French word of the day: Le Retour (24/8/2022)

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Well, it’s been a few weeks since the last newsletter, hasn’t it!? We’ve been off on holidays, navigating airports, luggage carousels, and vax-certificates, and are now finally back for the last couple of lazy weeks of August in Paris. (Yes, the Paris CDG airport was the 3rd worst in the world this past summer, only to be beaten by one of the other airports I was traveling to: the YYZ, aka Toronto.)

It was a fun, albeit short trip to North America driving around to see various family members, binge watch the TV morning shows and HGTV, and generally pig out on hot dogs and tacos. I have to say after so many years abroad, it feels familiar and yet strange.

One thing I got to do this summer, interestingly enough, was put my little Frenchies in a regular day camp there for a week, to improve their English. (Two years of travel restrictions has not helped.) The camp went well for the most part, but I do have a particular bone to pick: what’s up with all the snack-times!?

Maybe it was just the camp they went to, but the camp required I send multiple snacks for the “morning snack” and the “afternoon snack”. Which was utterly baffling to me since the earliest drop-off was at 9am, and pickup at 4pm.

In France, my kids would have had lunch at noon the same period of time, and that is it. School in France starts at 8:30am, and it is assumed kids have breakfast before they arrive. Then there is a full lunch in the canteen at around 11:30am-noon (with entrée, plat, dessert), and it is the end of the school day at 4:30pm. Strictly no snack-packing allowed.

French parents and caregivers usually give kids a gôuter (after-school snack) around 5ish at home, but there is typically nothing to send to school.

Now part of the problem was that I didn’t remember/investigate what North American parents typically send for snacks. However, the other issue was that while French school lunches are relatively healthy, the goûter can be a bit of a free for all, with cakeschocolates, etc. There is a reason the French are known for their pastries.

To head off my kids’ crises over being given carrot sticks as a snack (and any 1st day foreign language jitters), I sent them with stuff like chips, juice, and chocolate bars on the 1st day, and then promptly felt guilty about it. (The chips were such a big hit, my kids insisted on finishing the snacks at home when they hadn’t gotten around to it at the camp.)

Luckily for my snack-packing skills and the kids’ stomachs, the camp was only for a few days. We could all then recuperate walking around highly air-conditioned malls, and debating if we needed to buy extra luggage for the flight home.

But now it “le Retour”, aka the return, back to heat-wave hit Paris and the slow movement towards the end of summer. It is this tranquil period of time when the boulangeries start coming back from their month-long holiday, and you run into people from the neighbourhood all tanned from their holiday.

We’ve been back for a few days now, and I’ve been sketching out topics for this newsletter over the next few months, and planning for la rentrée at the start of September.

I hope you’ve had a lovely little break as well, and are enjoying these last few sunny weeks! (In case you are wondering, it promises to be pouring rain this weekend.)

In other news:

  • People magazine reported on a French scientist tweeting about a distant star, only to later admit that “the star” was actually a piece of chorizo.
  • If you have ever wanted to know how French children in the 1960s learnt to draw a map of the country, here you go:
  • The power of Art and AI is starting to get scary:

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