Friday, October 31, 2003

The best things in life are free...but you can give them to the birds and bees.

So. I got PAID today! Hallelujah! Rent has been paid. Crisis averted. Until next month.

I must say I am quite dissappointed that none of you have given me ideas for "other" employement. Kudos to Carol for at least reading my post and being able to recite plusiers lines from the musical.

In case your ideas are still flowing and you have been waiting to be hit with inspiration, I will accept your submissions on a rolling basis.

In the meantime, I am launching my freelance writing career. And already have my first job! (sort of) This afternoon, as I was sipping my thé à la framboise in Patissier Bohn, and trying to figure out what sort of announces I would write for private English lessons and such, I was hit with the brainstorm of translating/editing marketing pieces and the like into English as well.

I ran back to the apartment, clicking my heels along the way. Then, this evening, I saw an acquaintence who, mind you, knows nothing about my former career or my afternoon brainstorm, and he asked me if I could help him translate a large document he has been writing into English.

Ping!

So I took this as a sign. Look out world, here I come. And let me just put out here, for the sake of connections, that I am looking for any sort of writing work. That pays. Doesn't necessarily have to be well though. So tell your friends, and have them tell their friends.

What else...other random news, I called the Migration Office again today to get an update on my medical visit status. They will not schedule it again for another 3 weeks. BASTARDS! The good thing is I don't have to have the residency card to get paid. But I am stuck in the country. Chiant. Although there is a remote possibility I could leave...I have to look into it though.

On verra.

Alas, it is evening and I must dormir. Goodnight moon.

Bad Apples

Four of them, to be exact. I decided to be adventurous and buy some different colored ones. I knew I should have stuck with Golden Delicious. Merde!

Thursday, October 30, 2003

How we gonna pay-ay, how we gonna pay-ay, how we gonna pay-ay-ay, this year's rent?

I saw the musical "RENT" my sophomore year in college. I went to NYC with the band to play at the Men's Big East bball tournament. Even though the team sucked, I got a free trip out of it, and got to see the musical while it was still in its prime.

I went to see it with my fellow trombones Kyle (grandpa), Becky, and of course the unique and infamous Hannigan.

The soundtrack is wonderful, and has been running through my head the past few days. In fact, on the way back from Bretagne, I listened to it on my iPod for several hours.

I am going somewhere with this, I promise.

Here goes--

How prophetic that this music about poor starving artists unable to make ends meet has been in my head the past few days, because my rent is due by November 5th, and neither I, nor my roomate have been paid as of yet.

And, in the typically French way, there are all kinds of different "informations" on what paperwork we needed and by when to get paid. And, if we did get everything we needed in and on time, there is still no indication of what date we will be paid. So basically we're hoping those crisp euro bills will be deposited in our empty accounts soon, but no one really knows.

And, even more funny (in one of those sick, "that's not very funny" kind of ways), every assistant I have spoken with has said, "How am I going to pay my rent?"

So, trying to lighten the situation, I thought it would be fun to have a little contest and take suggestions on "side jobs" I can do (under the table of course) to make some extra cash.

Suggest away by posting your comments. Be creative. Make me giggle. Here is your chance to show your spirit of entrepreneurship...or however that's spelled.

The winner will recieve glory and that is all.

Wednesday, October 29, 2003

Random Thought

So after posting my pictures from Nantes, I realized that I spent all day Friday in Paris and took not one picture. Is it a bad thing that I walked right past Notre Dame and didn't bat an eyelash? Or that I saw the Eiffel Tower and thought, "Eh." Kind of freaky.

Hmmm. I think I need to start exploring new cities. Sure would be nice to have my carte de sejour so I could leave the country. But oh, wait, I need a medical visit for that don't I?

I'm not bitter or anything.

Oh, and dramatic events going on at my mother's school. There were death threats against teachers and students written on the bathroom wall. Surprisingly, my mom, "MacBitch" to her students, (because she is a Mac junkie as well) was not on the list. Thank God for that. But dramatic nonetheless.

Click
  • here
  • to read about it.

    New Pictures

    So I put up a few pictures from my excursion to Nantes. Feel free to have a looksee. I unfortunately am not as camera happy as I have been in the past and thus did not have that many to post. Ah well, such is life.

