dimanche 26 décembre 2010

Just a quick post to say Merry Christmas from Thailand! We arrived here in Bangkok a week ago and have been staying with my sister and her family, and my parents are here as well. On Christmas Eve we went to see a Thai boxing match- ringside seats.
Today we are going down to the beach for a few days, and are returning to France the 1st of January.

lundi 13 décembre 2010
Saturday night we were invited to Alain's coworker's for raclette. (Hey, that's my easy to make when people come over fallback!)

I hadn't seen him and his wife since our trip to the waterpark in the summer. They have a little girl who will be two in February. Also invited were an Italian couple. He is doing his PhD in the same lab as Alain, and she is also doing studies here in Marseille.
Alain had invited the guys over for poker night several times while I was up in Strasbourg, but I had never met them.

We arrived a little after 6, two folding chairs in hand. For anyone who knows French people, 6 pm is rather early to start a get-together. I guess that is what having kids will do to you though.

They live at about 20 minutes walk from our place. We decided just to walk, even though it was cold, because we didn't want to deal with having to find parking at 11 pm.
Because Alain's colleague and his wife are Muslim, they don't drink alcohol (or at least, she doesn't and he doesn't when she is not around) so Alain bought some Champony. For anyone who doesn't know, it is a sparkling apple juice, often given to kids at holiday parties while all the French adults are tippling away at the champagne.

I had a stuffed elephant bought at Ikea a long time ago (right before Lucie, Alain's sister, informed us "No more stuffed animals as presents for Manon!") that I brought to give to their daughter, who was quite pleased.

We sat and talked for a few hours, then sat down for the raclette. I'm sorry but it just isn't the same with Coke instead of wine. After dinner, we had a tiramisu that the Italians had made and the Champony. We left at around 11 pm.
It was fun, but now I am out of ideas for what to make when they come over.
dimanche 12 décembre 2010

There is nothing quite like trying to convince a whole bunch of French that pumpkin pie is in fact edible.

Alain hates it with what can only be described as a fiery passion and refuses to even take a bite.

At the end of October I bought a pumpkin from the local Casino grocery store. It was marked as a pumpkin for decoration, so I wasn't sure if it was really the right type for pies.

I scooped out the seeds, baked them (those he'll eat), and baked the pumpkin for about two hours. I didn't however have a mixer, so I froze the baked pumpkin flesh, and order a mixer from Amazon. Two weeks later, mixer in hand, I defrosted the pumpkin, followed the directions as best I could, made the pie crust, and baked two pies.

I tested one, and it was in fact edible (perhaps not as good as the canned pumpkin purée, but definitely better than the one we had two Thanksgivings ago at the Anglo-American Thanksgiving feast)

I bought some whipped cream and brought them in to work. I sent an email to everyone in the office, wishing them Happy Thanksgiving, telling them about the holiday, and that there was a traditional pumpkin pie in the kitchen. I also said that it was an acquired taste, and that French people usually don't like it.

All of my coworkers tried it and they all said it was good. Though I noticed that nobody had more than one piece. Hmmm.

Not sure what to conclude. Though I probably won't be going through all the trouble again next year.

Anyone know of a French who really and truely likes pumpkin pie?
samedi 11 décembre 2010
A few weeks ago, I made some bread using our bread machine.

We only ate about half of it, so I put the rest in a tupperware container, and well, rather forgot about it.

About a week and a half later, I opened it up, and this is what I found
Appetizing n'est ce pas?

I have never seen such hairy-looking mold before. (and believe me, I've seen a lot of mold)

I had to take a picture for posterity.
jeudi 9 décembre 2010
Had my appointment with the Prefecture today, to hand in the next round of papers for my nationality file.
Wasn't quite sure what to expect. I am always leary of when French administration gives you a list of documents, with check marks next to the things you are supposed to bring. You can be almost certain that they will ask for something not on the list.
"No passport?" I already gave you a photocopy of my passport when I turned in the file in June. "Come back another day then."
"No certificate de scolarité of your kids?" We don't have kids. "Well, then you should have thought to bring an attestation from a local school saying that you do not in fact have kids. Come back another day."

Anyway, my appointment was for 10:30 précise.
I arrived about ten minutes early, and around 10:45 got called in. She asked me questions like what language I speak at work, what language I speak with Alain, what language I speak with friends and family. (Obviously trying to figure out my degree of integration)
How many times do I go back to the US? Do I have all my family there? How long did I work in the US? How long have I worked here in France? When will our apartment be paid off?

Actually, I am rather glad that I am not requesting nationality by marriage. It doesn't seem like it would be any faster, and besides then Alain would be subjected to all kinds of doozies like "How long have you known each other?" and the killer "When is your anniversary?"

So she said I should hear back in about 8 months. Apparently, they send the file to Nantes.
So now, the wait part 2 begins.
vendredi 3 décembre 2010
Got back from Strasbourg just fine.
My wallet however, did not.

After my long train trip back home, and being called "sale race" (always a highlight) I arrived in Marseille around 11 pm. Alain met me at the train station, and we went underground to the subway station. I took out my subway ticket from my wallet in my purse, and....
that was the last I saw of it.
The next morning I went for groceries, had a full cart, and when the time came to pay...
Nothing. Nada. Rien.
I had my other wallet which had about 10€, my carte de sejour, and my permis de conduire. I managed to pay for most of the cart of groceries with the 10€ and some tickets resto, then came home and searched. Couldn't find it. Somewhere between taking the subway in Marseille at 11 pm and going to the grocery store the next morning at 9 am, my wallet disappeared. Lost or stolen, I don't know, but if I have to guess, I would say stolen on the subway.
I called and canceled my credit card and remaining checks.
On Monday I sent in the form to cancel my Carte Vitale (health insurance card) and the registered letter to La Poste, confirming the Opposition of my card.
Luckily, my harder to replace cards (ie carte de sejour and permis de conduire) were not in there.
On Friday, I received a notice from La Ville de Marseille, service des Objets Trouvés - something of mine had been turned in.
Knowing that it was my wallet and hoping there was still most of it left, I went in on Monday morning (over in the not-so-good part of town). I gave the woman the piece of paper and she looked it up on the computer. Behind her were piles of clothes, backpacks, and other stuff that I am sure didn't have any ID on it and is probably given to charity after a month.
I got back (wrapped in a rubber band):
- credit card (which did me no good as I had already canceled it)
- check book (which did me no good as I had already canceled it)
- health card (which did me no good as I had already canceled it)
- the receipts that were in my wallet
- my points card for Casino grocery store, and
- a business card from another student at the course in Strasbourg

By this time, the only thing that was really worth it was the Casino points card.
But really, who steals a wallet, keeps the wallet (Louis Vuitton I might add) and the money (about 50€), and carefully puts the credit card (which he know he can't use because it has probably been canceled), check book (ditto), health card, bothers to take out the receipts and business card, and puts them in a nice pile for the subway officials to find and turn in to Lost and Found?
Le Sigh.
Got a new credit card, still working on getting another checkbook, and haven't heard back from about the health insurance card.
And am back to my 10€ wallet which at least isn't a temptation for theives.
jeudi 25 novembre 2010
Got a happy piece of mail the other day.
I have officially been ordered to present myself, papers in hand, at the Prefecture in two weeks to discuss my nationality file.
I guess they need some further proof of certain things-
Yes, still married.
Yes, still paying taxes.
Yes, still have a job.
Yes, still want to become French.

I have to make some more photocopies of stuff we already have, plus some more stuff they didn't ask last time.
Attestation from the bank concerning our mortgage payments?

Anyway, I guess this will be also my interview to see how well I speak and understand French, before they put their recommendation on it and send it off to National headquarters.
So I guess it took about 4 months from the time I turned in my file until they contacted me for the first part. Not too bad for French administration when you think about it. Actually, not too bad for any governmental administration.

Vive la France!

(Oh, and Happy Thanksgiving!)
samedi 20 novembre 2010
Had an interesting experience yesterday on my way to the Strasbourg train station. I was walking down the sidewalk, minding my own business and lugging my suitcase along. A guy passed me on his bike, and suddenly spit and said "Sale race" to me.
(roughly translated: filthy/dirty race/breed)
Took me a few seconds to figure out what happened. Did that guy actually try to spit on me/at me and say that to me?

I turned around and yelled a choice phrase in English at his back. I don't know if he heard me or understood me, but he kept on biking away.
I mean, wha???

I hadn't really looked at the guy, but if I had to hazard a guess, I would say Middle Eastern.
I mean dang, it wasn't like I was wearing a "I hate Arabic people" shirt or anything.

