mardi 28 octobre 2008

Oh what miracles can arrive if you just pray hard enough.....

This is a new store (opened in September) near the Palais de Justice in Aix.

People are just starting to become aware of it, because it is getting more and more crowded at lunch time.

Their bagels are more for sandwiches than for take-out (1.50 a piece otherwise, yikes). Have not yet tried the cream cheese nor the hummus, it will be remedied soon I predict.

Every day they offer sides (such as salad, couscous, etc) and deserts (carrot cake, cheese cake, cookies).

The lines are quite long, but I think it is mostly because the workers have not yet figured out how to do things efficiently- it is a small space and they mostly get in each others way.

However, I predict that they will soon iron out all the bugs.

The bagels are very good, much better than these poor things..
dimanche 26 octobre 2008
Three times in the past week I have had strangers either correct my pronunciation of French words, grammar, or just plain mock my accent.

The first time was when I went with my ten French coworkers to lunch. We ordered drinks and I said (in French) "I would just like some water please."

The waiter made fun of my accent, repeating back to me with what he seemed to think was an imitation of my accent in French. Haha not funny.

The second time was when I went to buy some bread. I couldn't think of the word for a fixed price menu (sandwich and drink). So I asked if they had any menus. Men-you?

No it's men-eww. Yeah well just give me my baguette or else I am going elsewhere.

The last time was yesterday, again at a restaurant (different). I said I would like a waffle (un gauffre). The waiter corrected me, no it's une guaffre.

He saw I was displeased so he winked and tried to get me to smile, but by the third time in a week I had had enough. No tip for you buddy. I'm paying you for food, not for a french lesson, you very well could understand what I wanted.

You would think that people in the service industry, especially in a town such as Aix, would be quite used to foreigners butchering their language and would just let it go.

But no.

Honestly, I think that when French people get their national ID card they have to take an Oath of Citizenship as follows:

"I, [name], do solemnly swear (or affirm), that I will support and defend the language of la Republique Française against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the pompousness on which I am about to enter. So help me Nicolas Sarkozy."

Honestly. Even to become a French citizen you have to pass a language test. Which I am not particularly against and not afraid that I will fail, but come on.

This is particularly funny coming from a country which simultaneously tries to block the adoption of any anglified words and yet loves them "le parking" "le week-end".

In the future, if I don't know you, don't correct my spelling, pronunciation, grammar, or make fun of my accent, or I WILL give you an English lesson.
samedi 25 octobre 2008
My favorite online community is for Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab, a company that makes perfume oils and other related items such as soaps, shirts, etc.

This past year I have gotten quite addicted, I love trying all of their perfumes, especially since they come out with different themes, etc.

But more than that it is a place where people can chat about other things too, life, politics, everything.

Four times a year they have a "Switch Witch", rather like a secret santa. You sign up and then get the name of someone else to send presents to, and someone else sends you presents for a few months.

This Fall was the first time I participated.

It was so much fun picking out things for my secret witch, and receiving items from someone unknown. Throughout the past two months, I sent and received ecards, postcards, and small gifts. At the end of the round, people send out "reveal" packages. Here is what I received (don't mind the crazy French who stuck his head in.)

So let's see, here is what I received: one small carrying case for perfume samples, with perfume samples inside, book "Map of Bones" by James Rollins, two large glass hair clips (guess I won't have any excuses for not doing something other than a ponytail with my hair), chocolate powder, caramels, and molasses, along with recipes to make Chocolate Gingerbread Cookies and Caramel Apples (which is good because otherwise I would have no clue), a ton of starburst and Swedish Fish, small glass pumpkin earrings, a bunch of tea, Jelly Belly, the audio book "The Constant Princess" by Phillipa Gregory (which I great because I loved "The Other Boleyn Girl"), candy corn, Halloween window decorations, small soaps etc., notepad, orange and black sprinkles, and other candies. There is a card that says "Open me last" which I am guessing reveals who it was, but I want to guess first.
Alain can't really understand why I want to send and receive stuff from people I don't know. I am not sure, I guess I just want to feel connected. I guess I do feel a bit cut-off living here. Also really miss stuff like Halloween, it isn't really celebrated here.
Thank you witch!
jeudi 23 octobre 2008
I think every woman has a pair of pants somewhere (hanging in her closet, stored in the attic, somewhere) of a certain size, let's call it size X.

