mardi 31 octobre 2006
So we are now officially Apartment Owners. We signed the papers this afternoon at the Notaire's Office where his aunt works- very helpful. Alain's sister also works in insurance. Now we needs someone who works at the Prefecture and one who has a Microelectronic company and we will be all set. I must have looked at at least 20 apartments, with Alain and alone. We decided back in May and signed the initial paperwork the week after getting married.
The last name of the Notaire is literally Lawyer (maître in French). So he is Maître Maître. Like Dr. Alain Doctor. I guess he had no choice but to be a lawyer. He couldn't exactly be Dr. Francis Lawyer now could he?
I am not going to go into the Legal Stuff because a) I am not really sure what all just happened and b) even if I did, I am sure it would be Really Boring for you all.
Now comes the fun moving part- down three flights of twisting staircase with a refrigerator, bookshelf, couch, table, etc. We haven't bought much since we have been here for that express reason. We are renting a truck on Saturday (89 euros) and Alain's friends too (pizza and beer I suppose). We have to be out of here by the sixth. Unfortunately, I don't think we will have time to strip the wallpaper in the new place and repaint.
Will be out of contact for an indefinite amount of time until the phone/internet/cable company switches our connection to the new place. It is strange to think that after moving each year for the past five years, I will be in one place for an undetermined amount of time. Don't have any nice pictures to post of the inside and a picture of the outside would be like a big sign on the Internet "Here is where you, stalker internet guy, can find me!"
vendredi 27 octobre 2006
If you want a dog who...
Looks like a cartoon drawing on a sheet of paper
Doesn't cost anything other than printer ink
Is flat, so doesn't take up much space
Comes in different sizes, from postage stamp to legal size
Comes in any color you happen to have on your paper shelf (HINT: if you have only white paper, remember that crayons and markers are FULL of color)
Weighs almost nothing, unless you print him on an anvil
Doesn't shed, bark, dig, fight, chase, or chew things
Don't have to pay for food, boarding, grooming, or vet bills.
Don't want to have walk three times a day.
A Transylvanian Griffinfinch may be right for you!

As we are living in an apartment and neither of us has the inclination to walk a dog several times a day, we have decided that the Transylvanian Griffinfinch is the best kind of dog for us. I don't think we could give a dog what it needs at this time.
A cat would be okay, but honestly, I don't want to change cat litter once a week and have our small apartment smell like, well, cat litter. I am not a cat hater, but not a cat lover either. Some cats of roommates I have liked better than the roommates themselves. However, since I have no more use for a cat than a half hour pet once a day, it is best to not get one. Furthermore, I don't want animal hair all over the apartment. Alain's parents have a small dog and cat which are good enough for me.
mardi 24 octobre 2006

Yesterday, after about a week of coordination, I took a train from Marseille to a small town on the coast called Sanary Sur Mer to meet an old friend, Kelly, visiting with some of her friends Provence for two weeks.

