Monday, September 26, 2005

Yard Sale

Yesterday Jube and I went to a yard sale. It was more like a church rummage sale, but it was great fun. I bought something that brought be back to my younger years... Sailor Moon graphic novels! It's really funny. I remembered thinking (oh so many years ago!) how I would love to read the original copies of the show I was obsessed with. Then I remembered that the first time I came to France, I wanted to buy new copies of the graphic novels--if only I could speak French! And then yesterday I saw the four novels, and I realized--I do speak French! So today is devoted to the reading of these delightful books. Hooray!

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Virus Blues

I've got the blues. My computer is no longer connected to the internet. It is no longer connected to anything! How depressing! I am in the city right now, at an internet café, trying to figure out how to fix my laptop. Unfortunately Jube thinks we will have to reinstall everything, which means losing all of the pictures we were about to burn to CD. Oh well!

In other news, I watched Peur primale yesterday--that is Primal Fear for all you English-speaking folk. The last time I saw it, I was with hot Boston Robyn, and Jube fell asleep. You might be interested to know that he fell asleep this time, too!

Right now I am in a new internet café. The lovely Oneika brought me here, because she has a hook-up with the owner. The proprieter is an old Chinese woman who speaks broken French. She just left to take a package to the post office--"Wait for me here, faites comme chez vous! I will be back soon!"

Even though I like the atmosphere here very much, I hope that I will have my own internet back up soon.

Saturday, September 17, 2005

Papers, papers...

I have been dealing with lots of papers recently. It all started last Tuesday, when Jube and I headed to the Prefecture. Why Tuesday? Jube starts work at 11:00am on Tuesdays. Since the last time I was at the Prefecture I waited in line for 2 hours just to ask a question, we decided that the fastest way to get it would be to show up early. The building opens to the public at 9:00am. We arrived at 8:00, and there were already about 15 people in line before us. We were waiting at the gates that encircle the bureaucratic complex. We watched hundreds of employees arrive, not even glancing at the poor suppliants waiting outside. At 8:45, the gates opened automatically. The first few in line sprinted to the next barrier while the rest of us followed (without letting anyone pass us, of course!) more leisurely. We waited the final quarter of an hour pressed up against each other. Finally a security guard unlocked the door to the Prefecture, and everyone rushed inside. The most desperate were, like me, the immigrants. The system is:

Open Hours: 9:00am-2:30pm, no one new accepted inside after 12 noon unless with a letter or ticket. How do you get a ticket? You wait in line until you reach the two workers who look at your documents and approve your passage to level two: Actual Contact with those who create residency permits, etc. BUT, if you arrive without a specific document, then you are banished for the day.

So that's why I actually ran down the hallway to the foreign affairs line with the others, as Jube went to make last-minute photocopies. Luckily I had to wait about 5 minutes, in which period of time Jube was able to finish the copies and meet me back in line. When we finally got to the desk, we miraculously had all of the necessary documents and were issued a number, which was called in about five more minutes. So at 9:15, we were free to go, and I had the receipt that proves I can work in France legally.

I was so pumped from the no-tears approach to French bureaucracy I decided to try my hand at actually finding a job! Jube and I went to the Rectorat on Thursday to see if there were any open assistantship positions. Unfortunately, the head of the program was not there, so we left my precious CV, lettre de motivation, and photocopies of my brand new workin' papers and went back home. I admit to a bit of disappointment at not getting a job immediately. We will call soon and harass the program until they give me a position.

When we got home, I received a huge letter in the mail from the Department of Health of the Department of Alpes-Maritimes. More papers! This was a very depressing one to fill out, since I had to admit to everyone that I was sans emploi (that's right: UNEMPLOYED!). I managed to find all of the numbers and references asked for, and I will relinquish my carte vitale in order to get a new one. We'll see how long it takes.

And that was my week in Papers.

Thursday, September 15, 2005


Jube: "Gem, did you know that as I improve at the guitar I start preferring different picks?"

Gem: "Hmm? That's interesting."

Jube: "Yeah . . . I'm getting picky! Hahahahahaha!"

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

The Dream

The other night I had a dream. I was at a soccer match, a match between the French national team and some other country. It must not have been very important or popular, because hardly anyone was in the stands. In fact, at first I thought it was a practice! I somehow was seated right next to the soccer field. There I was, rooting for France*, when what should happen? Coupet**, the goalie, was injured! Since Barthez**, the original goalie, is still suspended for spitting on a referee, there was no backup! What could la France do?

Thank goodness for Zinedine Zidane**! The captain of the team knew exactly how to solve the no-goalie problem: Call on Gem! That’s right. Zizou looked up in the stands and saw the American answer to his prayers. I was rather flustered at first, since the last time I played goalie was as the counselor of a summer camp (I totally blew those 10-year-olds out of the water!), but I was up to the task. I entered the game hesitantly, and managed to save quite a few attempts to score. Since (even in my dreams) I am not a very experienced player, I let three balls escape me. But the rest of the team supported me and we still won!

