Polyglotte: Is learning a second language risky? (A French woman's warning)

Jean-Marc Lake Garda Italy
"Salvataggio"--looking at the foreign word in this picture, can you grasp its meaning? It reminds me of "salvation" and, though I don't speak Italian, my guess is this is a rescue craft. Read on for more thoughts about words and language learning. (Photo of Jean-Marc on the shore of Lake Garda, in Northern Italy.)

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TODAY'S WORD: POLYGLOTTE (m,f)

    : polyglot, multilingual, someone who speaks more than one language

A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE by Kristi Espinasse

"Bilingualism = Risky Business?"

When our children were little and just beginning to communicate, an elder in the village of St. Maximin came to have a word with me. "Il ne faut pas parler les deux langues à vos enfants!" You mustn't speak both languages to your children!

Abasourdie, I automatically nodded in respect for my neighbor's wisdom, but secretly I had no clue what sort of threat bilingualism posed to my equally speechless offspring. Max was just beginning to babble his own name: "Affime!" he declared (this was as close to "Maxime" as he could get). It tickled my heart to hear my children's first words, in any language, including the universal tongue that is "baby talk." As his Anglophone mother and sole English teacher, was I to respond only in French (here in France)? I like to think my voisine was either misinformed or superstitious, but there was a gnawing doubt that her warning about le polyglottisme contained a grain of truth. After all, my son didn't speak as soon as the other toddlers at la crèche

With time, the dual languages sorted themselves out in Max's growing cerveau, and once our son began talking he never stopped, in French or English. Don't tell my neighbor but Max went on to become trilingual, learning Spanish and studying in Mexico, where his grandmother Jules lived at the time. Now Jules lives here in France and, though she doesn't speak Spanish or French, she has no problem communicating with the locals in either country when she speaks with her heart and her hands.

I gesture a lot, too. Jean-Marc often teases me for it, mimicking me as I "speak." 
"Ah. Bon, Vraiment? C'est comme ça?" He'll say, swirling his arms all over the place. 
I do all those hand moves when I speak to get my point across when my family seems distracted or distant.

But all my hand gesturing didn't translate to much on our recent trip to Italy, The Land of Gesticulation. And there I'd thought my French would surely help me to understand Italian, thanks to their shared Latin roots. Instead, I stared helplessly at the menus and the signs, and the instructions on the box of flu medicine I purchased.

Finally, Jean-Marc admitted he didn't understand much Italian either. Maybe we should sign up for Duolingo? he suggested. (This is not an ad and I have no affiliation with the company. But, for his  daily efforts, my Dad is a platinum member and he's inspired all of us to join--or at least to think about it...) This brings back memories of the elder's warning, years ago. Will learning a third language be somehow detrimental? Will it confuse me or cause me to make mistakes in both languages? I'm embarrassed to admit my reservations, especially given the language-learning theme of this blog

Reservations aside, if you want to know my personal feelings about learning another language, the following quote by Frank Smith expresses them in all their polyglot glory: 

One language sets you in a corridor for life. Two languages open every door along the way. Une langue vous place dans un corridor pour la vie. Deux langues ouvrent chaque porte sur le chemin. Una lingua ti mette in un corridoio per la vita. Due lingue aprono ogni porta lungo la strada.

Just imagine where three languages would take you! Down a corridor, through several doors, and into the hearts and souls of some fascinating people.

Amicalement,

Kristi
 

COMMENTS
Do you have particular concerns or reservations about learning a language? Let me know here in the comments and GRAZIE MILLE for reading today.

Jean-Marc in Bergamo
While I understood the word "salvataggio" in our opening photo, "pasticceria" doesn't call forth any associations in my brain. My guess is it's connected to pasta? (I now see it means "pastries"...as hinted in the word's prefix!)


FRENCH VOCABULARY

Click here to listen to Jean-Marc and Kristi pronounce the following words

le/la polyglotte = multilingual person
le voisin, la voisine = the neighbor
abasourdi(e) =
stunned, taken aback
la crèche = day care, child care center
le cerveau
= brain
Ah. Bon, Vraiment?
= Oh, really. Truly?
C'est comme ça? = Is that how it is?
grazie mille = a thousand thanks (in Italian)
amicalement = yours

Doorstep in Bergamo Italy
"La Drogheria"--does the word evoke its correct meaning for you? We bought a few snacks in here, after being wooed by the colorful doorstep.

Kristi and Jean-Marc in Bergamo Italy
Me and Jean-Marc in Bergamo


REMERCIEMENTS
A heartfelt thank you to these readers who have recently shown their support through blog donations or by purchasing our online memoir. This journal relies on your thoughtful contributions, and I am deeply grateful for your help in ensuring its continuous publication. Your commitment to our work is invaluable, and I want you to know how much your support means to me. Merci beaucoup! --Kristi

Judy D.
Susan F.
Nancy G.
Ginger S.

Phoebe E.
Danielle W.
Christopher R.

Mercally Italy church
Driving through Mercallo, Italy

Cinzano Italy river
On the road near Cinzano....

Wheat fields near Cinzano
Rolling past wheat fields in our RV

Bordigherra restaurant Amarea
This refreshing break came on our last day in Italy. Jean-Marc found a beach with parasols and chaises-longues. After he struggled to park our camping car in Bordigherra, he was rewarded with a cool dip in the sea and chilled glass of rosé.

Bordigherra restaurant Amarea

A Message from KristiOngoing support from readers like you keeps me writing and publishing this free language journal each week. If you find joy or value in these stories and would like to keep this site going, donating today will help so much. Thank you for being a part of this community and helping me to maintain this site and its newsletter.

Ways to contribute:
1.Zelle®, The best way to donate and there are no transaction fees. Zelle to [email protected]

2.Paypal or credit card
Or purchase my book for a friend and so help them discover this free weekly journal.
For more online reading: The Lost Gardens: A Story of Two Vineyards and a Sobriety


Baroudeur: A hair-raising adventure in the Italian Alps

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That’s Jean-Marc on his way up to the Dolomites. More colorful photos at the end of this post!

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TODAY'S WORD: "BAROUDER"

    : adventurer, trailblazer

Today's story is dedicated to my husband and my Mom--both adventurers, trailblazers, and true baroudeurs!


A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE
by Kristi Espinasse

On the eve of Jean-Marc's and my Great European Camping Car Adventure, I went to check on Mom. There in her studio, on the side of our house, Jules was putting away her groceries: "Ice cream, yogurt, pudding..." Jules sang, happy for her favorite items to be back in stock chez elle

"And what do you have for food for the next week?" I quizzed.

"I don't eat food!" Jules smiled, reaching for the ice cream to cool down in this heatwave. While Mom may be kidding, leaving her alone for a week was a serious matter to me, even if deep down I knew she would be ok. She is a feisty 76: spirited, spiritual, and strong. She raised two girls as a single mother and then lived solo in the Arizona desert, with only rattlesnakes and javelinas for company (her Rottweiler and guns were protection). After she left the desert, and before moving to France, Jules lived in Mexico for two decades, part of that time in a house with bare windows (no glass to keep the rain out). One day (2002?) Mom was sweeping the floor when she slipped and broke her hip. She came to France to recover, only to get breast cancer. She has been with us on and off ever since.

No matter how strong Mom is, or how much character she has, she can be vulnerable and I don't like leaving her alone when we go away. Especially when her grandson Max, who lives nearby, is out of town. And to think Jules no longer has Smokey to sleep by her front door and keep her company. Like this, on Day 2 of our camping trip, I was dreaming of my gun-toting, ice-cream Mama. What if she lost electricity? Would Mom know which switches to flip? What if the heat got to her or she fell down? Because Mom doesn't like the telephone (or Messenger or SMS or any of that) it can be challenging to know how she is doing. Thankfully, she promised to respond to my daily emails. So far so good, "All is peaceful here," her replies assured me.

Tossing and turning in our camper car, somewhere along Lake Garda, I awoke to find my side of the mattress wet. Zut! The little camper window was leaking. This was bad news for my flu, which began the night of our departure and turned into bronchitis. A clap of thunder had me scooting close to my husband, whose side of the tiny bed was dry. Quelle chance!