The X can be any number, but it is representative of a time in her life (high school homecoming queen? cheerleader? newlywed?) when she could actually fit into the size X. She keeps it, partly for the memories but mainly to see if she can ever fit back into the Size X again.

While getting dressed for work the other day, I noticed that my size X+2 pants were pretty much hanging off me. I checked to see if they were accidentally my size x+4 pants
(yes, I bought two of the same pair of pants, just different sizes).
Nope, they were actually the size X+2 so I decided: oh what the heck? I'll try my size X's
Lo and behold! they fit.
Wow. I think I am the thinnest I have been in my adult life (adult> 18).

Want to know what the secret it?
The secret is: nothing.
And not nothing as in eating nothing, nothing as in "There is no secret". Just live.
I eat one chocolate bar a week, which is great. I don't feel guilty about it, which is even greater.
I don't beat myself up if one night I just want to eat cheese and bread.
I take the stairs most of the time but if I am tired I take the elevator.
I exercise on Sunday mornings when I don't feel like lying in bed and having a croissant and a cappucino.
And sometimes I exercise on Sunday mornings after lying in bed and having a croissant and a cappucino.
And sometimes I don't exercise on Sunday mornings and just lie in bed and have a croissant and a cappucino.
Et Voila.

The only problem is that now I can't find pants that fit. Perhaps French women have different waist/hip ratios because everything that fits me in the waist is too tight in the hips, and everything that fits in the hips is way too big around the waist.
I like to think that I have a really small waist, instead of the other way around.
I also don't really like the styles of pants that they have here. I won't go into it, but let's just say that I can't wear most of them to work.

So I guess I am going to have to wait until we go back to the US to buy pants, which after two weeks of eating all my favorite foods that I have missed (pretzels and bagels and pie and peppermint patties and grape soda oh my!) I may not even need more Size X's. Such is life. But you know what? I probably won't feel bad about THAT either.
lundi 20 octobre 2008
Stage 1: (0-6 months)
Goal: It has to be perfect.
Budget: Minimum possible. This should work out to about 500€ per room.
Objective: Get to spend lots of quality time with my sweetie.
Things to be done: Absolutely everything. Re-do the walls, tear up the floor and install hardwood floors, consider knocking out a wall or two.
Projected timeline: It should be done in 6 months.

Stage 2: (6 months to one year)
Goal: Well, maybe it won't be perfect but at least it will be how we want it (colors, wallpaper, bathroom tiles, etc)
Budget: Okay, perhaps this will be more expensive than we planned. But we will spend the money for the stuff that is important to us, and cut back in other areas.
Objective: Learning about how to renovate a home- paint, tile, etc.
Things to be done: All the major stuff- walls, kitichen, bathroom, etc. Decide that you can live with the ugly floor tile and will just cover it up with a rug.
Projected timeline: This should be done 1 year-1.5 years

Stage 3: (1 year to 2 years)
Goal: Well; maybe it won't be perfect but it at least it will be done.
Color of blue paint not exactly what we expected? Oh well. We can live with it.
Budget: Yikes, 1500€ for three closet doors? What are they on crack?
Objective: Just want the damn thing done.
Things to be done: Well, let's just do the basics- repaint, etc.
Projected timeline: This can't possibly take much longer.

Stage 4: (2+ years)
Goal: Hope we are still married by the time this renovation is finished.
Budget: Don't care, just pay. Too sick and tired of comparing paint samples, visiting 4 home improvement stores to find a doodad that is 5€ cheaper. Don't even feel like going back to the store to return the wrong item. At this point, what is another 15€?
Objective: Don't kill each other.
Things to be done: Can we go back in time to how it was before we started the renovations and just live with it?
Projected timeline: The renovations are finished or I chew off my arm, whichever comes first.
jeudi 9 octobre 2008
Well, here is a recap a week later. After the protective lenses were taken out, my eyesight seemed to worsen. The weekend was okay, we didn't do much. Monday morning I went to the doctor's again and he said it seems to be coming along okay. He gave me a prescription for different drops (yay! no more Eyedrops O' Fire!) and told me to come in three weeks. I managed to drive to work (scary thought huh) and got there a bit before 10. Wore my sunglasses the first day, but since then I don't seem to need them except when outside. Driving in the dark is a bit scary as there are halos around all the lights. Which didn't help yesterday when I was driving in the dark, in the rain.
Still having trouble seeing far and near, but middle distance is okay. My right eye seems a bit better than my left. Having some headaches, I guess because I am forcing myself to read. One thing is for sure is that my profession is not eye-friendly! I have the word documents zoomed in in order to have the text as large as possible but still the contrast is killing me.
Sigh. I hope it doesn't take a whole month as some people say it might.

