Bon PACSiversaire

By   March 16, 2008
Happy one year PACSiversary to us!

Jij bent mijn hartendief.

La langue française me rend folle.

By   March 15, 2008

Sometimes there are certain aspects of the French language that drive me crazy. Verbs of movement is one example.

French does not use adverbs of motion the same way that English does, so it is not possible to translate literally “He ran across the street” into French. Sure, you can say il a couru for he ran and à travers la rue for across the street. But if you put them together in one sentence, it doesn’t make much sense. It’s the same for “I drive to school.” You cannot put je conduis and à l’école together in one sentence.

Instead, you must use a general verb of motion, then specify the place, and then use a gerund or prepositional phrase that describes the “manner” of movement. And this constantly confuses me because the literal English translation is so awkward.

He ran across the street. = Il a traversé la rue en courant. = He crossed the street by running.
I drive to school. = Je viens à l’école en voiture. = I come to school by car.

I never know how to say up or down or through or away, or which verb of movement I should use. I’ve been trying to think of examples, and having David check them to make sure I’m getting the hang of this. Here are some of my sentences:

He limps up the stairs. = Il monte l’escalier en boitant.

The children crawl down the hill. = Les enfants descendent la colline en rampant.
The man hops toward the window. = L’homme se dirige vers la fenêtre en sautillant.
We tip-toed out of the room. = Nous sommes sorties de la pièce sur la pointe des pieds.
She swam across the lake. = Elle a traversé le lac à la nage.
I’m flying to Berlin. = Je vais à Berlin en avion.

But now here’s a sentence I’m not sure how to translate: The car rushed towards me. I spotted this on an exam for some seconde students, and David wasn’t even sure how to translate it correctly. Should I use en fonçant as the gerund at the end? Then what’s the regular verb? So so confused. I know I’d lose those 2 points it was worth…

And this has nothing to do with learning French, but it pertains to French culture. I get really annoyed that French people close the door to a room that no one is in, especially the bathroom. Americans tend to leave the door open so that you know there is no one in there and you can enter without having to awkwardly/slowly turn the handle to see if it’s locked (or even more awkwardly, it is unlocked but someone is in the bathroom and they forgot/didn’t want to lock it!) To me, a closed door = a locked door, which would fit perfectly in French since fermé can mean both closed and locked. But oh no. A closed door in France certainly does not mean it’s locked or that you cannot enter.

I asked David why the French leave the door closed, and his response was “If the door is closed, that means that no one is in there.” Umm, ok, but when someone is in there, he or she closes the door too. So a closed door means that someone is in the room AND someone is not in the room. See?? It makes no sense!!

I’m a March hater.

By   March 12, 2008

I hate the month of March because it’s so long and boring and just shouldn’t exist anymore. Nothing important ever happens and the weather sucks. I’m just waiting for my job to be over so I don’t have to waste so much money on gas. I’m tired all of the time because of the commute so I can’t enjoy my weekends and I have no ambition to study French or do other things that I probably should be doing. In short, I’m in a bad mood for all 31 days.

But this makes me smile: NZ dolphin rescues beached whales

Travailleur Temporaire to Vie Privée et Familiale

By   March 11, 2008

I love that I just now received my travailleur temporaire carte de séjour for being an assistant when I have five weeks of work left. Really, what was the point??

Anyway, I got the list of documents that I need to provide for my first vie privée et familiale card due to being PACSed. For the Annecy prefecture, this is the list:

Demande de Carte de Séjour
Premiere Carte Vie Privée et Familiale – PACS
Photocopies et Originaux

Important: Lors du dépôt du dossier les deux partenaries doivent être présents. SAUF CAS PARTICULIER (régularisation exceptionelle…) CETTE CARTE EST DELIVREE AU RENOUVELLEMENT DE LA CST VISITEUR précédemment obtenue avec un visa D.

– Passeport: pages d’identité, numéro, dates de validité et entrée régulière en France
– Carte nationale d’identité ou passeport du partenaire FRANCAIS
– Extrait d’acte de naissance datant de moins de 3 mois, avec filiation traduit en français (traducteur assermenté)
– Déclaration de communauté de vie (à remplir en mairie)
– Déclaration de non polygamie (à remplir en mairie)
– Justificatif de domicile aux deux noms : contrat de location ou quittance de loyer ou d’électricité de moins de trois mois. Si vous êtes hébergé par un particulier, attestation d’hébergement du logeur + piece d’identité + quittance. Si vous êtes hébergé dans une résidence, attestation d’hébergement.
– 3 photos d’identité (45mm x 35mm)
– Justificatifs de revenu du partenaire
– Justificatifs de communauté de vie antérieurs au PACS

Imprime visite médicale ANAEM à renseigner en MAIRIE
Désistement recours contentieux en cours

UPDATE April 14: You also need to bring a copy of your current carte de séjour, a récépissé de PACS that is less than 3 months old, the actual PACS contract, and a déclaration des impôts !!!

