Monday, November 27, 2006

Vert Claire

When a Kalamazoo College student is sent abroad, it is to study and learn, not to vacation. As if there weren’t enough hours in the day I have to go to class or speak French, let us add another minimum 40 hours of time devoted to an “Integrative Cultural Research Project” i.e. ICRP. The goal of this project, culminating in a 10 page social analysis paper written in French, is to further submerge the student in the culture and everyday life of a Strasbourgeois, improve spoken language, and utilize “problem-solving skills.” I tried very hard to get an internship in an art gallery or a museum, something that would really interest me and look good on a resume, but after having many doors quietly shut behind my back after being told to come back later, I decided to give the little florist shop, an eight minute walk from my house, a try. (This is a wreath I helped decorate)

The owner, a small, thin, tan, blonde, Armani-wearing woman with an enormous purple diamond ring on her right hand and an ear-piece for her cell phone perpetually in her ear, hired me over the phone. I came into the shop the next day to start working. She says things like, “I’m giving you big kisses” over the phone, and it’s not strange because she’s French and she owns a business and is trying to make everyone happy.
I started off learning all the basics: sweeping, mopping and cleaning the flowers. This all went well up until Cecilia, my 24 year old co-worker who is a little bossy but very sweet, and from whom I am learning my French swear words, demonstrated the “correct” way to cut the stems on an angle: toward yourself using your thumb as a base.

Now, as it was my first day and I was trying to make a good impression, I couldn’t directly defy the kind advice of this young woman. But could I go against the first rule I had been taught (by my mother, by Christie, by Sharon) about cutting things: always cut away from yourself? At that moment I knew I would bleed that day. And bleed I did. I was actually almost done with the entire bunch of daisies when the knife slipped and cut right into my abnormally fleshy thumb. This photo I think sums it up.
After that things went more smoothly. I met the head florist, Bruno, a man never without his coffee and cigarette, who likes to talk to me about politics and music (especially Madonna), teach me how to make floral arrangements and advent wreaths, and above all make sure I’m alright (I’m pretty sure everyone in this country likes to compare me to a little mouse). I also met the other two students, Sofia and Laurence, who are a little slow sometimes, but usually very helpful.

So far I have rearranged the store to accommodate new Christmas merchandise, spray painted, threaded wire onto bulbs, made a few wreaths, and decorated two exclusive store fronts and the entrance to one of the nicest hotels in Strasbourg. I’ve been having a lot of fun doing this too. I feel very welcomed in the store and even though I’m trying to work hard I feel like there isn’t too much pressure on me and if I make a mistake it’s correctable and I would learn from it. Maybe this is just the 35 hour/39 paid work week talking, but I like the laid back atmosphere of French work. People aren’t lazy, most of the time; they’re just comfortable. And the work usually gets done, and it’s always beautiful. But I’m not very optimistic about the Lisbon agenda for the EU, a.k.a. Europe becomes the worlds strongest economy by 2010. Working to live sounds much better than living to work.
Another nice perk about working at the florist is that I get free flowers to give to my host mother. Basically, she loves me.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey Erin-I know how you feel, when it comes to bleeded a lot. I worked at a florist back home, and between the thorns on roses, the holly we used for Christmas decorations, and cutting towards yourself, it wasn't a pretty site.


8:01 AM  
Blogger Alyssa said...

abnormally fleshy is right.
thats ma grrl.

5:48 AM  
Blogger annie said...

i get to see it/you manana!

5:40 PM  

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