In happier news…

By   May 28, 2007

Vancouver is the world’s best place to live, a survey by the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) has found. The EIU ranked 127 cities in terms of personal risk, infrastructure and the availability of goods and services. All the cities that fell into the top “liveability” bracket were based in Canada, Australia and Western Europe.

Top Ten Cities
1. Vancouver (Canada)
2. Melbourne (Australia)
3. Vienna (Austria)
4. Geneva (Switzerland)
5. Perth (Australia)
6. Adelaide (Australia)
7. Sydney (Australia)
8. Zurich (Switzerland)
9. Toronto (Canada)
10. Calgary (Canada)

I’ve only been to 3, 4, and 9 so far. I was supposed to move to 5 this year. If David and I don’t end up in Montreal, we might end up in 1. I will definitely go to all of the Australian ones someday…

Do you agree with 2, Rochelle? :)

Oh, those red states!

By   May 28, 2007

“A Web site operated by the Alabama Department of Homeland Security identified gay rights organizations, anti-abortion groups, environmentalists and people opposed to genetically-altered foods among those who could be classified as terrorists.”

“Allison Neal, attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union of Alabama, says she has looked at parts of the Web site and is concerned about anything that pinpoints people “exercising their constitutional right to protest” as potential terrorists.”

Sometimes I’m still amazed by the stupidity.

Some French things that I may never get used to

By   May 27, 2007

Showers. Or lack of. Most apartments have bathtubs with a hand-held showerhead that is not attached to the wall. There is usually no shower bar or curtain. I’m still mystified as to how people take “showers” this way. The hose that connects the showerhead to the faucet is not very long, so it must be impossible to wash your hair unless you kneel or do it upside down. And how do you stop the water from spraying all over the bathroom? How do you not freeze to death? How are you supposed to wash your hair and yourself when one hand is always occupied?

Television. The daily news is on at 8 pm instead of 6 and 11. The “primetime” shows usually don’t begin until 8:50 or later. There seems to be no pattern as to when when the shows start, so that if you want to watch two different shows on two different channels, their times may overlap and you’ll miss part of one. Everything is dubbed, not sub-titled, in French. And France is apparently 3 years in the past because CSI is still in season 4 here.

Grocery stores. Smell like raw fish. No bag boys. Must put a euro in the cart to unlock it. Shortest aisles ever. Whose great idea was it to leave only 5 feet of space for the check-out lanes? Stores are always so packed here (regardless of the time or day) so the line of people waiting continuously extends into the aisles of food, making it impossible to shop in those aisles or even go around the corner of those aisles.

Erratic hours. For example, the library: Closed Monday. 11 am – 5:30 pm Tuesday. 9:30 am – 12:30 pm and 2 – 6 pm Wednesday. 3 – 6:30 pm Thursday. 2 – 6 pm Friday. 10 am – 12:30 pm and 2 – 5 pm Saturday. Closed Sunday. WHY? Whatever happened to open Monday-Friday 10am-6pm? BTW, banks are closed on Mondays and national museums are closed on Tuesdays. I’m sure there’s absolutely no reason for this either.

Late dinners. I’m hungry by 6 pm, please let me eat then. I don’t like waiting until 9 or 10. That’s what time I go to bed.


By   May 24, 2007

I am no longer sans-papiers! I finally received the récépissé for renewing my carte de séjour (which expired May 7) this morning. I turned in the paperwork on March 27, and received it on May 24. ::sigh::

However, the récépissé is only valid until August 14, and I don’t think I will be receiving a new CDS this time. I’m not sure what to do if I don’t have a new work contract by then. The préfecture originally said that the récépissé would be valid until October so that I would have time to receive the new contract (if I even receive a new contract.)

On verra…

Check your facts

By   May 24, 2007

I was watching the news on Canal+ this morning, and saw this headline at the bottom of the screen:

Etats-Unis: Un adolescent de 15 ans a été tué par balles mercredi dans un collège de Toronto.
United States: A 15 year old was shot to death Wednesday at a middle school in Toronto.

Did we invade Canada recently and take over Toronto? Why didn’t anyone tell me??


By   May 21, 2007

Finding an apartment is ridiculously hard in France. David and I have been searching for a few months now and everything is either too expensive, too small or too far away from public transportation. He only has a CDD (short-term work contract) and I’m unemployed. We were approved for Loca-Pass, but some landlords won’t accept it because they prefer a human co-signer (preferably a family member) instead of a business. Most apartments are rented through agencies instead of directly through the landlords, and they charge a few hundred euros for their “services.” We have a few friends who want to leave their apartments, but the problem is that they need to find new apartments too before they can move.

France has a problem with housing (not just affordable housing, but housing in general). I heard a few months ago on the news that there is a shortage of one million housing units. This does not mean that one million people are looking for housing. This means that there is no housing for one million families or couples or anyone else who could live together in an apartment or house.

