October 1, 2009

Posted in la vie bordelaise tagged , , , , , at 1:42 pm by Fat Girl Dancing

Written on Tuesday, September 29, 2009 – 7:19pm

Yesterday was Yom Kippur.  I had previously told my family that I was Jewish, so when I told them that I wouldn’t be eating with them Sunday night, and that I would be fasting all day for the holiday, they weren’t too surprised.

I woke up early, for me, around 7:30, and put on a sundress and strappy sandals.  Even ma mère commented that I looked nice this morning.

There were technical troubles on the tram, and it was a slow, crowded ride into Bordeaux.  At one point the tram came to an abrupt stop, throwing people forward.  As it was already packed to capacity, no one was seriously injured, but it was still frightening.

I walked down the narrow side street to the synagogue.  There was a police car sitting in front, and the two police officers were watching the passersby, but I didn’t think much of it.  We get the Amberly Village police out on the High Holy Days in Cincinnati, mostly because there’s so much extra traffic on the road – they help keep everything flowing.

I walked up to the entrance and asked the two men there what time the service started.  They looked at me surprised, and one led me to a kind of “holding area,” blocked off by guardrails.  He questioned me, asking was I Jewish, did I live in Bordeaux, was I a student; I showed him my passport and he searched my bag, asking me if I had any weapons such as a knife or scissors.  Once he was satisfied, he let me in.

I guess in a country that doesn’t specifically give religious freedoms, one can’t be too careful.

I entered the synagogue and found the doors to the sanctuary were closed.  I started to enter through the main doors, but hesitated.  A woman noticed me and asked if I was looking for “where the women are.”  I kind of blinked at her, and she said, “The women are upstairs.”  I realized the synagogue was Orthodox, not Reform like I was used to or even Conservative.  She looked at my dress and told me I couldn’t go upstairs without some sort of cover-up because I was showing too much arm.  I told her I didn’t have anything with me, and I lived in Talence.  A guy with her said, “Let her go, it’s all right,” so she let me go upstairs.

I took a prayer book and entered the sanctuary with the other woman.  At 9am, it was just me and four other old ladies, although many other women of various ages trickled in throughout the morning.  There didn’t seem to be any real service, as my dad said later, they were just davening.  The men on the first floor were reciting the prayers, the women were silent.  I watched for a while before I gave up and browsed through the prayer book, looking for familiar prayers.  I found the Avot and the Shema and the Viyahafta and read them to myself – badly.  My Hebrew is terribly out of practice.  I found prayers asking for forgiveness and healing that I recognized and read them to myself in French.  In total, I stayed nearly two hours, and I feel I got what I needed

I walked nearly half the way home, instead of taking the tram straight back.  However at a distance of about 3km in heels with a hurt back, I gave up and waited for the tram.  I managed to catch one just as an announcement came on at the station saying there was a problem at a stop in Bordeaux and there would be a delay between future trams.

I gave in and ate chocolate madeleines around 3:30pm, but I think fasting from 6pm to 3:30pm is all right, and I made a good effort.

My family ate late last night, even for them.  It was 10pm before I was called to dinner.  I heard the clattering of dishes earlier than that, and began to fret that they’d started eating without calling me – perhaps they thought I was fasting tonight too!  And I was so hungry for dinner!  I began to feel sorry for myself.  But then they called me, and it was chicken and green beans, and it was delicious.

In a wonderfully kind gesture, my host family offered to let me invite some friends over for a barbecue.  They asked when would be a good day, and I suggested October 17, since it would be my birthday.  They loved the idea, and then my host mother said something about “Ay yi yi, 31 candles on the cake!”  I told her, “Don’t get all those candles, someone will call the fire department!”  But I’m very happy that they’re being so nice, allowing me to invite friends into their house, and celebrating my birthday.  I had almost decided not to bring it up at all, in the hopes that if I ignored it, I could stay 30 for another year.

I received my final schedule for the year, and it kind of sucks.  I have to work four days out of the week, including Friday afternoon.  When I was with V. on Saturday, she said when she had an assistant, she always tried to give them Fridays off so they could travel over the weekend.  I’ll be working Monday afternoon, Tuesday all day, Thursday morning, and Friday afternoon.  It’s just annoying that they couldn’t condense my days more, so I have to take the bus four days a week.  Other than that, my schools have been very nice, and I have a welcome lunch at my main school on Thursday!

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