After one week of officially being a grad student, I am already starting to appreciate the weekend. Though the first week consisted mostly of burying myself in literature, I find that both my body and my mind are exhausted by the time it’s 21:00. I have been steadily keeping a sleeping schedule of 22:30 to 6:30 for the past week, and I guarantee this will not last more than a month. Me sleeping early – that’s like snow in Bordeaux (according to my supervisor, the locals are wowed every time it snows in Bordeaux).
Also, I’ve decided to update the blog weekly instead of whenever I want. I’ll put up something new every Saturday or Sunday, so check back or subscribe! 🙂
I’ll start with the pictures this week, because a picture is worth a thousand words but starting an entry with a thousand words may drive away my visitors. This week, I took a trip down to the Garonne, the river that traverses Bordeaux. The weather is gorgeous and a walk sounded like a perfect idea, so why not?
I started my trip at the Place des Quinconces, and this is the first thing I saw when I got off the tram. Trees – lots of trees. I really like this place. Like…really. When I first saw this (which actually was last week) I literally said, out loud, “Wow, this is…nice.” Yes, the ellipsis too. I paused between “is” and “nice”. Anyway, I have a thing for perfectly aligned trees creating a pathway between them. Quite lovely.
I love the trams. The trees create a natural tunnel in which the trams travel ever so lightly. It feels somewhat like the setting in a fantasy, where the another world dwells once the tram exits the tunnel.
Place des Quinconces, where a carnival is currently taking place until November. The column on the left is the Colonne des Girondins, with our very own Statue of Liberty at the top. Lots of public transport traffic here, mainly because a tram interchange occurs at Quinconces station.
Lots of men and horses. I don’t know anything about sculptures, so no comments on these ones found right in front of the column. If you really want to know about them, consult Wiki.
After a bit of lingering in Quinconces, I arrived at the riverside. A long row of buildings line the western bank of the Garonne, and frankly, I think they slightly resemble the Puxi side of the Bund in Shanghai. Along the Garonne is a wide pedestrian area where people go to walk, bike, rollerblade, or just chill. With the perfect temperature and a little bit of breeze out today, the walk was very pleasant.
The Pont de Pierre, approximately 500 meters in length, is one of the bridges that connects the east and west sides. The tram crosses to the other side via this bridge. “Pierre” in French means stone, but I believe the bridge is named after my friend Pierre. Feel special, Mr. Chao.
Mandatory tram-crossing-bridge pic. By the way, I love the Bordeaux trams. Did I mention that already?
I decided to cross Pierre’s bridge and stopped to take a picture of the water in the Garonne. You do not want to swim in here. Yellowness reminds me of Yellow River in China. What provoked me to take this particular picture, however, wasn’t the colour of the water. As I was looking down, I noticed that the wind created a rather strong current in the river. Staring at those two objects in the water, it felt as in addition to the moving water, I was on a giant boat moving against the water. I’m not sure if you’ve ever had that feeling before, but I’ve experienced that while visiting West Lake in Hangzhou. Pretty neat illusion, made me a little dizzy though.
Finally, can someone tell me what this sign is supposed to mean? I’ve seen it a few times but it doesn’t make much sense to me…
Now, for the writing. I want to share a few items in the French language that I’ve learned either in school in the past, or since my arrival in France. These are tidbits of this intricate language that I find interesting, amusing, or simply fascinating. Read on if you’re interested.
1) The tutoyer/vouvoyer phenomenon – As you may already know, French people address the singular “you” differently depending on who they speak to. The form tu is used when speaking with friends, colleagues, subordinates, children, or other people who are close to the speaker to a certain degree. On the other hand, vous – more commonly used as a plural “you” – is used when speaking with teachers, bosses, supervisors, clients, people you’ve just met – basically anyone to whom you want to show a higher degree of respect. For example, I use vous when addressing my supervisor while she uses tu when speaking to me. However, what I find fascinating is that there are actually two verbs that describe the usage of tu and vous. They are tutoyer and vouvoyer, respectively. Instead of saying “Shall we use tu with each other?” one would simply say, “Shall we tutoyer [unconjugated]?” to waive formality. I’m not sure whether the French get offended if the words are being misused, so apart from friends and colleagues, I tend to stick with vous when speaking to people. You can’t go wrong with too much respect.
2) The word truc – One thing I’ve noticed is that the French word truc (rhymes with fluke) is used ubiquitously. I had an idea of what it meant after consulting the dictionary, but decided to confirm with a native French speaker in case I make a fool out of myself from misunderstanding. As it turns out, truc is the equivalent of the English word “thing” or “stuff”, used when referring to something unspecified. For example, in cases where you want to say “I gotta buy some stuff” or “Pass me that thingy over there”, truc would be the word of choice in French. I had always thought chose, which literally translates into “thing”, is informal, but apparently truc is the fashionable thing to say here.
3) Words I’m not used to – Actuellement means “currently”, not “actually” as I had always thought. This is not at all intuitive because generally, the ending -ment is equivalent to -ly in English, and when added to an adjective, turns it into the adverbial form. Also, to indicate that you’re “confused”, you say you’re confus or confuse if you’re a girl. I always have trouble with this. It sounds strange when I say “Je suis confuse”, as if I’m saying “I am confuse” which in English makes absolutely no sense grammatically. I inadvertently try to say “Je suis confused”, even if I KNOW that it’s wrong. Same thing with “surprised”. The true translations for “to confuse” and “to surprise” are confondre and étonner, respectively.
Alright, that’s all for this week. Happy Thanksgiving and enjoy your long weekends to everyone who has one!