Jean-Marc was in a deep sleep after a few long days on the road. We had left La Ciotat that first morning at 5 am to pick up our rented camper in Grasse. After a picnic by the river in Cuneo, Italy (it felt so good to submerse our legs into the cold water while eating our paninis) we reached our destination that evening. It was the first of several lakeside campsites that Jean-Marc had carefully reserved and, after some reservations of my own, I was surprised at how easily we slid into camp life, and "glisser" is the word as the rain made for a muddy, slippery ground beside our camper. Next time, we'll bring along a plastic mat as the other seasoned campers had done. We were learning every day and that is one thing to love about roughing it: having to make do and be creative with what we had. Thus, a big T-shirt became a cloth sack for laundry, water glasses doubled as coffee cups, and a couple of plastic tire strips were used as a much-needed doormat. Nothing too ingenious, but it was satisfying, each time, to find an onboard solution to a problem! 

Jean-marc and our Chausson camper car
Jean-Marc, having found a parking spot in Como. That's the Chausson camper car we rented.

The most ingenious thing to me was our onboard toilet. By day two I discovered it swiveled sideways for legroom (turns out you didn't have to be a yogini to use it!). That toilet was a luxury and it meant we could travel to the ends of the world, which is exactly where we were going...

On day 4 we were headed up to the Dolomites, on a suspiciously empty road, when Jean-Marc casually mentioned that he guessed this road was okay for oversized camping cars to use. My husband's remark brought me back to all of the nerve-racking adventures he had ever talked me into before. The King of Shortcuts and his Take-Every-Precaution wife have, kicking and screaming, managed to scale steep mountain paths, pass through narrow railway tunnels on foot, and hurry across pastures dotted with horned cattle. I realize now that most of my fear comes from a lack of knowledge (are pedestrians allowed to walk beside train tracks…in a tunnel? Do horned cattle attack?)

Here we were again, on another hair-raising path, and there was no turning back along this particularly narrow one-way road up to the Dolomites. I began to notice potholes here and there and farther up ahead the road was crumbling off on either side. There in the passenger seat of our roving rental home, just when I thought my nerves couldn't take it anymore, I held on to one thought: we'd soon be eating in a quaint little chalet amidst a blossoming prairie at the end of this Godforsaken path. Just focus on the image. Focus on the little innocent flowers and not the menacing road! Just as I was beginning to relax, a string of words coming out of my husband's mouth strangled every little daisy as hope flew out the passenger side window:

" J'espère que c'est ouvert…"

You hope the restaurant is open?

To make a long, agonizing story short, dear reader, we did make it up to the restaurant (ours was the only camping car in the sparse parking lot). And it was as delightful as those delicate alpine flowers. After lunch and some apple strudel served by a lovely 86-year-old Tyrolian, we parted ways for the first time in days. Jean-Marc went on to hike 2.5 hours until he was able to reach up and touch the Dolomites with his own hand. My husband deserved such a thrill after maneuvering our two-ton trailer and me through the narrow streets and valleys of Italy. Bravo J-M! Meanwhile, I took a nap in the back of our vehicle, soaking in the sounds of nature all around us including the rain which began pounding on our camper car. When that turned to hail we peeled out of there just in time, heading back down over the crumbling road and the potholes, making it safely down the hill and down to the south coast of Italy. Those last two nights were spent at "Agriturismo" sites (camp free on somebody's farm in exchange for buying their products).  

From the Mediterranean to the Dolomites and back it was a smooth trip. And when we pulled into our driveway at 10 pm, Mom, having held down the fort, was there to greet us with open arms, happy tears in her eyes. “ I don’t think I have ever been so lonely in my whole life,” my desert-dwelling Mamacita finally admitted.

"That's why God gave us families,” I assured Mom. “So we would never be lonely." 

Not everyone has a family to hold on to and if that is your situation I hope these stories keep us all connected. Thank you, dear reader and virtual family, for showing up weekly and for clicking open my letters. 

"See you" next week,

Kristi

COMMENTS
It is a joy to read your comments so please don't hesitate to write me using this link to the comments. (My Dad, a faithful reader of this blog, especially appreciates it when you include your town or city! Extra credit if you give a weather report. He loves that!)

Jules and Holly
Thank you, Holly (right), for reading my journal and for sending in this photo of you and Jules taken on our front porch a few years ago. It is one of Mom's favorite pics. We hope you don't mind we posted it!


FRENCH VOCABULARY

Click here to listen to Jean-Marc and Kristi pronounce the vocabulary words below

le baroudeur, la baroudeuse = trailblazer 
chez elle = at her place
zut! = darn!
quelle chance! = what luck!
le panini = Italian for grilled sandwich
glisser = to slip
j’espère que c’est ouvert = I hope it’s open
agriturismo = a farm stay

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REMERCIEMENTS
It is humbling, touching, and enormously motivating to receive your support for my French word journal. And huge thanks to the following readers who sent in a donation following last week’s “anniversary” post:

Jill B.
Chris W.
Susan G.
Rajeev B.
Wendy P.
Jeanne H.
Martha C.
Joanne O.
Deborah P.
Patricia N.
Kathryn G.
Tricia N-B
J & C Hawke
Bill and Mary E.
Natalia, Rod, et Mignons

Bergamo Italy2
Little daisies at the top of Bergamo, a perched village Jean-Marc used to admire while driving on the Italian freeway for his wine business. This time he got to stop and explore!

Beside the church in Bergamo
Outside one of the churches in Bergamo.

Alois vineyard
Trip highlight: We had a very warm welcome and a farm-fresh lunch at the biodynamic Alois Lageder vineyard near Bolzano. 

IMG_7415 Copy
The rest of these pictures were taken from the passenger seat of our camper car--a wonderful window from which to take in all the colorful scenes of Italy

Bergamo Italy
Also in Bergamo
Col de la Lombarde
This was at the Col de la Lombarde, just after the French Italian border. We (very carefully) passed zillions of cyclists in this area. It was one of the most nerve-racking passages for Jean-Marc, who did a great job maneuvering our camping car. I have so many more pictures. Would you enjoy an extra post this week?

A Message from KristiOngoing support from readers like you keeps me writing and publishing this free language journal each week. If you find joy or value in these stories and would like to keep this site going, donating today will help so much. Thank you for being a part of this community and helping me to maintain this site and its newsletter.

Ways to contribute:
1.Zelle®, The best way to donate and there are no transaction fees. Zelle to [email protected]

2.Paypal or credit card
Or purchase my book for a friend and so help them discover this free weekly journal.
For more online reading: The Lost Gardens: A Story of Two Vineyards and a Sobriety


Postcard from Italy

IMG_7368
Bonjour from Italy!
We are on a feverish 7-day foray through Italy. Our adventure began in Grasse, France, where we rented a camping car and began our gradual climb to the Dolomites. I had a strange tingle in my throat the night of our departure and by day 3 on the road the flu had its “grippe” on me! But Jean-Marc’s sense of adventure has kept me gripping the passenger seat of our camper, forgetting my aches and pains. I’ll tell you more in next week’s post. For now, hello from Parma… on the road home. 

un abbraccio,

Kristi 

P.S. We are also celebrating 29 years since tying the knot at the Mairie in Marseille (we celebrate our church wedding in September). Alors, hats off to us. Le mariage c’est une longue aventure!

note: grippe = flu in French

COMMENTS 
To leave a comment, click here

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REMERCIEMENTS
Sincere thanks to the following readers who recently sent in a blog donation or purchased our online memoir. This truly is a reader-supported journal and I appreciate your help in publishing it week after week. Merci beaucoup! --Kristi

Amy S.
Mary F.
Chris A.
Terry S.
Owen A.
Denise G.
Andrew K.
Rob & Pat W.

A Message from KristiOngoing support from readers like you keeps me writing and publishing this free language journal each week. If you find joy or value in these stories and would like to keep this site going, donating today will help so much. Thank you for being a part of this community and helping me to maintain this site and its newsletter.

Ways to contribute:
1.Zelle®, The best way to donate and there are no transaction fees. Zelle to [email protected]

2.Paypal or credit card
Or purchase my book for a friend and so help them discover this free weekly journal.
For more online reading: The Lost Gardens: A Story of Two Vineyards and a Sobriety


A Hidden Beach in Cassis, Freedom & Laughter = Eclats de rire!

Beach in Cassis
Following Jean-Marc's wine tour... lunch with Elizabeth’s family and friends at a hidden beach in Cassis. Left to right: Katie, Olivia, Victor, Kristi, Lily, Elizabeth, and Jean-Marc. 