Speaking of which, is my blog hard to read? I have read somewhere that white text on dark backgrounds is easier to read on computers, but people have trouble sometimes with it because they are not used to it. Is the white text on purple background difficult? I can change it. can also increase font sizes.
Please let me know.
dimanche 5 octobre 2008
Friday morning I woke up and decided that I would be able to make it to my doctor's appointment on my own- it was closer for one thing, and I could actually open my eyes! I put on my sunglasses and headed off.

Once there, I almost fell asleep in the waiting room. My vision is slowly improving, and the doc removed the protective lenses he had put in. I was afraid this was going to be painful, like it is when I have to peel off my eyeballs contacts that I have mistakenly left on overnight, but it wasn't.

Came back home and was rather restless. This is probably the time when you can cause the most damage- bored from several days of feeling terrible, sleeping, and not doing anything you feel well enough to do SOMETHING and will most likely strain/overexpose your eyes.

This restlessness still didn't stop me from taking two naps though, but it was more of the "I'm bored, nothing to do, might as well sleep" kind of nap.

In the afternoon I went to the doctor who did my back surgery (I was supposed to go on Wednesday, but that was not happening). He said everything looked good and gave me a perscription for more stuff not covered by medical insurance to the tune of 86€. What is this, America?

Moped around and listened to TV until Alain came home at 9:30 after his karate class.

Overall, feeling better and tired of putting the Eyedrops O' Fire into my eyes.
samedi 4 octobre 2008
After one fun night of crying into my pillow, Alain and I went, by Metro, to the doctor's office. I didn't bother taking a shower- between not getting my back wet and not wanting to get soap nor water into my eyes, I figured it was an acrobatic feat I didn't want to attempt. Better just to be dirty.
So, we took the Metro. Anyone looking at us would have thought I was blind. Which, for all intents and purposes, I was. Still didn't cause them to offer up their seats, or not crowd me on the escalator, etc. This must be a really tough city for blind people. I can't even imagine how many dog poops they step in per day. Anyway, back to the appointment.
We arrived and an assistant checked my view. Open right eye for two seconds, umm F N. Close eye. Open again. Umm, P K. Close eye. Open again. Umm, maybe a T. Repeat with left eye. Could not hold both eyes open at the same time.
Then went to see the doctor, who said I was healing well. Then he put some magic drops in my eyes, so that I could actually open my eyes! Wow!
Came back home, picking up the eye drops we had ordered, 100 of these little buggers for 25€, not covered by health insurance. Too bad I only need 25 of them. Anyone want 75 pain-causing specialized eye drops? I'll give you a really good deal.
Came home, and Alain went to work.

I had thought that during my recuperation period I would be able to:
1) read my Phillipa Gregory book
2) Watch my favorite series
3) do some small jobs around the house (like touching up the paint in the bedroom)
4) study
5) play on the internet
6) maybe do some crosstitching

Here is my fun list of activities:
1) Sit on the couch in the dark
2) lie on the couch in the dark (which usually leads to sleeping on the couch in the dark)
3) shuffle to the bedroom and lie on the bed in the dark (which usually leads to sleeping on the bed in the dark)
4) take my eye drops and medication in the dark

Here was my schedule yesterday:
9:30-10:30 sleep on couch
10:35-1:00 sleep in bed
1:05-1:45 take medicine and eat
1:50-4:30 sleep in bed
4:35-6:00 take medcine, attempt to make dinner (sorry dear if there are eggshells in the quiche), putter around
6:00-9:30 eat dinner, listen to tv program
9:35 go to sleep (in bed)
Wow. Exciting