At the end of the match, Zidane approached me, shook my hand, and congratulated me. He announced over the stadium microphone that I deserved the most praise of all the players since I was very inexperienced. The crowd cheered me and the team lifted me onto their shoulders! As I was carried around the field, I couldn’t help thinking, “Le Pacha will be so jealous! He will be so surprised to see me on television!” And then . . . I woke up.

This was the dream that made me realize just how immersed I am in French culture.

*Thanks to le Pacha I know lots of soccer cheers:
Allez les bleus!
Et un!
Et deux! Et trois zéro!
Allez Pai

**I remember the days when I didn’t know who they were . . . ahhh, quelle naïveté!

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Our New Home

Our new villa is right next to a preschool, a “maternelle.”

“No problem,” I said to Jube, “We’ll just see some cute little kids when we catch the bus.”

“I had to observe a maternelle class last year, Gem,” he told me. “Every time they have recess, they scream for the whole hour!”

Nahhhh, it’s not that bad. I don’t hear them at all. I’m sure they do all scream, but not at the same time—until the school bell rings to summon them back inside.



Seriously! I thought the Rolling Stones had just arrived onstage or something!

No big deal. There is only one recess in the morning, one at lunch, and two in the afternoon. . . . . . . . . . . . .

Monday, September 12, 2005


I have been smelling lots of perfume lately. It started in Eze when we discovered that there was a Fragonard factory that gave free tours nearby. Of course we had to go! Beau-père was charmed by our guide and bought some men's eau de toilette for himself; le Pacha bought his amoureuse a small tin of "solid" perfume, and belle-mère bought her friends rose-scented eau de toilette and shower gel. The perfume is not made at the factory in Eze, where they specialize in beauty products and soap. It seems that they only employ "jeunes filles," since all the tour guides and workers were pretty young women.

Perfume Museum

A few days later we headed to Grasse, the biggest perfume-town in France. According to my Hachette guidebook Provence Côte d'Azur, Grasse produces two-thirds of the perfume in France. My Fodor's France 2005 says that even Dior and Chanel produce their famous scents here, but that they do not have tours. Since we couldn't tour these famous factories, Jube and I (without the belle-famille this time) toured trusty Fragonard again. This time I wanted to hear the tour in English, although I had understood perfectly well the Eze tour in French. We waited an extra 15 minutes (which was pretty hard on Jube!), and finally a Fresh Young Thing announced the start of the Engrish ranguage tour. Jube, Gem, a young American couple and two older British women joined her. We discovered that she herself was not a native English speaker--she was Japanese! It was quite fun to hear her cute accent, although the British women couldn't understand everything. We saw some old drawings of perfume makers from the 19th century, and even then Fragonard employed jeunes filles! The women, in their long skirts, tossed flower petals onto rendered pig fat in the drawings (the job used not to be as glamorous as today!). Quite an enjoyable time was had by Gem, while Jube tried hard to understand the guide's accent.

Friday, September 09, 2005



Two weeks ago Jube and I explored some nearby towns with his family. We had a good time except that the weather was not very agreeable, rainy and gray. We left in the morning and explored Vieux Nice (sorry I don't have any pictures!). I was amazed at how crowded and touristy it was compared to Montpellier. I imagined that the two towns would be similar, since they are in the South, but they are different in many ways. The stores sold gelato, fresh pasta, and lots and lots of pizza, which made us all realize how close we were to Italy. Montpellier has a medieval center, but Nice (although older, having been founded by the Greeks) seems much more recent, with colorful facades, higher buildings, and painted churches. I'm sure I'll have more time to explore, and take pictures!

The next town we visited was Villefranche sur Mer.

Villefranche sur Mer

Villefranche is only about five minutes away from Nice, and you get there by following a road with a spectacular view. The small village includes a port, where we saw everything from small fishing dinghies to huge cruise ships. There is a long public beach and a charming centre ville set a bit higher on the mountainous terrain.

Eze's Only Fountain

After Villefranche, we headed up the mountain to Eze, a "perched village" (
village perché). Belle-mère was a bit daunted by the climb in the car, and even more so by the hike on foot once we arrived! The donkeys at the top of the post are found at Eze, and apparently if you have a room at the luxury hotel there, they will carry your bags for you. It is a gorgeous village, and there is certainly a beautiful view, but we didn't see it because we didn't want to pay 4€ for access to the "jardin exotique." When we were there, we saw lots of well-dressed American and French women walking through the narrow streets complaining about their high heels on the cobblestones. When we visited the church we discovered that there was a wedding! Belle-mère was not charmed--"If I knew someone who was getting married here, I wouldn't go! Imagine making your guests climb that mountain!" Then she looked at us and said, "If you two get married there, then I will come." I'm very glad that she changed her opinion for us . . .


Finally we ended up in Monaco. We weren't sure that we could go in, since I had forgotten my passport and Le Pacha had left his national ID in Gallargues, but we figured that they couldn't stop everyone. And it seemed like they didn't stop anyone! Since it was raining by this time, we took a self-guided tour from the car, and then drove back to Nice. Monaco was definitely the least charming of all the towns we visited. Isn't that too bad? An entire country dismissed by Gem as "not very charming." Well, it wasn't! Jube took this picture of a luxury yacht that was parked (anchored?) in the harbor. We saw zero fishing dinghies here!