    So tonight I managed to lock myself in my room. I shut the door really hard and then couldn't open it. Thank God I have two doors.

    It is rainy and yucky in Strasbourg. I went out to run errands this morning, came back for lunch, and decided I didn't want to face the elements again.

    I have decided though, it is time I "get involved" in the life here. Must meet people. Tomorrow I plan to head to CROUS to look into taking classes at the university. I also want to go to the "Maison des Associations" and look into fun clubs and such. Hooray for active community living.

    I had a "moment" today with French bureaucracy...I have been waiting for my doctors appointment with the Office of Migrations. This appointment is necessary to get my residency card, which is necessary for health insurance, leaving and returning the country, and other such "minor" details. I have been trying to call forever to check on my appointment because I never heard anything from them. And yet no one ever answers the phone.

    So I finally get through today and apparently my appointment was on Monday. I'm so glad they told me about it. They sent the stuff to my school and somewhere along the way there was a communication gap.

    The lovely fonctionnaire at the migration office said they would reschedule the appointment. So I'm sure they will send it to the school and it will get lost again, or it will arrive before our vacation is over, and I'll try to to call the office and never get through. GAH!

    So that was sort of the straw that broke the camel's back. Tears were shed, gros mots were exclaimed.

    But in the end, still happy to be in France. These "moments" will come and go I suppose.

    For any of you reading this that care about me, I would love to receive some "real mail..." hint hint....It would so brighten my day to get something other than a bill in my little mailbox.

    Anyway. That is all for now I suppose.

    Tuesday, October 28, 2003

    Cream + Butter + Cheese = Shortened Lifespan

    Why oh why does everything that tastes so good in France have to be so bad for you?!

    I just spent a lovely extended weekend in Bretagne. We ate poisson with cream sauce...we ate fromage and pain complet...we ate quiche lorraine...we ate gallettes with butter...

    No matter how hard I try to eat the same stuff I do at home, I just can't help but incorporate "the real thing" into my diet. Yet I do so much walking that I don't gain weight. Quel phenomenon.

    In any case, food aside, I spent a wonderful weekend in Bretagne, going to open air markets and the beach. Such a beautiful place.

    I also had a brush with French fame, running into MC Solaare, the celebre French rapper, at a little salon de thé in Nantes. Of course, I had no idea who it was and went back to my table and told Veronique that some news camera was on the other side of the restaurant. So Louise and her little friend got his autograph. I'm a little jealous I didn't pretend to be a big groupie too. Even if I've never heard his music. (Incidentally, I have heard it now and really like it. So i'm even more bummed.)

    I also watched "L'Auberge Espagnole." You must all go out and rent this. It is AWESOME.

    It's good to be back in lovely Strasbourg and have the rest of the week to piddle. When I get a chance I'll upload some of my pictures to the site.



    Thursday, October 23, 2003

    Enfants, Tex-Mex, and à plus tard Strasbourg

    I love French kids. I have been reflecting on this over and over since I arrived. Last night we went out for gallettes and this little kid about 2 years old peered over the shelf at our table. We smiled and waved, and he said "Bonjouuuuurrrr..." How cute is that? Well, while I was thinking about his cuteness, he proceeded to grab my glass of water and pour it all over the table.

    Then I remembered how thankful I am that I have no enfants at this point in my life. But I certainly do like other peoples'. And his parents felt so bad they bought us coffee...always an easy easy way to become our friends.

    Being sick of choucroute and tarte flambee, we ate tex mex tonight. Who knew the French would venture in this terrain? It was actually (surprisingly) quite good...their salsa rocks my world. MMmmmm...salsa.....

    Tomorrow morning I am heading out to the west side (wes' side's da bes' side) of France to the lovely city of Nantes. There I shall rencontrer my dear dear friends Lionel, Veronique, and their daughter Louise. But first I plan to pass the day in gay Parreeeee. I am hoping for nice weather, because if it rains I will have to go shopping. (it's a hard life, I know)

    I am looking forward to exiting this little Alsatian town for a few days, especially because as of late it has taken to being really rainy and cold. Blah.

    I shall return Monday night and update you with pictures and stories.

    A bientot!

    Wednesday, October 22, 2003

    New York F-ING City!

