Istanbul in one word: AMAZING

Istanbul was the most beautiful, interesting, amazing place I have ever been. I loved the mixture of old and new and east and west. It is very European in some ways, and not so European in other ways. Trying to figure out Turkish was slightly exhausting as it’s not an Indo-European language, but now I am really intrigued about the history of the culture and language. And that is exactly why I feel the need to travel so much.

I will post pictures soon, but I really need to lie down because after a tram, a subway, two planes, and a train, I feel like throwing up again…

So my traveling is almost over for the summer. I am happy to be home and getting settled in the new apartment, though of course I am also really happy that I was able to travel so much these past few weeks and see wonderful friends that I miss.

My next trip is back to the US in July for my sister’s wedding. My first summer in Michigan in 3 years!

Thoughts on: Trip, Apartment, and Conference

Trip: Of course my trip was amazing. We saw so many places and I took far too many photos. The weather was mostly hot and sunny and we didn’t have any major traveling problems. I feel like I’ve only just scratched the surface of all the wonderful sites France has to offer, and I’m dying to see more of this country. Spending time with Michelle & Jason was a blessing as well. I’m glad they got to see three regions of France and hope they come back someday.  Meeting up with David in Montpellier was a nice treat, as I obviously don’t like being apart from him. I won’t have time to get all of the photos on my website until after my Istanbul trip to visit Martha, for which I leave at 7 AM tomorrow morning!

Going back to Italy after 10 years was long overdue considering how close it is. Chambery to Milan is only 4 hours by train, and it should be shorter than that within a year when the high-speed track between Turin and Milan is finished. I still can’t understand much of Italian, but I was able to remember the basic words and phrases to buy things, like gelato and more gelato.

The Côte d’Azur was full of beaches and tourists, which I expected. I’m glad I finally went there, but I don’t think I’d like to live there. Monaco and Cannes were very crowded because of the Grand Prix and Film Festival, but Antibes was much quieter. Provence was lovely, as usual, and very very hot. But I love the heat, so it didn’t bother me. Especially because we were staying at a rather nice hotel just outside of Aix-en-Provence (Kyriad Mas des Oliviers) that had air-conditioning, unlike our “hotel” that was really a hostel in Nice.

Languedoc didn’t seem as hot, but maybe it was just the wind, which was strong almost everywhere! There were a few times I had trouble walking because of it. Montpellier was incredibly nice, just as I had imagined, and I really liked Nîmes too. Pont du Gard was impressive, Saintes-Marie-de-la-Mer was cute, and La Grande Motte was a bit strange because of the architecture that I have never before seen in France. I loved walking through the cité médiévale in Carcassonne – I just wish it hadn’t been so cold so we could have stayed and enjoyed it more.

The only thing I didn’t like was the car we rented. It was a Citroën C3 Sensodrive that can be driven as an automatic or manual. Except the automatic mode was scary to me because I’m not used to the car rolling backwards when I’m stopped, or the car turning off when I’m stopped (Eco function), or the fact that shifting into reverse did not work sometimes! What are you supposed to do when you’re stopped on a hill and need to back up so you don’t hit a parked car in front of you, but reverse doesn’t work???

Apartment: Even though I left from our apartment in Annecy in May, I came back to the new apartment in Chambéry with Jason. We’ve tried to put things away as much as possible, but there is still a serious lack of storage/shelves/drawers in the kitchen. It almost feels like home to me though, if only David and Canaille were here and we had all the furniture we needed. Being able to walk downtown within 10 minutes is convenient, and I can run most of my errands without needing a car. Living in the city has its advantages, I must admit, but one day I’d like to be back out in the countryside.

We’ve only got one bedroom, but the living room is large, and the entire apartment has been repainted. We’re currently having a problem with the water heater (auto doesn’t work), so I have to turn it to on at night and off in the morning. There are two balconies, one on each side of the building, that look out onto the main road and the parking lot behind it. We have a nice cross breeze through the living room and kitchen if we open both balcony doors. I figured out where the cave was, and it is quite possibly the creepiest, most dungeon-like storage space I’ve ever seen. We still don’t have the keys to the garage we rented for my car, because the agency can’t get a hold of the landlord, who initially gave them the wrong keys or something, so my car is parked on the road for now.

Here’s the view of the Alps from the kitchen balcony:

The only thing I’m worried about is Canaille falling or jumping off the balconies. We’re only on the 2nd floor (3rd floor American), but I’m afraid he’d seriously hurt himself if he did fall. And there is a nest of birds in the tree right next to the front balcony. I’m hoping that since he is a such a scaredy-cat, he won’t actually step foot on the balconies, but we’ll see what happens next weekend when we bring him home.

