Saturday, July 30, 2011

Paris: On the purpose of a woman's education

(This post was written in a hotel room, Tuesday, June 14, 2011.)

Because of the nature of the second paragraph of this post, I would like to start out by saying that I strongly believe all people should get as much education as they can. Brains are meant to be stretched: studies repeatedly show that educated brains are happier, healthier, and lead to happier, healthier families. This is true for both boys and girls.

Now, when I was a child, growing up in a conservative religious neighborhood, sometimes I was told that girls should get an education because they would need it to teach their children. (Naturally, only girls were told this.) This really rankled, for multiple reasons. It still strikes me as a pretty poor way to convince girls to go to college. They aren't stupid, girls. They realize that 90 percent of the education picked up in school will never be used in teaching children. They know that their child will never ask them on the street, for example, to describe the rise and fall of Napoleon Bonaparte, or to compare and contrast Gothic architecture with that of the late 19th century industrial revolution.


We are in Paris this week. Tuesday morning we took an elevator to the top of the Eiffel tower, for a panoramic view of Paris. When it was built, late 19th century, it was the tallest tower in the world, and remained so until just before the 1920s. On the first floor, there are a series of pictures of the buildings you can see all around in Paris, and some description of what they are and when they were built.

"Do they still have a king here?" asked Jonathan, looking across at the Louvre.

"What was the French Revolution?"

From the Eiffel tower, we took the metro to Isle de la Cite. When we realized our transfer was on the Champs Elysee, we stepped out and made our way to the center of the roundabout where the Arc de Triomphe stands. This huge arc is visible from our hotel room, and was built by Napoleon to honor his grand army. Now beneath it lies the tomb of the unknown soldier from World War I.

"Who was Napoleon?"

"Who is the unknown soldier? What was World War I?"

Next stop, Notre Dame cathedral. Construction began in the 10th century, AD. They were building a tall cathedral to point to heaven, but constructed it out of heavy stone. Therefore, they used all the architectural techniques available to them in the Gothic era.

"What's a flying buttress?"

Inside, a sculpture of Jeanne d'Arc stands in a corner.

"Who was Joan of Arc?"

We were pretty worn out after these three buildings, and the crowds, and headed back to our hotel to take a break.

From there, thinking about the day, and what I did and did not remember, I wished I had taken more humanities classes in college, so I could have better taught my child.

I suppose I have now fulfilled the purpose of my liberal education.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Paris, June 13

We arrived in Paris Monday afternoon. First thing after checking into our hotel,

we took the Metro to the Eiffel Tower,

and bought some crepes for dinner (in the rain).

Nothing says Paris like a chocolate and the Eiffel Tower.

Ah, Paris.

Three nights in Germany

From England, we took a train to London, then to Paris through the Chunnel, because I've always wanted to do that. It was actually not a particularly interesting train ride. The part through the Chunnel was mostly just dark. You couldn't actually see any fishes swimming by or anything, as we were well under the English Channel, with tunnel walls made out of reinforced concrete, or some other such material. I think it would be much more interesting to build a thick glass tunnel straight through the English Channel, and send the train there. Perhaps it the track should spiral around a few times while it travels, upside down occasionally like at the amusement park, for the best views out the train window. That would be a very interesting ride, if a little bit nauseating.

Anyway, in Paris, we walked from the Gare du Nord to the Gare de l'Est, more quickly than anticipated, as the Chunnel train arrived a little later than expected: It had to be stopped, turned off, and then turned back on again somewhere in Northern France, due to an electrical problem. I didn't realize that the reset trick worked with passenger trains as well as computer operating systems. But there you have it.

We still arrived in plenty of time to catch our express train to Saarbrucken, Germany. Tim has friends who live in Saarbrucken: Jorg and Anja, with their two little girls ages 6 and 4. Actually, although they were originally Tim's friends, I now count them as my friends as well. Back when we were all childless and free, we toured Ireland together, and since then, we've kept track of births and Christmases and other events, stopping by to say hello whenever travel happens to take us withing a few hours distance of each other. Which is not very often.

But back to the record, Jorg and Anja speak English very well. Their girls speak only German. And I speak a handful of German sentences and an armful of French ones and mostly just English. And Jonathan, who is just older than their eldest, didn't know what German was until he was surrounded by it, at which point I realized I ought to teach him how to say please, thank you, and excuse me. However, in the end, he didn't even try communicating with language. By the end of our weekend together, die Kinder were all screaming happily and jumping off the furniture together. Mischief: the universal language.

For our weekend in Saarland, we ate extremely well. Jorg and Anja like to fill their lives with organic fruit and yogurt.

We visited a wild animal park near the university,

hiked a hill to see a boot made of stone (der Stiefel),

ate Spaghetti Eis,

and took a walk by the Saar.

We also learned the words for currant (Johannisbeere -- because Anja makes a mean currant jam), and ladybug (Marienkäfer -- say Maureen Kae-fuh), and little witch (Kleine Hexe).

We only spent three days with Jorg and Anja, which was not enough, but they have promised to come visit us within a few years.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Photos of Oxford

I've been getting behind on my writing here, mostly because my life has become a giant circle of writing elsewhere. But now, safely home and ensconced in fruit harvesting during spare time, I would like to devote a few more posts to travels, and what we've been doing with our summer. Some of the upcoming posts I (mostly) wrote during the event, but I was away from internet or didn't bother finishing, and so I will clean it up and post soon. Some posts I need to start from scratch. This post must be written from scratch. However, as I am a bit tired of writing, because my life is a giant circle of writing elsewhere, I will save on writing by posting photos.

Let me remind the reader that we were in England this summer for two weeks, May 27 through June 10. I worked from 6am to 3pm, with a break for breakfast. Tim worked from 3pm until midnight. Jonathan played and toured from about 8am until 6pm. We managed for two weeks. And ended up with many photos of Jonathan. Here are a few highlights.

1. Atop Carfax tower, for a view of the City Centre.

2. In Oxford Castle, recently a prison.

3. Outside Oxford Castle.

4. Bramley apple crepes.

5. Punting boats on the Cherwell.

6. Sheldonian theatre.

7. Mind the nettles.

8. Boat trip on the Thames.

9. Chocolate cake at the cafe outside St. Mary's Church.

10. Climbing into the tower, built 1280 AD, of St Mary's Church.

11. View from the top.

12. Magdalen College interior, with map.

13. Addison's walk.

14. Fellow's garden, contemplative.

15. Magdalen college.

16. The punting dance, 1, 2, 3.

17. Pasty (rhymes with nasty) on Cornmarket street.

18. Behind Christ Church College, near meadows.

The end. For now.