jeudi 30 novembre 2006

Next stop, the entrance hallway. The tiles here are an ugly brown/yellow color. Yeah, I won't say what it looks like exactly. The rest of the rooms are the same whitish tile, just not the entryway. I have no idea why. I guess whoever did it wanted to separate the entrance from the rest of the rooms for some INANE reason. They weren't even put in well- the brown tiles are larger and don't line up with the white tiles.
( <- What were they thinking?!)

So I would first like to find more of the white tiles and have the brown tiles replaced. Again, wallpaper needs to be removed and we need to repaint. We would like to buy a coat rack and fix it to the wall next to the door. Perhaps move the telephone plug which is right next to the door. It is the only telephone connection in the apartment. Since we have our telephone, internet, and tv going through the telephone line, it is quite inconvenient.
There is a square hole cut in the living room wall, so you can see from the entryway into the living room, giving it a more open feel. We can only assume it is a supporting wall, otherwise we would prefer to remove it completely. As it is, we can eventually put plants or decorations on the ledge. Preferably fake plants I can't kill.

(Picture from entryway into living room, not our furniture, picture from previous owner) Perhaps we will hang curtains across the open square to close when guests are staying with us. Also notice the old radiator and exposed pipes.

mardi 28 novembre 2006
(not our actual bathroom)
Like most French residences, if there is only one bathroom, the toilet is in one room and the sink/shower are in another. That way, two people can be going about their business at the same time.
The washing machine connection is actually in the bathroom. Based upon the size of the bathroom, I wonder if whoever put it there was high at the time. There is NO SPACE to put the washer in there.

We would like to remove the sink/cabinet and replace it with something like in the picture on the left, just a plain basin with a shelf underneath. We already have two tall wooden structures like in the picture above for placing all of our items.
There is a small window opening out into a ventilation shaft down the center of the building. Considering how the shaft is dark and dank and opens to everyone's bathroom and toilet, how much actual ventilation can it do?
The bathtub is basically worthless for it's supposed purpose of bathing. It is too narrow and not long enough when sitting down (can't stretch out legs completely, and if you are wider than pretty small, you are a little pinched). The only option is to take a shower, but since it is narrow, the curtain clings to you. It would be best to rip it out entirely and put in a nice, large shower cabin.
Once you get out of the shower, there is a very narrow space so you have to shuffle sideways naked and dripping. We can't put a towel bar there because then everyone would hit their head when getting in and out of the shower. In order to not drench the entire room when taking a shower, we had to rig up two perpendicular rods to put the shower curtain on. (You will notice in the picture that half the curtain is on one rod, half on the other). This is where we hang our towels for easy access. There are a grand total of two plugs, one of which just came loose from the wall and is, I'm afraid, out of commission. The grey tiles on the wall I would like to remove. They are very thick, and at the risk of sounding prissy, don't go with my color scheme.
So steps needed to improve our bathroom- pull out sink/mirror/cabinet piece and replace. Remove tiles. Remove bathtub and install shower cabin. Repaint. Add several new plugs and change switch and light fixture. Possibly remove door and replace with a curtain to add space. Add towel rack.

