Category Archives: Random

Sunny Easter Day in Annecy

By   April 12, 2009

I even got sunburned a little while reading out in the yard. But first we played with Mélina. I’m not a particularly baby-friendly person (I know virtually nothing about babies except for the fact that I do not want one), but I make an exception for my niece.

I only speak to her in English, so she always looks at me weird. Or it could have been the sunglasses.

She was playing with David’s cell phone, but then became more interested in my camera. The more expensive it is, the more fun it is to drop on the ground!

David trying to get her to walk. She’s only 9 months old. When do these babies normally start walking? And when will she start talking so I can teach her zee English?

Take your time, France. This isn’t that important.

By   March 30, 2009

Apparently David will know around April 20 which city he is assigned to for work. Since he’ll be in Montpellier until June 12, and he’s supposed to start work June 15, we need to move before the stage even begins on May 25. One little problem – even though David just found out he will become a fonctionnaire and need to move, we still have to give 3 months’ notice to our landlord. Normally if it’s a “mutation professionnelle” you are allowed to give only one month notice. But since David is resigning from his CDI on April 30 and because he’s changing sectors or whatever, it doesn’t count.

So we have to pay rent through June, unless we can find someone to take the apartment. We are still going to move at the beginning or middle of May, but pay rent for that entire month. And then we hope someone else will be here for June so we don’t have to waste money on two apartments. Needless to say, I’m a little annoyed and a lot stressed. I can’t do anything yet to prepare and it’s driving me crazy.

The not-yet-definitive/could-be-completely-wrong list of cities for the positions are: Strasbourg, Caen, Nantes, Dijon, Lyon, Chambéry, Digne-les-bains, Toulouse, Chateauroux, Nevers, 2 postes à Paris et 3 en région parisienne (Versailles, Cergy, Bobigny). But since there are 12 people before David, who knows if he can get Chambéry. I will seriously cry if he is forced to go anywhere near Paris.

Only 5 more days of work before spring vacation…

Learning the Départements of France

By   March 29, 2009

After a 6 month break, I finally got David to do some more recordings for the French tutorials. We finished up French VII and sections on education, politics, television, geography of France, etc. There are a lot of games online you can play to test your knowledge of the geography of France, but I hadn’t yet seen any flashcards or any that include pronunciation. So I decided to make some audio flashcards for learning the départements and their numbers as well as their régions.

Département Flashcards: Name + Number (Part 1)

Département Flashcards: Name + Number (Part 2)

Département Flashcards: Number + Name (Part 1)

Département Flashcards: Number + Name (Part 2)

Département Flashcards: Name + Région (Part 1)

Département Flashcards: Name + Région (Part 2)

One of these days I’ll get around to adding more sets, especially to include the préfecture of each département. And I’ll probably have to add Mayotte if they vote yes today to become the 101st département! (Their status as an overseas département wouldn’t become effective until 2011 though).

I also added an RSS button to the top of each page, for those who want an RSS feed of the updates of the entire site and not just the blog. I hope this will inspire me to work on my website more often. I have a ton of plans (like the American English, Teaching French, and French Conversation sections…), but it just takes so much time to write and format each page, especially if I’m working with a bunch of sound files. I hope to focus on my site a lot more this summer when I’m not traveling.

Cat in Couette

By   February 17, 2009

For the second year, we’ve had a technician come to verify that the chauffage au sol is actually working, and sure enough, they tell us everything is fine. Then why is it only 14 C / 57 F when we get up in the morning?? I seriously think the (main) reason why I don’t like living in France is the lack of heat indoors. There is a maximum temperature for the chauffage au sol so if your apartment is too hot, you have a legal right to complain and get it fixed. But if your apartment is freezing cold, too bad for you. There is no minimum temperature.

This was the lovely radiator that could heat our entire apartment in 5 minutes, before it decided to stop working. Canaille really liked it even though he has 4 pounds of fur to keep him warm.

But I guess that’s not enough, because he crawls into the couette to keep warm.

But sometimes he and his fat belly don’t seem to mind the cold.

(This is what happens when I’m stuck home all day because of the snow.)

It has been a while. (For me, anyway.)

