Wednesday, April 30, 2008

All clear and help for a friend

Thank you so much to all of you who posted to my blog or sent emails asking about me. I really appreciate it. I was really worried there for a while. On Monday I went to my awesome internist in Houston Dr. Muntz. He took blood, looked me over and gave me antibiotics, an anti-dizziness med, migraine meds and a nausea medication. I am still having issues with vertigo / dizziness but don't have that nauseated feeling all the time. Looks like I am going to make it!! A nurse called me Tuesday morning to let me know that I didn't have anything weird come up in my blood tests but to make sure I kept drinking Gatorade and kept hydrated.

Now I'm just making the round and trying to see everyone. Cyr is here until this Saturday so I will spend most of my time with him since I won't see him again until June 2nd when I return to Lille. I was telling him how I am going to miss speaking, or trying to speak French, and he bought me the coolest gift!! It's a language package called Instant Immersion. It has like 300 lessons and even had a think that can listen to you pronounce words then will tell you if you are close or not. I'm excited to use it. Maybe I can learn a few things before I return.

It's strange but normal to be back. The first few days I kept saying "merci" to people when they would give me a glass of water or my meal or hold a door open. I think the funniest one was when I was in the airport in Houston and some guy wanted me to apply for a US Airways credit card and I told him in French that I didn't speak English. What was so funny was that he believed me! HA!

On an important note: I received an email from a sorority sister of mine about one of the girls we went to U of H with. Vicki S. (now Vicki W.) and her family (two boys 5 and 3 years) live in a suburb of Houston and her house was struck by lightening last week. The family got out ok but the house burned down and they lost everything including their cars. Send me an email or post to this blog if you would like to help Vicki and her family out with toys or gift cards. I'll post again to let you know how things are going with them.

Yes - I was in a sorority (Alpha Chi Omega) at the University of Houston. You know what? The girls were and still are great. No snobby types in AX. Most of us had jobs and had to pay for our own schooling. Don't judge too quickly please!

Monday, April 28, 2008

I'm alive...alive!

Well, it could have been better, but it could have been a lot worse.

...was really bad (posted as a 5.5 but at times was a -2) and I was in serious doubt if I could make the trip to Houston or not. In talking with my oldest friend (meaning I have known her the longest, not that she is actually old) Jen she convinced me that I really needed to go to the pharmacy and try to get some medicine and Gatorade/electrolytes to help me feel better. There is a pharmacy one block away, so I got somewhat presentable and began the trek hoping I would not get sick along the way.

I can now say I have no shame. When you are sick, really sick, you will do what you can to feel better. I walked into the pharmacy armed with a few phrases; "mal de tete" and "mald'estomac" being the few. I walk to the counter and very sweet looking young girl with a white lap coats begins to talk to me. We establish my lack of French, the headache, stomach ache, I mime fever by putting hand to head and then I do it. I cringe both mentally and physically, take a breath, blush, then I mime diarrhea. Oh yeah folks, no shame here. I actually just kind of patted my hip, hunched over and smiled so don't go picturing Steve Martin on me. She was so nice, and obviously a champ at charades because she got it all. She then walks into the back, picks boxes off all kinds of shelves and loads me up with 4 things for all my ailments. Even a box of sachets I mix with water to replace all the electrolytes I have lost over the last two days. She writes on each box how to take them (no, not one suppository for those of you who are into stereotyping French medicine) and I'm off to home.

On the walk back I open the pack of tabs for nausea. They are to be put under your tongue until they dissolve. I'm a block from home, I put the tab under my tongue. Every drop of moisture in my body is absorbed by this thing. My mouth puckers, my eyes squint due to lack of moisture. Then I think the tab began to foam. It has a silvery metallic and strong medicine taste in my mouth and foam is threatening to make me look rabid. I make it to our place, pry my mouth open and get a little water in it. The rest of Thursday is a blur. Thursday night was a series of 1 - 2 hour naps (better than the night before). Cyr calls to wake me up at 6am Friday. I wake up and I'm not sure if I'm ok or not. He convinces me to get dressed and helps talk me down from not taking my flight.

