Thursday, September 30, 2004
Turns out parking has its own set of fun rules as well. First I should point out that parking is a real pain in the ass here. Finding a free parking spot downtown is like finding gold. More often you'll have to find a pay-by-the-quarter-hour parking lot and heaven forbid you're two minutes late - I think they must have hidden sensors or parking maids on nearby rooftops with binoculars. Maneuvering around side-streets has it's own special challenges as well. Generally the road is wide enough for cars to park on one side of the street, leaving one lane for two-way traffic. Obviously (at least it was to me) if a car is coming towards you and the cars are parked in your direction, you'd move behind a parked car and let the oncoming car pass.
Ah, but how do you know which side of the road to park on? Well, the French came up with the most obvious solution (please read very heavy sarcasm into that). For the first half of the month, cars park on the side of the street with odd-numbered addresses. The second half of the month, cars park on the side of the street with even-numbered addresses.
Apparently it gets very interesting around the 15th of the month.
Wednesday, September 29, 2004
Oh yes, am still feeling the change of seasons, but luckily I did bring a box of Claritin-D with me, and that seems to be helping, at least during the day. Hopefully this will clear up before I run out!
Over 1000 views!
Hurray, you crazy kids have sent my site counter to over 1000 views, and while I suspect that most of that is from yours truly, even I'm not obsessive enough to check it every five minutes, so somebody must be stopping by. So in the words of the Bartles & James spokesmen, "We thank you for your support." (If you don't know them, just think two older gentlemen relaxing on their veranda with a wine cooler on hand, speaking in a southern accent)
And now, the Weather
In the interest of sharing with the friends back home what it's like here, I've added a weather bar. Please keep in mind that as of now I don't have heat in the house, and let your imagination take you to the logical conclusion (i.e. my toes are now blueish).
No really, it's a good thing
I still have five (count 'em - five!) gmail invites to give away. I promise they do not cause your computer to explode or type in teen speak (like OhMyGod that wud suck u no? lOl). If you are looking for free email with a ton of storage space, this is for you. All ya gotta do is ask.
OK, I'm off to find a doctor who can do a sinus transplant. A+++
Monday, September 27, 2004
And it just figures that today would be the day that little four-year-old I. would want to hold my hand all the way home from school today, with me praying that whatever it is I have isn't contagious.
So, five years after its release, I finally saw American Beauty last night. A couple of weeks ago, we met quite a lot of Steph's colleagues for a Big Night Out (to celebrate entree, or the return to school)and I found myself chatting with two of the English teachers. Their knowledge of English is based on Great Britain, and they were curious to know the differences between English and American colloquialisms. Talk turned to music and movies, and American Beauty came up. I confessed that I'd never seen it, and next thing you know Eric offered to lend us his DVD. Since the hype has long-passed, I felt it was time to take this movie off my overhyped list and watch the dern thing.
I won't bore you to tears with my critical review, but it certainly was a powerful movie, with more laughs than I expected. I even shed a tear at the end (but then for me it would be more telling if I didn't cry during a movie - the waterworks seem to activate as soon as I enter a movie theater or turn on the DVD player). So, yes, it's highly recommended.
But I won't say more, lest you think I'm over-hyping.
Sunday, September 26, 2004
My former hometown of Titusville, Florida. Definately not cool.
My thoughts are with all of those affected; in all the years I lived there we never saw anything like this, but now friends and family are boarding up or buying bottled water for the fourth time, and the frustration and exhaustion must be enormous.
I just received an email from my sister in Tampa; she says the worst is yet to come but the storm is moving relatively quickly. I'll be looking for you online, lil sis.
There's a bar two doors down from our apartment, and we often stop in on a weekend morning for a coffee (café for him, crème café for me). Stéph likes this bar for several reasons, one being that they have Rapido, which is a lotto-pick-eight-numbers-and-hope-for-the-best kind of game. There's a tv in the corner that shows new numbers every five minutes, and you're to pick your numbers, how much you want to bet, and how many games you'd like to play. Once you've bought your ticket, you sit back and hope for the best whilst enjoying your coffee and the ambiance. It's an interesting distraction, and we generally take four games at one euro apiece. The most Stéph ever won was 50 euros, but more often it's one euro here and there and it's not unusual to win our money back.
This bar also features PMU. I don't know the exact translation (anyone?) but it designates that the bar is a place for betting on horse races. It seems every other table is occupied by someone reading the daily horse racing papers to pick out their bets for the day. I've rarely been there when there's a race on, but when I have it was absolute cacophony.
The thing that seems to set our bar apart is its international flavor. Taking up the most tables in the room next to the bar is the Asian contingent, mostly made up of (according to Stéph) Vietnamese immigrants. The women are furiously filling out rapido cards, making runs to the bar for new tickets, and sipping coffee and talking very loud. The men usually sit separately, peering over their PMU papers and taking a mid-day beer or throwing their losing rapido tickets at each other. They are often accompanied by their children, who sip lemonade and bounce between tables. In the booth under the rapido monitor is a table of Africans, chatting quietly over drinks and PMU tickets. They are an older crowd, and always look dapper in their suit jackets. I didn't know until yesterday that the tables at the front of the room are usually taken by the Portuguese guys. We usually sit in the back so I can't tell you much about them, except they seem a friendly lot, varying in age and always greet each other with a firm handshake. Scattered here and there is a table of one or two Frenchmen, taking coffee and checking out the racing schedules. And then there's us: I'm usually the only non-Asian woman in the place, save the waitstaff, as rapido and horse racing is more of a man's game, but Stéph has been taking me here since the first time I ever stayed in Troyes, and I feel comfortable there so I can't see a reason to stop. The proprietor is a warm and very friendly sort of fellow, who often stops at tables around the room to say hello to his customers.
