Degemer mat, bienvenue, refugees welcome

With the clearing out of the Calais migrant camp, the situation of refugees in France is very much in the news this week. Brittany, of course, is one of the places that refugees are being resettled. I came across–via a friend on Facebook–this wonderful trilingual welcome sign.  I downloaded it from the site Les gens heureux que Trégastel et Trébeurden accueillent des réfugiés–the people happy that Trégastel and Trébeurden are welcoming refugees. The site credits the designer as being Claire Robert.

Part of what I like about this sign is its message of welcome. Of course, another part of what I like is the inclusion of “Degemer Mat”, a phrase of welcome in the Breton language. (I’m assuming that the English is included for the sake of the refugees.)

The other thing that makes this special is the inclusion of the traditionally-dressed woman reaching her hand out to a bearded man with a bag, symbolizing a refugee. While Bretons haven’t worn traditional outfits as daily wear for a while, you can often see people dressed in such outfits during parades and folk dancing competitions. And faïence and dish towels sold in gift shops often have images of men and women in traditional attire. So, it’s very symbolic of Brittany and its connection to its traditional culture. It’s also a thoughtful way of connecting Breton culture and the modern (global) world. People sometimes set up a false dichotomy between tradition and modernity, tribalism and globalism. But as this symbol shows, many people understand that the two do not have to be in opposition.

P.S. Apparently, because of the shape, and because of where I placed the image above, it’s hard to see the whole image at the top of the page. So I’m adding another copy of the image here, the better for you to see it:

screen-shot-2016-10-30-at-11-10-01-pm

Watch out for the Butter! / Diwall–an amann!

I realize that I haven’t posted enough (or perhaps at all, really) about food in Brittany–certainly, an important topic. A rather odd event this week forced me to sit down and introduce this topic finally, although not in the way I’d planned. Rather than discuss a delicious Breton food, I’m going to tell you about something that’s where it shouldn’t be: the butter in the river.

It sounds like an old folk song, or perhaps the name of an indie ska band; however, it’s an industrial accident that occurred Tuesday. Yes, butter fell into a river. A bunch of it. Hundreds of pounds, actually.

While it’s very unfortunate, and I’m imagining that it has caused a lot of people (and perhaps a lot of fish) problems, I couldn’t help but chuckle when I read the news because–if there was going to be a butter spill somewhere, it makes sense that it would be in Brittany: butter is essential to Breton cuisine. Bretons use lots of very yummy butter in their cooking–and especially in their baking. More on this topic another day!

Here’s what happened: a dairy processing plant accidentally spilled the butter into the Odet river, just outside of the city of Kemper (Quimper). If you follow the link to this article, you can watch a video showing chunks of butter cruising down the Odet through the center of the town. I’ve often strolled along the banks of the Odet and crisscrossed the river right about where the footage was shot. It’s a very scenic area–the little bridges are lined with colorful flowers in the warmer months, and Kemper itself is a charming city.

A Breton village and the healer

As in many rural regions of the US, small towns in less-populated parts of France have difficulty finding doctors to work there. A little over a week ago, news articles started popping up–both in the French- and in the English-language media–about a village in northern Brittany (La Roche-Derrien) that had been experiencing this problem. While the issue was sadly commonplace, the solution that the village leaders had arrived at was decidedly not: La Roche-Derrien was hiring a druid healer to be the new local doctor.

Brittany, as a Celtic land, has had a long history of traditional healing, passed down from generation to generation. Friends in Brittany have told me how every area has at least one local healer. The healers don’t put a shingle out, but the locals know who it is and where to go when they need help with physical or psychic difficulties. I don’t know how many people avail themselves of the healers’ services in modern times, but clearly some do.

I myself have never been to one of these healers, so I cannot speak from personal experience about how they practice. Nor can I say whether there is commonly seen to be a connection between the druidic culture of long ago and modern-day Breton healers. But I’ve always found it admirable that traditional healing practices–and so many other traditional cultural practices–have been maintained in Brittany to this day.

But even I was skeptical of this story: would modern French bureaucracy ever permit a village to bring on a traditional healer as a town doctor? In fact, it would not. Almost immediately, this story was revealed to be a hoax carried out by the village, with the help of a PR agency, to get people’s attention because the village is in need of a town doctor and they can’t find one. They’d even hired an actor to pose as the purported druid healer to bring the story to life. I hope all the buzz that they generated helps them to solve their doctor shortage. But for many rural areas, this growing lack of local doctors is creating an increasing health crisis.

My big interview spread in Ya! and a radio program tomorrow

The front page of Ya!

Okay, I’m a little later than I said I would be, but here–finally–is the edition of Ya! newspaper that features an interview with me. I searched online for it, but apparently it’s only available in print. Siwazh. So then I had to go to town and find a copy for myself. I picked up all the copies that they had at Coop Breizh–three! And now I’ve photographed it so you can see it.

The picture on the left is of the front page. Below the fold, on the left, is a pretty good picture of me and a phrase exclaiming, “A meeting with Madeleine Adkins.” I include this both because I like the picture and because I want to show how prominently my interview was featured in the newspaper.

If you want to see this photo in greater detail, just click on it and it should display a bigger image. This is true of all photos that I post, by the way.

The second photo (below) shows the back page of the newspaper, which to my surprise was devoted entirely to the interview with me. The interview had begun in person, during my week-long internship at the Lise Diwan (the Breton language immersion high school) in February. The photos that go with the article were taken at the school. We didn’t have enough time to finish the interview, so the man who interviewed me emailed me the questions (and what he’d already written) and had me write out the answers. I spent a few hours answering the questions, and then spent two hours going over the answers with one of my teachers to correct my errors and make the phrasing more precise. Trugarez vras, Brieg!