8:15 - I take my one piece of luggage and bag and walk to the tram.
8:25 - Damn. That tram is fast. I'm now and hour early for my train to Brussels and I only need to be here 30 minutes prior to board. I need to be more French-like and less American-early.
9:15 - My track is announced, I make my way to where the train will be. No need to check in or anything, travel to Brussels is like travel to Oklahoma from Texas, but a much better destination.
9:35 - Train was 5 minutes late due to a "Problem with the engine". Ok...but we board the train anyway. I guess they fixed it.
problems with our engine. We will be 20 minutes late to Brussels, sorry..." Well 10:00 - Announcement; "The reason we are not at full speed is because we are still havingcrapola, that means I miss my connection to the airport. No big deal, Cyr said there is a train every 10 minutes or so.
10:50 - I found and took the train to Brussels airport
11:30 - Arrive Brussels airport. Phone rings. It's Auchan. They want to schedule a time to come fix the dryer!! I'm running through the airport trying not to get sick and feeling the effects of all the drugs I have in my system. I get my point across (I think) and hang up. They call back, I don't answer, I told them I was leaving the country. They call 8 times. I don't answer 8 times. I can't handle any more Auchan.
12:45 - Am on the flight, take another nausea tongue tab thing and doze off. I hear we were on the runway for an hour before we took off. I was in and out in a drug induced coma. The flight went ok, I didn't get sick on the plan.
??:?? I have no recollection of time, I know I had a 4 hour layover in Philly. I know I went through customs there and rechecked my bags, I know was I there and sat around in different chairs. I remember I kept feeling like the seats were shaking because everyone was walking so hard and I was getting nauseous, I know I was feeling horrible but didn't throw up, and I know I finally got on the plane to Houston.
7pmish - I get on the flight to Houston. It's a small plane. A girl sits down next to me. She turns out to be so fun to talk to, kind and witty. And a doctor. A neurologist, so not really what I need, but she does have some Phenergan for my stomach. The world is a just place sometimes.
11:00 - Mom picks me up!! I suddenly feel much better. I ask to drive because she is in my car. I get half way home and have to pull over, I'm too dizzy and am scared to drive. Uhh...I just want to get home. We get there eventually and talk and then I take my Phenergan and sleep a solid 9 hours for the first time in what feels like weeks.

Today is Monday and I went to the doctor to get checked out. He took some blood and is going to get back to me. I feel pretty normal now, still light headed but not too sick. He isn't sure if it's a parasite or if I had some kind of food poisoning or what. I have antibiotics, migraine medicine, my own Phenergan and an anti-dizzy medicine (not the technical term there). I'm looking forward to finding out if anything comes back in my blood.

I'm sure all will be back to some kind of normal soon. Thanks for all the emails out there. I love to read your posts and emails, so thanks!

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Pushing a 5.5

Last night I went to brush my teeth and noticed I had an odd rash on my throat, chest and parts of my back. Huh...well that isn't reassuring. I did however sleep with the aid of a little medication and woke up around 8 this morning. The rash was gone so that is a good sign. Must have been some allergic thing. Ewe...

Still feeling like hammered poop though. Couldn't make it outside today so I won't be arriving bearing gifts. My presence will have to be your present. I'm feeling a little better though and so I'm thinking the 16 hour travel day I have ahead of me tomorrow maybe won't be complete torture. I hope.

My day rating dropped a half point though because the sick feeling is coming in waves. It's like a tease. I think I'm on the road to recovery then BAM! Hit once again with the stomach thing. Oh well, if nothing else my next post should be an entertaining one. I hope it's not. I hope all I have to post is that it went smoothly and I had no problems traveling after I woke up from a great night's sleep feeling refreshed.

It could happen...right?

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Today is a 6

Uhh...couldn't sleep last night. Finally dozed off around 3am I think. Then I kept waking up because I was hot, then I was cold, then I was hot, then thirsty and it just never ended!! We have one of those clocks that shows the time on the ceiling so when you can't sleep it's super easy to know just how often you wake up. I finally drug (or is it dragged?) myself out of bed at 9am after what seemed like nothing more than a few strung together 30 - 45 minute naps. Auchan was supposed to come before lunch and I thought maybe a shower would help.

Not so much really. After a shower, two Excedrin, some orange juice and cereal I still felt awful. All I could think of was that I was sooooo glad this happened today and not Friday. I don't think I could have traveled like this. Not to mention my flight schedule is horrible. I fly from Brussels to Cleveland and then I have about a 4 hour layover before I go to Houston. The price you pay for a cheap ticket I guess.

Auchan guy shows up at 1:30 (13:30 for those of you in France). Amazingly we are able to talk for the most part. Miracle! I show him the seche-linge (clothes dryer) and he immediately says something that I know is "Oh no, I brought the wrong part." Well merde. Turns out the guy that came out last week to diagnose the issue wrote down the wrong part. Auchan-boy brought a new door. I don't need a new door. So now it's going to take a "bon semain" to get the other part in. That is translated into "good week". Good? Not so much good about that. Looks like we will have a few more weeks of super-duper-extra-noisy clothes drying. The latch that holds the inside closed is broken so every time the dryer goes around you hear "THHHHUMP, THHHHUMP". I'm sure soon it will totally break and we won't be able to use it at all.

Once he leaves I fall further into the depths of sickness. Whew...glad he was gone when that hit. No way could I have been on an airplane today. Oh well, maybe I'll loose a little weight before I go home. The irritating thing is that I really needed to go downtown today because I wanted to buy some gifts for family members before I return. Do most other people feel the need to supply gifts upon return from a long vacation or separation? I feel like I should bring people something but right now I don't have anything. Hopefully tomorrow I will feel tons better and will have the chance to do a little gift shopping.

