lundi 26 mai 2008
Today is our 2 year wedding anniversary. We had originally planned to go to visit Orange for the weekend, but had too much going on to get around to actually reserving a hotel room. On Saturday we went for an afternoon barbeque with Alain's two best men (one of which now has a 5 month old son). On Sunday, which also happened to be la Fête des Mères, we went to visit his parents' for lunch. The weather has not been nice lately. We took a quick walk around the village of Lançon and visited the church where we were married.

I spent the afternoon doing my US taxes- Since I make less than 85000$ per year, live in France, and don't work for a US entity, I don't have to pay taxes. But I still get to try and figure out these forms. Live in a foreign country and have twice as many tax forms to fill out every year! Yay!!06:19
jeudi 22 mai 2008
These past few months I have been spending many weekends (not every weekend, but every other weekend or so) washing our walls. I removed the wallpaper back in August (oh what a fun week off from work that was!). Since then, they have been just sitting there, covered in glue bits and grime. Well, I guess they have to just sit there, they aren't going to get up and walk away or anything...
So before we can paint them, I have to get all the grime off, then Alain is putting a hole-filler-inner coat of goo on, then sanding and sanding and sanding. Next we will have to find some crown molding in polystyrene, cut and glue the crown molding, (which will we have to buy from a specialty store because of the size we need) and paint. But I don't want to think about that yet.

Basic process for wall cleaning is: push all furniture back from the walls.
(Oh how this whole entire process would have been easier if we had done it before moving in!)
Boil water.
Pour several scoops of a pine resin chemical into a bucket, add boiling water and really hot water.
Take old sponges.
Put hands in boiling hot chemical water.
Scrub scrub scrub.
Do about 5 meters squared per day.
Clean up sticky water on floor.
Wonder: where the heck is this rash on my hands coming from?
This is really puzzling.

I am embarassed to say how long it took me to connect the two events.
I have a rash on my wedding ring finger that just will not go away. I have tried everything- putting creams on. Not putting creams on. Soaking hand in bleach (that was FUN).
Every time I think it is almost gone it returns with a vengence.
Be glad I haven't posted pictures.
People have asked me if everything is alright in our marriage.
Yes of course, why do you ask?
Oh no reason.

One week later- oh, duh Megan. They noticed that you haven't been wearing your wedding ring for MONTHS.
I kid Alain that he is married but I am not.

I may never be able to wear my wedding ring again, but damn those are some clean walls. Too bad nobody will appreciate my sacrifice once they have been painted over.
(Oh, and for anybody wondering- no, gloves would not have helped. The water gets through anyway and you can't scrub as well with gloves on).
Sigh. Back to wall scrubbin'. I have about 10 meters squared left to go.
mercredi 7 mai 2008

It just occured to me that four years ago today Alain and I got engaged in Paris, a whopping 6 whole months after our first date.

We were still living in the US at the time and had come to France for two weeks. It was my first time in France. (At least that I remember). I met his family for the first time. The weather was terrible the whole time we were in France. Sure glad I brought my bathing suit! I was expecting nice sunny South of France in summer.

We took the TGV up to Paris and stayed there for about four days I think. Alain had to pass the oral exam for the CNRS- boy was he nervous! There were about 60 candidates for three spots. He had his exam on the first day- now that I think about it, we are lucky the SNCF wasn't on strike that day or else our whole future might have been different if we had been stuck in Marseille.

We visited the Eiffel Tower, took the Seine river cruise, Notre Dame, visited the Louvre but didn't go in, the Jardins de Luxembourg (I think that's the name?). It was a great time. Not too many tourists. We haven't been back since.