In this country that is struggling with immigration and multi-cultural citizens, I'm glad to know there's one little corner where prejudice must be checked at the door. All these people from vastly different backgrounds coming together with one goal in mind: making loads and loads of money.
Well, you've got to start somewhere, right?
Saturday, September 25, 2004
We'll see what other kind of trouble I can get into this weekend........
Friday, September 24, 2004
This evening, we'll be meeting the gang (the gang being Steph's colleages and significant others where applicable) downtown for a quick bite to eat, followed by a jazz concert at the club Middle Age (I kid you not, and that's not a translation). I'm really looking forward to this and hope the headache-in-training doesn't graduate to full-blown anytime this evening.
Then we're off to Gudmont tomorrow to visit Doc, where we will work very hard (I believe we'll be picking apples and whatever various and sundry errands the farmers set us to) and be rewarded with yummy food. We'll be back sometime Sunday.
So (warning: shameless plug) leave me lots of comments and emails, (shameless plug over) and I hope you all have a great weekend!
Yesterday I consumed my last mini-bag of microwaveable popcorn. It was with a tear in my eye that I savored the last kernel, resisting the urge to lick the bowl.
You must understand that popcorn has been my favorite snack since the beginning of time. I fondly remember my dad making huge amounts of popcorn on the stove, armed with butter-flavored cooking oil and movie-theatre-butter salt. He went through a brief air-popping phase, which luckily didn't last very long. His popcorn always came out perfect; never so much butter as to give you the greasy feeling you have when you leave a movie theater, yet never so bland as to leave you parched.
I have thusfar been very lucky that most things I'm used to can be easily bought at the grocery, but the problem here is that the french prefer their popcorn with sugar.
That's right. Sugar.
And I'm not talking about with caramel and peanuts; that's something else entirely.
So don't bother sending me rice (thanks Dana, for offering), but if you have an extra mini-bag of microwaveable popcorn lying around, then God Bless You.
Thursday, September 23, 2004
And I'm really disappointed the the previous comments are gone....... Please don't think it was intentional (I'm moody but really not that bad). Please bear with me folks, we'll have this under control soon (I hope).
Well; it looks more like it did before, but I'm sorry I didn't know about the comments going away. They're not really gone forever, they're saved in Blogger's archives apparently, but they haven't come up with a way for the two comments applications to merge together. So to recent posters Tracey and Ruth (and I'm sure there's more I'm not thinking of, I'm sorry, it's been a long day) and all you other bloggers and visitors, please go at it with the commenting; tomorrow I'll try to make the pop up comments box prettier but I give up for today. Bon soiree!
- flooded the bathroom
- been informed that my mother-in-law doesn't think I'm doing such a great job keeping house (oh don't even get me started on this one please)
- forgotten how to make rice that isn't instant
- almost threw away a "good quality" table cloth (it's polyester, people)
So this morning I have:
- cleaned and mopped the front room
- taken precautions to not flood the bathroom again
- cleaned the gelatenous mass that was supposed to be rice from the saucepan, stove, and various and sundry other kitchen implements
- thrown the "good quality" table cloth in the wash to brighten it up a bit
And all before 9am.
I'll take that stiff drink now, please.
Wednesday, September 22, 2004
The bus system in Troyes is a site to behold. Efficient, clean, easy. There's a stop right outside our apartment that in one direction can take me to the shopping district (think really big outlet center bwahahahahha) and to the other side of town in the other direction, not to mention all stops in between. I can get to Corinne's house, the train station, and in like yesterday's case when I felt like death warmed over, a ride home from babysitting. It's 1.10 euros one way, 2.90 euros for a three time pass, and after we finally get over to the unemployment office, 15 euros for unlimited rides for a whole month.
I rode the bus for the first time with Corinne last week, and of course on my own last night. The lines are pretty straightforward, with one coming about every 10 minutes during the week. Only a minor issue when I couldnt get the door open at the end of my journey (some nice guy saw me jamming the button to open the door and yelled at the driver to hold up, which was super nice) but other than that was easy as pie.
You know what this means? I'm freeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!
Monday, September 20, 2004
I love love love Mexican food. Well, what we Americans think of as Mexican food (with apologies to any actual Mexicans reading this). One of my favorite meals growing up was tacos. I don't know if it was because we could build our own, or because there were so many ways to consume your taco once it was built. Due to a recent influx of South Americans, there were more "Mexican" restaurants where I lived in the states than you could shake a stick at. There was a time when I went to one at least once a week on my lunch break, and my friend Dana and I often relaxed after a stressful week with a grown up slushie.
While I certainly won't be running to the border anytime soon, I was very pleasantly surprised to find a couple of "Mexican" options at the local grocery. There's salsa (albiet very mild), tortillas, and of course all the fixins to make up some tasty fajitas, which I did for Steph and his sister back in April. Last night, I whipped up tacos from an actual taco kit I found in the asian foods section, of all things.
