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The French Sense of Time and Space

We are now back from the period known in France as les vacances scolaires when everything, for anyone with (or even randomnly associated with) school age children stops dead. Being extremely organized, school holidays in France are all taken at the same time depending which of the three zones you live in, meaning that my older high schooler and younger elementary school child had the same school holidays. Hallelujah! In St. Louis I have sometimes had three different “spring breaks” for three children, not to mention the fact that Washington University’s Spring Break is, of course, not at the same time as the children’s, making planning family vacations something akin to managing complex litigation. Here that is “pas possible” everyone must have holidays at the same time. But of course, the astute reader will observe the problem with this situation immediately — everyone is also gone at the same time!

Well, when in Rome, as they say, so I have benefited from visitors, my son has spent a portion of his holiday in the Alps “improving his French” and trying to stay alive as he is dragged onto “red” slopes and encouraged to figure out how to make his way down(lucky guy!), and, not to be outdone, I braved Disneyland Paris with his two younger sisters (not for the faint of heart).

So everything slows down here, and everything has a seasonal feel to it. Is that so bad? Americans tend to hate it — inefficient, they say. But allowing the body to take a break during this period when winter begins to loosen its grip and spring flowers begin to peek through the snow and mud at the Parc Monceau is perhaps quite sensible. I know I returned to full time teaching this week with renewed vigor even though my U.S. based work never stopped; still, there was a respite there, and it would seem, as our doctor’s often tell us, that taking breaks is good not only for our health and the soul, but may even refresh our work!

The sun is rising earlier now and setting later; but the air remains cold, telling us that, after all, we are only in March and winter hasn’t given up his grip yet. Vivement les printemps!

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