Category Archives: Michigan

Soccer and Geneva, you’re on my list.

By   May 30, 2008

I’m supposed to present at the European Writing Centers Association Conference at the University of Education in Freiburg, Germany, on June 21st. Two former colleagues from the University of Michigan-Flint Writing Center and I will be doing a 90 minute workshop titled “Tutors, Training and Border Crossings: Beyond the Textual Relationship.” I’ll be handling the ESL section on tutoring international students and tutor training.

Problem #1: The European Soccer Championship is being held in 8 cities in Switzerland and Austria during the month of June. This means almost all hotels are booked, even in Germany, because apparently Europeans think they are superior to the rest of the world in soccer and the World Cup just doesn’t matter because there are too many non-European teams mucking up the tournament. But I digress… Of course I still don’t have any hotel reservations anywhere, and it’s only like 3 weeks away! Starting to freak out a little…

Problem #2: I’m going to take a train because it will probably be the same price or cheaper than driving, but it’s shorter to go through Switzerland – which means an annoying change in Geneva. There are trains between Annecy and Geneva of course, but they arrive at the Eaux-Vives station. I will need to be at the Cornavin station for the train that goes to Freiburg. And for some strange reason, there is no train service connecting these two stations! Well, there will be in like 2010 or 2012 , but this “construction” rumor has been going around for the past century (I’m not even kidding). This is why so many people choose to drive to work in Geneva and why construction on a new highway between Annecy and Geneva is nearly finished. Whatever happened to the love of public transportation, France and Switzerland?

Problem #3: I have no money because I have no job. This conference is probably going to cost me more than 200 €, but I’m hoping to network a little and find a job in some academic setting. I miss the world of academia. Though French universities aren’t exactly known for being excellent and I’m not even sure if many of them have Writing Centers, and I’m sort of tied down to Annecy because of David’s job… so my hopes aren’t too high for finding a job. Which means I’ll still have no money because I’ll have no job. It’s a vicious circle.

But hey, I can add this to my resume, I get to visit Germany again (yay Black Forest!), AND I get to see friends from Michigan whom I miss dearly. So it’s totally worth the stress and debt. But it really does make me hate the soccer obsession in Europe even more…

No jobs for Michigan

By   April 12, 2008

Forbes recently ran an article on the best and worst cities for jobs in the US. And surprise, surprise, Michigan cities appear most on the worst list.

It’s understandable that New Orleans is currently the worst city for jobs, and it’s probably obvious what #2 and #3 are as well: Detroit and Flint. And how interesting is it that Detroit and Flint are also ranked #2 and #3 for most dangerous cities in the US? Coincidence?

The rest of the worst cities for jobs are 4. Canton, OH; 5. Warren, MI; 6. Hickory, NC; 7. Lansing, MI; 8. Dayton, OH; 9. Youngstown, OH; 10. Ann Arbor, MI. Half the list is Michigan! I love my home state, but my god, does its economy suck!

From the article:
“The main artery for job loss in the U.S. runs through Ohio and Michigan, which had eight of the 10 metros with the biggest job losses. Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama both campaigned vigorously in Ohio in February, blasting the North American Free Trade Agreement. No doubt that was an appeal to voters in places like Canton, Dayton and Youngstown, where NAFTA is associated with sinking employment.

“NAFTA is used as a whipping boy for all the problems that these areas are struggling with,” says Zandi. Yet the culprit for most of the lost jobs in the area is the deterioration of the domestic auto industry. The struggles of Chrysler, Ford Motor and General Motors have caused thousands of jobs to flee locales with heavy auto employment, like Detroit and Flint.

Any turnaround in these cities is likely to take years, and there is no silver bullet that will do it. But Zandi has three tenets that these cities should follow. First, educate the population. In Canton, Detroit, Flint and Youngstown, less than 18% of the adult population has a college degree. Next up, work on improving the infrastructure.

Finally it is important to keep costs down to try and entice new businesses. Michigan in particular has work to do on this front. Business costs in Ann Arbor, Detroit and Warren are all above the national average.”

