Monday, September 26, 2005

back to the living

Well, barely.

I'm over the worst of the cold. Saturday night, Steph and I felt well enough to drive over to our friend Eric's house to play tarot. All was fine until I experienced a bout of nausea in the middle of eating my ice cream on a stick. Yesterday started out fine, but after eating a bit of the hachis parmentier (something like a shepard's pie with ground beef and pork with mashed potatoes on top baked in the oven) we made for lunch, I thought I was going to throw up and spent the rest of the day in bed. Now I can't even come near the stuff. I suspect it's all from consuming too much of my own sinus fluids. The idea that I'm carrying an unscheduled bun in the oven crossed my mind, but (as my very odd ex-roommate called it) "George" arrived on schedule last week.

And now that you know way to much about my menstrual cycle, I'll move swiftly forward and tell you a revelation I had while I was sick. It occurred to me that the last time I was this sick was last year, not long after we arrived, when Steph was sick for a couple of days and I was sick for a week. The thing that ties them together is the beginning of school. In fact, it seems everyone at Steph's school was sick last week. It looks like I can look forward to this every September, so I'm asking all the teachers and teachers' spouses out there: what do you do to avoid this back-to-school illness every year?

In other news, we've got someone coming to look at the apartment again this afternoon, so I spent the morning making it look presentable. The truth is, it's lovely to have it all tidied up before lunchtime. I've really got to get my butt in gear and do this everyday.

Or maybe every other day...

Thursday, September 22, 2005

the gift that keeps on giving

I've caught Steph's cold. I feel like I've been run over by a bus.

Still no phone call.

That is all.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

vivi goes for a drive

Steph had a sniffle when he came home from work yesterday, and before the night was over, he was propped up in bed with tissues stuffed up his nose. Yes, it must be Fall. The weather can't change without one or both of us getting sick.

We had a lot planned to do today, as Wednesday is Steph's day off, but it became clear very quickly that what he really needed was a day of rest. We had been invited to his parents' for lunch and were just contemplating whether or not we should cancel when the phone started to ring.

Looks like the apartment has finally been listed with a local realtor. In rapid succession, three people called to make appointments to see the apartment, the first one due to arrive in fifteen minutes. Luckily I'd mopped the floors yesterday (seriously - that was one chore I'd put off for way too long) so we scrambled around tidying up things a bit.

After the first potential renter left, Steph called his mom to cancel lunch, who then offered to bring lunch to us and help us set the apartment to rights. About an hour later, she arrived with lentils and sausage (not something I would usually rave over but she does this dish very well!) and before we had the food on plates she was scrubbing the toilet and washing the kitchen walls. I used to get really offended when she came over and started cleaning things or offered to take my ironing home and do it (that one sorta still puzzles me) but she told me herself that she likes cleaning things (you could probably eat off her floor) and if someone wants to scrub my toilet who am I to stop them?

The other thing Steph and I had planned to do today was go grocery shopping. Can I just say that I love how couples and families go grocery shopping together here? That never happens back home. I mean, obviously it's not always practical but I think it's fair to say that there are just as many if not more couples/families shopping than people by themselves. Anyway, someone needed to be home to great the next potential renter and Steph needs to rest, so I volunteered to go shopping by myself.

I know you're thinking, "and so?" But here's the thing: until today I haven't driven in France by myself, and the only times I've driven are right out of town on nice big streets into villages where everyone was already home for the night; none of this in-town driving around roundabouts business.

So I did it. The good thing is that we've been taking the same route once every couple of weeks for a year, so I know the way pretty well (though being a passenger is never the same as being the driver, you know?). Honestly, there's nothing really to report: I got there ok, I piled my cart high with lots of yummy things, I put them in the car, I got gas, and I went home.

But I still couldn't resist doing a victory lap when I got home, throwing my hands in the air and yelling "I did it!" at my bemused husband.

PS Still no word from Mr. Irish. It's coming down to the wire now.....

Monday, September 19, 2005

today's headlines

Still no word from Mr. Irish. It's been two weeks, classes start next week, and still no word. I've been warned that the job-hiring process in France is slow, and since I'm not a patient person and a worry-wart by nature, I'm thinking the worst. If I haven't received a phone call by the end of the week, I suppose the jig will be up. No wonder I'm not sleeping so well.

