FOOD ! this is my week

This is Sister 3's entry for week29 of Tara's Gallery at Sticky Fingers. The theme this week was: FOOD

THIS IS SO my week !
I mean, WE ARE FRENCH !!!!!!
And a quite obsessed with food...
Any kind...
Anyway, this is what you can find in the french streets, on sunday mornings, MARKET TIME


Autism and multilingualism

I have a terrible toothache which won't be sorted till Monday morning when the dentist comes back to work. Marianne is buried in boxes, and Sister 3 has no internet. So I'm recycling. Hope you don't mind!

This is a guest post I wrote last spring for Multilingual Mania. I've changed it a little to reflect changes that have occurred in the months since I first wrote it. I\m still annoyed with people who assume that being trilingual is bad for Max. But as he is speaking better in all his languages, people remark on it less.


The way we smiled.

Having made promises and promises after last week, Sister 3 went and lost her internet connection and again cannot post. Very inconsiderate of her. So I decided to wade through old family photos to come up with a goodish fit for this week's Gallery theme: Smiles.

Here's my first:

My mother gave me a copy of this photo two years ago. This a picture of my grandmother, myself and tiny Sister3, smiling at each other across something that looks like a big square cake.

You'll have seen this one before if you looked at the About us page. There is a story behind those three very different smiles. Marianne wrote it down in a comment which I'll just copy and paste here.

OK, let the truth be told by, well, me, the "cool sister". The day that picture was taken, Sandrine wouldn't smile, so the photographer was trying to make her smile, he told jokes, made funny faces but nothing would work. Céline, who still hates being shot (with a camera, I mean, not that she would enjoy being shot at, OK, never mind) smiled the same smile, patiently waiting. I, on the other hand, couldn't stop laughing at the photographer's jokes and faces. So that he was simultaneously trying to cheer Sandrine up, making Céline's face move so that she wouldn't get cramps and get me to stop laughing, or at least, shaking. All this with our mother watching and probably secretly wishing to be somewhere else. Every picture has a story behind it, dudes.
 This is how Marianne smiles when not restrained by a mean photographer.

I still don't like it much, but I eventually had to learn how to smile for a photographer. I think I may have used up all my photo smiles on that day...

Oh, one last thing. If you liked this post, would you mind terribly clicking on the RSS feed, here, or the Google connect buttons (top left), or by email at the bottom of this page? And if you didn't like it, you might still want to look around. There's three of us, you know, so you're (almost) bound to find something you like. And then, if you've still got time, you could share this post or stumble it, or both and get in touch with your local tv station to sing our praises. We'll love you forever.


Where have all the women gone?

In my head, the great writers are women. Sure, there's Balzac. But is he really as good as Jane Austen? Don't think so. And there's Victor Hugo - eminent - but he can't touch either Charlotte or Emily. What's a better read? Dickens or Mrs Gaskell? What's a better social commentary: his Hard Times or her North and South? I know which one I'd vote for. And Sartre's novels are nothing to Beauvoir's, certainly. And contemporary fiction - well, that's mostly women, isn't it!

Still, this all seems to be in my head only, because Universities world wide are having fights about whether or not to revise their mostly male syllabi.

Now in my branch of writing, philosophy, there's even more of a gender gap. One that's not quite ready to close yet, as men are still hogging the front line in the syllabi and the university jobs.


A home with a view

There's a sense in which I never get attached to walls. Not unless they're pretty damn special, that is, as in, made of something other than concrete and cardboard, and actually pretty, not covered in white, flaky stuff that's designed to show off spiders and stains.


There's no place like home

  I've lived in a few houses. My dad was not a fireman or anything like that (they tend to move a lot, don't they?) and I don't think I'm a big traveller, but I was born in my parents' house in the suburbs of Paris, a lovely house, big, with a small garden that had a big tree. I left it when I was 4 years old and yet I remember it as my real home.

After that I moved quite a lot, I even stayed at my grandparents', moved to my boyfriend's tiny studio flat and finally, at the age of 17, to Paris. We lived in the 7th arrondissement, near the Invalides (we were lucky, it was cheap and cosy) for five years.


Portraits of Autism #9

'He's very good'.
We're sitting in the manager's office, at the autism education centre. This is two years ago. She is looking at Max appraisingly, and she says he's good.

At first I'm wondering whether maybe her English isn't quite up to distinguishing between different terms for praise. Maybe she means that he's nice, well-behaved, good-looking, or clever.