For today's story, I asked Chatgpt to summarize the English text in one French word. Here's the response I got: "A word in French that summarizes your story could be "Éclat" which means "Radiance" or "Sparkle." It represents the vibrant and joyful atmosphere depicted in the narrative." Thanks, Chatgpt! And for anyone reading, find out where the joy and sparkle come from when you read the rest of this post.

TODAY'S WORD: un éclat

    : radiance, sparkle

un éclat de rire = a burst of laughter

A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE by Kristi Espinasse

Sometime in the last week, les cigales woke up from their 5-year siesta and now they are screeching their lungs out. While that is a funny image, I guess it isn't entirely correct. That ear-piercing trille may be produced in some other energetic way, leaving me wondering where cicadas get all their peps in summer's heatwave.

I, too, am feeling unusually peppy this sweltering afternoon as I skip over to Mom's to share a recent adventure. As I reach the side of our villa and approach the sliding glass door to Chez Jules, a few black and white birds fly off. The royal blue patch on their backs is now a blur as the magpies disappear into the giant parasol pines above. I shake my head in appreciation. Mom is getting very close to taming those pies now that she's won over les tourterelles, les pigeons, les hérissons and a few stray cats. The trail of crumbled croquettes (appealing to birds, cats, and hedgehogs alike) leads right up to her baie vitrée. Sliding open the door, I enter the studio. Bookshelves flank the entry with each and every treasure Jules has rescued from the neighborhood “street library” in the 5 years since moving here from Mexico.

My mom is finishing her dinner. A copy of Battlefield of the Mind is propped open on the kitchen island (more books line the shelves below) and I see Mom's been busy with her green marker, underlining important passages. It seems Joyce Meyer is off Mom's liste noire for the moment. (Pastors walk a fine line with Mama Jules.)

"Whatcha got in there?" I say, smiling towards the frying pan. Looks like it's saumon et patates today, and it always hits the spot. Comfort food, Mom might say. Jules's fan is whirring from the kitchen counter. To think just last week the little space heater was propped up on that same comptoir. And now, le ventilateur. It's broken (and only goes up to the second speed) but it's fine, Mom assures me. Not one year ago that same fan was carefully placed on the floor, all for dear old Smokey's comfort. I can still see his golden locks fluttering in the "breeze," and my throat gets a lump as I recall the memory. 

"So what's new?" Mom asks and I tell her all about our lively lunch in Cassis with Elizabeth, Victor, and the girls. It all happened after Elizabeth responded to an announcement in my newsletter for one of Jean-Marc's wine tours...et voilà after several hours together in Cassis, I was feeling that kind of refreshment that comes from being in soulful company. Elizabeth's daughter, Olivia, and her friends, Lily and Katie just graduated from Georgetown. What a feeling that must be to have secured jobs after earning their degrees. And now to be toasting above the Mediterranean Sea. Tchin-tchin!

In a paillote above a hidden beach in Cassis, we shared deep-fried fleurs de courgettes, les accras, and crevettes and chatted about France, Charlotte N.C. and everything in between. That's when I realized I was the last person on earth to learn about Lorde--the girls' favorite singer.

I had been telling the girls about my job as a blogger--sharing about my readership (including Elizabeth, whose been a faithful lectrice since 2006) as well as a disheartening trend: this past 5 years, with the expanse of social media, blog subscribership has plunged. "These days people enjoy short snippets from Instagram or Facebook, and "reels" or videos that are no longer than 10 seconds," I explained.

That's when Lily told me about Lorde, the famous young singer who went off social media and began a weekly newsletter. All the girls agreed they enjoyed reading the longer format. It gave me such hope to know young people are signing on to newsletters and taking the time to read them. Algorithms be gone!

I returned home from that meetup feeling refreshed. "It's good to see you this happy," Mom said, as Lili the cat curled up between us." It was the second or third time Mom said it and, for a moment I felt a little defensive, as in, what do you usually see me as? Grumpy? 

This was no time to take things personally. "We all like to see each other happy," I replied. And with that, Mom and I began counting our blessings. Our conversation ended in les éclats de rire as I repeated a positive affirmation Mom first shared back when I was a teenager. Now, at 55 (and a little touchy from hormonal changes...) it still resonates: 

I'm on top, in touch, and in tune with myself
I like who I am and I'm glad to be me!
I'M FREE!

I may have made up that last line. But I like it and it's the message I'm leaving you with today, dear reader. Be free... on top, in touch, and in tune. I realize, now, that this is what I had experienced at lunch: a thoughtful group of people who were in tune with themselves and the world around them. And this was a blessing!

I leave you with another blessing, below, my wise Mom, and wish you all a happy weekend. 

Amicalement,

Kristi

Jules and Smokey
A photo of my Mom, Jules, and Smokey from last summer.

COMMENTS
Thank you for your comments and corrections, which are much appreciated. Click here to comment.

 

FRENCH VOCABULARY

Click here to listen to Jean-Marc and Kristi pronounce the French and English terms

un éclat
= radiance, sparkle, glow
la cigale
= cicada (funny, « cigale » can also mean « spendthrift »)
le trille = trill
le peps = pep
la villa
= house
la pie = magpie
la tourterelle = dove
le hérisson = hedgehog
la croquette = dry food, kibble
la baie vitrée = arcadia window, sliding glass door
le saumon = salmon
la patate = potato (in informal French)
le comptoir = counter
et voilà = and just like that
tchin-tchin! = cheers!
la paillote = wooden structure, hut (usually near a beach)
la fleur de courgette = zucchini flower
les accras
= Caribbean fish fritters
la crevette = shrimp
un lecteur, une lectrice = reader
les éclats de rire = laughter
la bénédiction = blessing

Wine tour at Domaine du Paternel
Visiting Domaine du Paternel in Cassis

REMERCIEMENTS
Sincere thanks to the following readers who recently sent in a blog donation or purchased our online memoir. This truly is a reader-supported journal and I appreciate your help in publishing it week after week. Merci beaucoup! --Kristi

Al K.
Bob O.
Debra L.
Elaine M.

Cleeve C.
Marcia L
Jenean L.
Jeanne G.
C-Marie P.

And special thanks to Elizabeth and Victor for reserving a wine tour with Jean-Marc, and for your thoughtful note:
"All of us found both you and Jean-Marc to be just such a joy to be with... You are such a warm couple and both so good at your work and we love how you support each other. I love that both your jobs involve sharing your joie de vie and love for France and connecting with others."

Chateau de Pibarnon
Enjoying a wine-tasting at Chateau de Pibarnon in Bandol with Eric de St. Victor.

If anyone reading would like to reserve a wine tour with Jean-Marc, click here for more information

 

Plage du Corton in Cassis France
This hidden beach nestled beneath the cliff in Cassis is Plage du Corton. On the right, you can just glimpse la paillote where we ate lunch.

A Message from KristiOngoing support from readers like you keeps me writing and publishing this free language journal each week. If you find joy or value in these stories and would like to keep this site going, donating today will help so much. Thank you for being a part of this community and helping me to maintain this site and its newsletter.

Ways to contribute:
1.Zelle®, The best way to donate and there are no transaction fees. Zelle to [email protected]

2.Paypal or credit card
Or purchase my book for a friend and so help them discover this free weekly journal.
For more online reading: The Lost Gardens: A Story of Two Vineyards and a Sobriety


"Ebloui": Star-struck in St. Tropez at Club 55 with Roger Federer

Club 55 Pampelonne beach St Tropez France
Cushioned matelas and grassy paillotes on the beach at Club 55 in Ramatuelle near St. Tropez

TODAY'S WORD: EBLOUI (ay-bloo-ee)

    : star-struck, dazzled

The following news headline is from Tennisworld.fr. (English translation by Chatgpt) 

Elena Rybakina, éblouie en voyant Roger Federer pour la première fois. Elena Rybakina a admis qu'elle était en état de choc lorsqu'elle a vu le grand Roger Federer pour la première fois en personne. Elena Rybakina, dazzled upon seeing Roger Federer for the first time. Elena Rybakina admitted that she was in a state of shock when she saw the great Roger Federer in person for the first time.