In other Where the hell did everybody go? news, I walked over to the AATM to find out if French classes have started back up and to get an idea of the schedules, and there was nobody there, despite the sign posted on the door that told me I had arrived at a time when there should be someone there. I hate to bother the professor with a phone call, so I'm torn between just calling her to find out what the deal is and just going back to the office tomorrow.

In the meantime, I've purchased a book called L'Histoire de France: pour les nuls (The History of France for Dummies), which was a recommendation from KylieMac. I'm slowly plodding through it with my English-French dictionary at hand.

From The Food Desk, I can report that I've discovered pain au sept céréales, or bread with seven grains, which is like a mueslix bread. It's heavenly with a bit of La Vache Qui Rit (or as Americans know it, The Laughing Cow) cheese spread on top. It's the closest I've come to finding an everything bagel with cream cheese.

From The Outdoors Desk, now is the time for mushroom hunting. Last week, Steph and I headed to our local neighborhood forest and came out with about a kilo of mushrooms called trompettes de la mort, or "trumpets of death." Steph insisted on cooking up the whole batch and eating it for dinner, which resulted in one of us having a terrible stomachache for the rest of the evening (hint: it wasn't me).

And finally, from the long dormant The Strangest Thing I Saw Today Desk: as I was waiting in line at the boulangerie for the aforementioned heavenly bread, I spied a young lady ordering up a few items with her pet rat clinging to her collar. I can't help but wonder if French pet rats take a bit of brie with their baguette at lunchtime.

Friday, September 16, 2005


Last week I hopped on a train heading East, and landed in the town of Chaumont to spend the day with Doc. We spent the morning with her adorable son, who is quite possibly the best behaved child under the age of two I have ever seen. After a little jaunt in the woods and some jungle gym climbing in a park - where our little hero was accosted by a very odd little girl and took it all in stride - we went to satisfy Doc's pregnancy craving for Chinese food.

There we met her husband, his colleague, and another American-living-in-France (hooray! we're setting up a bit of a network out here in the country). This particular Chinese restaurant offers a buffet lunch, consisting of about three different dishes along with the usual rice and noodles. Spring rolls are offered with lettuce leaves, which you're meant to wrap around your spring roll before eating, and they had really good teriyaki chicken, too! Doc's husband doesn't much like eating Chinese as they don't offer bread to go with your meal (which cracks me up!) but I have to say that I really enjoyed it. It seemed to me that it wasn't as greasy as the Chinese food I've had back home, and there wasn't nearly as much fried food offered. Of course, I'd do just about anything for a good crab rangoon, but Doc's given me a recipe, so I may have to try that at home some time.

So, after satiating Doc's Chinese food craving, the two of us sauntered around downtown a bit and landed in a cafe. There we sucked down cool drinks (this was before the weather finally turned, bless you Autumn!) while she copied down some recipes for me - Doc's gone a long way in alleviating my fear of kitchen implements.

Doc has also become my drug book dealer. As I handed her back the box of books she'd lent me, including the new Harry Potter, she replaced it with another box of lovely lovely books. I've already torn through The Time Traveler's Wife (amazing, amazing book) and The Poisonwood Bible (another amazing book) and have started yet another book. This is quite dangerous, as I have the tendency to let everything else fall away when I'm deep into a book, though it does keep me occupied while I'm waiting for a phone call from Mr. Irish.

Book drooling aside, it was a good day, and I'm looking forward to the day when we've got an extra car lying around so we can do it more often.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

vivi goes to mcdo

Yesterday I did something I've never done before: I went to McDonald's for lunch, by myself.

I confess that before I moved here, I ate my fair (American) share of fast food. I'm not going to humiliate myself and tell you exactly how often, but I definately ate it a lot. Since I've moved here, my fast food intake has diminished greatly. The biggest reason is the lack of fast food restaurant choices - you've either got McDonald's or Quick, a Belgian hambuger chain (although I understand KFC can be found in some places, but I've never seen one). Another reason is that they're not quite as cheap here; my "Best Of" value meal was just over six euros. Finally, we don't eat a lot of fast food because, hello, I'm in France! We have more cheese and tasty bread than you can shake a french fry at!

