Monday, September 26, 2011


Bahh oui,
My next excuse for not posting in a timely manner is that I am pulling my first all-nighter for my university course in FRANCE !!!  Hells yeah, lucky me.
I haven't been as diligent with tracking my assignments in my agenda, which has inevitably doomed me to not realize until 9 PM (I'm six hours ahead of Eastern U.S. time) that I have an oral presentation tomorrow morning for my French political science class at 9 AM.  While brief (7 to 12 minutes), an exposée on French politics in French is sooo out of hand, when I don't even understand or follow the politics in the Untied States!!!
So of course you've found me here, procrastinating.

No to worry, I truly have made progress.  After bouncing between French online newspapers, Anglophone articles and lots of Google Translate, I believe I have demystified the Karachi Affair that is rumbling the French political scene :  In brief, it's a bribery scandal that took place in the early 90's involving armament contracts between Pakistan and France.
A French naval construction company sold submarines to Pakistan through middle men .
-->  Part of the money received was used to finance former Prime Minister's (between 1993-1995) Édouard Balladur's Presidential campaign again Jacques Chirac in '95 (Chirac won, duh).
--> When Chirac became Pres of France he stopped paying the contract middle men in order to eliminate political kickbacks (bribes, in other words).
-->  Then in 2002, there was an automobile bombing in Karachi, Pakistan that killed 11 French technicians and employees of the aforementioned naval construction company (the DCN) -- Al-Qaeda is suspected.
--> This came to fruition in 2008 when the DCN released a report that implied the attacks as political retaliation for ending the armament contract years before, not solely the initiative of terrorists.
--> The case is propagating once more with the French Presidential elections approaching this spring and more witnesses affirming various claims in the scandal.
Those are about as bare as the bones can be; for current French President Nicolas Sarkozy, he was the Budget Minister under Balladur and denies any involvement in the case, though Nicolas Bazire, who was Balladur's campaign director in '95 and a close friend of Sarkozy's, was recently arrested for "complicity and the misuse of money."  And so the trembling of the Fifth Republic continues ... (*cue dramatic music)

My goodness, this is nuts and you probably don't care!  I should probably continue trying to convey all of this in French--  I'll let you know how it goes.
[sources include : NY TimesFrance 24, France-Info.]

OH, before I part, allow me to leave some thoughts and observations I've written on post-it notes while in Rouen, usually when I'm waiting for my host father to finish work so I can go home on the back of his scooter (can't wait to show you that photo) :

 `` Once you live a medium-sized city, you begin to recognize the homeless people.  It's a brutal truth, yet they're usually occupying and doing the same sort of thing, in the same spot on a routine basis!  There is this woman who once came up to our group at the train station and asked every singled one of us if we had a cell phone; no one answered until a boy at the end, and she used his phone then slouched off with her distinctly patterned bags and a very cracked-out looking appearance (according to another boy).  Later that day we were sitting at a cafe, on the other side of the city, like across the river -- and there she was again, slowing walking around in this dazed state!  And I saw her again two days later.  Others have encountered her in different sectors of Rouen; she simply roams the streest, I think.  One day I also saw a trio of homeless people more than once because they were switching stoops and benches.  The one scraggly woman was tugging at her male comrade and yelling at him to come back with their plastic shopping bags filled with who-knows-what.  What a spectacle.

` No less than three-quarters of the men (this includes my age and older) in this country, and perhaps most of Europe, wear man bags and man satchels.  The most common variations are small across-the-shoulder pouch-basically-purse in an array of colors and designs.  I've also noticed male Longchamp totes and satchels!  I'm sorry if I'm perpetuating a stereotype and discriminating against a man's right to have a purse, but I feel that Longchamp looks better on women and there is nothing wrong with a sleek leather wallet for the back pocket!  It is, above all, endlessly amusing.
He who made satchels acceptable, perhaps? :D

`` For my course called French Encounters (Rencontres Francaises) we have read articles about differences between French and U.S. culture, as well as composed analytic journal entries.  One of the topics is the idea of personal space and how it is maintained between strangers.  For example, in the U.S. it's perfectly polite to say hi to whoever you're passing on the street, smile or wave even if you have no idea who you are.  If there's a long line at the grocery store, you might talk the other customers in line to pass the time.  In France, eye contact or too much emotion with strangers can indicate personal interest and you don't really strike up conversations with anyone unless you really have a reason.  Usually if people are looking at you it's the blank stare (I'm so bad at it) just because there's no where else to look, or it might mean they're interested in you!  All the girls in my group have had this sort of encounter, where a creepy man starts talking to you at the bus stop and just nags and continues despite all the signs of disinterest.  Perhaps I'm not used to this as much because in the States I live in the countryside, but it's unnerving and I would really prefer some dashing guy my age to engage me at the bus stop instead.

Well, I hope that gives you a more satirical look at what I'm experiencing here :).  Have a great week, everyone!

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