I must say, I was a little shooken up by the experience. The guy didn't seem drunk or anything.

Which reminds me of the time I was walking down the street in Marseille at about 9 am and a falling-down drunk guy said something along the lines of how what I was wearing made me look like a prostitute (yeah, jeans and a very conservative sweater will do that).
samedi 13 novembre 2010
Back up to Strasbourg tomorrow for another week.
This time, it is a preparation seminar for my exams in March and will be in English instead of French.
Actually, there are three separate sections, English, French, and German.
Hey, I could take the German one just for kicks! (see if I remember anything from my toddler days)

About this time last year, mom and dad were here and we went up to Strasbourg for a week together. They visited the area and saw one of their old friends while I went to my classes.

This week, I will see some of my friends from last year, though they will all be in the French section.

Am actually looking forward to going. Get away a little bit, see other people. I kinda miss Strasbourg (ahh... no trash strikes... no dog poop all over the sidewwalk... no grafitti everywhere... pretzels... )

Unfortunately, the Christmas market will not have started yet.

I am going to be staying in the same place, though the classes will be in a different place.

When I choose the title of this post, I was reminded of my military school days, a jody (cadence call) that they had us sing while marching.

Here We Go Again
Same Old S--- Again
Marching Down the Avenue
Two More Seconds* and I’ll be Through
I’ll be glad and so will you
Am I right or wrong?
You’re Right!
Are we weak or strong?
We’re Strong!
Sound Off!
One two
Sound Off!
Three Four
Break it on down now
One two three four
One two
Three Four!

(* More like 5 more years and I'll be through)
vendredi 12 novembre 2010
This morning, I stopped by La Poste to buy a stamp. I used the automatic machine, and as I was collecting my stamp and change, an elderly woman asked if I could help her to buy some stamps. Of course.
Here is our conversation.

(her)- I need three stamps. How much would that be?
(me) That depends on the weight.
(louder) Okay, okay, that will be about 1.70 €.
(select three normal stamps) 1.74 € !!!
(she pulls out all the change in her change purse and tries to figure out how much to give me. There are two one-euro pieces, as well as various smaller coins)
Give me the two euros.
(she passes me one and puts the rest away, I put the one in the machine. Still need 0.74)
Please give me the other euro.
- I GAVE YOU TWO EUROS! What did you do with the other euro?
No ma'am. You just gave me one euro.
- You stole the other euro!
(she rummages in the machine and pulls out 10 cents that were left over from my transaction, which I hadn't had time to recover before she accosted me for help)
- Where are my stamps?
You need to put in the other euro.
- I don't have another euro.
Yes you do, it's in your purse.
(she took out the other euro (miraculously, in her purse) and puts it in. The machine prints out the three stamps, but then is slow in producing the change. I just walked away at this point. And no point in arguing that she in fact stole my ten cents. That would just be beyond her capabilities of understanding.)

Please God, let me still have most of my faculties when I am old.
dimanche 7 novembre 2010
A 75 cL bottle of wine is too much for two people to drink in one setting.
I'm just saying.

Plus an apperitif.

Went to the restaurant last night, had an appetizer of foie-gras (delicious with a fig spread), followed by a steak and potatos. Alain then had a dessert but I opted out (too full) and just had a coffee.
Thought about asking the waiter if we could take the bottle of wine with us (as it was still about half full and not cheap) but Alain didn't want to ask.

Got home around 11 pm, woke up this morning with a headache.
Welcome to my post 30 life.
samedi 6 novembre 2010
Thirty one
Trente et un.
Now I feel like I'm *really* into my thirties.
Like last year, 30, it was cute. Oh, look at me. I just turned 30.
Now, I didn't *just* turn thirty.

woke up around 9, went for groceries and to the post office, came back and opened my presents and cards.
Alain got me the perfume that I hate most in the world. Again.
He got me the same one last year.
Bless him, he knows I really like perfume and picks out one he likes the best.
Forgetting that he got me the same one last year.
I try to wear it every once in awhile for him, but honestly, it makes me gag.
Words cannot express how much I hate this perfume.
Almost any other perfume would have been okay.

I still have 99% of the bottle he bought me last year.
This year, he said I could exchange it.
I did so, and bought myself a nice Swatch Watch (third one).
The band is a like a bracelet with three individual bands of yellow, white, and rose gold (plated).

Tonight we are going out to eat at one of my favorite restaurants, La Table Marseillais.
samedi 30 octobre 2010
A while ago, I was perusing the Journal Officielle de la République Française.
(Oh what fun was had)
I was struck by the randomness of the items published in one single issue.

Are you ready? Here we go:

Arretes: (Orders)
- fixant le montant de la taxe parafiscale applicable à la betterave destinée à la production de sucre et d'alcool pour la campagne 1988-1989 au profit de l'association nationale pour le développement agricole *anda*
- Fixing the amount of tax applicable to beetroots destined for the production of sugar and alcohol for the year 1988-1989 for the profit of the National Association for Agricultural Development.

- fixant le taux de la taxe parafiscale dans le secteur des conserves de pois
- Fixing the rate of tax in the sector of canned peas

Loi: (Law)
- autorisant l'approbation d'une convention européenne pour la prévention de la torture et des peines ou traitements inhumains ou dégradants
- Authorizing the approval of a European Convention for the prevention of torture and of punishments or treatments that are inhuman or degrading.

- autorisant la ratification de la convention internationale du travail n° 156 concernant l'égalité de chances et de traitement pour les travailleurs des deux sexes : travailleurs ayant des responsabilités familiales (1).
- Authorizing the ratification of the International Convention of Work #156 concerning the equality of chances and of treatment for workers of both sexes, workers having family obligations.

Decret: (Decree)
- réglementant la fabrication et la vente des beurres et de certaines spécialités laitières
- Regulating the fabrication and sale of butter and of certain milk products.

- portant application de l'article L. 214-1 du code de la consommation en ce qui concerne les vinaigres.
- Application of article L.214-1 on the Consumers Code as far as vinegar is concerned.

- portant modification du décret n° 49-580 du 22 avril 1949 relatif au régime d'assurance vieillesse complémentaire des pharmaciens
- Modification of the decree # 49-580 of April 22, 1949 relating to the complementary old-age insurance for pharmacists.
Geez oh flip.
The French Government really concerns itself with the price of beetroots?

It is clear what are the topics nearest and dearest to all French hearts - consumable items and retirement.

Oh, and let's not forget the official Frenchification of certain foreign words.
30 décembre 1988 http://www.culture.gouv.fr/culture/dglf/terminologie/repertoireJO220900/A2200003.htm#18
Want to know how to say "wing fillet" in French?
It is officially, my friends, "raccordement d'aile" according to the arrêté of August 12, 1976.

Do you think the general public gives a hoot about what a wing fillet even is?

Do you think that the Engineers and Technicians are going to use the term "raccordement d'aile" or will they most likely use the term "wing fillet", which is what all the literature mentions, the term that they have to use when speaking with their suppliers in China, their customers in Europe, etc.

Or how about "resonance escape probability"?
The official Frenchification is "facteur antitrappe" in the domain of nuclear engineering. (according to the arrêté of November 30th 1989)

Hooray! I know how to say "resonance escape probability" in French now!
mardi 26 octobre 2010
Crever /kʀəve/transitive verb
1) (percer) to puncture, to burst [pneu, ballon];

2) (épuiser) [travail, chaleur] to wear [sb] out;[patron] to work [sb] into the ground;

3) (mourir) [plante, animal] to die;

Guess which of the above meanings of "crever" I had this morning?

(Well, I suppose as I am writing this, it probably isn't the third)

Yep, one deflated tire.

Started driving to work at my normal time of way too early, and about 500 meters down the road I feel the car start to wobble. I pulled over as soon as I could, got out and checked- yep. Front left tire completely flat. Le Sigh.

I parked it (luckily in a flat parking lot, not halfway off the sidewalk) and walked back. I didn't have the cell phone and was dressed up for work, so I didn't change it myself.

If the flat had happened about ten minutes later I would have been on the highway, so let's be thankful for small things.

(Plus, if I had been on the highway I would have been forced to change it myself)

Walked home, about 15 minutes, which is always fun in the half-light of morning dressed up in a skirt and heels, with truck drivers driving past and trying not to trip over the overflowing trash bins.

Let myself back in. Honey! Guess what???