So yesterday I had to run some errands downtown, and the idea of some french fries was just too good to pass up.

For the most part, the experience is the same. You'll find the same sandwiches, the fries taste the same, and the decor's about the same, too. If you look close enough, you'll find the subtle differences - can you imagine McDonald's offering beer? One of the special sandwiches being advertised was the McFarmer. Believe me, I can't make this stuff up. Finally, I really love that after completing my "Meeksheekahn Best Of" transaction, the cashier wished me "bon appetit!" Can you imagine?

I'll tell you another thing, too: my McChicken sandwich was so hot, I about burnt the roof of my mouth. Hot sandwich and hot fries? That's good stuff right there.

Monday, September 12, 2005

a weekend in english

Spending the majority of time with people who speak a language I barely understand is quite a strain on my sanity. It's concentrating on every syllable I hear while simultaneously letting the words flow over me. I can grasp a phrase and let it roll around in my mind and ponder it for a while, but if I do that, I've lost the thread of the conversation. I'm trying to learn to put these morsels in my pocket and save them for later, but all in all, it's pretty exhausting.

That's why I love these weekends I can run away to Paris. Meeting up with my fellow blogging Anglophones is like taking my brain to a spa. By the time I come home, I'm ready for the French assault to start all over again.

It was meant to be a picnic and sleepover, but the weather didn't cooperate. I confess I don't mind that much, because the bad weather seems to have brought the beginning of Autumn with it, and last night I had the best night of sleep in weeks. So instead, we all headed over to her house ("we" being the usual suspects). There was food, cheesy movies, knitting (ok, I do not knit, but I am working on a cross stitch project so I brought that along), more food, gossip, commiseration, a freaky French neighbor, and still more food. We were going to do a recipe swap, but I think we all decided to just post them on our blogs, so I'll be doing that in a bit. All in all, it was a lovely weekend.

Saturday, September 10, 2005

things that keep me up at night

So, you know how in the Bible, Jesus said, "Peter is My rock"? And then, you know how the French name for Peter is Pierre? And then, the French word for "rock" is "pierre"? So in the French Bible, does Jesus say, "Pierre est Mon pierre"? And if so, isn't that kind of redundant?

I'm on my way to Paris for a summit of International Ex-pats, so perhaps this and other burning questions will be answered. Have a good weekend!

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

seven things

I can barely keep my eyes open. I hardly slept last night. I guess the stress of waiting for a phone call from Mr. Irish is getting to me.

In the meantime, Karla has tagged me for the "Seven Things" meme. Without further ado...

Seven Things I Plan to Do Before I Die
1. Become fluent in French (sometimes it seems impossible so it doesn't seem outrageous to include it)
2. Become a Mom
3. Go to Italy to see where my great-grandparents came from
4. Go to Poland to see where my great-grandparents came from
5. Buy a piano and relearn how to play it
6. Go on a cruise
7. Chuck it all and run off to become the rock star I was born to be

OK, not really. ;)

Seven Things I Can Do
1. Type freakishly fast
2. Sing pretty well
3. Write backwards
4. Act in front of an audience
5. Shake my boo-tay
6. Throw a baseball
7. Navigate the Paris Metro system

Seven Things I Can't Do
1. Be Patient
2. Raise my right eyebrow
3. Keep this apartment clean (MUST get a handle on this!)
4. Call my Mom and tell her how much I miss her
5. Touch my toes (and I used to be a dancer, for crissakes... must get a handle on this too)
6. Anything right-handed
7. Tell jokes well

Seven Things That I Find Really Attractive About the Opposite Sex
1. Silliness
2. Patience
3. A good laugh
4. Eyes
5. Hands
6. Smile
7. Willingness to put up with me

Seven Things I Say the Most
1. GodDAMN mutherFUCKER! (sorry Grandma)
2. Jesus CHRIST!! (sorry again)
3. What do you want for dinner tonight?
4. Excusez-moi, mais ma francais n'est pas tres bien....
5. Pardon? S'il vous plait, parlez doucement. :)
6. What did he say?
7. What did she say?