There are a few things that made today a 6 out of 10 as opposed to a 2. One is that I talked to Cyr and that always makes me feel good, another is that I'm getting to be sick on our super comfy couch with soft pillows and watch marathon reruns of "Ed" while drinking bubbly water. It's also cloudy outside so it's perfect for a calm day on the couch while not feeling so well.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Culinary Revenge and Pictures

People keep asking for here is a story with some pictures plus a few random things thrown in.

Yesterday I decided to throw caution to the wind and venture out in jeans and a t-shirt. Who cares if everyone in this country is dressed up? Not I...I am going to be comfortable I say!!

It was a great day, it felt about 70 degrees but it was probably only 65. I needed a few things to get me by this week until I leave for the US so I thought I would walk to my local 8au8 and boulangerie (bakery). The 8au8 is like a 7-11, except they are only open 8-8 as opposed to 7-11 (chuckle, chuckle, insert French joke here) and is more like a small market than a convenience store. I decide I will just throw on a jacket, jeans and some European looking walking shoes (not tennies, I don't need to make that much of a statement). Once down my block I realize it's too hot for the jacket. I take it off and proudly show my "Ride Lots" t-shirt from my old bike shop in Sedona. Then I notice I have a spot about the size of a dime right between my boobs. Awe man...I was trying to look confident casual, not sloppy American!! I hold my jacket close to try to cover it but end up looking more like I'm scared someone is trying to steel my coat.

I make it to the 8au8 and then to the bakery. I have had small issues here before but I think everything is ok now. You see, at first I would go into the shop and as for "une baguette s'il vous plait", translation "one baguette please". Then the lady would hand me a flute, which is like a baguette but about the half the size, and charge me .90 euro for a baguette! At first I didn't think it was really happening, but then Cyr kept coming home with these long baguettes! (insert man with large baguette joke here) One weekend I went in with Cyr, we ordered together and sat down to have coffee there. Ever since then I get an actual baguette. I guess they saw my bad-ass Frenchman and decided to play nice-nice!! Well yesterday I order 3 croissant, she put them in a little bag and I walked home. Typically this place is fantastic, and they are not rude at all, they just smile and give you the wrong thing sometimes. Well, I got my croissants, but they were burned on the outside! I should have taken a picture, but I ate the ugliest one first, then the second ugliest one for breakfast today so all I have is the only slightly overcooked one left. Still, they tasted fantastic, but I can't help but think my sloppy American getup contributed to me getting the 3 crappiest croissant in the place...

So I then begin to curse the bakery lady because I have never seen them once produce a croissant with anything resembling a black or even dark brown outer crust. I calmed down a bit when I ate the blackest of them and it was still better than most I have had in the US (sorry, don't know why this is, but it's true). I then turn to wash some dishes and while cleaning a cheese knife (a very French thing to have) I slice it across my thumb and can feel the flesh and nail being carved like a piece of baloney. Said knife must have heard me cursing the French baker and taken it personally. Damn culinary revenge!! I wasn't hurt badly, but you guys keep asking for pictures so here you go...

I am wearing actual athletic shoes here, but just around the apartment. She probably would have charged me double if I had my tennies on. Here is the vengeful cheese knife. Freshly washed.

...and here is a picture of how large our concierge's rain gutters are. Is that strange or is it just me? I saw this and thought "Damn! Those things are over a foot wide!" I wonder if that makes for harder or easier cleaning. I'm thinking there is a lot more surface area for leaves to fall in.

And here is a bottle of Westvleteren 12 beer. Voted the "Best Beer in the World" by and a bunch of other groups. It was 12 euro ($18 USD in a beer shop) but was worth it I think. Seriously!! It's dark, complex, seductive and smells fantastic. Just like the trappist monks that make it I'm sure. It's such a cool beer it has no label. Just a bottle cap with the beers identity on it.

So there you have it. A lot of pictures and a cool beer to boot.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Bienvenue Chez Les Ch'tis!

I saw my first French movie in a French theater with no subtitles!!

Remember when Titanic was in the theaters and it was as if everyone in the nation had seen the film? Really, I don't recall if anyone didn't voluntarily go or get dragged by someone to see Leo freeze to death. Well there is a similar happening right now in France with what was thought to be a small film called Bienvenue Chez Les Ch'tis! The one major difference is that everyone wants to see this movie, it's not just women dragging boyfriends/husbands/brothers to see it. The film has been out since February 28th and we still had to stand in line on Saturday at 2pm to get into the theater. They even had to cut the line off because it was blocking the entrance to the escalator!