I am going to give everyone a virtual tour of our new apartment, starting with the areas that need the most TLC.
The kitchen is, quite frankly, impossible. The first thing we had to do was remove two cabinets that formed the space where the previous owner's much smaller refrigerator had fit. Our refrigerator is "An American Refrigerator". Once we had removed the cabinets, we had to clean the walls and floor that they had covered. There was a terrible smell in the kitchen, so Alain pulled apart the sink, cleaning out the pipes. It wasn't that. Turns out there was a hole behind the sink through which foul air was coming. We also woke up to a flood one morning, so the sink problem needed to be fixed urgently. His father came over and they managed to un-caulk the sink, pull it out from the wall, and reveal what was hidden (see picture). Yeah, not nice. They removed the wallpaper, replaced some of the pipes, cemented over the hole, and put the sink back. Happy to say we haven't had a leak or a bad smell since. (knock on wood).
Next we need to buy a new washer/dryer combo. We have a washer that she left, but no dryer, which means I have to wring out our clothes in the sink and hang them sock by sock out to dry for three days. Also have no stove, so have been cooking (for the past year and a half) with two hot plates and a toaster oven. The apartment was built back in the days when they couldn't forsee a reason why anyone would need more than three plugs in a room, especially a kitchen (which has exactly two). I have a electric strip with three slots, so at any one time I have to choose which three items I want running- toaster oven, hot plate, microwave, hot water boiler (for tea, not for taking a bath), washing machine, blender, or steam cooker. So we will need to install more plugs at some point in the future, preferrably with a ground.
Above where the stove should be is a large glass hood. It doesn't really function as a hood, as there is no escape pipe. It hides the large pipe for the gas water heater. I would like to remove this big glass monstrosity and maybe have a smaller white box built to cover just the pipe. The opposite wall is not deep enough to put regular sized table or cabinets, so we are planning on buying a long thin table for more workspace then place cabinets up above. That way, I won't have all the food items on display. The door seen in the picture leads out to a small balcony opening up to a courtyard. This is where I hang the laundry. It is usually pretty calm on this side of the building. The floor is a whitish tile with cream colored marks. Not too bad, considering. The kitchen is tiled with light brown/beige-ish tiles (can be seen in picture). The wallpaper has to go. We will probably buy cabinets and appliances in white and repaint the part above the tiles on the wall white. I can't wait!
lundi 27 novembre 2006
It's a Monday morning, end of blustery November. I am standing at the Metro station, mouth slightly open to facilitate breathing, looking a little rumpled and dazed with an expression of "What am I doing out of bed?" and "How did I get here? I don't remember walking here!" Clothed, but in the way that says "Hey, where did my pajamas go?!"
Yep, that time of the year again, Cold Season. This time, I blame Alain for starting it. Usually, I am the one that gives it to him, so I suppose it is only fair. I suppose I could try to not catch it, but I tend to treat this concept with a certain fatalistic mentality- we are living in the same house, sleeping in the same bed, and eating off the same plates. Not usually at the same time mind you, but it does happen that glasses of water get mixed up and so forth. The only way to conceivably NOT catch it would be to move out for a week, but where would I go? All of his immediate family members have the same cold, and it wouldn't be taken too well if I asked to move in with one of his friends.
One thing that is good about living here is that I seem to get less colds than when I was living in Virginia. Of course, that could have been partly due to living in the Barracks with 1300 other college kids.
The French, when faced with a common cold, go to the doctor to get a prescription for ANYTHING, whether or not it will help. Americans seem to like to take a tough guy attitude- "Yeah, I may have a cold but I am here at work making all the rest of you sick and showing how committed I am to my job. Aren't you impressed by my commitment (cough cough cough)?"
I suggested to Alain that we could switch noses, he didn't seem to think that would work. What about this in sickness and in health stuff? Besides, we would look funny with each other's nose.
(wow, just did that on photoshop. Don't want to embarrass myself by posting it on here though).
So I leave you with this cartoon.

Oh, and for anyone wondering WHY I was out of bed- Christmas shopping bien sûr.
jeudi 23 novembre 2006

(and a great cry of joy was heard around the world)

So last year I had fish soup at school on Thanksgiving Day, this year I had a workshop on how to write a cover letter. Woohoo.
I think of all seasons, I miss Autumn the most. It has a distinct feel in the US that is missing here in France. It gets cold, the leaves turn brown and die, and hoop! it's winter. Autumn in the US has apple cider and Halloween and Thanksgiving and the beautiful leaves and Starbucks Gingerbread Latte and football games (even if I hardly ever went to or watched a football game, they were there). Here I can't find a turkey, would have to special order it in a butcher shop, can't find pumpkin pie mix or cranberries. I guess in the bigger cities, like London or Paris with larger ex-pat communities, there will be groups of people that get together and have Thanksgiving pot-lucks. Some restaurants even offer Thanksgiving meals, but not here in Marseille. But mom is fixing "Thanksgiving in December" per special request when we go home.
So for our Thanksgiving meal this year, I had whole wheat pasta, ham, and tomatos with mozzarella. Alain realized it was Thanksgiving (from the news on TV) and asked why weren't celebrating it. Because, I told him, I can't do a turkey in our toaster oven. Well, we could celebrate it with something else. (This coming from a man who had lobster each Thanksgiving he was in the US). No, we can't. If it isn't turkey, it isn't Thanksgiving. I would rather not celebrate than celebrate with something like duck.
So, any Americans actually celebrating Thanksgiving today, eat an extra piece of pie for me. But don't send me the leftovers.
mercredi 22 novembre 2006
We are in our new apartment now, and the dog living in the apartment directly beneath us barks all day long while the owners are away. I seriously think I might go nuts and start barking myself. I called the syndic and all they said they would do is put up a sign in the entranceway along the lines of "All tenants are reminded that their dogs are not supposed to bark excessively." Yeah, I am sure that will do the trick. I might have to go talk to them (read: Alain might have to go talk to them.) But still, I am not sure what anyone can do to stop their dog from barking when they aren't around. I have some ideas, but don't want to end up in jail.
dimanche 19 novembre 2006
Just one question- do celebrities get some sort of "Get out of Paperwork Hell" card when they decide to grace St. Tropez or Somewhere in Italy with their nuptials? Why didn't I get this card? Why did I have to suffer through medical exams, certified translations of every official document back to Kindergarten Diploma, and other memories which I have purposefully suppressed? Why didn't I have the opportunity to get Fake Married in Europe like Tom and Katie and Pam and Kid Rock?,26334,1219944,00.html
And oh yeah, we didn't even have the option to have just the "wedding celebration" because it isn't LEGAL FOR MORTALS.
And how seriously can one take wedding vows that sound like they came from the "Sugar and spice and everything nice that's what little girls are made of." Book of Wedding Frivolty?
vendredi 3 novembre 2006

