Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Argh! General Strike!

I cannot believe there is going to be a general strike this Thursday. It's in protest against the downturn in the economy, the rise in unemployment, etc. The fact that the cause for this global recession was the subprime mortgage crisis in the US seems to escape the still red-blooded French unions. Everything will be on strike on Thursday; even television company employees will be on strike. Oh well...

Thursday, January 22, 2009


"Today is very boring, it's a very boring day,
"There's nothing much to look at, there's nothing much to say."

Those two lines from a children's poem sums today up for me. If you've read the poem, you'll know that the narrator actually has an exceptionally interesting day; I, alas, did not. I had an exam this morning, which went without problem, then a lecture, then a three-hour-long wait till the next lecture. I was planning to go home, but by the time I had finished preparing my teaching stuff, I'd ran out of time, and was instead left being very bored at uni. The next lecture was ok, but not fantastic. Then I went and taught. Out of the three children I teach, it went well with 2 of them, but not so well with the youngest. Because the lessons are so short, sometimes I feel like I'm forced to either rush it with him, or only do really easy, but more entertaining activities. If you have any hints or ideas, share the wealth.

I then came home and fell asleep, woke up some when in the last hour or so.

I shall see you in the morning. Maybe.

End of an era...

It's the end of an era, and one I'm not going to be too nostalgic about. That is the US Presidency of George W Bush. In ordering the closing of Guantanamo Bay and other oversea detention centres as his first presidential act, Obama is sending out a clear message that his presidency is a rupture from the one before. In my last entry, I said that Obama was sure to fail to meet up to the high expectations the world has of him, but perhaps, particularly this early on in the precedings, clear symbolism is what we need. We want to be comforted that the right choice has been made by the American people.

Is this the end of the War on Terror?
Obama, in his speech today, said, "The United States intends to prosecute the ongoing struggle against violence and terrorism," but "in a manner that is consistent with our values and our ideals." I believe that this shift in ideology, from the Bushist 'we have the right to do anything necessary if we need to', a concept that increases fear in the unkown other, the mysterious terrorist, while at the same time denying more and more rights to the known, that is, the normal American people. And America, it seems, is no longer going to be the lone wolf on the political stage, defying the UN and international community. Of course, America was never completely alone in its fight, but international support wasn't unanimous and became significantly weaker as time went on. Obama is putting America back in line with the world, which will be welcomed by many.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Che Guevara and Barack Obama...

¡Hasta la victoria siempre!

Yesterday, I saw the 'controversial new film' "Che: El Argentino" by Steven Soderbergh. It was a good, albeit slightly long film, with Benicio del Toro as the Marxist Rebel Ernesto "Che" Guevara. It is beautifully shot, with wonderful views of the harsh but magnificent Cuban landscape, and the colourful cities filled with the sound of ricocheting bullets, compared somewhat cynically with the sterile black-and-white scenes of New York and the UN building. The film is definitely pro-Che, depicting him as a just, emotionally moderate rebel filled with integrity and love for his cause. He dispenses harsh justice (firing squad) to those who severely break the rebels' rigid discipline, but even that is done with an amount of compassion. And the guys being shot did rape and murder a teenage girl... He is also depicted as an unwavering doctor and teacher, emphasising the necessity of literacy. His humanity comes from his main weakness, his debilitating asthma attacks, which often leave him wheezing despite trying to hide from Baptista's soldiers. This very positive presentation of Guevara is somewhat inevitable since the film is based on his own memoirs, but does somewhat lend support to the now effectively moribund Communist cause.

However, a criticism of the film that I've read elsewhere, and one that I would agree with, is that in such a sweeping film, moving from Mexico, where Castro and Guevara plot the revolution over dinner, to Cuba, to New York, and back again, several times, is that the humanity of those involved is somewhat forgotten. We see rebels, soldiers and civilians being shot, burnt, and blown up, but we hardly feel any empathy with them. Death seems coldy inevitable in the course (or cause) of the revolution. I am, however, looking forward to part two.

