Ar Redadeg

This week, a nine-day race known as Ar Redadeg is being run across Brittany. In truth, it’s not so much a race as a physical and geographic celebration and fundraiser for Breton language: as the runners make their way around different parts of Brittany, they hand off their batons in relay, symbolizing the passing on of the Breton language from one generation to the next. This is only the fifth time Ar Redadeg has been run.* It’s modeled after the Basque language community’s Korrika race, which is a fundraiser for Basque language programs.

This video makes me tear up. It was created to get the word out about this year’s Ar Redadeg. I love how it gives a sense of the emotional importance of the Breton language for the community, as well as the diversity of its members. It’s a lively 2 1/2 minutes–a heartfelt statement about the event, incorporating everyday folk and local celebrities, including one of the actors from Suite Armoricaine. I also love its multilingualism: it’s a mix of French and Breton, with a little French Sign Language thrown in for good measure.

As I post this midday in California, it’s night time in Brittany, and the race has passed Kemper and Rosporden and is winding its way east for the home stretch. Here’s a map of this year’s route, from the Ar Redadeg site:

hentad_redadeg_2016.jpg

Ar Redadeg covers 1700 kilometers—a bit over 1000 miles. That’s 200 kilometers longer than the last two races, so enthusiasm for the race must be growing. Ar Redadeg ends tomorrow in Lokoal-Mendon, a little town in the Morbihan region, and there will be music and other celebrations to mark the end of this year’s run. Here’s a poster for the weekend of events.

RedadegEventLokoal-Mendon.pngEver since I heard about Ar Redadeg, I’ve wished I could participate. I just haven’t managed to be in Brittany when it’s taking place. So, I’d like to make it a goal for 2018 to run (or walk) in the next race!

Individuals, organizations, companies—and even cities—contribute money by buying kilometers of the race: it’s 100 euros per kilometer for individuals, and 200 euros per organization. And since the race is about community as well as fundraising, donating is not required for you to be able to run in the race or participate in other ways—everyone is welcome.

Fifty percent of the proceeds go to supporting the Diwan Breton immersion schools that have been established all over Brittany in the past few decades. The story of the Diwan schools is an amazing one—but that’s for another blog post. It’s enough to know for now that these schools get by on shoestring budgets and thanks to the sweat-equity of the parents and language activists. So funding received from Ar Redadeg is crucial for Diwan.

The other fifty percent of the funds raised goes to support innovative Breton language projects. This year’s projects include a film tetralogy in Breton called E Toul Ar Bleiz (In the Wolf’s Den), and an AirBnB-type of lodgings rental organization called Bod Ha Boued (Food and Shelter), for people who want to stay with Breton-speaking hosts. Sign me up for that app!

In addition to the money, the race gives the people of Brittany a festive week of activities and celebrations. Brittany is a relatively small place, both geographically and socially, so wherever you join or watch the race, you’re likely to run into people you know. Especially if you’re active in the Breton language revitalization community.

In the lead up to the race, the organizers always create ways to get the broader community excited and involved—songs, photos, and videos. Two years ago, the organizers had people send in photos of themselves holding Ar Redadeg signs that they could download from the site, in the language of their choice. Here’s me, holding my sign up, as I stand in front of the San Francisco Bay and the Golden Gate Bridge. The sign says, “I speak Breton, and you?”

MadeleineArRedadegSign2014

* This is a corrected version of the blog post: my earlier version incorrectly stated that this was the 4th time the race had been run, and also misstated the cost to buy a kilometer of the race. Apologies for the errors, and thank you to the person who pointed them out to me. I always strive to get the information correct!

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Five years ago today / Pemp bleiz zo

Madeleine and classmates - Malarde

Five years ago today, I completed my six-month Breton language immersion program at Stumdi, in Plañvour, Brittany. Although I’d had some Breton under my belt when the program began, I felt I had very limited skill in the language–especially when I tried to speak it or understand it in conversation. My desire to be able to really speak the language had been one of the major motivators for me to pack up and move to Brittany to participate in the immersion program. And so, at the end of the six months, it was quite satisfying to know that–not only did I have a solid basic knowledge of the grammar and vocabulary–I could now hold my own in a conversation in Breton!