It's very funny to me whenever my husband is introduced to a new food. It's important to remember just how much french society revolves around food; it's exactly the reason there are only two fast food joints allowed in the whole country; it's a wonder even that they're tolerated at all.
After throughly examining all the dishes involved, he will invariably take the new food very close to his face and sniiiifffffff. At first I thought he was making fun of me; then in the states I watched him do this with hamburgers, entrees at restaurants, even soda. And in case you think it's just him with the sensitive nose, when I made tortillas for his sister and her boyfriend, they did the exact same thing.
And for the record, both meals were enjoyed immensely. ;)
Sunday, September 19, 2004
Jeu de Tarot is the card game that literally (it seems) everyone in France knows how to play. It's so far reaching that I wouldn't be surprised if it's a required class in school. I won't bore you with how it's played, especially when you can check it out here, but I will tell you that in addition to the 52 cards we're used to, there's an excuse, 21 trumps, and an extra face card called a chevalier, or knight. It can be played with as little as four people and up to six, if I remember right. The rules change drastically depending on the number of players which can really send you for a loop when your husband doesn't bother to tell you that ahead of time.
I'd played the game last time I visited in April, and there were always at least 5 players. Last night we were short one, which in all fairness we didn't know until we arrived, and I also expected to absolutely suck, since I hadn't played at all, let alone thought about the game in the last five months. So it shouldn't come as a shock that I was the big loser at -330 points. I was actually in a position to win a hand but had to throw the whole round out when it was discovered that I had one card more than everyone else - I hadn't put enough cards in my chien, which was especially frustrating because I was holding a 1 and a 21 (there's a little humor for anyone who actually knows this game). The truth is, we were in excellent company, as I really like Stéph's colleages a lot, and I don't just say that because they tolerate their friend's american wife; indeed, I'd like them if we were starting with a common language, which is even better.
Now if you'll excuse me, I've got to go read that afore-mentioned website........
Saturday, September 18, 2004
Yesterday we took the 20 minute drive to the nearest forest to hunt for mushrooms. This little hobby is something Stéph has done all his life and knows exactly what he's looking for. For me it was just a little hike in the woods, but apparently the ground was too dry for mushrooms so we just had a nice little romp in the forest. When we got home, Stéph took down his trusty mushroom book and showed me what we'd be looking for. It's a funky little thing called trompettes de mort which, if you're paying attention, translates to trumpets of death. Sounds tasty, eh?
Thursday, September 16, 2004
- The director speaks english.
- There's a sorprano who's originally from Thailand who spent 3 years in the states, so another english speaker.
- Our first song, a madrigal, is in english.
Of course, I didn't expect the whole dang thing to be in english, but what I found is that I do in fact know three languages (albeit one of them very very badly): english, french (that'll be the bad one) and music. The director could have been speaking Finnish and I still would have understood her. I am really really really happy this fell into my lap!
After a brief audition alone with the director, I was accepted and will stay in the alto section, and Isabelle will change over to the sopranos. Oh; the other big surprise was that Isabelle told me that she never sang before, but she really has a lovely soprano voice. I think she was just as shocked!
Right; dinner's on the table (yay Corinne!) so more soonish.
Wednesday, September 15, 2004
Before I go Try To Sleep (I think I see a new theme), I'm going to try to do the link thingie by reposting the link from the last post here and if it works, Anna is a golden sweet lady and if it doesn't then I'm a tired old bat who can't be bothered.
One more thing before I go......
The Funniest Thing I Saw Today
Man, you can't make this stuff up. On the way to the other side of the planet, we passed a camper with a Montana lisence plate. Boggles the mind how it got over here in the first place.......
Tuesday, September 14, 2004
I don't know how to do that blog thingie where you make a word in a post into a link, so if someone wouldn't mind emailing me using very small words that a small child (scratch that; they're more computer literate that I am) er newbie (don't really like that word either) could understand I would really really appreciate it.
Ooh and today is also Doc and her hubby's wedding anniversary so hurrah! and many more you crazy kids!
I'm going to fall into a coma now. Nighty night.
I did have a lovely surprise when I got home: my mailbox actually works! Instead of openning it and finding diddly-squat, there were actually letters! And my Rolling Stone magazine! And ooh, a letter from Rolling Stone..... ah, a renewal. Well that's not bad, it's not too expensive, just $12 a year, I could ...................
SIXTY-FIVE DOLLARS FOR ONE YEAR ???
well dammit all to hell.
Hoo boy, was I wrong.
Last night, around 3am, I was awoken by a B-2 bomber landing in my ear. This sucker was so loud it had me sitting up shaking my head wildly whilst batting myself in the face. Steph got a good laugh, but the same thing happened to him about an hour later. Bwahahahahha.
I can't find where it actually bit me, though. Maybe it was just a reconnaisance mission?
Monday, September 13, 2004
So my belle soeur (that'll be sister-in-law) Isabelle called this evening with some interesting news. Saturday night she invited me to visit the local music conservatory to audition for their chorale. Since she's in the teaching community here in Troyes, she knows all these teaching-type people, so we were going to go Wednesday afternoon to speak to the director. The news this evening was that she spoke to the director today, and going on Wednesday won't be necessary; we're invited to join the chorale for rehearsal Thursday night, and we'll just have to sing for the director after the rehearsal to make sure we can carry a tune in a bucket.
