This one is for Leah.

By   August 4, 2007

Dix choses que vous ne saviez pas au sujet de moi…

1. I’ve been working on typing comparative vocabulary lists of the Romance and Germanic languages for, oh, about FIVE years now. And I’m still not done. It’s just so mind-numbingly boring to sit here and type word after word in Excel. But the finished product is very helpful to my language learning efforts. I finally managed to add some vocab lists to my Romance Languages page if you’re a multilingual nerd like me.

2. I have an irrational fear of bugs that buzz and sting. Even though I’ve lived in the countryside for most of my life, I am afraid of bugs. I scream. I shake. I nearly hyperventilate. The insects in Michigan and here in the Alps are not that bad thanks to winter. But the bugs in Provence? Oh my.

3. I wish everyone spoke French with a Québécois accent. I’ve always had a weird fondness for Quebec, even before studying at Laval. But after hearing that accent for the first time when I stepped out of my car after a 12 hour drive from Flint, I was in heaven. I am determined to learn how to pronounce it correctly.

4. I have a not-so-secret love for (a.k.a. obsession with) the French in Action video series. Now it’s getting to the point where I can understand every single word in every episode. I don’t know if this is because I’m getting better at French, or if I’ve just memorized the lines from watching it so much. Maybe a little of both.

5. I’ve only had two actual job interviews in my life and I’ve been working for nine years. The rest of my jobs just required a written essay or were given to me. Cool, eh?

6. My great-grandmother wanted me to be named Ethel Ann. Luckily, my dad decided to name me Jennifer, after Stefanie Powers’ character from his favorite TV show, Hart to Hart.

7. I was valedictorian of my high school and consequently, I got a full scholarship for undergraduate school. I paid a total of $98 for 4 years of university in the United States. (And I hate when no one in France thinks this is a big deal!)

8. Even though I’ve weighed 92 pounds since I was 15, I still managed to be voted the best defensive player for my high school’s soccer team.

9. The amount of money that I’ve spent on language books probably exceeds the GDP of a small island nation.

10. I like to eat raw potatoes.

Fromage Facile?

By   August 3, 2007

A few months ago, my dad sent me some Easy Cheese in a care package (along with Peanut Butter M&Ms and Paydays, among other American goodies). David was happy to try everything in the box… except for that suspicious spray can full of “cheese.” Cheddar cheese is not as prevalent in France as it is in the US, and although David likes cheddar cheese, there was no way he was going to eat a processed cheese product that one sprays on crackers.

But he couldn’t resist. My French amour loves to try new things, regardless of how awful they look. Surprisingly, he actually likes Easy Cheese. Mr. I don’t know if I can live abroad because I wouldn’t be able eat all 350 kinds of French cheese likes to eat Easy Cheese. An American-made cheese.

Dad has since sent me two more bottles of Easy Cheese. They are nearly gone. Every time we have people over to the apartment, David whips out the Easy Cheese and entices them to try it. The majority of them say non as soon as they see the can. How can cheese that comes in a can possibly be good? But David persists, trying to make his friends experience new things. His friends sit in horror as he eats that orange gel on a Ritz. I laugh to myself thinking of David’s good-natured determination compared to his friends’ rejection of all things unFrench, which are therefore undesirable and unhealthy.

Just wait for Cheez Wiz, ma France. I will force you to like cheddar cheese one of these days!

Five weeks and counting…

By   July 31, 2007

It has now officially been five weeks since the Prefecture told me my new Carte de Séjour was in Paris and that I should receive it soon. I wonder what the French definition of soon is.

My récépissé expires in two weeks. I only have two months left to apply for my French driver’s license. ::sigh::

I know summer means vacation, but this is a bit excessive. I’m afraid they lost my card and I’ll have to apply all over again.

But on a completely different subject… I uploaded the Provence pictures! J’ai hâte d’y habiter… Provence, France – July 2007

P.S. If you are watching France2 right now, you can see the Théâtre Antique in Orange that I visited last week. The opera Le Trouvère is being performed there and it’s broadcast live.


By   July 30, 2007

I am back in Haute-Savoie. And I am freezing here, even though it is 20 degrees. (It was 36 in Vaucluse!) I have over 200 photos to sort through and upload. I miss Provence terribly already.