So I’m not sure what some of those documents are, especially the last one about communauté de vie antérieurs au PACS. I guess we’ll have to go to the mairie and figure this stuff out. I’m annoyed that I have to get another birth certificate from Michigan and then have it translated (for 35 €), when I’ve already done that for my previous CDS and to get PACSed.

And I need to renew my passport soon, but first I have to find a photo shop around here that will do American passport photos. Luckily I can renew by mail and pay with my American credit card too:

Paperwork fun never ends. I can’t wait for May when I can start filling out unemployment forms!

Last trimester

By   March 9, 2008

La rentrée has been a little difficult for me. My schedule changed so now I work all day long Thursday & Friday, but only afternoons on Tuesday and every other Wednesday morning. My school is currently doing the bac blanc which means some of my classes are cancelled because the students are doing the practice exams. The problem is that no one tells me this before I arrive. For example, Friday I was supposed to have class at 10 am, 1 pm and 3 pm. However, the first two classes were cancelled. This wouldn’t have been such a problem if I didn’t live an hour away from the school, but it’s not like I could have gone home and come back later… I just sat around the teacher’s lounge and attempted to find more speaking activities on the internet for my BTS students, but I was so tired and annoyed that I didn’t accomplish much.

It’s a little frustrating being just an assistant and not the real teacher. I would prefer to have the same students all year so that I can see how much they progress. And it’s especially hard when you don’t know what the students have already learned or what activities they have already done in class. I need more control and stability or I don’t feel like I can be much help to the students.

A class that I just started working with this week is absolutely adorable though. It’s a seconde level class of eight international students from Algeria, Morocco, Italy, Bolivia, Kosovo and Albania. These kids are so motivated! Their level of English is lower than other seconde classes, but their pronunciation is already really good. They constantly participate in class and genuinely want to learn English. It’s so refreshing to finally see that. And funny that my best students in France are not at all French.

Freedom of speech, anyone?

By   March 4, 2008

I’m annoyed by this.

France bans naming teachers on school-rating website

PARIS (AFP) — A French court on Monday ordered a website that allows pupils to rate their schools to stop naming teachers, after the country’s educational establishment denounced it as “public lynching”.

The website,, which opened late January based on similar sites that have existed for years in Britain, the United States and many other countries around the world, proved wildly popular with students and parents.

In just four weeks they gave marks out of 20 to 50,000 of their teachers and judged whether they were “interesting,” “available,” “respected,” or “motivated”.

Judgments, made anonymously, were on the whole favourable, with an average rating of 14.

But teachers, already smarting after a suggestion by President Nicolas Sarkozy that they might face performance reviews to which students could contribute, were incensed.

A group of teachers and several teachers’ union asked a Paris court to decide whether the site broke privacy laws by publishing teachers’ names and ratings and whether it breached their right to be judged only by superiors.

Read the rest of the article here

Public lynching?!? Give me a break! Students have every right to judge their teachers. I hope the site’s creators win their appeal.

Day trip 2: Lyon

By   February 29, 2008
Another day trip! This time it was to Lyon, the former capital of Gaul.

As soon as we arrived, Jessica & I jumped on the over-priced tramway (1,50 €) and headed straight to Le Centre d’Histoire de la Résistance et de la Déportation. We were there for over two hours and didn’t even hear the gas explosion. It happened just after noon, not far from Gare Part-Dieu, where we had arrived an hour earlier. We didn’t even know about it until hours later when David called to make sure we were ok.

The museum was cheap (only 2 € for students / 4 € regular price), but it was mostly plaques on the wall that took forever to read because the lighting was so bad. There were some exhibits that had no explanation as to what they were – not as confusing as Mozart’s Geburthaus in Salzburg, but still… I like to know what I’m looking at and why.

Lyon was considered the center of the resistance movement during WWII. The maquis (resistance fighters) were able to hide in and move about Lyon thanks to the three hundred traboules (tunnels) that connect buildings in the old town. The historical center is the site of the old Gestapo headquarters, where Klaus Barbie tortured thousands of prisoners (including famous maquis Jean Moulin) earning him the nickname “The Butcher of Lyon.” He was finally arrested in Bolivia in 1983, sent back to France, and sentenced to life imprisonment in 1987. The trial was actually filmed and you can watch some of the footage at the museum.