    School is going very well. I like teaching, and one of the English proffs told me her students said my class was "trop bon." hee hee!

    So one of my exercizes was to give them some really bizarre pictures and have them describe the people in them, give them a name and profession, and make up a story. One class in particular, full of 14 year old boys particularly enjoyed the class, once they understood what we were doing. (But Meeez Verrray, ow do you knooow er name eeees Monique???)

    Well one of the pictures featured two freaky people, one of them wearing a shirt that said "New York F-ing City." The F word was covered up somewhat, however, so I figured they wouldn't notice.

    Well I didn't give my students enough credit. It wasn't long before I heard the F word coming from the back of the room. It amazes me that they can barely spit out a complete sentence, but can say the F word perfectly and sans accent. Wow.

    So they all got my best "teacher glare" and shut their mouths. Then they made up a fantastic story.

    It is so freaking hard to be the adult and not burst out laughing at these kids. They crack me up. And I love walking down the halls hearing "Allo Meez Verray, Ow ah yu?"

    I'm thinking next time I should take pictures of the people with the pink couch and have my students describe them. Incidentally, as an update on the pink couch...because it has been raining the couch is no longer there, but the freakos with the chains continue to drive us nuts. Last night they had a drum. I want to stick their heads in it and beat it as hard as I can.

    Yea! I have internet access!

    So we are finally hooked up and running with Wanadoo, part of the ever growing monopoly of France Telecom's telecommunications service. But nonetheless, I am happy to support this mode of capitalism as I am too lazy to go to my school every time I need to use the internet, and too cheap to pay a cyber cafe.

    Now I just have to re-learn the american keyboard.

    Thursday, October 16, 2003

    Origin of the Pink Couch

    Eureka! We have discovered from whence this mysterious pink atrocity comes. Last night after it suddenly appeared, we decided to stand guard at the window. Our persistence paid off, because we saw them pick it up and carry it to an apartment building down the street. The mystery is solved.

    In addition to the pink couch; they are also twirling chains of fire. Yes, you read correctly. They have these big chains that they are lighting on fire and twirling around. Like fire batons. Like twirlers at a football game. Except these people are scary and aren't wearing sequins.

    I happened to be on the phone talking to Oz at the time, who pointed out that we could then call the pompiers if they lit themselves on fire. Yes; this might have its advantages.

    Wednesday, October 15, 2003

    All the latest...

    So much to tell. First, the best news is that we are officially and FINALLY in our new apartment!!! HOORAY!!!!!!!! We are furnished with the bare minimum right now; but many of our fellow teachers; etc have volunteered to lend us furniture, pots, blankets, etc. Who says French people hate americans???

    Meghan and I no longer know what to do with ourselves; as this is the first time in a month we have not woken up together. Let me clarify...we have had to share a bed in the hotel. The first night we kept our doors open so we wouldn't feel so far away.

    I have updated my blog with some new pictures of both our living quarters and the city of Strasbourg. Enjoy.

    The apartment is lovely. In a wonderful area. To quote the description from our agency, in an area "animé." We didn't realize just how animated it would be. There is a group of kids and a mysterious pink couch that appear from time to time, usually at 3am, in the center of the square, generally right under our window. They also have a dog that is psycho and likes to bark quite frequently. And they like to play loud music. Sleeping has been interesting. But the couch is always gone the next day. I'll be sure to keep you all posted.

    Other things are going well. The puce bites are almost gone and I am entering into my second week of teaching. I'm liking it. And my kids. Although I am scaring myself with my teacher-like mannerisms that seem to come so naturally. Phrases such as, "Would you like to share with the class what's so funny?" and, "I'm not going to ask you again to be quiet," and "Do you want me to separate you two???"

    Yeeeeeeeeeeesh........

    Sunday I went on a 14km hike through the Vosges mountains with the teachers from Meghan's school. It was quite fun. Beautiful weather and beautiful scenery, and lots and lots of French practice...complete with a debate over whether to stop and eat lunch or continue up the trail to a restaurant that served coffee. Ahhh, les français...

    Other than that, things are plucking along nicely. I love having my own place. And my own refrigerator. And my own room. And a view of the pink couch.

    Saturday, October 11, 2003

    Counting Down...

