mardi 27 février 2007
Lack of a job or classes to take is starting to make me focus my energy towards different areas. Nothing worthwhile like bettering my French or learning how to cook of course. No, instead I prefer to learn calligraphy, take up painting again, crosstitch like crazy, start to learn shorthand, and buy a recorder (hot cross buns, one a penny, two a penny, hot cross buns, yeah you know what I am talking about.) Of course, my restless state of mind means that I pursue each of these activities (in between frantically searching on the internet for new job postings) for about two days before moving onto another pursuit. So I have half-finished scrapbook pages, wedding stuff that still needs organizing, and various other projects in various states of completion all around our apartment. Which is itself in a state of confusion. But it is getting there. I keep trying to remind myself that when I do have a job (okay, if) I will look back on this time with envy, when I had enough time to go to the grocery store, wait an hour in line at the post office, etc. But I can't enjoy it now because I feel frustrated and frazzled.
jeudi 22 février 2007
Yesterday I took the TGV up to Dijon for an interview with a headhunting company for a post here in Marseille. I have never been to Dijon before, so I was quite excited to go. The train left Marseille at 6 am, so I got up at 4:30 to get ready, and Alain accompanied me to the train station. The train stopped in Lyon and a few other small towns on the way. It took a total of 3 hours and 40 minutes to get there. Once I arrived in Dijon, I took a bus to my interview. The interview went well, lasted about an hour. After that, I walked back towards the center of town (it isn't a huge town) and wandered around for awhile. Found a cute, original place to eat near the Notre-Dame cathedral. Alas, it was cute but the food was only so-so and the service indifferent. I had the menu for 19 euros, which included an appetizer (cold jellied ham), main dish of beef burgundy (when in Burgundy right?), and a dessert (some sort of nutty icecream). Then wandered around some more.

The mascot of Dijon seems to be an owl. It was on everything- signs, shops, etc. I think it is because there is a small stone carving of an owl on the cathedral, and if you touch it, it is supposed to give you good luck. I went and touched it with my right hand, and a passing Dijonaise told me "La main gauche!" (the left hand). I asked her why it was supposed to be the left hand, and she said because with the right it doesn't bring good luck. So I touched it again with the left.
(La Chouette ---->)

One thing I noticed was how clean the streets were. No trash, no graffitti, and most importantly- no dog poop. I think I saw a grand total of 3 dog poops. Which is about 9,997 less than in Marseille. If the Dijonaises can get the hang of it, why can't the Marseillaises?

Another pretty thing where all of the colorful roof tiles and the half timbered houses. I didn't go any of the museums, and after awhile was getting tired. My feet hurt and the weather was drizzly. Used a public, self-cleaning toilet.
Hey, for 30 cents, it beats going into a cafe, being forced to order something (like another coffee for 1.50) and then using their unstellar facilities.
Bought lots of mini mustard samples for us and Alain's family. I never even knew so many types of mustard existed. I bought Honey & Balsamic, Green Peppercorn, Whole Grained, Basil, Strong, Blackcurrant, Honey, Regular Dijon, and interestingly, Gingerbread Dijon Mustard. Hmm. I guess Dijon is also famous for it's gingerbread, from when it used to be a crossroads for the spice route.
Took a bus back to the train station (could have walked but was so turned around) and caught my train at 16:41 back to Marseille, getting in at 20:24.

For more on Dijon from wikipedia

(<--- Another mini Arc de triomphe!)

lundi 19 février 2007
I am a self-confessed train dork. For absolutely no reason, I really enjoy riding on trains, even though it stresses me. Always worried I will end up in Spain instead of my intended destination.
Though I usually like my train riding to be for a purpose (job or vacation, not just for the purpose of riding a train). This past week, I received two phone calls from two "cabinets de recruitement" head-hunting firms. One was in Paris and wanted me to come last Wednesday (Valentine's) and the one in Dijon wants me to come this coming Wednesday, the 21st. The jobs I am/was interviewing for are here in this region however.
The ANPE, which stands for who knows what, is the national job search agency. They will pay for plane or train tickets to go to an interview. The companies rather abuse this in my opinion. I think if a company is interested in a candidate, they should foot the bill. Oh well.

