Saturday, December 31, 2005

Guest Post

This is the legendary BB with a guest entry. A lot of Gem's friends met in Erie, PA for a wedding of a mutual friend. The reception for the wedding starts in about an hour and I'm going to try to hook up with one of the bride's maids. Wish me luck!

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Back in the USA

I know, I know, no post for 3 days, but I've just been so busy!

Quick summary? Busy relaxing, eating, watching movies, and visiting Virginia tourist attractions. In fact, I multitask--I can relax, eat, and watch a movie all at the same time! On Saturday, Jube and I arrived after an epic plane trip to a warm house with baked potatoes and broiled steaks. On Sunday we toured Luray Caverns, where we got to hear "real rock music," played by an organ with mallets that strike stalactites. On Monday we saw King Kong, and today we went to Border's. In depth? See below.

Epic Plane Trip: About six weeks ago, our travel company called to tell us that our flight was cancelled. Refund? 3-4 months. In fact, all itineraries leaving from Montpellier were cancelled. Could we leave from another city? Oh well, I suppose that we could swing things so that you can leave from Marseille. At 6:00 in the morning. That means you have to wake up at 3:30am? Well, you'd better choose this way or your whole trip is cancelled. We accepted this without (much) complaint and showed up at 5:30am at the train station of Marseille the day of the trip--only to find that the SNCF had no record of our ticket. We had to buy last-second tickets up to Paris to catch our flight, then wait in line for an hour to get boarding passes, then wait for 20 minutes in a security line. Then we waited for another half an hour to take off, since the ticket counters were so backed up. (And a female security officer patted me down, randomly, I suppose: Je vais vous controller, mademoiselle.) Arrival in the US was much better than expected, since Jube came through immigration almost as fast as I did. When we got home, we ate good food and went to bed soon after.

On Sunday, we woke up and my mom decided that we would visit Luray Caverns. When I was young, I adored visiting the caverns! The magic had worn off slightly this time, but we still had a good time listening to our guide's southern accent (he called the caverns "cavruns" for the entire hour). That evening we ate barbecue and watched French Kiss. I was really disappointed this time around because I noticed easily that Kevin Kline has an accent when he speaks French!

Yesterday we spent the morning deciding which movie we wanted to see. My mother and I wanted to see Pride and Prejudice, while my brothers favored King Kong--and Jube wasn't enthusiastic about anything, besides enthusiastically against Pride and Prejudice. We ate Mexican food for lunch and then went to see King Kong. Boy oh boy was that a long movie! For dinner we ate sushi and lobster bisque. Yum.

Today has been even more low-key than the others. We went to Border's in the morning where I read Glamour; then we went grocery shopping. Jube and I are going to cook dinner tonight--rougail saucisse. Yum. If anything interesting happens this week, I'll be sure to let you know!

Sunday, December 18, 2005

24-hour Trip

I'm sure everyone's been dying to know how our trip went. Well, we arrived safe and sound at Dulles about 19 hours after we left Gallargues le Montueux the day before. Yes, there were some travel issues (including buying on-the-spot train tickets), but we finally ended up in The Plains, Virginia. That's it for now--more to come!

Friday, December 16, 2005

I'm So Excited... And I Just Can't Hide It!

I'm serious, no excitement hiding from me. There are a little less than 20 hours between my wake-up tomorrow to drive to Marseille and now, and less than 8 hours before we leave for Montpellier (and over 24 before we actually arrive in America) and I just can't wait!!! Last night I cleaned out the fridge because I was so excited; this morning I woke up at 5:45 and set off the alarm early (7:15) so I would have an excuse to get up. I had a really weird dream that was a cross between the Disney version of Robin Hood (with the snake that gets drunk) with a weird swan who thought I was hot. That's bizarre.

I got an e-mail from my friend BB today, who gave me his number and told me I could call him whenever. I told him that he just acquired a stalker, but I don't know if it was a joke or not in my current mood . . .

Anyway, I'm going to go check my bags again, and I'll see you on the other side!

Thursday, December 15, 2005


Today in my group class at France Télécom, I showed Bend it Like Beckham because they had begged me for examples of an Indian accent. None of the students had heard of the movie, and they really enjoyed it, although we were interrupted by an unscheduled video-conference call in the middle of the movie. (Alo? alo? Est-ce qu'ils parlent anglais? Mais on n'est pas chez France Télécom?)

