Thursday, December 28, 2006

Belated Christmas Greetings

I hope everyone had a good Christmas. I know I did. Here is a picture of my mom's/my Christmas tree. It was nice having a normal size tree this year.
I was lucky last year because I got to spend Christmas with my family in Germany, but it was nice being around my brothers and parents for Christmas.
It was also fun looking at all the lights. I especially like the lights on this tractor. Yes, I am definitely from the country.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

I Made It

I made it home with everything! Customs did a lot of snooping, but left everything alone...well, kind of. They unwrapped most of my presents and put customs tape all over them, but they didn't touch the stuff that could have gotten me in trouble. Amazing. I just want to take this opportunity to thank them for not fining me.

I went shopping the second night I was home until 9 p.m., just because I could. People actually smiled and talked to me. I know I will get tired of this soon, but right now I am loving it. I have been to Wal-Mart twice and I do love that store. They really do have everything. And they are open all the time. If I want buy hairspray at 2:35 a.m., I can.

Hope everyone is enjoying their Christmas preparations as much as I am.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Home!

It's Sunday, this Sunday at 2. Arrival time is 9:20 p.m. CST. Everyone send my plane, pilot and security workers good thoughts, please. Let's all make a quick wish that my very illegal suitcase makes it Stateside.

I am looking forward to going home. No, that is the understatement of the year; I need to go home; I have to go home; I want to go home. Aside for all the normal reasons for wanting to go home (family, friends, driving, clean clothes, normal sized bath tubs, soy, absence of public transportation, etc.), there is the added bonus getting out of Paris for a while. I have rarely spent more than 3 months in France without a break. Last year, I went to Germany a lot, Italy, and London. 3 months living in Paris is about this country girl's limit; all the little annoyances become huge, unbearable frustrations. I have been in France waaaaay too long this time and I need a good break.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Amsterdam

As predicted, I had a blast in Amsterdam. It is a fun city. I got to eat at a Japanese restaurant twice. I glad I got to go and I think everyone had a good time. It was a rather unique way to celebrate a birthday (not mine).
Unfortunately, I did not take many pictures. It was too cold and wet to get my camera out much and we spent most of Saturday in the Van Gogh museum. It is a beautiful city though.
Hope you had a good birthday, Deb! Thanks for the invitation.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

An Almost Non-Christmas Post

I am really excited about Christmas and not just because I am going home. Paris really does Christmas fantastically! There are a ton of lights everywhere; I live right by the mayor so the streets around me are so pretty. I can't wait to see Amsterdam (going on Friday and I expect to have so much fun I won't be able to put any of it in print); I bet it looks amazing.
I went to this antique (junk) market last week and got some stuff. It was literally right out my front door and I couldn't help myself. It was cool seeing all the old French stuff as well as vintaged Americana. I was able to buy a few things for Christmas, but not a lot. I kept thinking I would find something amazing, but I guess all of the amazing stuff was gone.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Phew!

Wow, what a busy few weeks! I have been running around like a madwoman lately! Last weekend I celebrated Thanksgiving 3 times. First there was the Thanksgiving lunch with my students (a fantastic time was had by all). We ate Lebanese, Armenian, French, American and Moroccan food and I think all my students enjoyed themselves. Then, that night I had Thanksgiving with a lovely American/French family. Yeah, Thanksgiving twice in one day is a bit much. I spent about 3 hours in the gym between lunch and dinner. Just to make sure I was properly sick and tired of Thanksgiving, I spent all night Friday and all day Saturday cooking at the American Church in Paris with other expats for their Thanksgiving dinner. I chopped onions for 4 hours nonstop on Friday, and for some reason, on Saturday was in charge of the turkeys which would not cook. Frantic and panicky are the only two words I can think of which describe how I felt most of Saturday. I can’t remember the last time I ate so much, but it was a lovely weekend.

In between, I taught a record number of classes, had a Habitat meeting, became editor of a book and formally disciplined two students. I am superwoman.

This weekend was spent making tests and shopping. The tests part was boring and dull but the shopping was great! Friends and family will be so excited if my luggage makes it to the States (quick prayer to the airline gods for a safe and expedient delivery). I had so much fun shopping for everyone, trying to get them Paris stuff without hitting the souvenir shops.

The only bad thing is that I have decided not to put up a Christmas tree this year. I am going to Amsterdam this coming weekend and the next weekend I am going home so it would be really silly to put one up. At least I keep telling myself that, but I am a little unhappy. It will be my first Christmas without a tree. I have told myself that I will just go and look at as many trees as possible, so Saturday I went to Galleries Lafayette and saw their beautiful tree.

