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This Week on teh Interwebs


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#TwBSO and @Blogobar

et bientôt une version française de ce billet 🙂

As y’all know, I’m always one to go to Tweetups and blog meetups and whatever online people do to congregate in real life. As Stephanie Booth mentioned in one of her recent blog posts, there are a lot of opportunites in the French part of Switzerland to meet tweeps/online people IRL.

One topic of conversation I have frequently with my Swiss German cohorts (with whom I sadly speak in English) is the real presence of a social media Röstigraben. With the except of a few highly-connected people, I do find the online communities in Switzerland pretty segregated by language (then “expats” but that is another story for another post). I think I have a decent presence in the social media scene of Romandie but have realized in recent weeks I know nothing about what happens on the other side of the Sarine (the “Saane” if you will).

One manner of rectifying this has been to go to #TwBSO in Solothurn, hosted by Martin Rechsteiner and which, in its last edition in February, assembled people from the region and around Bern, as well as people from as far as Zurich and…Lausanne (MOI). It’s a great way to cross the linguistic barrier for Romands namely due to its close location (an hour from Lausanne by train, less by car): I left work at a normal time and was just in time for the apero at the Solothurn Ramada. Call me American, but I can’t understand why people have no drama commuting from Vevey to Geneva, but think going to Solothurn (less train time) for drinks is like going to Outer Mongolia. So shed your insular bourgeois notions of travel and join us for the March edition of #TwBSO on March 30th, again at the Ramada, by signing up here. The old joke about what happens when you put Swiss from all the linguistic groups in an elevator (they speak English) rings true: the more people show up, the more chance you have of speaking the language you want. I had a great time in English at the last #TwBSO. If you can’t make the March event, the rest of the dates for 2011 can be found here.

As one of the “ultras” I would be remiss if I did not mention one of my favorite soirées romandes. The very next evening, March 31st, Xavier Bertschy hosts in Neuchatel the first Blogobar of 2011. To sign up, the form is here. Unlike #TwBSO, the location changes per trimester, info on the next editions (namely Fribourg in June for those of you who want to cross the Röstigraben easily) can be found on this page. As I mentioned above, your presence determines the language, and you are guaranteed to find someone willing to speak in “your” language.

Hope to see you on one side or the other of the linguistic divide (and no comments from the peanut gallery how I wrote this post in English)!


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Kicking it old school: the Carmex Intervention Post

This post appeared on my old blog on April 27th, 2005. I was a newlywed housewife in Zurich at the time. Things have changed a lot since then, but the truisms of this post remain. Number 3 is a strange omen for the breakdown in my marriage. Anyway, man, I love me some Carmex. For more old skool fun, here is the picture that accompanied the original post:

The original photo for my original carmex intervention post

Don't let people touch your stash!

I used to know this person in college. This is the same person married to Jabba the…never mind. Anyway, he decided I was a totally, deeply flawed person and completely out of control. I was messy, I didn’t pay my bills on time, and worst of all, I was addicted to Carmex. This person, in his infinte wisdom, decided one day to HIDE MY STASH. He read somewhere or saw on tv how the feeling of dry lips was provoked by repeated applications of petroleum-based products and that if the person could get off lip balm for a while, the natural moisture balance in his or her lips would be restored.
Yeah. I’m one of those people who has the purse stash, the nightstand stash, the next to the computer stash, and the emergency-in-my-suitcase stash. I also have jars in my makeup bag, but I rarely wear makeup; I also have an emergency jar hidden at my mother-in-law’s house and my best friend who lives near my mother-in-law.
Don’t you hate those men that decide they’re going to be your hero and make you a better woman? I sure do. Actually scratch that. I like heroes, but only when they put their money where their mouth is, and to put it frankly, he had no place telling me how I paid my bills when his mom did all his “accounting”. Men are just jealous of women because we can multitask and they can’t. Anyway…So Butthole decided that he was going to get me off of Carmex. Big mistake. You see, he hadn’t figured out all of my hiding places, like the one behind the bookcase. But that’s not my point. It’s not that he wanted to get me off of Carmex that made me mad, because it was a foolish stupid idea to think I would ever leave Carmex. It’s what is foolish idea stood for–that something utterly inexpensive (Even when I splurge and buy luxury lip balms, my yearly lip balm expenditures are in the 30 dollar range per annum, including my pot-a-month of Carmex, which is less than most people spend on their hobbies like music, books and Starbucks) and, more importantly, SOMETHING THAT MADE ME HAPPY in a rather bleak life with two jobs and full-time school, was something he was going to squash out and change so that he could make me a better person, for my OWN GOOD.
So the “intervention” went down like this: I walk into my apartment and realize that the five or six random pots of carmex on various surfaces are no longer there. Butthole explains that he doesn’t want to catch me smearing that godforsaken substance on my lips anymore. I told him he needed to stop mixing barbituates and pot while we were at kicking addictions, and the throwdown began. After the “truce”, where I realized that he was too stupid to see how stupid he was, and he decided that I was a hopeless cow with a pitiful addiction, I went out for a walk. And the first thing I did was take a hit off the pot of Carmex in my pocket. Sucka.

