Strike Time

By   January 5, 2009

Pôle Emploi, which is replacing ANPE & ASSEDIC, is already beginning its first days with a strike even though the organization doesn’t technically become effective until Thursday.

The employees of the organization that is designed to help you find work refuse to work so that you cannot find work because they are upset about their own work.

This is similar to the SNCF’s strikes where you cannot get to work because the employees are upset about their own work, so you have to miss work which could lead to the loss of your work.

And in the end, no one actually works.

I ♥ France. Oh so much.

Restless in Annecy

By   January 4, 2009

I think I’ve decided to do a Master’s in France starting this fall. I should be able to start with an M2 and just do one year of coursework and then write my mémoire. It will be extremely cheap compared to North American tuition, and I’ll have a research paper in French to bolster my PhD applications to Canadian universities whenever we decide to head there. I should have plenty of free time to work on my degree considering that I only work 13 or so hours a week during the 12 week semesters. And we’re planning to move closer to the university this summer so I don’t have a 40 minute drive everyday.

I still need to talk to the professors and make sure I can start with the M2… but I think it’s (almost) decided. I just like having a definite plan about the future. Not knowing what will happen at the end of 2010 is a little unsettling to me. I know we’re barely into 2009, but I always look ahead. I always need to be prepared, especially financially.

And I am a little tired of feeling like life here is temporary. I resist making close friends, or buying things for the apartment, because I don’t want to say goodbye and get rid of all those things when we leave. And how many books do I still have in Michigan? Should I attempt to bring the rest of my stuff here, or leave it there for when/if we move to Canada?

For years I thought it didn’t really matter where I lived, as long as I was able to travel when I wanted to. I need to be able to go to Michigan for Christmas, and visit Montreal in the summer, and explore other places I’ve never been before. But then I remember how much I hate the act of traveling (well, flying) and how wonderful it is to just get in the car and drive somewhere. And if Michigan and Montreal are the places I want to return to most, I need to be on the right continent first.

Lately I suppose I’ve just felt restless and helpless because I can’t make things happen right now. We have to wait until spring to see what’s going to happen with David’s job. We have to wait until summer to move. I have to wait until fall to start my Master’s. I have to wait until 2010 before I’ll have any chance of knowing where we’ll end up for good.

What’s Changing in France in 2009

By   January 1, 2009
  • France no longer holds the presidency of the European Union. The Czech Republic takes over for the next 6 months, followed by Sweden.
  • Twenty universities will be autonomous and independent from the state. They will be able to make their own budget and charge their own fees & tuition. If all goes well with these “test” universities, all universities in France could become independent within 5 years.
  • No more commercials between 8pm and 6am on all state channels, starting January 5. No commercials at any time starting in 2011.
  • SNCF should announce a new reduction card for disadvantaged and single-parent families sometime in January.
  • The Carte Orange will disappear in Ile-de-France in February, being completely replaced by the pass Navigo.
  • MInimum cost for a taxi will be 6 € with an increase in fare of 3.2%.
  • The owners of cars that pollute at least 250 g of CO2 per kilometer will have to pay 160 € each year as a “malus.”
  • Employers will have to reimburse employees 50% of their abonnement on public transportation for their commute to work.
  • Employees in the private sector who do not want to retire at age 65 may work until 70, even without the consent of their employer.
  • Mutuelles are increasing their prices by up to 4% to offset new taxes designed to finance the health insurance system.
  • Household insurance will increase by 2 to 5%. Car insurance will remain the same, or even decrease.
  • All banks can now offer the Livret A savings account to their customers.
  • The TV tax (added into the taxe d’habitation) will be 118 € instead of 116 €.
  • Passports, which are now biometric, will cost more: 89 € for adults, 45 € for 15-18 year olds, and 20 € for under 15.
  • The new organization involved in the merger of ASSEDIC and ANPE, called Pôle Emploi, starts operating January 5.
  • The revenu de solidarité active (RSA) will take effect July 1st, and replace the RMI (which is now 454.63 € for a single person with no children.)
  • Low-income housing benefits will be révalorisé de 2.95% while the prestations familiales will increase by 3%.

As 2008 Ends…

By   December 31, 2008

I’ve got 2009 already planned as the Year of Travel. The second semester begins January 19 and finishes at the end of April. We’re going to the Dominican Republic during spring break for my brother’s wedding. I’ve got a few exams – maybe two days? – to proctor in May & June, but in the meantime, I’ll be visiting Milan, Lisbon, and all the southern cities of France with Michelle, my roommate from Flint whom I haven’t seen since early 2006.

I’m also going to Istanbul to see Martha (she of Freiburg fame), probably at the beginning of June. Then in July, we’re going to Quebec City, Montreal, Michigan, Virginia and Washington D.C. for my sister’s wedding. August will be my month to recuperate before going back to work mid-September. I haven’t decide yet where we’ll spend Christmas. I’d love to go back to Michigan, but it all depends on how much I can save over the year.

Since I’ve always been really good at saving money, I believe I have enough saved already for these trips. And luckily, travelling in Europe can be so amazingly cheap. A roundtrip ticket to Lisbon from Geneva is only 60 €. I can fly to another country for SIXTY EUROS. That’s how much we just paid for an electric fondue pot. And I hope the TSA really does end or at least amend the ridiculous liquid ban in 2009 so that flying won’t be such a pain (especially for those of us who only take carry-on). It’s usually cheaper to fly in Europe rather than take the train, but at least there’s no liquid ban on trains!

And to help me get through the long flights across the ocean, I decided to buy myself a Sony Reader with my Christmas money and gift cards. I didn’t have to pay very much for it, and it will allow me to be an even better light packer with my personal rule of carry-on only (except when going to Michigan of course, so I can bring back more goodies to France.)