And the best cities for jobs: 1. Cape Coral, FL; 2. Las Vegas, NV; 3. McAllen, TX; 4. Port St. Lucie, FL; 5. Naples, FL; 6. Ocala, FL; 7. Riverside, CA; 8. Provo, UT; 9. Myrtle Beach, SC; 10. Phoenix, AZ.

So if I ever did move back to the US, I’m heading for the Southwest – though I will always be a Midwesterner at heart!

Jealousy times ten thousand

By   February 7, 2008
What I am missing in Michigan:

My parents’ driveway after 6 inches (15 cm) of snow fell.

My beloved car buried under 14 inches (35.5 cm) of snow.

Brandy attacking the huge snow pile.

That is what winter should be like…. ::sigh::

Le retour de la neige au Michigan

By   January 2, 2008
A few days after we return to France, Michigan gets lots of snow again:


This one has nothing to do with snow; I just thought it was really cute. Brandy & Shadow were taking a nap together before Christmas. I really miss dogs.

Christmas in Michigan

By   December 29, 2007

Christmastime Emotions

Happy. I honestly do not like Christmas in France, so going back to the US this year was wonderful. I need decorations everywhere and 6 foot trees and Christmas carols playing 24/7 on the radio. I have to watch the Grinch and Charlie Brown and even Rudolph with those creepy dolls that surprisingly never gave me nightmares. I want turkey and stuffing and potatoes, not disgusting seafood and goose liver.

Grateful. My family gave me useful gifts and mommy even made stockings for David and Canaille. High school friends came over to meet David, and we hung out with some university friends too. I love that whenever I leave my camera lying around, I find pictures of Bradley on it like this:

Cheerful. If you ever need some Christmas spirit, go to Bronner’s Christmas Wonderland in Frankenmuth. It’s the largest Christmas store in the world. And Frankenmuth itself is a pretty cute little Bavarian town. Frankenmuth and southern Germany always remind me of Christmas, at any time of the year.

Proud. David was not shy about trying new foods and experiencing real American life. I introduced him to ultra-modern inventions such as garbage disposals, cruise control, and drive-up ATMs. The only cheese he ate was (bright orange) cheddar. He drank Sam Adams beer instead of wine. He finally remembered to leave the door open when he left a room.

Warm. Furnaces and fireplaces and kerosene heaters! Though I did have to share the heater with the dog.

Relieved. Being so far away from work (and the commute to work) was the best gift. Vacation was definitely needed! I still have 12 more weeks of work – plus two more 2 week vacations – so we’ll see how I feel again next week when I go back.

Thrifty. The exchange rate is awesome if your income is in euros and you want to spend dollars in the US. Prices were so incredibly low! David bought so many things (size 13 shoes in every store! whaa?!?) we had to buy extra suitcases to bring it all home.

Ashamed. Unfortunately we had to go shopping at Walmart one day. But that’s not even what I’m ashamed about… can people please make an effort to not look like total slobs when they leave the house? Do you really have to wear sweatpants and T-shirts that don’t even match? How about running a brush through your hair once in a while?

Disappointed. The snow melted the day we got to Michigan. No white Christmas again.

Stressed. Packing and airports and flying stress me out so much. Lufthansa is stupid and does not assign seats that are next to each other when people book tickets together. I tried to check-in & choose our seats online, but it wouldn’t let me. Luckily we managed to sit together in the end, but still… annoying. Trying not to exceed the 23 kg / 50.6 lb weight limit drives me crazy. Wasting hours of my life waiting while dealing with a constant stomachache and backache does not help.

Angry. This was the sixth round-trip flight for me this year (Dublin, Barcelona, Cairo and Michigan three times!) I am going to try to not fly at all in 2008. I am so sick of the awful border and security controls. Do they really think I snuck liquids or whatever into my carry-on between the airplane and the gate at my connecting airport? Yes people, you do have to remove your coat, and everything metal that you have in your pockets. It’s called a metal detector for a reason. ::sigh:: Why should I have to be separated from David just because we’re different nationalities? Do you really suspect every French citizen of bringing wine & cheese into the US? What is the point of showing my passport to someone who doesn’t even bother to look at it?

