Carnaval, gypsies, sunglasses and the number 20

Yes, I remember saying many times in Africa that I wouldn’t care at all if it rained the whole time we were in France. Guess I shouldn’t have made such loud proclamations…

On the weekend, we decided to check out small town French fun in Carnoules. The village next to Pignans was celebrating Carnaval with the typical costume parade, confetti throwing, outdoor music and dancing.

We opted to pass on the costume bal Saturday evening. Trust me, if you are over 25, it’s just better that way… Besides, these days I’m usually long asleep by the posted start of 9 o’clock!

The girls thought Carnaval was funny because it looked like some variation of Hallowe’en at completely the wrong time of year. But Carnaval is actually celebrated in many countries with Roman Catholic roots. The date depends on Easter, and (if you know about such things), usually falls somewhere between Epiphany and Mardi Gras. Don’t ask me anything more, just pass me the pancakes!

Smurf costumes at Carnaval

Smurf costumes at Carnaval

We watched people having fun dressed as cowboys & Indians, jailbirds, can-can girls and other Western themes. And of course Smurfs, being so close to Belgium where the cartoon originates.

It was interesting to look at the costume choices because I’m not sure we would dress the same back home. Especially not the “Indian” look. But cultural appropriation is more a topic for the North America conscience.

Yesterday was an exciting day when a few girls knocked on our door wanting to play with “les Canadiennes.” Yes! This was exactly what I wanted. It was an hour before dinner so I asked Sophie and Claire to be home by 6:30.

They ended up coming home five minutes early, a little dejected. Sophie said the first weird thing that happened was an older man asked them whether they knew that some of the girls were “Gypsies.” Sophie wasn’t sure what that meant, so she shrugged. Then one of the girls said that she was, in fact, a Gypsy. Sophie had no context so she didn’t know how to respond.

The kids came back for our frisbee, and then later the game turned to hide-and-seek. That was when a couple of the Gypsy girls thought Sophie and Claire were cheating, so things took a turn south.

Language and cultural barriers, and probably a little bit of sensitivity on the part of the other girls, may have led to assumptions that made the game go wrong. The French girls who had originally brought the group together were upset that Sophie and Claire had decided to leave. They became angry with the Gypsy girls.

I spoke to the girls about “Gypsies” or Roma, which are technically Europe’s largest minority. Roma have big challenges in European society. They are no different from communities around the world dealing with significant social problems. Because of these problems, they are often subjected to negative stereotyping.

Of course the problem with stereotypes is that they never represent the whole picture. Stereotypes paint individuals with a broad brush, which often little resembles who individuals  are as people.

When stereotyping happens, it’s often hard for the individual not to place negative meanings on the actions of others. The individuals themselves may also be also guilty of making assumptions.

But kids are kids. They are much better than adults at moving forward and seeing a new day. I’m sure that when it stops raining, the girls will try chatting up the neighbourhood kids again and there will be another game of hide-and-seek.

We were going to do a hike along a seaside trail near St. Tropez today, but with a high of 11 degrees forecasted and solid rain, we decided maybe we would just go look for sunglasses for Al (gotta stay optimistic for the weather, n’est-ce pas). We’ve been looking for a while, and thought maybe today would be the day.

We oddly came across an Intersport (is Forzani really in France?), but as we approached the store, we saw firefighters outside. There was smoke coming out of the roof, and they were rolling out hoses. For some reason the sunglasses gods don’t want Al to buy a pair just yet!

Thinking our day was a bust, we stopped at a grocery store to buy chocolate chip cookie mix. Now how can you go wrong with a roaring fire and freshly baked cookies?

Mmmm... crème brulee!!!

Mmmm… crème brulee!!!

Today happens to be our 20th wedding anniversary, so we were hoping to make it special. We decided to go to a recommended restaurant in Pignans for dinner.

The reviews and the recommendation were right – we had a cozy dinner in a quaint restaurant with an amicable host who was impressed that the girls had eaten duck’s blood in China.

Two and a half hours later and one bottle of wine, as well as a discussion about what exactly is creme brulee (burned vanilla creme, right?), we walked home, completely stuffed.

Happy Anniversay, dear!

8 Comments on “Carnaval, gypsies, sunglasses and the number 20

  1. Happy 20th wedding anniversary to you and Al! Who would have thought 20 years ago, you would be celebrating this special occasion on the other side of the world (and with you children too!) Wonderful memories for you to bring back to Canada.

  2. Happy Anniversary! Who would have thought 20 years ago, you would be celebrating your Anniversary across the world! Glad you had a wonderful time with lots of good memories to bring back to Canada.

  3. Another interesting blog. And Sophie and Claire had another lesson, that is , good communications are so important in life.
    Forget the sunglasses Al, buy an umbrella, then it’s sure to stop raining.

    • Love the umbrella suggestion – that’s exactly what we need to do! And we saw the girls today, who all offered up happy “saluts” and waves!

      – Heather

  4. Happy Anniversary, Heather and Al!
    20 years! WOW!!!

    So funny that the French are having Carneval now? I thought the Carneval Season was the same all over Europe which ends on Ash Wednesday (which, this year was on Feb. 10th, and yes, has to do with the Easter and Pentecaust cycles)…). Interesting.
    Our kids in Germany also dress as Cowboys and Indians. Those are the number one costumes sold in stores! Never really gave it a thought :O).

    Wishing you the best weather for the following days / weeks / months!

    • Yes, the date for this one is a little late! When I was in Belgium 25+ years ago they were celebrating Carnaval there, so I’m sure they’ve been doing it in France for quite a long time. And they celebrate it in South America as well. It was fun for the kids to see, and we ended up joining the parade at the end!

      – Heather

  5. Hello everyone. Have been following your posts diligently Heather, and as always I am very impressed with your social commentary. It does have a different tone though from your African posts. As it should.
    I hope the girls were not too discouraged by the events of their day. As you pointed out, children are more plastic then rigid with these things.
    Love to you all.


    • I’m sure they’ll go out today and things will be fine. It was just a weird experience for them to have culture immediately brought up, when back home kids (and adults) wouldn’t stand around at a playground and point out heritage. You would just play!!!

      – Heather

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