A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE by Kristi Espinasse

While my family's visit to France was the chance to spend time together, it was also a tender pèlerinage for my sister, Heidi, and her children, who lost their father a few years ago. My brother-in-law Doug was a larger-than-life character whose generosity, humor, and sharp wit still echo in our hearts to this day along with colorful memories from our time together on the Mediterranean.

The last time Doug was in France was in 2002. He was married to my sister, and they traveled across the French Riviera with baby Payne in tow. We stayed together in a rented villa perched in the hills of St. Maxime--perfect for venturing over to St. Tropez to the iconic Club 55 on Pampelonne beach. I barely remember that particular escapade, over 20 years ago (rosé wine and champagne are partly to blame), but today my head is clearer and on Sunday, with 8 members of our smala piled into two tiny economy cars, we made that pilgrimage back to St. Tropez for Father's Day.

After an hour on the sandy beach and a swim in the sea, we ambled up the wooden ramp to the outdoor resto de plage. The tables were dressed in white linen and there were thick cushions on the banquettes where we gathered for an ideal view of the well-heeled clientele. It was amusing to rub elbows with the elite or those who seemed to be…

Jean-Marc ordered a modest bottle of white, and I thanked God nobody suggested the champagne. In fact, every time anyone ordered something—fries, more ratatouille, or another bottle of sparkling water, my inner calculator sweated out a new total. (My sister and I were splitting this bill…)

But it was time to let go, lâcher prise and enjoy the experience and, from the look on their faces, this was a moment my family will recall forever. We raised our glasses of wine (sparkling water for me...) in hommage to Doug. The food was served and my sister was just finishing a discreet prayer when there was a sudden commotion. All eyes were now glued to the entrance. That is when my 21-year-old nephew, Payne, whispered, "It's Roger Federer!"

To say my tennis-crazed husband began to hyperventilate would be an exaggeration. But one thing was clear: Jean-Marc was genuinely star-struck--complètement ébloui! He grabbed his phone, excited to capture this incredible event: the appearance of his idol, the legendary tennis giant, Swiss-born Federer!

"Jean-Marc, you can't!" I began. "Put your phone away!" But when the rest of my family displayed a laisser-faire attitude, I took that as a reminder that some things--especially our live-life-to-the-fullest spouses--are out of our control.   

To my surprise, Jean-Marc put down his phone but he couldn't help but gawk when Federer et compagnie sat just two tables away. The words QUELLE CHANCE were written all over my husband's face and, faster than you can say SAPERLIPOPETTE, Jean-Marc flew out of his chair and he was gone....

By the time we caught sight of him, it was too late, he was sneaking around the periphery of the restaurant. What in tarnation was he up to?!

"Is he going to see Federer?" my niece, Reagan, questioned. 

Our table erupted in laughter (and, for some of us, gasps) as we watched Jean-Marc weave around the crowded restaurant only to disappear. "Maybe he is borrowing a staff uniform and he's going to pretend to be a waiter?" my son Max guessed.

"Or a sommelier?" I chuckled, finally letting go of any control. Let him be. After all, c'est La Fête des Pères!

When my husband returned from his mysterious périple, I did not ask him any questions. Instead, I looked around the table at all of my family, one by one, smile after smile, and relished this moment together.  Turning to my husband, I shared this growing sourire. "This is your best Father's Day ever, n'est-ce pas?" His eyes twinkled it was.

I like to think some of that twinkling was reflecting down from the stars above, stars invisible to the daylight. Just because we cannot see things does not mean they are not there, lost loved ones included. To my brother-in-law, Doug, this one is for you--Payne, Reagan, and Heidi, too.

XOXO,
Kristi

COMMENTS
To leave a comment, click here. Extra credit if you tell me what town you are writing in from :-)

Family at Cafe Senequier
My family at Le Café Senequier in St. Tropez: Ana, Payne, Jackie, Heidi, Reagan, Max, me, and Jean-Marc

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My 21-year-old nephew, Payne, in St. Tropez
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My 19-year-old niece, Réré (Reagan), and daughter Jackie, now 25

Ana  reagan  jackiee  kristi at club 55 st tropez
Ana (Max's girlfriend), Reagan, Jackie, and me. Notice the funny sign (translation at the end of this post)

Heidi at the Senequier
My sister, Heidi, at Le Café Sénéquier in St. Tropez

FRENCH VOCABULARY

Listen to the vocabulary in French and in English, click here

le matelas = mattress
la paillote = beach hut
ébloui(e) = star struck, dazzled
le pèlerinage = pilgrimage
une escapade = adventure
la smala = family, brood
le resto (or restau) de plage = beach restaurant
la banquette = seat, booth seat
la ratatouille = ratatouille (listen to the difference, click on the soundfile)
lâcher prise = to give up, to let go
quelle chance = what luck!
saperlipopette! = good heavens!
la fête des pères = Father's Day
et compagnie = and friends
le périple = expedition, journey
le sourire = smile

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Thanks, Susie, for asking about Jules. Our mom is fine and she says this photo is for you. Here's Jules with her grandchildren, Reagan and Payne.

REMERCIEMENTS 
To the following readers who this past week sent in a blog donation your contribution towards publishing this blog is the key to its longevity! I am sincerely grateful for your support. Merci beaucoup! --Kristi

”Thank you for starting my day with a smile!” —Michael P.
"I love your blog and appreciate the amount of time you put into it. Many thanks.” —Bonnie R

Jill F.
Sue W.
Gary H.
Liviu P.
Karin G.
Mimi M.
Susan V.

Bonnie R.
Natalia R.
Michael P.
Mary Jo C.

Kristin Espinasse St Tropez Club 55
Relaxing on Le Banc des Menteurs - "The Liars Bench"

A Message from KristiOngoing support from readers like you keeps me writing and publishing this free language journal each week. If you find joy or value in these stories and would like to keep this site going, donating today will help so much. Thank you for being a part of this community and helping me to maintain this site and its newsletter.

Ways to contribute:
1.Zelle®, The best way to donate and there are no transaction fees. Zelle to [email protected]

2.Paypal or credit card
Or purchase my book for a friend and so help them discover this free weekly journal.
For more online reading: The Lost Gardens: A Story of Two Vineyards and a Sobriety


“Smala” & Family Visit to Cassis, Aix-en-Provence, Marseilles

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My family visiting Cassis: Kristi, Reagan, Heidi, Payne, Jean-Marc, and Max

TODAY’S Word: smala (smah-lah) noun, feminine

    : entourage, big family (famille nombreuse)

from the Arabic, zmalah: tribe

A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE by Kristi Espinasse

This first week with my American family has gone by en vitesse! Beaches, the farmers market, snorkeling in the Mediterranean and even cliff diving (for the guys). What a whirlwind good time it's been with Heidi, Payne, and Reagan since they flew in from Denver to Marseilles via Munich. So far we've visited La Ciotat, Aix-en-Provence, and Cassis and now my sister and her kids are in Paris (those last two cities rhyme if you pronounce them correctly…).

It was the first time my 19-year-old niece and 21-year-old nephew have been to France (not counting when Payne was a baby), and it was fun to hear their reactions to the culture (for them, the French light switches were backward, the toilet handle wasn't a handle (but something you pulled--thus the verb "tirer la chasse"--and a few other bizarreries in their Aunt Kristi's household for which we can't blame France!

A highlight of my family's visit was meeting up with my French family, thanks to Max who organized la sortie. My belle-soeur Cécile, beau-frère Jacques and his girlfriend Mariem joined us at the Vieux Port in Marseilles at Ciao Marcello for pizza. Though half the group could not understand each other, in the end language wasn't a barrier and our our mini réunion de famille was un succès.  After a 2-hour lunch we kissed each other goodbye. That is when a cozy feeling came over me as foreign word began to echo in my mind…. 

Smala. The word, borrowed from Arabic, means big family or entourage. As the word smala filled my mind, so did an appreciation for this chance to finally have my family in France for an extended period of time—time enough to, well, be a family in France: cooking together, cleaning together, caring for our Mom/Grandmother together, and especially laughing and loving together. At one of our big dinners on the front porch, I looked over at Jules and said: “Can you believe we are all here? All your kids and all your grandkids! We are all here because of you… “ Jules was visibly moved.

I was kicking myself this morning for not boarding the TGV to Paris with my sister and the kids for even more time with family. But I have a few obligations here at home....and just as soon as I typed those words I realized "will those obligations matter a year from now?"

