Thoughts on: Trip, Apartment, and Conference

Trip: Of course my trip was amazing. We saw so many places and I took far too many photos. The weather was mostly hot and sunny and we didn’t have any major traveling problems. I feel like I’ve only just scratched the surface of all the wonderful sites France has to offer, and I’m dying to see more of this country. Spending time with Michelle & Jason was a blessing as well. I’m glad they got to see three regions of France and hope they come back someday.  Meeting up with David in Montpellier was a nice treat, as I obviously don’t like being apart from him. I won’t have time to get all of the photos on my website until after my Istanbul trip to visit Martha, for which I leave at 7 AM tomorrow morning!

Going back to Italy after 10 years was long overdue considering how close it is. Chambery to Milan is only 4 hours by train, and it should be shorter than that within a year when the high-speed track between Turin and Milan is finished. I still can’t understand much of Italian, but I was able to remember the basic words and phrases to buy things, like gelato and more gelato.

The Côte d’Azur was full of beaches and tourists, which I expected. I’m glad I finally went there, but I don’t think I’d like to live there. Monaco and Cannes were very crowded because of the Grand Prix and Film Festival, but Antibes was much quieter. Provence was lovely, as usual, and very very hot. But I love the heat, so it didn’t bother me. Especially because we were staying at a rather nice hotel just outside of Aix-en-Provence (Kyriad Mas des Oliviers) that had air-conditioning, unlike our “hotel” that was really a hostel in Nice.

Languedoc didn’t seem as hot, but maybe it was just the wind, which was strong almost everywhere! There were a few times I had trouble walking because of it. Montpellier was incredibly nice, just as I had imagined, and I really liked Nîmes too. Pont du Gard was impressive, Saintes-Marie-de-la-Mer was cute, and La Grande Motte was a bit strange because of the architecture that I have never before seen in France. I loved walking through the cité médiévale in Carcassonne – I just wish it hadn’t been so cold so we could have stayed and enjoyed it more.

The only thing I didn’t like was the car we rented. It was a Citroën C3 Sensodrive that can be driven as an automatic or manual. Except the automatic mode was scary to me because I’m not used to the car rolling backwards when I’m stopped, or the car turning off when I’m stopped (Eco function), or the fact that shifting into reverse did not work sometimes! What are you supposed to do when you’re stopped on a hill and need to back up so you don’t hit a parked car in front of you, but reverse doesn’t work???

Apartment: Even though I left from our apartment in Annecy in May, I came back to the new apartment in Chambéry with Jason. We’ve tried to put things away as much as possible, but there is still a serious lack of storage/shelves/drawers in the kitchen. It almost feels like home to me though, if only David and Canaille were here and we had all the furniture we needed. Being able to walk downtown within 10 minutes is convenient, and I can run most of my errands without needing a car. Living in the city has its advantages, I must admit, but one day I’d like to be back out in the countryside.

We’ve only got one bedroom, but the living room is large, and the entire apartment has been repainted. We’re currently having a problem with the water heater (auto doesn’t work), so I have to turn it to on at night and off in the morning. There are two balconies, one on each side of the building, that look out onto the main road and the parking lot behind it. We have a nice cross breeze through the living room and kitchen if we open both balcony doors. I figured out where the cave was, and it is quite possibly the creepiest, most dungeon-like storage space I’ve ever seen. We still don’t have the keys to the garage we rented for my car, because the agency can’t get a hold of the landlord, who initially gave them the wrong keys or something, so my car is parked on the road for now.

Here’s the view of the Alps from the kitchen balcony:

The only thing I’m worried about is Canaille falling or jumping off the balconies. We’re only on the 2nd floor (3rd floor American), but I’m afraid he’d seriously hurt himself if he did fall. And there is a nest of birds in the tree right next to the front balcony. I’m hoping that since he is a such a scaredy-cat, he won’t actually step foot on the balconies, but we’ll see what happens next weekend when we bring him home.

Conference: The previous 3 days I worked at an International English Pronunciation Conference at my university, and got to sit it on many presentations since I was the tech person in charge of computers. It was exhausting, but fun and interesting. I was Miss Powerpoint the first day, making sure all of the presentations worked properly, which many didn’t… Then I had to be a subsitute chair for a presentation while also being the tech person, which of course was the ONE time there was a problem with the computer.

