Le Tour de France

By   July 14, 2007

Le Tour de France is in Haute-Savoie today! Unfortunately, it’s not coming to Annecy, but the route is northeast of here. The cyclists just went through Bonneville and they will end in Le Grand Bornand, a popular ski destination.

Today is also la fête nationale (NOT independence day, even though many Anglophones call it that). The fireworks in our town were last night though, as only the large cities have fireworks on the actual 14th.

Bad news but in a nice way

By   July 12, 2007

After sending countless e-mails to the rectorat of Grenoble, I finally sent a few to people who work specifically for Haute-Savoie. I was told I haven’t been renewed and all the posts are already taken, which I assumed would happen. But at least they were nice about it:

Tous les postes sont pourvus pour le moment, j’ai verifie que vous etiez bien sur la liste. On vous contactera des que des demissions auront lieu et ce sera probablement en septembre. En tous cas vous avez priorite sur les recrutes locaux, il y a donc toutes les chances pour que vous ayez quelque chose. Si vous n’avez toujours rien en septembre refaites-moi un message.
Bonnes vacances

Basically, I’m on the waiting list and as soon as someone quits (probably in September), I have a good chance of taking their post. Great. More waiting.

I knew this would most likely be the outcome, but it still hurts. New assistants are supposed to have priority over renewing assistants, which I understand, but then why have some people been able to renew right away with no problems? Especially EU citizens who could easily get different jobs anyway.

As a non-EU citizen, this is the only job I could legally have until I get my CDS vie privée et familiale (in February 2008!) I just don’t understand. All of the teachers loved me and wanted me back. The husband of one of them even works for the Inspection Académique and he couldn’t help me. I wrote letters to the rectorat saying that I’m staying in France anyway and I want to teach ESL as a career, so this is great experience for me. But nothing worked.

I have little hope that someone within an hour of me will quit their job. It’s not like I’m going to attempt to commute 2 or 3 hours to a school, or move somewhere else in the académie.

The application for the 2008-2009 school year will be up in October. Hopefully we’ll be in Quebec by the end of 2008 though.

Two weeks later

By   July 11, 2007

What have I been able to accomplish in the past two weeks? You would think quite a lot since I have no real job and plenty of free time. But that really doesn’t matter when you have to wait and wait and wait for things to be done by the French bureaucracy.

Still no new carte de séjour (though I was assured it was in Paris on June 26). Which means I still haven’t been able to change my address at the préfecture, nor have I been able to apply for my French driver’s license. I did manage to retrieve my new glasses and contacts though, as well as declare a primary physician. But of course, still no response from the rectorat of Grenoble about renewing my assistantship for next year. Apparently everyone has gone on vacation even earlier than normal.

I was finally able to finish the first page of my French & Italian comparative tutorial though! It seems like I’ve been working on it forever. Hopefully there are people out there who like learning more than one language at a time and will find it useful. I can definitely say studying Italian by comparing it to French has helped me much more than comparing it to English.

Thiou River

By   July 7, 2007

I took a little stroll along the Thiou river yesterday. It’s the shortest river in France at 3.5 km long. It connects the lake in Annecy (cleanest lake in Europe) to the Fier river, and is also featured in every touristic photo ever taken in Annecy because it makes up the cute little canals in the old town, without which we wouldn’t be called the Venice of France.

The promenade along the Thiou extends out to the suburbs where I live, so I followed it into Annecy. The water was so clear and peaceful and after weeks of rain, it was nice to be outside in the beautiful summer weather for once.

Crossing the bridge to start the promenade
No flooding yet

The water is so clean and clear!

Les Nouveaux Assistants

By   July 5, 2007

I still read the forums at assistantsinfrance.com everyday, seeing if I can answer any questions about the program. Recently I discovered the Facebook group too (when did Facebook get so annoyingly popular??) so now I’m spending even more time not doing the things I should be doing, a.k.a improving my French. But if I can prevent anyone from being as stressed as I was when I first arrived here, I’m glad to do it.

It seems that a lot of the new assistants in Grenoble are receiving their work contracts, except for Haute-Savoie. I’m desperate to find out if anyone got my school(s) or has decided to not come. I need this job.

Tonight I e-mail the rectorat. I’ll call in a few days if I get no response. I’m dreading their response, however.

