No, I’m not the professor.

Rodney Dangerfield, in Back to School

Today, I went back to school.

“Wait a minute. You’re still taking French classes?” you’re surely asking in utter disbelief. “Shouldn’t you be fluent by now?” Well, no and yes … kind of. I’m done learning French. I’m not fluent, but there are only so many times you can take the same course over and over to “ameliorate your competence” before you get the side-eye. Now, I’m going to Université Paris Descartes to earn my licence. “Licence? What’s that? It sounds like either (1) what you need to drive in France or (2) what you need to practice law there.” Well, no, it’s neither that mundane nor that prestigious. It’s a bachelor’s degree …

“What?! A bachelor’s degree?!” Continue reading No, I’m not the professor.

Act Two, Scene 5

This is the final scene of my play, A Sword Unsheathed, originally written in French and translated into English for publication on the blog. If you haven’t yet read the first scene, you can find it here. You can find all the scenes published so far on this page. The original French version of this scene is found at the end of the post. (Read in French.) Please read the historical note here.

Voici la scène finale de ma pièce, Un sabre dégainé, écrite à l’origine en français et traduite en anglais pour publication sur ce blog. Si vous n’avez pas encore lu la première scène, vous pouvez la trouver ici. Vous pouvez trouver toutes les scènes déjà publiées sur cette page. La version originale en français de cette scène se trouve à la fin de l’article. (Lire en français.) Veuillez lire ici la note historique.

SCENE 5
(Read the previous scene.)

The Characters

ALICE, now about 65 years old
FRANCIS, her grandson, about 7 years old
GILBERT DU MOTIER, the Marquis de Lafayette, now about 67 years old
ROBERT, the Hugers’ slave, now an elderly man

Thirty years later: the year 1825. Charleston. A spring afternoon. A sitting room with a few chairs, a settee, a few other pieces of furniture in the style of the period : a low table in front of the settee, Benjamin’s desk from the plantation house against the wall between two large windows, another small table stage left close to the door. Alice, now 65 years old, well dressed and coiffed, is seated in one of the chairs reading some letters. Through the windows, we see the roofline, some masts with raised sails. Francis, her grandson, is standing at the windows looking into the distance. Continue reading Act Two, Scene 5

Act Two, Scene 4

This is the fourth scene of the second act of my play, A Sword Unsheathed, originally written in French and translated into English for publication on the blog. If you haven’t yet read the first scene, you can find it here. You can find all the scenes published so far on this page. The original French version of this scene is found at the end of the post. (Read in French.) Please read the historical note here.

Voici la quatrième scène du second acte de ma pièce, Un sabre dégainé, écrite à l’origine en français et traduite en anglais pour publication sur ce blog. Si vous n’avez pas encore lu la première scène, vous pouvez la trouver ici. Vous pouvez trouver toutes les scènes déjà publiées sur cette page. La version originale en français de cette scène se trouve à la fin de l’article. (Lire en français.) Veuillez lire ici la note historique.

SCENE 4
(Read the previous scene.)

The Characters

FRANCIS HUGER, now about 24 years old
GILBERT DU MOTIER, the Marquis de Lafayette, now about 37 years old
JUSTUS BOLLMANN, a German doctor, about 26 years old
Three Austrian soldiers

The year 1794. A wooded scene, early in the evening. On the horizon, the contours of a fort. Indistinct voices offstage, stage left. Francis, Justus and Gilbert appear, accompanied by a sergeant and two other soldiers wearing Austrian uniforms — dark green coats, white knickers — who follow several yards behind with a single horse. Continue reading Act Two, Scene 4

The Tooth Fairy? What Tooth Fairy?

Yesterday, we met up one of my high school friends that I hadn’t seen in probably 15 years! Kate and her family were in Paris as part of a 5-month European adventure that, from all accounts, promises to be one of the best vacations I’ve ever heard about. We talked about their plans over dinner, then splurged on some decadent ice cream for dessert, and strolled through the city under a gorgeous full moon, reliving old memories from our high school days and laughing all the while. It was great catching up with Kate and her husband Jeff, but the icing on the cake was when I got to tell their seven-year-old daughter that …

<drumroll>

THERE IS NO TOOTH FAIRY! Continue reading The Tooth Fairy? What Tooth Fairy?

The Thin, Wet Line of Khaki

Saturday, I took a day trip to Normandy. Although I’ve lived in France as an American expat for more than three years and I’ve commemorated D-Day twice on French soil, I’d never before visited the D-Day beaches. When my in-laws invited us to go to Colleville-sur-Mer to visit Omaha Beach and the American cemetery there, I heartily accepted. I’d seen photos and read accounts of the débarquement — I’d even written an article about it for this blog — but I didn’t know how moving the experience would end up being. Continue reading The Thin, Wet Line of Khaki

Act Two, Scene 3

This is the third scene of the second act of my play, A Sword Unsheathed, originally written in French and translated into English for publication on the blog. If you haven’t yet read the first scene, you can find it here. You can find all the scenes published so far on this page. The original French version of this scene is found at the end of the post. (Read in French.) Please read the historical note here.

Voici la troisième scène du second acte de ma pièce, Un sabre dégainé, écrite à l’origine en français et traduite en anglais pour publication sur ce blog. Si vous n’avez pas encore lu la première scène, vous pouvez la trouver ici. Vous pouvez trouver toutes les scènes déjà publiées sur cette page. La version originale en français de cette scène se trouve à la fin de l’article. (Lire en français.) Veuillez lire ici la note historique.