Skill in the Breton language was not the only thing that I gained. After six months of studying together, five days a week, 8 hours a day, with my 9 classmates, and the 10 students in our sister class next door, and the teachers who guided us through the process, I felt that I had gained a new community of friends. When I had shown up for the first day of classes, I’m pretty sure my classmates did not know what to make of me: why would an American adult pull up roots and move to a small town in Brittany, France, just to learn their local language? By the end of our six months together, they seemed to have decided I was okay, and I found myself spending my free time with a number of them. And since moving back, I’ve kept in touch with many of them to one degree or another– via mail, phone, and facebook. I’ve gone back for visits and seen some of them, which has been great, but I never have enough time on my trips to see everyone I’d like to. But to paraphrase Bogart in Casablanca, we’ll always have Plañvour.

After those six months of sweat and struggle–and laughs–we did create a bond of experience, and I feel very lucky to have gotten to know my classmates and my teachers. (The picture above is of me and a few of my classmates, dressed up for Malarde, known in the U.S. as Mardi Gras. I’m not sure who took the photo for me on my camera. The photo below is of me and some classmates and teachers, taken by Michel Thierry at the end of our graduation day hike along the Intel/Etel river.) I’m glad that at least some of us have been to be able to keep in touch. And even visit occasionally, even if it never seems to be often enough or long enough. It was an incredible time for me, and I’ll always have fond memories. Thank you, and happy anniversary, to my classmates and teachers! Bloavezh mat deoc’h, an holl stummerien hag an holl stummadurien!

Stumdi graduation day hike

 

Published / Embannet

I sat down to update my CV tonight.  As I was working on it, I griped to J (via Skype) about that book notice that I’d written maybe four years ago–it had been accepted but had never gotten published. I wondered aloud if maybe I should just delete any reference to it, given that it seemed absurd to use the phrase “in press” year after year next to its entry on my CV. Maybe in the transition from one journal editor to another it had gotten misplaced? For a year or two, I’d dutifully checked the journal every month or so to see if my book notice was there. And it really was just a book notice, and why keep it in there, when it was never going to get published at this rate. After a while, I’d pretty much forgotten about it, except on those rare occasions when I read over my CV. And by now, four years later, the book that it was about (Europe and the politics of language: Citizens, migrants and outsiders, by Máiréad Nic Craith) was no longer new, so did it really matter?!

As J was reminding me that–while these academic publishers are not the speediest in the world–they do eventually get around to publishing things, I opened up Firefox and looked for the journal. When I got to the eLanguage homepage, I typed my name into the search box, just to prove to her that it still wasn’t there.

Except it was there. In print. Or as close as things get to actual print nowadays–online and available for all to see. And it looks like it’s actually been there for 11 1/2 months. Must have slacked on my checking for it in the last year or so. And if they wrote me last year to let me know it had been published, they undoubtedly would have used my grad school email address, which no longer exists. So that’s why I hadn’t heard from them when they’d published it. Wisely, whoever put the book notice online must have done some sort of search for me, because they inserted a link from my byline to my linkedin page.

So, I’m academically published! That feels good. Haven’t actually sat down to read it through yet, but I will read the whole thing through tomorrow, just for old time’s sake. If you’d like to take a gander at it, just click on this link to it in eLanguage. A bonus–unlike the Ya! article that I posted about the other day, this one is in English, so a little more reader-friendly for some folks.

I was on TV / En tele e oan

I was on TV this week. Pretty exciting. I’ve only been on TV twice before in my life. And it’s certainly the first time I’ve spoken Breton in any type of public forum.

As I mentioned in a previous post, one day a TV crew showed up at school to interview us. We had no warning, and just a little time to practice what we wanted to say. This was back in early November, so we didn’t speak as well as we do now and needed to use a particularly advanced verb form, so the practice was necessary.

The interviewer, Anna Quéré, asked us what our wishes were for the new year. The program, called Red an Amzer, is one of the very few Breton language programs on TV, and Anna is one of the hosts. She’s even more dynamic in person than she is on the screen.

I’m imagining that most of you reading this are not regular viewers of France 3, and you’ve probably never seen Red an Amzer before. Well, you’re in luck if you want to see me on TV, because it turns out that they offer the videos online for a few weeks.

