26 July 2007

Overheard Conversation

Filed under: Reflections — ktismatics @ 4:00 pm

I was walking the trail near the marshy part of the creek when I saw two young women approaching, engaged in conversation, and for some reason I flashed back to France. Walking the crowded sidewalks of Nice or Antibes I would hear people speaking in all manner of strange languages. Whenever I overheard an American I’d cringe a little: the intonations seemed louder, more abrasive than most others. The worst part was that I could actually understand what they were saying. My wife and I agreed: whatever little snippet of American conversation we overheard in passing, the topic always seemed to be about money. So I’m watching these two women approach, knowing with certainty that they’ll be speaking American. As we pass on the trail exchanging smiles, one of them is saying to the other, “…the standard of living…”



  1. John,

    If ever you need a vacation from your writing, I found a site that will do it all for you. Its not going to be anything like your quality writing but its still going to impress the Ivans out there. Being a very simple man.


    This will give you a random 6000 word original article.

    you know, if your ever wanting to put your feet up for a spell.

    Kind regards



    Comment by Ivan — 26 July 2007 @ 4:35 pm

  2. “standard of living”…what a joke.


    Comment by Jason Hesiak — 26 July 2007 @ 4:56 pm

  3. Ivan –

    I’ve been using this device for months now. Do you think anyone has noticed (besides you that is)?


    Comment by ktismatics — 26 July 2007 @ 4:58 pm

  4. I dunno John. But I like to think I get around.


    How has your adjustment been going living back in the mother country?



    Comment by Ivan — 27 July 2007 @ 6:13 am

  5. So-so.


    Comment by ktismatics — 27 July 2007 @ 6:21 am

  6. Your missing the food..right??


    Comment by Ivan — 27 July 2007 @ 5:20 pm

  7. I miss not being able to understand what the heck people are talking about. I can entertain fantasies that they’re talking politics, science, poetry, religion… Sure the food is okay in France, but what about beef jerky? chili dogs? BBQ ribs? corn on the cob? Pop Tarts?


    Comment by ktismatics — 27 July 2007 @ 6:04 pm

  8. Errr..John,John,John.. have you learned nothing from our good mate Sam? Your heading to stent city in a handbasket!

    Hey, on my one and only trip to France I really enjoyed the food generally. (Much more so than Tokyo I can tell you)

    But this is compared to Australia and not the USA of course. What impressed me a bit was the array of meats available in a suburban butchers.. It really made our butcher shops a little boring.

    Don’t the French generally have less heart problems?

    On another matter: Sam and I are reaching our 600 question mark, what is the chances of some kind of cake? (no cream with Sims vascular issues)



    Comment by Ivan — 27 July 2007 @ 6:28 pm

  9. Not “Sims” I meant Sam.. don’t call the whole thing off.


    Comment by Ivan — 27 July 2007 @ 6:30 pm

  10. John,

    How do you mean you don’t understand them? Is the English giving you trouble or is it a cultural issue?

    If its the latter, I can update you on everything from Star Trek to the Simpsons Paris Hilton, unleashing your inner godess, you just about name it!


    Comment by Ivan — 27 July 2007 @ 6:33 pm

  11. My mouth waters, but go ahead and have an extra slice each on my behalf.

    I can’t eat anything with cream or eggyolks, but believe it or not, my wife and kids have actually discovered how to make a carrot cake with just eggwhites, carrots, sugar and corn oil (no cholesterol but still bad for triglycerides). I’m not quibbling. Perhaps we’ll dub it the “600 Cake”.

    Speaking of which, as we approach 600 I don’t have to wonder how badly repetitive my ‘answers’ must be getting. Bravo for your patienct and forgiving spirits.


    Comment by samlcarr — 27 July 2007 @ 6:43 pm

  12. Sadly I just put a trivial comment up on Ivan Are You Okay, which I think tippe it to 600. It doesn’t seem fair, but then life isn’t always fair is it?

    Maybe a nice cherry pie instead?