And now I’m looking on to 2010. Unfortunately, it will bring the end of my job in September, but I also hope it brings us one step closer to immigrating to Quebec. I still have so many places to see in Europe before we leave for good though. Strasbourg, Munich, Prague, Krakow, Bratislava, Ljubljana, Split, Dubrovnik, Athens, Edinburgh, Belfast, Copenhagen, Stockholm, Oslo, Helsinki, Tallin… and I can’t forget Lille, the D-Day Beaches, and Mont St. Michel in Northern France…

Living in Europe certainly has its perks when it comes to travel. I don’t want to regret missing out on all of these places because we never know what will happen or where life will take us. Maybe we will move to North America within 2 years, maybe not. Either way, I want to take advantage of what I can do now in case it becomes impossible in the future. I’m not going to put things off any longer. I need to start living for today instead of next month or next year. Anyway, that’s my attitude going into 2009!

Decide Already! Yes or No? France or Quebec?

By   December 29, 2008

Je n’arrive pas à décider si je veux faire un deuxième Master. J’ai obtenu mon Master en linguistique et enseignement de l’anglais langue étrangère aux Etats-Unis en 2007, ce qui m’a permis de trouver du travail en France (comme assistante et lectrice). Pourtant, je ne suis pas sûre de vouloir enseigner l’anglais à l’avenir. J’aimerais bien enseigner le français aux anglophones, mais il me faut un autre diplôme pour le faire. En plus, il vaut mieux habiter dans un pays anglophone si je veux enseigner aux anglophones…

L’université où je travaille offre un Master avec une spécialité français langue étrangère et je pourrais commencer le programme l’année prochaine pendant ma deuxième (et dernière) année comme lectrice. [Même si je m’inquiète un peu de mon niveau en français écrit parce que je n’écris jamais en français ces jours…] Et si on s’installe au Québec, il y a peu de possibilité qu’on m’embauche comme prof de français quand il y a des francophones natifs partout. Mais si jamais un jour je voulais faire mon doctorat en français, j’aurais obtenu un Master français dans une université française (qui serait mieux qu’un Master en anglais.)

D’abord, la question est de le faire ou non… et si je décide de le faire… en France ou au Canada ? C’est moins cher en France, c’est sûr; mais je préfère les universités nord-américaines et surtout l’importance donnée au français canadien. L’université de Québec à Montréal offre un programme court en 2ème cycle (c’est quoi ?) et un DESS en enseignement du français, ainsi qu’une maîtrise en linguistique, mention didactique des langues.

Cependant, je me demande si j’essaie de me convaincre de retourner à l’université parce que ça fait 2 ans que je n’y suis pas. Après 6 ans d’études, le fait de n’être plus étudiante m’attriste. J’avais toujours des cours à suivre, des copies à rédiger, des examens à preparer… Maintenant, je ne fais que mon travail et je trouve le temps libre un peu bizarre.

Et je trouve que je suis devenue trop feignante ces dernières années en France. Je lis de temps en temps au lieu de tous les jours et je n’étudie pas assez du tout les langues ou la linguistique.  Je veux retrouver ce sentiment de passion pour l’apprentissage. Mais comment faire pour augmenter ma motivation ? Et même si je décide de faire un Master en France, j’ai peur de devenir trop stressée avec l’enseignement qui aura lieu en langue française. Comment faire pour écrire un mémoire de je ne sais même pas combien de pages avec mon vocabulaire limité ? J’ai peur de ne pas réussir.

En revanche, si je réussis à faire mon Master ici en France, je pourrais commencer avec mon doctorat au Canada. il sera plus évident de trouver un vrai travail et un vrai salaire, ce qui est le but des études universitaires, n’est-ce pas ?

En France, le DEA (pour ceux qui voulaient continuer à faire de la recherche) et le DESS (pour ceux qui voulaient travailler tout de suite) que l’on pourrait obtenir après la maîtrise auparavant ont été remplacés par le Master il y a peu de temps. Par contre, le DESS au Québec existe toujours et il est au-dessous de la maîtrise. (Je crois que les Quebecois disent toujours maîtrise pour l’équivalent de Master aux Etats-Unis.)

Petite Cabane à Sucre de Québec… à Annecy

By   December 21, 2008

David & I finally made it to the Marché de Noël at the Imperial Hotel in Annecy. Today was actually the very last day for it, so nothing like waiting to the last minute… I mostly just wanted to visit the Quebecois stands because I had been to the marché before and it’s usually swarmed with kids trying to talk to le Père Noël.

The Cabane à Sucre was so cute, and I wished I could stand there for hours listening to the adorable old ladies dressed in their red flannel shirts speak in their adorable Quebecois accents. We bought some maple syrup, of course, and some maple tea. The nice lady gave us some brochures for the shop in Quebec City, in case we ever wanted to visit. We mentioned that we were definitely going to Quebec in July, and that I had studied at Université Laval, and she gave us a free bag of maple syrup candy. She rocked.

Then we both bought tire d’érable on the way out. I didn’t mind that it dripped all over my hands and coat. I really needed that taste of North America, especially right now.

Snow + Tractor + Dog = Fun

By   December 20, 2008

It’s a good thing I wasn’t flying home this weekend…
Backyard during snowstorm

Even Brandy wasn’t liking all the snow…
Brandy not liking the snow right now

But Dad and John Deere came to the rescue…
John Deere to the rescue

And made her a mountain to play on.
Brandy on a big snow pile looking for her bone

You have no idea how much I wish I could play on that snow pile with her!