Tuesday, September 30, 2003

Long live le Système D

WOW. I feel like I just gave birth. Except, as Meghan reminded me, I wont be stuck financially supporting it and listening to its whining for 18 years.

It looks like we have both an apartment AND a bank account. Let me explain our dilemma...

We went to an agency and saw the apartment that is adorable and cheap and in a beautiful area. We actually found a picture of the building in a guidebook of Strasbourg!!!! SO we tell the agency we want it but they need a check...wont accept cash.

Of course; to open a bank account; you need housing. But no housing without the bank account. Oh la la.

So we went to Crédit Mutuel to plead our case and unfortunately nothing happened. After talking to several people, it was recommended we show our reservation form for the apartment and use the school address. Hooray for Monsieur Peiffer at Credit Mutuel!!! We now each have a French checking account, a cashier's check for the agency, and if all goes well we will move in soon!!!! Hooray.

A couple observations...relationships are so much more important than money in France and I find that so refreshing. We were of the mindset that if we could just get the money to the agency all would be well. In actuality; our agent said that if we got the paperwork in, the money would work itself out. The same with our bank...we are expected to bank there always, the responsable knows us, and personally introduced us to the teller. And if we have problems, we return and all is well.

Of course, Meghan and I think part of our wonderful luck is that we are si charmant...we have made several friends in our hotel, various cafes; stores, and restaurants...we've even been given "drinks on the house".

Special.

Saturday, September 27, 2003

It's coffee time!! Coffee! Coffee! Coffee! Coffee!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Mmmmmmm....espresso. This is where all of my money currently seems to be going. And yes; I DO like it for the taste.

Meghan and I have discovered les grands cafés; which are basically two shots of espresso with milk. Now that I've managed to find artificial sweetner; each café holds a world of possibilities. We walk...do a little window shopping...then one of us "suggests" we stop for un cafe...yesterday I had three within the course of about 4 hours....needless to say I was wired for awhile.

Saturdays in Strasbourg are busy. It seems this is the weekend spot for all the Germans...I swear we heard more German than French everywhere we went. We went exploring the other side of the city and discovered even more beautiful architecture and canals. Most importantly, we discovered the Strasbourg Pompier station....rrrrrrroooooowwwrrrrr....and were fortunate enough to pass by when those buff pompiers francais were all coming back from someplace.

The most bizarre event of the day was some sort of muslim protest in the main square. There was a whole parade marching through the streets, chanting someone's name and waving a flag with some man's face on it...couldn't tell who it was. The whole thing was pretty nerve wracking but we felt much better after we saw the gendarmerie following behind them. That explained our earlier siting of the gendarmes patrolling the street.

On the one hand; it is very cool for me to be in a politically active "big" city. On the other hand; I understand this is a conservative area and there is much tension between the North African immigrants and the French. We'll see how it all plays out.

Tonight we're taking a tourist boat ride around the city. Should be très cool. I finally bought my winter coat at Galleries Lafayette. Hooray! Now I need some shoes...I decided I will own a pair of red shoes before I leave...then I will truly be French.

Friday, September 26, 2003

"This is France...we wear whatever we want..."

So says the proff of my fellow assistante d'anglais, Meghan. The French wear the most amazing and bizarre clothes; and yet they look so good. I want to look like them.

So much to discuss; where to begin?

Well I went out to Lycée Marc Bloch yesterday. HUGE. More students than at SMC. Ultra modern. And like a rat maze. I plan on keeping track of how many times I get lost. The day did not begin so great. I was supposed to meet my English teacher at 11 am....didnt wake up until 11:15 am...D'oh! Then I tried calling to say Id be late and of course couldnt get through...Needless to say I was freaking out until I got closer and thought, "Wait...this is France...everyone is late."

Ran into my teacher at the door and apologized profusely...she was cool...we had lunch; I met the principal, got a quick tour and then....dum da dum! Met my students!!!!! Or some of them anyway. THey did not have that much English and I ended up giving them a lesson on Louisiana history and culture. hee hee hee. I am praying that I had my facts right. But if I didnt the good news is...this is France...they wont tell you that you're wrong.

Everyone was awesome; and I already made a French friend who is going to show me around the city...she is student here or something like that.

Other big news...we may have found an apartment. But we cheated. After wandering around and trying to decipher ads and spending tons of time walking to places that list postings (and spending another 20 minnutes trying to figure out where the door of the building is), we finally decided to go to un agence immobilier...basically a headhunter that charges for their services.

The first place we walked into found us a furnished two bedroom apmnt, right in the center of town, for 500€ a month. Incroyable. We go visit it on Monday, but walked to the building and it is very cute...it has this whole German look to it, latticed windows and everything. So hopefully the inside looks just as good and all will be well.