(Photo disclaimer- I have no memory of us taking this picture. If we are not the copyright owners, then sorry, didn't mean to steal it.)
mardi 6 mai 2008
A year and a half ago, when we bought our apartment, we had to open a bank account with another bank. We decided to keep our bank account at La Banque Postale, so we have in effect two accounts, 'his' and 'hers'. Not really intentionally to split our money, but it seemed easier as far as access to money, the different savings account options, etc. Alain wanted to cancel his La Poste debit card, as he now had one at the new bank, and unlike US banks, you have to pay for the services such as having a debit card, checking your account online, etc. He sent a letter in October I think it was to the financial center, saying that he wanted to cancel his credit card. Never heard anything back. We didn't do much about it, until we decided to open some more savings accounts, specifically for our retirement. I made an appointment with a financial consultant of La Poste. While there (at the beginning of March), we brought up the subject of his debit card again. She sent in the letter and his debit card, asking them again to cancel it. Nothing for a month. Again in April we complained and she sent the information again. On Friday we received a letter from La Poste, happily informing us that following our request, our account has been transferred from an account Adesio to a "compte simple". Uh oh. Not sure what they did but I am pretty sure it wasn't the right thing.
Saturday morning I go to La Poste to buy some stamps. I use the automated weighing machine instead of having to stand in line for half an hour. This machine only takes coins or debit cards. No problem! I have my debit card! After about five minutes of weighing all my packages and letters, I stick in my debit card, enter the code. Code bon. (which is a relief since I have been having problems with the whole pesky 'remember your pin number' thing, which happened again in March and it took me three weeks to get a new card. Another reason why I *love* La Banque Postale. Anyway. Moving on.)

Operation annulé.

Hmm, perhaps the machine just isn't hooked up to the network properly. I will get some cash from the ATM. I stick in my card, enter the pin number. Code bon. Nothing.

Try again. Code bon. Still nothing.

Suddenly it hits me. Those idiots have canceled MY credit card as well/instead of Alain's!

Now I have really had it.

For our retirement account, they were supposed to start withdrawing the money in April, and they never did because they got mixed up with the dates. It will supposedly start in May. Yes, because 04 is quite similar to 05.

For my Livret A savings account, they continued to withdraw money from my checking account, even though my Livret A was full and we asked them repeatedly to stop.

They leave me without access to money AGAIN.

I think this time we have finally had it and are going to stop our checking account, cancel the retirement account, leave the Livret As in place, and transfer my paychecks to Alain's bank.
lundi 5 mai 2008
Dear Americans,

After all of the American media's grousing lately about gas prices, I would just like to point out one thing: how about paying more than twice as much, as we do here in France?

Yep. That's right. Here is the oh-so-exciting math:

Average gas prices here in France: about 1.40 € per Liter.
1 euro is about 1.55 $ lately.
1 gallon is 3.79 US Liters.
so: 1.40€/L x 3.79L/Gal x 1.55$/€ = 8.22$/Gallon.

There. Are you feeling better now? Can you please stop complaining already?

Yes, yes. Things are *further apart* in the US than in France. But it is your choice to live far away from your work, or drive one hour to go shopping, or to buy a huge honkin car.

Get over it.

Thank you,
People living in France
dimanche 4 mai 2008
There is an expression in french "Arrete ton char!" that I have heard many times. It was always used in the context of "quit being so dramatic" (usually used by my french brother-in-law to his young daughter). Stop exagerating. Stop carrying on.

Because of the french tendancy to not pronounce the last letter or two, I thought he was saying "chat" or cat. I could totally see how "Stop your cat!" could be used in that way, perhaps something about meowing on and on about the same thing, or the drama-queen dispositions of cats.

Alain and I were talking one evening, and there was some joke about cats. I was quite proud to use my new-found expression. I told him, in my best 'see how well I am learning French expressions' voice: "Arrete ton chat!" as a joke. He didn't quite understand, so I told him "You know, the expression 'arrete ton chat'?" (Geez, What kind of French is he if he doesn't know this expression?)

No, it's char! Char? what the heck is a char?

Apparently char is short for chariot. Also, it sounds like 'charrier' to exagerate.

"Nous avons là droit à un beau calembour, digne de l'Almanach Vermot et datant du milieu du XXe siècle. Cette expression est tout simplement un jeu de mot avec 'char', le véhicule, et 'charre', l'exagération, mot dérivé du verbe populaire 'charrier', exagérer. Elle assimile celui qu'on essaye d'arrêter de dire des bêtises au véhicule lancé à grande vitesse qu'il faut tenter de stopper.L'ajout du nom du conducteur est venu un peu après la naissance de l'expression, en 1959, à l'époque du succès du film Ben-Hur dont on sait qu'un des passages les plus spectaculaires est une course de chars dans la Rome antique."

