I apologize for not keeping up with my weekly posts. It’s been a gloomy winter here in Nancy to say the least. The first semester began with little excitement and I found little motivation to go to school, but of course I did anyway. I feel like the French college students, who often express the same sentiment. The only class I enjoy this semester is a course on Ancient Egypt, which is absolutely fascinating. Right now, we’re learning about how historians decoded the complex ancient egyptian language. Consisting of hieroglyphs , each represents an idea, but can also represent individual sounds (phonemes), which makes reading them more complicated than one might think. Absolutely riveting!
I have also been using the time to continue studying biodyamic wine (see previous post last November) as well as working on my thesis, studying Catholic culture in France and the changing notion of ‘family’ with the soon-to-be-passed law allowing for gay marriage, adoption, and MAP. Concerning the wine, my professor sent me a book called Voodoo Vintners by Katherine Cole, an excellent ethnography published in 2011 on Oregon’s biodynamic (BD) wine. The book goes into details of the BD practice, the spirituality associated with biodynamics, and describes the movement’s historical manifestation in the region where I am currently living (the border territory between Alsace/Lorraine, Germany, and Switzerland, all of which share a border along the Rhine River). There is a distinct culture of the wine here that cannot be found elsewhere.
Biodynamic viticulture, a type of organic agriculture that integrates wholesome farming practices and the esoteric philosophy of anthroposophical figures such as founding father Rudolf Steiner, has given this region a particular air about it and the wine it produces, giving it a unique ‘taste of place’. This is what I am studying with my professor. Steiner’s influence has only grown since he founded the anthroposophical movement in the late 1920’s when he designed and built the Goetheanum in Dornach, Switzerland, which is the world center for the anthroposophical movement and was named after German writer and politician, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. It was Rudolf Steiner himself who designed the building with concert spaces, galleries, and libraries to facilitate the manifestation of anthroposophical art and intellect. This is all of what I will be studying in Oregon come this summer if my professors’ research proposal is approved. I’ll be working in a team of four, two students and two professors, and hopefully have the opportunity to visit the vineyards in the Willamette Valley on which I’ve been reading all this time.
Aside from that, I have been traveling! I did a small voyage into the region of Alsace next-door with my program. It’s been quite cold and gloomy, so for the February break, a friend and I decided to go down to the south of France to visit Marseille, Aix-en-Provence, and Cassis to see some sun. It was a great experience and we stayed with three different hosts that we found through a reputable site called AirBnB. We took an overnight train there to save on costs and got absolutely NO sleep. It was gross, noisy, long and the train stopped in the middle of the night for a couple hours, so there was no sense of progress. Regardless, it was the cheapest option, and that was our goal. That way, we had more money for the delicious regional tapenades (39€/kilo) and afternoon coffees at cafés in the sun.
The first home stay was in the apartment of an ex-restaurant owner/chef and prepared a wonderful meal for us with local vegetables. The second was a great little apartment shared with a working, 27-year-old woman who let us use the kitchen to save on costs. She is a graphic designer and her apartment was proof– such a unique design (although not incredibly homey). Last, we stayed with a family with one child, which ended up being somewhat awkward since the family had us sleeping in their living room. Regardless, we had a great time, got to see some sun, and took advantage of the warmer weather to go hiking along the coast on the famous Calanques of Marseille.
I’ve included some photos.
E n j o y !