Managed to pry him out of bed. He got dressed, I changed into something more tire-changing/hauling friendly, and we walked back to the car. He put the spare tire on without too much problems. We decided to leave it there for the moment as it was well-parked (wouldn't get a parking ticket or hauled away) and as we didn't know where we would be taking it, decided to wait until we found a garage. Walked back and stopped by a garage that opened early. It happened to be a garage that does only tires. Score!

Alain spoke to one of the guys and said "Ma femme a crevé ce matin." (which could mean "my wife died this morning" or "my wife got a flat this morning.") Obviously he meant the second, but I teased him and said "Oh thanks dear!"

We brought in the tire, and the vrai Marseillais checked it over. Turns out that the rim was cracked, and I guess the sharp part of the rim damaged the tire.

We bought the car from Alain's parents, and they had had the same problem. They had gotten it repaired, but I guess it hadn't been well-repaired. They put some sort of paste in the cracks, but the cracks just spread.

Anyway, the garage doesn't fix rims, but they recommended we go to their buddy who does. We headed over there, and he said he could fix it, between now and Thursday, for 110€ cash. I guess he will melt the broken area and re-solder it. Then we will take it back to the first garage and have both front tires changed, 240€ total. Sigh.

I stayed home from work today, and Alain got to work about 10:30. This evening we will go to his parents and borrow their second car. They just bought this small little car, and are quite protective of it. They weren't thrilled with the idea of me parking it in Marseille (but what if it gets dented!!??) but when Alain pulled out the "Then I guess she'll just have to go to the central bus station in the center of the city at 6:30 am to get the bus to Aix" argument, they caved.

So now, je suis crevée, j'ai un pneu crevé, mais je n'ai pas encore crevé.

(I'm worn out, I have a flat tire, but I'm not yet dead.)
samedi 23 octobre 2010
As most of you in France probably are aware of, Marseille has (in addition to the transportation and gas strikes) a trash strike going on.
It has been about a week and a half now. It is the longest that I can remember (of all the yearly trash strikes, most of which occur in summer, have only lasted about a week).

The trash cans are overflowing of course, so now valuable parking space is being lost to trash, as well as impromptu trash bag areas springing up. People just place their trash bag somewhere on the sidewalk (where there is no trash can) and others are placed around it. These trash bags, from being left out in the element, plus probably pulled apart by dogs, trash pickers, and being run over by cars, are spilling their contents all over the place.

So the streets themselves, which are even in good times not the neatest, are now completely covered with trash bags and contents from opened bags that have flown away. Plus the usual Marseillais attitude of 'I have something to throw away at this very instant. There is no trash can nearby and I can't actually be expected to keep it with me until I pass a trash can or get home, so I'll just throw it right here.'

I don't know the strike will be over, but even after they are over it takes a week or so for the trash collectors to pick up the slack.
A few days ago the Army was called in, and some 100 soldiers or so spent the day shoveling trash in the main tourist areas.

Guess who is going to be told to royally get lost when they come around knocking on doors looking for a Christmas bonus this year?!!
(Hint, it's not the postman)

I didn't post any pictures because its just way too depressing.
samedi 16 octobre 2010
Recently read an article in the daily free newspaper about a new idea from your favorite and mine, l'Etat Français. "Mariage blanc" is a "green-card wedding" wherein both parties are fully aware that the marriage is so that one can get residency papers.

The new no-no is "mariage gris" wherein the French person thinks that it is for real, and the foreigner is doing it just to get residency. The new law has been voted and would punish the foreign by up to 7 years in prison and 30,000€ fine. Good grief! They don't even give those sorts of prison terms for murder!

For "mariage blanc" the current penalty seems to be 5 years in prison and 15,000€ fine. (for one or both parties, not specified in the article)
The government says that it is "en faveur des victimes d'escroquerie sentimentale" (victims of emotional fraud.)

Example questions that a mixed couple will have to answer:
Date and circumstances of meeting
Whose idea it was to get married
Amount of knowledge of the language and culture of the partner
Dates and places of vacations spent together
Future plans as a couple
Familiarity of the partner (address, telephone number, etc.)

Yeah. Good luck asking Alain all that.
When and where did you meet? Um, awhile ago in the US.
Whose idea was it to get married? Definitely hers.
Dates and places of vacations spent together? Um, we went to the US a few times, I'm not really sure when.
Future plans? Um, not get divorced?
Her birthday and middle name? I forget my own middle name and birthday, how do you expect me to remember hers? (Seriously, he has asked me "Is my middle name Francis Jean-Louis or Jean-Louis Francis?" "Francis Jean-Louis dear." "What day was I born?" "(month) (day) (year) dear.")

Good god, I have no hope. I'm gonna be deported or thrown into a French prison!

There are some voices against it, mainly saying that it is unconstitutional because it targets a certain sector of the population, that it is difficult if not impossible to prove someone's feelings, that the French half of the couple would have much more power over their spouse (Do this or I will denounce you to the Prefecture), and that it is not an obligation in the Code Civil that a couple must be in love to get married.

The proposed law still has to be voted by the Senate, and then approved by the Constitutional Commission.
dimanche 26 septembre 2010
My work organized an "oursinade" on Saturday. "oursins" are sea urchins, and oursinade is where you eat them.

One of my coworkers lives on the coast (in a very expensive touristy area) and invited us all to the beach. He fished for the sea urchins all morning, and we all brought different things- wine, bread, salads, desserts.

Alain and I arrived at the parking lot around 11:30, got a little lost trying to find exactly which obscure corner of the calanques it was (hard to tell from an aerial photo) and found everyone else around 12. It was okay though, because about half of the group had not yet arrived. Several people were sunbathing, but there was no way I was a) stripping down to my bathing suit in front of the people I work with every day or b) going in the september-cold water.

Little by little, everyone else arrived, with their spouses and kids. Around 1:30 the urchins were ready to be prepared for eating- mainly sliced in half and rinsed out. Poor things. Apparently only the females are eaten, which one would think would be hard to distinguish for those spiny creatures, but I guess it is the color- males are black and females are more brown/purple/green.

Anyway, I wasn't sure whether I would eat them, but actually, after a couple glasses of alcohol, you can eat just about anything. Case in point, whiskey before haggis.

You take the eggs which are orangish and in a star shape, and spread them on bread.

Didn't really taste like much (or maybe that's the rosé speaking) but it seemed like a waste to me to kill the mamas and eat their eggs for something that doesn't have much taste and certainly not a lot to eat.

I made a ton of muffins, but I guess they weren't very good. Brought at least half home. Something about the flour being not quite right and not an after-sea-urchin dessert.

We stayed until about 5, when everyone packed up and headed home.

It was fun and it might become an annual tradition.
vendredi 17 septembre 2010
Certainly not me.

(What are you dreaming? I only turned in my file 2 months ago.)


Yep, that's right. He is officially French now.

What is required for a French person to prove they are French?
A French birth certificate? Nope, not sufficient.
A French passport? Nope, not sufficient.
A French ID card? Nope, not sufficient.

He now has his

Justificatif de Nationalité Française.

In order to get this Justificatif, he had to go to the Tribunal d'Instance of Marseille, get a list of the documents to supply, then gather:
His mother's birth certificate
His father's birth certificate
His parent's acte de marriage
His parent's livret de famille
His birth certificate
Our acte de marriage
Our livret de famille
His passport
His ID card
My ID card (carte de sejour)
Last two pay stubs
Proof of residence (the ever-important electricity bill or taxes)

He (well, mostly I) gathered all this together, then he went and dropped off the paperwork a few weeks ago. One of the many things that is a pain about dealing with French bureacracy is that they want everything to be issued less than 3 months ago, which means that we have to write to the various city halls every five months or so for yet ANOTHER copy of the act de marriage/acte de naissance.

What a pain. Anyway, I don't know what they did but he went today and picked up his justificatif. It is from the Ministère de la justice, Tribunal d'Instance Marseille

Mr. Alain
est français en application des dispositions de l'article 23 du code de la nationalité française (Loi. n° 73-42 du 9 janvier 1973). En effet, la filiation de l'intéressé, né en France, est établie à l'égard de parents eux-mêmes nés en France.

L'intéressé n'a pas perdu sa nationalité par l'effet de son mariage célébré le 26 mai 2006 à Lançon-de-Provence (Bouches-du-Rhône) avec Megan, Kathleen de nationalité étrangère; en effet, il n'a été trouvé aucune trace d'une déclaration prise en application des dispositions de l'article 23-5 du code civil.

Gee, glad he didn't lose his nationality by marrying a FOREIGNER.

We went through this hassle just in case my file for nationality via residence in France is refused and I have to request nationality via marriage (thank you city hall for the wrong information that made me waste my time and money. Still lovin' ya.)