The teacher who's sitting opposite us says something in Turkish. The manager translates:
'He's good. He's hiding it well.'


Blame it on the Bloggin'

Mama's Losin' It

For this week's
Writers' Workshop over at Mama Kat's , I chose the prompt "Why do you blog?"

Now, that's an interesting question, and so many people have asked me why I blogged that I feel this is the right opportunity to answer properly.

Each time I was asked that question, I always felt the need to justify myself, as if I were doing something bad or illegal. People would tilt their heads a little, looking a little concerned. For the most part, I think they dont really know what it's for. But, what is the point, they ask me.

In France, we teach philosophy in High School. Certainly not as thoroughly as we do in University, but we do read Plato and a few of his buddies. I remember my first philosophy class. I was 16 (going on 17... Sorry, BIG fan of The Sound of Music) and very excited. Sandrine had left for England a few years before that to go study philosophy and I was finally going to know what it was all about - I'm pretty sure she must have explained, but then again, I was 11 years old when she left, I'm not sure I was listening or understanding.

Our teacher was great. He was extremely smart, and like all other philosophy teachers, he taught in High schools but also in Uni, at a very high level. He used to tell us he was here to try and teach us how to think for ourselves. To exit the cave, he said.

We all sat in the classroom, I was late so I could only find a seat in the first row. I never left it after that. I liked him a lot. He thought differently from other teachers, you see. He wanted us to think, for real, and he seemed to believe we were all capable of it.

He waited for us to be quiet, and took a moment to look at us. Then, he asked: "So, what's the use of philosophy?" (in French, "Ca sert à quoi, la philo?). Many students, myself included, tried to say something smart. And then, he said: there's no use. "Ca ne sert à rien".

Blogging has no use, either. It serves no purpose. But it did bring us sisters closer, it's fun, and when I write, I think by myself. It's good enough for me.

Oh, one last thing. If you liked this post, would you mind terribly clicking on the RSS feed, here, or the Google connect buttons (top left), or by email at the bottom of this page? And if you didn't like it, you might still want to look around. There's three of us, you know, so you're (almost) bound to find something you like. And then, if you've still got time, you could share this post or stumble it, or both and get in touch with your local tv station to sing our praises. We'll love you forever.


Celebrating the (not so good) wine.

This is my entry for Tara's Gallery at Sticky Fingers. The theme this week is celebration.

Sister 3 appears to have gone AWOL and I have sent her a stern email reminding of her duties. Hopefully she'll be back next week.

For a lot of people, celebration involves food. You cook a special meal, or go out to a restaurant. You allow yourself to eat dessert, have a glass of wine, swallow the contents of a chocolate box.

There's a wonder of the world on my doorstep (well, not too far anyway).

 This is my entry for The Weekend Assignment #335 : History.
We don't all live near the site of a battlefield or other world-famous event, but any place has its own history: political, cultural, even natural history. How aware are you of the past of the town, city or state where you live now? Share with us a story of local history.

Turkey is full of history, of course. It's where you go if you want to visit Athens or Rome. But it's old, terribly old. And, to me, at least, it makes the artefacts of other centuries pale dreadfully. I cannot walk past an ottoman palace without worrying it's going to faint on me. And what's modern is mostly drab. Here, anyway.


Portraits of Autism #8

I was thinking back on that little boy who left and I remembered that some days, he used to come to the centre with his grandfather.
I see quite a few grandparents at the centre. Some aunts too, sometimes and 'Abla', that is, a big sister, or a woman carer/child minder. Mostly at the weekend it's mothers and fathers - in roughly equal proportions, surprisingly (for in Turkey, women still bear the brunt of the childcare). But during the week, most parents can't get away, so they send a relative.


Me and my childless friends

A list!! There IS a God!! I am actually asked to make a list, one of my favorite things in the world! For Mama Kat's  Writers' Workshop, I am to draw a list of the things that I no longer have in common with my childless friends and tell you why I love them anyway.

So, here it comes (I'm so excited, isn't it sad to be that excited about a list? Anyway.)


back to school

This is sister 3's entry for Tara's Gallery week 26. The theme is "back to school"

In France, you go to school from the age of 3.
It's "the maternelle"
You stay there 3 years
It is Roxanne's (Marianne's daughter) 1st year
You can read the adventure in Marianne's week end charter, a pair of shoes


Anticipating the apple

Scroll back to last autumn. Max and I taking our weekly walk around campus, picking crab apples on our way.