Annecy is a beautiful place, but I’m anxious to move somewhere else. David told me he is too. I need sun and heat, not mountains and rain. I used to think I wouldn’t want to stay in France forever, that Canada or Australia would become my future home… but experiencing life in Provence made me fall in love with this country all over again. The thought of staying here forever doesn’t bother me, as long as I live in the south.

However, I still think about Quebec a lot. My bilingual, bi-cultural heaven in North America. I would like to live there someday, regardless of the cold winters. I just don’t think we can afford to immigrate anytime soon.

A close friend whom I admire sent me a postcard from New Caledonia. She studies in Sydney at the moment and I’m dying to visit her and Australia (plus New Zealand & New Caledonia, of course). But I can’t. Not yet anyway.

The world is so big and I feel a need to experience it all. I’ve been to a lot of places already, but it’s nothing major, nothing like a tour du monde. My love of geography, history and languages will not let me rest until I’ve seen everything.

Vaucluse Photos

By   July 27, 2007

I love this vacation. It was so nice to not worry about airport workers rifling through my bags, or going over the weight limit, or bringing too many liquids. After 25 € in tolls and 3 hours of driving, we arrived in Provence. Everyday we get up and go to a new place, return to the house in the afternoon to go swimming, and then have a typical French dinner that lasts 4 hours and has 5 courses. There are so many interesting places in Vaucluse, all within a 30-40 minute drive. Here’s where we’ve been so far:

Avignon: Le Palais de Papes and le pont St. Bénezet (pont d’Avignon)

In 1309, the French-born Pope decided to move to Avignon and build a huge palace. It is now a UNESCO World Heritage site and it is also the world’s largest Gothic structure. It costs 12,50 € to get in, so we just wandered around the gardens instead. The pont d’Avignon is famous because of the cute song “Sur le pont d’Avignon, on y danse, on y danse…” Most people don’t realize the bridge doesn’t actually traverse the Rhône today. You can go on it for 4 € but the view isn’t so great since a highway runs under it.

Fontaine de Vaucluse: Vallis Clausa

Beautiful clear water! The source is at the bottom of a cliff that you can literally climb into (after jumping the fence, which everyone did, even the tour guides). And it was free!

Roussillon: Les Falaises d’Ocre

We left Fontaine and took la route touristique through Gordes to get to Roussillon. Both of these villages are considered some of the most beautiful in all of France. The red and orange color of the soil here isn’t unique to only France though – it’s found in Africa, Asia and the US too. For only 2 € you can walk through the cliffs and get your shoes completely covered in the rust-colored sand.

L’Isle-sur-la-Sorgue: Antiquités

Antique capital of France, L’Isle is known for its canals around the centre ville. Similar to Annecy, it’s also called a small Venice. We walked through the market (Thursday and Sunday mornings), and had lunch at La Gueulardière, a restaurant/hotel owned by friends of David. They have a large collection of vintage memorabilia related to school and France and I probably took 30 photos of pictures hanging on the walls. The old maps of France, showing the former provinces, were my favorite.

Orange: Le Théâtre Antique

This Roman theater was built over 2,000 years ago and is still used today for plays and concerts. A UNESCO World Heritage site, it is one of three Roman theaters with the back wall still standing (the others are in Turkey and Syria). I was a little disappointed at the amount of lights, speakers and other modern objects that were everywhere inside the theater but the admission fee of 7,70 € also includes the museum across the street and an audio guide for the theater.

Another Roman vestige: aqueduct near Carpentras

And one last picture of the countryside (the sunflowers were too shy to face the camera). Mont Ventoux is in the background.

Tomorrow is Vaison-la-Romaine and we return to Haute-Savoie on Sunday.

Les vacances

By   July 23, 2007

I am currently in the département of Vaucluse in the région of Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur (PACA). I am in the south of France for a week-long vacation. :)

David & I are staying at his uncle’s house in a small commune of 5,000 people. It’s so quiet and peaceful here. Plus there’s a pool!

This place is heaven. The weather is gorgeous. And there are so many interesting places to go in Vaucluse: Orange, Carpentras, Avignon, Roussillon, L’Isle-sur-la-Sorgue, etc. As soon as I saw the flat landscape and beautiful architecture of Provence, I knew I was going to love it.

David says we will live here someday. The cost of living is definitely cheaper than in Haute-Savoie, and he knows how much I miss the countryside. I wasn’t made for mountains or apartment living. Annecy is beautiful too, but it’s just not the same.


