Is it 2005 again?

By   February 20, 2009

I heard some loud laughing down in the parking lot earlier tonight, but I thought it was just the noisy neighbors having a party. But because I’m so curious nosy, I decided to look outside and see what they were up to. Oops, my bad. Not a party. Just a burning car across the street. And the lady was crying, not laughing.

Luckily it was a tiny car with a small gas tank so there were no large explosions. The car parked to its right got burned pretty badly too, and a trail of gasoline underneath the other cars to the left caught fire for a few minutes. I could feel the heat from the fire standing at my window, but at least I wasn’t like the other badauds who went outside. And I couldn’t believe how many idiots decided it would still be a good idea to drive past a burning car when it could explode at any second.

I don’t think the fire was set intentionally, but you never know. I mean, there’s definitely no riots like in 2005 or voyous just being huge jerks and destroying things for the fun of it, but I hear insurance fraud is on the rise thanks to the crise… But if you’re going to torch your own car, wouldn’t you try to do it far away from other cars so there’s no other damage? Or do criminals not think that way?

Our apartment still smells a little like burned gasoline – which is oh so pleasant, btw – and Canaille has finally come out from behind the couch. The small explosions were louder than fireworks and he was crying like a huge baby (similar to the way he cries when I take him to the vet). He’s already back to sleep, and I’m off to bed soon too as I am exhausted. That was enough excitement for my Friday night!

A dozen would just be too many.

By   February 19, 2009

Who says that French doctors overprescribe medication?

11 boxes is normal, right?

I went to the doctor for help with my winter depression, fatigue and insomnia. That cost me 55 € just to see him, of which I’ll probably be reimbursed about 20 €. Then I went to the pharmacy to get the prescriptions, which totaled 67 €. Only one of those boxes above was reimbursed by la sécu and it cost less than 4 € in the first place.  Health insurance is good in France, but sometimes it sure isn’t cheap.

Cat in Couette

By   February 17, 2009

For the second year, we’ve had a technician come to verify that the chauffage au sol is actually working, and sure enough, they tell us everything is fine. Then why is it only 14 C / 57 F when we get up in the morning?? I seriously think the (main) reason why I don’t like living in France is the lack of heat indoors. There is a maximum temperature for the chauffage au sol so if your apartment is too hot, you have a legal right to complain and get it fixed. But if your apartment is freezing cold, too bad for you. There is no minimum temperature.

This was the lovely radiator that could heat our entire apartment in 5 minutes, before it decided to stop working. Canaille really liked it even though he has 4 pounds of fur to keep him warm.

But I guess that’s not enough, because he crawls into the couette to keep warm.

But sometimes he and his fat belly don’t seem to mind the cold.

(This is what happens when I’m stuck home all day because of the snow.)

Pont de la Caille between Annecy & Geneva

By   February 15, 2009

The Pont de la Caille (also known as Pont Charles-Albert) on the former RN 201 in Haute-Savoie is one of the oldest suspension bridges in the world. It was built in 1839 over the Usses River by the engineer Belin. However, in 1929 another bridge was built next to it for a tramway line between Annecy and Geneva, called Pont Caquot (also known as Pont Neuf). However, the tramway was obviously never actually built, and so the bridge was opened to vehicles in 1939.

Originally, the Pont de la Caille was just going to be torn down, but luckily it was turned into a pedestrian bridge. It was then declared a historical monument in 1966 and today it is open to the public for free, with a souvenir shop and snack bar nearby. It offers a great view of the Alps and the valley below, and in the summer, you can climb up inside the towers to go even higher.

Ça caille au pont de la caille ! (Get it?)

Like a little castle.

About 192 meters long.

About 150 meters down. There used to be Roman baths down there, many, many years ago.

The other boring bridge for cars. The arch is pretty impressive though at 232 meters wide.

Both bridges will be under renovation from March 2009 to August 2010. Traffic will be diverted to the new viaduct over the Usses River that was built as part of the A41 highway extension that connects Villy-le-Pelloux (just north of Annecy) to St-Julien-en-Genevois (just south of Geneva) and which was just finished in December 2008.

Previously, the most direct route from Annecy to Geneva included the old RN 201 (now called the RD 1201), or if you wanted to take the highway, you had to go east towards Bonneville before you could go north on the A40 through Annemasse. Now you can get to Geneva from Annecy in 30 minutes, though it will cost you 5,50 € in tolls! But since most people who live near Annecy and work in Geneva make 3,000 € a month, I think they can afford it. Luckily, my trip to work takes the same amount of time, but costs only 4,20 € in tolls. Yet I make about 1/3 of what those who work in Switzerland make, so it doesn’t exactly equal out…

It has been a while. (For me, anyway.)

By   February 13, 2009

I suppose I’ve been too tired and sluggish to do anything on my site or blog since we still have no heat in the apartment. It’s been snowing most of the week too, so double yay. I also recently discovered that the building where my office is located on campus does not have a heating system either. The entire building. Three floors of classrooms and my office. Am I the only person who thinks this is crazy?? Every time I walk past a class in that building, the students are shivering in their seats with their coats on. I feel so bad for them. And this means that I can never use my office since it’s hard to type with numb fingers.