Les argots

By   July 4, 2007

More and more, I’m starting to believe that there is a secret society that banishes authors from teaching real French in any books. French has such an astounding number of slang words and expressions, as well as a spoken form that is sometimes nearly unrecognizable from the written form, that I truly believe this entire language is just one cruel joke on foreigners. I have read through at least a dozen textbooks, and yet another dozen teach yourself French books, and have never come across half of the words that are in common usage in France today. I realize that slang is hard to publish in books because it changes so quickly, but still…

Another problem is that I have no idea when to use the slang words. Unlike English, French has a rich lexicon of slang words for nouns. For example, I cannot for the life of me figure out why there are three slang words for umbrella. In which cases would you use pébroque instead of pépin instead of chamberlain instead of the standard parapluie? Is one word considered old-fashioned? Does another describe the good or bad qualities of the item (such as clunker for a run-down car?) Are any of them even used anymore today? I just don’t know.

I’m also starting to get used to discovering what I learned in my French classes is wrong in spoken French. Well, not wrong, just not used. Déjeuener actually means to eat lunch and to eat breakfast. Salade is nothing more than a bowl of lettuce. Steak haché is nothing more than a hamburger patty. Possession is shown by using à not de. Barely anyone uses inversion or even est-ce que to form a question (subject, verb, question word is good enough). Everyone uses on instead of nous to mean we.

Recently on TF1’s site there was a poll asking for opinions of the show Secret Story (some stupid reality show where the contestants must discover each others secrets). The choices were:

C’est top, C’est bof, Ça craint, C’est quoi ?
Approximate translations: It’s great, It’s mediocre, It’s awful, What is it?

Years of French at university and 9 months of living in France and I still had to look up ça craint. I knew the verb craindre meant to fear, but I had no idea there was a slang meaning too. These words are relatively easy to figure out since the first choice is obviously good, and the rest go downhill from there. But if I had encountered these expressions in a different context, I would have no idea what they meant.

My biggest fear when I first moved to France was being able to understand spoken French. I knew that my grammar and reading comprehension were fine. But the thought of not understanding a word someone said to me made me so stressed out. To this day, I still have problems speaking and understanding French on the phone (Heck, I still have problems speaking and understanding English on the phone, but that’s a different story…)

I suppose this is why I’m so obsessed with discovering new expressions and words everyday, so I can add them to my Informal French page. I feel cheated that all of my French books only teach the formal, written language and I want to help others learn the real French language so they are not completely lost when they move here.

Les Soldes

By   July 3, 2007

The semi-annual sales are taking place right now in France. The government allows stores to have sales twice a year, once in January and once in July. I didn’t feel like shopping much in January when I had the worst flu of my life, so I decided to take advantage of the second round of soldes. The problem is… I absolutely hate shopping. I hate trying on clothes. I hate deciding what I might need. I hate spending money. And I really don’t have much money to spend anyway since my bills are more than my measly income right now.

Truth be told, the sales are actually a little disappointing. After being bombarded with bright yellow signs indicating SOLDES in nearly every store, I found that a lot of the merchandise wasn’t actually on sale. The things that I really wanted were still too expensive for me. Though it is nice that most of the stuff on sale was 50-70 % off.

Nevertheless, I managed to buy five shirts and a hat for 60 €. And five new cahiers d’exercices for 20 €. I’ve become obsessed with buying these educational workbooks for foreign languages because they’re 4 € each, and they teach just as much useful grammar and vocabulary as books designed for adults, but which cost 3 or 4 times as much.

Good news

By   June 26, 2007

I went to the optician this morning to choose my frames (ma monture). I’m getting new glasses and new contacts for a year, for a grand total of 130 €. I could have even gotten a second pair of glasses (prescription sunglasses, for example) for only 14 €, but I don’t need them. Go Mutuelle Existence!

I also found out that my new carte de séjour is currently in Paris, so I don’t have to renew my récépissé. I just need to change the address on it when it arrives.

And we received our new EDF bill with David’s and my name on it, so we can prove that we do indeed live together. And I can finally get around to changing my address at Crédit Agricole.

Plus I’m declaring a primary care physician, which I should have done months ago. Now all that’s left is getting a French translation of my driver’s license so I can exchange it.

I feel like I accomplished a lot today already. Despite the weather, it’s a good day.