By   July 20, 2007

The US was the only country to prohibit lighters on airplanes. That ban will be lifted on August 4. However, it’s still far too dangerous to bring more than 3 ounces of shampoo in your carry-on throughout most of the world. Everyone knows liquids explode more than lighters do!

Cigarette lighters, breast milk OK on planes

And for anyone else who thinks the TSA ban on liquids is the dumbest idea ever, I suggest you watch the SNL skit on TSA Training.

Crise cardiaque… ou presque

By   July 18, 2007

I almost had a heart attack thinking I wasn't even on the waiting list of assistants... then I finished the rest of the first sentence. Que je suis bête quelque fois ! I don't even remember e-mailing this person, especially since she only takes care of primaire assistants, but hey, I'm getting my name and coordonnées out there...


En réponse à votre mail, j'ai le regret de vous dire que votre nom ne figure pas sur la liste que m'a communiquée le Rectorat de Grenoble, des assistants nommés dans les écoles primaires de Haute-Savoie, pour 2007-2008. Je n'ai toutefois pas connaissance des affectations dans le 2nd degré. Le mieux serait de contacter le Rectorat.
Pour ce qui est des démissions, nous ne pouvons recruter des assistants localement, que beaucoup plus tard, courant octobre et après autorisation du Rectorat.

Je garde vos coordonnées au cas où ...

Bonne chance dans vos démarches.

Bien cordialement.

Why I hate flying, reason #214

By   July 18, 2007

Does anyone else think it’s completely unfair that airlines have the right to change your flight itinerary at any time they choose? David & I bought our Christmas tickets to Michigan way back in January through Orbitz. Since then, our flight itinerary has been changed three times – always to more inconvenient times, such as arriving 4 hours later and leaving 3 hours earlier than we had planned and increasing the layover between flights to 7 hours…

I paid (a lot) for the certain times and flights that we wanted. Why can’t the airlines respect that??? I’m already not liking Lufthansa even though I haven’t flown with them yet…

I can’t explain my country.

By   July 16, 2007

As a foreigner here in France, I am constantly asked to explain how life is in the United States. Do you have this in America? Is it legal to do that? What do Americans think about this?

Just as most Americans have no idea how small European nations are, most Europeans have no idea how large the United States is (17 times larger than France). And therefore, they have little understanding that I cannot speak for all Americans, nor do I even know what life is like in other parts of the country. I try to explain democrats vs. republicans… liberals vs. conservatives… that in fact, the country is divided into two. I try to explain the different regions, with their own accents, histories and cultures: New England, the Deep South, the Midwest, etc. I try to explain that each state can make their own laws regarding various issues ranging from speed limits to marriage.

Yet my students were still amazed that I had never been to Washington, D.C. They assume the government has centralized everything – as all roads lead to Paris in France. They couldn’t believe the drinking age was 21, yet joining the military was possible at 18. Getting a driver’s license couldn’t possibly be that cheap (more than 1,000 € here), nor could university be that expensive (I don’t even want to tell you how cheap it is here because you will cry).

Even David is still fascinated by these differences. Last month he heard about a woman in Virginia who was sent to jail for throwing a party for her 16 year-old son and his friends. Her crime was supplying them with beer. She is now serving a 27 month sentence, reduced from eight years. We watched The Untouchables recently and he constantly wondered why in the world Prohibition ever happened. To the average Frenchman who drinks wine every single day, banning alcohol for (what seems like) no reason is beyond ridiculous. And the fact that dry counties still exist throughout the Bible Belt is just too much to take in.

Equally ridiculous are the censorship laws regarding nudity. Remember Janet Jackson and the Superbowl? Scenes like that can be viewed at virtually any time of the day on French television. Skin care products frequently feature topless women and a lot of French women (of any age) sunbathe topless. Even the former franc notes featured a topless Marianne!

Spiegel reported last week that a German children’s book would not be published in the United States because of nudity. Take a look at the offending illustration. Did you spot the “nudity”???

I get tired of trying to explain how religious and conservative the U.S. government still is and that is the reason for these ridiculous laws. Europeans still don’t believe that there is a “Separation of Church & State” when In God We Trust is written all over the money. Or that alcohol could be classified as a drug, just like heroine or cocaine. Or that a cartoon drawing of an art gallery could be considered as nudity. But why would they when I can’t even convince them that France is smaller than the state of Texas?