Seven Books I Love
1. The Secret Garden
2. The Outlander Series (series count, right?)
3. The Harry Potter Series
4. Les Miserables
5. Bridget Jones
6. Anything by John Irving (I owe my friend Carrie big time for that!)
7. The Riverside Shakespeare

So the last time I tagged somebody to do a meme, I got my ass handed to me, so I'll leave this one open, and if you take it, let me know and I'll link back to you. Now if you'll excuse me, I need to go ask Steph Part 5, Question 3...

Update Sept. 8
Looks like Anne has taken me up on my offer!

Monday, September 05, 2005

at last it can be told

So, do you remember Mr. Irish?

No? OK, let me sum up. Last February I sent a couple of resumes to the local businesses that teach English as a second language. Mr. Irish called me back, and I had an interview with him, but it became evident that I wasn't quite ready. I didn't have a background of teaching and didn't study more than the required amount of grammar in school (dear god, I don't think I've diagramed a sentence since third grade), and my French wasn't good enough to teach a beginner's class. I bought a couple of grammar books, but finally set them aside when I felt I'd have a better chance of finding a job relating to what I did in the states (oh ho ho how silly of me).

So life went on, I took my French classes, blah blah blah. Then, out of the blue, I got a message Thursday from Mr. Irish. I called him back Friday morning and learned that he's still interested in me and could I come in and see him.

For a paying job? Heck yeah, I'll be there in an hour!

So, I had to wait until this afternoon. To be honest with you, my first reaction was, "Oh no, I'll be a terrible teacher, I'd be better off waiting until I can find something that I'm more familiar with." And then I looked at the bank balance and thought, "Who am I kidding?"

So off I went. The interview went really great. Since I've got a bit more French under my belt, he feels more confident about placing me in an intermediate level course. He's so enthusiastic about what he does, that it's nearly impossible to catch a whiff of it and be ready to storm into a class.

Well, here's what it comes down to:

The Good News
For starters, I would be teaching 9 - 10 hours a week. This is perfect for starting out, so I can get comfortable with the material.

The pay doesn't suck.

The Bad Not So Great News
The classes he would like me to teach are evenings and Saturday mornings. I'm happy to take anything, even if it means we need to buy a second car (the buses stop running at 9pm and I don't like to take the bus after dark anyway if I can help it). But it does mean that I probably won't be able to sing with the Conservatory this year. Sure, the rehearsals are on Wednesdays this year, the only day during the week there aren't any English classes, but concerts are often during the week as well as extra rehearsals. Not singing this year will suck, but I gotta go where the money takes me. At least for now. But the good thing about evening classes is that I can continue taking French classes during the day.

Classes start at the end of the month, and he is in the process of firming up the schedules for the year. If all goes well, I should have received a phone call and have a contract in my hot little hands inside two weeks. I'm about ready to jump out of my skin with anticipation!

Sunday, September 04, 2005

summer's last gasp

Thanks everyone, for your lovely comments on my last post! Like I said, that's the best gift I could have received, and like I suspected, saw some new names there. I'm looking forward to popping over to your places, so please remember I like sugar in my tea, mkay?

In other news, summer just will not die. Not a cloud in the sky and just hot, hot, hot. We tried to beat the heat a little by visiting a museum - the last museum I hadn't visited in Troyes, the Musee De Vauluisant. The building itself was built in the 16th century and expanded upon during the next two centuries, and features the history of Troyes and the history of the textile industry. The textile exhibits were interesting, but I was particularly struck by a painting of Troyes from the 16th century which features the cathedral, which I walk by at least twice a week. I still can't wrap my head around the fact that there are buildings here that are older than my home country. Also, Troyes is well known for its stained glass windows, and there is a nice exhibit of it there, along with paintings by Troyienne artists and an exhibit of painted tiles.

Oh, and I almost forgot, since today is the first Sunday of the month, this museum, like all the national museums, was free. Don't you just love that? Free culture once a month. Good stuff, my friends.

And finally, yes, I have a job interview tomorrow. I'm afraid I'll jinx it and I may have already said too much (paranoid much?), so I will divulge all tomorrow evening. Just wish me luck with an extra dose of confidence, and I think I'll be ok.

Friday, September 02, 2005

one year in the blogosphere!

Yes, it was a year ago today that I staked my claim in the blogosphere. Inspired by a friend of the family, Anna, who was living in Germany (she has since repatriated and is getting ready to get married!), I started this blog as a way to keep my family updated on my life, and it has turned into so much more.