The truth is, downtime is good. It is now thundering outside and the rain is pouring down—a good time to sit back and review some photos from this past week. I leave you with some of my favorite pictures and we'll see you next week for more updates from le bercail (another cozy word for home). 

Prenez soin de vous et à bientôt,

Kristi

COMMENTS
To leave a comment, click here. I would love to know what city you are writing from. Merci.

STORY ARCHIVES
Another highlight of my sister’s visit was visiting Flavia and Fabrice in St. Maximin. I wrote a story about a memorable meal there a few years ago, « Pour Vivre Heureux Vivre Caché » (To Live Happy, Live Hidden)

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My nephew and niece is Cassis

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Heidi, Reagan, and Payne in Cassis

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Thank you so much, Jean-Marc, for driving us around and for being a great guide.

FRENCH VOCABULARY

Click here to listen to the French and English terms

la smala = entourage, family
en vitesse = quickly, rapidly
Cassis = Cassis
Paris = Paris
tirer la chasse = to flush the toilet
bizarreries = peculiarities
la sortie = the outing
la belle-sœur = sister-in-law
le beau-frère =
brother-in-law
la réunion de famille
= family reunion 
un succès = a success
le TGV (le train à grande vitesse) = fast train
le bercail = home (slang)
Prenez soin de vous et à bientôt = take care and see you soon

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Heidi, in Aix

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Ana and Max making us dinner chez Max


REMERCIEMENTS
To the following readers who this past week sent in a blog donation or purchased our online memoir, your contribution towards publishing this blog is the key to its longevity! I am sincerely grateful for your support. Merci beaucoup! --Kristi

Susan D.
Jed M.
Eileen D.
Jeanine C.
Virginia G.
Deborah H.
Susan H.

 

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Sisters. Thanks to my son’s lovely girlfriend, Ana, for this photo.

A Message from KristiOngoing support from readers like you keeps me writing and publishing this free language journal each week. If you find joy or value in these stories and would like to keep this site going, donating today will help so much. Thank you for being a part of this community and helping me to maintain this site and its newsletter.

Ways to contribute:
1.Zelle®, The best way to donate and there are no transaction fees. Zelle to [email protected]

2.Paypal or credit card
Or purchase my book for a friend and so help them discover this free weekly journal.
For more online reading: The Lost Gardens: A Story of Two Vineyards and a Sobriety


A Little Tour of La Ciotat, France. Allez! On y va!

View of la ciotat port from below the lighthouse
"A Diamond in the Rough" that's the best way I can describe our coastal town. And while it may not be chichi like Cassis, Bandol, or Sanary… La Ciotat has more character in its little pinky than all three. Can you sense our salty sea breeze coming from the turquoise bay just below?

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TODAY'S WORD: LE QUAI

    : wharf, pier

A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE by Kristi Espinasse

When our vineyard went under contract and my husband tossed La Ciotat into the pot of possible places to relocate, I flinched. Not because of any particular impression I ever got from visiting here, but because this town has (or had…) a reputation as a place that is mal fréquenté.

Bref, La Ciotat isn't one of those gems you hear about when discussing charming French destinations. But the tides are turning and the beaches here are blindé—so completely packed you cannot see the sand for les serviettes--that is, you can hardly find a spot to put down your beach towel. And while the beaches here have always attracted sunbathers (they come from Marseille and hang out all day), the city is now attracting an international crowd.

By the times you receive this letter, my sister, niece and nephew will be landing in Marseilles and I will be excited to show them our not-so-new digs (hard to believe we moved here 6 years ago). Here are some of the places we will see. Enjoy the pictures and related text and see you next week for an update!

Amicalement,
Kristi

Plage mugel
Mugel Beach. Our personal favorite, La Plage Mugel, is known for its clear turquoise waters and the shallow depth near the shore makes it safe for children to play and paddle. There is an authentic restaurant above the beach, but many locals enjoy picnicking, as we sometimes do, at the water's edge. (And do not miss my Dad's joie-de-vivre swim)

Les trois secs ilots in la ciotat
The big rock you see en face, is part of Les Trois Secs (The Three Drys)--three rocky islets located off the coast of our town. This beautiful calanque offers opportunities for snorkeling, diving, and exploring marine life in these crystal-clear waters.

The old port in La Ciotat France
(click the above link if the photo isn't appearing! I'm having technical issues with my blog...)

The Old Port with boats ranging in size (from these small wooden “pointus”) and price (to the new multi-million euro yachts). All around the port there are restaurants and even a few shops and art galleries. At one point this former industrial shipping town was known as a seedy place, but the locals might fiercely disagree. The new commercial centers look seedy to them, and who can argue with that? Meantime the heart of La Ciotat, which ripples out from this port, is colorful, lively, and full of soul, mirroring the locals.

Stele marines who died in service la ciotat
A la memoire--In memory. There are at least 2 stèles, or memorial stones in La Ciotat. This one, near the green lighthouse on the old port, is for the 74 submariners who disappeared at sea in 1943.

Stele honoring the  Lumiere brothers in la ciotat
This stèle commemorates the Lumière brothers, Auguste and Louis, pioneers in the field of cinematography. La Ciotat is known as the birthplace of cinema, and the Lumière brothers played a significant role in its development. 
Eden Theatre oldest functioning cinema in the world
Eden Theater, overlooking the New Port, is the oldest operational movie theater in the world! Inside, enjoy cozy seating on red velvet chairs, surrounded by balconies above.

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There are at least 5 beaches along the boardwalk and, unlike Paris (not that you can compare) there are plenty of clean public restrooms dotted along the boardwalk.

Dog on lumiere beach
Our town has beachy, doggy vibes—great for outdoor and dog lovers. That's Jean-Marc, right, in his towel and claquettes, or slides. To the left a very friendly beach bum we met last night. I hope you enjoyed today's photo blog. See you next week for more pictures and stories. A bientôt! Kristi

COMMENTS
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FRENCH VOCABULARY

Click here to listen to  the French and English terms below

le quai = the pier
Allez!
= come on!
on y va
= let’s go
chichi = fussy
La Ciotat 
Cassis
mal fréquenté
= of ill repute, seedy
bref =
in short
blindé
= full, jam-packed
la serviette
= beach towel 
les trois secs =
the three drys
La calanque
= rocky inlet
Les claquettes
= flip-flops, slides

REMERCIEMENTS
To the following readers who this past week sent in a blog donation or purchased our online memoir, your contribution towards publishing this blog is the key to its longevity! I am sincerely grateful for your support. Merci beaucoup! --Kristi

Cheryl M. 
Laura S.
Marti H.
June R.

A Message from KristiOngoing support from readers like you keeps me writing and publishing this free language journal each week. If you find joy or value in these stories and would like to keep this site going, donating today will help so much. Thank you for being a part of this community and helping me to maintain this site and its newsletter.

Ways to contribute:
1.Zelle®, The best way to donate and there are no transaction fees. Zelle to [email protected]

2.Paypal or credit card
Or purchase my book for a friend and so help them discover this free weekly journal.
For more online reading: The Lost Gardens: A Story of Two Vineyards and a Sobriety


"Bidou": A Do-It-Yourself Tummy Tuck in French (Bilingual Story)

Eden Theatre oldest functioning cinema in the world
Today, learn a tummy tuck trick my husband and I use on our morning walks. Passing by historic sites, such as the Eden Theatre--the oldest cinema in the world--is a helpful distraction as we do our "standing situps."

Are you an Expat who needs to file your tax return? Don't sweat it! Get $20 off when you use Expatfile software to begin the simplified process.

LE BIDOU (bee-do)

    : tummy, tum-tum

The word bidou is used by children or by adults speaking to children. Bidou is also a colloquial term used in casual conversation. Read on... 


A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE by Kristi Espinasse

"Brains are the New Six-Pack"

My husband and I have tweaked our morning walk to include a (not-so) simple exercise de ventre. By thoughtfully contracting our stomach muscles during the sweaty aller-retour to the port, we can tackle two goals at the same time: cardio fitness and improving core strength. The walking part is easy, the challenge is remembering to suck it in.... For this, we have a one-word reminder/call-to-action that really works:

"Bidou?"

Our prompt or truc de mémoire may be childish ("bidou" means "tummy" in baby talk) but boy is it effective! No sooner does one of us call "bidou?" than we instantly cave below the ribs. But not for long. In a matter of steps my mind is somewhere else, far from my midriff! Apparently, it isn't just my stomach that needs training, so does my brain.