I took the Metro to Gare Saint Charles, bought my aller-retour (round trip ticket), and waited for the train at 8:40. I am always nervous getting on trains, worried that I will end up in Spain or something. Check number on ticket. Check number on sign. Check number on ticket. Check number on sign. Consider knocking on the conductor's door and asking him where he is going.
I admit, I am a Train Dork. I really like riding on trains. I guess it is because I haven't done it much. I suppose if I commuted every day to work on a train, it would lose it's appeal. Other people bring a magazine, laptop, a book. I sit on top and look out the window. On this day there wasn't much to see out the window. It was quite a cloudy day and I was afraid it would rain later. Got to my stop and waited for Kelly and her friend Deborah to pick me up. We immediately went to the supermarket to buy chocolate bars for them to take home. I think they bought about 10 each. Then we went to Centre Ville, which was quite difficult as half the streets were blocked off for work or the market. Kelly and I had a coffee, walked around a bit, then met up with their other traveling companions, three guys- Dave, Shawn, and Mike for lunch. We went to an African restaurant, had a bottle of Moroccan wine. For lunch I had a meat and cheese dish wrapped in a crispy shell. It was good but my digestive system was not happy with me the rest of the day.
After lunch Kelly and I walked around some more. We tried to take the walk along the coast, but it was really rocky and far. We came back, had a Haagen Daas (I ate about half of mine, it was so big). We went to an art exhibition that featured animals, some of whom had human parts or other human qualities. After that we went into a church. It was interesting because there was a man painting the murals all over the place- ceiling, side walls, etc. He still had a ways to go, I imagine that he had already been working on it for years. I would like to go back in another year or so and see if it is finished. It was a little strange to see something like In Progress, because usually it is something that was done a hundred years ago and you just take it for granted. But to see someone actually painting it, it makes you realize how long it must have taken to build the churches (stone carvings, etc). Kelly looked at some Santons (small painted pottery figures, usually for Christmas Nativity scenes). Sanary is not really a Santon Town, so there were a few, really expensive, in tourist shops. They were about twice the price that they would be at the Santon Fair in Marseille in December. (see my previous blog entry if you wish)
I bought some roasted chestnuts, marrons chaud, from a stand so that Kelly and the others could try this typical Christmas treat. They are rather dry. At around 6:30 they drove me back to the train station, and my train arrived a little after 7. Too dark by this time to see anything. Got back to Marseille around 8, took the Metro home. A good day.
jeudi 19 octobre 2006
One of the most frustrating things when speaking another language is making the natives understand you when you KNOW you are saying the right thing! I am sure that in my 16 months here I have said some doozies.
I remember very early on, I stopped by a grocer's and was looking for strawberries. He asked if he could help and I said (in French) I am looking for strawberries. (fraises). He didn't understand. I repeated Fraise about ten different ways, varying the pronunciation each time, then started on the adjectives. Small, red, round, fruit, sweet? Nope. Still no clue. I left in despair.
Or when they hear the word and don't believe that they are hearing you right because you are a foreigner and it is an unusual request.
Such as when I went to the nearby bakery and wanted to know what the price would be for 100 small chocolate pastries for our wedding (sorry to everyone who came- no chocolate pastries).
Me: I would like to know the price of a hundred chocolate pastries there.
Baker: What?
Me: The price for a hundred.
Baker: How many?
Me: One Hundred.
Baker: A hundred?
Me: Yes, a hundred.
Baker: Really?
Me: Yes! One zero zero.
(he takes out a paper, writes 100 and shows it to me.)
Me: Yes, that is what I want to know.
Baker: Oh! A hundred. Well that will be....
(what is this? An Abbot and Costello routine? Just tell me the price please.)

Another thing I don't understand is why they have two words that sound alike and mean almost the same thing- dessus and dessous (above and below). Usually I can't manage to make the distinction in pronunciation so I pick one and say it, and then accompany it with the appropriate hand gesture (hand flat parallel to ground, waving near head level or down near waist). Quite useless of course when talking on the phone. I think it is dessus (deh-sue) and dessous (deh-soo) not to be confused with déçu (day-soo), which means disappointed. Sometimes these words that sound alike mean very different and embarrassing things.
lâcher- to let go
lécher- to lick.
Me: I want you to ______ me please.
Someone else: What? Really? Ok.
Me: Ahh!!!
Alain says he has trouble hearing the difference between Cheap, Sheep, and Ship. But at least they don't mean almost the same thing or something really embarrassing. If someone says, "That car is really sheep." You could probably figure out what they are trying to say. And it's not like we have above and apove (below).
One thing that I will say about French is that once you learn all the letter combinations and how to produce those sounds, it is usually the same pronunciation, versus English where you have to just about learn how to pronounce each word separately. Such as why are Sew (ohh) and Knew (ewww) different?
(Note to readers: tried to find a funny cartoon about French pronunciation, but Helas! could not)
mercredi 18 octobre 2006

