samedi, avril 15, 2006

06.04.14: Respectez le fromage

OK, so where I work, there are about 10,000 frenchmen and a few people from various countries around the globe. I am the only person there that doesn't speak french (yet). Shame on me. OK. I am working on it. Really.

At any rate, all of the written communication in the plant is in french. Until this week. A new sign showed up in the cafeteria:

"Please take on a full piece. Dont cut the cheese."

When we walked into the cafeteria on Thurs, 6 people read the sign and immediately looked at me and started laughing. The sign was obvioulsy not posted for them. I told them it wasn't very good english.

Some observations we can make here:
  1. Assumes all french speaking people know how to behave in public with cheese.
  2. Assumes all previous mal-handling cheese purchasers do not speak (or at least read) french. This is a very small population.
  3. Conversely, we could assume the actual fromage abusers are french, but to save face, the sign is posted in english as a diversion.
  4. Assumes that the offenders are compliant with written instructions - so obviously does not apply to the french
  5. When it is important to communicate, even a frenchman will stoop to english.

I will just say this: I did not cut the cheese in the cafeteria. (and I will not explain this expression to the locals, just yet).

mercredi, avril 12, 2006

06.04.12: Impressions et Surreality

OK, it's been some time since I actually had a few minutes to update (well, OK since I made a commitment to just sit down and do it). Had a troublesome project to complete at work that took too much time, but since that is where the income flows from, whaddaya gonnna say? Well, that is behind me now (in a good way), so here are some non-work related impressions from the last month or so ...

Mid-March ... The man on my right is sporting an ivory-white yarmelka with gold letters "Elijah Cohen Barmitzvah 15.04.2005". The man in front of me has on a purple wig. The lady behind me wears a cowboy hat and boots, and her children are dressed like spiderman and annie oakley. The man in the front of the room stands behind a podium, rocking back and forth on his feet, looking alternatively at the ceiling and the scroll unfurled on the podium, while chanting, singing and reciting a poem. At seemingly random moments, the whole crowd stomps their feet and spins their little noise makers. I have on a yarmelka myself, believe it or don't, and the whole time the man to my left is pointing to a book I am holding in my hands and keeps saying in very broken english: "if you want to understand what is going on, you have to read the book." I look at the book, and each page has 3 languages written on it: Hebrew, Hebrew with latin characters, and what looks to me like fairly complicated french. OK, I am not going to figure out what is going on here. I look in the corners of the room, expecting to see Salvador Dali sketching this scene. Dali does not show himself. Instead, I listen to the chant, and calm myself with this little riddle: If you are in a french temple, and someone says: vous êtes très gentil, are they saying I am kind for sharing the seat, or are they calling me a Gentile? I opt for the former. Always the optimist.

The ceremony ends. I stroll next door and have a pizza and a beer, sans yarmelka.

Just another evening in a strange land.