Now we'll just owe a chunk of change to the agency; but you know what I DONT CARE! Thankfully the "I'm a poor student" attitude hasnt hit me...I am still of the mindset that I am willing to pay someone to do stuff for me. =) And Fortunately Meghan (who Ive decided is my kindred spirit) is of the same mindset. I know that doing all the footwork and calling and searching and blah blah blah would be a great growing experience. But screw that. My HP gives me enough of those already.

Trying to find a winter coat...not having a lot of luck. Not sure if I want to spend the money either. On verra.

We're going to try to do some touristy things this weekend so when all of our good friends come to visit us (!!!) we know where to take you.

Finally, I tried tarte flambée (the specialty of Alsace) last night...mmmm....like a thin pizza with crème fraiche and fromage blanc...mmmmmm....Fromage Blanc.

Wednesday, September 24, 2003

Gingerbread-y and delightful!

That would be my description of Strasbourg. I may never return. What a beautiful city. I cant believe I have never made it over here before.

I got set up with a mobile and we began the housing hunt today. A large giant pain in the fesse if I may be blunt. Oh well. It will give me character right?

Monday, September 22, 2003

Alive and in one piece

In the movie Sabrina, there is a scene in the end where she is asked (after her rejection and buying a ticket to Paris) why she just doesnt "go home." (or something to that effect anyway).

She responds, "I am."

That is exactly how I felt as I landed in CDG this morning, and as we rode to the hotel. I love Paris and it's my second home.

You will all have to bare with me; I have to adjust to the French keyboard again.

So far so good, weve done some walking today, slept off some of the jet lag, and even managed to watch the movie "The Others" in French. The parts I was awake for seemed good.

My biggest accomplishment is finding the store Cumbia, where I used to buy really cheap calling cards to the USA. By sheer luck I found the place and a new and improved card, and I'm looking forward to staying in touch.

Tomorrow we take off for Strasbourg and I'll start getting set up there. I just cant believe I'm here.

More to come...

Saturday, September 20, 2003

Damn you Vengaboys!! And Nextel too!

So I had this whole post written out while I have been downloading CDs and something happened with the CD skipping and it messed up the computer and of course I lost everything.

Let the late night rambling begin.

I have been trying to get the last of my CDs downloaded into iTunes (Bless you Macintosh!) and because I am obsessive compulsive I cannot go to sleep until they are all finished. I'm on the last one.

So Nextel has pissed me off because they wont let me out of my contract even though I only have two months left and I am moving for a job. I'm surprised, because my previous two carriers would let you do that. I tried to work the good ole' French "Systeme D" and explained how I would be returning to the USA in several months and would need a carrier and how much I would love to use Nextel again but would be very dissappointed if they wouldn't work with me here. My plea fell on deaf ears. Grrrrr...

So Nextel is now on my blacklist and should be on yours too. Look out you evil giant corporation...my blog is going to revolutionize the people.

Speaking of giant corporations, I went to the Notre Dame pep rally tonight. The spirit of the Irish is alive and well even taking our embarrassing performance last week into account. Brigid and I made the comment that instead of talking National Championship, we should really just focus on actually winning a game. And getting some offense. And replacing our quarterback. Sorry Carlyle, I love you but you are not a natural.

I also made the mistake of going to the ND bookstore today. I had wanted to pick up some cheap little trinkets to give out to my soon-to-be students. But I of course procrastinated and had to go during the busiest time I possibly could. So after waiting 20 minutes to get through traffic and park, I made my way into Tiffany's & Co. (aka the Notre Dame bookstore) and discovered that even their cheap crap is really expensive.

Lucky for me, however, I managed to find a clearance rack with 2001 ND Women's National BBall Championship Buttons. Hooray! I also found these little decals that were cute but they weren't priced. "How expensive could they be?" I thought. Well, $2 a piece as it turned out. So now I have to find someone to bring them back for me. Yes folks, I'm cheap.

I am wrapping up the packing. I managed to close my suitcase!! Hooray! I got some of those shrink wrap things to crush everything down airtight and had a difficult time closing it. Then I discovered I could unzip this little thing that would expand the suitcase. I did just that and to my delight discovered that now I had room to put more crap in there. So I barely got it closed again.

But overall I am doing MUCH better than I did the last time. Go me.

I can't believe by this time next week I will have been in Strasbourg for several days. I can't believe the adventure is about to begin. But I am getting excited. Bring it.

And now folks, time for bed.

Wednesday, September 17, 2003

The joys of packing

So I started gathering all my belongings today to start stuffing in the suitcase. I even bought some of those Samsonite "shrink wrap" things to make stuff easier to fit...This should make for fun packing and unpacking until I find a permanent place to live. (please note heavy sarcasm)

I've been getting a lot of stuff crossed off the list, but unfortunately I keep adding other things onto it. Damn. And since it looks like I'm keeping the car for the time being, I have to also add a wait at the DMV to renew my registration. Hooray! (once again, please note heavy sarcasm)

I did get to call the jack*** who wanted to buy the car today to tell him I was keeping it. I felt like I was taking some of my power back. It felt goooooouuuuuuuuddddd.... the bastard. (sorry, but he had an attitude and was planning to carry air compressors in the back of my lovely little car. To quote him, "I buy em', beat em' up, and sell em'." I couldn't bear the thought.)