I hope everyone else is enjoying the season as much as I am!

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Gobble, Gobble

I hope everyone who is celebrating Thanksgiving has a lot to be thankful for. I know I do. Happy Thanksgiving to everyone!

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

I didn’t write a post this weekend because I had a whole lot of anger to express and I am actively trying to be more positive (in writing because in real life I am a great big ball of sunshine). So here goes.

I am going to start with the good. Thursday was good because my students and I decided to do Thanksgiving. It was basically their idea (well, ok, I suggested it) and we are going to all bring things and have an international day of thanks after our lesson. Lucky them, they get to eat and have two lessons because, oh yes, I am creative enough to turn Thanksgiving into a lesson.

The other really good thing happened Friday morning. I live in a really populated type of crossroads and there are a ton of homeless people about two blocks from my apartment. One of them found his way to my street camped out under an apartment window Thursday night. I know this because I saw him when I came back from the gym. Friday morning I saw the woman who lives in the apartment lean out of her window and give the man a coffee, complete with a saucer and sugar. It was really a lovely gesture and I am still giving the woman two great big thumbs up.

Let’s quickly shift to the bad, because that is how it happened in reality. Friday afternoon I had the worst class experience. I teach post high school students, around my age, (for you teaching expats, post BTS students) for two hours every Friday. These students are terrible, don’t understand English and don’t have any incentive to learn. By no incentive, I mean they will have no exams, no grade, etc. thus no reason to pay attention to yours truly. I basically just treat them like a pack of wild dogs. I try to keep them happy and I never make eye contact.

I have one male student who thinks he is quite cute. He calls me baby, asks for my phone number, and says, “Ooh, la, la,” anytime I take off my jacket. He is just a disgusting slime ball and I try to ignore him completely. Friday, he and a female student got into an argument. I was working with the 3 students who actually want to learn and didn’t really pay much attention to what was going on, until he stood up. What went on next is a little bit unclear because they were yelling and speaking very fast, but I understood him to say he would kill her, cute her face, kill her mother, etc. He had to be physically restrained by two of the other students and every time the students let go of him, he tried to crawl over the desks to get to her.

I yelled, got some order and told everyone to get their books out. The two students settled down and I thought I would be able to teach and keep everyone calm, but no. The two students started again and he actually climbed over two desks trying to get to her and only had one desk left to go before some students stopped him. I freaked and told both of the students to get out. He told me to be quiet, he wasn’t talking to me and she said she shouldn’t have to leave because she didn’t start it. I said, “Fine, everyone can leave then; class dismissed.” And I left. Not because I was really scared or because I was afraid he would hurt me, but because I was on the verge of tears. I have had many negative things happen in my class, but this one takes the cake for scary. I realized I have no control or any authority over the class and it is not likely to change, so I was really bummed Friday night.

Now, on to the ugly, and this is really ugly. I had to ride the metro (not something I willingly do on my days off because of my unfortunate experience). It was around 3 p.m. on a Saturday so it was nice and packed. All of the sudden I heard yelling and a loud smack behind me. I have been a little jumpy since my experience and freaked out immediately. I looked behind me about the same time I grabbed my pepper spray (thank you to people who will remain unnamed to avoid any kind of legal issues for shipping me that stuff…it makes me feel so much better) and saw a man attacking a teenage boy. Now granted, I don’t know what was said or done before this attack started, but the man was really slapping, hitting and humiliating the teenager and didn’t show any signs of stopping. It was a full metro car but nobody was trying to intervene. That is what gets to me about this city. All these people were watching a skinny teenager get attacked and nobody even said anything. I am constantly amazed by the complete apathy and utter lack of courage in this country. I got off at the next stop because I am personally familiar with French violence and didn’t want to experience it again.

So there you are, the good, the bad and the ugly, in less than 4 days.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Beaujolais Nouveau

Today is the day the year’s new wine, Beaujolais Nouveau, is unveiled to the public. I love this time of year at home and in Paris as well. The fall colors, the crisp weather, and the excitement of the approaching holiday season just gets to me.

I arrived in France August 27, 2005. I remember liking Paris and being impressed with it, but having an overall feeling of disappointment that I didn’t find the city to be breathtaking. Granted, I had a serious of horrible experiences (which now seem really comical) in France that I am sure tainted my feelings for Paris, but I still expected to love the city. And I didn’t. I wanted to, but I couldn’t force myself to have an emotional connection with the city.

