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Tuesday, July 20, 2010

How to get angry in French

I've heard you truly know a language when you start to dream in it. I'm now wondering if being able to express your anger also qualifies!

This morning I had a 8 am shift helping to cook the traditioanl Egyptian meal being served for lunch today. So I went to sleep good and early. (2 am, much earlier than most of the group, who stay at the cabaret and go to bed around 4am.)

At about 4, I began to hear loud music very close to my head. Our group's large communal tent is about 10 feet from me, if that. It was the traditional French music group, and some others, jamming with their accordians and medieval hurdy gurdys etc, and of course drinking a lot and talking loudly. There were about a dozen of them, and only Pepe from our group. After a while, I went and stood in the doorway of the tent. Pepe immediately came over to me, very drunk but very apologetic, saying he didn't know how he could ask them to stop or be more quiet. And then said, with his heavily Spanish accented French, ( you were young once, right?) It's very hard to be angry with Pepe, and I wasn't. But I never fell asleep until 6, after they stopped, then turned my alarm off when it went off, didn't get up until Laure started yelling at me because I was late for my shift. So I yelled back that it was hard to get up after 1 hour of sleep. She said that everyone had trouble sleeping. Yeah, but not everyone had to get up at 7, or had their tent right next to the party.

So the upshot was that I cut garlic for an hour very grumpily, having also learned from Didier, the chef, that you have to halve them and remove the tiny seed, which is not easy to digest. And then had to work several hours more than the one hour shift I was supposed to do this am, in additional to my 4 hour shift tonite. At the same time Didier and we were preparing today's meal of chicken with rice, tomatoes, onion, garlic, cinnamon, etc. several people from the Canery Island group were preparing food for tomorrow's lunch. They don't speak any French, so I was serving as translator from their Spanish, which was kind of amusing. Things like, do you have any aluminum foil, and, do you have a container I can put these almonds in until tomorrow.

Oh, and I nver had any breakfast either. But Didier was frustrated with Laure as well, because he thought we were supposed to work more hours with him. So I think her anger at me abated a little. I really think it was Laure and Romain's responsibility to quiet the party, and sure hope it's not going to happen again.

So now, I am writing in the office at the Maison de Folklore, while downstairs in the restaurant the meal for which I cut garlic is being served and eaten, and some of the Egyptian performers are playing music and dancing, and I can hear the very contagaious music as I type.

I do enjoy most of the work, even the more tedious tasks, like washing all the tables at the festival after the previous night's festivities. It's really neat being a small part of something so big.This afternoon I work at Chez Helene again, the African food stand at the festival. Helene is a real character, and works hard and long, as do all the people at the stand. They are there the entire day and evening, preparing and serving. My first time there was in the morning, and it was all cutting and chopping. This time should be prime eating time, so I imagine I will be serving. The food is accra, which are delicious fish fritters, couscous, and a chicken dish made with mustard which I hope to try tonite. In general, we've had so much food to eat, all good, two big meals daily at the high school. I haven't even had the appetite yet to try the waffles, crepes, or ice ice cream. Looks like some interesting flavor, including mixed berries with chocolate, which I have my eyes on.
Oh, Helene also runs the adjacent African clothing stand. Yesterday morning, she gave me a beautiful scarf as a gift, and lots of people have already commented on it. I of course have told them all where I got it.

Yesterday was an incredible day. Everyone, all the performers, all the volunteers, everyone except the folks that worked at the stands, went ot a picnic on the grounds of a chateau. The chateau itself seemed abandoned, although someone told me it was privately owned. The grounds were lovely. We were all served a packaged lunch of hard boiled egg, tomato, bread, cheese,chips, and nectarine. And we were all served grilled steak which they cooked right there. The French certainly know how to cook meat right!

The best part of the day was all the performers, many of whom had brought their instruments, singing and dancing together. We had the South African kids dancing and drumming while the elegant young Khazastani women did a combination of African moves blended with their own graceful arm movements. And the Hungarian musicicians playing under a tree while some of the dancers danced, in their bathing suits! And then singing Happy Birthday, in English, apparently to someone in the group.

