Saturday, August 02, 2003

How fitting that French classes at the Sorbonne are on 'Rue de l'Estrapade' where people were once tortured. I'm sure that bit of information won't garner much sympathy. People may think spending a month in Paris an absolutely wonderful idea but signing up for a summer torture session of French grammar was completely voluntary on my part.

Richard Bolles writes on what he coins the three boxes of life; that learning doesn't end upon graduation but is an ongoing process of learning, achievement, and pleasure throughout life. Although I do subscribe to his view taking French is for more than just that reason alone. I remember once coming across a book in a second-hand store titled, "Minor English Poets of the 17th Century," and thinking, I'd hate to be some notation as just a second rate poet especially if capable of greater. I suspect mastering the three languages in my current repetoire plus my interests in photography, writing, yoga, and tennis will be lifelong pursuits. Although circumstances may mean setting aside my interests from time to time, I've always gone back to them.

But how does one explain a love of language whether it be French, Mandarin, or English? Nothing is more frustrating than having a thought trapped inside one's head which can't find written or oral expression. And little else is greater torture in life than sluggishness of mind.

If there was any worry on my part about sloth setting in all fears were erased after the first day. La Sorbonne takes a very classical and formal, which is a nice way of saying a rigid approach to teaching. I felt as if I were back in high school except I was forty and not sixteen years old. All classes are mandatory. Three absences means a grade will not be assigned as in the case of failure to take the final exam. Be punctual. Use the facilties before or after but not during class unless in the case of an emergency. Cell-phones must be turned off during class. Assignments must be in blue or black ink and handed in on white-lined paper. Oh, and I would later discover, no loitering in the hallways after class.

Wednesday, July 30, 2003

It was Henry James who wrote, "summer afternoon: the two most beautiful words in the English language." I would have to agree especially when surrounded by the hum of life in Jardin de Luxembourg.

Since I would be living very close to the garden in August and sure to spend time in one my favourite places from past visits, I hadn't stepped foot inside the garden gates during my recent sojourns to Paris. But pressed for time Monday to take my placement exam at the Sorbonne I cut through the garden. The minute I saw the blooms and tiny toy boats circling the small pond I felt a comforting familiarity. It was like visiting an old friend and continuing on as if time had not elapsed.

Someone I once went out with asked me why I couldn't just appreciate watching bread rise. At that time I used to get up with the birds on a Saturday morning so that I could rush around all over the city on my bike to get my errands done before the crowds descended upon the shopping streets.

I'm definitely not that same person, or perhaps I am but I've since evolved then. Some mornings I'm still up with the birds, but I find myself soaking up Paris whatever its' pace, sights, and smells.

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