Friday, January 30, 2009

Random thoughts on Friday night...

Well it's Friday night and I'm on my way back to the Land of the Living after a visit to the Land of the Can't Breath Because of Lung Infection. Maybe it's because of this I find myself pondering some little things about life. I was just sitting here looking at my little cat Duncan and noticing how much he has grown.

I was also staring at his face and wondering; "Does he have a friendly face, or a face that says 'I would eat your liver if I could find it'?" I find him very friendly, but he is a cat. I have never had a cat, can you trust a cat? Really?

This train of thought lead me to the idea of human faces and if you can tell by a face what a person's personality is going to be like. Cyr has said something like "people with puffy lips are nicer people". Actually he said the negative thing about thin lips, but I was trying to be positive. And on the other hand I think my Mom has said "people with puffy lips are good kissers." I don't know, I think maybe there is something about "kind eyes" or a "strong jaw". This kind of makes me sad though. I hate that my packaging determines some of who I am. This is probably because I would like to change my packaging a little though. I also think maybe most people don't really know how others see them. This could just be me, but have you ever heard yourself on a recording or seen yourself speaking on camera and thought "Oh please, I do not sound like that" and then quickly added "Do I?"

End of ramblings for today, see you over the weekend!

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Velcro, thy name is "Crazy Nigerian Flu"!!

So...turns out maybe I had an excuse to be glued to the couch!

My husband was in Nigeria four days last week and returned Thursday. On Saturday he came down with fever, chills, cough and all kinds of nasty symptoms. He called his doctor who booked him in for a 10:30 appointment. All you American's reading this, yes, it's true! They work on Saturdays! AND...Cyr spoke with the doctor, who answered the phone, not a nurse or a receptionist. Crazy stuff I tell ya.

We went in and Cyr got meds for his flu. I thought I was escaping it as I didn't really have any symptoms. Then Monday I started getting the fever thing, my asthma started acting up, and my neck hurt so bad I couldn't look left or right, I had to do that all too irritating to be witness to full body turn thing. Cyr had another appointment with his doctor to pick up a note for him for work. doctors give notes to work and you can miss as much work as you want as long as a doctor says it's ok. I laid on the couch napping and somehow pulled myself up to go.

Turns out it's not something crazy, just flu. I have different symptoms because of my asthma; respiratory infection being the big one. The doctor saw both of us, treated both of us, and only charged us for one visit; 26 euro. He also did this cool neck-pinching-torture thing to clear out my muscles a little. In the words of John Cougar Melencamp; "Hurt so good". Oh now, two days into antibiotics, mucus thinners, pain meds and steroids for my lungs I am feeling a little better. I did have to teach yesterday though. He gave me a note to get out of it, but since I teach one day a week I didn't think they could get a replacement and I didn't want to have another bad mark against me after the complaint about my letting classes go early and then loosing the stupid key (which was found).

Since Cyr was home he drove me and picked me up so I didn't have to take the Metro and walk. Ahh...l'amore. Classes were ok, though the student that complained about me letting classes go did sit in the back row, head up with his eyes closed almost the entire class. I didn't even call him on it because I thought I might loose it. I did however try to breath on him as much as possible.

Friday, January 23, 2009

The sticky couch

I am fairly certain that I must have velcro on my butt because I can't seem to get it off the couch.

I had my classes Tuesday and should be grading papers and planning for my Small School classes. But I just can't do it. I know this means that Monday will be a cram session, but the though of grading papers and oral exams...well I can't even come up with a witty end to that sentence. I don't want to do it (work that is). Maybe if I go grocery shopping and get out a bit I can make myself grade/prepare this afternoon.

Nothing like a day or two of avoidance to really throw you into a good fit of procrastination. Maybe it's the clouds in Lille these days. Any one else out there feeling like this lately?

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Progress. I think.

So yesterday was a full day. It started with giving oral exams to a class of my students at the Small School. I took them in pairs and had them talk about/present an unethical activity for 10 minutes. It was not so bad really. Some were interesting, like the ones about abortion, prostitution or euthanasia. Some were dry, like the ones on using office supplies for personal use, but they did well overall.