To combat such flightiness, we've come up with an extra command: one of us will say "BIDOU?" and the other will name a target. We must hold it in until the You-Name-It destination. Let me give you an example:

Jean-Marc: "Bidou?"

Kristi (sucking it in):  "Oh, Merci! (for the needed reminder) "Bidou Bâteaux!" This is a signal to maintain it until we reach the boats 20 meters ahead. Once we reach the boats (or sometime in between, depending...), it's the other person's turn to keep us on track...

Kristi: "Bidou?"

Jean-Marc: "Oui oui! (my husband replies, confidently. But is he telling the truth? Has he really been holding it in all this time? Seems like it's always me saying merci! and him saying oui! oui!). Nevertheless, "Bidou Phare!" he suggests next.

Hold on! That's a little too far the phare. I know that in 10 or so meters I'm gonna accidentally let it all hang out. Therefore I humbly suggest, "Bidou Cinema?" (because the Eden movie theatre is only another 15 meters up ahead and I think this is a more realistic goal.)

No matter how amusing the game and how consistently we play it, more often than not I forget to keep my tummy tucked in. The good news is Jean-Marc and I are both improving. In fact, I was smack in the middle of a long stretch of holding it in when I saw a man with a very big bidou wearing a funny T-shirt. It read: "BRAINS ARE THE NEW SIX-PACK." 

I'm not a fan of smug T-shirts, but this one got me thinking about how both the French and the English have an unhealthy symbol for "muscular stomach": the French call toned abs une tablette de chocolat--a chocolate bar, picture six squares-- while the English call them "six-pack abs".

Next, I wondered, Does this Frenchman understand the English on his T-Shirt? Ah well, what does it matter? After all, his quirky message was beginning to sink in and make some sense to me. Because a flat stomach is, in my experience (not that I've yet experienced one....), the result of consistent brain power. Indeed, les cerveaux sont les nouveaux abdos!

COMMENTS
To read the comments to this post or to leave one, click here

Old wooden boats in the port capucin
Bidou Bateaux? Here is one of our targets--the old wooden boats in Port des Capucins.


FRENCH TRANSLATION by ChatGPT

"Les Cerveaux Sont Les Nouveaux  Abdos"

Mon mari et moi avons ajusté notre marche matinale pour y inclure un exercice de ventre (pas si simple). En contractant consciencieusement nos muscles abdominaux pendant notre aller-retour transpirant vers le port, nous pouvons atteindre deux objectifs simultanément : l'entraînement cardiovasculaire et le renforcement des muscles profonds. La marche est facile, le défi réside dans le souvenir de rentrer le ventre... Pour cela, nous avons un rappel en un mot qui fonctionne vraiment bien :

"Bidou ?"

Notre rappel ou truc mnémotechnique peut sembler enfantin ("bidou" signifie "ventre" dans le langage des tout-petits), mais il est incroyablement efficace ! À peine l'un de nous prononce "bidou ?" que nous rentrons instantanément le ventre en dessous des côtes. Mais pas pour longtemps. En quelques pas, mon esprit est ailleurs, loin de mon abdomen ! Apparemment, ce n'est pas seulement mon ventre qui a besoin d'exercice, mon cerveau aussi.

Pour contrer cette distraction, nous avons inventé une commande supplémentaire : l'un de nous dit "BIDOU ?" et l'autre nomme une cible. Nous devons le maintenir rentré jusqu'à la destination en question. Laissez-moi vous donner un exemple :

Jean-Marc : "Bidou ?"

Kristi (en rentrant le ventre) : "Oh, merci ! (pour le rappel nécessaire)" Puis "Bidou Bâteaux !" Cela signifie que nous devons le maintenir jusqu'à ce que nous atteignions les bateaux (à seulement 20 mètres devant nous). Une fois arrivés aux bateaux (ou quelque part entre les deux, selon les circonstances...), c'est au tour de l'autre de nous garder sur la bonne voie...

Kristi : "Bidou ?"

Jean-Marc : "Oui oui !" (mon mari répond avec confiance. Mais dit-il vraiment la vérité ? A-t-il vraiment rentré le ventre tout ce temps ? Il semble que je sois toujours celle qui dit merci ! et lui qui dit oui ! oui !). Néanmoins, il propose ensuite "Bidou Phare !".

Attendez ! Le phare est un peu trop loin. Je sais qu'à environ 10 mètres, je vais involontairement tout laisser pendre. Par conséquent, je suggère humblement, "Bidou Cinema ?" (car le cinéma n'est qu'à 15 mètres de là et je pense que c'est un objectif plus réaliste).

Peu importe à quel point le jeu est amusant et à quel point nous y jouons régulièrement, j'oublie souvent de garder mon ventre rentré. Mais nous nous améliorons tous les deux. En fait, j'étais en plein milieu d'une longue période de maintien lorsque j'ai vu un homme avec un très gros bidou portant un t-shirt drôle. Il était écrit : "Les cerveaux sont le nouveau pack de six".

Je ne suis pas fan des t-shirts arrogants, mais celui-ci m'a fait réfléchir sur le fait que les Français et les Anglais ont tous deux un symbole peu sain pour "ventre musclé" : les Français appellent les abdominaux tonifiés une "tablette de chocolat" - imaginez six carrés - tandis que les Anglais les appellent "six-pack abs".

Ensuite, je me suis demandé : ce Français comprend-il l'anglais sur son t-shirt ? Eh bien, peu importe. Après tout, son message original commençait à s'enraciner et à avoir du sens pour moi. Parce qu'un ventre plat est, d'après mon expérience (pas que j'en aie encore fait l'expérience...), le résultat d'un pouvoir cérébral constant. En effet, les cerveaux sont les nouveaux abdos!

RELATED STORY
Six-pack abs and The French Gut-Buster (Jean-Marc's new ab gizmo)

 

FRENCH VOCABULARY

Click here to listen to Jean-Marc and me read the vocabulary list


le cerveau = brain
le ventre = stomach
la marche = walk
le défi = challenge
un rappel = reminder
le bidou = tummy
efficace = efficient
les côtes = ribs
une cible = target
néanmoins = nevertheless
le phare = lighthouse
drôle = funny
une tablette de chocolat = chocolate bar

Old port and lighthouse at La Ciotat
Bidou Phare? Can you hold in your tummy from here to the lighthouse? A little concentration will help...

REMERCIEMENTS
Sincere thanks to the following readers who sent in a donation following our Thoughts About Adopting a Pet post. This truly is a reader-supported blog and I appreciate your help in publishing it. Merci beaucoup!

Marianne R.
Natalia R.
Linda H. (via Zelle)
Susan S.
Suzanne I.

I admire your good humor, honesty, and tenacity. Your articles are down-to-earth and honest. --Susan S.

Love your blog. I lost you on my account, many computer glitches. Happy to be a part of your lives. Wishing you and your family love, health, happiness, good fortune. Please keep writing… it brightens my day! ❤️ Suzanne I.

A Message from KristiOngoing support from readers like you keeps me writing and publishing this free language journal each week. If you find joy or value in these stories and would like to keep this site going, donating today will help so much. Thank you for being a part of this community and helping me to maintain this site and its newsletter.

Ways to contribute:
1.Zelle®, The best way to donate and there are no transaction fees. Zelle to [email protected]

2.Paypal or credit card
Or purchase my book for a friend and so help them discover this free weekly journal.
For more online reading: The Lost Gardens: A Story of Two Vineyards and a Sobriety


Engagement is a "faux ami" + Welcoming a Pet into the Family & Responsibility

Animal shelter dog cat refuge France
"Adopt Don't Shop"... is that even debatable? And yet the decision between adopting from a shelter or choosing a puppy from a breeder isn't always straightforward. Read Jean-Marc's essay about our current dog dilemma, and we welcome your thoughts and experiences in the comments. (Picture taken at one of the animal rescue centers we visited this month).

Today's word is a faux-ami or false cognate (or "false friend"): it resembles an English word but it has a different meaning:

L’ENGAGEMENT 

  : commitment 

"Engagement" in French refers to a commitment, promise, or involvement in a specific task, cause, or relationship. It is often used in contexts such as engagements in relationships, job contracts, or social and political commitments.