Got something to say???

So I just added the commenting feature to my blog, thanks to the lovely suggestion of one of the other French assistants.

Feel free to say what you want. But just remember that I still wield the almighty power of the "DELETE" button!!! Muhahahahaha!

Tuesday, September 16, 2003

"You wanna use ma stickah?" --CT

Ahh, tonight was my last episode of RWP. Sniff....never fear however. Thanks to the magic of technology, my friend and viewing buddy Pete might be able to have the episodes recorded to a dvd so I can see what I've missed. Mtv is evil...EVIL.

This has been a weird week, not going into work and all. I've been running around like crazy trying to get everything accomplished. My car status keeps shifting....(hee hee, no pun intended). The guy who made an offer on the car keeps lowering it...bastard. So I decided I will keep and see what happens when I get to France. If I am about to go to the poor house and my "suck for a buck" shirt isnt bringing in enough cash, I will look into selling it. Such a mess.

Can I say though, that I have the best friends in the world in South Bend?? Too bad I have to leave in order to figure that out. I have had so many people offering to sell the car, store the car, etc etc etc. Not to mention the moral support. Amazing.

Oh, I got my new GPS cell phone today too. It's so little! Very cute. I am a little bummed that I can't bring my GPS Nextel phone with me but it's probably just as well. It is really huge. And I am tired of these stinging comments such as, "Courtenay, Zach Morris called...he wants his cell phone back." Ouch.

Today I was in Borders writing out thank you/goodbye cards to people and started crying. And I'm still getting over my allergies, so my nose wouldn't quit running either. Oy. 5 more days!!!

Sunday, September 14, 2003

Forgive me father for I have sinned...

Wow. Quel weekend. The immorality began on Friday at my going away party, which started at Simeris and ended at the classy establishment known as the Green Star.

I received many beautiful and memorable gifts, but perhaps none as profitable as the lovely tshirt created by Emily and Jackie, of E&J Productions.

Background: See, way back when, we were discussing a bachelorette (sp?) party, where the bride-to-be wore a tshirt that had lifesavers taped to it. The tshirt proclaimed "Suck for a Buck" and was a nice money maker for the bride.

I commented that this was a wonderful idea...I could make a shirt and wear it out to several bars each weekend and make a killing.

As it turned out, this conversation was doomed to haunt me forever, and I unwrapped just such a shirt on Friday. The lifesavers were of course strategically placed.

My initial embarrassment was quickly overshadowed by the wad of dollar bills that began to fill my pockets. With Lori acting as my pimp, I couldn't help but rake the cash in. And she didn't even try to take a cut of the money! I made off with around $50. Ahhhh...now I know what to do for a side job in France.

You can view all the pictures on my photo pages. I did decide to leave out the "R" rated ones. Sorry. My mother reads this.

Saturday continued with a trip to Chicago with my friends Brigid and Carol for one last hurrah. You can also view some pictures by clicking on my photo pages.

Now I need to get my a** in gear and start packing! I leave in one week!!!

Friday, September 12, 2003

Au Revoir Press Ganey!

Today is my final day at work. Thanks to everyone for making it such an interesting and pleasant two years. Please stay in touch. And I hope you come out to Simeris to party tonight. =)

Thursday, September 11, 2003

It's all winding down...

So today was my department's farewell lunch. A touch of sadness but not too much.

I also had to say "goodbye" to some friends last night I won't see before I leave...sniff....I've been doing pretty well though--only one meltdown so far. And it was fairly short. My excuse is that I'm sick...that always makes things so much worse.

Tomorrow many of my co-workers and I are gathering at Simeri's Tap. Hooray. I'll try to post some pictures.

And sad news on the car front...I may have to sell it after all...too much of a hassle. More to come on that.

Oh, yeah. The Madonna songs on my voicemail. My friend accidentally hit her phone which accidentally dialed my number (twice) and it was located next to her speaker. She must have been listening to that song an awful lot. (Silly Mme Rippee)

Wednesday, September 10, 2003

Madonna

Just checked my voicemail...I had three messages on my cell phone of Madonna singing "Dress you up in my love."

les details se melangent, RWP commentary

Hooray! It looks like I may be able to keep my car (Black Toyota Matrix) after all, which makes me happy. I love her so. I can maybe even name her now--I've held off because I knew it would make me more attached. But she's definitely a she. If you can think of some good names email me. Something French would be appropriate. I kind of like the name Ghislaine...hmmm.