Geez, next thing you know I'll have a whole routine or something. (not bad for 2 weeks out, eh?)
So, I shall send them something really fantastic, as soon as I think of something, er, and as soon as I get some money. Heh.
And "wingeing," Carrie? Methinks someone has been reading My Boyfriend is a Twat, eh?
I used to be a really picky eater. This doesn't serve you well when you move to a new country because a) it's really inconvenient to go across town for McDonald's everyday and 2) you tend to pick up a nasty reputation for being the american who'll only eat american food (read: McDonald's). Next thing you know you're not being invited out anymore and you've gained twenty pounds from all the quarter pounders. So since I've been visiting friends in France and more importantly since I've moved here, it's been very important to Try Something New. Indeed, I've at least tried everything that's been placed in front of me, and only one dish has ever actually disagreed with me (and Maman Ute has promised not to make endives for me again).
The very tasty dish we enjoyed at Thierry's home friday night was a popular dish called mussels and frites (that'll be french fries to you americans). Steph tells me it's a specialty of the north of France, but I've read it's also a specialty of Belgium but I don't want to start any fights so I'll plead ignorance. Mussels are fun to eat because you can open and close them like castanets to use as an eating implement. It kind of reminded me of a clam bake or an oyster roast, as it's messy finger food but a good time.
Q: Do you like France?
A: Well of course I do. The main reason I moved here is 'cause hubby lives here, but would I have been so quick to follow if he'd been from, say, Botswana? I don't think so. (Not to offend any readers currently residing in Botswana, but I moved away from Florida because of the heat so I don't think Africa would be much of an improvement.) Anyway, who would be stupid enough to say, "No, I really hate it here, but that's my lot in life, I guess." ?
Q: Do you miss the states?
A: Truth is, I've only been gone for a couple of weeks, so it still feels a little like I've just gone on vacation. 'Course, I miss knowing that I can't go down the street for a Grown-Up Slushie with Dana, or meet up with The Dinettes on Tuesdays, but I don't think it's really quite hit me yet. Please ask again in two months.
Good grief, did my friends and family do the same thing to Stéph when he spent his summer vacation with me? No wonder he sighed a lot.
I'm unbelieveably tired, as I haven't slept well due to too much alcohol consumed since Friday (my god these frenchies do drink a lot......... I don't think my tolerance will ever rise to a decent sociable amount) but before I go try to sleep.......
Wit and Wisdom from My Husband
"Oh yes, the bar is always open.... unless it's closed."
The Funniest Thing I Saw Today
Well I don't know if this counts, as it wasn't today and wasn't something I saw but something that happened, but as I haven't done this feature in a while, so....
Last night, after dinner with brother-in-law Thierry and family, my oldest neice asked if I knew the card game Asshole. To make it even weirder, they use the card deck for a game called Jeu de Tarot, which has more cards and trumps and an extra knight and god knows what else thrown in. It was really fun, especially as I started out as President and ended up as Asshole (which is just politics running its natural course, isn't it?). So far, all the in-laws have been really great, and incredibly tolerant of their new aunt/sister-/daughter-in-law who can barely tell you the time in french, nevermind carry on a conversation.
Ack, enough whining about my language skills (or lack thereof), I'm crashing. Enjoy what's left of your Sunday.
Comments, suggestions, questions, etc... all are welcome. Make an Ex-Pat happy, wouldja please?
Sunday, September 12, 2004
But I can't, so boo hoo me, right?
We went to dinner with Stéph's colleages friday night, and we sat on one end of the table facing a colleage and his girlfriend. The gf and I were able to eek out a small conversation (what do you do, how was your vacation, oh you sing how interesting, etc.) but the majority of the time was spent smiling and gesturing. It was a relief later to speak a little english with the two english teachers when we had drinks at the bar, but even then there's a lot of smiling and gesturing.
I know I'm putting possibly more pressure on myself than I need to, but I just know that life will be so much better when I can understand what the hell is going on, nevermind talk like a sensible adult.
So, we started my french lessons this morning. Mostly just talking french from the book, and I've got homework that's due on Wednesday. It's insanely simple now, all things I know, and hopefully we can move ahead to the harder stuff soon. Even now my husband is on the phone in the other room and I have no freakin' idea what he's saying.
If anyone finds a way to insert a french chip into my head, please let me know, poste haste.
Saturday, September 11, 2004
We got an email yesterday asking us to describe in detail the medicines that were in the box. Which would have been all well and good, except I don't remember packing any medicines in that box.
Granted, I was a packing whirlwind the last few days we were in the states. There were boxes that would stay at a friends house (to whom I'm eternally grateful, and you know who you are), the suitcases we would bring with us, and one lone box to be shipped (due to the exorbitant cost). Everything that I just couldn't live without was packed into this one box, but was it possible a stray box of Claritin had found its way in? Surely I would have written it down?
So, Stéph called UPS again this morning. Was it possible that it was some allergy medication?
Well, you'll have to tell us, they replied.
Stéph: Hold on just one second here......... Did you open the box?
UPS Clerk (who's obviously a rocket scientist on the side): Oh no, we're just going by what you've written in the inventory.