As the French have an inordinate love of 'paperasse', I figure it can't hurt to collect any and all official documents, as you never know what hoops they are going to pull out for you to jump through.

It is a relief to have official confirmation that he is French because sometimes I have doubts as to whether he is really French or not.

Megan: Alain, what does this French word mean?
Alain: I don't know.

Megan: Alain, how do you say this "...." in French ?
Alain: I don't know.
Megan: Are you really French?

But then sometimes he says something alongs the lines of "When I raise my harms over my 'ead I 'ave pain in my shoulders" or complains that I put the baguette upside down, and I know he couldn't possibly be anything else, not even Swiss or French Canadian.

So, Ladies and Gentleman, I present to you

The American in Provence French Nationality Test

(with a chance to earn your very own Justificatif de Nationalité Française)

1. Take a baguette. Place it, without thinking, on the table. Did you place it:
A) Right side up, of course
B) Who cares?
C) Bottom side up.
A) + 5 points
B) 0 points
C) -5 points - what were you thinking?! How you could you treat the national emblem in such a careless manner?! Have you no respect?

2. Using a timer, time how long you can wax on about the current state of French politics.
A) 30+ minutes
B) 15+ minutes
C) Less than 15 minutes
A) +25 points - You can stop now, you are clearly French
B) +10 points
C) 0 points - Watch 5 hours of French talk programs per week.

3. The phrase “oh la la” is
A) good for any situation (surprise, consternation, happiness, sadness, disappointment, etc.)
B) something only old people say
C) who says that nowadays?
A) +10 points
B) 5 points
C) 0 points - Say it 100 times a night before bedtime, varying tone and mood

4. How many French football (i.e. soccer) players can you name?
A) 10 or more
B) 5 or more
C) one- Zinedine Zidane
A) +10 points
B) + 5 points
C) 0 general French nationality points but +5 Marseillais points

5. When you go to get an official paperwork in France you take:
A) your ID card
B) your ID card + passport
C) your ID card, passport, latest EDF bill, change for the photocopy machine, extra ID photos, and your middle school diploma, just in case they ask for it.
A) + 5 points - If they ask for something else you didn't bring, you will just try to argue your way out of it
B) + 10 points - Well, this is French administration after all, you had better bring it.
C) 0 points - You are clearly a foreigner and have spent too much time dealing with French bureaucracy. As punishment, spend one week in the Marseille Foreigners Prefecture.

6. Halloween is:
A) A great holiday
B) What? Oh yeah, the day before Toussaint
C) An attempt by American capitalists to enforce their culture on the rest of the world.
A) -5 points - There is no way you can be French. You might as well stop taking this quiz now.
B) +5 points.
C) +10 points - Just the right mix of indifference and cultural superiority. Perfect.

7. You are given ten different cheeses of varying shapes and sizes and are told to cut them up into servings. You cut them:
A) perfectly by the book, depending on whether it is round, square, cube, wedge. Heck, you have been doing this since you were 4.
B) all the same- straight slices.
C) who cares?
A) +10 points
B) +2 points
C) -5 points - Cheese is very very important. Almost as important as politics and soccer. You must care about this in order to be French.

8. How many bises do you give someone?
A) 2
B) depends on the region, time of day, how well you know the person, whether you are saying hello or goodbye, and how many glasses of wine you have had.
C) you just keep going until they pull away and give you a weird look.
A) +5 - generally acceptable
B) +10 - being able to judge the correct number of bises is the penultimate skill that must be mastered for living inconspicuously amongst them
C) 0 points - Go home foreigner.

9. Being able to write correctly in French without any grammatical errors or spelling mistakes is: A) difficult
B) difficult but easier after a glass or two of wine
C) the highest achievement known to mankind and definitely worthy of a Legion d’Honneur
A) +5
B) +10
C) +20 - However, take care not to write better than an actual French person, because then they will get very offended that you, a foreigner, actually wrote better than they did.

10. August is:
A) the eighth month of the year
B) good for listening to cicadas and drinking rosé wine
C) vacation!
A) 0 points - You obviously have not tried to actually go anywhere or do anything or get anything done during the month of August in France
B) +5 points
C) +10 points.

60+ points
Congratulations! You are officially French or at least deserve to be. Download the certificate below, print it out, fill in name, date, place, and sign it. Then take it with you when you go to deal with French administration, it will make things go more smoothly, I swear.
For 10€ I will officially certify it. (After receiving photocopies of your ID card, birth certificate, marriage license, passport, 1 ID photo, electricity bill, parent’s birth certificates and middle school diploma of course. Also, please pay the 10€ fee by means of a Timbre Fiscale. These stamps may only be found at secluded, out of the way bars.)

30+ points
Spend at least two more years drinking wine, eating cheese, watching soccer, waiting in line at the Prefecture, and listening to French talk shows.

Less than 30 points.
Go back to your country. If you actually are French, you are a disgrace to La Republique Française. Your ID card, passport, and birth certificate will be confiscated and another country name will be chosen at random, to which you will be exiled.
lundi 13 septembre 2010

Guess I should write something before I lose all of my readers completely. Trouble is, I don't have much to write about.

I think I have exhausted the Ear Wax topic (at least for now, things might change when I get my special ear plugs).
Alain has started his karate classes again, twice a week from 6:30 to 8:30.
I have started up my running again, which is more or less a slow lope around the nearby track for about an hour on Sunday mornings.
We bought a bike machine (velo d'appart) because Alain was going crazy not being able to exercise (he has tendonitis in both shoulders- he did too much upper body stuff this past year).
My brother and his wife are coming the first week of October, which means that between now and Oct. 2nd we need to get this place livable.
Other than that, long work days, unbelievably high taxes (12.5% of net income, yay!), and studying for my exams in March.
Keep meaning to fiddle with my blog format, I know it isn't too readable as-is. I would like to lighten up the background so that the text is easier. Also, I keep meaning to add links to my favorite blogs, but am having trouble with the HTML. Bear with me.

Over and out.
samedi 4 septembre 2010
Time for everyone's favorite topix (I know it's mine) : Ear Wax.
After the first episodes I have been rather diligent about cleaning my ears.

No, this time it is something different. More specifically, it's Wax in my Ears.

After just about going bonkers at work due to the street musicians (and by bonkers I mean crying in the bathroom and my boss looking at me with a concerned look and going to a psychologist for anti-anxiety medication)
I contacted some companies that make custom-made earplugs with special filters for high-noise environments. After making the order in July, I was finally contacted on Monday by a traveling ear imprint specialist. She was in the area and wanted to stop by and take my mesurements.
Um, okay, sure.
She came to my work during lunchtime and we went into the meeting room. She took out all her equipement and showed me how it works.

She started by putting a small piece of cotton, like the end of a q-tip, in my ear canal to prevent the wax from touching the ear drum.
Then she pulled out a pistol that mixes the wax with something else, and inserted the wax in each ear. I felt kinda stupid, sitting there with bright blue wax plugs in my ears, and was hoping no coworkers would come in. After a few minutes, she pulled out the plugs, a perfect shape of my inner ears. Too bad for you all I wasn't able to get a picture of them.

Personally, I think I have great looking ears.

Then it was done. She will send the imprints to the company in Germany that makes the custom silicone plugs, and I should get my earplugs in about three weeks.

Here's hoping they work. Because really, I can't handle a nervous breakdown right now.
samedi 28 août 2010

Alain's sister Lucie and her husband Nicolas wanted to get their eldest daughter Manon, who just turned 7, out of the house for a few days, so they suggested that we take her. (Along the lines of "Wouldn't you love to have her stay with you for an indefinite amount of time?" Um, can we really say no? I mean, sure!)

As she is working and he is redoing their kitchen, they wanted her out from underfoot (but that still left the 18 month old to watch over, which is apparently not easy when you are knocking down walls, but no way we were taking both. We can barely handle a 7 year old)

It was her birthday last week, so we bought her some pink rollerblades. Unfortunately, as she does not have two right feet, I had to take them back the next day and exchange them for one left and one right. Who knew?
Alain had suggested that maybe she would like the blue ones, but as he knows nothing about 7 year old girls' tastes, I overuled him and insisted on the pink. Good thing too. I also gave her a small purse that I got for free from Cacharel with a perfume purchase years ago, white with a red heart on a chain. She loved it and carried it everywhere. Alain had said "Don't give her that, she won't like it." Again, just wait until we have a daughter or three. (On a side note, we have been watching the series "Medium" with Patricia Arquette. I keep teasing him that he too will have three blond American daughters. His response? "After the second I'm outta here.")