The average rent for a one-bedroom apartment where I live runs more than 650 € ($873) a month, with no or few utilities included. I have no idea how single people survive here. That’s about the same price as my friend’s one-bedroom apartment in LA. In comparison, my one-bedroom apartment in Michigan was only $500 a month (372 €).

Going home

By   May 15, 2007

I return to France tomorrow. Well, it will be Thursday by the time I get there. I have two suitcases packed to the maximum weight limit (one of those being full of books…) plus a carry-on that might be a little too heavy for me to lift over my head and a “purse” that’s actually a messenger bag. I had to leave some stuff behind that I’ll have to get in October when I return again for Teresa’s wedding.

I’ve accomplished almost everything I needed to get done while I was here. I’m still waiting on some paperwork in the mail, but I suppose there’s nothing I can do about that. I had to renew my driver’s license since my 25th birthday is on Friday, and I plan on exchanging it for a French license as soon as I receive it. (Fourteen US states have exchange programs with France so that Americans from those states can exchange their US licenses for French licenses without having to pay – luckily Michigan is one of those states!)

And since it’s been so long since I’ve had to take out a student loan for tuition, I can’t remember when I will receive any financial aid. Is it 2 weeks after the start of the semester? A month? All I know is that my $1,656 tuition bill is already “due” and collecting late fees.

My cousin’s wedding was this Saturday and it was really nice. Normally I hate weddings, but this was my closest cousin and I really like his wife. Though it does make me feel old. My brother and his girlfriend are finally engaged (it’s been about 6 years!), but she still has a year of law school left so I don’t think the wedding will be for a while.

I visited my old high school on Monday and gave some French ads and newspapers to my first French teacher, Madame Refice. It was so good seeing her again. I can’t believe it’s been seven years since I graduated from high school. I don’t wish I were still in high school, but I do wish I could be in her French class again.

It wasn’t hard to adjust to American life again when I got here last week. I have a feeling it will be hard to adjust to French life again though. Mostly because I haven’t spoken any French in a week. At least the election is over so something else will be on French TV for once!

Back in the USA

By   May 9, 2007

I’m currently in Michigan. I spent two days in London before flying home. It was fun to be back in that city, but I was a bit lonely. My friend Jess was able to hang out for a little while, so that was nice of her. I’ll upload the pictures when I get back to France next Thursday.

I really need to sort out the rest of my clothes and books and see how much I can carry back across the ocean with me. I’m seeing most of old friends on Friday night, and then heading to my cousin’s wedding on Saturday. Sunday is Mother’s Day here in the US, so I’ll be spending some time with my mom. I’m not sure what I’m doing on Monday or Tuesday yet, but I’ll be leaving for the airport at noon on Wednesday.

I won’t be able to work on my website while I’m here, but I’ll be bringing tons of language books back with me. I plan on working non-stop on my site this summer.

Another assistant here in Annecy has already received an e-mail saying that she was accepted for renewal next year. She knows she’ll be in the académie de Grenoble again, but she doesn’t know in what city. I hope I receive an e-mail soon… I’m going crazy not knowing if I have a job this fall. At least David is doing a different job now, so he’s making a little more money, but it still would be nice to have my own income.

About the elections, I think we all knew that Sarkozy would win on Sunday… now let’s wait and see what he actually does in power… Here’s hoping that he doesn’t kick PACSed foreigners out of the country.


By   May 3, 2007

I said goodbye to a lot of good friends this past weekend. They’re all returning to their home countries soon. Fortunately not everyone had to go. The lucky EU citizens can stay here as long as they’d like, so my British and Irish friends are still sticking around for the summer.

Monday was my very last day of work. The first class didn’t show up and the second class was fine. It was a rather uneventful last day. I received a few presents last week: Savoy candy, Les Expressions Savoyarde en B.D., and cards signed by the students.

I’m not really sure what to do with myself now that I’m unemployed. I try to work on my website as often as possible, but it’s hard to just sit here and type all day. I’m a little preoccupied with my trip back home too. I’ll be in London in 3 days and the US in 5 days.

Tomorrow I plan on packing all day and then Saturday is David’s and my 6 month anniversary. We don’t really have anything planned except going to bed early since I have to take the 7 am bus to Geneva on Sunday morning.

My list of things to do and things to buy in the US keeps getting longer. Sometimes I can’t believe how expensive some things are in France (12 € for sunblock?!?) but then I remember how expensive some things are in the US ($20,000 for one semester of university?!?) Overall, it seems that Europeans have it better since essential things like education and healthcare are affordable. I will gladly pay extra for the little things in order to have health insurance. I still can’t wrap my mind around the fact that 45 million Americans have no health insurance, which is more than the entire population of Spain.