I had missed being in an academic setting, with professors and researchers talking about things that I am interested in (linguistics, phonetics, technology, etc.) I am still thinking about doing my PhD in France, but I have no clue where or in what subject. I just can’t imagine narrowing down my interests to one topic and researching it for 3 years. I want to learn everything about everything!

And I loved the three plenary speakers! John Wells talked about the polling carried out for the new edition of the Longman Pronunciation Dictionary, and he also gave a presentation on using intonation to change meaning in English. (Also check out his Phonetics blog.) Helen Fraser spoke on Cognitive Phonology and its implications for teaching pronunciation, which I had never really thought about before.  Yvan Rose introduced the Phon software and PhonBank database and explained how they can benefit research on second language acquisition of phonology.

I also discovered a book edited by Marie-Jo Derive, who works at my university, that will be extremely useful to learners of French. It’s called Mots étranges pour des étrangers and it’s a corpus of idiomatic and slang expressions that foreign students learning French at the university had to learn the hard way (i.e. not understanding because no book ever taught them, and having to ask a native speaker to explain the meanings). Here’s the summary from the publisher’s site:

Il s’agit d’un recueil de mots étranges compilés par des apprenants de français. Tout le monde sait que, même lorsqu’on a atteint un haut degré de compétence, le plus difficile à maîtriser d’une langue est sa chair idiomatique nourrie de ces mille et une expressions intraduisibles et souvent éphémères de la communication parlée. L’apprenant ne les trouve que rarement dans les manuels et cet apprentissage doit se faire “sur le tas”. C’est cette pratique “de terrain” dont le volume se fait l’écho à partir de l’expérience de plus de cent étudiants étrangers sur six années consécutives. Plus qu’un simple dictionnaire, qui de toute façon est très vite caduc, l’idiomatique étant aussi changeant que la mode, il s’agit d’un témoignage qui, grâce aux commentaires des intéressés sur la façon dont ils ont entrevu le sens de l’expression en contexte, éclaire sur les processus de l’apprentissage en milieu naturel. Ainsi le livre sera utile aussi bien à l’étudiant étranger – non seulement comme source de référence, mais comme incitation à l’acquisition active du lexique – qu’à l’enseignant de FLE, en France et surtout hors de France. Il intéressera également le lexicologue qui y trouvera un portrait sur le vif du lexique des étudiants.

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  • http://unautrejp.blogspot.com/ Justin

    Haha, I had the same issues with the C3 sensodrive. That was my rental for a month when I arrived in France before I had learned how to drive a manual. I had so many issues with it, I figured I might as well just learn with a manual because it cannot be any worse.

    For Canaille and the balcony, I found a “pet net” thingy at the pet store that is made specifically for putting over windows or whatever else. I have balconies at my new place and I already have plans to put the net up in front of the railings so Douglas cannot get through (he already fell from my 1st floor apt here, luckily into the bushes and he was ok). The holes are small enough that he cannot get his head through, but the net is a nice clear/white plastic so it doesn’t look too bad. You might want to look for it at your local store… just an idea.

    Justins last blog post..Happy Anniversary…

  • http://unautrejp.blogspot.com Justin

    Haha, I had the same issues with the C3 sensodrive. That was my rental for a month when I arrived in France before I had learned how to drive a manual. I had so many issues with it, I figured I might as well just learn with a manual because it cannot be any worse.

    For Canaille and the balcony, I found a “pet net” thingy at the pet store that is made specifically for putting over windows or whatever else. I have balconies at my new place and I already have plans to put the net up in front of the railings so Douglas cannot get through (he already fell from my 1st floor apt here, luckily into the bushes and he was ok). The holes are small enough that he cannot get his head through, but the net is a nice clear/white plastic so it doesn’t look too bad. You might want to look for it at your local store… just an idea.

    Justins last blog post..Happy Anniversary…

  • http://www.edgeoftheforest.wordpress.com/ Andrea

    Ha, I had to laugh about the sensodrive. We are renting a C2 for the year with that, as well. I don’t find it too bad, except for trying to go up a steep incline (like to exit the parking lot at my husband’s school). You really have to gun it, and I learned that with the A/C on, well, you’ll only make it up halfway, then start rolling backwards. Yikes!