Wednesday evening began my 11 days of winter vacation. So far I’ve done nothing but finish up lessons for my various classes for the rest of the semester so I will be tranquille later on in March when I know something bad will happen. Let’s face it, something bad always happens in March and it stresses me out and makes me curse the fact that the month even exists. Hey, remember last March when my car broke down on the highway on a Friday afternoon while it was raining and snowing? And remember how I had to pay 1200 euros to replace the engine? Man, that was awesome.

Though perhaps the strikes and manifestations happening at other French universities will catch on at mine so I can have a longer vacation, or time off in March… I wonder if that was the plan all along… So far, my classes haven’t been affected, though I do have a lot of absences. But I think my students just like to skip. But hey, when you can retake the final exam and retake the classes even if you fail miserably, why not?

Anyway, since I’m always working at my computer, I decided to move my desk because I was tired of being in the dark corner. Now I’m in front of the window so I can always see when the dark clouds full of snow are approaching.

So what is on my desk? My computer, a book, and a cat.

P.S. A lack of heat and sunlight makes me incredibly cranky.

Not much has changed.

By   February 7, 2009

I keep spending too many hours online searching for a new place to live in the countryside and for that perfect PhD program that I can apply to in a few years. The problem is that I don’t know where we will be moving to this summer, so it’s impossible to actually find a new place. And I don’t know how long we will be in France, so there’s no point in looking at grad schools in North America when we may not go there soon. Plus it’s really hard to find a PhD program in French that will let me focus on pedagogy and linguistics instead of literature.

I’m still feeling frustrated and helpless and restless. I haven’t even bought our tickets to my sister’s wedding this summer because I don’t know where David will be working or how much vacation he will have (or even which airport we should fly out of.)  Even though I only work 3 days a week, time is going by fast in some ways and slow in other ways. It’s already time for me to write a lettre de demande de renouvellement motivée so that I can renew my lectrice contract for the 2009-10 school year. Winter vacation starts in one week, during which all I plan on doing is finishing up the vocabulary lessons for the rest of the semester and working on my website, which is what I do every weekend anyway.

The lousy weather and the fact that our electric radiator just broke is putting me in a bad mood again. I know it’s still February, but winter is dragging on too long. I want spring more than anything right now. I want a new apartment. I want David to find a new job that doesn’t pay him a ridiculously low salary. I want to have some idea of what my life will be like in 2010 instead of constantly wondering and worrying.

Maybe I’m just jealous of friends who are moving to new apartments and starting PhD programs this fall.  I want that. Right now.

P.S. What are people’s opinion of PhD programs in France? If I do manage to do an M2 next year, and we do stay in France longer than expected, I’d like to try doing my doctorate here in didactique des langues. I’ve always been told that American Master’s degrees are worth much more than French ones, but what about PhDs?

Téléfrançais – Episode 1

By   February 4, 2009

Hey, I have an idea! Let’s put a talking pineapple, a creepy pilot doll, skeletons playing music, and two kids together in a video to teach useful French phrases like Je suis un ananas and Ce n’est pas possible ! Brilliant, right?

Thanks to Dedene for this gem.

Exchanging French Francs for Euros is Still Possible?

By   January 31, 2009

I just saw an article on that mentioned today is the very last day for exchanging 100 franc bills (the “Delacroix”) for euros.  Apparently at the end of 2008, there were 12.14 million 100 franc bills still in circulation? All other franc bills can still be exchanged until February 17, 2012.  I had no idea!

Can you imagine American currency featuring a topless woman?

Links Roundup for Learning Languages Online (Audio Version)

By   January 29, 2009

I’ve been slowly going through my Language Links page to delete dead links and add new ones. Some new language sites that I’ve come across since my last links post include audio prominently:

SWAC Audio Collections provide pronunciations for a wide range of words in 11 languages: Bielorussian, Czech, Chinese, German, English, French, Dutch, Russian, Spanish, Swedish and Ukrainian. The audio collections can be downloaded as well, in flac or ogg format. (If you’re looking for a pronunciation dictionary in Italian, try DOP from Rai.)

LangMedia “features authentic language videos filmed in country, depicting everyday situations and conversations. These videos were filmed between 1999 and 2002 by international students from the Five Colleges. Transcripts, translations, audio clips, and still images are also included.” Over 30 languages available.

Sit back… Watch… Learn is a blog that gathers YouTube videos for learning languages: Arabic, Brazilian Portuguese, Chinese, Hebrew, Japanese, Italian, Swedish, Sign Languages, and Welsh. More languages will be added over time.

Internet Polyglot has vocabulary lists and games for over 20 languages, most with audio. You can also choose a combination of languages rather than just the target language + English.

Sons en français is a large collection of audio and video clips to help with oral comprehension of French. A great resource for advanced learners who need more listening practice.

Spanish NewsBites is a “free language-learning website designed to help you learn Spanish at the same time as you learn about what’s happening TODAY throughout Spain and Latin America.” Listen to the article, and then do the exercise to reinforce the vocabulary.

Transparent Languages recently started language & culture blogs for 9 languages: Chinese, French, German, Italian, Polish, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish and Swedish. They still have their Word of the Day widgets as well, with pronunciation of the word.