By   February 13, 2009

I suppose I’ve been too tired and sluggish to do anything on my site or blog since we still have no heat in the apartment. It’s been snowing most of the week too, so double yay. I also recently discovered that the building where my office is located on campus does not have a heating system either. The entire building. Three floors of classrooms and my office. Am I the only person who thinks this is crazy?? Every time I walk past a class in that building, the students are shivering in their seats with their coats on. I feel so bad for them. And this means that I can never use my office since it’s hard to type with numb fingers.

Wednesday evening began my 11 days of winter vacation. So far I’ve done nothing but finish up lessons for my various classes for the rest of the semester so I will be tranquille later on in March when I know something bad will happen. Let’s face it, something bad always happens in March and it stresses me out and makes me curse the fact that the month even exists. Hey, remember last March when my car broke down on the highway on a Friday afternoon while it was raining and snowing? And remember how I had to pay 1200 euros to replace the engine? Man, that was awesome.

Though perhaps the strikes and manifestations happening at other French universities will catch on at mine so I can have a longer vacation, or time off in March… I wonder if that was the plan all along… So far, my classes haven’t been affected, though I do have a lot of absences. But I think my students just like to skip. But hey, when you can retake the final exam and retake the classes even if you fail miserably, why not?

Anyway, since I’m always working at my computer, I decided to move my desk because I was tired of being in the dark corner. Now I’m in front of the window so I can always see when the dark clouds full of snow are approaching.

So what is on my desk? My computer, a book, and a cat.

P.S. A lack of heat and sunlight makes me incredibly cranky.

Not much has changed.

By   February 7, 2009

I keep spending too many hours online searching for a new place to live in the countryside and for that perfect PhD program that I can apply to in a few years. The problem is that I don’t know where we will be moving to this summer, so it’s impossible to actually find a new place. And I don’t know how long we will be in France, so there’s no point in looking at grad schools in North America when we may not go there soon. Plus it’s really hard to find a PhD program in French that will let me focus on pedagogy and linguistics instead of literature.

I’m still feeling frustrated and helpless and restless. I haven’t even bought our tickets to my sister’s wedding this summer because I don’t know where David will be working or how much vacation he will have (or even which airport we should fly out of.)  Even though I only work 3 days a week, time is going by fast in some ways and slow in other ways. It’s already time for me to write a lettre de demande de renouvellement motivée so that I can renew my lectrice contract for the 2009-10 school year. Winter vacation starts in one week, during which all I plan on doing is finishing up the vocabulary lessons for the rest of the semester and working on my website, which is what I do every weekend anyway.

The lousy weather and the fact that our electric radiator just broke is putting me in a bad mood again. I know it’s still February, but winter is dragging on too long. I want spring more than anything right now. I want a new apartment. I want David to find a new job that doesn’t pay him a ridiculously low salary. I want to have some idea of what my life will be like in 2010 instead of constantly wondering and worrying.

Maybe I’m just jealous of friends who are moving to new apartments and starting PhD programs this fall.  I want that. Right now.

P.S. What are people’s opinion of PhD programs in France? If I do manage to do an M2 next year, and we do stay in France longer than expected, I’d like to try doing my doctorate here in didactique des langues. I’ve always been told that American Master’s degrees are worth much more than French ones, but what about PhDs?

Thoughts and Ramblings

By   January 18, 2009

I’ve only worked one day in the past thirty, and it has given me a lot of time to think, contemplate, and get bored and frustrated. My first semester as a lectrice d’anglais ended just fine, and then Christmas came and went along with my homesickness, and lately I’ve been reading and cleaning a lot since I have nothing else I need to do. Maybe it’s because I’m used to working way too much, but I really don’t like having so much vacation – especially since it’s not really vacation when I don’t actually go anywhere or enjoy it. I’m saving my money for this spring and summer, and the weather here is too bad to actually go outside and do anything. I’ll take freezing temps and snow over chilly and rainy any day. And sure, it’s nice to still be paid even when I’m not working, but I’d much rather be working!

I’ve also been checking apartment ads almost daily because I’m seriously fed up with where we live. But who knows when we can actually move or to where. Everything depends on David right now and the results of his concours, which we won’t know for months and months. I just know that something needs to change. I’m hoping it’s mostly the lack of heat in our apartment in addition to the boredom, but I have been really tired and cranky lately and I hate it. I’m constantly complaining about living here, and being poor, and basically everything about France that drives me crazy. I’ve always known that I wouldn’t like living in France, but I did it anyway because I thought it would be better than in the US. In some ways, it is; but overall, I know in my heart I would prefer to be in Canada. I’m still trying to make immigrating to Quebec happen, but it feels like an uphill battle that I may never win.

