(the misadventures of an expatriate corporate dropout)

Friday, May 8, 2009

mindless rambles ... uncertain conclusion

I've written a little about wars and their different impacts ... particularly contrasting French and American realities...

as I was driving to NotreVie's in the Aveyron yesterday ... which meant driving west to east for 3 hours through amazingly green, hilly, peaceful and sparsely populated lands ... my mind wandered and wondered at the lack of people here ... and really throughout France.

Of COURSE there are people. It just seems that a land that has been here so long ... so rich in history and beauty and consequence ... should be more densely populated.

and then I started reflecting on the heavy price her people have paid, most recently in the last century ... when it comes to war. I questioned (in my head of course because who else do I ever have to talk to? well okay there IS Louis and Bruno and they WERE in the car with me ... but no, it was in my head) whether the loss of nearly an entire generation of men in the first world war has had a lasting impact on France's overall population. and made a note to follow up on the query soon. what do you guys think?

yeah you'd have to be here I guess to understand what I mean about the lack of people and populace. and it could just be my impression. but it is more than just being a little slower. and even when I go to the cities, which is where the younger generation has shifted to ... in contrast to other great cities I've been (NY, LA, Nairobi, SF, Mexico City, Madrid, Milan ... a few) ... there just is not the same density. I did find an interesting piece in wikipedia on French demographics that confirm a large dip in population pre-WWII, but also points out that France's baby boom surpassed other nations and was even referred to as France's "miracle". but not so much that it got them far beyond a recovery stage in terms of population!

so ... I'll get back to you on that with more. But since this is a week-end of war remembrance in France, I let my mind wander in a topical manner. If my ruminations are substantiated, it seems appropriate to remember how devastating and profound man's inhumanity to each other can truly be. May 8th is Victory Day in France. Normally I'd crack wise about what really WAS the victory to be had. frankly I think the French have achieved a victory of sorts through their heavy losses of the century. I admire their solemn determination in avoiding war and its costs. One thing that rankled me in the states were the constant references to French cowardice when it comes to war. Common sense is what I'd call it. sigh.

and while I benefit from the graceful greens, the solitude and beauty of these undulating hillsides ... the peaceful habitude... I'll also give a care to the price that was paid for them.


Utah Savage said...

It only takes one man to impregnate half of France. Just a thought. But I've done a lot of reading about WWI and I do know what you mean about the horrible loss of life and how it leaves a place empty. At least I do in the way book learning lets you know a thing. But not in the visceral way you are feeling it. You ponder interesting, thoughtful things in your head.

I like reading history books. I know I'm odd, but thats the way I roll.

amy said...

Kim, I had a similar experience (and it was in that area you drove through) when I got a bike through eBay and we drove down to get it - it was basically just a good excuse to see another part of the country. Looking at the map I imagined rows and rows of houses in all the roads - we'd only been in France a few months. I was shocked that what I almost imagined would be housing developments was just empty countryside! Naive, I know. It still boggles my mind how empty the countryside is here - in a good way. Houses sit empty for decades...it just doesn't sync up with what my experience of property and real estate and land is, especially after living in NY for so many years. And then the war memorials in every small village - if you count the number of men who died vs. the size of the village, the first WW really did wipe out a large percentage of the healthy young men in France. It's got to be some kind of a key as to why life here is as it still is -

Randal Graves said...

I'd wager most Murkans would view war differently if they had to deal with Prussian and German armies rolling through their town every quarter of a century instead of the out of mind, on teevee mentality they currently subscribe to.

There's nothing odd about enjoying history books, utah.

Anonymous said...

It is staggering to consider the terrible cost in lives when you roll through the countryside. In every village no matter how small, it seems there's a monument marked 'Died for France'. Too often it appears that ALL the male members of a family or a clan were called and never returned.

Mrs C said...

Which is why the Americans calling cowardice rankled (though in truth, most French saw it as being mostly farts in the wind). France has been torn apart twice within living memory. Can the Americans say as much?

Non Je Ne Regrette Rien said...

okay, I am back from my visit to l'Aveyron and I wanted to mention something that occurred.

we went to a vide-grenier in St. Antonin (a lovely village decorating the banks of the Aveyron River)...and Notre Vie's spouse struck up a conversation with an older fellow at a stall. He was telling us how much he loved the Americans. How he remembered standing on this very same street and watching the Nazis march into the village (he must have been a young boy) and how much he appreciated the Americans of the time who came and assisted during WWII.

so that was cool. too bad our prior administration failed to respect that alliance.

I'll be writing more about my visit - it was SO much fun and I really loved the area. I almost bought there in 2006 ... I had no idea I would have had such terrific neighbors!

I reread this before I made the journey back, and reexamined the countryside to reflect upon my impressions. And none changed. As far as the eye can see, for hours upon hours, one only sees green uninhabited hills. This also speaks to the fairly wise road planning (although I know some families and villages were impacted) .... well then, chat again soon.

and thanks all you muppets for your insights ... they were, as usual, spot on!

Vagabonde said...

I found your blog after reading your comments on halfwaytofrance, which I had found at random as well. Well, for one thing, in France, they have very strict planning codes. People can’t just buy pieces of lands to build houses like in the US. You see the little towns, with everyone close together. My mother tried to add a room to her small house in Neuilly-Plaisance and it took 2 years to get the OK. Here, around Atlanta, everyone builds like crazy, no planning code (at least you can get what you want if you pay the right person). My cousin, near Melun, was telling my husband that this is why it’s not like in the US, they care. Also in France you have to build in the same style as the surrounding area – here you can build anything, small cabins to Mac mansions, and then you can demolish any building and build an ugly house where a lovely Victorian house stood – it happens all the time in this area. In the US they feel if they own their land, they can do anything with it, build in a marsh land, in a flood plain (then cry when there is a flood…). Planning in France is very well regulated. They have built 4 churches in a 5 mile area in my neighborhood, all very ugly and with no style whatsoever, and with a little bit more planning could have done better, but that’s the way it is. Two of the churches destroyed lovely parks too!