I have a good friend known as Benjamin who has taught me many things. He is from the great region of northwestern France named Brittany. He works at a fantastic laboratory here in Corsica. There he is a chemist and is a very good one.
One day he even invited me into his lab. There I learned about making extracts using ultrasound technology. Everything is done in the metric system which makes so much sense, since it is based upon increments of 10, 100, or 1000. We used an electronic balance to measure the cocoa bean, and then we measured the volume of alcohol with a graduated cylinder. Benjamin explained that a sound bubble causes a stream which picks the cocoa bean. It allows it to explode releasing the wonderful smell which is preserved in the alcohol/water solution called an extract. He says chocolate shop owners will buy his cocoa extract and pipe it through their businesses to make people buy more chocolate.
One Sunday morning Benjamin went to Bastia to the flea market with us where I bought a Tintin book. Benjamin introduced me to this Belgium comic book a week ago; it is a series about a boy reporter and his dog. We watched Tintin movies together; he practices speaking English, while I learn French.
After the flea market we picked out Corsican meat pies, red peppers, oranges and apples. Benjamin treated us to strawberries, grapes and cherries. We drove to the most northern part of the island called Cap Corse, there we snorkeled and swam. My mom got stung by a jelly fish. She said it was just like stinging nettle and the pain lasted fifteen minutes.
On the way home Benjamin pointed out the French cars -- Renault, Peugeot, and Citroen. He also taught me French families pay taxes that supply funds for child care, public education through university level, health care, and retirement. Their health care is so universal if I had hurt myself falling down the distilling steps, France would have treated me like a French citizen and taken care of my injuries. Our two countries share many words; I asked him the French definition of a faux pas. He said it is an embarrassing mistake made by a person; my mom said it is the same in English.
Next week we are treating Benjamin to a train trip across Corsica. We will end up in Napoleon Bonaparte’s hometown of Ajaccio. Ironically, it was Napoleon and his French army who conquered the Corsican people in the late 1700’s under Pascal Paoli. This was the only time Corsica was truly independent from years of being domination by the Romans, the Genoese, the Pisano. Corsica’s independence lasted less than 20 years, but the Corsican’s patriotism still lives with a vengeance against mainland France.
In fact, Benjamin even helped me understand the meaning a Corsican symbol that shows up on t-shirts, billboards, and pamphlets. Benjamin agreed to pick my dad and me up from the car rental office. While my dad was paying the bill, I was next door looking at cd’s. Benjamin walked over to look at music with me and there was that symbol again: a masked man crouched down holding a gun.
I asked and he did not know, so he asked the lady in the music shop. She said in an annoyed voice, “It is a rebellion symbol against French people, like you!” She later said to Benjamin that I should not be touching the cd’s because they might break.
Benjamin then returned that remark by saying, “If he cannot touch them, then you should put a sign on a glass window around them that says DO NOT TOUCH and then maybe close down your shop.”
He was so annoyed with what she said about French people that he even told her that we would drive 20 more kilometers from there so that I could buy the cd from someone that was not her. Evidently there is a group of rebels who wants to overthrow the French government in Corsica.
We eventually turned it into a joke and had a good time laughing hysterically; there is an example of a faux pas and the French. I sure hope Benjamin comes to visit me in Pennsylvania.