But, the night I went out to celebrate the release of Beaujolais Nouveau, I fell in love with the city. It was a bitterly cold night and I remember feeling some sort of excitement in the air. I stayed out until the wee hours of the morning barhopping with my friends and was completely enamored with the beauty of Paris. (It really is better in the winter!) Yes, I was three sheets to the wind, but it was the first time I didn’t feel like an outsider. Feeling like maybe I wasn’t a tourist anymore made me see the real beauty of the city.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

What the......

I went to the post office today to pick up a package and guess what?! They French postal workers are on strike. How can the national post go on strike? What are the protesting against? 35 hour work weeks? 5 week annual vacations? 11 federal paid holidays? One of the highest minimum wages in Europe? Life must be horrible for them.

Seriously, I don't understand this culture; the public transportation workers go on strike about every two months; teachers go on strike about every 5 months; students go on strike whenever there is anything to protest....how do the French ever get anything done?

I cannot imagine this happening in the U.S. because nobody would put up with things being closed due to strikes. I don't think I had ever even seen a strike until I came here. I know I am from a small town but shesh, give me a break. The French have it really good and I can't imagine what they could possibly find reason to strike about.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Amsterdam, Anyone?

I am trying to plan a weekend trip to Amsterdam for my cousin-in-law's birthday, but am having a horrible time finding a flight under 175 euros. Anyone know of a cheap airline? I have tried most of the search engines, but if anyone knows of any tricks or maybe some airlines I might not have thought of (I know, how do you know if I thought of them or not. Just assume I didn't), I would love your imput.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

What a Week!

This week was incredibly busy. On top of teaching everyday, I had a Habitat for Humanity meeting Tuesday night until 10 p.m. and a cocktail party Thursday. I was nine kids of exhausted last night, but I still went out. It's fine though because there is nothing to do today; it is a holiday so everything is closed.

Speaking of Habitat for Humanity, does anyone have any good fund raising ideas? We are going to have a gala dinner, but we need other ways to make money. This year, the Paris division of Habitat is going to Romania and we need something like 500-600 euros per person.

I am busy planning my trip home. I can't wait! I will be home for a whole three weeks and I will have so much to do. On the top of my list is a huge shoe shopping trip. I love shoes in Paris; they are beautiful, but my feet are too big for them. I went shopping for 4 hours last weekend and I couldn't find anything. Last year, I wanted shoes, this year I NEED shoes. Other than that, I am just looking forward to visiting with everyone.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

A Virtual Welcome

Finally, I can post pictures of my apartment. I am going to give everyone a semi-virtual tour because I am only semi-computer literate.


Supposedly my building is one of the oldest in the neighborhood. I love it because it is all very old fashioned, but I am just beginning to realize "old" means cold.


This is my hallway outside my apartment. I love the red tiles everywhere (I have them inside my apartment as well), but they are also very cold.


This is my "hallway" inside my apartment. I loved my door until I realized that it is paper thin and every bit of cold air and noise comes right into my apartment. The toilet is on the left and the shower is on the right. I know my decorations are a little cheesy, but I am poor.


My bed and some artwork from my friend, Dan. Funny story about the mattress. When I moved in, I slept on the mattress for about 30 minutes before I figured out there was no way I was going to be able to spend a year on it, so I bought a mattress from a fellow expat. But because I have no car, I had to trick a friend into helping me lug it about 10 blocks.

Notice the beams in the ceiling. They are old as dirt and add to the charm of the apartment. I love them! They are UNESCO protected.

This is my huge kitchen. Please don't judge me! I know it is messy, but when there is such a small place, it is hard to be really tidy.












My very large table and a huge mirror. Nice idea, I can watch myself eat.













Finally, my view. I have to say this is the only major downside to this apartment. I have no view and I am very close to my neighbors. Also, because the buildings are so close, no air circulates.

Well, that's about it. There isn't much to show because it is only 20 square meters (all that I could afford), but trust me, it is a huge improvement to what I had last year.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

A Missed Opportunity

I WAS going to post pictures of my apartment, but blogger won't let me, so I will just say how incredibly cold it is today (why is it that the weather is always nasty on November 1st?) and how I am not looking forward to going back to work tomorrow. I have had 5 days to prepare my classes for Thursday and Friday and for some reason, I thought it would be nice to wait until about 12 hours before classes begin to prepare. I am such a imposture; I am no teacher! I am a day dreamer...How in the world am I supposed to be in charge of other people's minds when I can't even get a handle on mine?

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Another Example of Why the French Are So Popular Throughout the World

This company only employs really evil, nasty, hateful people. Beware!