Afterwards, we talked about the penchant we Anglo-Saxons seem to have for nicknames. If you don't remember, in Bend it Like Beckham everyone has a nickname. The main character is Jess (Jesminder), her friend is Jules (Juliet), her sister is Pinky (real name unknown) and her brother-in-law is Teets (Teetu). When I thought about it, everyone I know has a nickname, and many of them use their nicknames instead of their real names. I started remembering how on the first day of class, the teacher would call role, and we would tell her how we would like to be called. This doesn't happen very often in France; usually a French person will have a childhood nickname, but they drop it once they go to school. I asked all of the students what their childhood nickname was, and they were all pretty basic:

Cricri (Christine)
Cripoulette (Christelle)
Maya l'Abeille (Maya the Bee)
Lolette (Laure)

The best, though, was Sylvie. She explained that she had a wetnurse as a child, and this wetnurse was from Germany. "My wetnurse thought I looked just like a doll, so she called me poup
ée [doll] with a German accent, Poupie."

Unfortunately Poupie sounds exactly like Poopy. I did my best not to laugh, and I didn't explain what "poopy" means in English--but from now on, I'll always wonder what her German wetnurse really thought of Sylvie . . .

Workin' Hard for the Money

Since Jube and I leave on Friday for our long trans-continental trip, we have had lots to do this week: we have to pack, wrap gifts, make final (last-minute) purchases, and do laundry. This is already enough to do in one week, but we also have extra work--Jube has conseils de classe and I have extra hours for a man who wants to brush up for a job interview. We've been arguing about car use--I need it to get to work, but Jube hates to take the bus in the morning because it adds about 45 minutes onto his trip. I've been waking up early and dropping him off in town before heading out to Sophia Antipolis, which makes me grouchy since I lose a few hours of sleep (petty petty Gem!). Plus, for the laundry, we have to do it at night (after 8:00pm) to save money and energy, and then we have to hang it up outside. It's cooooold outside at 10:30pm (yes, it takes 2.5 hours for our old washing machine to finish its cycle). Luckily everything dries by the next night, so we are theoretically able to do one load a night.

Are you bored yet? You're still reading?

That's good, because yesterday we had a few hours of respite from our household chores, and instead decided to run errands! We went out yesterday to exchange Euros for dollars, rent Bend It Like Beckham from the video store, and buy some special rum from the store. We finished the first two of these tasks and drove into town to buy the rum when we saw the Christmas Market. There was a huge Ferris wheel, an outdoor ice-skating rink (the temperature yesterday was in the 50s . . .), and the traditional little stands with local products. Jube and I looked at each other, and decided to spend a little time at the Market. First, we rode the Ferris wheel. It was around 5:00pm, so the sun was setting, and we saw the sea and the city bathed in a beautiful light (poetic enough for you?). Afterwards we watched some kids skating in the rink and took a tour of the booths. I had some amazing cheese at the Franche-Compt
é booth, but it was too expensive so we didn't buy any. Instead we shared a gaufre à nutella (a freshly ironed waffle smothered in nutella) and walked slowly back into town towards the supermarket and home, where more laundry awaited us.

Saturday, December 10, 2005

Was he really only talking about skiing?

Time for another anecdote about le Pacha!

The last time the belle-famille came to visit, it was for Thanksgiving. On our drive down to the city, we can just see the snow-capped peaks of the Alps. (The region where we live is called les Alpes-Maritimes, or the Maritime Alps--we have the mountains and the sea all in the same place.) Beau-
père absolutely loves skiing, as do his sons, and Belle-mère puts up with it tolerably well--she also enjoys skiing, but she takes time to visit the restaurants and shopping in the resorts.

ère hadn't started his annual obsessive checking of the weather at their favorite resort, Pralognan la Vanoise, but when he saw the snow, he hopped right online. The conversation at the dinner table was centered around skiing, about which slopes (pistes) they wanted to ski, what classes they wanted to take, and what they wanted to eat at the different restaurants. Le Pacha was particularly excited about retaking a class with a particular instructor who taught with a particular brand of Système D, or the school of hard knocks.