Conference: The previous 3 days I worked at an International English Pronunciation Conference at my university, and got to sit it on many presentations since I was the tech person in charge of computers. It was exhausting, but fun and interesting. I was Miss Powerpoint the first day, making sure all of the presentations worked properly, which many didn’t… Then I had to be a subsitute chair for a presentation while also being the tech person, which of course was the ONE time there was a problem with the computer.

I had missed being in an academic setting, with professors and researchers talking about things that I am interested in (linguistics, phonetics, technology, etc.) I am still thinking about doing my PhD in France, but I have no clue where or in what subject. I just can’t imagine narrowing down my interests to one topic and researching it for 3 years. I want to learn everything about everything!

And I loved the three plenary speakers! John Wells talked about the polling carried out for the new edition of the Longman Pronunciation Dictionary, and he also gave a presentation on using intonation to change meaning in English. (Also check out his Phonetics blog.) Helen Fraser spoke on Cognitive Phonology and its implications for teaching pronunciation, which I had never really thought about before.  Yvan Rose introduced the Phon software and PhonBank database and explained how they can benefit research on second language acquisition of phonology.

I also discovered a book edited by Marie-Jo Derive, who works at my university, that will be extremely useful to learners of French. It’s called Mots étranges pour des étrangers and it’s a corpus of idiomatic and slang expressions that foreign students learning French at the university had to learn the hard way (i.e. not understanding because no book ever taught them, and having to ask a native speaker to explain the meanings). Here’s the summary from the publisher’s site:

Il s’agit d’un recueil de mots étranges compilés par des apprenants de français. Tout le monde sait que, même lorsqu’on a atteint un haut degré de compétence, le plus difficile à maîtriser d’une langue est sa chair idiomatique nourrie de ces mille et une expressions intraduisibles et souvent éphémères de la communication parlée. L’apprenant ne les trouve que rarement dans les manuels et cet apprentissage doit se faire “sur le tas”. C’est cette pratique “de terrain” dont le volume se fait l’écho à partir de l’expérience de plus de cent étudiants étrangers sur six années consécutives. Plus qu’un simple dictionnaire, qui de toute façon est très vite caduc, l’idiomatique étant aussi changeant que la mode, il s’agit d’un témoignage qui, grâce aux commentaires des intéressés sur la façon dont ils ont entrevu le sens de l’expression en contexte, éclaire sur les processus de l’apprentissage en milieu naturel. Ainsi le livre sera utile aussi bien à l’étudiant étranger – non seulement comme source de référence, mais comme incitation à l’acquisition active du lexique – qu’à l’enseignant de FLE, en France et surtout hors de France. Il intéressera également le lexicologue qui y trouvera un portrait sur le vif du lexique des étudiants.

One trip down, one to go

I’m back in Chambéry! Almost 500 photos to sort through and upload, 3 days of work this week, and then Jason and I are off to Istanbul at 7 AM Saturday morning.

I love love love the south. Still want to move to Provence. Vacation was too short, as always.

Need to finish unpacking and cleaning. Can’t wait until Tuesday when stores will actually be open so I can buy badly-needed furniture!

Off to Milan, and then Southern France

Michelle and I leave tomorrow morning at 10:45am for Milan, and then we’re heading back to France via Nice, and then over to Aix-en-Provence and Montpellier (and all the cool villages in between). We just spent the past two days in Chambéry and Annecy wandering around the old towns and the lake. Today I found out we did get the apartment in Chambéry that we wanted, so it’s been a pretty good birthday overall, despite the getting older part.

So once again David has to move without me since I seem to have a knack for planning trips at the same time. Though my trips are always planned really far in advance, so it’s not like I’m trying to get out of helping with the move…  We do the walk-through and sign the lease tomorrow morning, and he’s moving the furniture this weekend. When I come back, I’ll be going straight to Chambery, which is convenient since I return around 10 PM and our new apartment is rather close to the train station.

I most likely won’t be able to get online while I’m gone, and depending on how long our new internet provider wants to take getting us connected, it could be a while before we’ll have internet at the new place. I have a feeling my e-mail’s going to be about three months behind instead of my usual two.

A plus tard !

Still No Answer… But Michelle Arrives on Sunday!!!