    Some of my favorite meats in the French butcher shops were the bits that don’t usually show up in the American supermarket: tripe, brains, weird organs. I also liked the unplucked chickens, the rabbits, and at Christmastime the wild boars stuffed with some kind of sausage. Then there’s all that strange seafood. Believe it or not I used to see kangaroo meat in the frozen section of my local French grocery.


    Comment by ktismatics — 27 July 2007 @ 6:53 pm

  13. Its not known much but there is a colony of roos in France I just forget where.

    What is the deal with having the chickens with there always surprised looking heads tucked under there plucked wings? Everytime I saw it I thought the chicken probably thought someone was trying to take its picture or something.
    But the meat sure was tempting John.


    Its always been a pleasure talking with you!



    Comment by Ivan — 27 July 2007 @ 8:50 pm

  14. Sure the food is okay in France, but what about beef jerky? chili dogs? BBQ ribs? corn on the cob? Pop Tarts

    I love beef jerky, but what for heck’s sakes do you miss about chili dogs and BBQ ribs? That said the kind of salad bars I experienced in America don’t exist in France, as far as I have seen, nor are the vegetables so full and tasty.

    I found an uncanny resemblance between your observation about the street taks and what I experienced in New York, where literally every day behind every corner there was shrill talk of ”the rent”, ”how expensive everything is” and just money in general. Not that Europeans are less concerned about money, mind you, but people in Holland tell me that this is a trend that started around the time America established itself as a superpower, not something intrinsically Dutch.


    Comment by parodycenter — 28 July 2007 @ 3:34 am

  15. Have you guys ever eaten Kangaroo meet or Crocodile?


    Comment by Ivan — 28 July 2007 @ 5:50 am

  16. Our daughter can’t understand the American image of the French as glamorous and sophisticated, the beauty of the language, and so on. In her view, once you get to know them and their language well the French talk about the same old crap that the Americans talk about.

    Kangaroo and croc — nope, never ate either of these critters. Taste like chicken do they? The grocery stores here sell bison meat.


    Comment by ktismatics — 28 July 2007 @ 12:04 pm

  17. Taste like Chicken? no John, I don’t have really highly nurtured taste buds but I found them kind of closer to the taste of human flesh.

    I had never heard of bison meat before, have you tried it John?



    Comment by Ivan — 28 July 2007 @ 6:34 pm

  18. Sounds tasty, I’ll have to give it a try. Bison tastes like low-fat beef.


    Comment by ktismatics — 29 July 2007 @ 5:00 am

  19. I’m French but came to realise that reading books and generating conversation topics isn’t default in any country.
    Also an American Psychology student explained that in America, talking at school is more normal than it is in the Netherlands. In the Netherlands students listen silently and then go off to their rooms to read. The objective is to read as much as you can. Not to express your thoughts about it.
    Yesterday I found myself encouraging people to express their thoughts about what they study and think.
    When I learned to write a paper, I didn’t learn to write down any thoughts of my own, I learned to save these for the discussion part. Typically, I tend to have a large discussion section and my problem is one of choice. In my group the other group members were struggling with the discussion, finding it hard to express thoughts.
    And this was at the University.


    Comment by Odile — 9 August 2007 @ 3:18 am

  20. Very interesting. My daughter’s school in France was bilingual French-English. The parents of French students were concerned that the English-language courses encouraged their children to think and express themselves in ways that might not be regarded highly in the French university system. In the French-language classes, tests evaluated the students’ ability to remember what they had learned. In the English-language classes, tests evaluated the ability to use what they had learned in evaluating new situations. The French parents were afraid that their children were becoming too oriented toward self-expression instead of concentrating on the facts and the information. The teachers reassured these parents: in French classes the children learned in the French style; in the English classes they learned in the English style. So on French tests they would demonstrate command of facts; on English tests the ability to evaluate and justify their own opinions. So it wasn’t just bilingual education; it was education in two different kinds of learning.


    Comment by ktismatics — 9 August 2007 @ 5:31 pm

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