    Three days until move in...please let them go fast.

    Our trick is going to be storing all of our crap...our meeting isn't until 4 p.m. Monday...so we have to ask the lovely hotel Ibis to put it somewhere for us. Don't know if that's going to work or not. We shall see.

    Today I discovered the game of Rugby. Big buff guys in short shorts running around knocking into each other. You want me to watch a match? Twist my arm. It's good that I like it because it is currently impossible to watch anything else.

    Other news, tonight is the meeting of the international coalition...we are finally getting together with some of other assistants...americans, bolivian, german and random french others. Hooray for tapas! (a bit of spain in france)

    Tomorrow we are going hiking in the Voges (sp??) mountains.

    Friday, October 10, 2003

    Hooray for Socialized Health Care

    It's soapbox time. Feel free to quit reading now.

    Those of you who know me well are quite aware of my largest political pet peeve...and many of you share it. What is it, you ask? Health care and insurance the poor not being able to afford to get sick.

    So today I went to the doctor to check out my puce bites. One of the secretaries at my school recommended him to me, and when I called for my appointment I had mentioned her name.

    Well we arrived today and it was a very tiny office with a small waiting room. No receptionist, no nurses, no signs posted everywhere saying, "you must pay in advance," no one asking about our insurance cards and co pays and HMOs and preferred providers.

    We just sat and waited for about 30 minutes. As one patient walked out, another would walk in. So when it was our turn he greeted us and took a look at our bites. We explained what we were doing in France and he said "Oh, you must not be covered by social security."

    We told him we would be within the next couple of months and that we had private insurance. He just smiled and kept investigating the puce bites...gave us a prescription, told us who to write to and wished us a good day.

    I asked him how much we owed and he smiled, shook his head, and said "Next time."

    How UN-AMERICAN is that? And I love it. How nice is it to see a doctor who doesn't have profit before people at the forefront of his mind.

    Granted, I'm sure the systeme D came into play as well, given that we knew his friend. And I know that no system is without its problems. But even still.

    Vive la France and it's health care system, which is, incidentally, #1 in the world in access to care and coverage.

    Thursday, October 09, 2003

    Ahhhh....teenagers.

    Well, putting the whole puce fiasco aside for a moment, today was my first full day of teaching. Here is the main conversation I had in almost every class:

    Me:What do you think of when you hear about the United States?

    My Students: Le MacDonalds!!!!

    I was also asked about our lovely president dubyah and the war in Iraq. Many many times. In fact I felt like I repeated myself so many times today but in fact it was in 4 different classes so not really...

    So far no big discipline problems other than talking. I will have one class that is full of boys (oh teenage boys) and that should be QUITE interesting.

    And I have to say my favorite class so far is the applied arts students. It is very small and they seem interested in learning.

    I could really get into this teaching thing. My mother will die.

    What I am really hoping to do is erase the negative power hungry image of the United States. Wish me luck.

    Other random good news, I will move into the apartment on Monday! Hooray!! And I continue to meet more people, including our spanish teaching assistant from Bolivia who is awesome. Meghan and I plan to have an assistant posse gathering this weekend.

    Well. I am tired. I must go. Tomorrow I see the doctor to learn more about the puce bites!!!

    Oh, and one last thing: the cafeterias in France serve fried fish patties and overcooked vegetables, just like in the United States...(blech).

    Wednesday, October 08, 2003

    And another update...

    So I thought I had published my update the other day but apparently not. So here is the second update on life in Strasbourg.

    I went to school yesterday to get my schedule; didnt say anything about the puces. I was filling out paperwork and the secretary saw my arms and asked what happened so the whole story came out. She flipped. Then got another secretary to show her and she flipped. Then the proviseur came in and they told him and he looked at me in horror. They insisted I go to a doctor and started calling all these agencies trying to figure out who I need to complain to. One of them said; "This makes France look very bad."

    So that makes me feel better. We shall see.

    Other good news...today we signed the apartment lease and we move in on Monday. Still later than I want. But better than not at all.

