Category Archives: Random

Two Years in France: Un Bilan

By   October 2, 2008

My two year anniversary in France was this past Friday, September 26. I realize I have done a lot  / accomplished a lot / suffered through a lot over the past 24 months in France:

  • obtained 5 Carte de Séjours from my best friends at the Préfecture
  • exchanged American driver’s license for French one and bought a car
  • moved 3 times to other suburbs around Annecy, but never to Annecy proper
  • finished 14 months of being forced to teach British English as an assistant
  • received my American Master’s degree in Linguistics & Teaching ESL
  • got PACSed to my adorable Frenchman and adopted a cat together
  • survived 10 months of unemployment/boredom
  • found a job post-assistantship that I adore

Of course there are some things I haven’t been able to accomplish, like teaching that Americans don’t, in fact, ever say “I speak American” unless they’re being overly patriotic. But I suppose my largest “failure” as I see it, is not adjusting to French culture more. I am just as American as the day I arrived… and considering how un-American I thought I was when I actually lived in the US, it’s a bit of a conundrum.

Do I have many French friends? No. Do I speak French all day? Nope. Do I watch French TV? Oh god no. I do read French newspapers and watch French news shows – but the TV shows I watch are American dubbed into French. Most of the food I eat is not very French. I do not dress like the French because I have no fashion sense. My hair doesn’t even look French because I’m too lazy to get it cut more than twice a year. I will never drive like the French because I want to stay alive. I will always think having 2 hours for lunch is a complete waste of time. And doing the bises is a never-ending source of awkwardness and discomfort for the germaphobe in me.

I agree with the government on health care access and lots of vacation time, but I do not agree with the French idea of focus on the family. I never want to have kids, and so I get really annoyed when people mention that David’s younger sister already has a baby and we don’t. Well, so what? I guess the baby thing is universal though – I’m sure I would get that in the US too – but I just feel that it’s more of a personal attack in France since there are so many government-sponsored benefits for having kids and it’s kind of just expected of couples here.

But you see, every time I disagree with something that is “French” I feel as though I will never fit in here or that the French will hate me because of it. I will always be the strange American girl who thinks sea food for Christmas dinner is disgusting. The rebel who doesn’t want to have kids, but rather cats and dogs. The weirdo who never, ever drinks alcohol, not even wine! ::gasp::

There are a lot of things I love about France; and a few things I hate, which I won’t get into now… But overall, I am much happier here than I was in the US, and not just because of David and my job. I used to say that I was almost ashamed to be American, but I suppose the truth is that I was ashamed of the conservative government that limited human rights, denied science, ignored the rest of the world and favored the rich. I am proud to be American, though I may not say it out loud, because it will always be a part of who I am. But I am also proud to be (hopefully one day) French, even if I don’t feel very French right now.

All Things American

By   September 20, 2008

Mom just sent a package of things that David & I have been missing lately. Now that it’s almost fall, I’m really getting nostalgic for America… and Halloween and Thanksgiving and Christmas. Apparently as soon as the temperature drops, I lump all of those holidays together. Luckily I should only have to work until noon on Thanksgiving this year and for once I have the day after off! We’re staying in France for Christmas, but David claims we’re going to have an American style dinner (turkey, mashed potatoes, pumpkin pie) in addition to the gross sea food. Though I’m still thinking about heading to Europa Park near Freiburg since Germans are as crazy about Christmas as Americans are.

Anyway, here’s what mom sent us:

Root Beer
(for the non-North Americans, this is actually pop, not beer)

Lemonade mix

Easy Cheese, because it’s REAL cheese (ha!)

Big Red gum
(Has anyone been able to find cinnamon-flavored gum in France?)

My kind of macaroni & cheese – and my kind of cooking!

Spiral notebook with LINED paper!

Guess who was the first one guzzling down the Root Beer and spraying Easy Cheese on crackers? (Hint: it wasn’t me.) I also got a 4GB flashdrive and real Chapstick. If only donuts could be sent this way… I did buy some donuts at Auchan last week, but they just weren’t the same. Nobody beats VG’s donuts.

I figured out that in order to send this same package to my parents from France, it would cost three times as much with La Poste. Mom spent $52.50 on 6-10 day shipping because it was 10 pounds, whereas I would have to spend about 110 € for the really slow économique shipping or 150 € for the regular, but yet still slow, shipping. In case you’re wondering why you may be getting feathers for Christmas, that’s why…

Note to mom: we’re running low on peanut butter now that someone likes to eat it with apples even though he originally thought that was disgusting. He’s so Americanized!