Poor Barack Obama

Am I the only person to feel sorry for Barack Obama? Why should I feel sorry for the person who is now the first Afro-American US President, the most powerful man in the world and who has already made history? Because, it seems, the entire world is resting its often mutually exclusive hopes on his shoulders. Outside the US, it seems everyone is glad to see Bush go, and it isn't difficult to see why: bloody conflits in Afghanistan and Iraq, his resolute obstinance to any environmental causes, the economic crisis, his own lack of intelligence, the list goes on. Because of this, the majority of people around the world (70% according to a BBC poll) are glad to see him, and the Republican party, out of power. But more than this, the world is hoping Obama to change the world, to lead us all out of economic ruin, to save the Gaza strip, end the War on Terror and stop global warming, and he's going to fail, unequivocally. He's almost bound, in comparison to the last eight years, to make a much more positive impact on the world. But no-one can individually save to world from all its problems. And I think that is what a lot of people are expecting Obama to do.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Lazy Day

My plans for a lazy day have been going better than expected. I've only managed to do one of the three jobs I set myself for today. I did some washing, but I have not posted the letters I was planning to, nor have I tidied my apartment. I did however, fill in my first ever census! Yay for French censuses (not sure that's the correct plural).

In France they do censuses (censum, censi, censae? I'm not that good on my Latin declensions) differently. Instead of having national, everyone-does-it-at-once censuses, the French do it bit by bit. And this may well have been the second census I would have done. When I lived in Montreuil, it was their turn to have the census. I obviously just missed the nice person who comes around giving you the forms to fill in. Another difference is that French censuses are short. A lot shorter than the British or Australian ones that my parents have had to fill in. Yes, my parents spent a day of our holiday in Australia filling in a census. That's because they're not allowed to ask things such as religious beliefs or ethnicity, because everyone is equal in the eyes of the state... It only took me ten minutes. So today, the full run down of what I've done productively is:
1) put washing in washing machine.
2) put washing on drying rack.
3) fill in census.

And update this blog, of course (twice).

Wishing you a merry second half of January!

[insert witty title here]

Phew, I'm so glad I made it to today! I thought I wouldn't for a minute. There's no terrible reason why I thought I would expire before today; the actual reason is that I've been suffering from too much of a good thing. I have been so busy of late that I needed a little time to recharge. So here is a snapshot of the last week.

Last Thursday: Went out for dinner in Southampton with Kaylee and Thomas. The restaurant wasn't that good, a disappointment, to put it bluntly. It wasn't terrible - none of us came away with botulism, a nasty disease caused by a bacteria producing the poison botoxin (the stuff the inject into your face to get rid of wrinkles) - but it certainly wasn't Michelin standard.

Friday: Went to our grandparents so that I could, with my mum and brother, escort our grandmother into Southampton to buy an outfit for my cousin's wedding. I then left my mum and my aunt in Debenhams, while Thomas and I went ice skating with friends. If my memory isn't deceiving me, I then watched Mamma Mia! with my mum. Bit of an... interesting film.

Saturday: Got up early to go to Devon. Popped into my grandmother's, and we went out for lunch at a pub. Nice food, but the pub was quite cold. I then went to a wedding which was absolutely lovely. The balance between tradition and the modern was just right. It made it feel as if it was a part of history, a part of something that has been going on for centuries, while not feeling stuffy. It was also understated, but not cheap. The bride wore a simple cream dress with a dark blue cardigan to make it more, well, understated. Once that was all finished, my parents drove me home.

Sunday: Got up quite early to pack. I spent about an hour, to no avail, searching for my French mobile. It is still AWOL. I then had lunch with my other grandparents (the Friday lot), my aunt, uncle and parents, as it was my grandmother's 80th the next day. After the meal, my parents dropped me off at Southampton Airport so I could fly back to Paris.

Monday: Had lectures, went shoe shopping with Beki, then tried unsuccessfully to transfer money. Then went to church council, which was rather long.

Tuesday: More lectures, then went to church youth group.

Wednesday: Lots of lectures. Had dinner in St Michel with Lucy, Lucy's boyfriend and Nicky.

Thursday: More lectures. Prepared my lessons for the evening, went home and had a quick sleep and then taught. The parents of the children I teach said I could stay for dinner. I did, and left around 22h. Got home towards 23h absolutely knackered!

Today: Nothing! I'm free as a bird! Except that I'm going out tonight for drinks to celebrate a friend getting an MA. I really need to stop living the high-life. I've yet to eat at home.

I've also started going through some online lectures at Yale University about the Old Testament, and it seems very interesting, one-and-a-half lectures in.

Hope you didn't find this post too boring at all.