I was kind of bummed today because I didn’t have any plans for Halloween and it is my favorite holiday. I decided to cheer myself up by grocery shopping at one of the major, cheap supermarkets in France, Carrefour. It is quite a trek and I thought it would keep my mind off of not celebrating Halloween. I wanted make an afternoon/night of it and actually look at everything in the store, thinking tonight would be a convenient time as it was Halloween and most people would be out drinking because tomorrow is a holiday.

I am into serious price checking these days because Christmas is coming up, and well, because I am not rich, so I took my time, comparing prices and looking at everything. By the time I was ready to leave it was already 8:00 p.m. I took my checkbook because I lost my a.t.m. card about a week ago (kind of taken care of, just have to wait about 5 thousand days for a new one). Writing a check is difficult for me because while I know how to pronounce all the numbers in French, I sometimes don’t know how to spell them correctly. I am always a little anxious when I know I am going to use a check in a busy store because the cashiers aren’t always the most patient people in the world.

Enter bad experience number 9,567. Wait, before I go on my tirade, let me explain a little something about supermarkets in France. The queues are unbelievable. You know how in the States if there more than 5 people are waiting to check out, a new cashier will come and open another aisle? Never happens in France. As a matter of fact, when there are 5 or 6 people queuing, at least four cashiers will go on break. No lie, no exaggeration, I have seen it happen every time I go shopping. See what I am getting at? Horrible ending experience to your shopping no matter how you slice it.

Tonight, I changed queues twice. I wasn’t sure about the first one I was in; I thought maybe I was in a 10 items or less aisle (not that anyone EVER pays attention to that), so I moved to another line. After I queued for about 10 minutes, the cashier decided it was high time for a break. I moved to the next queue and read over everything about the types of accepted payment to ensure I was in the correct queue. Credit cards, bank cards, checks over 15 euros, and cash. Ok, everything was good to go; I read the small print, I was in the correct queue and I was pretty pleased with the bargains I had found.

When it was my turn, I told the woman my French was bad, but that I wanted to write a check. Immediately she started yelling at me, telling me it was the wrong queue and that I wasn’t allowed to write a check in that particular queue. This is after I told her my French wasn’t so great. Yelling at me! I had a ton of stuff and she wanted me to pick everything up and go wait for another cashier! I just looked at her blankly, mainly because I have never been yelled at by an employee at an establishment where I was a paying customer, but also because I couldn’t follow all of her French. I wasn’t really sure whether to laugh, leave all my stuff there and exit the store, or to slap the silly cow.

Finally, she quit yelling and started ringing up my purchases, throughout which she muttered stuff about stupid foreigners and how we should all be sent home while she threw my stuff around. To my utter horror, the man next to me in line agreed with her and turned around and started telling his wife/girlfriend that “stupid American foreigners” should go on holiday to England where they speak they same language.?!

When she finished and told me the amount, I painfully wrote out the check. She saw me and jerked, JERKED, the check away from me and told me the machine printed the checks. She stuck it in the machine and after it had printed, she slapped it down in front of me and told me to sign it. I had already signed it, and told her so, but she insisted I sign it again. So I signed my check twice. I sure my bank is going to think I am a straight moron. But, amazingly nothing major happened. The aisle didn’t open up and swallow her or anything, so I fail to see why it was such a big deal that I used a check.

It’s Halloween and I guess maybe since this woman couldn’t dress up, she decided to embody her costume. I am sure you all can guess what she was trying to be. And let me tell you, in my book she really, really pulled the costume off! I am/was torn between wanting to curse her or waiting for her after work with my pepper spray……But I think I will just wish and pray really hard that she always works at Carrefour and that every hour of everyday somebody comes through her aisle and uses a check. Meanwhile, I am banning Carrefour for life. I don’t care what anyone says, Wal-Mart is waaaayyy better.

You know why people are allowed to act like this in France? It is because they cannot be fired once they are hired. Well, they can, but it is awfully hard to get rid of an employee after they have a permanent contract. Basically, they can be rude, unhelpful, and just a downright horrible employee and have no fear of ever losing their job. Remarkable, isn’t it?

Sunday, October 29, 2006

I Am Easily Entertained



I found this at a local market for 2 euros. I was really excited because all the pumpkins I had seen were 8-10 euros and as money is kind of tight right now, I just couldn't bring myself to spend that much for something I would throw out in a few days.

I know this isn't artistic or even original, but I love it. I had such a blast carving my pumpkin; it kept me entertained for about 2 hours. Then I cooked the pumpkins seeds. I love Halloween! I wish I had a party or something planned for the big day, but I don't, so this jack-o-lantern will have to do. Although it is a feast for my bionic gnats, I hope it lasts until Halloween.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

What's French for Gross Incompetence?