Alain's father stopped by. Every year he loves to go to the Marseille fair and stops by to see us on his way home. (he parks near here and takes the metro).
He was quite surprised to find us sitting in the dark. We explained about my operation (we had told them I was going to have it done, just not when I guess).
Surprisingly, he didn't stay long.
vendredi 3 octobre 2008
I did it peoples.
I had my eyes LASIKed on Wednesday.
Please excuse any spelling erros, I can barely see to type.
This is something that I have been thinking about for a long time and finally did to the tune of 1950€. I don't actually mind wearing contacts and glasses, but lately have been having touble with infections and stuff. So when I made my list of 101 things in 1001 days, number 23 was have LASIK done, if I am good candidate. My eye doctor, (the one who likes to torture me regulary) said that I was a good candidate, took all the measurements, and I scheduled my appointment at the Laser System downtown in Marseille. Alain came home from work and we took the metro downtown for my appointment at 13:45. The doctor arrived, we went in, I wrote the two checks, then changed into a hospital gown with booties, and went into the laser room. The technician put about a hundred drops of something in each eye to clean them. Once that was done, my left eye was covered up, and anesthesia drops xere put in my right eye. Doc says to me that he is going to "peler votre cornée" which sounds suspiciously like "peel your cornea" which is something I know I don't want.
There are some medical proceedures that you should find out all you can about so that you know excactly what will happen. This isn't one of them. It is better to not know anything, then when the doctor says that he is going to "peler votre cornée" thre is nothing you can do about it, and you can't go screaming back into the waiting room.
Also, when will doctors learn that sometimes the patient doesn't need to know exactly what is being done to them? I would have been fine with "I am going to do something to your something and it might (hurt, feel strange, etc)"
So he brought something like one of those tools at the dentist's office that spins round and round to polish your teeth and put it right on my eyeball. Another bad thing- most operations you can just close yorus eyes and not have to look at what is being done. Not with this one.
After that he removed the part that had been pele-ed, then turns off the light and tells me to not move. Trust me doc, I will do my best. The laser turned on and it was like flashes of blue light for 30 seconds.
Then that eye was done, repeat on left. Which was worse because now I KNEW what he was going to do.
When finally it was over (Alain was able to watch on a TV screen in the waiting room- I don't think he particularly wanted to. He said there were parts that he couldn't watch. Lucky! I had no choice.) I went out into the holding room and they offered something to drink. Not sure why. Anyway, I had a little tartlette and and orange juice, then changed back into my clothes and went back out. The doctor gave me a prescription for some pain killers and eye drops, and we were on our way.
Luckily Alain was with me, because I would have been still lost in the metros of Marseille.
On our way back, we went to the first pharmacy to get my eye drops. They had all but one. Great. Went to the se'cond. They didn't have it either. Went to a third. Non plus.
We finally just ordered it for the next day, but I was not a happy camper at this time. Really, they couldn't have given me the prescription ahead of time so I could get it filled before the day of the operation so that I wouldn't have to spend half an hour stumbling blindly from phamacy to pharmacy? Turns out that the drops that were missing were for the pain. Great.
Went back home, Alain closed all the shutters and left me there in the dark as he went back to work.
I had heard from someone that after about 2 hours it was all better and she was able to return to work. I am not sure if she was talking two hours Neptune time, but back here on Earth, there is no way it was all fine after two hours of Earth time. After two hours of earth time, my eyes were waking up from the anesthesia and saying "Good god woman, what DID you do to us.?!"
I felt like a lovesick teenager crying buckets of tears into my pillow in the dark.
They weren't tears of pain, though it did hurt, but just my eyes were watering watering watering.Which made my nose run. Which gave me sinus pressure.
I used an entire box of kleenex.
Not fun.
When Alain came home I put on a sleep mask in order to naviaget about our lighted apartment. I swear, our apartment is like a blind person's obstacle course. Go past the sack of cement, step over the pile of weights on the floor, go around the box of crown moulding, shuffle through the small corridor between th ecouch and the building supplies.
Really, I need to work on honing my sonar skills. Wandering around the apartment screeching Eeeee! eeee!! doesn't help and only seems to annoy Alain for some reason.

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