Every Friday night, starting at 8:50 (yes, they have crazy start times here in France) channel 4 shows usually one or two episodes of Hercule Poirot (Agatha Christie's Belgian detective in England). They show the ones with David Suchet as Hercule. The original series in English, but it has all been dubbed into French. So there is a Belgian speaking English that has been dubbed into French. We usually pick up a pizza, which is usually 4 Fromages. It is rare that both of us make it through the entire first episode. One or both of us is usually passed out on the couch by the intermission, so around 9:15. I usually wake up and stumble off to bed around 10, Alain sleeps/watches longer. There aren't too many episodes, so we have watched some several times. It doesn't really matter though, as I can never remember what happened having never made it through. I have read every single Agatha Christie book, so sometimes I have a vague clue as to what will happen. The quality of the episodes (audio, image) is often not that great- very static-y. We have the choice of being able to hear it but not see it on one channel or see it but not hear it on another channel. Hercule Poirot is on at other times, such as Sunday afternoons, but we usually forget or are somewhere else at that time (that somewhere else being 95% of the time Alain's family for visiting and eating).
Last week they didn't have it on because they had Miss Europe 2006 Beauty Pageant. It was quite amusing. It was held in Kiev, Ukraine, and was organized by France. Who were the final two contestants? Miss Ukraine and Miss France. I don't believe it! What a co-in-ki-dink! The judges said "Oh, we can't decide. It is a tie." They finally voted a second time and Miss France won. I personally did not believe that she was that bright or good-looking. And all the women had the same nose, I swear. There was also a lingerie portion of the show, which was a European addition I am sure. (take a good look at the noses below. You'll see what I mean.)
mercredi 1 novembre 2006
This year, we officially spent no money on Halloween- not candy, costumes, decorations, or events.
Halloween 2005- we were invited to a party by a Frenchwoman that knows some friends in the US. We had exchanged emails, but had never met in person. It is very strange going to a party where you know no one, not even the hostess. I bought some costume items- blinking devil horns for me, a mask and gloves for Alain. We drove down to her street and spent about 15 minutes searching for a parking spot, before deciding to go back to where we live, park, and walk from our apartment. I ran up and got some tennis shoes- no way was I walking several kilometers in high heels. When we got to the party, I switched and put the shoes in Alain's backpack. We weren't sure which apartment was hers, so we followed the noise to the wrong floor, knocked and spent several awkward minutes, "Um, Audrey? We're looking for Audrey?" No, she is down on the first floor. The party was okay, tons of people we didn't know. All the women were dressed in about the same thing- red and black devil costumes. I guess I wasn't too original, but I didn't have much costume choice. We left around midnight and walked back home through a not-great part of town. Emailed Audrey to thank her for inviting us, never heard from her again. Oh well.
As a kid, I had a Rainbow Brite costume that my mom made, also went as a ladybug, rabbit.
Halloween 2006- This week the students have off from school for Toussaint, All Saint's Day today where people go and put flowers on graves of loved ones. Yesterday some kids in costume were wandering around, I guess going from business to business trick or treating. Halloween is not a big event here. I guess it is slowly starting to catch on, promoted mostly by businesses to make money. Some people are opposed to it.
I grace you with a picture of me from last year.

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