Modernity

I have this theory that the closer we get to modernity, the more similar French and English farmwords.

Rake ::  Râteau

Pitchfork ::  Fourchette
A side note, I really like wikipedia’s cultural definition of the pitchfork:
“The pitchfork has frequently been used as a weapon by those who couldn’t afford or didn’t have access to more expensive weapons such as swords, or, later, guns. As a result, pitchforks are stereotypically carried by angry mobs or gangs of enraged peasants.”

Tractor ::  Tracteur

Science in the Middle Ages

Science and religion work together to order randomness and chaos.  In Book 1 of Genesis, God gives creates the universe, he separates the light from the dark, the land from the sea.  In science, a homogeneous substance is more stable than a heterogeneous substance.  Homogeneous reactants are not reactive unless stimulated by another substance, a catalyst.  In Genesis, before God created the universe all matter existed but had no order.  God is the catalyst. By creating the universe, He separates matter into homogeneous substances and orders the chaos of the physical world.  Before science, God gave an easy and definite answer to the questions of the universe.  Science reveals a complicated order of nature, and leads to more questions than answers.  God is a simple answer to complicated questions.

Maimonides says “When one thinks about these matters one will feel a great fear and trepidation, and one will know that one is a low and insignificant creation.”  The understanding about the complexity of nature reveals the greater glory of God and reminds man of his insignificant place in the universe.

God and nature are not necessarily mutually exclusive.  Science is used by philosophers in the Middle Ages as a tool to find the greater meaning of God.  Science is also the principle upon which the earth is governed, and for the Medieval philosophers, God governs the earth.  Therefore, God is at the foundation of science.  Science and religion do not conflict with each other, rather, science links God to the material world.  Nonetheless, the tension between science and religion saturated the philosophy of the Middle Ages and shaped the humanist movement, the next stage in western history.

Baa

Its interesting to learn a whole new set of French words.  As I’ve mentioned, I often try to guess French words by taking an English word and putting a French accent to it.  After you’ve got the French accent down, the trick to this is to say the word with more emphasis on the END of the word, as opposed to the beginning.  Even through the French often don’t pronounce the ends of the words, they tend to put more emphasis on what they do pronounce.  For example, the French people say parkING, while English speaking people say PArking.

But, trying to guess words on a farm does not work. In fact, the only similar word that I can think of is the ferme, farm.  All other words I’ve come across are extremely different.

It makes sense, really. Descriptive adjectives transcend borders.  The international community is apt to share ideas and the terms related to those ideas.  Agriculture, on the other hand, is the terre. Its of the earth; agricultural words do not transcend borders, they stay close.

Here’s a few:

mouton

sheep :: mouton

OK the British use mutton (adult sheep) for shepherd’s pie, but I’m pretty sure they lifted it from the French.

brebis

ewe (female sheep) :: brebis

ram (male sheep) ::  bélier

agneau

lamb :: agneau

chèvre

goat :: chèvre

chevreau

kid (baby goat) :: chevreau

bouc

billy/buck (male goat) :: bouc
OK that one’s the same.

chevaux

horse ::  cheval

ânes

donkey ::  âne
More to come…

Exciting Week: Stuck in Swiss; Passed My French Test; Made it to the Sheep/Goat Farm

Its been an exciting week.

Last Friday I left Paris and took the train to Basel Switzerland so I could take my French test. I know, it doesn’t make sense to leave France in order to take a French test, but the CLEP test that I had to take is run by College Board (the same College Board that manages SATs and such).  Its American test, and so I had to find an American testing center.  The closest testing center in Paris was in Kandern Germany, a small town close to Basel.

In my last week in France, I went to the train station in order to purchase my train ticket from Paris to Basel, and then from Basel to the south of France (more on that later).  But, the nice lady at the Paris train station told me that she could sell me a ticket FROM Paris, but could not sell me a ticket for a train that did not originate from France because of the train strike (there is always a train strike).  I’m still not sure how that makes sense, but that’s that. But, she assured me that it wouldn’t be a problem getting a train ticket from Basel back to France.

Eyjafjallajokull

And then the volcano. I arrived in Basel on Friday, only to discover that since all of the flights had been canceled all of the trains were completely booked until Monday.

Fortunately, the YMCA that I was staying in had extra rooms, so I just hung out in Basel for the weekend.

Basel, Switzerland

I don’t know if it was from the stress of taking my French test (I needed the test to graduate!) or sleeping 11 hours (I didn’t sleep much the last week in Paris…), but I woke up on Saturday totally unable to move my neck. I sucked it up, rubbed some homeopathic icy hot on my neck (thanks mom), got on the bus, and made my way to Kandern Germany to take the French test.  And, I’m sure glad I did, as I passed with flying colors.  I was super paranoid, but I’m pretty sure that the last night I spent in Paris, dining, talking and dancing salsa with a group of French friends, put me over the edge.

Salsa Feet

Sunday was spent in Basel with a Chinese girl who works as a Chinese/English translator that I met at the youth hostel.  I love that about traveling, you meet such interesting people.

Monday was spent taking numerous packed trains, but I finally made it to Albas France.  I’m wwoofing on a sheep/goat farm for the last three weeks of my sojourn in France. I’ve seen the birth of a few sheep, been feeding baby sheep with a bottle, and helping out with general feeding/care of the animals.  In exchange, I’m housed and fed during my time here (that’s what wwoofing means).  Is great to get out of the city, although there’s definitely a learning curve with all of these new words. But, I’ll save that for another blog…

Les Brebis (Ewes)

In more exciting news, I was offered a job as an English teaching assistant just outside of Paris. So, it looks like I’m going to make it back to Paris next year!!