Bloavezh mat! / Happy new year!

I know, I know. Here at Blogging Brittany, things have been pretty quiet. Well, silent. For many months. It was never my intent to drop the blog so suddenly and so completely. Life just took over for a while.

Yes, I’m back in the US. And yes, I’ll be posting more here on the blog in the new year. There are stories that I haven’t had a chance to share and background on Breton that I still want to give you all. And, yes, a few more photos. And more about the language–of course!

Best wishes to all of you in the new year. May your languages be spoken, may your culture be appreciated and enjoyed by many, and may we all have a peaceful, healthy, and happy new year!

Madalen/Madeleine

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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.

Skeudennoù goañv / Winter photos

It’s winter, and I’m happy to be on a two-week break from school, and to have my sweetheart J here visiting me.

Here are some pictures from walks we’ve been taking in the neighborhood this week. To see a photo in greater detail, click on it. Enjoy!

More fall pictures / Skeudennoù diskar-amzer muioc’h

Folks seemed to enjoy the pictures, so here are a few more. These pictures I took near the school that I attend. Enjoy!

This was taken on a walk around the lake across the street from school. The lake--in truth, part of an estuary--is called Stang ar Ter.
Another view near the lake. This is a field of buckwheat after the harvest.
Some birds who live at the Stang, including a cormorant who was drying off its wings.
Close-up of a mossy wall at the Stang.

A rundown manor that sits on the hill above the school.

Fall pictures of the neighborhood / Skeudennoù diskar-amzer tost er gêr

Now that the fall is almost over, and cold weather is upon us, it seems the ideal time to share some of my fall photos with you. Here are some photos from my village and a little beyond.

The coast a little west of here, near Kouregant.
An old stone fort, perhaps, located near Kerloeiz, with a new crop growing around it.
A bird on the roof of a stone farmhouse, from photos taken on a bike ride through Kervernoïs.
A defunct tower near my house, called la Tour du Génie. I'll have to find out the story behind it.
Some cows grazing near the Tour du Génie down the street, in Ar Gerveur.
A flower in the heath near the Point du Palud.

Vive Miss Bretagne !

I have to confess that I got a little lump in my throat this morning when I realized that Miss Bretagne (i.e. Miss Brittany) had won the Miss France pageant last night. It just seemed sweet that my region had won.

Apparently, Miss Bretagne hasn’t won the Miss France pageant in quite a few years. The last Miss Bretagne to hold the crown was Miss France 1961–but she was merely a fill-in for the elected Miss France of that year. (I don’t know what the situation was that led to the dethrownment of the elected Miss France that year.) The last–and only other–Miss Bretagne to be elected Miss France was Miss France 1927. That’s, um, 83 years since the French had elected a Miss Bretagne.

Okay, if you check out Wikipedia (my source for this info), they do mention a few others, but those are ethnic Bretons who were elected Miss France, but who represented other regions.

Laury Thilleman henceforth will be known as Miss France 2011. Ms. Thilleman is apparently, among other things, a surfer. I think that in itself makes her appropriate for a representative of this region, which possesses about one-sixth of the national coastline.

This benefits not only Ms. Thilleman, but also the region of Brittany. As I heard someone say today, this raises Brittany’s profile. It also means, I believe, that the next Miss France pageant will be held in Brittany–this will bring in tourist, media, and of course, lots of euros.

Glav, glav, glav ! / Rain, rain, rain! Or, sometimes fieldwork just happens

I woke up to a ray of sunshine on my wall this morning. Exciting, given that the weather here has been three nonstop days of rain, howling winds, and dark clouds. I’ve learned here that all storms come from the west, so if I look out my bathroom window, I can see what is heading my way. I checked, and I could see a mass of heavy gray rainclouds to the west. So much for my sunshiny Sunday morning!

How to take advantage of this brief moment of heavenly rays?! I decided to do something I’ve never done before—that most quintessential of French morning activities—head out to the local boulangerie to buy a fresh baguette before breakfast. My normal breakfast is cereal, or on a lazy weekend morning, scrambled eggs; and in truth, I’ve only been to this boulangerie maybe three times before. But a quick walk one block up and back in the sunshine and before the rains hit again was reason enough for me to try something different.

People tell me that November weather is usually sunnier than this, but we’ve had a lot of rain and wind and gray days so far this month. November is called ‘the black month’ in the Breton language (miz Du), but that’s supposed to refer to the shorter days and not to the weather. My whole four-day weekend so far had pretty much been one big rain or wind storm after another—not a bad thing for a weekend of catching up on work, but I’m one of those folks who craves sunlight. I couldn’t take a chance on missing this brief moment of sunshine. So, I brushed my wild hair, threw on some clothes (not clean, perhaps, but not too dirty either), grabbed my wallet, and headed out.

How nice to be out without a raincoat, and without the wind howling down the road! I made it to the bakery without a drop of rain, but without actually seeing any sunshine either. A fresh baguette, a mini quatre quart cake, and a loaf of whole wheat bread later, I headed back to the house. Still no rain, but the gray clouds seemed to be taking over. Then, just as I got to the path that leads down to the beach, I saw it—the sun, starting to poke through. I lingered there for a moment in the sunshine, watching a woman walking with her dogs. I was apparently not the only one trying to take advantage of the break between storms. Slowly, I crossed the street over to my house. The sun was still shining, but the gray clouds were getting closer.

An older gentleman appeared across the street. He was calling something out to me as he zipped up his jacket. I couldn’t quite hear what he was saying, but nodded politely in response—it was no doubt a comment about the weather. He surprised me by crossing the street and walking over to where I was standing. I said I had been trying to make the most of the sunshine, and gesturing toward the bakery-wrapped breads and cake in my hands.

I’ve heard of you, he said. You’re a Breton teacher, or you’re learning Breton?

Yes, I told him, I am studying Breton right now.

He told me that the local newspaper has a weekly Breton language column in it and offered to drop it off in my mailbox.

I’m a Breton speaker, he said, from the Cornouaille region.

Different from the Breton around here, I said.

He offered me his hand and I moved my baked goods to my left hand so that we could shake.

Are there many Breton speakers in this area?, I asked.

No, he said, there aren’t many here. But lots of Breton speakers in Finistère.

I told him which mailbox was mine, and we exchanged names. His was a Breton name, he said. He told me where he lived, just a few doors down the street.

The sky was a dark gray by now, and drops began to fall on us as we stood there.

I’d better head home to get a raincoat, he explained. He’d been heading to the bakery as well, but at this point he needed more than his cloth jacket.

We said our goodbyes and he began to head back across the street. Then he turned back towards me to say something.

Perhaps we could speak Breton together sometime.

That would be great, I said.

Goodbye, we said again, as the rain began to pour down.

I’m really glad that we got to meet, I tried to say in French, nervously fumbling for the words as he headed across the street.

I headed through the gate and towards my front door, smiling to myself. I had been wanting to meet older Breton speakers in the area, both to converse with and also in hopes of gathering some data. I’d only met one so far at the beach, and she lived somewhere in Lorient, so I wasn’t likely to run into her again.

Some people in Brittany will tell you that Breton speakers are embarrassed to admit that they’re Breton speakers, and that it’s hard to connect with them as an outsider. But today, happily, was a wonderful example of the opposite.