So I go back to work tomorrow for the beginning of another 12 week semester. I’m interested to see how many of my students actually remember what we did in semester 1 and if anyone really learned the IPA.  I’m feeling more at ease in the job, learning how everything works (or doesn’t work) at French universities, and I’m excited to be able to use my office during breaks this semester. I think I went there about two times last semester because I was rarely on campus outside of my classes. I may even check out the library and the gym, as soon as I figure out where they are… This is another reason why I want to move closer to my work. I feel so disconnected from the school and my co-workers because I’m never there.

While I adore my job, I would like to work more so that I can earn more, but that’s not really possible (regardless of what Sarkozy says). I know my job will end in September 2010 and that it would be a temporary job from the very beginning. I suppose all of my previous jobs were that way as well, and for someone who thrives on change, I don’t understand why I’m now yearning for something more permanent. I’ve never wanted to do the same job, day after day, because it’s too boring. And that’s probably why I like teaching so much – it constantly changes, with each new student and new semester and new material… I could completely rewrite a course if I wanted to, completely change how the students learn and what they learn. Except I can’t exactly do that until I have my own class. As an assistant and even now as a lectrice, I’m still not completely in control and a part of me really wants that.

Perhaps it’s also the fact that I’m turning 27 this year that makes me feel that I should have something more concrete in my life, like a career or even a house. I’m tired of feeling that my “real life” has yet to begin. And I’m tired of feeling like my real life cannot begin until I leave France. I can’t say with any certainty that things wouldn’t be better in another part of France. Maybe it is just Annecy. Maybe I can find an amazing job somewhere else in this country. I just don’t know. I’ve always thought that teaching French at a university was the only career I would want, so I need to do a PhD in French. But maybe just being able to use French and other languages everyday would make me happy. The tourism industry seems like it wouldn’t be too boring, and France receives a ridiculous number of tourists every year. But would I regret not doing the PhD? Or would I regret trying to do it in France and not North America, which is where I would like to teach anyway?

So I guess I’m trying to make peace and find acceptance with living in France for now. It still amuses me to no end that so many people think living in France is a fairy tale. It’s no different from any other country, though I do have to admit the health care is pretty awesome. Think about how many Americans say it’s their dream to live in France and here I am trying to get back across the ocean. People think I’m crazy for wanting to leave, but it’s not that I hate France, it’s just that I miss North America too much. I used to think that I was a big failure for not absolutely loving everything about France and Europe, but you know what? It’s just not for me. End of story.

Sony Reader, how did I live without you?

By   January 16, 2009

I spent all day Thursday playing with my Sony Reader. And I do mean ALL DAY. If anyone else is thinking about buying one, here are some helpful hints:

  • I have a ton of scholarly journal articles in PDF format that I wanted to read on the Sony Reader. It is possible to read them, but the font is a bit small. Sometimes the zoom function doesn’t work well with PDFs since it basically reformats the flow of text, but you can also hold down the zoom button for 5 seconds, and it will change the orientation of the page to landscape, which makes the font slightly bigger (you will have to hold the Reader sideways, of course). I haven’t had any problems reading my PDF files so far!
  • I did have a problem with the metadata in PDFs though. When authors of PDFs save their files, sometimes they don’t fill in the title and author fields in Properties. The Sony Reader uses this information to store the files (by title or by author). So if these fields are missing, or if these fields contain something else (the file’s location, the file’s actual name, etc.) it will majorly screw up the list of “books” on your Reader. And of course, unless you have the full version of Adobe, you cannot change this information. However, I found a program called BeCyPDFMetaEdit that does allow you to update the Metadata for PDF files. I have been able to change the titles and authors of all of my journal articles, except for two (because they were password-protected.)
  • The actual Sony Reader format for books is LRF (also called BBeB book). You can use a program called Calibre to convert files to this format, but it didn’t seem to work well for my PDF files, so I have just left them all as PDFs. Also, it will not convert image-based PDF files. Calibre is designed to be a “complete e-book library solution” so you may like it better than the eBook Library Software that comes with the Reader.
  • If you want to make your own “books” for the Reader, it will also accept EPUB, TXT, RTF and unsecured DOC formats. The Word documents will be reformatted to RTF files for you during transfer, so you must have MS Word on your computer. Personally, I’ve just been using OpenOffice to create my own PDF files (with a font size of at least 24 so it can be easily read without having to zoom), but the text-based files obviously show up just as well.
  • You can also play audio files with extensions of .mp3, .mp4, .m4a, .mov, and .qt (you must listen with headphones as there are no speakers). It is possible to read a book while listening to the mp3, so it may be useful for podcasts. You can also view pictures with extensions of .bmp, .gif, .jpg, or .png (in black & white, of course) and you have the option of turning on a slideshow.
  • The internal memory is 210 MB, and you can also use PRODuo and SD memory cards if that’s not enough space for you.
  • There is no back light, so you must have another source of light (remember, it’s just like a real book!)
  • If you buy the Reader before March 31, you can download 100 free classics from the eBook Store for free. Granted, these books are all in the public domain and so they are free anyway (through Project Gutenberg), but they’re already in the LRF format and specifically designed for the Sony Reader. There are 930 books to choose from, including a few political documents, such as the Constitution of the US and even the Patriot Act!