The results are on the right. This was a lot of fun to do. I got to talk about why I’m here, and also answer a number of random questions that they like to ask the people that they feature in these interviews. I wish they hadn’t edited a few phrases and changed a few words, as I feel that the changes made some of my responses less clear. But I am not in charge, and so this is the result.

I enjoyed my little moment of fame. At the Breton language gathering a few days later, someone actually recognized me from the article. And my classmates teased me on the day that we took a fieldtrip to the Etel when one of the teachers took out a copy to show people.

Speaking of fame–I may be on the radio tomorrow (i.e. Saturday) morning. Our class took a trip to Karaez, and one of the activities was a sort of treasure hunt around town. A woman from Radio Bro Gwened interviewed some of the participants and followed some of us around as we searched for various sites around the town. I don’t know if the program will include clips of me speaking or reading the questions aloud, but it will definitely include my classmates. And I don’t know the time–just that it’s supposed to be on tomorrow. Here’s the link to the station, if you want to try and listen:

http://radio.bro.gwened.free.fr/fr/index.htm

That’s all for now. Off to dinner with my classmates, and then tomorrow I’m going to participate in a Breton language political event in the capital of Brittany. If you’re in Roazhon/Rennes tomorrow, come join me! And I’ll write about that once I’m back.

Nevez-Amzer emañ o tont / Spring is a-comin’

Cherry blossoms along the Place de Bretagne

I was riding the bus home one day this week, and out the window I spied these cherry blossoms. What a happy sight! So when I was in town yesterday, I took a couple of photos, including this one. It seems as if it’s been winter for so long now, and I am more than ready for spring to arrive.

They weren’t the first flowers to appear–some narcissus popped up in the garden a week or so ago–but for me the cherry blossom is the true harbinger of spring. It’s also a flower that brings back happy memories of other springs in other lands. I recall enjoying the cherry blossoms near the Lincoln Memorial when–as a college student in DC–I used to take walks around the monuments with my friends.  And I have many fond memories of the cherry blossoms from the time that I lived in Japan. There were many lovely trees were in my neighborhood in Takarazuka, along the ponds that faced the hotel–and in Kyoto, of course, even more lined the temple walks. On my last visit to Japan, a few years ago, I lucked out. My week there just happened to be the week that the cherry blossom trees all burst into bloom along the island of Honshu and I felt as if I were being welcomed back after my long absence.

There are also many cherry blossom trees in Oakland’s Lakeside Park, and during the years that I lived there, I was able to hop down the hill from my apartment in Adams Point and enjoy them as I took walks around Lake Merritt. And even in my childhood, there were some cherry blossoms that I’d see occasionally in my hometown. So they’ve always been there in my life. I didn’t know if I’d see any here in town. I’m glad there are a few for me to enjoy. And soon it really will be spring.

Sunrise, sunset

Sunrise in Lomener

On my bike ride this afternoon, I noticed quite a few cars in the Intermarché parking lot in the nearby village of Lomener. It seemed odd to me because the supermarket is not open on Sundays. I took a quick look at the entrance to verify that it was closed and of course it was. So what was the explanation? It was a lovely–if slightly chilly–winter’s afternoon here on the coast and many people had driven out here from other areas to walk along the coastal path and enjoy the views. Sometimes I forget how lucky I am to be spending so much time here on the coast, here in a region filled with sparkly white beaches and rocky outcroppings and picturesque ruins. The coast of Plañvour (Ploemeur) is a place that draws weekend visitors for afternoon strolls. In summer, people from other parts of Brittany and other parts of France, as well, descend on the shores for weeks of sunbathing, swimming, sailing, kayaking, and other water sports.

I had begun the weekend by waking up early Saturday and heading out to the beach to watch the sunrise. I brought my camera with me on my walk, and captured some lovely images. At that time of day, standing above the beach halfway between my house and central Lomener, it seemed as if all I had to do was point my camera in the direction of the ocean and I had a wonderful photo. I made my way back to Ar Guerveur, my village, but decided I had a bit more energy, so I continued along the coastal path to the field where the Shetland pony that I met so long ago lives. I said hi to the pony and the two goats with him. Then I walked over to the horse that was standing in the field across from the others. The horse came over to me let me pet him for a while. I headed back home content, and more than ready for breakfast.

Late this afternoon (Sunday), I decided that I had to get out of the house because I had spent all day inside. I got on my bicycle and took a ride east of here, thinking I’d go a little past Lomener. Once I got past the village, I looked for a path that I’d heard of that runs from the beach to the Plañvour town center. After a few false starts, I found it, and ended up following it for a while, exploring a marshy area a little north of there. I didn’t want to head out too far, as it was likely to get cold soon, so I turned around after reaching the pathway that goes under the main road. Then I noticed a small side route, and the sign said ‘Lomener’, so I decided to take this new route. Along the way, I passed through an older village that I had ncver seen before. I detoured a little to follow an old mill road just far enough to be able to say hello to some horses in a small field.

I got back to Lomener, having enjoyed my little adventure. It’s always a pleasure to explore a new road or avenue here, because there are so many old villages and there is so much nature in this area. I decided to extend my voyage a little by taking a longish route home via the coastal path, following the sun, which was by now a big orange ball descending in the west. As I was looking out over a field facing the lighthouse, I caught my last glimpse of the sun as it sank behind a mass of clouds. I hopped back on my bicycle, made my way back to the main road, and stopped in at the bakery in Kerroc’h to pick up some fresh bread and a cookie. I pedaled home the last few yards in the chill evening air, happy to have had two lovely moments this weekend enjoying the sun, nature, and the coast.

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!)