So I went the next day to the ANPE office to get the forms to then go to the train station and reserve my tickets. I spent several hours at the ANPE because the companies had not sent me the correct attestations. The attestation needed to list the time, CORRECT date, name of the post, the company, location of the interview, whether it is for a permanent post or not, etc. So I made some calls to the recruiment agencies, asking them to please fax the correct information to the ANPE. Furthermore, I had two interviews that afternoon, one information and one for a position that afternoon, so as much as I would have LOVED to spend all day at the ANPE, I couldn't. Finally I got the forms and headed off to the train station, Gare St. Charles, waited in line for about 15 minutes, got my tickets (paid 20 euros for my free tickets. Basically you have to pay the reservation which I am guessing means for them to hold the spot, not for the trip itself). Got home and got ready for my interviews and found out that I didn't need to go to the one in Paris the next day (bye 10 euros!). Would have been fun to go up there, but not just for a day.
We live closeby to the other train station in Marseille, Marseille Gare de la Blancarde. It is about a ten-minute walk from our apartment and serves the areas east of Marseille- Toulon, Nice, and further out.
On Friday I had another interview with a company in Aubagne, so I decided I would try to take the train and see how that worked. I left at 3 for my 5 p.m. interview. The trains are fairly regular, but not the buses. Paid my 5.40 for my aller-retour (round trip ticket), and took the ten minute commuter (stuffy, crowded) train to Aubagne. Got off, realized that I had just missed the 3:30 bus to where I needed to go. Got some information on the bus routes, got on the 4 p.m. bus to go to my interview. Was sitting there (another 1.10 down the drain) when I got a call from the secretary, saying that they needed to reschedule my interview for next week. Got off the bus before it left, took the train back to Marseille, walked home.
So today I got to repeat the whole procedure (actually made it to the interview this time), and then am going up to Dijon on Wednesday, which I am looking forward to. I have never been there, and planning on spending the afternoon wandering around Dijon before taking the TGV back (3:40 hours direct).

(photo courtesy of

So if I should get this job in Aubagne, I will be quite pleased to take the train every day. A monthly ticket is 28.40 euros, which is much cheaper than gas would be, without the added pain of traffic jams and searching 20 minutes for a parking spot.

jeudi 15 février 2007
Happy Birthday to my most favoritest Frenchman in the entire world!

Je t'aime!
mercredi 14 février 2007

Valentines Day in France

from the site

Valentine's Day Festival is celebrated with joy and enthusiasm in France.
People take opportunity of the occasion and express love to people close through
them. Just as in several other countries people in France exchange Valentine's
Day greetings through cards, fresh flowers and gifts of love.

History of Valentine's Day Festival has a strong association with France.
It is said that during the Middle Ages, there was a popular belief in France and
England that birds began to mate halfway through the second month of the year.
For this reason lovers saw the day special and considered it auspicious to
exchange love letters and tokens of love on Valentine's Day. During fourteenth
and fifteenth centuries, French and English poets and litterateurs too stressed
on this idea and created a romantic image of the day in the minds of the
people.Valentine's Day Cards too are said to have originated in France. A young
Frenchman, Charles, Duke of Orleans is said to have written the first written
Valentine's Day Cards. The Duke who was captured at the Battle of Agincourt in
1415 is said to have written a poem or ‘Valentine' to his wife while
imprisonment in the Tower of London.

People in France once followed a peculiar Valentine's Day custom called
“drawing for”. Unmarried young and old people would go into houses facing each
other and begin calling out across from one window to another and pair off with
their chosen partner. If the young man failed to be particularly
enthralled with his valentine, he would desert her. A bonfire would be lit
later where ladies would burn images of their ungrateful lovers and hurl abuses
at them. The ritual was eventually abandoned as it left much room for
nastiness and ridicule. French government handed-down a decree and
officially banned the custom. There was also a custom in France to
exchange elegant cards containing tender messages called cartes d'amities.
These were not essentially Valentine and resulted chiefly due a trend popular in

Geez, and I thought Valentine's Day in Middle School was bad. Who got a cheap red carnation? Who didn't get a cheap red carnation? Why did the guys that I always sent an anonymous sugar cookie too always figure out it was me?