Stéph: It says medical records, not medicine! They're papers!!
Smug UPS Clerk: Ah.............................. Well, you'll have to email a declaration that they are indeed papers and not medicine, as we're too unbelievably stoopid to take the time to look up what "records" translates to in French.
OK, I made the last part up.
Maybe, just maybe, I'll see the box soon. And I think I'll buy UPS Paris an English-French dictionary for Christmas.
Friday, September 10, 2004
Me: And they were my favorite necklaces. And my favorite earrings too.
Steph: mmm hmmm.
Me: You didn't take them to give to other women, did you?
Steph: Oh no, I've got 10 in reserve for that.
Ugh. What I really wanted to do was go downtown to Fnac (I just love saying that. Fnac Fnac Fnac Fnac...) to find the latest issue of Time magazine and maybe a new book in english. But, one less errand to run on the weekend sounded (slightly) better so off I went.
It was lovely when I first started... not so hot, a light breeze, blue skies, interesting shops to look at, since I hadn't been out this way by myself yet. I walked the two or three blocks to Quick (a Belgian burger joint, the only competetor to McDonald's in France) but thanks to low caffeine levels had forgotten the name of the store I was looking for. Libl? Leisel? I was muttering "weebles wobble but they don't fall down" when I saw Lidl across the street. By now the street had widened to a six lane highway so I had to back track a couple of blocks to find a decent place to cross. Once safely inside the Lidl (which is just like Aldi: crap products from manufacturers you've never heard of at low low prices) there was not a purse to be found. Dejected, I headed to my next stop, Intermarche, for tonight's dinner.
Suddenly, the temperature rose about 10 degrees (farenheight, thank you). This happens no matter what time of day I leave the house, whether it be 11am or 4pm. Instantly whatever I'm wearing is terribly inappropriate, and the long sleeved t-shirt that seemed like a good idea at the get go was clinging in places t-shirts should never cling. Trodged home in sudden sahara-like heat.
Funniest Thing I Saw Today
A Ford F250 rumbled by me at the intersection of the Intermarche. Dragged my jaw into the market where I saw.... oh dear lord, no........
Why oh why, someone please tell me, why someone would actually want and purchase on purpose ham flavored potato chips? Oh yes, you too can buy a bag at your local Intermarche.
Thursday, September 09, 2004
Second day babysitting wasn't so bad, especially since the folks came home a bit early (first thought: "yahoo i'm freeeeeeeeeee"). Discovered that I., the youngest at age 4, has learned some particularly nasty language already at school, and much to the dismay of the children, I understood it (thanks Doc!). Let it slide tho, since he said it under his breath, indicating that he already knew it was particularly nasty, and was just trying to see what he could get away with. The girls, aged 6 and 8, were fine at first, but as soon as we started to play a game, accusations of cheating abounded and tears flew. Luckily it was just as their Maman was walking in the door so I was saved that scene.
Found out the hard way that, while the walls are quite thick, they're not soundproofed worth squat. Our (presumably) university student next door neighbor had friends over the other night, and talked all night, without one single pause. I think they used megaphones, directed at the wall we share, where of course our bed is just on the other side. I really really really wanted to shout "OH FOR CHRISSAKES SHADDAP ALREADY" at 3:30 in the morning but didn't when I remembered that they probably wouldn't understand and could possibly mistake my scream of frustration for a scream for help and called the gendarmerie and turn into a complete fiasco. Luckily it's been quiet over there since but have been going to bed on pins and needles, ready to flip out at the first sign of conversation next door.
Yesterday was Steph's day off, and while we mostly wanted to relax (I don't think either one of us is completely over jet lag yet), we had a few more things to do. The most entertaining thing we did was to go to the library especially for teachers, where we found (much to hubby's surprise) a section on teaching french as a second language to adults. We chose three books: a workbook, a conversation book, and a book with exercises and a cassette, all tied together like a proper class. We can keep the books for three weeks, and then only have to go back and check them out again. Classes with my hubby/prof start this week sometime, when we can both concentrate on something for more than an hour without falling asleep.
Today is blissfully quiet; just catching up on a little laundry and only have to walk to the Intermarche to pick up something for dinner. I'm very much looking forward to tomorrow, when I'll be inducted into the American Wives of Frenchmen Club, Haute Marne/Aube Chapter (which is really lunch with Doc and Sandra who are coming for the afternoon) and then dinner with Steph's colleages on the town tomorrow night. Saturday I'll finally meet Steph's oldest brother and his family, and we've got a little celebration to go to Saturday evening at the home of his other brother. And Sunday there is nothing planned, and I hope it stays that way.
And now I'd like to extend happy happy birthday greetings to my dear dear friend Carrie, who turns *mufflemuffle* today! Many many more you crazy cat, you!
Tuesday, September 07, 2004
Everything went fine this afternoon; better than I expected actually. (Thanks for the happy thoughts, whoever thought them.)
So, I left at quarter after four, and had only a minor problem on my 35 minute walk across town: close to the bus depot (at least I think it's a bus depot... there's a lot of buses there, anyway), a couple of guys tried to get my attention. The first was an older guy with a beard (rather reminiscent of a post-spider hole Sadaam, now that I think about it) and the second was a younger guy in his very nice and clean rugby jumper/matching shorts & tennis shoes. Both, I suspect, wanted money, as they faded behind me when I kept walking and didnt give either the time of day. I wouldn't call myself a big city girl, but it felt vaguely of New York City. (my mantra: goawaygoawaygoawaygoaway. It worked.)