Here’s the link:

http://jt.france3.fr/regions/popup.php?id=e44g_redanamzer

You can watch it online or download it. (Downloading the whole 25-minute program takes a bit of time, so I don’t recommend doing that unless you really want to keep it.) Our segment is near the beginning, right after the hosts’ opening chit-chat. My moment of glory is about 2 minutes and 20 seconds into the show. I have to say, they didn’t film my good side and I do look a bit nervous, but heck, I’m just happy to have made the cut. (Some classmates’ comments apparently ended up on the cutting room floor, because only 5 of us are in the segment, mixed in with some other folks.) If you make your way through the whole program, there are other interesting segments, including an interview with a Chinese author who lives in France, and a profile of people who have chosen to become traditional bakers.

What was my wish for 2011? In case your Breton is rusty, here’s what I say: that I would like to be able to introduce the Breton language to people in the U.S. (En 2011, e karfen degas brezhoneg d’an dud er Stadoù-Unanet.) So, between the blog and my TV moment, it looks like the year is off to a good start.

Bloavezh mat ! (Happy new year!)

Date and nut triskele

Photo by Madeleine Adkins

In my class, a different  student bakes a mid-morning snack for everyone each Monday–a tradition that my classmates came up with.

This week was my turn, and I made date and nut bread, something my grandmother had taught me to make when I was young. And I baked the dough in my new triskele mold. They turned out great, and everyone seemed to enjoy them. It turned out to be a great way to blend happy childhood memories and my current focus on all things Breton.

Strike! / Diskrog-labour !

I’m going on strike Tuesday.

If you happen to catch a video of the strike held in Lorient that day, be sure to look for my face in the crowd. I’ll be wearing my brown sunglasses.

A little background:

There have been a number of strikes and protests in France since I arrived here six weeks ago. This has interrupted public transportation and other services across the country. Strikes are, of course, something of a way of life here in France. But there have been an increasing number of strikes, and I imagine that this will go on at least through the end of the year.

Why all the strikes this fall? The French government has recently voted to change the retirement age from 60 to 62. And this is just the beginning, as the government plans to make the retirement later and later over time. The government claims that, unless people begin retiring later, it won’t be possible to continue to maintain retirement funding. Many French citizens do not agree with this. As my friend J the comptroller explains it, the French government could easily afford to pay for it by creating one cent taxes on certain financial transactions, thus taxing the rich and the corporations, one cent at a time, to defray some of the retirement system’s costs. Click here for more info on the retirement issue and recent actions in France.

Ah—if only the retirement age were that early in the U.S.! If only our unions were as strong and as numerous. And if only the American public were equally motivated to get out there and protest.

The retirement age change act has already passed through both houses of parliament, but the people and the unions of this nation have not given up. Hence, the mini-strike and other protests in Lorient and other French cities on Tuesday.

So what does this have to do with me? Well, last week in class, my classmates were talking about the strike, deciding whether they wanted to participate in the strike event in Lorient, the city right next to Ploemeur, where we are. They took an informal poll during break time on Wednesday, and apparently everyone said that they wanted to participate. I was doing something else at that moment, because I hadn’t noticed the conversations going on. Then one of my classmates turned to me.

Classmate: Do you want to go on strike on Tuesday?

Me: Hunh?

Classmate: Everyone in class is planning to attend the strike midday Tuesday. So, if you stay here, you’ll be the only one in class.

So I decided to go on strike with my classmates. No need to force an instructor to teach an individual class for a few hours. And hey, I’m happy to join in, in solidarity with my classmates. Should be an interesting cultural adventure. Maybe we’ll even shout our protests in Breton. And I can’t help thinking that my father, a stalwart union man, would be proud.

la rentrée / back to school / penn-kentañ

La rentrée is a big deal. Parents across France return from their vacations in time to prepare their children for the start of the new school year. When I arrived in France, almost two weeks ago, there were la rentrée sales going on everywhere, for children’s clothing and school supplies, and news programs were filled with reports on the big event—from new university dorms made out of containers to children starting new schools.

The exact date of la rentrée varies from region to region in France, but in Brittany, classes started a week ago. My school starts tomorrow, so I’ve been getting ready. Don’t know what it’ll be like….