We have two theaters here and they both show films in their original format, so I can see American movies in English, but I really wanted Cyr to see this film because it's about the north of France. "Nord-pas-de-Calais" for those of you that know or have read my past blogs. Background: fiance is from this area and actually speaks "Ch'ti". It's an interesting sound, sort of Flemish. Lots of open mouths and "AHH"ing going on. I can't understand a word of it.

To prep myself we went and had two Leffe Brunes prior to the viewing. Beer may not actually help me understand French, but it makes me care less if I do or don't. It also helps me to believe that I have this innate ability to read body language and just "get" what people are trying to say. Sort of my super power (if I had one). Cyr had to lean over a few times, but for the most part I actually got it!! AND I loved it. It was funny and sad and actually pretty spot on from what I know about the North. Ok, that isn't much, but I can say that I moved here as an outsider and the people have been really nice for the most part. I felt cool because I knew there was Maroilles in the breakfast scene before it was even announced. I felt like I was part of a club or something. Instead of a secret handshake it's a special smelly cheese that people here eat. I actually love it. Maroilles with escargot was the first thing I ate after Cyr picked me up from the airport when I moved here. If you click on the title above and read the article it looks like Hollywood bought the rights and there will be a US version in the works. I would recommend the French version if it goes out on Netflix though.

Today was a beautiful day here in Lille. I actually did a little suntanning. The sun was coming through our windows so brightly I couldn't resist opening our two balcony doors and laying half in our apartment and half on the balcony while reading a book. I think I actually got some color too! I read for like 3 hours, well, I laid there for about that long. It was so nice to feel the sun on my face and arms. It reminded me of when I was a kid and we would go to Lake Travis for Easter. It was never really warm enough to swim, but I would put on my bathing suit and pretend I wasn't in pain and try it. Sometimes the sun would hit you for a few minutes and you could briefly remember what it was like to be hot. Mmmm...

This week will be spent dealing with what will hopefully be the last visit from Auchan for a while to fix our dryer. I'm cringing already about having to try to get through that one. I'm having lunch with a friend and also packing for my trip back the US. Looks like I might be gone until the end of May. Cyr is traveling the last part of May and it doesn't make sense to me to leave friends and family to come back to an empty apartment.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Asian Female Self-Defense Video (??)

Ran across this and just had to share. I wonder if they show this in classrooms to young girls about traveling to the US...

So very strange!! Catchy tune though...

Not much going on here. Cyr leaves Sunday to go to Houston for a two week training course. The super cool thing is that I'm going to be there next weekend for a long visit so we will be there for a week together. Yeah!!

I am going to have to, I mean get to navigate the train to Brussels to get to the airport on my own. I'm sure it will be no problem. Well enjoy the video. I'm going to go practice those moves about "I've been robbed by two men!" just in case my train to Brussels is difficult.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Interesting facts, Part II - French TV

"Sherif, Fais-Moi Peur!"
Translation: "Sheriff, Scare Me!" (sort of "I dare you to scare me Sheriff!')
Reality: The French title of "The Dukes of Hazzard"

I can see the big green monster that goes by the name "Jealousy" rearing it's head as you read this. Yes my friends, it is true. I do have the ability, dare I say opportunity, to watch the Duke boys in all their tight jeaned glory race around in the General Lee while speaking French. Please, I ask again, please...if you are feeling a little down right now. Just click and listen to the intro of "Sherif, Fais-Moi Peur!" You can't help but smile. Really, the French have some great music, but country really isn't one of their strengths. It is so hard to sound tough while singing in French.

Feel free to bookmark this video and watch it often.
One of the things you should know about French TV is that they are typically a few seasons behind the US in popular shows. I think this is mainly due to the fact that they do not subtitle. Everything is dubbed. They show "Cold Case" and a few newer shows at night but I have yet to see them. I typically turn the TV on during the day. As is true in the US and must be so in all countries; daytime TV is special. Special meaning not really special but more like "My cousin Jimmy is marrying my other cousin Brenda. Isn't that special?" Not only do they have super cool shows on during the day. They realize, as surly is the case, that just one show really isn't enough. They show 2-4 episodes in a row every day and work through all the seasons. Then they replace the show with whatever is next in the stack. When I first moved here they had 4 episodes of "The Nanny" back to back every day. Did you know they ended the series with Fran having a baby and then the family moved to LA? Yeah...I know. Crazy. I mean, how can she live in LA with that accent and not be laughed at all the time?

So you can imagine my fascination at watching Kelly from Beverly Hills 90210 whine in French. What is even cooler (if that in fact is a word) is that they try to match the voice of the dubber to the actual actor. Thus allowing Kelly to be just as whiny in French as she is in English. This fact in itself will cause you to completely understand why now Sylvester Stallone is a channel stopper. I can't pass him up. The French Sly is hypnotic. Like watching a 4 year old child carry a full glass of red wine to Mommy while walking across a white carpeted room and singing "Y-M-C-A!". Come on...everyone has to dance just a little when you hear it.