After the exams I met with my supervisor. We talked about the person taking over for me next week with the start of the semester, but he needs to sort his schedule out so it looks like I will be teaching here until the end of February. Oh well, the extra money won't hurt. Much. She also mentioned that she is meeting with the student that complained about my letting classes out early. What...come on people. I spoke with the kid, it's settled. She is going to meet with him though. Who knows what will come out of his mouth. At first I thought "oh no, what if he complains more and I get fired?" Then I thought..."I wish" and moved on to "Ah, it's France. Virtually impossible to fire someone here. I think." Who knows. I refuse to be upset about it any longer.

So I should be done with all my jobs in March and ready for our move back to Texas. Which we still have no idea what that is going to happen. If we end up here through May I am going to see if I can continue at the Big School, I really enjoy those classes. We had a class last night and it went really well. I actually enjoyed the class and we ran over the time! Crazy what a syllabus can do for a teacher...

The day ended with a quick dinner with my friend K from London and then we went to see the moving Twilight. Yes...I am a lemming and have read the books. And I thought the movie was fantastic! I thought they did a great job reflecting what was in the books. Though there is a good possibility I am biased because I read the books so I know everything already. I don't know if the movie stands well on it's own, but after the book I thought it was it was great. Jacob is smokin...along with all the vamps of course...and I was really impressed with the girl who plays Bella, I thought she did a great job.

This morning I was all ready to visit my friend Marie and her daughter. Her daughter likes to practice her English and is really sweet. I was looking forward to it. I grab my keys and get to the car but am having some difficulties with the GPS. It's falling all over the place, has come unplugged and is seemingly smeared with olive oil because I keep dropping it. A very 1990's Chevy Chase couple of minutes. I ended up pulling over right as I got out of the garage and got the Inspector Clouseau moment under control. Then I thought I remembered something sounding funny as I drove out of our parking garage. I decided to take a look. Sure enough...front driver's side tire is completely flat. Not a breath of air in that puppy.

Uh. No big deal, I'll just put the old girl back in the garage and go make some coffee. I back up and am prepared to break the rules of driving (see how well integrated I have become!) by entering the garage the wrong way. Oops, there is a car coming out. It's being driven by the man who was standing outside our spot glaring at me because I had, temporarily I'm sure, lost the ability to see through concrete and I didn't know he was waiting to walk behind me. I smile sheepishly and pull the car out of his way. In retrospect I should have rolled the window down and yelled; "Hi yall!" in my best East Texas accent. I say East Texas because I have family there and, in my humble but I am sure correct opinion, they have the best accents in all of Texas. (Shout out to S., S. and Aunt H!)

After blocking the street (twice) with my flailing while holding my breath skillful three point turn and pulling in the lot up the exit ramp successfully, I came back home and decided to let you all know how my week was going. Not too bad really. Though I do hate that we might have to buy new tires right before we friggin leave the country. What a waste of money. If gas were cheap I would make sure to drive a lot and use up our (soon to be) new tires, but at over $7 a gallon I don't know if that will happen. BUT...I am having a visitor in March so we will be doing some driving for sure!! Yeah!!! My friend Shari is going too come over for a week and has already bought her ticket. It's perfect timing since I might be done with work at that time.

Well, I'm off to see if I can watch Obama's inauguration speech from yesterday!

Sunday, January 18, 2009

French Integration Day

Well, the week ended not so badly after all. I (of course) made a few mistakes, but nothing life threatening. Maybe job threatening, but not life threatening.

After thinking more and more about the conversation with my Small School supervisor I ended up sending her an email. I let her know that since the end of our semester is in two weeks I really thought it might be better for the students to get their new professor at the start of the semester as opposed to half way through it. Changing teachers half way through in such an unorganized place leads to incredible difficulties with grading. I didn't say this but it's true. There are no standards as to what a 10 is or what a 15 is. (All grading in France is done on a 1-20 scale.) All I know is that "no one gets an 18, 19 or 20." So why have them? Why set grades that are not attainable? This drives me friggin nuts. But enough...bottom line is that I asked to be let go early from my contract and we are meeting Tuesday to talk about it.