The tribal wives of here.

The most excellent blogger Very Bored, who's doing her thing over in Catalunya, tagged me for a meme. You have to produce a list of rules for living the life of the 'tribal wives' of wherever you are. I think it started as a tv show or something. So she did something hilarious about life in rural Catalonia. But contrary to her possible expectations, I'm not going to talk about the rules of life for the tribal wives of Turkey because there's is a lot more fun to be poked at us ex-pats. We have our own habits, our own idiosyncrasies. And any one coming to stay from somewhere else, some place where they actually belonged, would have stuff to get used to. So here are the rules. Welcome to our tribe.


New shoes

Oh dear. Both my children are at school. It's official, I have no more babies.

I wish I were a little mouse, to see what they're up to. I know Alex has a few fiancées, not that he told me, but he did receive a postcard with so many hearts on it that he found it difficult to read. "Ah, girls.." he said. He's not even 7, yet.

As for Roxane, she kindly but firmly told her father: "You can go, now, I'm OK". She's just 3.

They're more grown-ups than I am. I was terrified for Roxane, her first day at school ever, you see. It was a big deal. To me. To her, it's just a new adventure.

I wish I were a child again, I wish I wouldn't worry so much. I wish I could go back to school, have a new backpack, pens, pencils, paint, brushes and a new outfit, and only care about what we'll have for lunch.

Given that I really can't do this, I'll treat myself with a new pair of shoes. I know, it has nothing to do with it, but I needed a reason ;)

Bonne rentrée, everyone!
Oh, one last thing. If you liked this post, would you mind terribly clicking on the RSS feed, here, or the Google connect buttons (top left), or by email at the bottom of this page? And if you didn't like it, you might still want to look around. There's three of us, you know, so you're (almost) bound to find something you like. And then, if you've still got time, you could share this post or stumble it, or both and get in touch with your local tv station to sing our praises. We'll love you forever.

La rentree

Back for another year, full of hopes and frustrations.

Hopefully the school bus will take them.
Hopefully Charlotte won't be late every morning.
Hopefully the time table will work out.
Hopefully we'll have proper help for Max.
Hopefully he won't refuse to go whenever he doesn't feel like it.
Hopefully I bought all the supplies they needed.
Hopefully the covers I made for their books won't fall off tomorrow.
Hopefully they'll have enough decent clothes to wear to school every day.


Portraits of Autism #7

A big thank you to Kim for holding the fort last week while I was in Italy! I had a wonderful time, thank you, and am nearly rested enough to get the kids back to school and fight the good fight to get a reasonable school bus service and special help for Max. Turkish schools still haven't started back, though so there's not much going on at the Special Ed. centre. As a result I'm having to ramble on a bit about things and people from longer ago. I'm hoping it still achieves what I set out to do with these portraits - raise awareness, increase familiarity - and that it's still interesting!

Max loves going to his special education centre. He likes the work, and gets on extremely well with his teachers. He loves going for a cup of tea or a meal afterwards.

There's been times when he didn't want to go - he used to have to go three to four times a week, after school, and at the weekend. He was knackered. He wanted to go home and play. And he let us know it. We'd have to drag him to the bus, sit there, holding him down while he screamed and kicked, then again in the taxi. All things considered, people were pretty amazing about it. We got the odd stare and grumble, but no one ever asked us to step down from a bus, which is what happened the one time Max had a tantrum in a British bus (although, to be fair, that was for safety reasons). When we'd get to the centre, having dragged Max up the stairs, we'd breathe again. No one stared, no one shushed. The teacher would come in, ask if there was anything in particular that was troubling him, and takeover. Just like that. Calmly, she would tell Max that he had to go to class and, if necessary, drag him there - did I say the teachers all had tiny bodies? - without losing their cool. Then we'd still hear a bit of screaming, then whining, and at the end of the class, he would come out happy, having done all his work.

Now, when I say that people didn't stare, I don't mean that their lack of judgement was caused by their having experiencing the very same thing. In fact, there aren't many meltdowns at the centre at all. Most of the kids are quiet and well behaved, in the way thatTurkish kids generally are. Little boys of 5 or 6 sit on a chair, for quarter of an hour, not even trying to climb. If they sit on the floor, they are immediately told to get up, and they come back to their chair. They never put their feet on the furniture.

It's as though the parents' attitude is that autism is no excuse for bad manners, or rough behaviour, and somehow, they get it through to the kids. Don't ask me how.