The most interesting part of the museum was the large book listing every French Jew who had been deported from France. The day before, I had finished reading Hélène Berr’s journal, and I knew exactly where to find her name. She and her parents had been deported March 27, 1944 – her 23rd birthday. She would die in April 1945 at Bergen-Belsen, shortly before the camp was liberated. Anne Frank also died that same month at Bergen-Belsen.

It was strange finding her name in the book. I can’t really explain it, but finding that one name among 76,000 was a little surreal. It somehow made her journal and her life more real for me.

After an inexpensive lunch (4,50 € student menu), we walked across the Rhône and Saône rivers to Vieux Lyon. Going back much further in history, we wandered around the two amphitheaters built over 2,000 years ago when Lyon was called Lugdunum.

Continuing up the hill in the Fourvière district, we stopped at the famous basilica to take some photos of Lyon from above. The only skyscraper is a hotel close to Gare Part-Dieu, and that nuclear power plant you can see in the background is 30 km away.

La Tour Métallique is next to the basilica. Today it just serves as a TV tower and is not open to the public. I think it looks much prettier at night with all the lights on…

This cute guy is at the entrance of the museum of miniatures in the old town. Lyon’s old town is full of pretty colors. All of the buildings were shades of pink and orange and it seemed so clean.

So Chamonix and Lyon were my big travels for the February vacation. Let’s compare the prices for these day trips, shall we?

Chamonix: 24,70 € train tickets + 38 € Aiguille du Midi + 8,80 € lunch = 71,50 €
Lyon: 21,60 € train tickets + 1,50 € tramway + 2 € museum + 4,50 € lunch = 29,60 €

Random news about France…

By   February 25, 2008

Gastronomy: Sarko declared French food the best in the world and wants it recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Umm, how does food qualify as a place? And is anyone else really sick of people saying French food is better than all other food? How snobby can you get? Anyway, if you register on the World Heritage website, you can receive a free wall map of the 851 actual sites. I’m sorry, but French food would not fit nicely on this map.

Cost of Living: The price of some staple foods (bread, rice, pasta, butter, yogurt, etc.) has risen as much as 48% since November. Even the price of one baguette will be 0.90 € soon. (Back when Francs were still used, one baguette cost one Franc, or 0.15 € !!) The price of gas has been rising too, of course. I recently calculated that a gallon of gas in France would cost $7.50 in the US, so no American should ever complain about how “expensive” gas is there. This is why I’m so poor, people.

Education: There’s a new website for French students to rate their teachers, Note2be, which has outraged French teachers everywhere. Teachers are trying to get the site shut down but that’s not really what surprises me about this story. has been around for like 10 years, hasn’t it? I can’t believe a site dedicated to rating French teachers hasn’t already been created. Yet another reason why I feel like I’m living in the past.

Film: Marion Cotillard won the Oscar, César, BAFTA, every other major award for movies in the world for her role as Edith Piaf in La Môme. She’s the only winner of an Oscar for a role in the French language. En plus, her father is Jean-Claude Cotillard, the mime in French in Action! I love the Cotillard family!

Politics: Gaston Flosse was recently (re-)elected president of French Polynesia (Tahiti and all those other islands that no one knows about) and France isn’t too happy about it. Similar to New Caledonia, French Polynesia is an “overseas collectivity” and the citizens are technically French citizens. However, some Polynesians want full independence. Flosse is actually “pro-autonomy” – he wants French Polynesia to remain French – while his main opponent of 30 years, Oscar Temaru, is “pro-independence.” But that didn’t stop them from forming an alliance that ensured Flosse would get elected. Temaru suddenly withdrew his bid for presidency and gave the support of his 20 MP’s to Flosse, who beat out Gaston Tong Sang by a vote of 29 to 27. France had been supporting Tong Sang because he is pro-autonomy (and not supporting Flosse because of past corruption issues…). As a result of the Flosse-Temaru alliance, the UMP (Sarko’s party) has broken all ties with Flosse even though he remains a member. Doesn’t this sound like a movie???

That crazy Sarkozy!

By   February 24, 2008

Sarko insulted a random man at the Salon de l’Agriculture yesterday because the man told Sarko not to touch him. Politely translated, the exchange went something like this:

Man: Don’t touch me.
Sarko: Then get lost.
Man: You disgust me.
Sarko: Get lost, poor jerk!

(Sarkozy actually said casse-toi and pauvre con, which can be much more rudely translated…)

It’s great to see the president of the Republic of France act so polite and reserved to the general public. Maybe he’s just grumpy about his record low approval ratings or maybe he really is that big of a meanie.

In any case, I think it’s a little suspicious that all of the videos of the insult have been deleted from Dailymotion, the French counterpart of YouTube. Of course you can still watch the video on YouTube:

And someone has already created a Casse-toi, pauvre con blog, which I find hilarious.

Making fun of awful presidents is fun in any language!