jeudi 26 février 2009
Ladies and Gentlemen, I present to you "The Evolution of Dating".

First date: start preparing a few days/weeks ahead of time. What should I wear? Do these jeans go with that top? What sort of attitude do I want to be projecting? Finally, I have absolutely nothing that I can wear. Let's go shopping! Pick out new jeans and new red tube top. The day of the date- paint finger and toenails red. Put on sparkly body lotions. All the while asking yourself: Is this really a date-date, or is it just a "let's hang out" thing? How do Frenchmen go about dating anyway?

Married date: Dang. You mean when I get home from work I can't change into my sweats? Actually honey, I am too tired from work. Can't I just freshen up my makeup and open a bottle of wine and we will pretend that we at a small cozy bistro, never mind our neighbor's blaring tv? no?

Married with kids date: Let's grab a hotdog and a soda from the IKEA cafeteria after we buy the Björn table for the living room and the Klürstat shelves for the kid's room while they are playing at the IKEA childcare service, then we'll pick them up and stop at the hardware store on the way home before we mount the furniture we bought. Happy tenth anniversary honey!


It is no secret that once you get married, your efforts to impress the other person (wear something other than sweatpants, put on makeup, do something with your hair other than ponytail, etc) greatly decrease. However, after months of work, apartment, work, studying for patent exam, apartment, apartment, apartment, Alain and I decided to go on a "date".

Which basically requires that we both come home from work at the early early time of 6:30 (I felt guilty for leaving at my scheduled time of 5 instead of my usual 6:15), NOT change into sweats, and go downtown to the Vieux Port for dinner.

We didn't celebrate Valentine's Day/Alain's Birthday (I wanted to go to Orange for the weekend but his motorcycle class got in the way), so this was overdue.

So we took the metro downtown, walked around the Vieux Port for awhile, then started the restaurant hunting- walk a couple of meters, stop to read a restaurant's menu/specials of the day, try not to be too conspicuous as you check out the restaurant (are there any other diners in there? Do they look like they are enjoying themselves? How many waiters are there?) then move to the next restaurant and repeat.

The restaurants in the Vieux Port area are mostly, get this, seafood! I am not a HUGE seafood fan, but can usually find something that I will like. However, we finally decided on a small creperie. Alain is half Breton, so he quite likes crepes.

This restaurant was quite cute inside- one wall was covered in vines (fake) and branches and leaves, and on the other side of the restaurant was a huge papier-maché tree. The crepes were good, but not as good as another creperie in Marseille that we know. We ordered a bottle of cider and were both quite mellow by the end of the meal.

My problem with restaurants in France is the same as my problem with eating holidays meals with Alain's family- It. Takes. Bloody. Forever.

Really, I don't need two hours to eat two crepes. I guess they don't want to rush you, which is fine, but there are limits.

All in all, a good way to reconnect, and something everyone should do more often. Even if you have to lock your kids in their bedrooms while you go out to eat.

(Kidding people, kidding).
mardi 24 février 2009
Learned another new verb the other day.
The hard way.
"se vautre" is a reflexive verb meaning "to sprawl on" like "to sprawl on the couch."
However, in slang terms, it also can be used to mean something along the lines of "to take a digger" "to fall flat on your face" or "to splat".
I am usually able to handle a) walking b) on a flat surface c) indoors.
But other times it is all just too much for me.
I was walking across my office at work when all of a sudden, it was like I was on ice.
Wow. I think I might have made a dent in the tile.
Nothing bruised or broken, but boy I felt stupid.

One of those times you wish there was a small animal or annoying child to break your fall.
Didn't help that two of my colleagues were right there.
Actually, my officemate had slipped (but not face-planted) earlier in the day in the exact same spot.

I think my audience didn't know whether to laugh or to go rent a forklift to pry me off the ground.
Conclusion: se vautre. Dangerous verb.
dimanche 22 février 2009
Last weekend, Alain and I (well, mostly Alain, but I held the other end of the ruler and stuff) finished putting up our humongo custom-made closet doors.
(see these two posts Placard and Great Wall of Alain)

As our ceilings are 2.9 meters high, we had to have our doors custom-made. The standard size is 2.5 meters, and the largest they do is 2.8 meters. So we decided to have three doors made, two with a wood-paneling motif and the third as a mirror, each 70 cm wide.

(our doors, mirror on the right, gap at the top)

When we were first looking around to buy these babies, we picked out a model and asked how much it would be. 1500€. Yikes.

It turns out that it (mainly) depends on what type of metallic border you want- aluminum very very expensive but lighter. Not worth it in my opinion.

We waited for the doors to be on sale, then ordered all three of them for 630€. They said it would take about 6 weeks to make.

They were done at the beginning of January, so one Sunday morning Alain's parents met us at Castorama, where we picked up the doors, loaded them into a rental van, and brought them to Marseille (in the rain, naturally). We could have had them delivered, but it would have been about 100€ more.

Alain spent a few weekends putting up the rails, and then we mounted the doors last weekend. As there is a 10 cm gap between the top of the rail and the ceiling, we bought a piece of wood that I painted blue and that will hide the gap.

Still haven't actually put our clothes inside, one thing at a time.
samedi 21 février 2009
I had a small procedure done on Friday, which required a day hospital visit here in Marseille. I had to meet with the anesthesiologist beforehand, so I had to take Monday afternoon off from work, find the hospital, check in, and then wait a good hour for my appointment. I have found that you can count on an average wait of 1 hour after your scheduled time. I don't see why doctors don't just take this into consideration when scheduling appointments, but NO.