Over the last year, I have used this place to vent, to record my victories and frustrations, and maybe to crack a joke now and then. In the process, I've made some really treasured friends, both ex-pats like me and dreamers from around the world, and I owe you all a debt of gratitude I could never repay. You all made this first difficult year a little bit easier, and I thank you from the bottom of my heart.

Eh, what's that? You want to give me a gift? Oh, well that's very nice, thank you. ;) Actually, what I'd really like is some comments! This is a Very Special Request, going out to everyone that stops by. I know there are quite a few people that stop by every once in a while (I do read my stats, because we all need an ego boost now and then), and I would like to ask everyone just to say a quick hello in the comments box below. Just click on the little thingie there, at the end of the post... "## Dispatches"... and that's the best gift I could receive on my bloggiversary. Thanks internets!

PS I have a job interview on Monday.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

vivi goes to the icky doctor

Today is the first day of school, for teachers, anyway. Steph got up and the ungodly hour of 7am and left 45 minutes later. I've got all day to ease back into my old housewifely duties, but so far I've only managed to start laundry and goof around on the internet. Well, you know what they say about jumping in with both feet.

So, yesterday I went to the gyno, or as my friend Dana and I always called it, "the icky doctor." Since this is a sensitive issue (pun intended), I've hidden the rest, so if you're interested, please click on "Tell me more!" to continue.

I've written about my impressions of going to the doctor before here, but I'm sure you can imagine that going to the icky doctor might pose some subtle differences.

We arrived on time for my appointment, but we did have to wait half an hour to see the doctor, which is rather unusual, but I think that this is mostly because it was the last day of vacation for many people. Once it was my turn, I left Steph in the waiting room (much to his relief) and joined the doctor in her office. She asked me all the usual questions (what medications do you take, have you ever had surgery, are you having any problems, what do you think of President Bush, er...wha?). Then I was invited to step into a small examination room inside her office, where I stripped down to my birthday suit and climbed up onto the examination chair with stirrups.

If you're American, you may have already noticed a couple of small differences. First of all, I was not invited to wear a modesty-preserving and stylish paper suit. To tell you the truth, it is rather silly to waste money on the paper suit, when the only people who are going to see you are the doctor and possibly his assistant, and they're gonna be checking out all your private bits anyway, so from whom are we actually preserving ourselves? I already knew the doctor would be checking out my private bits, so I didn't have any problems stripping down to my socks in front of her. Also, there was no assistant standing by to make sure the doctor didn't do anything, er, odd to me. This is a practice that started some years ago in the states, because some crackpot sons o' bitches started actually raping their patients. Now the doctors feel safe because they have a witness to prove they didn't do anything weird, and the patients feel safe because the likelihood of their doctor raping them is greatly decreased with someone else present in the room. Makes you shake your head in a very grave and sad manner, doesn't it?

Anyway, the rest of the exam went the way you'd expect it to. I was weighed (gah! - ok, it really wasn't as bad as I thought it was gonna be, but it's still pretty gah!), got dressed and met the doctor at her desk to get my prescriptions. Instead of receiving a card in the mail with the results of my exam, the results are sent directly back to the doctor and she will call if there's a problem. Now, I have to go to a laboratory to have blood drawn (I have to say that I prefer that everything is done in the same place in the states, kind of like One Stop Shopping) and she has also told me to get a mammogram at the same lab.

Now, this has taken me a little bit as a surprise. Usually, doctors don't send patients to get mammograms in the states unless they feel something or the patient reaches 40 years old. I didn't get the impression that she felt something, but she did ask if my family had a history of breast cancer (which it doesn't). Of course, I don't think too well on my feet, so it didn't occur to me until much later in the day that I could have asked her, "But did you feel something?" In any case, I've got to call and make an appointment to have my boobies squished into pancakes. I know you're jealous.

Anyway, she gave me another prescription for birth control pills (actually, Steph and I are in negotiations as to whether I should take them after this prescription runs out - yeah, that's right, I said it), I paid my 27 euros (19 of which will be reimbursed by insurance), and we were out of there, in just about 45 minutes total, which I have easily spent in a waiting room at my old icky doctor's in the states. That alone gets a thumbs up from me.