They dropped her off on Sunday, and she spent three days with Alain here in the apartment. They went rollerblading, to the park, to the Vieux Port, for ice cream, for groceries, etc. He thought that he would be able to work a little bit while she was here, that she would color or read, but that didn't work out. I told him to take her out rollerblading in the morning for a few hours to wear her out so she would take a nap in the afternoon, but it was rather him that was worn out and wanted to take a nap. Seven-year olds are apparently untirable.

All in all it went okay. It seems to be the okay age when they are more or less self-sufficient and obediant, and before they get into the "I hate everyone and everything" stage around 13 or so.

We managed to put her to bed every night around 10. It was really weird to have a kid around. You mean, we can't watch our regular shoot-em-up police TV series? Whoops, didn't expect that love scene, quick, cover her eyes!

She really enjoys being with Alain and opened up to me as well. As I left for work before she got up and came home each night around 7/7:30, I didn't see her too much, but she kept wanting to play "pet shop" with me. Basically it involves choosing small figurines from her collection, moving them around and making them say stuff. I don't really know how to play such games anymore. I just sorta move them around aimlessly and then say "Oh gee, I have to go make dinner now."

She didn't want to go back so soon, but Alain really need to work on his thesis, so her dad came and picked her up after a few days. Apparently, Nicolas wasn't able to advance as much as he had hoped. Without Manon around to sorta watch over Anna, he ended up having to spend more time watching her than before. Manon enjoyed staying with us and wants to come back, which I am sure we will allow at some point. However, it is quite clear to us that it would be best to pass any and all exams before having a rugrat of our own.
lundi 16 août 2010
After our trip to San Remo, we had Wednesday, the 14th of July, off from work.
We were a little tired from our trip, but wanted to get out of the house a little bit.

As Alain had been pining over his lack of motorcycle for four whole days, and had been coveting all the motorcycles in Italy (Look Megan! It's an Aprillia 1000! Umm, okay dear.) he was itching to take it out for a spin.

I suggested that we go to my favorite overlook spot, near where I used to work.

I found this spot quite by accident.I used to have 2 hour lunches, which was too short to go back home in Marseille for lunch, yet too long for just sitting around thumb-twiddling. I joined a gym, and would go there several days a week, or else would just go to the mall and walk around (Auchan- how fun.) One day, I took my car and just kept wandering until I found this large park. I kept following the road up and up and up until I arrived at the top and wow! Great view of the surrounding area.

I would go up there about once a month, bring my lunch, and read a book. It helped me to clear my mind, to keep in mind that yes, one day I would find a job that I really liked, and to forget about all the frustrations of work.
So I suggested to Alain that we take his motorcycle and go up to the Outlook, then come back down and have a drink somewhere in the town of Gemenos. He agreed and we were off.

There were some people out enjoying the park and the summer with their families, but not too many. We road up to the top and took a few pictures.
We then headed back down, and found a small café. We went in and ordered some beers. It was a nice shaded terrace, not too crowded.

We spent a nice moment sitting there, then headed back to Marseille. We didn't go to see the fireworks. There are always way too many people down by the Vieux Port, and they always start several hours late anyway. As Alain had to work the next day, we decided not to go. I took the entire week off, and spent Thursday and Friday running yet more errands and straightening up the apartment a bit. The last few months I really went into a see-no-housework, must-pass-my-exams survival mode, and something had to be done.

All in all though, a pleasant 14th of July.
dimanche 15 août 2010
I guess it is time to come out of my hot-summer-days induced blogging daze and start posting again.

Alain and I went to San Remo, Italy for a long weekend early July. We left on Friday night (I had the day off from work and spent it doing laundry, preparing our stuff to take, and running errands). When Alain got home from work, we threw everything in the car and took off around 7 pm. I was worried that there would be a lot of traffic, but it wasn't too bad. Stopped for a sandwich before Nice, then got to San Remo around 10 pm. Hauled everything in, made up the bed, and fell asleep.

Boy was it hot! Alain always complains about the beds in their pied-à-terre, but I have found that I can sleep on pretty much anything. Must be the military school training. Seriously. I used to sleep curled up on the floor underneath my desk, just so the upperclassmen wouldn't look in my room and see me napping (not allowed).

We woke up the next morning, wandered over to the Saturday morning market (fake Louis Vuitton, Burberry, Dior bags galore) bought some food, some shorts for him, a dress, shoes, and purse for me (why do you need more shoes and purses!?) . Then we headed back to the house. That was quite a bit of effort, and it was hot, so we took a nap. Then we went down to the beach, swam a little bit, then back to the house.

Had a very Italian meal of pasta, proscuitto, wine and tomatos.

After that long hard day, we went to sleep about 10 pm. Boy, vacations are hard!

Sunday was a bit rainy, yet still hot, and Alain decided he couldn't take it anymore. We had to buy a fan. We finally found one at a nearby store called Conad (I hate that name. It sounds like a mix between Con (french for idiot) and Gonad).

Took another nap Sunday afternoon, then went to the beach. It smelled funny (funny like sewage) and nobody was swimming. Hmm, I guess that is a sign.

On Monday, we went on our annual trip up into the mountains. We went to our favorite town, Triora, and had lunch at L'Erba Gatta, like every year. Walked around the town a bit, and went up to the cemetary.

When we got back to San Remo, Alain wasn't feeling well. He rested for awhile, and I walked around downtown. Bought a carton of icecream (his favorite thing in the whole wide world. well, maybe tied with spaghetti) and tried to cheer him up.

On Tuesday, he still wasn't feeling too well. We walked around a bit downtown by the Old Harbor. We were planning on leaving on Wednesday, but he was sick and tired and hot and I was just hot, so we decided to head back to Marseille. We went back to the house, packed and cleaned, and got on the road about 5 pm. Made it back to Marseille without a problem, unloaded, unpacked, and were happy to be home.

Some years when we go to San Remo we want to stay a few days more, and some years we leave sooner than expected. This was rather an off year. We didn't go roller blading, didn't go out for dinner, didn't spend much time at the beach.

I think we were both exhausted from the long year- me with my studies and he with his work.
samedi 31 juillet 2010
When I went to the supermarket this morning, on the announcements board there was a large sign "Les Majorettes de Marseille recrutent!"
Must be between 165 and 180 centimeters, and preferably have Majorette/PomPon experience. Briefly toyed with the idea of "trying out".
Competitions in France and Europe!

Though I am one centimeter too short, I am almost certain that they would take me, as I have actual US cheerleading/pompon experience, which is different than in France, where it seems to be mostly just marching in line wearing high boots, an outfit from the 1980's, and waving pom pons around.

But who am I kidding? I can't see myself asking my boss:
"Can I have three days off next week?"
"Maybe. Why?"
"To go to a Majorette competition in Paris."

Plus, I don't really have the time for practicing every Saturday from 14:30 to 18:00. Though it would be nice to meet some other women.

Sigh. My Cheerleading Days are officially over.
jeudi 22 juillet 2010
She has been in France for five years now.

On Monday, three days before the official 5-year anniversary, she re-submitted her file to obtain French nationality, hoping that even French bureaucrats wouldn't be so picky as to send it back for being filed three whole days ahead of time.

Woke up at 5:40, did a quick ten minutes of exercise, then shower, catch up on emails and blogs while eating a yogurt, out the door at 6:30 to drive to Aix. Parks in the parking garage, gets to her office a few minutes after 7. It is her favorite part of the day- calm, no people in the streets, cool, quiet. Nobody else has arrived at the office and won't for at least another hour.
She prepares her tea, turns on her computer, then surfs the internet or writes in her journal until about five minutes before 8 when her Frenchman calls to make sure she arrived okay. A quick conversation that takes place after his shower and before his breakfast. It is a habit that they have picked up over the years of working. They don't call each other throughout the day unless it is necessary, but a quick "I made it, have a good day" every morning.

At around 8 she begins working- reading CaseLaw, responding to Official Notices from the Patent Offices, working on the drawings for a new patent to be filed.
The Others start arriving around 9 and say hello but no Bises here.

At around 12:30 she leaves to go to La Poste in the Centre Ville- swerving tourists with their cameras, tour groups, and the little white train, she makes it to La Poste, takes a ticket, waits to be called. One package sent to the US for 25€, then quick to Chez Paul for her favorite sandwich, tomate mozzarella as well as a macaron au chocolat to be shared that evening. At 1, her French class starts, once a week, usually the mondays, in a little café on the main square in front of the Hôtel de Ville. Dictée, verb tenses, conversation while sipping a cappucino. At 2, the official time she landed in Marseille, back to work for the rest of the afternoon. One or two Nespresso espressos throughout the day, earplugs and calming medication to try and not go nuts with the street accordion player, then around 6:30 she starts to get ready to leave. It is summer so it is still light out, but fewer tourists out in the streets now.