Anyway, Friday morning I checked in and was placed in my shared room and waited for my turn. At around 12:30 I was wheeled over to the operating area and hooked up. My doctor was there with another trainee doctor I guess, because my doctor was asking the other doctor questions, one of which I knew the answer to but the trainee doctor didn't. The anesthesiologist came in put the mask on my face saying "this is just oxygen" Yeah sure doc, just oxygen.... Out.

When I came to, I was being wheeled to the recovery room. I found it quite necessary to inform the people wheeling me to the recovery room "When I was in High School, I wanted to be an anesthesiologist."
Don't know why I felt the need to share that. I guess they are used to the strange things people say when coming off of drugs. Though it was probably the first time a Loopy American informed them quite seriously of what she wanted to be when she grew up.

Spent some time in the recovery room (felt absolutely fine, thank goodness no nausea like last time) then got carted back down to my room. The orderlies taking me to my room started asking where I am from, why in France, the usual. I got a "You are very pretty" which is not something I am sure I really want to hear while looking like a scatterbrained mess after surgery but oh well. It always amazes me when people figure out I am a foreigner when all I have said is "Bonjour" "Oui" and "Non".

Waited around a few more hours, ate my hospital meal (same as last time- slice of ham, bread, and applesauce.) Finally got released around 5:30 and took a taxi home. The taxi driver was quite pleased to have someone English-speaking in his taxi and told me all about his plans to go to Vegas. Not to gamble mind you, but to see the sights.
All in all, feel pretty good. The French healthcare system is really quite good. They even (get this) will REIMBURSE me for my taxi ride home from the hospital. I have never heard of that happening in the US.
vendredi 13 février 2009
Around this time of year, there is only one thing on my mind- La Printemps.
When the cold Mistral is ablowin' as I'm awaitin' the bus, all I can think is "How can a place that is so freakin' HOT in the summer, be this incredibly COLD in the winter?!"
It isn't usually below freezing but it sure feels like it with the wind.
I think my WF (Wuss Factor) has significantly increased since I moved here. I am a long ways away from the days when I was crawling through mud in the snow.
The days are slowly getting lighter (is that a glimmer of sunlight as I drive to work?) and people are starting to talk about summer vacation, which will most likely be the same as usual for us- a long weekend in San Remo, complete with complaining about the rocky beaches and the lack of a shower, (but with plenty of gelati and pasta at least), followed by working on the apartment like mad during August. Would like to go up to Bretagne, we haven't seen Alain's maternal grandmother since I moved here in 2005. But just don't know if we will be able to take a week off from apartment-renovating. Put it another way, if this apartment isn't done by the end of August, I really will pêter un cable.
February/March will bring several new babies into our circle of family/friends.
(And just to preempt the inevitable inquiry- No, not yet Pepe).
Here's to Spring!
vendredi 6 février 2009
They are back.
The street musicians that make my working life miserable.
Why does their making a living have to make my making a living so unbearable?
Last year they didn't start as early. I don't remember wanting to kill them until around at least May.
This year, they seem to have set up permanent camp outside my office window.
Every day, for about six hours per day, I get treated to either:
a) droning violin music; or
b) droning accordion music.
Sometimes in the summer I get a treat and get something different, like guitar music, which is a bit more bearable.
I guess that is what I get for daring to work in a high-tourist area.
Apparently it is a brother/sister team. Can't they find some other part of Aix to annoy?
If it could just be limited to certain hours per day, such as from 12-2 when people are eating on the terraces. Or like 30 minutes per location, then they have to go bother someone else.
That would be okay.
But no, seriously, every day starting up at about 10, going until about 1, then starting up again around 3 and going for another three hours.
Calling the police doesn't really help. By the time the police get around to stopping girl-watching by the Hôtel de Ville and mosey up here, I am ready to start tossing water balloons.
The musicians get chased away by the police but only move to about 50 meters away (better, but I still hear them), or else they just come back to the same spot in half an hour.
The only way I can somewhat tolerate it is to put earplugs in or listen to music. I suppose I could move my desk to the other side of the building, either by or in the bathrooms, which I have considered.
When I come home at night, I still have the constant droning going on in my brain. It's like the soundtrack of my life, a darn "Amelie" song on permanent repeat.
It's not even like I am humming it (scree! screeeeee!!! scree! scree!), it's like I actually still hear it in my head.
So if some day you hear of someone going nuts and getting arrested for throwing tomatos at street musicians in Aix, it is probably yours truely. And I already know what my punishment will be- that's right. Psycological torture.
mardi 3 février 2009
I didn't expect to get so much response from that last post.

Here are some answers to your questions:
The mystery continent: South America. Yep, as guessed, I lived in Ecuador for four years.
The mystery communist country: East Germany.
The difference between a Cheerleader and a Pom Pon: Cheerleaders stand on the sidelines, do short cheers and stunts. Pom pons mainly do dance routines during half-time, but can also help out the Cheerleaders. Pom Pons do not do stunts.
The famous photograph: I am not going to post it, partly because I do not have the rights to it and partly because, well because.

If you are really interested in seeing it, send me your email address (in the comments field if you like, then I will delete the comment once I see it) and I will point you to it.

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