So I collected the children and got them home with no problems. After two hours of three children going wild in their own home, including snacks, a french jump rope game and a screaming four year old, Carine finally arrived. After my report (oh sure, the kids were great! *eye roll*), she told me that her school is looking for an assistant english teacher, and if I was interested she would mention me to the director of the school.
*blink* yes please!
I was so frazzled by that point that I hope she wasn't discouraged by the fact that I didn't jump up and down in excitement, but it would be amazing (and too damn good to be true, really) if something came of it. We'll see tomorrow.
I started my half hour trek home at 7pm, and found a slightly shorter/safer way home, through the construction* and really cool downtown area. Came home and died.
Stéph was waiting for me, and he had news of the mysterious UPS package from Maman Uté: we're supposed to have some kind of a customs number before we can confirm and have it delivered. They provided a website but it proved to be completely unhelpful. Stéph will get up a little early to call back himself and figure out what the problem is. He also informed me that his mom gave him grief because the living room wasn't in perfect order (it is tidied up, I swear she was nit-picking!!!), but after just arriving home after a 12 hour day, he wasn't having it so he kicked her out.
My god I love this man. *silly grin*
*A note on construction
Various parts of town are always undergoing some kind of construction or another. The area I walked through today is one end of the downtown area, and it seems they are paving the road, so the whole road for about 4 blocks has been ripped up with gravel thrown down, but it's not a problem for pedestrian traffic. The real problem is this town is so unbelieveably old, that if something that could be of historical importance is found, all construction must stop and an archaelogical team must be brought in. Case in point: the little park in front of the Prefecture was recently razed to put in a new parking lot, but they found an ancient graveyard (little wonder with a matching ancient church not a block away). The archaeological team has been called in, and god knows when they'll be done, so in the mean time it's even worse getting around there than it was when it was just a park. C'est la vie!
The Funniest Thing I Saw Today, part deux:
This isn't really funny as much as a comment on the current fashion, at least for the high school/university set. Seems the latest in tennis shoe fashion is a high top in blaring colors (usually red), which greatly resembles a boxing shoe. Pants are pulled above the top of the shoe so the whole shoe can be seen and envied. Think I'll pass on this one, thanks.
Sorry for any errors in this edition, but I'm absolutely knackered, to borrow a phrase from our english friends. More tomorrow, I'm sure.
Monday, September 06, 2004
Went to the Intermarche (have switched back to my qwerty keyboard, so all the cool accents are lost, unless I feel like switching back and forth between computers, which I don't) to get something for lunch today and dinner tonight. Since we're both working this evening (tee hee), Steph suggested a frozen pizza, which is fine with me. They're surprisingly good. My stomach rolled when I entered, since "fresh" meat and seafood are displayed very near the entrance. Craving familiarity since I'm feeling under the weather, I found a ham & cheddar (cheddar? I can find it in a sandwich but not at the mile long cheese display at the super-Walmart-like Carrefour???) sandwich and some Pringles. Aaaah, comfort food.
My trip to the Intermarche leads me to....
Funniest Thing I Saw Today
Walking down the cereal isle, looking for Steph's (aw who am I kidding? I eat it too) Meuslix, I saw something strangely familiar. It was Kellogg's Sugar Smacks, but it was just called Smacks. Rather disturbing was the familiar frog smiling at me on the box, with a little french flag painted on his cheek. I guess it's not an insult if you accept it first?
Ah, but the day is still young, and I have work to do today. Wish me luck!
Alright, since you listened to me rant, I'll introduce a new feature called:
The Funniest Thing I Saw Today
It wasn't today actually, but yesterday, when we were walking home, a moped zoomed by. On the moped was a guy, wearing his helmet, of course (a helmet must but worn on all open air motorized vehicles), and standing in front him, driving, was his son, maybe about six, also wearing his helmet. Talk about your double takes!
OK, it's bed time, nighty night.
I'm finally back on my computer, but it looks like we may need to look into buying some additional memory for my computer.... with my habit of having umpty-million windows open at once, and all the games I've got on here, memory is definately running thin. Well, just one more thing to add to the list....
I finally got Stephane to check his messages today, something he's generally pretty slack at. Since we havent gotten any word in the mail from UPS about the box I sent before we left and should have been here last Wednesday, I used this as an excuse. Unfortunately they called twice last week, and we've got five days starting Friday to call. (eeeek!) Since Steph's gotta work Monday and Tuesday and I'm useless on a phone right now, Maman Ute is gonna call for us tomorrow. We also heard the message from Doc (sorry about that Doc, but luckily we've already talked about that online) and Steph's co-teacher Frederique, who invited us out for drinks last night. I don't think we would have gone, seeing how completely dead we were after walking so much, but still. Hopefully we'll see some improvement on that in the future.