    In the meantime we are still at the lovely Hotel Ibis and are happy to be in clean clothes and sheets. And our adventure has made us quite creative, coming up with cute quips like "our traveling flea circus" and the celebre flea bag motel. We had decided our apartment needed a mascot awhile back. We had originally thought of a stork, because that is the bird of Strasbourg. So fleas aren't what we had in mind, but we thought if we found a cute stuffed one we would buy it.

    I start teaching on Thursday. I am only working two days a week.

    Life is so hard non?

    Monday, October 06, 2003

    Puce Update

    So. We have changed hotels. And have washed all our puce-y clothes. As far as my bumps are concerned...Let us just say that I am grateful it is winter because I can wear big scarves and long sleeve shirts. YUCK. I went back to the pharmacist to get better/stronger medicine today because I cannot stop scratching and he looked at me in horror. He thought I had chicken pox. My bites are much worse than Meghan's, although she has had self control and doesnt scratch.

    Told the man at hotel about it and he said it was probably something we ate. Bastard. So we left. We are now at the lovely Hotel Ibis that actually has a tv and a TOILET in the room!!!!!! What luxuries!!!

    We talked to the realtor this morning and she has given everything to our landlord...we just need to hear from him. Please send numerous prayers to God, Jesus, Jehovah, Allah, Buddah, Ganesh, Mercury, anything you can think of that we can move in SOON.

    On another brighter note, we had doner kebab yesterday. Mmmmm....nice change from the chocroute and tarte flambee. The only problem is you can't go into one of these places without being sexually harrassed. But the food is so gooooooud.

    Anyway. This is all for now.

    Saturday, October 04, 2003

    Two Words: HEEBIE. JEEBIES.

    So Meghan and I woke up this morning only to discover that we had encore de red bumps all over. My neck and arms are covered. We made a little trip to our local pharmacie only to have our worst fears confirmed: "Oh la la! C'est des puces! Mais oui, c'est des puces, vous etes bien piqué, il faut quitter la chambre. Oui, il faut quitter la chambre immediatement."

    Rough translation: We have flea bites.

    Eww ewww ewww ewww EWWWWWWWWWWWWWW!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    So we bought some cream to stop the itching and both wore turtlenecks. Then we bought a big can of flea spray and covered the room. The good news is we did at least switch rooms yesterday but we are worried we've carried them with us. Now we have to tell the concierge they have fleas. How exactly does one approach the subject of fleas with the hotel?

    We feel bad because they have been so nice to us, but.....EWWWWWWWWWWWWW!!!!

    For the love of God; can we just move into our apartment??????!!!!

    I spoke to my friend Lionel who is our guranteor (sp) and he said he spoke with the agency several times on Thursday and they should have everything. Keep your fingers crossed. We are calling first thing Monday morning. We might have to break the damn door down.

    Our next project is to find a laverie where we can wash everything we own. Oh what a huge gigantic pain in the ass!!!!!!!!

    Friday, October 03, 2003

    Bed bugs, fleas, spider bites?

    So Meghan and I have discovered over the last two days that we are covered in red itchy bumps. Where they are coming from we don't know. But it gives me the heebie jeebies none the less.

    We have to get out of Hotel Patricia and into our apartment. Still no word on when we can move in. Hopefully soon. The hotel made us switch rooms today. Bad news is it's on the third floor and there is no elevator; hence we had to take what we needed out of our huge bags and leave them downstairs in a closet. Good news is we get better phone reception and hopefully this room will not cause us to break out in a rash.

    On a lighter note; the shoe gods called me today and I answered. The French have as many shoe stores as boulangeries, yet I have been unable to find anything that tickled my fancy until today. Hooray!

    Other good news, I may have my first independent tutoring gig. I popped into the MAC store the other day and bought a few things and chatted with one of the girls that worked there...then I went back for something yesterday and she asked me if I would give private conversation lessons. Hooray!

    I am ready to start working. My teacher should have the schedule made up this weekend. I need some kind of structure.

    Wednesday, October 01, 2003

    Bisous...

    So I had my first "kissing on the cheek" experience last night. I can never remember how many times you're supposed to do it...as it turns out; it depends on where in France you are. In Paris; three times. On the west coast; four. In Strasbourg; two.

    I went out with my new French friends...Christelle works at my school and is also a student and offered to show me around town etc. So I met up with her and her friends Arnaud and Rachelle. Very fun. and very very good for my language!