And then there were the Chinese musicians playing songs like Down by the Riverside, with accordian and guitar, (which are actually part of their band, not instruments I would have associated with Chinese music.)

A French coordinator tried to tell the Chinese teens something about the Chinese ambassador in Paris. She spoke in English, because apparently none of them speak French. Well, they didn't speak English, either. It was like a game of charades. Someone came over with an electronic translator, and they eventually got the word embassy after she tried passport, visa, etc. But I don't think any of her actual content ever got conveyed.

As we arrived, our group began to walk toward the chateau and Jean Roche, the director and originator of the festival, 37 years ago, arrived in his distinctive hat. It was the first time I had had any real interaction with him. He paused a the small ancient looking house of an equally ancient looking woman. She is 89. From what I could gather, he considers her somewhat of a national treasure, and often visits her. She is somewhat of a poet, and recited several poems for us. We noticed one of the festival posters on her outside wall. She and Jean roche gestured toward it simultaniously, Jean saying, good advertising!

I have to say that the official performances, in the big tent each night, have almost become background to the behind the scenes experiences. I have enjoyed them, but at this point have seen each group several times. It's the more informal and spontaneous events, and especially the interractions between the groups, that are the most intersting dynamic of all.

Today is the first time I havaen't gone to eat at the cafeteria, and I won't go tonite, either, because it's during my shift Chez Helene. I have to describe an intesting tradition that has somehow evolved there in the last few days. Someone came over to Dominika, in our group, several days ago at lunch. He handed her a fork which was stabbed into a piece of bread, and kissed her on both cheeks, then said something which the rest of us couldn't understand. He is with the Slovakian group, and she is Czech, so the languages are quite similar. She then went over to someone else and did the same thing. The idea is to go over to someone from another group, hand them the fork, and kiss them, and then it just gets passed along. So now we have at least two people roaming the cafeteria at each meal with bread on a fork, and sometimes someone else with s piece of cheese or fruit. The kitchen staff have gotten into it to. I am really curious as to how it began, but don't know who or how to ask. I don't think it's any kind of tradition from anyone's culture, but don't know that for sure. Just another example of international communication!

There have been, and will be, a number of different music and dance workshops during the ten days. Yesterday I went to one by the group from Provence, which was wonderful. Some of the movements and formations are not that different from contra dancing. The dance we learned, which the group performed for us first, was very long, and it took nearly an hour just to learn all the parts. Unfortunately, I hacd to leave before the end because I didn't want to miss my group's bus to the picnic.
So I didn't get to do the whole dance together. Last night, that same group performed at the cabaret. Again, they taught dances, but the atmosphere was entirely different, many more people, much more freeform and lively. But both were great.

Last night I finally got to see the Egyptian group. Their dancing was great, a mixture of bellydance type moves and more folkloric. It turns out they are from the American University in Cairo, and so all speak excellent English. Then they performed at the meal here a little while ago. In a day or two, they are doing a workshop, which I hope to go to, along with the Slovakian one. They are, somewhat unfortunately, on the day our group has off and is going on a trip. But I think I'm going to forgo the trip for the workshops.

I met a man yesterday at the picnic who didn't seem t be with a group. I asked him where he was from, and he told me Romania. He apparently had been part of a group performing here last year, and now came back as a volunteer photograhper. I told him I'd been in Romania a few years ago on another volunteer project, and turns out he's from the city I spent two weeks in. Strangely enough, it's the second time recently I've met someone from Cluj Napoca. The head of the Westchester Advertising club, where an award is presented in honor of my father each year, is from there as well. It's not as though I meet many Romanians, and to meet two from the same town in Transylvania!

Well, things have quieted down downstairs, and I think I'll go see if there is any of the food I helped prepare early left for me to sample. If not, maybe today's my day to sample some of the festival junk food, and/or to have something Chez Helene.

One last note - Didier, the chef just came by and I explained about this blog. He said I should put something in about how the cook is tres sypatique. (and he is!) So there you go, Didier!

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