Introducing Mélina

By   July 5, 2008

Bienvenue au monde, ma petite nièce ! Je vous présente Mélina, la fille de la sœur de David. Elle n’a que deux jours dans cette photo. Elle est née le premier juillet et pas le quatorze comme prévu. (Canada gagne !) Elle ne le sait pas encore, mais elle va commencer à apprendre l’anglais très bientôt. Et peut-être allemand et italien aussi…

Welcome to the world, my little niece! This is Mélina, David’s sister’s daughter. She’s only two days old in this photo. She was born on the first of July and not the 14th, as was planned. (Canada wins!) She doesn’t know it yet, but she’s going to start learning English very soon. And maybe German and Italian too…

Bonne Fête Nationale, USA !

By   July 4, 2008

This is the fourth year that I haven’t been in the USA on the Fourth of July, and it’s always a little weird. I’ve never been an overly patriotic person, but I do miss my country today. At least I’ll still get to watch fireworks in July (just on the 14th instead) and the flags will be the same colors (but with no stars and stripes)…

I hope all of my American friends have a good day!

Happy 400th Anniversary, Quebec City!

By   July 3, 2008

Quebec City is 400 years old! Quebec City was founded by French explorer Samuel de Champlain on July 3, 1608, making it one of the earliest established settlements in North America.

Some of you may know that I adore all things Quebec. The language, the food, the landscape. It’s just a great place. When or if David & I decide to leave France, Quebec is at the top of my list of places I want to live in. It’s a perfect combination of France and North America for me – it has all of the things I love about both.

I studied at Université Laval in Quebec City during the summer of 2003 in a special program for French as a Foreign Language. In fact, it somewhat served as my study abroad even though it was not technically “abroad” and I actually drove there from Flint. My best friend, Bradley, went with me and I mostly remember us just taking random funny photos all over campus and getting lost in the suburbs of Quebec City at midnight after hopping on the wrong bus. And we attended French classes everyday, of course!  Well, I did, at least…

Tunnels connect the various buildings on campus so you don’t have to walk outside in the winter. Or so you can play around with your camera after classes in the summer…

Most of the tunnels have beautiful murals painted on the walls, all done by university students.

On the St. Lawrence, the most recognizable building in Quebec City is the Château Frontenac, which is actually a hotel and not a real castle. It sure is pretty at night though, eh?

There seemed to be a new festival every weekend during the summer, so there was always something to do. And the ramparts around Old Quebec are still standing, so you can walk on top of them around the city. It’s also classified as a UNESCO World Heritage site.

Another reason to love Quebec City is the extremely low crime rate. NO murders were reported in 2007. As an American from the 3rd most dangerous city in the US, I find that amazing.

And just FYI, the Fête nationale du Québec, a.k.a. la St-Jean, is June 24 and not July 1st, which is the Fête nationale du Canada. There is a huge difference between the two!

More Changes in France as of July 1

By   July 1, 2008

France takes over the European Union Presidency until December 31.

Public transportation gets slightly more expensive. SNCF tickets increase by 10 cents, while subway tickets in Paris now cost 1.60 € for a single ride or 11.40 € for a booklet of ten tickets. The monthly Carte Orange-Navigo also increases: Zones 1-2: 55.10 €; Zones 1-3: 72.90 €; Zones 1-4: 90.20 €; Zones 1-5: 108.40 €; Zones 1-6: 122.10 €

The SMIC (minimum wage) is raised to 8.71 € an hour / 1,037.53 € (net) a month.

Unemployment benefits increase by 2.5 %.

All EU citizens except Bulgarians and Romanians have full working rights in France and no longer need a visa or carte de séjour.

P.S. Happy Canada Day!

Reminder for all drivers in France

By   June 30, 2008

As of tomorrow, July 1, it will be law to have a bright yellow vest and red triangle in your car at all times to use in case of emergencies. And remember to NOT keep the yellow vest in your trunk because you need to put it on before getting out of the car. The police are going to be doing random checks, and you will have to pay a 135 € fine (though this will not take effect until October 1) if you don’t have both the vest and triangle!

Canaille wanted to be in the picture with the vest… This is “one size fits all – XL” which doesn’t make much sense to me.

This little plastic triangle will magically stop other cars from running into yours on the side of the highway.

Edit: Updated info about fines on July 1, according to this article.

Adventures in Germany

By   June 28, 2008

I just returned from a wonderful week in Germany. Last Friday, I traveled through Switzerland on my way to Freiburg for the EWCA conference. Because the Euro Cup is being hosted in Switzerland & Austria, I saw many, many flags and soccer signs all over the place. My favorite was the huge soccer ball above the jet d’eau in Geneva.

I met up with Martha, my co-presenter and good friend from Michigan, at the station in Freiburg and we made our way back to the hotel to finish preparing for our presentation (“Tutors, Training and Border Crossings: Beyond the Textual Relationship”) the next morning. We stayed in the hotel restaurant most of the evening and were treated to polka music and a tour group singing beautiful Welsh songs. Their bus driver actually got me to lead a conga line at one point.  Needless to say, I wasn’t able to accomplish much concerning our presentation, but I had a lot of fun!

The next morning at breakfast another presenter started speaking to us in German because she saw my last name on my name tag and assumed I was German. I should have been prepared for that with my very German name at an English/German conference! Anyway, we presented at 8:30 AM Saturday morning (not our choice of time slot…) We were a little stressed because our third presenter couldn’t make it to Germany due to a family emergency, but we managed to pull it off. After attending a few more presentations, we decided to head to downtown Freiburg and be tourists. I had never been to the Black Forest area of Germany before, and I have to say it is very beautiful. I adore the architecture there.