One a good note, I went to my Big School Thursday to check in and they found my key under the desk. Yeah! I looked all over that classroom but apparently I missed it. Whew. Too bad I alerted my boss about the whole situation. If I would have kept my mouth shut no one else would have known other than the receptionist, the technician who found it, and me. Grrrr...Drat my need to communicate!

On Friday Cyr went with me to my day of French Integration. This whole process started last July 16th when Cyr and I went to the Marie. Only 6 months to get my card. we were running a little late (how very French of me) but we got there before anything started. The day was scheduled from 9-5 (break into song! what a way to make a livin', barely get-ting by...) which seemed pretty long to me. Apparently it seemed long to the instructor too. Here is how the day went:

9:05 - Instructor enters but does not say hello. He untangles wires from projector and laptop to plug in.
9:15ish - All wires in, role is taken. He asks us all to say our names and what country we are from. I'm the only American and the only one who needed a translator.
9:25ish - He begins a presentation about the history of France, it's symbols and government. It was actually kind of interesting.
10am - Let's take a 30 minutes for a break. My thoughts "let's not and get out early." Ah! Here is my fatal flaw of liking to end things has followed me here I see and has reared it's ugly head.
10:45 - Class resumes, more history. I had no idea Clovis was the first King of France in 481 AD. Damn...this country is old.
12:00 - We break for lunch. He gives us 1 hour and 50 minutes. Again...could we just take an hour and get our early? It's Friday man! Already I have counted almost an hour and a half we could lop off this day. They brought lunch in but Cyr and I decided that with almost two hours it might be nice to get outside.
2:10 - Class starts up again, he tells us we get out at 4:00. It's actually all the interesting stuff now though. We talk about where we can work and all that jazz. Here is what I learned about the Titre de Sejour:
  • Turns out I can only work in France, I thought I could work in the Schengen Countries, but nope, just France. Well's going to be hard to find an English speaking job in France other than English teacher.
  • It's only good for a year from the date of first application, which means mine expires November 11, 2009.
  • You must renew your TDS 3 months prior to it's expiration. So basically you are doing something every 3 months almost because of all the receipts and crap.
  • I can renew my 1 year TDS 3 times, then after the third time I can request a 10 year TDS.
  • If I want to have French citizenship we need to live in France for 4 consecutive years, then apply and it takes 18 months to process. So that would total 5 and a half years in France total consecutively to be a French citizen. We won't live here that long because of the business Cyr is in, but our instructor said that "everything has an exception" That sounds very similar to "everything is negotiable." Hmmm...ok. But the laws change all the time and by the time we get back they will be different.
  • France allows duel, tripple even quadruple citizenship.
  • Our kids will be French no matter where they are born (an American too of course).
3:00 - Take a break, he fills out paperwork and starts up again about 3:30.
4:00 - He let's us go right on time!

And there you go. Now I have a shiny new Titre de Sejour and am integrated! Now we will probably move in 3 have to laugh really.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

I thought it was a good week. Until Wednesday.

My week started off great. We had Cyr's family over for raclette on Sunday. I thought it went pretty well, even though I do get nervous having everyone over. What if there is an awkward silence? I can't fill it because my French isn't that good. I can only ask questions really. But it was fun. Cyr's Mom brought two bottles of the fantastic wine and we sat around and ate melted cheese and hams all afternoon.

Monday morning was spent trying to get rid of the headache I had from the wine and the Chartreuse I drank on Sunday. The afternoon however was fairly interesting as I had a meeting with some division of the French government about my carte de sejour. Cyr went with me to translate. I saw a doctor and got a chest x-ray, they took blood, weighed and measured me and then put us in a room to watch a film about France. I really do wonder if they don't let people in because they have high blood sugar or are too heavy. "Oh, sorry miss, but we already have our quota of women under 5'2" (translate to metric though) so we are not going to issue you a Titre de Sejour. Merci."