P.S. Happy Oktoberfest, Bavaria!

Quick Update.

By   September 19, 2008

ANPE is still harassing me about finding a job. Just one day after sending me a letter saying it was ok that I didn’t go to the mandatory meeting because I had found a job, they send me an offre d’emploi and apparently want me to tell them for a THIRD time that I have indeed found a job. I’m starting to think that place is run by monkeys. No, that’s a bit too degrading to monkeys. I hope I will never be unemployed ever again…

I’ve also been waiting about two months to get one last document from the rectorat so I can complete my lectrice contract paperwork. So far they have ignored every single one of my e-mails (all five of them) and constantly told me to call back “next week” when a different person will be there. Their excuses range from it’s summer so everyone is on vacation to it’s September so everyone is busy with la rentrée. I’m sorry, should I have called before I knew I was hired and needed this document?? ::sigh::

I went to a training session at the university yesterday morning for the new computer labs and I feel like the biggest nerd ever because I loved every minute of it. I hope the students realize how lucky they are to have this technology to help with comprehension and pronunciation. Even just a few years ago when I was an undergrad, we had nothing but cassettes. Either I’m older than I want to admit or technology improves really, really fast.

Fall is already here – I have to turn on my little heater in the mornings – and I go back to work next week. Not so excited about the first, but have been waiting 5 months for the latter!

Not even an hour after I posted this, I received yet another letter from the ANPE. They scheduled me for another mandatory meeting and asked once again to tell them if I have found a job!!!!

Looking to Move

By   August 26, 2008

Because I have always been spoiled by my parents’ backyard….

…I cannot stand living in an apartment and not having a yard of my own. Currently we live in a one bedroom apartment with no balcony. We’re on the third floor, so we have to keep almost all the windows closed so Canaille won’t jump out and die.

We originally decided to live here when David’s sister, Carole, went to Paris. She actually left us the apartment and all her furniture. But after a year, the noise and the people are getting to me and I’m dying to be some place quieter and calmer than an overpopulated suburb of Annecy.

And Carole has returned to Annecy anyway, so she could take her apartment back while David and I find another place between Annecy and Chambéry. The commute to Cluses last year was a bit too much for me and my old car, but Chambéry is not as far and the trains are more frequent. But still, I need the countryside.

I don’t even care how large or small the apartment is; all I want is a terrasse. My own quiet place to relax outside, where Canaille can roam around and chase bugs.  Near Aix-les-Bains seems the logical choice since it’s next to the highway and about halfway between the two cities. If anyone knows of a place there with some sort of yard for hopefully less than 600 € a month, let me know!

L’acquisition, l’avenir et l’argent

By   July 22, 2008

Not much has been happening in my life lately. I looked through the archives to remind myself of what was going on last July. Compared to one year ago, things are definitely much better. I have my residency card (good until May 2009), my French driver’s license (good until forever), and I have a job starting this fall. I still don’t have much money, but I have a feeling that will never change as long as I continue to live in France…

I know I haven’t posted about my job yet, but I will be a lectrice d’anglais at a nearby university beginning October 1st. I’m really excited already – I’ve been missing the university environment and being around linguists who see the value of phonetics in language acquisition. It’s finally forcing me out of the rut I’ve been in lately… not reading or studying anything. We’ve got so many books in our apartment that we need to buy another bookcase, yet I rarely read any of them.

This summer is also giving me an opportunity to be geeky about linguistics for another reason: Mélina. She’s only 3 weeks old, but I’ve already bought her a français-anglais imagier so she can start learning English. I’m going to record myself saying all the words so she can listen to the pronunciation when I’m not around. Children are like little sponges when it comes to languages, but it’s really amazing (and sad) that babies lose the ability to discriminate between sounds that do not exist in their parents’ language at only 6 months. Before that, they are able to hear the difference between sounds of all human languages. Must be nice.

And of course thinking about linguistics and my new job makes me think about the future and what exactly I want to do as a career. I can only be a lectrice for two years total in France (their rule, not mine), so I’ll have to find something else to do. I’m thinking about going back to school and getting a French diplôme either in tourism or translating. I suppose I could do my PhD in France as well, but I don’t know how easy it is to find a university teaching job afterwards. Sometimes I think I’d just love to work in a hotel in the south, so I can meet people from all over the world and speak several languages everyday.