After a short stop in Triberg, home of the world’s biggest cuckoo clock, we came to Annecy for a few days because Martha had never been here. It was really nice having a friend from “back home” in my “new home.” Luckily the weather was really warm and we were able to stroll around the lake and just enjoy summer. (The week before, it had still been raining and a little chilly – now the weather is perfect here!)

Next we decided to go to the Bodensee (Lake Constance) and we drove through Switzerland to get there, taking the scenic routes through the countryside. Swiss towns are so pretty too! We stayed in a small town called Uhldingen and took a boat over to Insel Mainau on Wednesday. We spent most of the day just wandering around the island among the beautiful flowers and trees.

Later that night, every German citizen was glued to the TV watching the Germany-Turkey game. We didn’t even have to watch it as the loud cheering told us when Germany scored. Even in a small town, there was plenty of noise and fireworks for hours after they won. And the fact that the prime ministers/presidents of each nation attend these games shows how serious Europeans are about soccer. Can you imagine Bush at a soccer game in the US??

Thursday morning we drove to Hechingen where the Hohenzollern castle sits on top of a large hill. Then we finally made it to Reutlingen, where Martha lived with her family 8 years ago, after passing through every other German town ending in -ingen.

After wandering through the streets of Reutlingen, I can see why she loved living there. Everything about southern Germany is so beautiful and peaceful, minus the occasional rowdy soccer fan. And I loved being immersed in German – though whenever I try to speak German now, French comes out instead.

I returned home by train yesterday (by way of Stuttgart, Zurich, Biel and Geneva) to still-beautiful weather in Annecy. It’s good to be home and to be finished stressing about the conference, but I am missing the lower prices of everything in Germany, and Martha of course!

I’ve uploaded the rest of my pictures to a web album on my site: Southern Germany – June 2008

From Annecy to Freiburg and back

By   June 19, 2008

The weather is Annecy is finally summer-like and I have to leave! I’m off to Freiburg, Germany, tomorrow (via Geneva and Basel) because I’m co-presenting at the European Writing Centers Association conference. I’ll be dazzling the audience with my knowledge on tutoring ESL students and explaining the different kinds of tutoring that goes on at the Marian E. Wright Writing Center at my undergrad school, the University of Michigan-Flint.  My good friend Martha is coming (I think she’s already arrived?) all the way from Michigan to present with me and I am beyond excited to finally have a friend from back home visit my part of the world. Granted, she has lived in Germany before with her family, so it’s not new to her, but still! I miss my friends!

I’m trying to finalize my part of the presentation, and hoping that my sore throat does not worsen and make me lose my voice before Saturday morning. I’ve made backup copies of everything but I’m still paranoid something will go wrong… Luckily I’m taking Swiss trains instead of French ones so I won’t be affected by the random strikes. CFF beats SNCF any day!

Martha & I will be back in Annecy Sunday through Tuesday, and then we’ll decide where to go from there. Nice? Genoa? Bodensee? Except I cannot check the Annecy-Nice train schedules or prices because does not work right now. Of course. (I also just tried to sign in to my ASSEDIC account and what happened? Their site is down too! I just love French websites!!)

I still need to pack… which leads to the most important question: What should I wear??

Centre Hospitalier de la Région d’Annecy

By   June 18, 2008

The new hospital in Annecy, with the ridiculously long name of Centre Hospitalier de la Région d’Annecy, opened about two months ago. It’s located in the commune of Metz-Tessy, next to the airport, just north of Carrefour and the northern limit of Annecy. A few bus lines were re-routed to serve it, but for those who do not have a car, taxis are the only transportation to the hospital after midnight. Yet even for those who have a car, finding a parking spot is never easy. This was the biggest problem with the old hospital – lack of parking. The new hospital was supposed to help alleviate this problem, but it didn’t.

Mais pourquoi ? Because of its location near the major highways heading north and the large number of people who live near Annecy but work in Switzerland, carpoolers have been leaving their cars in the free hospital parking garage all day. I don’t think the architects and engineers took that into account when they were planning it… and I have a feeling it won’t be free for long.

So if you need to go to the hospital in Annecy, make sure it’s during the regular bus hours!

Grammar Check – Subjunctive with espérer?

By   June 17, 2008

This was the top story on this afternoon:

Les Bleus à quitte ou double contre l’Italie

Pour éviter l’élimination, la France devra battre les Italiens, mardi soir, et espérer que la Roumanie ne fasse pas de même contre les Pays-Bas.

Years of French grammar classes have drilled into my head that you should never use the subjunctive after espérer. Can someone tell me why Figaro is doing so in this article? Is it a mistake? Or is there some exception to the rule that I’ve never heard of?

Edit: I give up, French. You win. I will never understand your grammar rules. Even though all of my grammar books tell me never to use the subjunctive after espérer unless espérer itself is negative or interrogative, the above sentence and all the native speakers that I’ve asked prove that is not the rule. The subjunctive mood and I were just never meant to be, I suppose.

Operation Escargot & Bac Philo

By   June 16, 2008

Truck drivers across France have been participating in “operation escargot” – driving very very slowly on highways and causing major traffic problems to protest against the high price of gasoline and diesel.

Today the operation did not start until 9 AM because the drivers didn’t want to disturb the thousands of students (615,625!!) who were taking the Philosophy Bac this morning. Isn’t that nice?

Here are some sample questions on the Philosophy exam. Students have four hours to write their essays, but they won’t know the results until July 4.

“L’art transforme-t-il notre conscience du réel ?”
“Peut-on désirer sans souffrir ?”
“Est-il plus facile de connaître autrui que de se connaître soi-même ?”
“La perception peut-elle s’éduquer ?”

How would you do on this exam?