To my unmarried sisters and brothers, what can we glean from the Carmex intervention episode? Several things, my friends. Listen up.
1. 88 cents a month (based on one pot of carmex per month from Wal Mart) is not going to keep your children from eating. Granted I probably spend two or three dollars a month. However, marijuana, alcohol, obsessive cd/book buying, a penchant for Prada, stock trading and fast cars will all deplete your checking account.
2. You don’t need to “change” people or “fix” people. People aren’t vintage cars or old apartments. People are people. And imagine how you would feel if you had someone nagging you all the time about something that isn’t worth it when you think about life, death and the universe. Flip the situation and ask yourself if you would want to be treated the same.
3. People have hiding places; whether or not we use them is a product of many factors. It could be a hidden email or bank account, a carmex stash, a cafe or bar that nobody knows about, or even a random fantasy or daydream. And if you aggravate us enough about something, we’ll just do it behind your back (obviously un-Islamic but hey), thus assuring a trust and honesty breakdown on both sides.

Also, the Carmex intervention was one of the many contributing factors in my first shahada. Why? Because I decided at that point that it was my life and I was going to do things my way, including religion, which up until that point was a product of pleasing other people besides myself. And I didn’t want someone so petty around that couldn’t handle something that frankly didn’t bother anyone. Don’t let anyone take your Carmex, people. It’s just freekin lip balm. If people are going to get all uptight about that, imagine how they’ll get about other stuff, like fires, miscarriages, floods, unemployment or bankruptcy. Someone tore up over lip balm obviously never said Alhamdoulillah that their life was so easy this was all they had to be upset about.


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Lunch phone rant

(post from phone, apologies for formatting) I have always had a strange relationship with my two languages. When I was younger, I always felt like my French wasn’t good enough, and my accent doesn’t help. Before, in cases where I could have easily done something in English, I have always forced myself to speak or write or
in French, just to prove a point. That is why I bristle when people say “Oh you’re from Louisiana, that’s why you speak French.” I’m not from Acadiana, I’m not from a French speaking family- my level of French has to do with a lot of hard work on my part and a few lucky breaks, and I feel like people who think I speak French because I am “from Louisiana” dismiss that. Over the last year, my feelings and insecurities over French have changed. Maybe it is because I am in my thirties, going on my sixth year in Switzerland, tenth year living in French-speaking countries and twentieth year of learning French, but now I feel like I have done my time and people who think my French isn’t good enough are the ones with the problem. I’m quite suspicious now of people who try to criticize my French- I wonder if it has more to do with their own insecurities, because I *know* my French is on lock.

My shifting feelings towards French have changed the way I relate to friends. Because speaking French was a point of pride for me, I always held English in a lesser regard in high school. In college, that changed. I was lucky enough to associate with writers and poets who helped me want to learn more about my mother tongue. So since then I have always been naturally drawn to people who spoke both French and English and were bilingual to a certain degree (here I could go into a side discussion on definitions of bilingualism but I won’t. I think there is a case to be made for what I call “functional bilingualism”, but that is another topic for another post). I feel like French is hardwired into my brain, and I enjoy being around people who can live in my two worlds. I love speaking Franglais, I love shifting between the two in the same conversation, I love using the “right word” in French or English when the same in the other language just won’t do. I can’t imagine living in a world where I didn’t speak French daily. I think it would make me unhappy. French is a language that comforts me- I feel like an outsider almost everywhere I go (the whole being a Muslim expat in a close-minded
redneck city thing), and I know that French isn’t “my language.” So having a high level of functionality in something that isn’t mine almost makes me feel like being out of place is almost ok- I can run in “their circles” and keep my weirdness private.

I started thinking of my relationship with French when I got married to someone who remains the most gifted linguist I have ever met. Over the past ten years our conversations were and are almost exclusively in English despite the fact that he is French mother tongue. I always thought it was his choice, but now I realize my role in our language interaction. Despite the fact that most of my entourage speaks both French and English, I (subconsciously) divide people into groups. People I want to keep at a distance get French. At work, I almost never speak in English (unless asked to translate or give a pitch) even though the vast majority of my colleagues speak English well. The people I want to be close to, the people I “let in” get English. But even when I am speaking English to someone, I still want that person to be able speak French; in fact, the people I consider my closest friends are highly bilingual French/English. So with close friends, even if 95% of the discussion is in English, I love the five seconds of switching that I sometimes do. The funny thing is that when I am not sure about someone new, it gets schizophrenic and the language divide gets closer to 50-50. I switch back and forth, I test the waters- I may write in French or call in English, or vice versa. If they pass, they get English; if they fail, they get French. My language use has somehow gone beyond the functional for me (even
though I appreciate the functional aspects) and turned into something much more personal whereby I put my social circle into little categories. What about y’all? Are any of you weird about languages?