I read somewhere that listening to French TV or music can help you get used to the rhythm of the language and can subconsciously help you learn the language quicker. I'm a little leery about what I am going to "subconsciously" learn, but hey, maybe being able to say "Je suis Rosco P Coletrain" will someday help me. Here are a few other daytime shows of note:

Le Prince de Bel Air - go Will Smith!
Magnum -'s Magnum PI you dirty minded folks! "PI" doesn't translate well.
(side note - Tom Selleck is for me the only man I can find sexy with a mustache. All others should refrain from even giving this a try.)
Buffy Contre les Vampires - Sarah Michelle Geller at her best
Les Simpsons - yeah, that guy still does the rude "Ha-hAAA" laugh in French
VIP - Pamela Anderson's boobs are still HUGE in France (so many ways to read that)
Fame - This is the 1982-1987 series that was on TV. This is a new one they started last week with a 4 show back to back viewing a day. I totally forgot that "Aeriel" (Lori Singer) from Footloose was in that show.
Gilmore Girls - oh my gosh...these people talk fast in English. I just sit there with my mouth open and try to catch something they say.
Les Super-Flics de Miami - Miami Supercops. Ha...this is actually a 1985 Italian movie but the title is so funny I had to share. Have not seen it, but it is on tonight so I might have to check it out.
I saw a few Ally McBeal episodes too. Oh that dancing baby...

Well, I'm off to work my subconscious into speaking French! A'bientot dawgs! (In the words of the French Will Smith)

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

La Mairie and Me

Picture at the end of this email with my new hair if you don't feel like reading. :-)

So this morning Cyr and I went to the Mairie (city hall) to see what all we need to get married here. We have both seen lists online, but with French bureaucracy you never know and you are probably wrong no matter how many things you read online. The good thing is that we had no lines to wait in, but we did have to go to two different Mairies to get all of our answers. Turns out we need the following:
  1. Justificatifs de domicile - we have to prove one of us has been living in Lille for 3 months. No problem. Not sure why they do this, but I guess they want to make sure you have a place to live once you are married. Oh, don't even get me started on how hard it is to get an apartment. You typically must go through an agency and most of them wanted us to have a separate bank account with THREE YEARS of rent in the account to prove we could pay. This was because Cyr was still in the "probation period" for his job. Somehow Cyr got us past that one, but we did have to sign a 3 year lease. Yes, you read correctly, 3 years, and that was the shortest lease they offered. You can break the lease with 3 months notice, but you have to give 3 months notice and rent.
  2. Actes de naissance - Birth certificates, mine has to be less than 6 months old and translated into French, Cyr's has to be less that 3 months old. I understand the French translations, but how odd. Most things in the US require the original or a certified copy which seems to be the opposite of a new birth certificate. Oh, and French birth certificates change. Weddings, PACS and births are supposed to be added to them. Maybe that is why they want a new one...ahhh....
  3. Pieces d'identite - Passports. No problemo.
  4. Temoins - Witnesses, we need 2-4 peeps over 18 and not related to either of us. We are working on this one. An interview schedule will be published. Bribes will be taken and are in fact encouraged.
  5. Epoux de nationalite etrangere (spouses of foreign nationality need the following)
    1. Certificate de Celibat - REALLY? You track that here? I had no idea the Catholic Church was so involved! Well...actually "celibat" or "celibataire" is the French word for "single". Ironic I know. So apparently the US Embassy in Paris will give me a letter saying "yup, she is single". Do some countries have a single card? That might be a good idea for the US. "Yeah, before I get my hopes up here, would you mind showing me your single card? What, you forgot it at home? Really..." Could save some time.
    2. Certificate de Coutume - It sounds to me like they want to know what I dressed up as for Halloween last year, but translated it is a "certificate usual". No problem, just the usual certificate. Huh? The lady told Cyr something and scribbled something that looks like Martian in the margin. I do know that the Embassy will also give me this one.
All the lists we had seen also included a certificate from a doctor who checks us out as well. I guess they don't want anyone bringing sick folks into France. Apparently this has been removed. The lady at the second Mairie scratched it off our list. Woohoo! Once less thing! I now have a hundred other questions after having an afternoon to think about things.

I also had lunch today with a friend!! YEAH!! Marine is a great, I met her in Houston but she is from Lille. It was so great to talk to someone in English in person! Especially someone who knew the town. She showed me a few cute places and I picked up some cards to try to remember them. She was visiting her parents and so we had lunch. She also told me about Alexandre the Great (Hairdresser). See below for new hair. Don't I look French with my scarf? I look a bit pained but it's the best I could do for now. I was also wind-blown all day. I took it on our balcony.
I also would like to point out one more thing I like about France. These people know how to window shop. Somehow the stores have managed to overcome a HUGE obstacle I have seen in the US. Apparently it is physically impossible to put a visible price on ANYTHING that inside of a jewelry case in the US. Really folks, if I ask how much it is and it's more than I want to spend, I'm not going to change my mind just because you went through the trouble of opening the case and flipping the tag to read the encoded price. AND...if I saw a price on something that I thought was less than expected I might actually make a purchase because the price was there!! See picture.