    Regarding the Ecodrive, though, I’ve just had to adjust to lightly hitting the gas a second or so before when I think I’ll be going forward or turning. It just takes a few weeks of getting used to :)

  • http://www.edgeoftheforest.wordpress.com Andrea

    Ha, I had to laugh about the sensodrive. We are renting a C2 for the year with that, as well. I don’t find it too bad, except for trying to go up a steep incline (like to exit the parking lot at my husband’s school). You really have to gun it, and I learned that with the A/C on, well, you’ll only make it up halfway, then start rolling backwards. Yikes!

    Regarding the Ecodrive, though, I’ve just had to adjust to lightly hitting the gas a second or so before when I think I’ll be going forward or turning. It just takes a few weeks of getting used to :)

  • http://ausoleillevant.blogspot.com/ au soleil levant

    I can’t get over the view from your balcony! Not a bad way to start the day. And thanks for the book recommendation, that is definitely on my list, sounds really useful.

    au soleil levants last blog post..

  • http://ausoleillevant.blogspot.com au soleil levant

    I can’t get over the view from your balcony! Not a bad way to start the day. And thanks for the book recommendation, that is definitely on my list, sounds really useful.

    au soleil levants last blog post..

  • http://www.zurika.com/ Jul

    What a view! Hope you have many clear days to enjoy it.

    Juls last blog post..Scenes from Tampere and Turku

  • http://www.zurika.com/ Jul

    What a view! Hope you have many clear days to enjoy it.

    Juls last blog post..Scenes from Tampere and Turku

  • http://www.correresmidestino.com/ Zhu

    I’m gonna check this book, might be useful for my students… although if it’s too French it won’t work, because well, Quebec French is so different.

    I’d love to visit Southern France but I don’t think I could live there.

    Zhus last blog post..How Long Does The Immigration Process Take? (6/10)

  • http://www.correresmidestino.com Zhu

    I’m gonna check this book, might be useful for my students… although if it’s too French it won’t work, because well, Quebec French is so different.

    I’d love to visit Southern France but I don’t think I could live there.

    Zhus last blog post..How Long Does The Immigration Process Take? (6/10)

  • http://www.american-in-france.com/ cynthia in chambery

    Welcome home! Sounds like a great trip. I had drinks with Mandy this week and she said she’s been in contact with you too! We’ll have to do drinks when I get back from LA and before I leave for Bordeaux/Dordogne.
    My cats adjusted quickly to our 2nd story balcony. They just hang out and show no interest in jumping down, but the ‘net’ idea is not a bad one if you’re really worried. I was so worried about themhen I first moved here but now I let them out on the balcony for hours without problems. A bientot! Cynthia

    cynthia in chamberys last blog post..The French Wedding Cake

  • http://www.american-in-france.com cynthia in chambery

    Welcome home! Sounds like a great trip. I had drinks with Mandy this week and she said she’s been in contact with you too! We’ll have to do drinks when I get back from LA and before I leave for Bordeaux/Dordogne.
    My cats adjusted quickly to our 2nd story balcony. They just hang out and show no interest in jumping down, but the ‘net’ idea is not a bad one if you’re really worried. I was so worried about themhen I first moved here but now I let them out on the balcony for hours without problems. A bientot! Cynthia

    cynthia in chamberys last blog post..The French Wedding Cake

  • Lucas

    Hi Jennie, thanks for posting a link to the phoentic blog! I had a lot of fun reading that. Haven’t talked to you in a while, but it sounds like you’re having a great time there. I can’t believe you have a view of the Alps. I’m slowly patching together a Danish tutorial for myself, which I’ll send your way in a matter of time. It’s a real bear to learn. Take care, and enjoy Istanbul!

  • Lucas

    Hi Jennie, thanks for posting a link to the phoentic blog! I had a lot of fun reading that. Haven’t talked to you in a while, but it sounds like you’re having a great time there. I can’t believe you have a view of the Alps. I’m slowly patching together a Danish tutorial for myself, which I’ll send your way in a matter of time. It’s a real bear to learn. Take care, and enjoy Istanbul!

Why is Jennie no longer in France?

I created this blog in September 2006 when I moved to France from Michigan to teach English. Many of the earlier posts are about my personal life in France, dealing with culture shock, traveling in Europe and becoming fluent in French. In July 2011, I relocated to Australia to start my PhD in Applied Linguistics. Although I am no longer living in France, my research is on foreign language pedagogy and I teach French at a university so these themes appear most often on the blog. I also continue to post about traveling and being an American abroad.

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