On the road, back to Marseille. Usually less traffic at this time of night, but can always run into heavy traffic due to concerts at the Stade Velodrome or the Dôme.

She arrives around 7:30 and luckily manages to find a parking spot right in front of their building. Getting to be quite an expert at parallel parking, as well as accepting the fact that no car remains undented for long in Marseille, she swings right into the parking spot, no problem.

For dinner, quick pasta and tuna, her Frenchman's favorite, while they watch a TV series episode together, then she heads to her desk to study for a few hours before falling into bed before 11. It is hot, so they leave the fan on and the windows open all night long.

And that is the 5-year anniversary of French residency.
dimanche 4 juillet 2010
Back from Strasbourg, back at work.
Coming down from my high of "I did it" only to realize, "It ain't over."

Yep, that's right. Now I start studying for the European Qualifying Examination in March.
This consists of 4 tests:
A : (3.5 hours) tests the candidate's ability to draft claims and the introductory part of a European patent application.
B : (4 hours) requires candidates to prepare a reply to an official letter in which prior art has been cited.
C : (6 hours) involves drafting a notice of opposition to a European patent.
D : (part 1, 3 hours) legal questions and (part 2, 4 hours) legal assessment of a specific situation.

Sounds like fun, right?

March 2011 will be the first time I can take the exam because at least 3 years of work experience under a European Patent Attorney are required. And I want to take it in March 2011 because in 2012 they are changing the regulations so that a pre-exam will have to passed first before one can be admitted to take the other 4 tests, which will be required for everyone who has not taken the exam before.


I have 33 weeks until the exams. Will be taking some preparatory classes, consisting of two week-long seminars in Strasbourg again. (already missing the pretzels)

At least this test I can take in English, but the bad part is that the results aren't given until August, so get to spend many months in anticipatory agony.

I see my 30's stretching before me as one long haul:
30- CEIPI- patents course
31- European Qualifying Exam
32- French Qualifying Exam - patents (assuming I have my nationality by then)
33- CEIPI- trademarks course
34- French Qualifying Exam - trademarks
35- PhD Intellectual Property
36- escape from the world and live on the beach in Tahiti where Alain becomes a pearl farmer
vendredi 2 juillet 2010
After having filed my wheelbarrow's worth of paperwork for the French Nationality Request early last month, and being informed that I would likely get the Convocation in 4 to 7 months, I was quite surprised to find in the mail yesterday a letter from the Mairie addressed to me, Convocation. No, it can't be! I surely forgot some paper. (Well, more likely the person who verified my file when I turned it in didn't do it correctly or else they decided to come up with another hoop, just for kicks).

I opened it up, and sure enough, I was informed that I had to return to the Mairie after July 22, 2010 (my five-year anniversary in France) for a "complement d'information". Oh man.
You see, you can obtain French nationality by two ways- being married to a French for four years (as of last May 26th) OR in France for 5 years (as of July 22nd). Drat. Maybe it is 4 years of marraige AND five years in France, not OR. Or else they misunderstood my request (more likely).

I called the Mairie this morning and got the most unhelpful person in the world. The kind of person you want to reach through the phone and strangle.
"Come pick up your file. For requests for nationality by marriage, you have to file it with the Courts."
"But I was told to do it there."
"Come pick up your file. We only do requests by residency."
"Well, okay, but then what do I have to do?"
"Come pick up your file. Thank you, goodbye."
"Wait, I just want some more information."
"Come pick up your file. I can't stay one hour on the phone." (Because my coffee break is in 5 minutes, even though I just got here 30 minutes ago.)
"It's not an hour. I just want an answer to my question."
(well, actually it went a few more rounds like that- she desperately unwilling to help, and I just wanting to eek out a bit more information)
"Come pick up your file. Thank you, goodbye."
"Thanks for nothing!"

I hung up and was so upset I was shaking. I guess that is what five years of dealing with French Administration will do to you. I went into the bathroom and just cried out of sheer frustration.
Once I had pulled it together a bit, I called the Prefecture and yes, effectively, I have to go pick up the file from them, and turn it back in to them. (with Alain present)

I asked which way was easier, and he said "Well, it's not that one is easier, it is just whichever you are qualified for."
"Yes but considering that I am qualified for both, which way is fastest?"
Apparently, by marriage. There are so many foreigners living in France requesting nationality by Droit du Sol that it is faster to pass by marriage.

Of course, I will really believe it (that I have to go by the Prefecture) when 2 French people tell me the same thing.

Gee, the person who gave me the file couldn't have told me this? Or the person who took my completed file, when I clearly stated I was married to a French, here is his ID card, his passport, his Acte de Naissance, and our Marriage Certificate?

But no, they aren't paid for that.

However, I was confirmed in my thinking that it was not necessary to file it with the Court. Until Dec. 31, 2009 requests for nationality by marriage did indeed have to go via the Court System BUT NOT ANYMORE. Get your facts straight woman, even if you are working as a fonctionnaire.

So now, I have to go back to the Mairie, pick up my file, try not to tell them off (though I will give them a highlighted copy of the official decree), then take another day off from work to go to the Prefecture with Alain and pick up the file. I am hoping that I can re-file it right away. Heck, I have every piece of paperwork that I/my parents/his parents/he has ever signed/breathed on/left a fingerprint on.

Just so frustrated because of the loss of time and the extra run-around.

I am tempted to file both sets of paperwork and see which one makes it through the system, like a race. Woohoo! It's a race: Prefecture vs. Mairie!! How exciting!

Not really sure what would happen if they found out I make two requests. Of course, that is assuming that they are coordinated/communicative enough between bureaucracies that they would put two and two together, which I doubt.

It doesn't say anywhere that I can't do it. Could always play the dumb foreigner card. "Oh. I'm sorry Mr. Prefet. I didn't know I couldn't do two requests. I thought that since I qualified for both, I had to do both."

lundi 28 juin 2010
On Sunday, Alain and I went to his annual karate club end-of-the-year Paella. The main karate teacher, who Alain knows for about 20 years now, has a large non-constructible piece of land, in the middle of the vines outside Pelissane. There is a small cabanon on the lot where they have disco night (luckily far from other houses) once or twice a year. No toilets. Fun. I avoid as much as possible.
So Sunday morning Alain dropped me off at his parent's house while he went to play karate, then came back around noon, took a shower, and we went to the paella.
Spent the afternoon drinking beer, wine, pastis, and coke, chatting with others and waiting for the paella to finish cooking. I am not a huge paella fan. I usually surreptitiously pass about half of what is on my plate to Alain (octopus? mussels? unidentifiable meat? what could be part of a mouse? here dear, you eat it).
After the paella, some rounds of boules were organized, for the yearly championship. When I signed up, I thought it would be just for fun, throw some leaden balls around, hope to not hit any small children, and have fun. But I under estimated Les Provencaux. This was serious stuff. Bring-your-own-set-of-boules stuff. Some poor woman got stuck with me. "Vas-y doucement, doucement, essaie de ne pas toucher ma boule qui est le plus proche. Ah. Bon. La prochaine fois alors."
We lost the first round 13-2, then played against Alain and his partner and also lost, though closesr this time, around 13 to 11. I didn't really pay attention to how the scoring worked or anything.
Honestly, a hot summer Sunday afternoon, in the middle of vines, pine trees and olive trees, listening to the cicadas cricking away, drinking rosé wine and playing boules.
Can anyone think of how it could be MORE Provançal?
vendredi 25 juin 2010
I did it!!

All those months of studying, all those weekends spent either in class or on the train, all those times I did something other than study (read a book for leisure, watch tv, take a nap) and felt guilty about doing something other than studying, and it all paid off in the end.

Found out this afternoon that I made it.
Not valedictorian (I knew it was highly unlikely but felt a very very slight twinge of hope) but I think I did all that could be asked of me.

Honestly, international intellectual property law in a language other than your own, is not as easy as you may think.

They didn't announce the results as I had been told, they simply posted two lists one for Patents and one for Trademarks (maybe in a few years), and everyone rushed over to try to find their name on the list.



Oh no!!!! No Po....
Frantically trying to see through everyone else in front, seeing that I am clearly not under Po....
and then thinking, well maybe my maiden name...