Then I was called in to speak with a women who was to determine my level of French and see if I could get the free classes. I did a quick one page test and tried to speak with her. She said my French was not that bad, but that she could give me 150 hours of class if I would like them. I told her "heck yeah" in French and I should be getting a letter that tells me when and where. All I know is it's 12 hours a week and not on Tuesdays. I am really excited about that.

Then we waited some more and saw another woman (girl really, probably 22) who had me sign a contract with France. Apparently I am now legally bound to believe in the equality, fraternity and liberty. Not a problem. Then she pulls out a folder, after much stamping and signing of documents, and hands me my shiny, new laminated Titre de Sejour!! WOW!! I have it! I can work with my real card! Until November 11, 2009 that is, then I have to renew it. They also told us that after we are married for 3 years I can apply for a 10 year card, that's nice to know.

Tuesday I had my classes. I thought they went well actually. I had my two crazy classes first, which I ended early and began doing oral exams with part of the class. I had them sign up last week so they knew it would be a short class that day. I then went to teach at my Big School and the class went pretty well there too. I ended up staying late helping a student with a letter, then packed up to go home. Then came the first problem of the week. I could not find the key to the classroom. I searched everywhere and it was not in the room. I searched pockets and it was no where to be found. I thought maybe the person that was teaching before me picked it up because we both had our things strewn around the front of the class. Alas, no key.

This typically wouldn't be a big deal. If it were not for the fact that the keys are ALL master keys and open every door in the building. I tell the receptionist I will look through my things at home and bring it back if I find it. On Wednesday I looked through my things and there was no key to be found. I decided I better call my supervisor at the school. Before I could do that, my cell phone rang. It was my supervisor from the Other School, I guess I can call it The Small School because it's not a Grand Ecole (Big School). She sounded very upset, I could tell in her voice something was wrong. She finally got around to telling me that one of my students complained about me yesterday. He went to someone (I think the front desk person) and told her I had ended class early and it was not the first time I had done so. Wow, this is the first I have ever heard of this happening. Then she said I should either write to the student and apologize or speak with him and tells me his name. Seriously? I need to apologize to a student for letting them go early? Interesting. I told her that if they felt this was something awful maybe the teacher that is going to take over my classes in March should take them over right now. She said the kids had enough change this year with new English teachers and that I should continue. Oh...please fire me. Please.

I got off the phone with her and called my Big School supervisor to tell him about my inability to locate my key. When I asked him what typically happens he said "Well it's a master key, so all the locks in the building will have to be changed." Fuck me. If they dock my pay I will probably owe them money. What a freaking moron I am. Plus I had to tell everyone that I was leaving and it's hard to find teachers so I'm not exactly on everyone's favorite list. I hope I don't plan on teaching when I return to Lille. I'm leaving quite an impression on everyone, and unfortunately it's not a good one. Maybe they will have all forgotten me by then...

My plan is to talk to the student and tell him that if he has a problem with the way I teach or what I teach that he is free to come to me to talk about things. I thought this was a business school. Is that how they teach them to do good business? "To get along well in the workplace kids make sure to complain about people to their bosses as opposed to working it out with them." I just don't think it's necessary to go over someones head. It' s not like I am intimidating or anything. I find it a bit cowardice to not face your problem head on. I'll talk to the kid, but I won't be bullied. I am half tempted to let them go early again next class just to piss him off, but I won't. I also don't understand why everyone is so afraid of the students here. I remember when I first started and they kept changing the day and time of the class because the students didn't want to have class on a Friday, or they didn't want to have it after 4 during the week. They are students, I thought we told them what their schedule was. I was wrong.

I'm sure something else will go wrong, it's only Wednesday today after all. I have a group of oral exams Thursday, maybe someone will freak out on me.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

SOLDES!!! Another Interesting Fact...

