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….

a beginning / ur c’hrog

Almost all of my possessions are in storage, I have left my job at the University of Colorado, said good-bye to friends and family, flown across an ocean to Europe, and made my way by train to Brittany, where I will spend the next eleven months.

A culturally-rich, picturesque corner of France, Brittany is steeped in history and myth. It is the land of King Gradlon, and his beloved coastal city of Ys, which was swallowed up by the sea long ago. It is the land of Tristan and Iseult/Isolde. It is also, according to some folks (and many local tourism brochures and websites), the home of King Arthur and his round table.  Many know Brittany for its prehistoric megaliths, its strong pagan traditions, and its long history as an independent state. And many (in France and England, at least) love Brittany for its stunning pink granite coastline in the north, and its sparkling white sand beaches in the south.

I try to keep that all in mind while I deal with the daily challenges of getting settled in here. Since I have arrived, life has been full of shopping trips (via foot or bus) to get food and other essentials for daily life. Missing folks back home, and taking almost daily buses to the big city of Lorient to get access to wifi so I can communicate with loved ones and others who are now so far away. Getting used to speaking French again. Getting unpacked, and organizing myself so that I feel at home in my new place. Feeding myself. Trying to find a bicycle. Dealing with leaky faucets. Opening a bank account, and trying to get internet and phone service established. Seeing a few friends (more on that later). Jet lag and swollen ankles. Buying a bike, finally. French TV. And rain. And now a national transportation strike (my first!). Taking care of paperwork. And more rain. And, yes, the occasional trip to the beach, which is, well, lovely.

Why did I disrupt my life in this way and come all this way to this particular spot on the planet? To fulfill a dream. More on that dream—dreams, really—later on.

For now, just a little about this blog. It’s here so that I can share my Breton adventures with friends and family, wherever they are. And with others, too—all are welcome here.

As for the topics of the blog, I expect them to run the gamut, as this will be part linguistic anthropological study, part personal travelogue. I’ll be writing regularly about the intricacies and quirks of the Breton language, and about my adventures as a student in a Breton language immersion program for adults. I’ll also talk about my daily life here on the coast, as well as any travel adventures. For those who love good food, and especially good Breton food, I’ll include highlights of my gustatory adventures. And who knows what else. And photos, whenever and wherever they seem relevant or fun or both. Bookmark this site, or do whatever it is that one does to keep abreast of blog entries. I’ll try and post about twice a week. Kenavo!

Note: Yes, that’s Breton in the title.  I figured I might as well share some with you all. And practice some vocabulary. If there are mistakes, I’ll catch them eventually.