Now, if any of you would like to buy a Cartier watch, THAT is how many Euro you are going to have shell out to get one. I love it. No mystery. It's like they are saying; "Don task me owe much zee watch ees. Eef you see dee price and can not afford eet, zen you do not buy eet and you do not bozer me with zee asking owe much eet ees. D'accord?"

Monday, April 14, 2008

Interesting facts about France, Part I

Well, it's Monday and I feel like I'm at least taking baby steps ahead with my life. As you may have read, Friday was frustrating. I didn't update the blog, but about an hour after I posted I finally got a response from the company I have been talking with in London. I wanted to actually post the three sentence response I got, but the email has that little disclaimer about privacy. So here is a summary:

"We are having problems with the work permit situation. I don't think we are going to be able to get you a permit. If you lived in the UK we would definitely hire you!"

The good thing is that this is neither a surprise nor a disappointment. I'm just glad that at least now I have an actual answer. I love to be able to check things off of a to do list. My next steps are to research what I need to do while in the US to get married here and to sign up for French classes in June.

The rest of the weekend was great. We didn't do much, but maybe that is what made it so fantastic. We went into town Saturday and shopped a little, which brings me to a few of the observations I was talking about earlier. Today I would like to cover two thing; 1) The French Paradox and 2) France; a Casual Chic Country.

Before I moved here I would hear about this "French Paradox". This is the uncanny, nay irritating, fact that French women eat good food, drink wine/beer, smoke and still live long lives and are thin. Is it genetics? Maybe it is the fact that they don't eat fast food and that cheese and wine are good protein/carb pairings. Or they only eat one meal a day and the portions are smaller. Or maybe every time they eat the great food and drink the great wine/beer they run to the toilettes and heave. I don't know, but the truth is that every time I see someone over weight I have the strangest pull to walk close to them and see if they are speaking English. I can't help it, but I do it almost all the time when I'm out alone. I even look for clues like maybe they are carrying a book or a magazine in English. So far I have not heard them but I know soon I will. I figure this is good practice for when I am offered a job as an international spy (the good kind of spy fighting for justice and all).

The "French Paradox" thing leads directly into the next observation; "France is a casual chic country". Most of the women are thin, so they can all wear cute clothes. I have been here 3 months and have yet to see one pair of cotton sweat pants on anyone. Seriously!! I just returned from shopping at Carrefour which is almost exactly like a Super Walmart, and you know sweats. Everyone here dresses up. Maybe sweats are so unattractive that stores refuse to sell them because they don't want to be responsible for casualizing (made that word up) France. Maybe people only own nice clothes, maybe athletic shoes are expensive. I just don't know. The footwear alone amazes me. At any given time 70% of the entire female population that are wearing shoes (all ages taken into account) in Lille are wearing a pair of black or brown boots, 20% are wearing heels or flats with hose, and 10% are wearing Converse tennis shoes (Converse are huge here and like $75 USD a pair). I'm actually not complaining about this, it's kind of nice to see all the folks wearing cute clothes. Those of you that know me know I wear boots all the time, sometimes I even bust out my cowboy ones just to add a little originality. Plus, at least I don't feel like I'm in Walmart, even though I might be.

Later this week I will cover such thrilling topics as "Franco-American TV" and "France is closed on Sundays". I'll also let you know how things progress in my quest for a life in France.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Stupid American...

Why is it that when I let a French person know I don't speak the language well they think that if they just use more words and explain in three different ways that I will understand? In the US people do three things; 1) talk slower, 2) try to use simple words (and as few as possible) and 3) talk louder. You know what?! These things actually help! I could be wrong, but it seems that many (I can not say all) French people expect you to just suddenly understand them. Case in point: this morning I received a phone call from Auchan about our broken dryer. After two phone calls (I think he hung up on me then called me back) with this man talking very rapidly I begged him to call Cyr. I thought he wanted a part number, I guess not, will he come today? Do you need a time? Is he here now? Do we need a new dryer?

Turns out he needed the serial number of the dryer. Ok buddy...I asked if "vous besoin un numero?". Yes, it's bad French. It's like saying "You need number?" or close to that. Did he respond? Non. Did I get a clue I was on the right track? Non. Instead I asked him to call Cyr and then Cyr called me, got the number then called Auchan back. I was so irritated I was in tears. I's nothing to cry about but I'm not used to feeling so frickin incompetent. I used to run a business, I sold millions of dollars worth of software integration services, but I can't get a damn dryer fixed in France. I'm just venting. I love France but I hate that I don't speak French. I know the French hate that too. I'm ok now...I feel much better after venting. I'm also planning to take classes in June so at least I will feel like I am trying to do something about this situation.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Welcome Colton! Plus a Slideshow & Visitors

A new little boy entered the world yesterday!! My cousin Rhonda gave birth to Colton Patrick Kornmayer in Houston, TX yesterday. Congratulations Conner on being a big brother!! There is also the possibility that I am the first person to ever misspell his name...sorry about that. I hope I got it right.

