner. Within 20 minutes
in the school cafeteria, everyone is finished and ready to go. We never
even have time for real conversation, other than who did what during the
day. I also wish that all businesses would close at 7. Then, maybe everyone
could take a little time for each other once in awhile. Everyone wants to
go to Wal-Mart, or the video store, or the tanning bed. When will someone
finally say let’s take some time and really talk for a while? Probably never
would be my guess. I didn’t think that France had affected me too much.
But I’ve discovered that some of my attitudes and life decisions have changed.
Of course, some of my friends are skeptical, thinking this is a “phase.”
But if people’s lives can change in one day or one instance, why can’t mine
change in two weeks?
| The following are excerpts from my journal
that I wrote in preparation for my trip to France and continued with those
experiences that impacted me while I was there. All quotes are taken from
Polly Platt’s book French or Foe?.
January 7, 2003
The concept of personal space, an imaginary impenetrable
bubble surrounding oneself, has always been present in my mind when communicating
with people, especially to those of the opposite sex. Ever conscious in
my mind when initiating a conversation is what I’m doing with my body.
After all, I wouldn’t want to offend anyone, or to give away any hidden
thoughts circulating through my mind. Even my facial expressions during
my conversations are usually highly guarded. In a way, perhaps I am like
the French with their “preferred protection from showing one’s hand too
soon, from taking risks and making mistakes” (37).
However, there seems to me to be a certain amount
of contradiction in what I’ve read about French attitude toward the struggle
between intimacy and stoicism. Platt’s comment about smiling includes “that
smiling or laughing, [is] taking a risk-- the risk of being oneself [sic],
and of giving the other person opportunities to break taboos” (27). The
French keep up an impenetrable façade, a visage that keeps them socially
safe. At the same time, Platt reports an American as commenting that when
speaking the French “stand so close when they talk to you--if they talk
to you--that you can smell their breath!” (38). Their proximity when speaking,
generally, is what Americans would consider an intimate distance. This seems
to be a paradox: their closely guarded expressions and mannerisms versus
their mandatory handshakes and kisses.
I for one value my personal space and am usually
disturbed when I feel someone has violated that sacred distance. I mean,
what do others think when they see someone so close to me with their hand
on my arm as they relate a funny story or tell a serious tale? I suppose
it all comes down to a matter of social appearance, or, for me, a sense of
control. I feel flustered in a situation in which someone has to be touching
me or whispering in my ear. When I’m flustered, I lose focus on my surroundings,
and thus, my highly guarded control slips away from me.
Not that I’m not an easy-going person. I very much
enjoy relaxing and having a good time. However, I remain reserved in the
way I relax, until I feel I can trust the people around me. Perhaps this
is my form of being cautious of the etrangers.
January 10, 2003
Americans are caught up in a “living
for the moment mentality.” Concerned only with the here and now, the Americans
epitomize the phrase “carpe diem.” We don’t like to remember, while “the
French don’t like to forget” (48). We are a society of movers and shakers.
Most Americans don’t really care to know their own family roots, let alone
the history of the United States as a whole. What’s in the past has passed
from American minds.
Unlike the French, who “consider themselves heirs
of the Greek[s]” (103), Americans are unsure of their country's origin,
but they are arrogant in its superiority. The French know their history,
because it is a necessity to their culture. The Americans have yet to make
it a priority. But in our defense, we are young as a country and don’t
have nearly as much history to consider.
I suggest that the United States adopt a more French-like
attitude when it comes to history, not only our own, but also the world’s.
It is through history that we learn of past mistakes and can correct them.
The French understand this probably better than any other country in the
world. Home is where the heart is, but heritage is how your heart finds
January 14, 2003
Today I saw the truth about what
Platt said about the French and their intense interest in their culture
and history. We went to many famous historical places today, and at each
one of them there were French people standing in awe of what a fellow Frenchman
had built or created.
Specifically, at Saint-Chappelle, I was amused by
a group of older women. They had arrived a little after we had. They all
wore impeccable make-up, long skirts or dress pants, and 2-inch-plus high-heeled
shoes. These women, who had probably lived in France their whole lives,
stood in the midst of Saint-Chappelle’s beauty and admired this wonderful
piece of culture. This surprised me. I mean, Americans don’t seem to stand
around and marvel at the history that surrounds them. Perhaps this is because
we are so young as a country, still immature to the wisdom that only our
culture’s past and history can offer us.
| January 19, 2003
We left Nice today. I was sad to leave
behind the sun and the beauty of the sea.
It has been raining since we arrived in Arles. Regardless,
this is a lovely little place. Much to my surprise, there is quite a bit
to see even though Arles is tiny compared to Paris. You can’t escape the
history here in Europe.
We went to McDonald’s for lunch. I guess you can
take the Americans out of the States, but you can’t take the States out
of the Americans.
We also visited a very old church. It took my breath
away just considering the history of the building. I mean I was walking
where Romans had walked centuries ago. This whole town is laced with history,
and everyone is aware of this. From its circular, confusing roads to its
huge Roman arena, this town is alive with history.
January 25, 2003
We left Avignon today. I was sad to
say good-bye to the Mistral, but not sad enough to dwell on the parting.
We arrived in Paris and I am convinced rain follows us wherever we go.
After arriving in Paris, we decided to go to the
top of the Eiffel Tower. It was amazing to see the city from that perspective.
I was surprised by how many French people were standing in line to go to
the top. They really respect their culture and all its intricacies.
We also experienced the French “the customer is
always wrong” attitude. We went to a piano bar where the waitress was
none too friendly or helpful. However, I am not convinced that this is
not so much a French attitude as it is a waitress mentality. I have been
served by American waitresses who were as rude, if not more so, than our
French waitress. I will not dwell, therefore, on this one experience
because I really enjoy the French and their culture.
to Franklin College Home Page.
Franklin College 501 East Monroe Street,
Franklin, IN 46131
Comments or Questions can be sent