Imagine you want to explore the life of Abraham Lincoln, or the D-Day. You can do that the proper way, reading a biography or watching a good documentary. But I like to find other path, in a roundabout way, finding another door, another color, being a little casual and inappropriate.
Take the Lincoln example. You can :
Read about someone’s around : his wife, a general, his murderer.
Read about what happened after him, or the American life before him.
Find pictures on the web about him, his life, his handwritten letters.
Read a diary of somebody who knew him.
Find everything about his opponents.
Explore one month only of his life and the country’s life too.
Find a Lincoln forum on the web and spend months exploring, reading questions and answers of specialists.
Casualness in knowledge exploration is a possible way.
I’m French. I write in English. Why? Here’s what I see :
Blogging in English forces me to me short and simple.
So it’s like pendrawing instead of oil painting. Water instead of wine.
I constantly check (and thus learn) vocabulary.
So I have to think about the French vocabulary too.
I am not distracted by any search of French “Style”, and it’s a relief.
I quit my well known ground, to find another babyway to walk on another soil.
Writing in French is like “too easy”, it flows fast (as I type) from ideas to words.
Writing in English is more like building a little plane-model with unusual words. It’s slower, and a pleasure too.
There’s a playing child pleasure into it.
As it’s not my “tongue”, I feel really more chilled out when I write here.
Therefore I can focus on my little tools, not “How to say that in French properly”.
I invent words with a smile.
I make mistakes on purpose… with a smile.
I know and feel that I miss something, and I have to ignore it, and let go.
I can speak English, but I’m also quite lost in it. I explore, then.
I learn constantly about American culture, just by watching the way this language expresses things.
Idioms are different, and each time it’s like finding a jewel.
It’s probably an exercise for “one day write in French”, with new eyes and muscles-of-the-brain gained from writing in another language.
It can also be a way to voluntarily lose bad habits in my own language.
Beautiful books are always written in a sort of foreign language, said Marcel Proust. That’s a great seed for the mind, don’t you think? It’s about style. When I’ll “write back” in French, I’m sure I’ll be richer, then, because of my English exploration years…
I pinned a map of the United States in my bathroom. I’ve never been there, and I have no money to go. But I’m not the tourist type, after all. I could go to New York, see the Rocky Mountains, the fluttering streets of San Francisco and ride the Route 66. Naaahhh. I just watch my map, and I wonder…
How is Cleveland? How are the houses near the border between North Dakota and Canada? Do people have an accent in Bothell, Washington, or Topeka, Kansas? Etc…
I would love to rent a car and explore this country randomly – personally I immediately want to try the Route 65, not the 66, which goes Louisiana, Arkansas, Missouri, Iowa and Minnesota. Or the 70. Not the 66. No way.
I can wander on Google Maps (I’m currently visiting Bowbells, North Dakota – from there I’d take the 8th to see Four Bears Village; should I go to Bismark?).
I can choose to stay in a state this way : finding movies or documentaries filmed in Minneapolis, for example, on IMDB (there are 1148 movies) and watch the most movies possible during a month.
I could explore Flickr (1179 photos for Bowbells). YouTube? Facebook? What else?
So, well, choosing Route 70 and imagining I ride along on a bike. Slowly. I can imagine picking a little town and “staying” there for a month. Trying to “meet” people, trying to make friends, talking, Skyping with them… Then move North. Or West.
Traveling without moving.
Or Japan? Italy? Estonia? Nope. Topeka. I wanna see Topeka.
When he was a young writer, William Faulkner was fascinated by France and by planes. He wanted to be a pilot, he wanted to fight the Germans in the war.
One day he understood that, instead of searching inspiration around the world, he should write about the land he knew, his land, the South. So he invented the Yoknapatawpha County “based on, and nearly geographically identical to, Lafayette County, in Mississipi”. From this time, almost everything he wrote happened around this place.
The Yoknapatawpha Rule states (or should I say “stipulates”, like “stipule”, in French ?) that you can write your blog with your experience. Seeds are provided by the events of your life. Of course you can dance with concepts and weave with other things. It’s just a tool, a seed provider…
Nietzsche, in another time, said the same thing in a more… grandiloquent style, but that looks good :
Il faut avoir du chaos en soi pour accoucher d’une étoile qui danse
One must still have chaos in oneself to be able to give birth to a dancing star
I am and I will always be fascinated by the Americans.
I have pinned a map of the USA in my bathroom. I wander over it daily. I own books and books about America. Abraham Lincoln. Civil War. History. Daily life. Photographs. Culture. Etc…
We sometimes accuse Americans to be centered on their own country, but I didn’t even know that Boston was near the ocean, and nobody in France have a clue of what happens today in Albuquerque or Phoenix ! So there…
I love Americans because when you talk with them you quickly go to a place when you realise that they all come from Europa (or elsewhere, OK). They’re American but they come from Ireland, Norway, Germany or… France. Bonjour !
I love Americans because they… love the French. I don’t know really why. C’est l’amour ! Because we helped them in their Revolution ? Or maybe because of the food, or the way we take our time, I don’t know. And I think they’re fascinated by the way we talk, the way we use the letter “r” (try to say “ARBRE”, please) : Voilà, enfin, donc, encore, and… Allez !
I love Americans because they live in places I saw in movies (they go to the restaurant in Bodega bay (Hitchcock : The Birds), grow in Kansas (Wizard of Oz), or talk in Manhattan (whatever…)). They invented William Faulkner, Joseph Losey and Saul Leiter. And they saved our French ass in 1944 !
Of course, sometimes we don’t understand them quite well, because of religion, or the guns, or Trump, but “it is what it is”. I love their idioms. When I hear “Shit hits the fan”, I understand it quite well !
I love to learn words like “to elope”, “Intertwined” or “Rattletrap”. I love to learn strange things like “I’m a hop skip and a jump away from”.
Learning a new language (and getting deeper into it) is a huge pleasure for me. So many times I’ve been helped by Americans about : subtilities, idioms, pronunciation, etc.
Americans, I noticed, have a special way to listen. If you take a breath because you want to talk, they immediatly “stop and listen”, and say “Sorry”, or “Go on”, which is a bit weird at times : we French constantly interrupt each other. Is it rude ?…
The cultural differences between France and America is really interesting to explore. I learned one day that a “dating kiss” is really usual in America, and you can date-try a few guys, no problem. In France, a… hum… a “french kiss” means a lot more. You have an example here or here. Kiss, in France, means exclusive love. Voilà !
Oh, on last thing. In America, if you shake hands with someone, it seems it’s like a Contract written in Gold under some God. In France, when you shake hands after a conversation, it’s more a way to say goodbye and “We’re OK, we’re in peace”. That can be tricky at times !
We like freedom too much of obey some “rules” with the forever color. And if we have to, we… strike !