All in all it was a tiring but very enjoyable day of sightseeing. If you come to visit me, maybe you could enjoy it, too!

Wednesday, September 07, 2005


Before I talk about the daytrips around Nice, I wanted to share my apartment with you. This is Gem's personalized tour Just For You. I want to emphasize that we have a normal apartment, nothing very special. Until you realize it's like a Where's Waldo book, but with guitars (Où se trouve la gratte?).

clean wardrobe

First, a picture of the beautiful wardrobe that Jube's family repainted for us. Doesn't it look nice with the Provence-style fabric and vase? What do you think you can find inside this dainty piece of furniture, clothing? Non-perishable food items? (Check out the left side of the picture. Do you see that blurry black shape? It's a "well-hidden" guitar. It might give you a hint as to what's inside.)


That's right. The stereo system, a boxed set of Metallica videos, and (not pictured) Jube's drum machine. Let's move on to our next example...

computer desk

The computer desk! A little bit messy, I admit, but don't you think there are a few more wires than normal? That's because...


Oh look! Something extra Jube added to the laptop to listen to his guitar! The problem is, now you can't hear anything from the computer unless you wear headphones. Next!

right side of sofa

The sofa. You can see, cleverly hidden behind the lamp, the second of Jube's three guitars. But hey, it looks pretty much like a futon. No big deal--right?

left side of sofa

Wrong! There is Jube's recording studio. I wanted to set up the furniture in this room a different way, but Jube didn't like it because he didn't have enough room to play the guitar. So we changed it.

Since meeting Jube, I've learned two languages: French and Guitar. I can now hold my own in English conversations that would have bored me to death four years ago. My new vocabulary includes:

Humbucker (NOT a hamburger joint)
Single coil (NOT a kind of snake)
Effects (in a different way than I previously understood the term)
Amp and Pre-amp (which I, also, thought I understood before)
and other more ambiguous terms (neck, (solid) body*, bends, etc.)

I can also name 10 guitar brands, 5 amp brands, and 20 guitar heroes without much hesitation. I know this because Jube actually tested me the other day.

I am a lucky, lucky girl!

*I have to admit here that I made a mistake in my Guitar vocabulary. I wrote "hard body." Jube wisely informed me of this instead of posting a comment disparaging my skills.

Monday, September 05, 2005

Bits and Pieces

Last weekend, the belle-famille came to visit. Jube and I had been living in our apartment for less than a week, so I was surprised when he told me we would “show them around.” I had no idea about what to show them in Nice, besides the Mediterranean and the Promenade des Anglais. Luckily, Jube had a plan. We visited Old Nice, Villefranche sur Mer, and Eze Village on the Thursday before his family arrived, so we would know where to take them. When they arrived, belle-mère and Jube went out to the supermarket to buy food, although she had already made a tajine au poulet et aux abricots secs (not a traditional French meal, something like couscous with chicken and dried apricots). When they got back to the apartment, I discovered that she had bought a complete meal for me to cook for them. Any ideas of what it was?

Hamburgers, with mushrooms and onions. I have completed the fast food industry’s second step in its domination of the French market: families that previously had no desire to eat hamburgers as a real meal are now craving them for dinner! (Well, at least one family now does.)

I will be posting about our sightseeing trips as soon as I have the pictures for them. Right now I'll just leave you with the thought that I am becoming a '50s housewife (Jube says 1850s, in fact). I do not say this to imply that I am actually doing any housework besides cooking dinner and occasionally washing dishes. I mean that I am utterly, totally, completely dependent on Jube for my spending money. Recently I have made him pay for:

a prescription
postage for a letter to the US
a card for one of my relatives

What's more, he leaves me bus fare when he goes to work. I hope that soon I will have my own job!!

Saturday, September 03, 2005

I'm baaaaaaaack!

That's right. Sherlock Holmes famously said that when you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, is the truth. The only conclusion I can gather is that Tele2 have actually provided us with internet in less than three weeks! Last time it took three months! I am very happily tapping away, late at night, no worries about time or money forcing me to make mistakes. All the mistakes I make are now all my own.

Nothing much has been happening around here lately, or so it seems, until I look back on it. Jube and I have done quite a bit of sightseeing, including Antibes, Eze, Fillefranche sur Mer, Monaco, Grasse, and (of course) Nice. I bought a gift for my cousin who is getting married in about a week. Jube found out where he will be teaching--a very nice lycee in the center of town. And I have to write a cover letter to the Rectorat to convince them to let me be an assistant again. Here's hoping! Between then and now, Jube and I have to head to the Prefecture where I will wait in line for two hours only to find out that I forgot a bank statement from December, 2004 and will now be banished from France. Well, probably not banished from France, just from the Prefecture for the day. French bureaucracy is a favorite topic of American expats living in the country, which is why I'll try to avoid talking about it. Let's just say that in Montpellier, they managed to make me cry twice, and I had all of the necessary documents with me both times. No tears yet in Nice... we'll see how it goes.