"This is a pun dating back to the 20th century (wow! that long ago! ;)
This expression is simply a play on words of 'chariot', the vehicle, and 'charre', the exaggeration, the slang meaning of the popular verb 'charrier', to exaggerate (the verb can also mean to carry along or transport). It relates someone who tries to stop talking nonsense to the effort of stopping a large vehicle traveling at high speed.
The addition of the name of the driver ("Arrte ton char Ben-Hur") came shortly after the birth of the expression, in 1959, to the era of the success of the film Ben Hur, which includes as we well know the scenes of the chariot race in ancient Rome. "

Anyone want to share language gaffes that they have committed?
vendredi 2 mai 2008
For two weeks now, I have been struggling with a decision between two very different things. I am usually not an indecisive person. I can usually draw up a list of pros and cons, decide which of the pros are more important to me, and make a gosh darn decision. But when the two options are so different, it can be hard to really compare them. Also, it was a choice of the bird in the hand versus the two in the bush. Or in French "Un tiens vaut mieux que deux tu l’auras" one that you have is worth more than two you will have. But what if it is not?

These two weeks have seen me seesawing between the two, so much so that everyone else around me is sick of hearing about it. I wish someone would just tell me what to do.
I tried flipping coins. Not so much so to let the flip of the coin tell me which decision to take, but rather to observe my own reaction at each result.
Then I tried giving weighted points to each of the pros and cons.
Either way I choose, some people will be disappointed.
My mind was made up one way, and my heart the other. Every time I think I have made my decision, it changes back to the other.

Imagine that you finally make a decision, based on your best analysis of all the information you had at the time. It turns out to not be the best decision for you.
Would you rather know that it wasn't the best decision, but at least NOW YOU KNOW, or would you rather not know, and always live in the uncertainty of "Was this the best for me? I'll never know"?

I am thinking of signing a waiver along the lines of "I recognize that I was not capable of making this decision, so I hereby authorize my husband, Dr. Alain xxx residing at ........ to make the decision for me. I further absolve him of all blame if in the future I am unhappy with the decision I forced him to make. Signed and dated, Megan."
jeudi 1 mai 2008

For the first of may this year, we went to visit the Pont du Gard. We got rather a late start, not getting on the road until 10 am. It was much further than I thought it would be, took about two hours from Marseille. It is a little bit north of Nîmes. We arrived around noon, parked, and went into the new complex. There weren't too many people there. We had lunch in the cafeteria, your standard sandwich and a soda place. If I ever go again, I am definetely taking a picnic. The prices weren't outrageous nor the food terrible, but it would be much more pleasant to have a picnic along the river.

After eating we walked over to the Pont du Gard. It wasn't quite what I was expecting. Alain had been there before as a kid with his parents, but didn't remember it too well. My parents had visited in November, when there was practically nobody there.

We walked to the right bank, then up to the top. Beautiful views of the river. We came back down, wandered around some more, then went over to the museum. They were offering visits of the top leve, the part where the water actually went through. The cost was 9€ including the museum, instead of the regular 7€ for just the museum. We didn't really feel like it, it was hot outside and we were tired but the woman really recommended it to us. I figured we probably wouldn't get many chances to say that we had been across the Pont du Gard, so okay why not. We visited the museum, which was interesting and well-done, but a bit much after a while. The kind of museum where you spent the first hour attentively reading all the information of the first half, then get fed up and realize you still have the whole second half to go through, so you speed through in 15 minutes. It didn't help that they had some sort of throbbing vibrating whoom whoom whoom noise that was making my head hurt, and the lights kept fading in and out.
Also was quite disappointed when I realized that none of the artifacts were actually real. Hey! Did they have plastic in ancient rome? (Okay, I admit, I touched.)

We went back outside, crossed over to the other side of the river again, and up hill again to wait for the tour to start. The guide said a few lines about how the sediments in the water would cause such a buildup of hardened material that the roman workers had to scrape it off the sides of the canal and then we walked across the walled in not very high tunnel (I could walk without bumping my head but anyone much taller than 5'7" or so would have to be careful) to the other side and that was it.

Around 4 it was starting to get crowded. Lots of families had come for picnics, sitting in the sun, and bathing in the river.

On the way back to Marseille we stopped at the in-laws, and Josée gave me some muguet or lily of the valley.

All in all, quite an expensive day. The half tank of gas, 20€ in highway tolls, 5€ parking, 18€ museum + 15 minute walk across the top of the bridge in the dark, and 11€ lunch. Alain said that there used to be nothing there- no visitor center, no museum, no cafeteria, no tourist shops, no movie theater showing a movie with views of Pont du Gard, no paying parking place. Honestly, I would have prefered it like that. I am not the kind of person to say "All tourists, except us of course, should go home." I just think that sometimes you don't need the gift shop and the multi-media experience and the waffle/pancake bar to enjoy say, ancient history.

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