It seems to me that Valentine's Day is less commercial here. The stores certainly are getting into the act though.

Here is a cut and paste guide to writing your sweetie a Valentine in French.

I love you (too): Je t'aime (aussi)
I adore you: Je t'adore
Will you marry me?: Veux-tu m'épouser ?
to date: sortir avec
to get engaged: se fiancer
to get married: se marier
engagement: les fiançailles
marriage: le mariage
wedding: les noces, le mariage
wedding anniversary: l'anniversaire de mariage
honeymoon: la lune de miel
St. Valentine's Day (card): (une carte de) la Saint-Valentin
present: un cadeau
flowers: des fleurs
candy: des bonbons
perfume: le parfum
jewelry: des bijoux
engagement ring: une bague de fiançailles
wedding ring: une alliance
husband: un mari, un époux
wife: une femme, une épouse
lover: un amant (for a man), une amante (for a woman)
boyfriend: un copain
girlfriend: une copine
dear, sweetheart: chéri (for a man) chérie (for a woman)
mardi 13 février 2007
These two books "A Year in the Merde" and "Merde Actually" by Stephen Clarke are about an Englishman named Paul West, who moves to France. They were recommended to me by my friend Hanna.
(Merde, for anyone who doesn't know, means s***)
You can "être dans la merde" to be in the s***
"merde alors!" Oh s***!
J'ai merdé à l'examen! I really screwed up the exam
merdeux/merdeuse: to feel s***ty
un petit merde: a little s*** (like the annoying kids next to me on the Metro the other day)
merdique: s***ty
emmerder: to get on someone's nerves
emmerdeur/emmerdeuse (make sure you get the right form for the right gender) someone who is a big pain
demerder: to get by, manage, get yourself out of s***

All of these definitions I took from the French-English dictionary. They take their s*** seriously.

I ended up reading the second one first, as I had bought it thinking that it was the first one. I finished it and went out and bought the first. So it is a bit disconcerting to read the first knowing what is going to happen (ie which girl he will end up with) but entertaining nevertheless. I am quite pleased to see some familiar themes explored- namely, frustrations with the Prefecture, french drivers, french food mishaps, strikes (namely transportation and garbage collectors), stepping in the merde, and trying to make oneself understood. Haven't read anything about La Poste yet, but perhaps the post offices are better in Paris. Also made me glad that I am not living in Paris. Marseille is big enough and culturally enough for me. It has enough museums, theaters, an opera, original version movie theaters, etc. to keep me happy. Furthermore, housing prices aren't sky-high (only skyscraper high) and it is close to other nice places to visit.

However, I do miss the American community.
mercredi 7 février 2007

How a cheese can be
a) masculin
b) soft
c) blond?
I mean, I've never really looked at a cheese and thought "Whoa! Now THAT is one redheaded cheese!" And if it was, ewww.
I am just imagining the conversation
Guy 1: Yeah, I like them smooth, firm, and blond.
Guy 2: Girls?
Guy 1: No. Cheese, stupid.

mardi 6 février 2007
So finally, after six months of waiting, three temporary cards, countless hours spent in the Prefecture, 55 euros (not including fees for photocopying, bus tickets, ID photos, translations, etc) I finally get my (temporary) resident card!

see related entry "I love the Prefecture"

On Friday I got the yellow sheet of paper telling me to come down to the Prefecture and pick up my card. I went yesterday, and proceeded to spend the entire morning there. First I had to buy an OMI stamp for 55 euros. Not sure exactly what OMI stands for, but it is a way to pay for official fees. Usually you can buy these from bar/tobacco shops. I went into the nearest one, nope they don't sell them. Proceeded to spend the next thirty minutes trying to find one that did. Finally bought it, and went to wait in line at the Prefecture.

Surprisingly, it didn't take that long, as there were only four people in front of me. I handed the lady my multitude of papers, she went off and fetched my card. She said "Is this your address?" (On my card it had the old address) Nope. And do you remember when I specifically told you people that my address had changed? Nope. I was afraid they would have to send it back and make a new one, but she just put a sticker over the address part and wrote the new one on.