Yep there it was
Smith, Po.... Megan.

Oh thank god!!!

Pretty much everyone who was there got it, I didn't say any tears of unhappiness. I guess those who were pretty sure they wouldn't get it didn't come.

I spent today exactly as I wanted. Went to the park and read my non-patent book for a few hours, then came back and had a big bowl of ice cream and three pretzels, then took a nap, and went to the ceremony.

After the posting of the results, there were some speeches by the professors, and they announced who had the top grades. For the patents, all three were in the accelerated group (my group) one woman had the top spot, and a man and woman shared second place. Good for them. After that, some champagne (should not have drunk those two glasses right away) followed by orange juice and some nibbles. Everyone started dispersing around 6 pm- I thought people would be going out to celebrate, but I think everyone was wiped and just wanted to get home and see their loved ones.

Goodbye Strasbourg, I've enjoyed you and sure I'll be back.
mercredi 23 juin 2010
When ALL YOU CAN BE is just slightly better than average.

Seriously, that is all that is important to me right now.
After about a week and a half of non-stop studying (plus about 10-20 extra hours a week since September) I am ready for this all to be OVER.

I don't care if my final grade is 10.00001 (out of 20) and I am last in my class (of those who are accepted). I'm not aiming to be First Standing 1st Classman, or Distinguished Graduate, or Validictorian (le/la Majeur in French).

Well, I wouldn't turn it down if offered to me, but I think it is highly unlikely to happen due to my 5th grade level French writing skills.

No, maybe 8th grade level now after months of private courses.

Anyway, it's like aiming for a "D"- you're not proud of the fact but, Damn, don't have to take that class EVER AGAIN!
mardi 22 juin 2010
June 21st is, as anyone living in France will tell you, the day when anyone and everyone can go out in the street and play music, or just put out a boombox (geez, does that date me?) and play music really loud, or basically anything that might pass as music.

I get enough bad street music 10 am to 6 pm Monday to Friday thank you very much, I don't need a special day dedicated to it.

When the warm-up screechings outside my window started up around 7 pm, I realized all hopes of studying for my Oral Exams Thursday were shot. I grabbed my boxes, headed to Appart A'Tart, ordered dinner and a 25 cL pitcher of wine, and proceeded to study and drink wine in the relative quiet of the restaurant. Left around 9 pm, and took a brief detour through downtown to see what was happening. Musical groups, big and small, professional and very very not, with no attempts to be out-of-earshot of each other.

Passed this group set up on stage, no idea who they were but they were obviously important enough to warrant stage space, followed by an improptu brass band, a South American panpipe player, and a disc jockey, all within about 200 meters of each other.
I dislike big crowds, so quickly beat a retreat to my apartment. Was hoping the official cut-off time was 10 pm, but no such luck. Under the exhaustion of studying and the effects of the wine, managed to drift in and out of sleep until 1 am, until the last music group stopped.
Gee, can't wait for next year.
vendredi 18 juin 2010
Being locked (figuratively) in my apartment for a week, studying for my Oral Exams is doing odd things to my brain.

On Tuesday, I took a break from studying and went up to Grenoble for my work. Met some brand new patent engineers, one of whom will be going to the school in Strasbourg in September.
Everyone asked how it was going, and when they heard I would get the results of the written exams that day, they all asked how I could stand not checking my email/voice mail every hour (email if you are accepted, phone call if not). Um, I don't want to break down crying in front of y'all if I don't get accepted?
Figured the results would be the same whether I found them out at noon, 4 pm, or 10 pm safe in the privacy of my own home.
On the way back, I finally broke down and called Alain- no messages on the machine. Checked email and there it was- a mass email sent to almost everyone in my class (the accelerated course) telling us that we were accepted. About 90% of the accelerated class was admitted, and about 75% of the regular class. I am not sure if that bodes well or not well. Alain said "It will all come down to the oral exams then" which is NOT what I wanted to hear.

Still don't know what I got on my written exams, so I don't know how much leeway I have.
Got the schedule yesterday, and I am scheduled for both exams on Thursday the 24th, Droit Français at 11 am and then Droit Européen at 4 pm. Then done!!!!

The results will be announced, in a typically brutal French fashion, in front of everyone in the auditorium on Friday afternoon. As in:
Albert, Non.
Basque, Oui.
Camembert Oui.

Sigh. This too shall pass.
The patent dreams have started again.

It's like my brain is one big ball of yarn, and I just keep plucking strings, unraveling one at a time, trying to straighten each one out, seeing where it leads me, getting tangled up and starting over...

Saisie en douane...
Action en revendication...
Procédure de limitation ou de revocation...
Inventions de salariés...
Droit de priorité...
Convention de Paris...

Heading back up to Strasbourg on Sunday, even though my exams aren't until Thursday. It helps to cut myself off from other distractions. When I am here I tend to think "Oh, I should do the laundry, and the floor hasn't been cleaned in a month (yes, a month), and oh muffins would be nice right now, wouldn't they? Oh drat, it's father-in-law's birthday and I haven't bought him anything, I wish my neighbor would stop screaming at her children, oh yeah, back to infringement, um, Why do they keep ringing my doorbell!? dang it my elderly neighbor's TV is really loud, okay, back to, where was I?"
samedi 12 juin 2010
A few days ago, taking a quiche out of the oven, I found this at the bottom:

Nice huh? And no, it's not chocolate. It is a carbonized mini muffin.

The last time I made mini muffins? Sometime around February.

This puppy has been sitting at the bottom back of my oven, going through endless baking cycles, for MONTHS.

Alain kept saying, "It smells like something is burning."


It's been one of those years.
mardi 8 juin 2010
I took the day off from work today (actually, I exchanged it with my Free day on Friday) to go to the US Consulate and the Mairie.

I needed to go to the Consulate to get some certified copies of my passport (photocopy of the front page + the official notary seal and signature of the Consul General), and then to the Mairie to drop off my file for the nationality. I have been slowly gathering paperwork for months, and just kept everything in a big folder that I brought home from work last week.

Last night, when I took out my passport from our filing cabinets, I didn't look at it, just threw it in my purse. Mistake.

Got downtown Marseille around 8:30, had a hot chocolate and a croissant and looked at some of the new globes exhibit (more on that another post), then went to the entrance of the Consulate a little before my scheduled appointment time of 9. When I handed it to the guard, I realized it was my old one, canceled two years ago. Yikes. Hurried back home, grabbed the new one, and went back downtown, arriving at about 9:20. Went through in-processing, which always makes me feel insulted (Hey look guys, I'm an American. I'm not going to bomb the US Embassy) and waited for my copies (50$). They seemed rather suspicious about why I needed them- it's for an exam. What exam? Why? Do you have a piece of paper that says that you need this? I was getting worried that I wouldn't get to my 10:30 appointment with the mairie in time, but I finally left at around 10. Hurried back home, grabbed my file, and ran out the door.

Arrived at the mairie Annexe near our old apartment, and started shuffling papers. Eight grade diploma? No? You are sure you don't want it?
Certificate of French course? No?

I admit that I wasn't very organized. I have been so preoccupied with other stuff lately, that I didn't have time to really go through and make sure I had everything. I didn't have a copy of the oh-so-precious EDF bill, nor the original of our deed to our apartment, nor copies of my transcripts (just had the originals). Sigh. Had to come back home, get everything, then go to La Poste to make copies. Went back when they reopened at 12:45, handed her everything, and she said it would be probably between 4 to 7 months before I receive the convocation to come to the Prefecture for the French test and interview, then sometime afterwards I would receive the decision. She said it goes faster for "Diplômés", by which I understood- white, married to a French, not from a developing country, with a higher degree and a job.

We'll see.
Anyone want to take bets as to when I will receive the convocation? Pick a date from tomorrow until I don't know when, person who is closest gets a prize.
lundi 7 juin 2010
Barely recovered from my 11+ hours of exams the last week of May, I am trying to movitate myself to study for the Oral Exams at the end of June.

The only problem is, it is rather hard to motivate yourself to study for an exam you aren't sure you will be taking.

This is the first time in my life that I have had to study for something, unsure of whether I would be taking the test or not.

The thing is, whether or not you are accepted to the Oral exams depends on how well you did on the written exams. And not all the written exams mind you, just the "Big" ones.
Here is what I have taken so far:
Intro. to Law (1 hour) coefficient 1
Contracts (1 hour) coefficient 1
Business law (1 hour) coefficient 1
Patent Cooperation Treaty (2 hours) coefficient 1
US Patent Law (2 hours) coefficient 1
Technical Exam (6 hours) coefficient 4
Legal Exam (4 hours) coefficient 2

The last two exams, Technical and Legal, are each worth 20 points, multiplied by the coefficient, giving:
Technical Exam 80 points possible
Legal Exam 40 points possible

Now, take into consideration that it very difficult to get higher than a 15 on the Technical Exam, and it hasn't been done yet to get higher than a 16 on the Legal Exam.