On Saturday evening, Alain and I made a pilgrimage to Le Quillé with Olivier, Audrey, and Hanna. What is Le Quillé you ask? An ice cream store, what else?
It is located in the old town of Miramas, about 40 minutes away from Marseille. Internet site with pictures.
Quillé, according to Olivier, means "perched" in Provençale. Indeed, it is quite perched on the top of the hill.
Apparently during summer it is very popular. You park at the bottom of the hill and hike up to the summit, where the glacier is. You try to delude yourself with thoughts of "I am burning off enough calories to eat this mound of ice cream, chocolate sauce, and brownies."
We got there around 9. We sat out on the terrace, but it was a little cold. When we first got there, we were the only ones there, besides the local cats. There were about three or four cats hanging out, and making strange cat noises at each other.
We ordered, I stayed faithful and got L'Americaine. (closest to viewer in picture above) It was two scoops of vanilla, two of chocolate, a brownie, some whipped cream, and sliced almonds. It was quite good. I was quite tempted though by the Irlandaise, which was Bailey's Ice cream, whipped cream, and Bailey's liquor. They make all of their ice cream and had some quite original flavors, such as Calisson (the almond paste candies from Aix en Provence) and licorice. The prices weren't too bad, around 8 euros each.
We later moved inside and had tea, leaving around 11.
(picture courtesy of Hanna).
mardi 17 octobre 2006
Nearby there is a small jewelry store, that mostly does repairs. I had taken some watches there to have the batteries replaced and had my wedding band/engagement ring soldered together before. Last week I took three rings to have them resized (smaller). One amber ring that Alain gave me, one blue topaz, and one yellow topaz ring (my birthstone). He said to come back Friday (last) and they would be done. I was unable to go Friday and didn't want to spend time Saturday going there, so went yesterday. They were not done yet, so he said to come back today. I went back this afternoon and the rings were done. I tried them on, and they had all been resized larger! Now I know this wasn't a communication problem, because my finger had been measured and my other ring had been measured for comparison. Argh. So he will redo them. For some reason he was thinking 54 instead of 48, and didn't write it down on the slip. On the other hand, they were very pretty and sparkly as he cleaned them for the first time since ever.
My yellow topaz stone is an oval, and had been set so that the long part goes along the direction of the finger. He had changed it so that it is now perpendicular to the finger. It looks better that way so I didn't say anything but why would a jeweler just decide to change the setting of a ring like that? I don't get it at all. Good grief. I guess I need to tell people when I take something in for work, please don't take any initiative without contacting me first (please see "The Blanket Affair" Will include pictures when I get them back. If I ever get them back.
samedi 14 octobre 2006

French, or at least Provençals, really seem to dislike carpet. All the houses I have been to have only tiles. Not even area rugs. They think it is much more hygenic. They are probably right. Except, WHO WAS THE STUPID MORON WHO DECIDED TO PUT WHITE TILES IN OUR KITCHEN, ENTRYWAY, AND BATHROOM!!!!????
The only places in the apartment that have white tiles are exactly where you need something that doesn't show the dirt so obviously. The rest of our apartment, well living room and bedroom, have the old brick red hexagonal tiles called tommettes.
I need a dog or baby or something to lick the floor regularly.
Alain does the vacuuming/mopping about once every two weeks. It is good for about a day before it is dirty again. Maybe we (okay, I) are just abnormally dirty people, I don't know. Thankfully, the apartment we are buying has greyish tiles. Much better. That way, when I drop an egg on the floor I can just rub it in.

Perhaps it is done expressly. You get to be so ashamed to have people over that you are forced to mop on a daily basis.
Illustration below: which looks like it shows the dirt less? On left, old red tiles in living room. On right, sparkling white tiles in kitchen. You decide.