If anyone has other questions about what the Reader can do, let me know.

Sculpture of European Stereotypes: Get angry or just laugh?

By   January 14, 2009

A Czech artist, David Cerny, was supposed to lead a project to create a sculpture to represent all 27 member states of the EU, working with an artist from each country.  Instead, he worked with two of his friends to produce a sculpture that shows a (usually insulting) stereotype of each country, because he wanted to see if Europe could laugh at itself. Or because he’s a jerk, I can’t decide.

France is depicted as just an outline of a country with a banner saying Grève (strike) written on it. Oh, how utterly clever and original.

Spain is a bunch of concrete, Italy is a soccer field, Germany is full of highways, Denmark is a bunch of legos that look like the infamous Muhammad cartoon, Luxembourg is for sale, the Netherlands is flooded and full of minarets, Belgium is a box of chocolates, Sweden is an IKEA cardboard box, Romania is a Dracula theme park, Bulgaria is full of Turkish toilets, and Poland has Catholic priests raising a gay pride flag. The UK is missing from the sculpture, supposedly because they’re too eurosceptic – but look who’s talking Czech Republic!

Spiegel has a photo gallery if you want to see more of the stereotypes. It doesn’t include all of the countries though, and now I’m intrigued as to what they look like… And I wonder how Cerny depicted his own country?

Restless in Annecy

By   January 4, 2009

I think I’ve decided to do a Master’s in France starting this fall. I should be able to start with an M2 and just do one year of coursework and then write my mémoire. It will be extremely cheap compared to North American tuition, and I’ll have a research paper in French to bolster my PhD applications to Canadian universities whenever we decide to head there. I should have plenty of free time to work on my degree considering that I only work 13 or so hours a week during the 12 week semesters. And we’re planning to move closer to the university this summer so I don’t have a 40 minute drive everyday.

I still need to talk to the professors and make sure I can start with the M2… but I think it’s (almost) decided. I just like having a definite plan about the future. Not knowing what will happen at the end of 2010 is a little unsettling to me. I know we’re barely into 2009, but I always look ahead. I always need to be prepared, especially financially.

And I am a little tired of feeling like life here is temporary. I resist making close friends, or buying things for the apartment, because I don’t want to say goodbye and get rid of all those things when we leave. And how many books do I still have in Michigan? Should I attempt to bring the rest of my stuff here, or leave it there for when/if we move to Canada?

For years I thought it didn’t really matter where I lived, as long as I was able to travel when I wanted to. I need to be able to go to Michigan for Christmas, and visit Montreal in the summer, and explore other places I’ve never been before. But then I remember how much I hate the act of traveling (well, flying) and how wonderful it is to just get in the car and drive somewhere. And if Michigan and Montreal are the places I want to return to most, I need to be on the right continent first.

Lately I suppose I’ve just felt restless and helpless because I can’t make things happen right now. We have to wait until spring to see what’s going to happen with David’s job. We have to wait until summer to move. I have to wait until fall to start my Master’s. I have to wait until 2010 before I’ll have any chance of knowing where we’ll end up for good.