So this is my summer. Thinking about linguistics, the future and my lack of money. A lot has changed in one year, but then again, a lot has stayed the same.

I’m a March hater.

By   March 12, 2008

I hate the month of March because it’s so long and boring and just shouldn’t exist anymore. Nothing important ever happens and the weather sucks. I’m just waiting for my job to be over so I don’t have to waste so much money on gas. I’m tired all of the time because of the commute so I can’t enjoy my weekends and I have no ambition to study French or do other things that I probably should be doing. In short, I’m in a bad mood for all 31 days.

But this makes me smile: NZ dolphin rescues beached whales

Want to be a flight attendant?

By   February 21, 2008

I honestly hate Delta Airlines because they left me stranded in Kentucky a few summers ago and wouldn’t pay for my hotel, but if you speak French and want to be a flight attendant, they are desperate for you! Delta is a part of the Sky Team Alliance, so it’s partnered with Northwest, Air France, KLM, Continental, Alitalia, Czech Airlines, etc.

Delta is greatly expanding international service in the spring of 2008, and French speakers are needed IMMEDIATELY. No other experience is necessary, all training is provided, and the position comes with extensive worldwide travel privileges everywhere Delta flies.

All French-speaking candidates will be fast-tracked, so please begin the process by going to the following web site:

If you are interested, please follow the instructions to begin the application process. We are in the last week of recruiting French speakers, so we will need you to begin immediately if you are interested.

Observations & Questions

By   January 30, 2008

I’m still amazed that students cannot figure out that the American word vacation mean vacances. I know they’ve always been taught the British word holiday, but I thought they’d be able to understand it in context… Apparently I was wrong.

What is another way of saying “What else?” All of my students are getting into the habit of saying Nespresso every time I ask what else. Thanks a lot, George Clooney!

I’m trying to buy clothes from LaRedoute but I’m having trouble figuring out what some of the colors are because there aren’t any pictures. Glycine ? Vert bouteille ? Rose dragée ?

I’ve been playing Le Manoir aux Mille Questions on France5’s site (they’re supposed to be revision questions for elementary/middle school students, but I want to make sure I know this stuff too!) and I came across a geography question asking how many continents there were. The choices were 2, 5 or 6. Umm, I always learned there were 7 continents: North America, South America, Europe, Asia, Africa, Australia & Antarctica. What do French kids learn? There are only 6 continents: America, Europe, Asia, Africa, Oceania, & Antarctica.

This weekend, I watched this adorable Frenchie (left) play tennis against this equally adorable Serb (right) in the Australian Open. I still don’t enjoy watching sports, but I liked listening to the Australian accents and thinking about living in Australia again…

While doing some French exercises online, I found some tests d’entrée for those wanting to immigrate to Quebec. There’s a lot of listening questions, but I couldn’t really concentrate on answering the questions correctly because I kept getting distracted (in a good way) by the Quebecois accent. And then I started thinking about living in Quebec again… ::sigh::

Why does LaPoste charge for “shipping” stamps in an envelope when Amazon can ship me books in boxes for free?

To do list for deux mille huit

By   January 5, 2008

I’m not going to use that R word, but here’s what I want to do in 2008:

  • Read the bazillion books on my (full) bookcase – two finished already!
  • Devote more time to studying languages – back to Pimsleur & podcasts…
  • Immerse myself in French culture a lot more than I have been…
  • Gain some weight / exercise more
  • Buy an automatic car without spending all of my money – still nothing after searching for 3 months :(
  • Try to make more money from my website in case finding a job is impossible
  • Perhaps get certified to teach French abroad
  • Immigrate to Quebec (or move to Lyon and find a job if we can’t make it to Quebec this year)

Take trips to:

  • Strasbourg and Southern Germany (road-trip with David, perhaps in February)
  • Berlin, Prague & Budapest (maybe during April vacation)
  • Montpellier / Nîmes / Arles / Carcassonne in the summer
  • Bretagne & Normandy when the weather is not completely crappy
  • Ljubljana, Split & Dubrovnik (hopefully in September when most tourists are gone)

Anybody wanna travel with me?