I was a little miffed to find that the card is only good for one year and from the date my file was received last October, not from when I received it. So at the end of July/beginning of August, Alain and I have to go back and start the whole wonderful procedure over again! Hopefully they can just put a sticker over the date as well and extend it by a year. If not, it will really be a pain to have to send it back in and get a new one issued. I asked when can I get the 10 year card, and she said after three years of marriage. Come on 2009!

While I was there, I decided to go deposit the paperwork for my driver's license. France and certain US states have a direct exchange agreement for driver's licenses, meaning that you don't have to retake the test. Thankfully, Virginia is one of them. As this direct exchange option is only possible for (I think) six months after you receive the carte de sejour, I had to move quickly. I had already gotten my driver's license translated into French (42 euros for two copies). So after waiting in line at the driver's license office and watching a woman go ballistic on the poor lady behind the counter, I got up to the desk. I handed her everything, and she told me I needed front and back photocopy of my carte de sejour, which I had just received but hadn't had time to photocopy.

I went down to the main level where there was a photocopier, but only had bills, no change (20 centimes per copy). There was no change machine around, so I went to a nearby bar and ordered a coffee. In the bar there were several cages with about 20 small flying squeekers. (those small birds, I don't know what they are called, but they make a squeeking noise). They were let out of their cages and zooming all over the bar. It was amusing watching them, but I was just hoping they wouldn't poop in my coffee. Got my change, went back to the Prefecture, photocopied my carte de sejour, went back upstairs, and butted in line and gave the lady the papers. She said it would take about two months to get the license. I really hope that a) they don't loose my original VA driver's license and that b) they don't keep my license. The only positive thing is that the French driver's license is permanent, so I don't have to go through this process again.

Here, dear readers, I present my tips for surviving the Prefecture.

1) Upon arriving, go around to all the ticket machines and take one ticket from each machine for all the different lines. Don't think you will need to use the line for retired people? Doesn't matter, take one anyway. You never know where the officials will send you to stand in line. You certainly don't want to spend an hour in one line, thinking it is the right one, then get to the front and realize that nope, you have to be over in the retirees line (but I'm only (ahem) less than 30! Doesn't matter, go stand in that one). If you have a ticket for that line already, you'll only have to wait ten minutes or so.

2) Make photocopies of everything. Even things you don't think they could possibly want.

3) Bring extra ID photos

4) Bring extra change for photocopy machines and ID photo cabins.

5) Bring a book.

6) Bring a sense of humor and clear your schedule for the rest of the day.

vendredi 2 février 2007
One thing that I am not sure I will ever get used to about city living is the noise. We have double-paned windows, but still hear the noise of the road (it is a busy boulevard). Strangely, the noise that Alain finds the most annoying (the cars), I find the least. The barking dog and our elderly neighbor's loud TV from 7-10 pm non-fail are much more annoying to me. I guess that is apartment living for you. The car noise just kind of blends together, like the sea only more polluting.
Thankfully, the dog has somewhat stopped. It was barking one night until 11 pm, so when we heard our neighbors come home, Alain went to go talk to them. He said that the dog is old and blind and when it is all alone it doesn't smell it's family so it gets lonely and barks. Okay, thanks for making me feel guilty about imagining death scenarios! He had tried giving the dog to his sister in the country, but he just wailed non-stop. We said that if the dog continues to bark, we will buy one of those shock collars, and he said they would try that. But I guess they have been home more regularly, because it has barked hardly at all. (thank god). I guess I am just used to our dogs, who had a barking rate of 1 bpa (bark per annum).
As far as our neighbor is concerned, I feel bad asking her to turn down her TV as well. She is most likely a little hard of hearing and has been nice to us (collecting our mail when we were on vacation and the box was overflowing).
And one final thing I hate are those cell phone/MP3 players. Mainly because teenagers get on the bus/metro and feel like EVERYONE needs to hear "loosen up my buttons uh-huh" for the millionth time. Hey buddy, I don't force my musical tastes on you so I would appreciate if you didn't force yours on me. Otherwise I'm gonna start blasting "The Phantom of the Opera" or something else I am sure you will hate.

Blog Archive


Favorite Posts