And it looks like I may be able to defer my loans for a year--quite a simple process as it were.

And my school is giving me temporary housing. Plenty o'time perhaps to get settled and find a bargain place to live. At least enough time to get a bank account set up, which is my big priority.

Now all I need are my travelers cheques in euros and some cash and I think I am set. Oh, and I have to drive the car back down to Louisiana. Finding time to do this should be interesting.

So in last night's episode of RWP, the infamous Brice made an appearance. Uncanny how much he and his brother look alike. The people on this show just kill me. Bunch of whiners.

And can I just say that Christina is an idiot? This fact sparked an interesting and deep philosophical conversation through workplace email between my friend Pete and myself:

ME: Christina has rocks for brains.
Pete: Agreed. Christina is incredibly stupid. And she doesn't do herself any favors by opening up her mouth and continuing to say stupid things. If she would just shut up and only say what she knows rather than overextending herself, she wouldn't come off nearly as bad.
ME: I think she is kind of a cool girl but just talks like an idiot.
Pete: She seems cool, and she seems fun to be around. However, I would just hope that her stupidity is not contagious.
ME: I dont know--her roomates don't really provide a good control group.

I realize I only have one more episode of the RWP. Will I never find out what happens??? Will Adam and Ace finally get together? Will Leah and CT hook up? Will Mallory tell off Leah to her face? Will Christina learn how to use big words? Will Simon...who is Simon?

Tuesday, September 09, 2003

Ahhhhh! Allegra!

So, third night in a row I did not sleep but not due to worrying which is the positive. I can't breathe, my allergies are so bad. And the medicine is so %(*@#(*$&@(#$ expensive that I was thinking I could tough it out, but alas, breathing has become too important.

I have finally decided to start keeping a notebook of all the million little things I have to do. I am very much a "write it down on a post-it" person, but now that I have about 30 post-its on my desk I should probably get a better plan.

Monday, September 08, 2003

The Hamster Wheel Goes Round' and Round'

For two nights in a row now I have not slept because I can't stop thinking. Gah! I am wiped. This is my last week of work but I have also remembered it is my last paycheck as well. Not so good. I am slowly coming to the reality that I am once again poor. Oy. The days of comfortable living, 401ks and buying more "stuff" were nice while they lasted.

In other news, college football has started and that makes me happy. I was lucky enough to get to the ND vs. Wash State game. My Irish gave me numerous heart attacks throughout but we were victorious in the end. I uploaded a couple new photos from the game to my pictures page, should you wish to check them out.

I'm still trying to figure this whole picture thing out. I got a free geocities webpage to post them but because I am mentally challenged I cannot figure out an easy way to organize. Perhaps when I am in France I can do something better. Please bear [bare] with me.

Thursday, September 04, 2003

Quote of the Day

"I think simple living is a wonderful idea....I just don't want to do it."

--my friend Brigid, on discussing how poor we were

Tuesday, September 02, 2003

Gettin' ink done, Meetin' the Frenchies, and my brush with the Real World Paris fame

So last Thursday I went for my second tattoo.

I've been contemplating this for quite some time now, but have been too chicken. I had gotten one on my ankle (a tiny fish) about 6 years ago and it hurt like a bitch. In fact, if he hadn't finished when he had, I would have quit and walked around with half a tattoo on my ankle.

Needless to say the thought of another, bigger one (a fleur de lis on my lower back) was a silly fantasy. Until I put a fake one on and saw how cool it was. And then my friend Drevs decided she wanted one too (a Celtic knot). So we gathered a little group and headed out to the Michiana Tattoo Emporium in Niles.

Suprisingly it wasn't too bad...hurt much less than the ankle. And my friend Lori did a great job of distracting me. It looks awesome. Perhaps when it has finished healing I'll put a little picture up somewhere here. I'm sure the French will think it's ridiculous. But I like it and that's all that matters n'est-ce pas???

I went down to Indy this Labor Day weekend to meet the area assistants. It was good to meet up with some other people heading to Strasbourg. After our reunion I went out with some people from my company who just happened to be in Indy as well. And who should I happen to have at my table, but the brother of Brice, the Frommers editor from the Real World!!!! He is married to my friend Lori's friend (how confusing is that?).

I should mention that every Tues my friend Pete and I gather to watch RWP, and then teleconference our friend John in Minnesota. We are hooked on this horrible horrible show. But Pete was recently in Atlanta where Ace and Adam were bartending. And now I have met Brice's brother. We are waiting to see what happens to John.

In other news, I talked to the English teacher at my school yesterday. She was awesome. And is going to look into the school providing me housing. So I think my calls to France have finally been completed. I shudder to think of the phone bill. Hopefully 10 10 987 is not a big scam.

On verra.

Only 9 more days of work to go! Hooray!!