Third Christmas in France

By   December 26, 2009

My first Christmas in France was in 2006. I had just arrived in September and met David shortly after, and since I had no plans (no money) to go back to the US for Christmas, I spent it with his family. It was interesting and different but it just didn’t feel right. Especially when they brought out the oysters. As soon as I could, I bought tickets to Michigan for Christmas 2007. We were only there for a week, but I got to eat traditional (at least to me) Christmas food – turkey, NOT seafood! – and be surrounded by decorations and carols and actual Christmas spirit. To be fair, we decided to stay in France for Christmas 2008 and planned on doing even years in France and odd years in the US. Then 2009 arrived and the uncertainty of… let’s just say many work and family-related things led us to stay here for another year. It was extremely hard for me because I had decided long ago that Christmas in France will never be real Christmas to me, because real Christmas can only be in Michigan. I honestly don’t know if we can afford to go back to the US for 2010, but I certainly hope so.

David spoiled me a lot this year and I definitely don’t deserve it. He got me an iPod nano as well as a French dictionary specifically designed for people whose native language is not French (that includes lists of faux amis in 14 languages!) and an advanced French CD-ROM program.

Then for the tirage au sort we do with his family, I got two books, one on teaching French and one on Quebec (Irréductibles Québécois), and two DVDs: Bon Cop, Bad Cop and La Grande Séduction.

I noticed that Bon Cop, Bad Cop had a version française along with the version originale sous-titré (the movie is half in French, half in English). I wanted to see if they had actually dubbed the Quebecois dialogs into European French, and yes they did, but the French voice actors put on a very slight (and probably) fake Quebecois accent yet still use European French vocabulary so that French people will understand. Oddly enough, they did not dub the English dialogs into French, but just use subtitles, and even when Patrick Huard is speaking English instead of Quebecois French, they dub his perfectly understandable English with some other guy’s English!!! It’s so bizarre because sometimes it’s his real voice when he says something in Quebecois French that isn’t radically different from European French, but then at other times, it’s the French or American voice actors that completely redo his scenes. I really don’t understand why they felt the need to redub the English parts, but I can understand why they left the English scenes in since Quebec vs. Ontario / French vs. English is a major theme. But three voices for one character is really distracting!

Looking Ahead to 2010

By   December 23, 2009

Winter seems to be over already. Those 3 days of cold and snow were enough. Now it’s rainy and nearly 50 F, which is fine by me since I only like winter in North America. One good thing about not going home for Christmas is not getting stuck at airports or train stations like so many people did this past weekend. So it’s a good thing we stayed in France this year (I keep telling myself…)

I’ve decided I would really like to travel – hopefully to a warmer place – during winter break in February. I’m looking into Madrid and Lisbon for a few days, but I’m not sure if David can come with me and I really hate traveling alone.

My university has its spring break in mid-April, and then one more week of classes, which I think is quite stupid. I should finish my classes on April 22 and since I have no exams to administer for the second semester, I will be on vacation! I’m already planning a trip to Belgium, the Netherlands, Luxembourg, and Germany (with quick stops across the border in Lille & Strasbourg) with Michelle for June. Then David & I are planning on going to Quebec in July.

I was thinking about Croatia for May. Plane tickets from Geneva to Split are only 25€!!! Anybody wanna be my travel buddy??

Thinking about traveling seems to cheer me up a little. Countries are so close together in Europe and plane tickets can be so cheap. I haven’t left France (or even Rhône-Alpes) in four months and I’m getting a bit too restless. I’m tired of just sitting around in Chambéry feeling bored because the weather is crap and there’s not much to do. It’s still my goal to visit at least 3 new countries every year, so let’s see if I actually make it to Portugal and Croatia (Luxembourg is definite, at least).

Lost: Motivation

By   December 22, 2009

I had intended to work on my website during vacation, but my lack of motivation is astounding. I keep thinking about next semester and what I should be doing to prepare for it even though it doesn’t start until January 18. Then I think about the summer and what I should be doing to prepare for trips in June & July. Then I start thinking about next fall and what type of job I can get… I can’t seem to think about right now. I don’t know if it’s the bad weather, the homesickness due to the holidays or just my pessimistic, depressive outlook on life in general that is causing me to lounge around all day and waste time online NOT doing what I feel like I should be doing.

I couldn’t even finish this post yesterday when I started writing it…

Back to studying German, I suppose. Even though I live in France, want to become a French citizen and one day teach French to Anglophones, I prefer to study German at the moment.

Dreaming of a White Christmas…

By   December 19, 2009

Il a neigé sur Chambéry hier ! / It snowed in Chambery yesterday!

The parking lot yesterday when the snow started

The parking lot this morning

Someone didn’t know what to think about the white flakes

My poor little car (the roads and sidewalks are not salted or cleared at all)

I tried to make Canaille walk in the snow – he didn’t like it

But the birds apparently did

We also received presents with the snow!