For those of you that don't know about the soldes...France being the interesting country it is actually has government regulated sales twice a year. Yeah, you read correctly. The government regulates how often stores can have sales. Wouldn't want to encourage competition you know. Any way, the sales time is now! There are a three weeks in January and then three in the summer. Yes, it's true, the government tells them when they can have huge sales. Wouldn't want to get all capitalist and just run your business the way you want to now would you?

One of the things I really like about the Soldes is that each week there are bigger price cuts. So now things are on sale for 20-50% off, but next week they will be a little more, then the final week it's just bananas!! Here is the best part though, the part that makes me glow from the inside of my left ventricle all the way out to the tips of my slightly dry hair...I'm the perfect size for the sales. That's right ladies. You know how in the states all the 8s, 10s and 12s are GONE by the time things go on sale? Well here it's the 0s, 2s, 4s and 6s that are all sold out first. HA! It's like a Nordstrom's shoe sale and I have a size 6! I actually have a 7.5 so all my sizes in the real world are sold out. :-/ But here I can buy tops and sweaters and coats until the very last day. I have yet to try on pants in this country. Very few of these women have hips and an ass so I am relatively certain mine would explode out the rear pockets. I have great tops though!

So if you are thinking about coming to France to visit...come week after next when things are 75% off. They are practically paying you to take things home! I don't really need anything, but there is this one really cool store I might have to check out. I will keep you all posted on any fantastic purchases...

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Feeling the pressure

Grab a beverage and a snack, this is a long one.

As I scroll through my favorite blogs I see that almost everyone (except Steph, but that's because she just likes to be "edgy" *wink-wink*) has posted about what they did in 2009 so I think I might do that too.

Ok, let's be honest. The ONLY reason I want to do this is because finally, after three years of crap-on-a-cracker I finally have a bunch of good things to talk about. It's actually purely self serving that I do this. It's like people who send out Christmas cards with pictures of their family on it. They don't want to wish you "Merry Christmas", what they want is for you to see their family and know that they are happier and better looking than you are. Ok, maybe not everyone thinks this way, but I am sure there are some out there. You can be damn sure that if I ever have a child, and if that child is cute, all my friends and family will be getting Christmas cards all of a sudden. "Look what my uterus did this year!!" is what my card will read. Oh, and "Merry Christmas". I digress yet are some highlights of my 2009 for those of you on the edge of your seat:

January was spent in Houston getting ready for my move to France to live with the love of my life and going out with all of my friends for dinners and drinks to say goodbye. Cyr (the aforementioned "love") was in Lille already so it was just me trying to get my fill of American and Chilean wine. And Shiner Bock.

February 1st I arrived in Brussels with three suitcases and proverbial bells on. I never posted this...but when I arrived I was soooooo excited as you can imagine. I even changed clothes on the flight so I would look cute for Cyr, brushed my teeth and everything. After collecting my luggage, clearing immigration and checking my hair, teeth and eyes in a mirror I nervously shuffled casually walked through the doors into the Brussels Airport. I eagerly calmly looked around, but not too much because I wanted Cyr to run up to me like in the movies. But Cyr. Huh. Well surely he is just around the corner. Nope, not there.

Half an hour later: I have no euros, don't speak French or Flemish, have no working cell phone. Am sure I have been left to fend for myself in Belgium. I figure out how to use the credit card payphone after (not kidding) 25 minutes of trying. I reach Cyr. There was a strike in Lille and he couldn't get out of the city, he's 20 minutes away still. It's like the whole country wanted to welcome me in the most French way they could. Merci France...Cyr made it to pick me up and after I drank two beers while waiting it was a fantastic reunion at last with one of the best welcome kisses in history. It all worked out.

My friend Karen came to visit in April and I was so excited! We had amazing weather. Until she showed up of course. Then it snowed for 3 days. But her visit really lifted my spirits and I found myself loving Lille and wanting to go back to Amsterdam. Then Mom came to visit and we had a fantastic time in Paris and Lille. My friend Bonnie even stopped by for a weekend during her tour of Europe!

