French passions: fromage et grèves

You have to give the French credit for the passion they put behind everything they do. It’s remarkable. And this week, I actually had the chance to understand what that passion feels like, in two trademark French activities: a cheese tasting and a strike.

If I’m being clear though, there have been two different strikes in the span of a week. One last Thursday, and one today. If I didn’t know better, I’d think the Lyonnais just have something against Thursdays. But alas, the strikes of recent have revolved around work. Which simultaneously revolves around our University. Last week, the administration of our school closed the campus, as student protesters planned to meet in front of the school. This week, protesters barricaded the entrance to our school with trash cans, dumpsters, and other heavy metal-things in the area, forcing our classes to be canceled again. *(Thus, I apologize that I really haven’t divulged into the details of my true academics abroad up until this point, it just seems that every week brings something else in our community that proves a more important topic. I promise I love the classes here, and will one day recap all that happens in the University. However, I feel like you might like to here more about the strikes and the French cheese, so let’s continue).

Now the school being closed for the day is only part of the story. More impacting was the shut down of the city’s metro and tram systems. Not every line was closed, but enough of the major lines were closed as apart of the strike that it proved quite difficult for people to make it anywhere today. Not to mention the fact that there was a large gathering and march by the centre ville, which had quite the turnout. But not everywhere in town was similar to this–for example, my neighborhood was quite tranquil throughout the entire day, with enough people attending the strike for me to sit on one of the prime benches and attempt to read Harry Potter in French. Thus I believe the key to French strikes, is that if you passionate about the cause, and truly French, your voice and your impact will be heard and felt. But if it’s not your scene, its okay–there will always be a nice park bench with your name on it.

As for the fromage–let’s just say that on Tuesday night, our International program at the University planned a cheese tasting event at a local fromagerie, and let’s just say I went, and listened to a 3rd generation cheese maker describe all the cheeses in the shop for an hour, and then tried a minimum of 12 cheeses, as the owner told us to pick any cheese in the store we wanted to try. Let’s also say that they had bread, apple slices, and grapes to accompany said tasting, and let’s pretend that was the entirety of my dinner that night.

You know, we say “I love cheese” in America, but do we really? Because when we say that, we really mean we love our Publix bought string cheese, or kraft cheddar cheese. Now I’m not calling us all liars, but I am saying that’s not cheese. That’s nothing like real, third-generation French cheese, or a product of the cows from the Alpes. It’s also not real Monk cheese, or cheese from the French wine region of Beaujolais. If you really love cheese, you need to buy a ticket to France. And you need to do a cheese tasting in a fromagerie. Because only then will you understand the passion these people really have for cheese.

So what have we learned this week? That the French are passionate. About everything. With good reason too. If I had the same passion for cheese or strikes as the French do, well, I don’t even know how I’d describe the changes that would occur in Gainesville. Quite possibly the worlds first strike for better quality Mac and Cheese? It’s possible. If I learn enough French by the time I return, just be on the lookout for said strike this fall.


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