Imagine how I felt taking Max, who would use the waiting room as an obstacle course, and only sit down if he could put his muddy feet on the chair too. But again, no judgement. Max was deemed a sweet and clever little boy, and, provided he didn't seat on the floor, other children were encouraged to play with him.

Because of this good behaviour and absence of loud protesting, I'd always assumed that most kids were happy to come, and that Max, on those bad days, was the exception. It turns out, of course, that this was not true.

When Max started, we used to have appointments at the same time as another little boy of the same age. His mother and I would often chat - in Turkish, so that made for very limited and slow conversations. In these early days, following Max's diagnosis, it really helped a lot to be able to talk to other parents, and I think my Turkish speaking skills improved just to help me cope - a cunning, if slightly implausible evolution story... This mother also needed to talk. She was always very open about how she felt about her son's autism, and there were a lot of ups and downs. She told me about the treatments she'd tried, the doctors she'd taken her son to, the different centres of special education they' d attended. She told me how little effect any of it seemed to have. She said how some days she was hopeful, and some days she was just depressed. She saw how Max's language started to develop while her son's remained the same.

She was especially worried about schooling. Turkish state schools are at the best of time, a bit short on teachers. They'll have a school psychologist, but it's not clear whether an autistic child could get the kind of one-to-one help they'd need. A private school, as was our experience, is unlikely to want to take in a special needs child. We were told, when we tried to enrol Max in the school our daughter attended, that 'he wouldn't be happy' there. We were lucky that there was the French school - if only because they speak a language we can all understand, and because they actually accepted Max. They don't have anything in place to help him, so we're having to organise it ourselves - with their help - and pay for it, but at least, that's something. 

One day my new friend told me that it was a struggle bringing her son in three times a week. That he didn't enjoy the classes, and didn't want to come. I'd been in the same room as her son and spoken to him many times, and never had an inkling of this. He'd sit, and he'd smile. He'd make an effort to say some words, like 'hello' if we pushed him. He seemed pleased to see Max. I simply didn't know he was unhappy. His quietness and good behaviour made it that much harder to read his emotions.

Reflecting on this now, I'm less surprised. I've seen Max on his best behaviour, with a smile stapled to his face, moving slowly, or not at all, and speaking quietly (!!!) when he was terrified, or in a thoroughly new situation that he could not control - for instance, with a new babysitter. It's just that, with him, this kind of behaviour would never last very long. The second time round, if he still was unhappy, he'd be kicking and screaming and crying his little heart out. My friend's son didn't do that. He just sat there, smiling, week after week.

Then, one day, they stopped coming. I don't know what they decided. Maybe they've moved somewhere where they could get better help. I hope they're happier now.

Oh, one last thing. If you liked this post, would you mind terribly clicking on the RSS feed, here, or the Google connect buttons (top left), or by email at the bottom of this page? And if you didn't like it, you might still want to look around. There's three of us, you know, so you're (almost) bound to find something you like. And then, if you've still got time, you could share this post or stumble it, or both and get in touch with your local tv station to sing our praises. We'll love you forever


My Italy Book

Aunt Dot said she must get down her Turkey book quickly, or she would be forestalled by all these tiresome people. Writers all seemed to get the same idea at the same time. One year they would all be rushing for Spain, next year to some island off Italy, then it would be the Greek islands, then Dalmatia, then Cyprus and the Levant, and now people were all for Turkey.
Rose Macauley, The Towers of Trabizond.

That is to say - not that I'm planning on writing a book about Turkey, or Italy, but a post, maybe even several, about my week in Tuscany. And I realise that this is about as original as a holiday slide show. But, hey, no one is forcing you to read this! (If they are please ask them to contact me or my sisters. We'd like to know how they do it). So you can always go check out some other posts instead. Like my Portraits of Autism series, or Marianne's Famous Lemon Tart recipe (translated), or Sister3's amazing photos.  If you've seen all that already, then why not engage in a bit of philanthropy, and go see what Josie from Sleep is for the Weak is up to in Bangladesh. Or if you're already following her efforts there, then just pick up a good book and come back tomorrow.


This is sister3's entrie for week 25 of Tara's gallery at Sticky Fingers.

The theme this week was " One day in August"

So, on Sunday, August 29 she wanted us to take a photo. Of anything, doesn't matter, you just had to take it on that day.

Let's face it : after Sunday, there's always a Monday !
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