Well it looks like I'm a working woman, even if it's only a couple of hours a week. We met Carine and Gildas, and their three kids today at their apartment, which is absolutely gorgeous. It's on the eighth floor, with floor to ceiling windows in the sitting room. An absolutely amazing view of Troyes - one Stephane hadn't even seen before. We were quite mesmorized! Carine and Gildas were really really great, not only super nice but were able to switch back and forth between english and french to talk to Steph and me. Looks like the kids will be a small handful (they are ages 8, 6, and 4) but I'm hoping I'll be strange enough to keep them from wanting to torture me for two hours a week. They all understand english, but today were too shy to speak it with us. Funny thing is, they've been told I don't speak french at all so we'll have to see how that plays out. So the plan is, as long as the weather is nice (and it looks like it will be nice for quite a while), I'll walk across town, which is about half an hour, to their school. I'll have to go inside to pick up Ian, the youngest, (ack ack ack pray for me) and then wait in the school yard for the girls. Then we'll walk back to the apartment, where hopefully we'll just chill and start homework before Carine or Gildas gets home. Then I can take a bus if I'm pooped, or walk back home. Easy enough right? (Christ, I know I won't sleep tonight!)
The only small issue is that Carine would like to pay me officially, so she can claim it on her taxes, but we'll have to check with the insurance company to see if that will increase my premium too much for it to be worth it (since I've told them I'm generating no income, it may be less expensive not to work at all!). We'll see about that on Wednesday, when we're out looking for french lessons.
Right, well that's quite enough for my first week in France........ everyone enjoy your Sunday afternoon, and have a great week!
Sunday, September 05, 2004
Turns out that Sainte Savine, a suburb of Troyes, was hosting an enormous vide grenier so large they shut down most of the town! Some of you may be familiar with Bele Chere, the summer festival in Asheville billed as the largest outdoor festival in the southeast. This thing was easily twice that size. It wasn't just families selling the junk from their closets, it was also local stores, food, carnival rides, street performers, and live music. It took us over an hour and a half to walk down one side. It was exhausting, but entertaining! And I did manage to find a couple of things I was looking for:
- a bedside lamp, white, 3 Euros
- a little vanity box for odds and ends, 3 Euros
- an egg timer, in the shape of a pear, 1 Euro
- a new wallet, 'cause my new ID card wont fit in my old one, 6 Euros
Now here's the funny part: it was really quite warm today, maybe about 85°? But the humidity was lower than my shoe size, so while it was hot standing in direct sunshine, it wasn't really too bad in the shade. Unfortunately, this temperature is absolutely unheard of in September here, and everyone was falling all over themselves! So for me it was a little uncomfortable, but not too bad, but for Stéph, Maman Uté and Corinne it was a blistering desert. I was surprised when Stéph decided to ditch the shopping-mad in-laws and head for home. We considered taking a bus (we were on the opposite side of town, about a 20 minute walk with a good city stride) but since they aren't air conditioned we stumbled home on foot.
The apartment was nice and cool when we came in, which is constantly a surprise to me. I thought I would be miserable on a day like today with no a/c, but Stéph tells me that with the foot and a half thick walls and the tile floors on top of concrete, I'm sure, it would take a couple of weeks of weather like this to affect the apartment. It's lovely on a warm day like today, but it's crazy cold in the winter.
On the homefront, we started the armoire this morning, and we had just enough energy when we got home to finish it off. Now, I just have to put my stuff in it, which I think I'll start here in a few minutes. Tomorrow we're going to the in-laws' for lunch and we'll meet Carine and her family at 3:00. Then I think it will finally be time for a good rest!
Carrie: I don't know if you can say finding a job was resourceful; I think the reality is that it was just dumb luck. Carine and her family just happened to go to church with a co-worker of mine, who basically hooked us up. Call it divine providence or fate; I'll take it anyway I can get it!
Saturday, September 04, 2004
The phone rang late in the morning, and thanks to the miracle of caller ID, I saw that it was Carine, who is French, lived with her family (husband & 3 kids) in Greenville for three years working for Michelin, and were transferred to Troyes in July! We've not actually met face to face yet, but I've talked her on the phone a couple of times and seems very nice. Anyhoo, she was calling with a proposition: she wants her kids to continue speaking english, but already they are forgetting it. Since they get out of school at 5:00pm, and she doesnt get home until 6:00pm, couldnt I pick them up at school and take them home and watch them on Mondays and Tuesdays? Of course she'd pay me.
Me: !!!!! *happy dance*
The only problem is that she lives on the exact opposite side of town, which means taking the bus (eek!), but hopefully we can find some time this weekend for Stéphane to babysit me on a bus to visit her and the kids.
So, Stéph got home about 1:30, and after a quick lunch we headed to the Prefecture. Now brace yourselves, gentle readers, 'cause this is gonna knock your socks off: Getting my carte de sejour (residence/green card) was easier than going to the DMV! I cant believe it myself really. We had been to the Prefecture twice before (once in April and Tuesday) and we triple checked that we had everything, so the most difficult thing was waiting in line for 20 minutes! There was only one snag, and it's not even that bad: The card I have now is good for 3 months. Within this three months I have to have a physical, and they even make the appointment for me and send me a letter with the appointment info. The snag? They are currently 6 months behind. If I dont get the appointment before December 2nd, I just have to go back to the Prefecture, where they will give me another card that's good for 3 months. That's not so bad, is it?