vendredi 13 octobre 2006

I admit it, Frenchwomen intimidate me. Besides Alain's family and the girlfriends/wives of his friends, I know no frenchwomen. I guess it isn't all that surprising since I spent the last year at a all-foreign students school learning French and haven't been in a club or office setting where I would meet them.
But I think it is something more than that. When living in another country, I think there is a natural tendency to gravitate first towards others of your own nationality. As I know zero Americans in Marseille, I can't do that here. There is the Association of American Wives of Europeans, but that is mostly based in Paris. I am on their email list and chat boards, but it isn't the same as knowing them in person.
After that, I think people try to meet other foreigners. In a foreign country, other foreigners are in the same boat as you are- trying to learn the language, the customs and social graces. Don't want to make a fool of yourself mumbling something unintelligible to a group of Frenchwomen while wearing the wrong scarf. When I was studying in England for a semester, I hung out with 2 French, 1 Greek, 1 Italian, 1 Mauritanian, and 1 Zimbabwian. Instead of the other native English speaking (well, sorta) English! I guess we just understood each other better and all wanted to do touristy stuff, like visit Oxford instead of JUST drink beer there.
The final step is to make friends with the natives of whatever country you are in. It is more difficult to make myself understood because those who are used to the way I phrase things and my accents (God bless Alain's parents) understand what I am trying to say. Those who don't have "the ear" for my accent, such as those damn R's which I don't think I will get, keep asking what? what?
So just now I am starting to make tentative steps to meet frenchwomen. So far it has consisted of meeting one girl (today) to possibly go running together from time to time. How did I meet her you ask? Well, I have been posting bad-grammar messages on French chat boards, looking for people to go running together, hang out. (Yes, I do feel like a desperate loser. Please be my friend!) Unsurprisingly, the people who have responded have been those who have some sort of interest in English/the USA/living abroad, etc. No no! I want to practice my French! If I do get a job here eventually, I suppose I will meet more people.
jeudi 5 octobre 2006
The more time I spend in the Post-Undergrad/Graduate School World, the more I am convinced that in order for every person to be considered an ADULT, that they must take a year's worth of courses.
Cooking 101 and 201- beyond ordering takeout and making Mac and Cheese. Not talking Cordon Blue School here, just enough to get by.
Babies 101- taking care of, not making of
Children 201- I have to take their temperature Where?!
Cleaning and Laundry- No, you can't ship it all home to your mom, and since you will be too poor in the next fifteen years to hire a cleaning lady, you need to know this stuff.
Nutrition and Fitness- A multivitamin does not give a free pass to drink as much beer as you want. Your metabolism is slowing down. Get your rear in gear.
Workplace- How to act on the Job
Adult Finances- getting a mortgage, investing, paying taxes
Basic car and home repair
Looking Decent- beyond sweatpants- hair, makeup, and clothes
Destress- Meditation, Yoga, Deep Breathing- avoiding a heart attack by the age 45

Perhaps this could be split into summer sessions for college students or night courses for people who go directly into the workforce. I think it is a good idea.
mardi 3 octobre 2006

On Sunday, Alain and I went with Olivier and Audrey to the Foire of Marseille, the Marseille Fair. This is not a normal, American-style city/county fair. No rides, very few games, certainly no livestock or pie baking competitions. It is mostly an expo of new home gadgets, swimming pools for sale, new couches, gyms in the area, etc. There are many international stands. It is quite odd to see Ecuador next to Vietnam. America was represented with one booth- cowboy clothes, a few Nascar items, and some Route 66 stuff. Sniff. I am so proud. Way to represent!
We got there around 11:30, took the Metro as it was easier than trying to find parking. There were a lot of people there as it was the last weekend day. It was from Sept. 22- Oct. 2, and it was the 82nd Fair of Marseille.
Alain and I went last year as well. We found some very good Italian chocolate, like truffles, so we wanted to buy more this year.
The entrance is 7.50 euros for adults, but this year we got in free because Olivier had free tickets. (Thanks Olivier!)
We walked around, had lunch (sandwiches on the go), I bought two lovely kashmir (IMO) scarves for a very good price, then we bought our chocolate (20 euros for 800 g- usually we split one or two flavors and share them for our evening tea-and-a-movie) . They have flavors like almond, coconut, hazelnut, Grand Mariner, etc.

It was so crowded that at a certain point you just get tired of being jostled and squeezing your way through. I brought my camera to take pictures but didn't take any at the fair because it would have just been uninteresting shots of people heads. We left around 3:30, took the Metro back, had tea and talked for awhile.

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