However, in English, the word "engagement" primarily refers to a period of time when two people have agreed to marry, or it can also mean involvement or participation in an activity or event. While there is some overlap in meaning between the French and English usage, the primary emphasis and connotation of the word differ. (https://chat.openai.com)

Example Sentence 
L'engagement de bien prendre soin d'un chien est essentiel lorsqu'on l'accueille dans sa famille. (The commitment to take good care of a dog is essential when welcoming them into one's family.)

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Autumn Excursion in France: "Women in Burgundy" - An adventure designed especially for "Wander-ful Women!" September 20 to 30, 2023 - Includes seven nights in Burgundy and three nights in Paris. Click HERE for details.


A FEW THOUGHTS ABOUT ADOPTING A DOG...

by Jean-Marc (English translation by chat.openai.com)

In 2006, we went on our summer vacation to the island of Groix in Brittany. During our stay, especially during our walks, we encountered many dogs, which delighted our family. Maxime and Jackie were 11 and 9 years old at the time, and I thought it was the right moment to welcome such an animal into our home. Our house had a large fenced garden and was located in a neighborhood with many walking paths. I believed that this provided a guarantee of comfort and important integration for the future member of our household, as well as for us.

After inquiring with veterinarians around Draguignan, we learned about a litter of Golden Retrievers. Through this channel, we met and chose Breizh (a name in Breton language that means "Brittany") when she was just a few months old in an animal shelter in Luc-en-Provence. Everything went really well with our little dog, and the children took great care of her. It was pure happiness for our extended family. Later on, she had a litter of puppies, and that's when we decided to keep her son, Smokey... and that's when the troubles began. I won't dwell too much on this because it's not the purpose of my text, but as the children naturally paid more attention to their friends than to the dogs, Breizh and Smokey, among their mischiefs, regularly ran away, causing us a lot of worries. It was then that we realized the immense responsibility of having a dog in the family.

Smokey and breizh goldenn retrievers
Breizh, Smokey and a bouquet of anemones

Now, as we find ourselves without a furry companion and after mourning the loss of Smokey last July, the temptation is strong to consider welcoming another one. Kristi and I recently visited two dog shelters. The overall feeling that comes to mind is that these animals suffer a double injustice. After being abandoned and often mistreated, they live confined in small cages, despite the kind-hearted volunteers who come to walk them. Adopting them is indeed a true act of love, but is it always the right solution? Because an adult dog from a shelter carries a heavy past that needs to be overcome. It is possible that they may never fully recover from their trauma, and I humbly admit that if it brings us additional troubles, I prefer not to take that risk. According to me, having a dog should be a pleasure for its owner, and it is this joy that will make the animal happy. In the opposite case, it becomes a suffering for both, which is why it is crucial to think carefully before making such a decision. Too often, without proper consideration, families are enticed by a puppy or even an adult dog from a shelter, but if the general conditions of care are not met, the animal unfortunately ends up alone and confined again. At best, if the family brings them back to the shelter, and at worst, they are abandoned on a highway rest area, as often happens at the beginning of summer vacations.

To be honest with you, I think Kristi and I are a bit lost about whether it's the right time for us to have a dog again, and if so, whether we should adopt from a shelter or go to a breeder to choose a puppy. In the end, we're leaving things up to chance, with the idea that it's more up to the future dog to come to us, and if it happens, we'll know it's the right one.

 

QUELQUES RÉFLEXIONS SUR L'ADOPTION D'UN CHIEN...

by Jean-Marc

En 2006, nous sommes allés passer nos vacances d'été sur l'île de Groix en Bretagne. Pendant notre séjour et particulièrement au cours de nos balades, nous avons croisé de nombreux chiens, ce qui a plu à notre famille. Maxime et Jackie avaient 11 et 9 ans à l'époque et je me suis dit que c'était le bon moment d'accueillir un tel animal chez nous. Notre maison avait un grand jardin clôturé et se situait dans un quartier avec de nombreux chemins de balades. Je me suis dit que cela constituait un gage de confort et d'intégration important pour le futur membre de notre foyer, comme pour nous d'ailleurs.

Renseignements pris auprès des vétérinaires autour de Draguignan, nous avons eu vent d'une portée de Golden Retriever. C'est par ce biais que nous avons rencontré et choisi Breizh (nom en langage Breton pour désigner la Bretagne) lorsqu'elle avait juste quelques mois dans un refuge au Luc en Provence. Tout s'est vraiment bien passé avec notre petite chienne, les enfants s'en occupaient très bien et ce n'était que du bonheur pour notre famille agrandie. Par la suite, elle a eu une portée de chiots et c'est à ce moment que que nous avons décidé de garder son fils Smokey... et que les soucis ont démarré. Je ne veux pas trop m'attarder sur cela car ce n'est pas le propos de mon texte mais, alors que les enfants pensaient naturellement plus à leurs amis qu'aux chiens, que Breizh et Smokey, parmi leurs bêtises, fuguaient régulièrement (nous provoquant beaucoup de soucis)... on se rend alors compte de l'immense responsabilité qu'est d'avoir un chien dans sa famille.

A l'heure où nous nous retrouvons sans toutou et après avoir fait le deuil de Smokey en Juillet dernier, la tentation maintenant est grande de penser à nouveau d'en accueillir un. Kristi et moi avons récemment visité deux refuges pour chien. Le sentiment général qui me vient à l'esprit est que ces animaux subissent une double injustice car après avoir été abandonnés et souvent mal traités, ils vivent enfermés dans une petite cage, ce malgré les bonnes âmes bénévoles qui viennent les promener. Les adopter est donc un vrai acte d'amour mais est-ce toujours la bonne solution? Car un chien adulte issu d'un refuge a son lourd passé qu'il va falloir évacuer. Il se peut d'ailleurs qu'il ne remette pas de son traumatisme et j'avoue humblement penser que si cela doit nous apporter des soucis supplémentaires, je préfère ne pas prendre ce risque. Avoir un chien doit, selon moi, être un plaisir pour son maître et c'est cette joie qui rendra l'animal heureux. Dans le cas inverse, c'est une souffrance pour les deux et c'est pour cela qu'il est très important de bien réfléchir avant de prendre une telle décision. Trop souvent et sans avoir bien considéré la chose, des familles se font séduire par un chiot ou même un chien adulte de refuge mais les conditions générales d'accueil n'étant pas réunies, l'animal va malheureusement se retrouver à nouveau seul et enfermé, au mieux si sa famille le ramène au refuge et au pire si il a été abandonné sur une aire d'autoroute comme souvent cela se passe au début des vacances d'été.

Pour tout vous dire, je pense que Kristi et moi sommes un peu perdus pour savoir si c'est le bon moment pour nous d'avoir à nouveau un chien et dans un tel cas, si nous devons adopter dans un refuge ou si nous devons aller dans un élevage pour choisir un bébé. Finalement, nous laissons le hasard faire les choses avec l'idée que c'est plus au futur chien de venir à nous et que, si cela se passe, nous saurons que c'est le bon.

Jean-marc smokey kids in Collioures
Jean-Marc, our kids, and Smokey years ago in Collioure.

FRENCH VOCABULARY

Click here to listen to the French and English terms below

1. Engagement - (m) - Commitment
2. Île - (f) - Island
3. Vacances - (f/pl) - Vacation/holidays
4. Été - (m) - Summer
5. Balades - (f/pl) - Walks/strolls
6. Chien - (m) - Dog
7. Maison - (f) - House
8. Jardin - (m) - Garden
9. Clôturé(e) - (adj) - Fenced
10. Confort - (m) - Comfort
11. Vétérinaires - (m/pl) - Veterinarians
12. Portée - (f) - Litter
13. Golden Retriever - (m) - Golden Retriever
14. Breizh - (f) - Name (in Breton) for Brittany
15. Mois - (m) - Months
16. Chiot - (m) - Puppy
17. Soucis - (m/pl) - Troubles/worries
18. Malades - (m/pl) - Sick
19. Responsabilité - (f) - Responsibility
20. Refuges - (m/pl) - Shelters
21. Adoption - (f) - Adoption

RELATED STORY
Do you know about France's rule for naming purebred dogs? Learn about the initial-based convention for dog registry (and find out what Breizh means in French)

Griffon dog at animal shelter in france
 A "Griffon" we saw at one of the animal shelters. Do you have tips on how to best welcome a shelter dog into a home? Share in the comments.