Since we were riding a wave of such good luck, we thought we'd stop by Stéph's insurance company to see what we'd need to add me to his insurance. Miracle number 2: we had everything with us! So we signed a couple of forms and I'll have a card in a couple of weeks. The only bad thing about that one was that we thought adding me to his insurance would be free, but they changed it in January (just our luck). But, its only about 320 Euros a year to add me, which ain't bad at all. So, now I can break my other big toe and I'm totally covered. :P
After a quick stop to say hi to the in-laws (where my father-in-law pretended to light my green card on fire and Stéph said "That's exactly what your father would have done to me!") we went to the furniture store, named But. It's pronounced "booooot" but I cant help but think, yes, its a place to buy things for my butt to sit on. How appropriate! But no, nothing was purchased for my butt on this visit. We did, however, purchase an armoire for my clothes and a desk for my computer, the kind you have to assemble yourself. Getting them home involved rope, me seriously squished in the front seat, and blocking traffic as we tried to park in front of our apartment.
Everything safely inside, we decided to go ahead and do the desk, since it was the smaller of the two, and so we could get the computer stuff situated. After a quick dinner, we built that sucker, and its now standing proudly next to Stéph's. We've got to get a cable so we can network the computers, but I should have my computer back up and online by tomorrow.
Hurrah hurrah indeed! It's been a good day, but I'm freakin' pooped. Tomorrow is looking like a good one too - we're goin' to the flea market!
You kids play nice and I'll jaw at you tomorrow.
A quick note on time...
The time and date on this website are seriously messing with my head, so I just wanted to point out that since I have to ability to change the time and date for the entries, I'm changing them to my local time, which is 6 hours ahead of Eastern Standard Time. As for the time in the comments, they're just funky and well, do we care about that really? I didn't think so.
Right, I'm outta here. Nighty night!
Friday, September 03, 2004
The other interesting thing is that my mother-in-law stopped by, about an hour before Stéphane got home. (Her: I was just driving around town! Me: !!!!!) Actually, we were able to eek out a decent conversation. I'm pretty much able to kind of make myself understood, but since the hardest thing for me right now is hearing & comprehending, I didn't do to badly as long as she spoke slowly. The hand gestures didn't hurt either. She told Stéph the other night on the phone that both she and Corinne wanted to call me, but didn't know what they could say, and I know exactly what they mean; it's way easier to eek out a conversation in person when you can point out things and improvise sign language.
This afternoon will be pretty busy. On the schedule is the Prefecture, Stéph's insurance company, the furniture store, the Carre Four (equivelent to a Wal-Mart supercenter), and the in-laws. Whew! We may try to hook up the computer tonight, so it may be tomorrow before I can update.
I want to take this opportunity to say hi to those of you in Florida who are preparing for Frances to arrive. I just saw that she seems to be calming down a bit and I hope it stays that way. We'll be thinking about y'all this weekend, so please take care and let us know how that goes.
A++ (computer slang for a plus tard or "see ya later")
Thursday, September 02, 2004
So; let's see..... what's been going on since we arrived on Tuesday (my god, it's only been 2 days? It feels like a week!)?
Fun with Immigration, part 1
After we arrived home Tuesday, Stéphane called the Prefecture to see if they were open, so we could start processing my paperwork to get my green card. (Side note to those interested: because we were married before we arrived, a visa wasn't necessary. While that's the good news, the bad news is we have 90 days to get something it writing that I am immigrating, so the sooner we get going the better.) Much to his surprise, he was told they were open. After double checking our paperwork and waiting for new sister-in-law Corinne to arrive, we walked downtown (about a 10 minute walk). Of course we were told they were really closed, thank you very much. Luckily, we were able to talk to an agent to verify that we've got what we need so I believe we will try again Friday afternoon.
Workin' for a Livin'
So Stéphane went back to work yesterday and came home half-dead. Bless him, between jet lag and nonstop meetings I believe I'd have been half-dead too. Good news is that he got an excellent schedule this year: full days Monday, Tuesday and Thursday, no work Wednesday and only working 8am until 10am Friday. Don't be jealous just yet: the days he's there all day are killers; he starts at 8am and teaches until 5pm with a two hour break for lunch, and working with mentally challenged kids is tedious and exhausting. Tensions are high today with students returning to school and the new law banning head scarves takes effect. As you may be aware, two French journalists were kidnapped in Iraq and their captors are threatening to kill them if the law stands; this is a complicated issue and I'll try to expand on that in another entry.
Adventures in Housekeeping
Until I improve my french and am able to work, my new job title is Domestic Goddess. I managed to get everything unpacked yesterday (read: taken out of suitcases) but am limited to where I can put stuff until we buy some furniture. For now we're looking to purchase a bureau for my clothes and a small desk for my computer. In the meantime, I've been busy doing laundry. This is no small feat, as one wash cycle takes approximately two hours (followed by an hour and a half in the dryer). The cool thing is that the washers and dryers are self-contained: the washer drains into the sink and the dryer keeps the water in a container to be dumped when it's done. This means they can be moved around, and the dryer in the bedroom will be an extra source for heat in the winter (yay!).
What's in a name?
Yeah, most of you know my real name isn't ViVi........ This was a nickname given to me when my American friend in France discovered that my new initials would be "V.V." so I thought it'd be a good nom de plume for the internet. And besides, I kinda like it!
Well, I believe that's all the news that's fit to be news. More tidbits as they arise!