Sunday, May 28, 2006

I Understand If You're Jealous...

This morning, at 11am, I went swimming in our pool. I decided to go in the morning because the sun was shining, and I figured there would be less children than after lunch. There was one woman tanning by the side of the pool, and no one in the water. I had the whole clear blue pool for myself. I had even put in ear plugs to avoid the nasty swimmer's ear, and I spent about an hour enjoying the water and the fresh air. (I am such a good person, to exercise early on a Sunday morning like that!) Yes, today is May 28, and I spent all morning in the pool. For an Ohio girl, that's pretty darn cool!

Thursday, May 25, 2006

a little taste of vacation

Since Jube and I both have Thursday off, we headed out to our favorite réunionnais restaurant, L'Arum. We ate really good food, and had unexpectedly strong rum-based drinks for the apéritif (un ti' lapéro de la Réunion, anybody?). We stuffed ourselves until our stomachs protruded a bit, and when we quieted down for digestion, we could overhear the conversation at the table to my left.

"No, silly, it only works if x is variable here!" said the woman.

"But I don't get it, if we have to subtract 12%, how do you come up with 5 kilos as y?" said the man.

Laughing, the woman replied, "Well, you take 10 kilos, and then..."

Jube and I looked at each other and tried to disguise our amusement by talking in English.

When we left the restaurant, we started the walk to the car. On the way, we passed lots of teenagers out for the night. We crossed the street and saw a man calling up to a friend's apartment. "Shhhhhhhh! Fred! SHHHHHHHHH!" I thought it was kind of weird that he was trying to get Fred's attention by shushing him out on the street, but when I lived in Spain I discovered that to get a Spaniard's attention on the street, you have to hiss--"psssst!" So maybe this was the French version, I thought.

I was proved wrong, though. As we passed by, the man turned to us and asked Jube, "Excusez-moi, but do you know how to whistle?"

I struggled to keep a straight face as Jube showed off his whistling skills, which really are not the right kind for getting someone's attention--just for whistling songs. The man smiled and thanked us, anyway. When we reached the car, we heard a piercing wolf whistle. He must have finally found the right person.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006


Today, when I got home for my 4-hour work break, Jube had already arrived. Since he didn't expect me, he looked surprised and happy--and suddenly worried. "Oh no!" he said, "I already started the pasta and I'm sure it's already finished and there's not enough time to put more in for you!"

Not a big problem, eh? He told me about his morning--he had left his keys in the bus and only realized when he boarded the next bus. Luckily he found them again. Then, before he caught the bus back to the apartment, he had some time to waste. He headed to the fnac, where he walked around and looked at all his high-tech dreams. "And I bought you a gift!" he told me. It's a CD that I've wanted for awhile.

"How nice!" I said. "How did you know which one I wanted?" (I didn't think he would have remembered the name of the disc, since it wasn't one of my favorite bands or heavy metal.)

"Well, I couldn't remember. I had to whistle the song to the salesman."

"No, really? And he recognized it?"

"He couldn't remember what it was, although it reminded him of something. And then another customer heard me and told us what it was. And that's how I found it," he said, laughing.

My other surprise came this morning: my Friday student told me she wasn't coming in, and I realized that tomorrow is a day off (Ascension). How lucky I am--my weekend starts tonight at 8 o'clock when my class ends.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006


Last Wednesday morning, just after our alarms went off at 7 o'clock, our phone rang. It was Beau-père, calling to tell us that Pépé had died late on Tuesday night. The funeral was scheduled for Friday morning, so Jube took a day off of work and took the train out on Thursday. I cancelled one of my classes so I could be in Montpellier on Friday afternoon. The weekend was rushed, and since I arrived after the funeral mass and burial, everyone was ready to make jokes. Le Parisien and his girlfriend had driven down the night before, and all of Jube's cousins were there, including a Marseillais who called himself "Brice de Nice" because of his new, long, blond haircut.