EXPAT TAX HELP
Are you an American living outside the US and struggling to complete your taxes? I just turned in mine last week and the process was simple, straightforward, and inexpensive using this US expat tax filing software and this special offer.

Dog on window ledge in france
Spotted just this morning in La Ciotat: local dog enjoying the maritime breeze. One ear up to determine the direction of the days wind.

REMERCIEMENTS
Mille mercis to the following readers who sent in a donation following my Expat Taxes post. This truly is a reader-supported journal and I appreciate your help in keeping it going!

Rajeev B.
Lainey M.
Barbara B.
Patricia S.
Vicki B.
John C.
Francis B.
Judy F.

Smokey golden retriever and kristi
Visiting Ile de Ré with Smokey.

A Message from KristiOngoing support from readers like you keeps me writing and publishing this free language journal each week. If you find joy or value in these stories and would like to keep this site going, donating today will help so much. Thank you for being a part of this community and helping me to maintain this site and its newsletter.

Ways to contribute:
1.Zelle®, The best way to donate and there are no transaction fees. Zelle to [email protected]

2.Paypal or credit card
Or purchase my book for a friend and so help them discover this free weekly journal.
For more online reading: The Lost Gardens: A Story of Two Vineyards and a Sobriety


Vachement Content! How I filed my Expat Taxes Early (and Easily)

image from french-word-a-day.typepad.com
Oh happy day in La Ciotat! I've filed my US expat taxes and now I can go out and play! It only took a few hours thanks to this excellent tax software at Expatfile. Now, don't miss today's non-taxing story. 

"VACHEMENT CONTENT(E)"

    : chuffed, very pleased

A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE by Kristi Espinasse

Chuffed is a word I use so infrequently I could count on one hand the number of times I've said it. Today, it perfectly describes this feeling of satisfaction. I am chuffed, chuffed, so very chuffed to have completed my taxes on my own this year!

Chuffed, chuffed, chuffed! (In French that'd be vachement contente!) Now maybe you're thinking, Well, Mrs. Kristi, what's so chuffy about doing your own taxes? I do mine all on my own!  Yes, but are you navigating the complex terrain that is US expat taxes? Are you a "resident alien"? I've been sweating over my international tax requirements--specifically my US federal tax return--ever since 2005, when I learned I had to report my income to the IRS--even though I live full-time in France and co-file here with my French husband.

I did my own taxes that fateful year, thanks to the help of another "resident alien", Sharon, who had some good news for me: thanks to American tax treaties with France I would most likely not owe any money to the Internal Revenue Service.  I printed out all of the forms and somehow managed (thanks to Sharon!) to submit my first 1040 from overseas.

But I didn't want to bother my friend every year. So around 7 years ago, I learned about an expat tax service for Americans abroad. I used them up until two days ago, when I heard myself ruminating, I don't want to pay another $600 for tax preparation this year! I realized I was doing most of the work myself, via their online software, and even correcting mistakes made by the IRS-enrolled tax agent (and I'm not the smartest crayon in the box, either...).

So this year I googled "expat tax software" and stumbled onto Expatfile.com (they do not know me and I am not being paid for this enthusiastic report. However, I will receive referral fees should any other "aliens" (in France, Germany, England, or on the Moon) file their US taxes with Expatfile via any link in this post--and here's why you should:

Simple and Fast: While the record for one of their clients is "6 minutes" (talk about alien intelligence!), it took me just two hours. But that's because I took my own sweet time (I need time to overthink instructions and to constantly second-guess myself).

Inexpensive: This year I paid $189 for tax help at Expatfile.com. Did I tell you that up until now I've paid $600 each year for tax assistance? Considering I made less than $15,000 in 2022 from all three of my jobs (blogger, columnist, and author), that's a big chunk of cash to pay (4 percent of my income) for help filing my US federal tax return. I already pay a whopping $1600, yearly, to send out this newsletter via a listserver and my blog expenses don't stop there. Thankfully I am finally learning to list all expenses for the IRS--including a home-office a.k.a. Formerly My Daughter's Bedroom (deduct $5 per square foot with a maximum of 300 square feet).

Responsive: I don't know if "Matt" is an AI robot, but when I asked him for a discount after signing on at ExpatFile.com he immediately gave me 10 bucks off and remained super attentive for each question that followed. Thanks, Matt! (I can't guarantee you'll get the same discount but one should always ask.) Just like I asked the cashier at the supermarket whether he'd taken into account the 10 percent discount noted on the eggrolls. "Yes," he assured me. Only, when I got home and looked at the receipt, I saw he'd neglected to punch in the 20 percent discount for the chipolatas! So ask and verify. It all adds up.

Adds up: And so will my savings now that I'm no longer paying an extra 350 dollars a year for tax help. And I've been shouting it from the rooftops ever since I turned in my 2022 taxes. But each time I brag about my $350 savings--someone wants a piece of the pie! That is, my own family now wants to tax me...

...Jean-Marc says I can put it in the cagnotte (piggy bank) to buy him a Porche. (As if!)
...Max suggested I spend it on a cool birthday present (he turns 28 today! Happy Birthday, Mr. Son!)
...My sister, Heidi, hinted I might spring for lunch when my family from Denver arrives in 3 weeks.

No sooner did I save all this money, than a bunch of Sticky Fingers want to help spend it! I'm gonna go chat with Matt (the robot?) now and see if he has any more advice--now that my family wants "un petit tax" from me too. Meantime, if you are a US expat anywhere in the Universe and are struggling over taxes, don't sweat it. Update: You will get an even better deal than me: $20 off when you use this link. Go to Expatfile to begin the simple filing process.

 

EXPAT TAX FACTS

  • Only 2 countries in the world have Citizenship-based taxation: the US and Eritrea (a Northeast African country whose name means "Red Sea". Expats from there are truly seeing red when tax season comes around!)  
  • A number of Americans abroad are so frustrated about filing US taxes they're giving up their citizenship.
  • You are required by law to file your taxes as a US citizen living abroad, but you won't necessarily undergo double taxation (the US has tax treaties in place to avoid this).
  • However innocent, you may need to file and "FBAR" (Report of Foreign Bank and Financial Accounts) with Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN), as I just did. 
  • As an expat you have an automatic extension through June 15th to file your taxes. Why not begin, as I did, this week? See the low pricing options over at Expatfile and remember--Matt is there to help you! 

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Autumn Excursion in France: "Women in Burgundy" - An adventure designed especially for "Wander-ful Women!" September 20 to 30, 2023 - Includes seven nights in Burgundy and three nights in Paris. Click HERE for details.

FRENCH VOCABULARY
This time we'll focus on tax-related terms....

Click to listen to the list in French and in English

1. Les impôts - Taxes
2. La déclaration fiscale - Tax return
3. Le résident fiscal - Tax resident
4. Les traités fiscaux - Tax treaties
5. Les déductions fiscales - Tax deductions
6. Le contrôle fiscal - Tax audit
7. Le taux d'imposition - Tax rate
8. La période fiscale - Tax period
9. La réglementation fiscale - Tax regulations
10. Le compte bancaire étranger - Foreign bank account

image from french-word-a-day.typepad.com
Au revoir, for now, and thank you for reading. Here's an interesting blog for those interested in France and genealogy: Anne Morddel's French Geneology Blog. Enjoy!

REMERCIEMENTS

In French, a patron or supporter is un(e) mécène.  Following the "Glou-Glou" Wine Farewell edition, Tchin Tchin! and special thanks to these mécènes for their helpful donations which keep this blog and its newsletter going:

Jennifer T.
Carol A.
Elaine S. 
Ruth S.
Judy M.
Scott J.
Natalia R.
Susan C.
Valerie W.
Suzanne D.

Have time for one more story? Read "A Hussy to the IRS" (about the time the IRS almost called an expat The Slut of the Port)

A Message from KristiOngoing support from readers like you keeps me writing and publishing this free language journal each week. If you find joy or value in these stories and would like to keep this site going, donating today will help so much. Thank you for being a part of this community and helping me to maintain this site and its newsletter.

Ways to contribute:
1.Zelle®, The best way to donate and there are no transaction fees. Zelle to [email protected]

2.Paypal or credit card
Or purchase my book for a friend and so help them discover this free weekly journal.
For more online reading: The Lost Gardens: A Story of Two Vineyards and a Sobriety