"You start off on a red slope, and by the end of the day, you're on a black one!" he enthusiastically told us. "J'ai vraiment envie de me taper la noire!"

Jube, Belle-m
ère and Beau-père burst out laughing, and I joined in a few seconds later as his unintentional double entendre registered in my mind.

He had just said, "I can't wait to do the black diamond," or,
"I can't wait to get a piece of the black girl!"

Thursday, December 08, 2005

I'm Comin' Home . . .

For Christmas.


I don't know if I've mentioned it on here before, although I know I've talked about the New Year's Eve wedding I will be attending. It's in Pennsylvania! I'm going to be visiting a town I've never been to before! Besides that, I will be opening lots of little presents at Christmas. The Christmases I've spent in France were really fun. La Belle-Famille is very welcoming, and I have experienced all the French holiday traditions: escargots, oysters, the cr
èche under the tree, the TV bloopers on New Year's Eve . . . But nothing compares to my childhood memories of stockings, fireplaces, the crèche on top of the TV, and our traditional Christmas Eve dinner of coldcuts and Californias.

I also absolutely love unwrapping surprises, which just can't happen in Jube's family. Everyone knows what they will get, and they only get one thing. That's fine if you want one big present--but I also love unwrapping my mother's practical gifts. We always receive toothbrushes, deoderant, and underwear, although she stopped giving feminine hygiene products after one ended up in my brother's stocking (he was extremely disappointed!). Jube doesn't understand that I want a surprise for Christmas. Every year, I try to give him hints, but he doesn't remember them. By the end of November, he is actually asking me outright what I want, and if I don't tell him, he gets upset. I know that Jube really loves me and cares about me because he can't stomach the idea of giving me a gift I might like only a little bit. But I like the surprise just as much! [Of course, he has also seen the home videos of my 10-year-old self almost breaking down in tears on Christmas morning because my step-father gave me clothes! It was a really good idea, but badly timed--one year later and I would have been overjoyed. And of course it was all caught on camera . . .]

In order to go back to the States, I had to get my papers in order. That means: a trip to the Prefecture. Ugh. In September, I had received a récipissé allowing me to work, and expiring in December. I was told to come back two months later to pick up the permanent resident card. I waited a bit longer to give them more time, and made the decision to venture back today. Yesterday we called them to make sure we knew the opening times. The first time we called, we were told that they were open between one and two pm, but "why are you asking? The times are written on the récipissé." Uhh, no, they weren't. We decided to call back again to clarify this, and were given a totally different response: "You are not to come back unless you have received a convocation in the mail." By this time, I was ready to cry and I hadn't even been to the Prefecture yet. It didn't seem to be shaping up as the best bureaucratic trip ever.

We arrived at around 1:15pm, and waited in the relatively short (!) line
. When it was our turn, I opened my mouth to speak, and this came out: "Bonbonjour madadame, je mumble mumble carte de séjour mumble mumble a pas recu une convocation mais mumble mumble." Jube looked at me, horrified. He quickly took over and explained that all we wanted to do was pick up my resident card. No, it wasn't ready yet, but they extended my récipissé, which is just as good (except that it means we have to go back in another 3 months). I couldn't believe myself--even if the Prefecture experience isn't bad, I manage to create my own problems. After that harrowing linguistic experience, Jube got his international driving license with no problems, and we came back home. I just want my family to know what I went through for them. Maybe they can buy me some presents to make up for it!

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

joueur de bande

I have been working at France Télécom for about two months now on a 40-hour contract (called a mission in French--I love saying "I have a mission at France Télécom"). The building is "secure," meaning that I have to ring a bell for the secretary to open the doors for me, and wait for someone to let me into the work area. My students were very surprised to find that I use actual audio cassette tapes for their listening activities, and not CDs, and so I have to ask the secretary for a tape player.

On my first day there, I realized that I didn't know the French word for "tape player." I knew the French for CD and DVD player, lecteur CD/DVD (CD or DVD "reader"), and VCR, magnetoscope, but not tape player. I decided to go with lecteur cassette audio, or "audio cassette reader." The secretary didn't seem to understand for a minute, but then said "oh!" and got me a tape player. This happened for the first 4 weeks, and I assumed that everything was going well and I had guessed the right word.