While in the region, we went to N
îmes (not the city, but the Peugeot and Géant Supermarket on the limits, because le Parisien had had the carpets from his new car stolen). We also visited Mémée, who seemed rather sad, but showed it by being extremely argumentative and easily hurt by Belle-mère's gentle teasing. That night Jube and I went to see The Da Vinci Code. Yes, yes, we gave in to peer pressure. Jube read the book during our trip to Norway, so he was totally prepped for the movie. While I was watching, I kind of wished that I'd been able to see it without reading the book; there were no surprises and no suspense. Of course, I don't know if that's the fault of the movie or because I had already read the book.

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Weekend Dining

Our weekend went very well, after a shaky start. I finish relatively late on Fridays, but my last student had to leave 45 minutes early, so I missed a lot of rush hour and got home in time to help Jube clean the apartment. Then, as I began to make our samosa, I realized that he had only bought 10 feuilles de brick, or thin springroll covers. I jumped in the car and drove to the nearest Asian food store, getting out 5 minutes before they closed. Then I ran to another supermarket and bought bread and orange juice before racing back home, hoping that our guests hadn't yet arrived. Very luckily, they hadn't, since Jube had forgotten to put away the mop and bucket, which were still occupying the middle of the floor. I hurriedly filled the feuilles de brick while Jube made the chicken. As soon as I finished the last samosa, we heard a car honk outside. Jube went to check that it was our company arriving, and ushered them into our backyard. The weather was very nice and warm, so we were even able to eat outside (the first time this year!).

We talked about lots of different things, many having to do with high school gossip, since over half of us work at the same high school. We also found out about les Couilleres, a very strange and absurd club that revolves around pairs (or trios, or groups) of spoons. Jube took out my American table- and teaspoons, and the Couilleres were amazed and took plenty of pictures. Everyone was dutifully impressed by our samosa, balti chicken, and fruit salad.

On Saturday, the weather was gray and rainy. We went to the supermarket to buy food for the rest of the week, and to the English/American library for new books. When we got home, le Pacha had called us 6 times. The first message was very calm and collected: "Jube, please call me when you get home. I hope everything is well with you." The second message was a bit more harried: "Be sure to call me as soon as you get home!" The third message was completely off the wall: "I need you to call! Where are you? I need to talk to you, Jube!" The last 3 messages were just quick calls to make sure we weren't home; our message service lets us know which numbers call us, and when. When we hung up the telephone to call le Pacha, the phone rang. "Hi Gem. How are you? Fine? Good. Is Jube there?" I passed him the phone. Le Pacha couldn't save his game on the PS2, and hoped (was certain, in fact) that Jube could help him. Unfortunately we don't know anything about memory cards or PlayStations, so he was disappointed.

Today we woke up late and were invited at the last minute to picnic on the beach with the same group who had eaten at our house on Friday. We went with another batch of samosa and ate fougasse, quiche, and olives on the pebbles of the beach. We left early because Jube had (still has) a lot of papers to grade. I have to get up early tomorrow, so I'm happy for the relaxing afternoon at home, too.

Friday, May 12, 2006

Work and Leisure

On Tuesday, I was in a great mood. Why? Because my boss and I worked out the last 5 weeks of my schedule! I only have 5 more weeks of working as an ESL teacher! Only 4 after today! Hooray! I will be able to finish some "missions," and some others will be finished by other professors.

I even got up the nerve to ask to get rid of one of my students. He's very, very strange. IF he comes, he invariably arrives 15 minutes late. At least half of the time he doesn't show up at all, with no warning. When I started teaching him, this was actually a plus: I'm paid for the time that the students are late, or the lessons they cancel less than 24 hours in advance (or, in his case, that he didn't bother to cancel at all). There were some other aspects of his behavior that weren't so advantageous, however. He would sit, looking uncomfortable, for the entire hour and a half of our lessons, without taking any notes. Sometimes he would excuse himself and go to the toilet for no reason. Also, we couldn't tell him that I am American. He is violently opposed to American international policy--which isn't really that weird. What is weird is that he is also violently opposed to all Americans. I told him I was Irish and focused on grammar in class. Hopefully I won't have to teach him any more after next week! Hooray!

