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Posts tagged ‘Martiniquais’

No. 96: une grève: a strike

Yesterday we had big plans. We were going to drive the length of the island and see what we could see. Trunk packed with hiking shoes and guidebooks, maps and mosquito spray, rain gear and beachwear, we were ready for anything.

Anything, that is, except une grève.

The French are famous for their strikes, and it appears that Martinique is no exception. Unfortunately the strike involves gasoline and all the gas stations were/are closed. Of course, our tank was nearly empty.

Because we are on holiday, we have not been listening to the news, so we had no idea this was coming, but as it turns out, neither did the Martiniquais. Usually in France, the strikes are announced ahead of time (and often you even know exactly how long they will last), but this one was not. Sprung upon the island, on the day most mainland French vacanciers were arriving and expecting rental cars with full tanks of gas, this one was/is a proper and effective strike.

So, you may ask, how do I turn une grève into something I love about France? The girls had the same question. The answer: forced relaxation.

With no gas in the tank and no place to go, we were forced to head to the small local beach and spend the day resting, talking and laughing, playing cards, reading and eating ice cream, watching the locals’ picnic and play with their beautiful families and remember how lucky we are to have each other.

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Fun family time. The silver lining to une grève.

Vocabulaire

une grève: a strike

vacanciers: vacationers

No. 89: French People who want to be Tutoyer-ed

In addition to enjoying the luxury of hanging out with the slow speaking Martiniquais and the confidence boost they provide to my own speaking ability, I also love the fact that the people on this island want to be tutoyer-ed.

Yes. In case you don’t know, the French actually have a verb for calling someone by the familiar form of “you” (tu)tutoyer versus the formal form of “you” (vous)—vouvoyer. So you can actually ask someone if they would like to be “tu”-ed or “vous”-ed.

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I always err on the side of caution and choose to “vous” everyone until I am told otherwise, or notice that they have begun “tu”-ing me. It’s my default position. The way I see it, it’s better to be formal than risk starting off on the wrong side of the rue with the French.

IMG_9212As English speakers, this phenomenon of “tu-ing” and “vous-ing” does not exist in our language, and sometimes I find it too elitist for my taste. I’m guessing my difficulty with the French way of sorting out who is a friend/family versus who is an acquaintance, is the same difficulty but in reverse for the French when they travel to Anglo countries. They must find it quite startling when we greet them for the first time as if we are chums and ask them gamely how they are, when, in fact, they really don’t want to share that information with a stranger.

But the Martiniquais are different. From the minute we met the family we are renting our house from here, it has been “tu”, “tu”,“tu”. When I asked our hosts about it, they simple said, “Mais bien sûr, nous sommes amis, comme de la famille!”

What a delightful change. In my American mindset it makes me feel at ease and makes me feel a greater sense of equality, and all and all just makes me feel good.

Vocabulaire:

Mais bien sûr, nous sommes amis, comme de la famille! But of course, we are friends, like a family. 

rue: street

tu: you, informal

tutoyer: to use “tu” when speaking to someone

vous: you, formal and plural

vouvoyer: to use “vous” when speaking to someone

 

No. 88: French People Who Speak French Slowly

IMG_2804Oh, how I love when the French speak French slowly. Every time I leave Paris and travel around France my confidence gets a boost when I realize I actually know more French than the hard knock Parisians have led me to believe.

It is such a relief to be on the Island of Martinique, the French territory off the coast of Venezuela.  Obviously it’s a relief for many of the normal reasons: work stress, school stress, family dysfunction, etc. The whole tropical-island-paradise-thing certainly helps out with that. But the real relief is being removed from cranky French people, who definitely don’t count patience as a virtue, and wouldn’t dare crack a smile if their life depended on it.

It is a welcome respite to be in a part of France where French isn’t the chosen language, but the colonial language, and where the people are quite happy to have you stumble along in French, so pleased that you are trying.

The Martiniquais don’t seem to give a rat’s patootie if you make a mistake. Their patience is immense, their smiles are large and they seem to have all the time in the world to let you mangle their not so precious language.

Most importantly they speak S-L-O-W-L-Y. And slow is so very appreciated by us not so fluent speakers.

 

 

No. 87: Petit-déjeuner en Martinique

This was breakfast in Martinique this morning. Refreshing, authentic and just so thrilled Superman did not chop off his fingertips.IMG_9227

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We are loving the Martiniquais and their beautiful island.

 

Vocabulaire:

petit-déjeuner: breakfast