SCENE 3
(Read the previous scene.)

The Characters

FRANCIS HUGER, now about 24 years old
NATHANIEL HUGER, his brother

The austere bed chamber from the previous scene. A lighted candlestick is on the nightstand beside the bed. The saber in its scabbard, still attached to the blue silk sash, lies on on the desk. Francis is sleeping. A soft, golden light illuminates the bed. Continue reading Act Two, Scene 3

525,600 minutes

Every August 15, a big anniversary rolls around.

August 15, 2010 was the day I left the US with big dreams, 130 pounds of luggage, and a one-way ticket to Charles de Gaulle. The days leading up to the anniversary are always full of reflection and nostalgia for me. I spend a lot of time looking back at what I’ve accomplished — or failed to accomplish — but I also look ahead to what the new year might bring my way. It’s a bit like New Year’s in mid-summer.

Two years ago, on my first anniversary as an expat in France, I recounted the beautiful story of what led me to this country in the first place (“The Patience of a Butterfly“). Last year, as my second anniversary rolled around, I waxed rather philosophical about it all, writing about change as the very essence of life (“Every Beginning is Only a Sequel“). This year, I’m doing something quite a bit different. You see, I have a Facebook tradition every August 15: I start a new photo album into which I will post scores of photos of my life during the upcoming year. A few days ago, in preparation for “Ma vie à Paris: la quatrième année,” I was scrolling through last year’s album, and I was reminded of what a monumental year it’s been: chock full of the usual stresses of expat life, of course, but also charged with exciting developments that promise good things to come. This August 15, then, I’ve decided to share with you a little photographic montage of the last 525,600 minutes of my life as an expat — the mundane and the exciting, the frustrating and the promising, even the delicious and the inebriating … and the sentimental, of course. So … how do you measure a year in the life? Continue reading 525,600 minutes

Act Two, Scene 2

This is the second scene of the second act of my play, A Sword Unsheathed, originally written in French and translated into English for publication on the blog. If you haven’t yet read the first scene, you can find it here. You can find all the scenes published so far on this page. The original French version of this scene is found at the end of the post. (Read in French.) Please read the historical note here.

Voici la deuxième scène du second acte de ma pièce, Un sabre dégainé, écrite à l’origine en français et traduite en anglais pour publication sur ce blog. Si vous n’avez pas encore lu la première scène, vous pouvez la trouver ici. Vous pouvez trouver toutes les scènes déjà publiées sur cette page. La version originale en français de cette scène se trouve à la fin de l’article. (Lire en français.) Veuillez lire ici la note historique.

SCENE 2
(Read the previous scene.)

The Characters

FRANCIS HUGER, now about 24 years old
ALICE, his cousin, now about 33 years old

Seventeen years later: the year 1794. The stage is divided. Stage left, an austere bedchamber, stone walls, a small bed against the wall. There is a desk in front of a window, through which we see a cityscape. The lighting is rather cool and blue. The sword in its scabbard, still attached to the blue silk sash, lies on the desk. Stage right is a salon, with a few chairs, a settee, a few other small items of furniture. Benjamin’s desk from the plantation house is in front of two windows through which we see a pastel-painted cityscape, a ship’s mast with folded sails. The lighting is rather warm, pink and orange.

When the curtain rises, Alice enters stage right and sits at the desk, looks out the window a long while, picks up a quill, and begins to write. Francis — now a young man — enters stage left, goes to the window and looks out for a short while, finally sits at his desk. He opens a letter. Continue reading Act Two, Scene 2

franecdote 1670 : Mission Impossible

Detail of a portrait of King Charles II of England
by Thomas Hawker

It’s time for the next “franecdote” — an interesting fact or story from “THAT year in French history“ where “THAT year” is this year minus the number of Facebook fans je parle américain has every Thursday.

Screen Shot 2013-07-07 at 11.07.00 PM

Today’s franecdote is from August 1,
when je parle américain had 343 Facebook fans.
So …

The year 2013 — 343 fans = 1670

I’ll never forget from my South Carolina history classes how important the year 1670 was: it’s when England first settled the Carolina colony at Charles Towne, now known as Charleston. Carolina had been named for King Charles I, but Charles Towne was named for his son, Charles II. And it’s that King Charles who figures prominently in today’s franecdote. “But this is about French history, right?” Indeed it is, because the franecdote for today involves not only King Charles II of England, but also King Louis XIV of France. It’s …

Usually there’s a <drumroll> here,
but today this is more appropriate:

The Secret Treaty of Dover Continue reading franecdote 1670 : Mission Impossible

Saturday Afternoon Gardening

© 2013 Michel Denis Pouradier, all rights reserved

Photo credit: © 2013 Michel Denis Pouradier,
all rights reserved

Yesterday, Babydog proposed an impromptu outing to escape from La Courneuve for the day. Given the way I generally feel about my neighborhood, I was all in favor! We initially planned to take the train to Beauvais to see the cathedral, but then decided to make a less expensive excursion to Versailles. Because of early closing hours this weekend, though, we finally settled on an afternoon at France’s chief botanical garden …

Le Jardin des Plantes Continue reading Saturday Afternoon Gardening