In June I took a French course that saved my life. Plus I met Olga there who I love but moved back to Canada. :-( July 16th was Cyr and I's special day at the Marie. Just us and his best friend, best friend's wife and Olga.

Then the church wedding planning began and didn't stop until October 25th. It was a dream day. I really loved every single minute of it. I walked down the aisle with my Mom and though I know my Dad couldn't be there, he was in a way. The whole day was perfect. The champagne, the food, the man, the dress, my family and a few friends. I would not change a really was my perfect day. And I'm so glad it's over.

November brought my Carte de Sejour and the ability to work, not to mention Duncan our little black cat. Work turned out to be teaching English. Not really my passion, but it's work. December was great with a visit to Gent, Belgium and Aachen, Germany. New Years was special in Lille and then here we are in January and it's looking like we might already be headed back to Houston in 2009.

Of course we are...I can finally speak a little of the language and know where everything is. Not to mention I have friends now. But that's ok, we'll be back if we really want to. Now the hard thing is that I feel like I am in the waiting room of life waiting to be called so I know what happens next in life. We don't know when we will move. Could be quick, could be summer. I actually found myself standing at the grocery store yesterday pondering if I should buy a bottle of balsamic vinegar because "if we move soon we won't use it all". A simple choice I know, it was 3 euro or something. For some reason it seems so important at the time. There was a voice saying "Deal? Or no deal?" over and over. I seriously couldn't decide. I ended up not buying it (what!?). Now I just think I was being an idiot and I want some stupid balsamic vinegar. What a maroon...

I think 2009 will be a year of few yet large changes once again. A move to Houston and who knows what else. Maybe I'll take up knitting and start a business selling tea cozies. No one knows for sure. But the sure thing is that I can't imagine spending it without Cyr. My life will be forever changed for the better not so much because of living here in France, but because of the man from Valenciennes who I will love until the day I cease to be.

Don't know if you are out there, but thank you Shari for making me have a glass of wine with you on March 6, 2007 at Sonoma...that Tuesday changed my life.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Fun with food

Well...there was a bit of a traumatic incident with the rabbit. As I was taking the little guy out of the wrapping and telling myself that it was not in fact someone's beloved pet, but a piece of meet just like a hamburger I felt sure that I was going to have no problem cooking this thing.

That was until I moved the top part and Thumper's head peeped up at me. His teeth bared, his eyes glossed over, his fur freaked me out. I ran out of the kitchen and grabbed my manly carnivore of a husband and asked him to please stop the rabbit from checking out the ceiling lights. Well, it might have been more like "flight" from the "fight or flight" instinct. I just couldn't do it! Here is the evidence.

I even forgot to take a picture of the done deal! It's was pretty good once his beady eyes were not checking me out and judging my culinary skills. I pretty much just slathered him with mustard and cooked him for about 30 minutes. I know next time to cook at a lower temp for an hour maybe. Not sure why, it just sounds right.

Though I don't have a picture of the rabbit, I do have a picture of Cyr's fantastic leek quiche!! He surprised me with a heart on top made of cheese...awe...ain't that sweet...

We also went out and got a "galette" which is a crusty pie thingy that has a plastic figure in it. The person who is given the piece with the figure in it gets to (has to) wear a crown (that is so conveniently supplied with the cake) for rest of the day. Or something like that. You must be careful when eating that you don't bite down on the little guy and loose a tooth. I'm sure dentists are frequented this time of year for just that. We were pretty cheap and got our galette at Carrefour which is the big grocery store near us. It was a Harry Potter themed galette. Turns out I was the lucky one. Without even cheating not only did I get the guy, I got him on the first bite!! The bummer was that it wasn't even Harry!! It's some random guy who probably taught math at Hogwarts.

So far 2009 has been a pretty good year. I did discover that I gained 4 lbs. over Christmas. But each gram was sooooo worth it! The food and drink...ahhh....beside, I'll burn that off just trying to fend off hypothermia while walking to work.