The forecast says 50° F / 10° C and rain for Tuesday, so I don’t think we’ll actually have a white Christmas. I’m really jealous of people in the mid-Atlantic states. I want 20 inches of snow!!!

Germany = Christmas

By   December 17, 2009

I’m officially on Christmas vacation, except for a few things to grade and absences to count up for my labs. Now I can finally start answering all the e-mails that have been sitting in my Inbox forever. I really want to work on my French tutorials and add a listening section, but Christmas always put me in a “German” mood so I’m concentrating on Deutsch right now. Maybe it’s because Germany actually knows how to do Christmas, unlike France, or perhaps it’s because of Bronner’s in Frankenmuth, that I always associate Germany with Christmas. Plus Christmas trees and markets first originated in Germany and the oldest Christmas carol, Silent Night (Stille Nacht), was originally written in German in Austria.  Even after years of going to Bronner’s in Michigan, I never knew that the chapel outside the store was a replica of the Silent Night Memorial Chapel in Oberndorf, Austria where Stille Nacht was sung for the first time in 1819.

Bronner’s always put me in a good mood, not only because it is year-round Christmas, but also because of its multilingual decorations and signs. Stille Nacht has been translated into 300 languages and all of the versions appear on plaques around the Chapel.  They sell Christmas bulbs with Merry Christmas written on them in 100 languages.  Even the trashcans in the parking lot are multilingual!

Inside Bronner’s Christmas Wonderland, Frankenmuth, MI

And their website has a Christmas Wonderland section where people from all over the US and Canada submit pictures of their houses decorated with Christmas lights. They also show the address so you can actually go to the house and see the lights in person (if you live in North America…)

Fahrenheit vs. Celsius

By   December 14, 2009

Sometimes I don’t think I will ever get used to non-American measurements. The Metric system and Celsius degrees are much more logical, but it’s not what I spent most of my life using and even after years of living in the country that was the first to adopt the Metric system, I still find it hard to switch between the two. Especially when it comes to degrees, I prefer my Fahrenheit numbers. There’s just something about saying it’s “below zero” when referring to Fahrenheit that has much more of an impact than when you say the same for Celsius. Maybe it’s because I’m from the northern US where we usually have negative temperatures (in Fahrenheit!) each winter. Negative degrees in Celsius are nothing to me.

Right now there are cold temps all over France and the news stations are making such a big deal out of -5° C (or 23°F). Try -5°F. Then you can start complaining about how cold it is (about -20°C). Though I do have to agree that even if the temperatures aren’t as cold here, sometimes it still feels just as cold because of the amount of time we have to spend outside and because of the lack of proper heating indoors.

David said the coldest temperature he can remember it being here is about -10° C or 14° F. The coldest temperature I remember in Michigan is -21° F or -30° C. I was in 6th grade and we didn’t have school that day and it was awesome.

Have any other Americans successfully stopped using the customary system or am I doomed for life with a mess of conversions in my head?

French Christmas Songs

By   December 13, 2009

Learn French through Christmas songs! La chanson en cours de FLE has a few listening activities for the first 3 songs if you want to test yourself.

Petit Papa Noël

Vive le Vent (Jingle Bells)

Mon Beau Sapin (Oh Christmas Tree)

Douce Nuit (Silent Night)

Au Royaume du Bonhomme Hiver (Walkin’ in a Winter Wonderland)

Oh Tiny Christmas Tree

By   December 10, 2009

Trees here are so oddly-shaped and small, but it smells like pine and that’s good enough for me.

Xmas tree

That is an elephant ornament as a topper. A teacher at my first lycée back in 2006 gave it to me. And since Chambéry is the elephant city, I think it’s fitting.

Le Marché de Noël à Chambéry

By   December 6, 2009

I have to say the marché here is a little depressing. It’s very small and there aren’t many decorations or interesting things to buy. Plus the weather is just awful, so I’m sure that contributed to my dislike of the marché. Shoving your way through the crowd is bad enough when it’s not raining and windy and there aren’t a bunch of umbrellas trying to poke you in the eye.  So I took about 6 pictures total.

Now I feel better at home drinking hot chocolate surrounded by my own Christmas lights.  I feel like my living room has more Christmas spirit than the city of Chambéry.

And another reason why I feel better at home:

Only six more days of work left for 2009!

Le Téléthon 2009 à Annecy

By   December 5, 2009

I had completely forgotten that the Téléthon would be in Annecy this year. France2 is showing live video from the lake right now. It is nice to see the pretty buildings and mountains on TV, but I’m still glad to no longer live there.  It is a great place to visit though, especially in the summer when you can take advantage of the lake.