Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Franglais Mélanges

Cultures blend, especially in this global economy. France has been notably protective of its culture and language, so although I saw nowhere near a blurring of American and French on my recent visit there, I did see more blending than I have on previous France visits. For example:

This month, when I revisited Montpellier’s famous Place de la Comédie, I was delighted to see historic Le Café Riche. This café dates to 1893; its website describes it as “indétrônable depuis des décennies,” basically undethronable for decades. Next door are perpetually inelegant, unenthronable McDonalds and a Foot Locker. On the edge of the café’s terrace filled with world-watching flâneurs stands a guitarist busking with a Scott Joplin rag.

Later, when I became a people-watching flâneur at a different café’s sidewalk table on rue de l’Université, I was amused to see delivery scooters buzz by with Pizza Hut crates mounted on their back fenders. Across the impossibly narrow street was another café whose name reflects a linguistic and culinary culture mashup: My Wraps, with the suggestion to Composez, Roulez, Dégustez—put it together, roll it up, savor it. I presume the pigeon poop on the sign would not be rolled in your wrap.

The following week in highly touristic Annecy, I noted other French-English blends, such as this café Une Autre Histoire, or Another Story, with the English tag line, food & good time.

In terms of the people I encountered in France … Though Montpellier residents spoke only French to me, and Lyon folks gladly spoke perfect French or English, Annecy residents were a mixed language bag. Hotel and some restaurant staff made agreements with me that I could practice my French with them if they could practice their English with me. Many, however, stuck with French even though I’m fairly certain they understood English. Lastly, I spotted this awning across from the French café that deserves credit for offering a English and French versions of its menu. We’ll overlook the fact that they translated chicken giblets as magret de canard—fillet of duck breast.

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Take Your Daughter to Work Day

Ever prayed about a problem so long, you wonder if God listens, cares, or is capable of acting on your problem? Recently, alone in the gym, I was crying on the treadmill (yes, a literal treadmill but the symbolism does not escape me) that I felt so frustrated and lonely about this moldy-oldy problem, I just wanted God to hold me. The first thing He did was to shuffle my iPhone playlist so that the next three songs contained lyrics about God holding me. Next up was a song asking God to show up and then sitting back and watching Him go. I sensed God telling me to abandon my latest solutions to this problem and to pretend I was with Him on Take Your Daughter to Work Day. What does a daughter do at her Father’s place of work? She watches Him work!


When I was in seventh or eighth grade, my dad took me out of my grade school to tag along with him on his work day at the high school where he taught math. For five or six class periods that day, I sat in a high schooler’s light, modern plastic and chrome desk instead of my grade school’s heavy wooden desk with inkwells.

I loved watching my dad chalk formulas on the blackboard and engage his students in the principles needed to solve equations. Although my father loved mathematics in general, he was passionate about geometry, so when I saw him chalk triangles on the board, I sensed his increased enthusiasm. Can you say right triangle … equilateral, isosceles, scalene, obtuse, acute? Whoa, now we’re talkin’! He was having so much fun. Sometimes he’d be silly and bend one arm behind his back to write an answer on the board. At times other students and I smiled to see pink and yellow chalk smears on his ear lobe or chin. Sometimes I understood what Dad was teaching, sometimes it was beyond me. Either way, I loved listening to him teach.

Between class periods, I tagged along as he stopped by the mathematics office to touch base with the department secretary or mimeograph a quiz for the next class. Once I got to go into the sacrosanct teacher’s lounge. Tagging along, tuned-in and learning—that was basically my role. Dad did everything else. After all, that was his job.

So when my heavenly Father told me to pretend I was with Him on Take Your Daughter to Work Day, what did He mean? Abandon my old clunky, less effective way of solving problems and even my old problems themselves; sit with His lighter yoke; listen to His voice and watch for His fingerprints; sense His pleasure in solving my problems with “higher math”;  appreciate His brilliance; and adore just being with Him.

God is the wisest problem solver ever. The bible is evidence of this truth. He creates the exact lessons I need at the exact time I can grasp them. My life so far shows this, too. So, Lord, I’m done trying to solve what’s beyond my abilities with my inadequate elementary school math. Higher math is your job, and I can’t wait to watch you work. Chalk away!