I have spent the last day or so poking around blogs and learning how to do things on my site here. Cyr is in Norway on some island working until Friday so I have some time on my hands. I found a way to post a link to a slide show so I set one up. If you look on the right hand side under "pictures, videos and websites I like" you will see "Slideshow - Jan to April 08". I have put together a group of pictures so that you can see a little of what Cyr and I have done over the last two months or so. Overview: moved from Houston, got engaged here in Lille (one year and one day after meeting Cyr), Karen visited and we went to Amsterdam, Bruge and Brussels.

I also had three visitors today! We bought an oven and it was delivered today. After that a repair man came to fix our dryer. It went like this:
Buzzer sounds on the intercom system. I answer "Oui? Yes?"
I don't want them to think I can actually understand them, so I throw the "yes" in there. Otherwise they launch into something I don't get. Well, they do that anyway. I don't know what they want, I press the buzzer, they call back. I give them an "Un minute s'il vous plait!" I then run down 5 flight of stairs because it's faster than the elevator. We are on what in the US would be the 5th floor, but here it's called the 4th. Half way down I realize they were asking me what floor I was on. I reach them, smile and say "quatre etage" which actually means "four level" but they get it.
The elevator is a bit small for two men, an oven and me, so I run up the stairs for both exercise and to avoid the awkward elevator silence. It's even more intense when you can't speak the language. Once up at our place they then want to install the oven. After some linguistic gymnastics I get them to understand that the electrician is coming and just to put it in the space and we will hook up the power later. doesn't fit. See picture. We can fix it later though so it stays. During this whole charade I just gave up and called Cyr then handed the phone over. While he is talking to the first guy, we can call him Marc, the second guy, we can call him Jean-Luc, told me that Marc liked Britney Spears. I smiled, was this French humor? I don't know...then Marc laughs and shakes his head. Ah!! Humor!! Jean-Luc (feeling talkative I guess) then says, "America - Michael Jackson?" I say "Oh, yes..." He then asks me if I have ever been to Neverland. I laugh, more French humor!! He doesn't laugh. He is totally serious. "Oh. Uh. No. It's in California. Je suis du Texas." He replies "Ahhh. I like Michael Jackson." and we both nod our heads as if living in Texas would be the only reason I have never visited Michael at the ranch.

Two hours after my oven friends leave my buzzer sounds again. This time...I am ready. "Oui? Yes?" (insert French speaking here) I hear the word for clothes dryer and say "Oui, le quatre! Quatre etage!" and I hear "Merci, (insert French with the words "quatre etage" somewhere in it). VICTORY!! I am so already doing this thing! He arrives, I show him the dryer. He explains he needs to replace a part. I ask if it will be done today. He says "Non, (insert French)" He keeps saying something like "pee-ace". The only word I know that sounds like that is the word for "feet". Hope he isn't a bare feet. I have on shoes. He leaves, I have no clue what is going on. I could get another visitor today. I don't know. I signed something though. I then gave him the code to get out of the gate. I then had to run down 5 flights of stairs so I could catch him when he got off the elevator to let him know I forgot to tell him to put a star (*) after the code. Not sure when the dryer will be fixed. I think I have to call to set another appointment up. This was apparently just the diagnostic visit.

I froze on my French a little, but I didn't use "cheval" again (horse) so maybe I am not developing a case of turrets after all. Don't forget to check out my pictures on the side!!

Until next time...bon courage to all!!

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Red horses are cool...

So...I have a friend (hello Marine!) who is actually from Lille and now lives in Houston. I consulted her on who she could recommend to cut my hair. I have a little gray going on and wanted to cover that up and get a trim. Once I had the correct person to call I bravely called and set the appointment myself. Surprisingly I was able to actually book a color and a cut. I did however have Cyr call them back to confirm the time and make sure I didn't book a tattoo or body piercing.

Part I - The Color
This morning I found the street on the map, made my way downtown and was even early. As I have mentioned, I have problems with French when I get nervous. After finally figuring out where to sit and establishing that I was in fact "Sue-zan" I then had to somehow tell the color girl how I wanted my hair. I'm seated at a round table (the Knights of Clarol I guess) with 5 other ladies getting their hair colored. But this is France therefore I was drinking an espresso and feeling very fashionable while pretending to be able to read French Vogue. I then proceeded to tell her that "j'aime bien mon cheval rouge". Which directly translated means "I like my horse red." Surely I am not the first person to make this mistake. "Hair" is "cheveaux" but all I could think of was "cheval"! I guess they got the point though, because I have to say; my hair color is rockin!!