We still don’t know if we got the apartment. Hopefully they will tell us Monday morning, and they let us sign the lease the same day or early Tuesday since I leave for Milan at 10:45 AM. If not, I have no idea what we’ll do. I’ll be back the 30th, but David will be gone until June 12th, which means we wouldn’t be able to sign it and move until June 15th. But even if we are able to sign it this week, we probably wouldn’t move all of the furniture until June anyway, meaning I’d have to stay in Annecy during the week I’ll be home between trips. Or else sleep on the floor of an empty apartment since I really don’t want to have to drive back to Annecy after working 10 hour days at the conference. And we’d start paying rent the day we sign the lease, so if we do sign it soon, that would mean paying for an apartment that no one is living in for almost a month.

I am a tad bit STRESSED OUT. I hate this!!  I really wish we could have found a particulier to rent from, but with the time constraint and the fact that not one of them answered their phone or called us back, we didn’t have a choice but to go through an agency and put together a stupid dossier and waste the equivalent of one month’s rent on stupid fees. I am not looking forward to ever moving again in France but with David’s job, we could be moving every few years. Fun fun.

But Michelle arrives in Chambéry on Sunday morning and we are going to wander around the old capital of Savoie since I have yet to be a tourist there. Then it’s back to Annecy before we head to Milan and then all over the Côte d’Azur and Languedoc-Roussillon. I am extremely excited about finally seeing more of France, but especially excited about seeing Michelle again. She was my roommate back in Flint, and I haven’t seen her since she moved away in February 2006.

And Jason is meeting up with us in Nice! Two friends from Michigan at the same time! He’ll be returning to Annecy/Chambéry with me on the 30th, and we’ll stay in Rhône-Alpes until June 6 when we take off for Istanbul to see Martha (a third friend from Michigan!!). Then it’s home again on June 12th and no more traveling for at least a month, when I return to Michigan!!! Can you tell I’m excited and homesick?

In the meantime I’m trying to pack what I can, which is rather difficult when you don’t know what day you are moving and you also need to pack for a trip, and you have a cat whose idea of “helping” is this:

He slept on those chess pieces three nights in a row. How can that be comfortable??

Renting an Apartment in France (Involves Killing Trees)

We just spent all day in Chambéry looking at apartments, and I think we’ve finally found one. We’re going to call the agence in the morning and head back to Chambé tomorrow to turn in our dossier (i.e. mountain of paperwork). If for some reason we don’t get it, we do have 2 alternate apartments in mind, one of which we know no one else currently wants. So I think the search is almost over. I still have no idea what day we would be moving though. And then we’ve got to get the electricity/water/internet set up and buy appliances (French kitchens rarely come with an oven or fridge… or even cupboards…)

So what does a dossier involve? Originals and photocopies of:

– ID cards (and student ID, if applicable)

– last 3 bulletins de salaires

– work contracts specifying type and length as well as date of hire

– last 2 tax returns

– last electricity bill (the infamous facture EDF)

– last 3 quittances de loyer (or Taxe Foncière if you currently own instead of rent)

– proof of insurance Multirisque Habitation

– last attestation d’Allocations familiales


Of course, you also need ALL of this same paperwork for the garant/cautionnaire (co-signer), who should be a family member. And if you have no family in France, you’re screwed. It’s not impossible to rent an apartment in France without a French garant, but it makes it much harder.

Hopefully I will have good news to report soon. Wish us luck!

Listening to text messages / SMS / textos in France

Someone called our apartment this morning, but as it was a 01 number (i.e. Paris) that I didn’t recognize, I assumed it was a wrong number. But they kept calling back every 20 minutes. So I finally answered and heard this:

Vous avez reçu un SMS en provenance du 06 xx xx xx xx. Faites le 1 pour écouter….

WHAAAA? It’s possible to send text messages to a landline and listen to them?

The message was something like “Je suis ?? Je peux passer” read by a female computerized voice. I didn’t recognize the cell number either, and since almost no one has my landline number, I’m assuming it was a mistake.

But I’m wondering how effective this service is with the way people write text messages in French. I still have a hard time figuring out what people are trying to say half the time with all the alternate spellings and numbers replacing syllables!

So if you receive a call from 01 41 00 49 00, you have a new SMS. If you want to send an SMS to a landline, you need to use the original number (the ones that begin with 01 through 05) and not the number that your ISP gives you (09 for Free, etc.)

I’ve tried it with both of our cell phones so far, and Orange uses that 01 number for the caller ID, while SFR uses the actual cell phone number. I always wondered what would happen if I accidentally sent an SMS to a landline, and now I know that it doesn’t just get lost in cyberspace.

Anybody know if this type of service is available in the US too?