Tonight we are inviting Jube's young colleagues over for dinner. The last time we ate with them, you may remember that they were surprised that I liked the cheese they served after dinner. Afterwards they quizzed Jube on if I cooked French or American food at home. "Non, mais vraiment, est-ce qu'elle fait des choses bizarres à manger?" (No, really, does she make weird stuff to eat?) Instead of trying to convince them that American food is good by making something "typically American," we decided to make Indian food for them. I'm sure it will impress them, even if Jube is making most of it. We're prepping for the time when I'll be so rich that he can stay at home with the kids, have a part-time job at a guitar store, and make dinner every night.

Now I just need to get through the last 4 weeks at work...

Saturday, May 06, 2006

Ah, mince!

Last weekend, Jube and I visited his family in Gallargues. We had a relaxing time, visiting Montpellier and celebrating my birthday with a low-key family dinner. Le Pacha played me his new copy of Le Roi Soleil. He went to see the musical about Louis XIV about a month ago and fell in love with all of the actors. Beau-papa was really impressed too, although he downplayed his enthusiasm a bit when he described it to me and Jube. We talked about how I like to watch detective series on television, like "Law and Order" (Police Judiciaire) and CSI (Les Experts). Jube told the family that my cousin is studying to be one of les experts, which is true. I'm not sure of the exact name of the degree, or when she'll be finished, but it has something to do with forensics.

Le Pacha looked at us incredulously. "But your cousin can't be un expert! She's too fat!" he said.

At the time, it was really hilarious, but I really got to thinking about it when one of my students told me she prefers American series to French ones because "French TV series have lots of old actors, and in American ones everyone is always good-looking."

That's basically true, except for the fat men who manage to be wonderful (and hilarious) fathers alongside their beautiful, skinny wives. And when I REALLY thought about it, I realized that the only program that shows the whole gamme of human bodies, from skinny to morbidly obese, is also the most vulgar show in the world: "Jerry Springer." That's not to say that women in French shows aren't gorgeous and sexy (and sometimes show off their bare breasts, too!), but there are almost no middle-aged or old people in American shows who look their age--unless they are annoying people out for laughs. There are often older characters in French series who don't have flat stomachs or no wrinkles (although they are nearly always elegant).

And that's why I entitled my post "Ah mince!" It's a way of swearing without saying "merde," but it literally means "oh, thin!"

(I'm reading The Beauty Myth right now, can you tell? Thanks, Mom, for bringing it all the way to Norway for me!)

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Immigration Stuff

When I arrived at work today, the secretary who has to unlock the door for me was on her cell phone with a friend.

"Et hop! Chacun chez soi, non mais!" (I say, everyone just stay in their own country. Come on!) She listened as she led me to the small meeting room. She gave me a little smile and then walked back to her desk, saying, "Ben, je pr
éfère un polonnais à un arabe, je le dis maintenant. Au moins ils sont européens, eux!" (Well, I'd prefer a Pole to an Arab; I'll say it now! At least they're European!)

As I set up my materiels and prepared for the class, I wondered if she had any idea that I am an immigrant, too. It probably never crossed her mind that I might be offended by her remarks--anyway, I'm European, right?

This afternoon I had one of my favorite classes. The students are full of humor and enjoy practicing their English. Their homework was to present an English-language article to the class. One of them talked about the "Day Without Immigrants" that recently occurred in the US. Another presented on the French Interior Minister M. Sarkozy's new bill about immigration, as reported by the BBC.

All of this has really made me think about my own status as an immigrant. I go to the Prefecture regularly (every 3 months). I don't have the right to vote here in France. I have an accent when I speak. I don't know why, but it's this last one that bugs me. Why should it bother me to have an accent? Maybe because it's the only obvious sign of my difference.

Now that we're going through the process with Jube, I'm already scared about what will happen in the US. Will it be more hassle? More strict? Will he adapt well to life in the US? I'm not sure what I'm trying to say, and I know that it's nothing deep. All I know is that I feel much closer to the immigrants entering and living in the US now than I ever did before.