Last week, when I asked for the lecteur cassette audio, she seemed put out. "You'll have to ask Christian for that," she told me. "Oh, no, wait, he's not here today, is he? Well, I'll see what I can do." She called another secretary in the room, and asked her for a magnetophone. That's right, not a lecteur cassette audio, but a magnetophone. So for a whole month I had been asking for an audio cassette reader, and instead of correcting me the first time, she just let me go with it. Now I know better, and I asked her for a magnetophone today (because Christian is hardly ever there). She is very nice otherwise, and she probably was too embarrassed to correct me after the first time she heard it, so she came up with a novel way of demonstrating the right word. Thanks, France
Télécom secretary!

EDIT: Jube has informed me that we can use lecteur cassette as well as magnetophone. Good to know!

Monday, December 05, 2005

What a Weekend!

Artsy Carlton

Wow! After the weekend I just had, going back to work (on my long day, too) actually felt like a break!

Last Friday, we were woken up by next-door-neighbor/mother-from-hell's screaming at her children. We attempted to bang loudly on the wall, but it seems very thick and solid. She must really have a thrash-metal voice! Friday afternoon, it rained and rained and rained. It rained all day long; when I headed home at 3:00pm it hailed! Then, back at the apartment, we cleaned, since le Parisien and his girlfriend were due to arrive the next day at 9:00am. Unfortunately for them, the 14 hours of rain had flooded the airport, so they arrived late, around noon. They came back to the apartment and we ate lasagna, and then we headed out to be tourists.

We toured le Site de l'Ancien
Château again, and then we visited Vieux Nice and the newer Pedestrian Zone and the main shopping street, Avenue Jean Médecin. Le Parisien loves to shop, so we went in to almost every store we saw. Then, we ate dinner in town at a Japanese Steakhouse, "Zen." It's the kind where they cook everything in front of you, and le Parisien fell in love. The cook catapulted pieces of shrimp into our mouths and cut lobster tails with such amazing dexterity that le Parisien called about five of his friends to describe the action.

Afterwards we went to a bar with live music, the Thor. It was rather smokey, and there was a drunk "dragueur" who would dance to all of the songs and play air drums in between hitting on any woman he saw who wasn't holding on to a man. I had my hand in Jube's all night, and the Lisper was pressed up tight against le Parisien to avoid his advances. We saw Oneika, who told us about her latest news, and le Parisien was very charmed--"You must have fun with a girl like that around!" was his summation.

We woke up relatively late on Sunday and went to Cannes. The weather was wonderful, but since I was still very tired and my feet were killing me from our Saturday afternoon/evening, I was in a bad mood. We had fun walking the Croisette, though, and took some photos of the Carlton Hotel (see above).

After lunch, we went to Monaco. Yes, yes, I know that I said Monaco "wasn't very charming," and I wasn't too thrilled about going, but it was le Parisien's vacation, so we went. And once we got there, we went up to the old part of town, where the palace is, and were very pleasantly surprised! It is, in fact, a cute little village, with a huge (and beautiful!) aquarium/oceanographic museum, a cathedral, and of course the Princely Palace. Le Parisien bought tons of postcards to mail them with Monegasque stamps. Jube and I were standing in the middle of the central place when an extremely short motorcade came by--one police scooter, one expensive black car, and another expensive black car following it. That's right--I saw Prince Albert!* At least, I'm pretty sure it was him . . . I saw a bald man in the back of the second car.

Le Parisien was so busy writing postcards that he didn't see the prince. He took such a long time that Jube and I were reduced to making fools of ourselves right outside of the palace, in the hopes that Albert would come out to watch. Here is a photo of Jube en train de faire le con:

Monaco Cannon

You can see the lower, "uncharming" part of Monaco in the background. Then we went to the grocery store (exceptionally open on Sunday's for Christmas!) to buy shrimp for le Parisien's famous carry crevette. Yum!

*I was listening to the Riviera Radio morning show on the way to work the other day, and they had Prince Albert as a guest. I was amazed to hear that he has a perfect American accent--and then kicked myself! I mean, come on, I'm sure Princess Grace didn't speak with some weirdo European accent with her kids at home . . .