Part II - The Cut
So then I move on to Alexandre. He has a shaved head which leads me to believe that at least he is good with clippers as I saw no scaring or fresh wounds on his head. After miming that he could do what he wanted as long as I didn't look like a "champignon" translate "mushroom". He then called three people over to see how much hair I had. No kidding, it was like I was famous for 20 seconds. I just laughed and used my word of the day "cheval" (horse). He then began clipping and took an hour to create my new due. About 45 minutes into it a woman with wet hair sat down and glowered at me until he was done. Apparently I was not his last appointment. She had very thin short hair and I thought, "man...he could cut her hair while I took a trip to the ladies room." As it turns out I was close to being right. He put me under a dryer so my hair wouldn't "POUFF!!" (his words, not mine) and she was done by the time I was dry. No 20 seconds for her.

So I now have a new French hair cut and am ready to face both the washing machine repair guy and the oven delivery guys that are supposed to come Thursday. Auchan is delivering our new oven and fixing our clothes dryer. This will be the third time Auchun has been here delivering things. Same guys both times, not 10 words of English between them.

Stay tuned to see if I can use "cheval" again this week....

Monday, April 7, 2008

Welcome to Susan's Blog

Well...I finally did it! I set up a blog site so that I don't forget to send out emails. Now you can check this site to see what is going on with me over in Lille. Make sure to bookmark this page so you can check in on me. Of course you can always send me emails too! Just to catch you up...

I moved, strike that, I came to Lille to be with my boyfriend Cyriaque on February 1, 2008. I can't say I "moved" here yet because technically I'm just a visitor. We were engaged on March 7th . Currently we are in the process of trying to figure out how to move forward with a visa for me so that I can stay here prior to actually getting married. Once that is done then I will have to find a job, plan the wedding and learn French. Not necessarily in that order. Cyr is also in the process of breaking in his new "Dream Job". So far we at least know that Cyr loves his new job, we both love Lille, France, and that when I get nervous I can't speak much French. It's better now though. I used to speak Spanish to people when the stress would hit. Now I just do the very French "pppffft..." noise and shrug with big eyes and puffed out cheeks. I may not speak the language, but I can look like I do. Kinda...

When I arrived I had a job offer from a company in London, but alas it doesn't look like that is going to work out. Turns out that when I marry Cyr I can apply for a work permit that will allow me to work in any of the Schengen countries (see if you want to learn more), but not in the UK (which is not part of the Schengen countries). Today Cyr is making some phone calls to see if we can PACS and get me a long stay visa. PACS simply put is a sort of declaration and contract put together that states you are living with someone. Many people do this that don't want to get married or are same sex couples. This way you get the same tax benefits married couples do but without having to actually get married. As you can guess...shacking up is huge here. If the PACS thing doesn't work then I am going to apply to be a full time student which will give me 6 months here. We are hoping to get married in October and once that happens I can of course get a spousal visa and apply for a work permit then.

Plans are for me to use the return ticket I have to Houston on April 26th. I have not booked my flight back to France yet, so I am not sure how long I will be in the US for this visit. I think we will shoot for me returning to France at the end of May to take some French language classes in June. This week will be spent trying to see if I will get a student visa or if I can get something through a PACS contract that will allow me to stay here. As a student I can work part time (19.5 hours a week), not sure about the PACS thing. I'm thinking of going to a teacher's supply store in Houston and getting some books to teach private English lessons here when I return. I'm hoping to get some answers this week on what my status will be to work here. I really would like to find a job I love. I still don't know what I want to do when I grow up, like many of you I know. I'm really torn between Broadway dancer and superhero, but I live too far from NYC and I don't think I look that great in spandex any more so I might have to keep searching for whatever I'm meant to do.

Yes...I know...we could just get married and I could work now right? Yeah...for those of you who know me; It took me 35 years to find the right man to marry. By the time I get married I will have waited 36 years to say "I do" to the man of my dreams. I am not going to do it with Jean-Claude the janitor as my witness. I don't want a big wedding, but since I have waited so long I think I actually need some people there I know. If it's just us it would seem like a dream. Like maybe I'm making this all up and blogging from a small Houston apartment living with a bunch of cats and fighting with them over who gets the lamb flavored Fancy Feast. At the very least I would like my Mom, Dad and Sandy (step-Mom) to be here. The plan is to have a reception and civil ceremony in the US in 2009 as well. So I guess worst case scenario it is that it is just us here in France and then we have people at the '09 deal in Houston. I guess that wouldn't kill me. I'll keep you all posted as to the happenings. I also promise to report something entertaining in my next blog. This one became more informational after reading it.