Calmer. We talked about immigrating to Canada again, which always puts me in a good mood. I don’t know when it will happen, but the thought keeps me happy. Staying in France for now isn’t so bad either; I just needed some time away. I’m hoping that finding a job won’t be the most difficult thing ever, though almost everything I’ve done in France seems to be that way.

Exhausted. Eighteen hours of travelling is enough! I’m going to sleep!

In Michigan

By   October 21, 2007

My best friend got married yesterday. I came back to Michigan for her wedding because 1) she’s my best friend and 2) I was a bridesmaid! It was so nice to see my old friends from high school. We’ve been friends for so long and I’d been missing them a lot lately. And I’m so happy that Teresa and Tony finally ended up together after all those years of being friends.

Brad and Teresa – My two best friends in the entire world

Teresa and her husband, Tony

The rest of the high school gang: Brad, Ryan, Tony, Jeff and me

Overall, it was a cute American wedding. Teresa chose a fall color theme, so there were lots of pumpkins and leaves. There were five bridesmaids and groomsmen walking down the aisle before Teresa and her dad. (And our dresses are actually brown/chocolate/truffle even though they look purple in the photos). After the indoor pictures, the wedding party jumped in a hummer limo to take the outdoor pictures at a nature reserve. When we finally made it to the reception, I was starving, but since the wedding party eats first, it was ok. :)

After dinner, it was cutting the cake, the couples’ first dance, Teresa’s dance with her dad, and the wedding party dance… after which, I changed out of my bridesmaid dress because I couldn’t breathe in it. Then the bouquet toss, garter throw, dollar dance, hokey pokey, chicken dance, line dancing, etc. I finally made it home at 12:30 am and I was exhausted (and still jet-lagged!)

Normally, I hate weddings, but they’re a lot more fun when your friends get married and you are in the wedding! I’m glad I was able to come back to Michigan this weekend, even if it meant a long and tortuous flight as well as missing a few days of work.

I received an e-mail from the rectorat yesterday about my work, and apparently, they’re forbidding me from working anymore until I get the mess with my new carte de séjour figured out. ::sigh:: For some reason, they think that I entered France without a long stay visa and are telling me that I need to get one before I can work at my school again. Um, I have a long stay visa already and I made an appointment weeks ago at the prefecture to get my new carte de séjour (and they specifically told me that I do not need a new visa.) So I don’t know what’s going on, and I’m not even sure if I’m allowed to work this week when I get back to France. This is one part of France I am not missing right now…

A little taste of Michigan

By   October 4, 2007

On Monday, the British English speaking teacher at my school asked if I could write or find a menu for a restaurant serving “typical American food.” I said sure, no problem… but then realized two seconds later that there is no typical American food. In the following class, I had a hard time answering the students’ questions about what Americans normally eat.

I told them there is no real American food. We eat everyone else’s food… Mexican, Greek, Thai, Chinese, Italian, etc. I’ve been trying to think of a restaurant that serves a little bit of everything, but I don’t know if a place like that really exists. So I finally settled on a Coney Island.

For those of you who are not familiar with Coney Island restaurants (which most likely means you are not from Michigan), think of the greasiest, fattiest food imaginable. Almost everything is fried. And the prices are so cheap, you can afford to eat 2,000 calories in one sitting alone. These restaurants are generally open 24 hours a day and you can order breakfast at any time of the day. In short, these places live up to the American stereotypes of unhealthy diets and problems with obesity.

Not only that, but they are incredibly patriotic, as the Gillie’s Coney Island site will show. I intend on using their menu in my classes. Sadly, I am now craving a greasy cheeseburger with chili cheese fries.

I can count more than a dozen Coney Islands around the Flint area, and I know there are even more in Detroit. I have so many memories of ordering a grilled cheese with a chocolate malt and chatting for hours with my co-workers at 1 in the morning. When I lived in Flint, there was a Coney Island a block from my house. There was a statue of a cow on the roof, which later was taken down and (I hope) to this day, remains in the parking lot.

Cheddar cheese. Places that are open 24 hours. Driving my car. I’m a little nostalgic today.