02.05.2011 - 03.05.2011 9 °C
So as some of you might know, Sunday night through Monday night (Jewish time is always sundown to sundown) was Yom HaShoah, or Holocaust Rememberance Day. Danielle told me that Sunday night there was a ceremony in the Jewish quarter of the Marais with the lighting of 6 candles (each symbolizing a million people, maybe?) and prayers. I unfortunately didn't go to that because I was working on my Musee du Quai Branly/French Presidents and their Monuments presentation for French Politics and Society. But, Monday after lunch, I went, for there was also something else quite special that was being done...since Sunday night and going all the day through Monday night, volunteers were reciting the names of all the French Jews that perished in the Holocaust, and I believe each volunteer actually had a family member that had died.
When I went, I found out that this was actually taking place in front of the Yom HaShoah Memorial building in Paris. There was a little stage where the volunteers were reciting. There was also a volunteer following along on a sheet to make sure none of the names were missed. There were quite a few people going in and out, listening. I sat down and just listened for about 15 minutes. It was very moving. Then, I went into the Memorial to see what there was inside. On the ground floor, there was a huge Star of David with an "eternal flame," in an otherwise empty room. Very powerful. There was also a little archive room of the French Jews identity cards. And, there was a cinema room with Holocaust movie posters from the U.S. and Europe. I recognized Au Revoir les Enfants (Good-bye, children) from the book we read in French class in high school. There was move to the museum, but I had to go study for my exam that was today. I gave 10 euro tzedakah (charity) to the Memorial foundation, lit a candle, and placed it on the ground by a wall of all the names of the French Jews, which was just outside, near the stage. I'm very glad I went.
I went over all my notes for my International Marketing final that was today from 10am-12pm. The exam is just for us American students, since we're leaving a few weeks before the actual course is over. When I arrived, Brad (another IES peer) told me that the exam would just be an article with 4 questions. He knew this because Prof Takhar had given a practice article in class last week, when I was absent for Pesach. Great. I had revised for nothing. The article was pretty interesting, about the marketing strategies of wine (of course...), but the answers to the 4 questions didn't require any knowledge from class!! I wonder if the Prof just didn't care about us American students because the class was easy for all of us, as opposed to the French students who are having a hard time. But I thought that was all the more reason to single us out and give us a separate exam! Whatever...
Afterwards, I went to Gilbert Jeune (famous French bookstore) and bought two novels to take home with me: Stendhal's Le Rouge et Le Noir (the Red and the Black, which I read in English a long time ago but which I want to read in French) and Albert Camus's L'Etranger (the Stranger), which was recommended to me by Daniela, who chose it as her French class book.
The highlight of today was my French class's excursion to our professor's home in the suburb of Meudon! Yep, she actually invited us to her house for dinner. It was so nice! Meudon is some 10 minutes south of Paris. It used to be the place where rich French people of the early 1900s would take their vacation. The houses are quite beautiful (as much as we can see over the French walls...). We walked through a park where Mme Benoit showed us an observatory (open two days out of the year, apparently) and the Meudon forest in the distance (ok, not SO distant). And, on one side of the park promenade, we could see ALL of Paris from the southern view! We could see the Eiffel Tower, the Tour Montparnasse, La Defense (biz district), and even the tiny Sacre Coeur in the distance. So picturesque! I would build a house right there!
Mme Benoit's house was very beautiful, complete with 3 floors and a little garden full of flowers! We sat outside and enjoyed a wonderful aperitif: kir (white wine mixed with syrup, of which we had 3 choices - peach, blackberry, and raspberry), nuts, amazingly delicious grape tomatos from the market, italian breadsticks, and little crunchy biscuits. No wonder the French have aperitifs before dinner! It really gets you in a good mood :-) This was my first time doing this tradition!
We got to meet her youngest child - Angelique, 18 years old - and her husband, Olivier, a lawyer specializing in "concurrence" (competition - meaning anti-trust law, when I asked him to clarify). No wonder they have a nice house :-) When it got a little chillier, we went inside, where they graciously prepared dinner! It is SO nice of them to do this for our whole class of 13 people! Dinner was ratatouille a la recipe of Mme Benoit's grandmother, baguette and a variety of cheeses, and charcuterie, of which I did not partake. Mmm was the ratatouille good! Mme Benoit said it's usually made with bacon, but she didn't add it for the "vegetarians" in the class (me - pseudo vegetarian, and Caroline, actual vegetarian). Thank goodness! And mmm were the cheeses good! There were some stinky ones, and I was able to digest a good size piece of Roquefort! And for dessert, we had vanilla ice cream with real strawberries and goffres, which are little flaky biscuits to put into the ice cream bowl. My, what a delicious treat!
We all went around and talked about the books that we read for class and about our CORE article topics. Meline, whose CORE was about a singing/acting audition that she did in Paris, gave us a little taste by singing a Whitney Houston's song . Meline has a very powerful voice! She tried auditioning for American Idol when she was 16 but didn't get to callbacks. I do wish her luck!