In order to be admitted for the Oral Exams, you have to have at least 60 points out of the 120 possible points for the Technical and Legal exams.

If you do, then you pass the Oral Exams:
French Law (20 minutes) coefficient 2
European Law (20 minutes) coefficient 2

So these last two exams, along with the Patent Cooperation Treaty Exam, are counted as the first part, for a total of 220 points, of which you have to have at least 110 points to be admissible.

Then they take into consideration the "second part" (Intro. to Law, Contracts, Business Law, and US Law) for which you have to have at least 6 points out of 20.

Still with me? Good.
It took me about the entire year to figure this out. Which means I spent way too much time worrying about the little exams that aren't worth much.

Anyway, I won't know until the 15th whether or not I am heading back up to Strasbourg or not.

As the rules currently stand, if you pass the Technical and Legal exams but fail something else, you can keep those notes, but have to re-pass all the other exams. Ugh. So you're saying I have to take a 7-hour train ride back up to Strasbourg for a one-hour exam that maybe I have already passed? Yeppers.

I talked to our class delegate, hoping that during their annual meeting this year, they will try to get this rule changed. It would be good to at least be able to keep all notes with a passing (10 or higher) note. Anyway.


Oh, and the way we find out who made it and who did not? Those who are admitted to the oral exams receive an email saying what day they are scheduled, and those who are not admitted get a phone call. So you spend all day on tenterhooks, heart jumping into your throat everytime the phone rings.

Everytime I try to explain the exams to others, I never remember what is called, and inevitably get it wrong. Epreuve oral? Les examens oraux? Oral? Ahhh!

Oh, and going into the oral exams, you don't know how well you did on the Technical and Legal exams, so you don't know how much of a margin of error you have. I suppose in a way it is good- if you knew you only needed the minimum of 6 points per oral exam, you would perhaps not study as hard and totally mess up, whereas if you think you might need every point you can scratch out, you are more inclined to study.

20 more days to go!
samedi 5 juin 2010

Alain just got back last night from five days in Moscow. He left Monday morning for a conference there. He was invited to give a speech.

On Thursday morning, I received a panicky email from him. Apparently, his debit card wasn't working, which meant he couldn't pay for his hotel. The expiration date of the card is 06-2010, so last month he went to the bank to ask whether that meant the beginning of the month or the end of the month. No worries! You can use it until the end of the month. When the card didn't work, he thought it was because the card was expired. I called the bank, and of course the only person who knows us was out of the office until next Monday. It turns out that it wasn't expired, he had used it "too much" (since when is 200€ too much?) They asked whether he could call them and send him a copy of his ID card. Um, no he is in RUSSIA at a University and barely has access to email. I forwarded his help message to the woman, as well as a copy of his passport, my passport, and our marriage certificate. Awhile later I got a call from the bank, asking for more info, and then I guess they unblocked the card.

At any rate, he was able to borrow some money from another guy there, and has to send a check to him next week to pay him back.
On Thursday they visited what was formerly a nunnery, and then downtown Moscow on Friday, before flying back (via Prague) Friday night, getting in at 11 pm.

We slept in this morning, then he treated me to the happy news of "I think I lost my wedding ring." What?!
This is not a man who wears his wedding ring often, which I think is part of the problem. He doesn't like wearing it, only wears it when I hold him down and force it on him (like when he is going away somewhere). Apparently, his fingers swelled, so he took it off and "put it somewhere".
This was not an expensive ring mind you, about 50$ in titanium, but it was still special.
Anyway, after some searching through his pockets, he managed to find it. Back in the drawer.
jeudi 27 mai 2010
Whenever I come up to Strasbourg, I eat the strangest combination of meals in a week's time.
I usually bring with me in my suitcase: Special K cereal, a chocolate bar or two, some sandwich bread, a packet of spaghetti, a jar of peanut butter, and a few cans of tuna fish.

When I arrive on Sunday evenings, I go and buy:
another chocolate bar or two
some fruits (apples, oranges) and tomatos

For some reason, I always buy way too many tomatos. I keep forgetting that Alain is not here, and I have to eat all the tomatos I buy in a week's time.

Mondays: several peanut butter sandwiches in a row
Tuesdays and Wednesdays: spaghetti and tuna fish (Alain's favorite combination)

By the time Thursday/Friday come around, I am out of tuna fish and haven't eaten any of the fruits and tomatos, so I usually eat just apples and tomatos for a day or two, then it's back to Marseille. All that combined with one or two pretzels per day and the chocolate bars dispersed throughout the week.

In my defense, the kitchen is miniscule, and I can't do much more than boil something on the two hot plates. There is also a microwave and a mini refrigerator.

On the menu today:
Breakfast: yogurt, cereal
During the exam: two pretzels
Lunch: three tomatos with pepper (and there are still five left in the refrigerator)
While studying: Half a liter of grapefruit juice and the four remaining chocolate squares
Dinner: two bowls of tomato soup and soda

Sigh. And I wonder why my digestive system is in an uproar.
mercredi 26 mai 2010

A very important wedding anniversary for me- now I can finally file my papers to start the process of obtaining French nationality!

And here I am, stuck in a 6-hour technical exam...
Well, maybe it will bring me luck for my exam.

(for anyone wondering, also shown are Alain's sister, her husband, and their daughter)
mardi 25 mai 2010
"Come on, shake off the covers of this sloth,"
the master said, "for sitting softly cushioned,
or tucked in bed, is no way to win fame;

and without it man must waste his life away,
leaving such traces of what he was on earth
as smoke in wind and foam upon the water.

Stand up! Dominate this weariness of yours
with the strength of soul that wins in every battle
if it does not sink beneath the body's weight."

- Dante
vendredi 21 mai 2010
In a desperate attempt to find something, anything to talk about, I have been going through my unpublished blog posts, trying to find something to keep readers entertained (or at least, not give up on me for good) while I am busy with studying for my exams next week.

I found these pictures, taken last October. Apparently, for one weekend a year, nearby farmers bring in some of their animals to the different neighborhoods, so that city children can see what an actual cow looks (and smells) like.
I was quite surprised, on my Saturday morning trip to the grocery store, to come across cows, sheep, chickens, rabbits, and donkeys in the square right next to the tramway.

It was "La Ferme en Fête"! complete with, of course, a lunch. Au mênu: Roasted pig., potatos, 1 glass of wine, and a piece of apple pie for 10€.

Hey kids, not only can you see a pig, you can eat one too!

I found it slightly disturbing.

The animals seemed to take it well, perhaps they are the ones specially trained to be poked and prodded by 5 year olds, I don't know.

By the way, for anyone who doesn't get the reference in the title, it is a joke acronymn for PETA (People Eating Tasty Animals).
mardi 18 mai 2010
Am off from work this week, studying for my big exams next week. On Wednesday, our four year wedding anniversary, I have the most important test, the Technical Exam. I won't bore you (too much with details) but basically we are given a patent to study (French or European), as well as two to four prior art documents, so then we have to say whether the patent is valid with respect to the prior art documents, and then evaluate a supposed infringing product or process, as well as answer some legal questions, such as estimate the amount of damages the patentee can collect, whether the seizure of conterfeit goods was legal, etc.

As part of my studying, I am reviewing the previous year's exams. The test, either Chemistry or Mechanical depending on your speciality (I chose Mechanical as I abhor Chemistry) is 5-hours long, but I get an extra hour because I am not French. It takes me forever to go through these documents. Sometimes I get one or two prior art documents in English, which helps. $

Anyway, on to the Ironic part.

Today I am studying the 2006 exam, entitled "Tuyau pour canalisations du type a double enveloppe d'isolation thermique" (Pipe for piping systems with a double thermal insulation enveloppe)
Basically, the patent is all about protecting pipes for underwater oil pipelines, to protect them from the temperature differences between the hot petrol and the cold seawater.

Hmm, current affairs anyone?

I admit I haven't really been following the recent developments in the oil spill? disaster?
It is being covered in the media, but I've been in a study time and space warp lately. I can't wait until the end of May.

Well, that is until I begin studying for the oral exams at the end of June, for which I won't know whether I am accepted until about a day or two before, but hey, that's the French Education System.

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