I put off writing this post for a few days because I was so seething mad, I was pretty sure I wouldn’t be able to write a profanity-less post, but I think I am up to the challenge now.

I am sure if you look up ineptitude in the dictionary you will find a description of the French bureaucracy. I cannot even begin to explain how absolutely comical these “official” offices are. Well, they would be funny if it didn’t involve me and affect my daily life in France. Nothing is logical, nobody is nice, nothing is efficient and yet everyone accepts this as being totally normal. When French people go to get their birth certificates or driver’s license, they wait all day and this is completely normal to them.

Let me explain my situation so everyone can understand why I am so irritated with French bureaucracy. In order to work in this country, I have to have a carte de sejour. This card is a magical and mysterious card which the French government rewards you only have after you have killed dragons and pulled swords out of stones. If it was only that easy perhaps I wouldn’t be complaining. In reality getting a carte de sejour (a lamenated card with your picture on it, very similar to an American driver’s license in its shape and design, the difference being you get an American driver’s license the very day you apply for it if you pass your test) is a much more time consuming process.

First, you must have a contract with a French company. With this contract and 14 copies of every official document you have ever been issued in your entire life, you go to an office in the far ends of the earth to get an authorization to work. Then you have to take this authorization to the prefecture and get a “recepissee de demande de carte de sejour”.

When you go to get this receipt which says you have officially asked for a carte de sejour, you have to have 4 passport photos which cost 4 euros a set. You have to take off of work the entire day because you will queue for at least 4 hours to get a number then you will queue another 4 hours after that in order to see a real person. Sometimes after you stand in the first line for 4 hours, the people in charge of giving out the numbers will tell you to go home and come back another day when there are less people in line. I can’t tell you the tingles of joy I got the first 3 times I heard this.

After they are satisfied they have made you wait enough time and that you are not going to go away, they will give you the receipt with a date two or three months in the future as an expiration date. The idea (I think, but I really can’t grasp the way the French administration thinks) is that you will have your actual carte de sejour before this receipt expires. The receipt allows you to work, but does not allow you to get your medical card or housing assistance or any of the other good things that you will pay for month after month if you are contracted with a French company. Between the time you get the receipt and the time you get the card, you have to go to the doctor which will also take about 8 hours.

Let me tell you what actually happens and keep in mind this is the second time I have had to endure all of this. I only need a renewal of my original carte de sejour. I got two receipts at the end of August, one in Cergy and one in Paris (8 euros for pictures and 22 hours of queuing time). These receipts expired October 24th. I had an appointment at the Paris prefecture for 1:00 on October 24th to get my new carte de sejour. Although, I had to reschedule a ton of classes and I had to get up at 5 a.m. for two days to teach the rescheduled classes, I was excited because this was the very first appointment I had ever had with an official French office.

I got to the office early and waited in line until 1:45, never mind I had an appointment, I expected nothing less. It was okay though, because a very unattractive man with the worst breath ever decided he would work his French magic on me and make me love him. This consisted of him pushing up on me, winking at me, brushing my hair away from my face and eventually taking my phone number off of my file.

I finally got my number (so I could wait yet some more) and sat next to some really flashy cross dressers. I figured I was safe next to them. However, I was directly behind a couple who thought the prefecture was the perfect place to practice their kissing skills. And just as an aside, I have finally figured out why people who make out in public bother me so much. It is because they remind me of “trailer trash.” For those who aren’t familiar with this term, it is used to describe people who may or may not live in trailers, but who are just trashy and manner less in general. So this was a lot of fun for me for the two hours I waited for my number to be called. Let me take this time to remind everyone, I had a FREAKING appointment.

My number was finally called and I went to the appointed window and was greeted by a gum-chewing, grouchy, fast talking, bitter French woman. She went through all my paper work and told me I couldn’t have my carte de sejour, and that I needed a new recepissee which would expire in the middle of December. Then I could come and wait some more and get my carte de sejour. Running total of wasted money: 12 euros. Number of wasted hours: 25.

Let me clarify why this delay irritates me so much. I do not now have nor have ever had a carte vitale. This is a major important card because it allows me to go to the doctor and get reimbursed for the visit. This is not a free thing. I pay 101.09 euros a month (and have always paid this much) for my health insurance and it is totally wasted. I won’t get my carte vitale until after I have my carte de sejour. I won’t have my carte de sejour until December because the French government can’t laminate a card in less than 4 months which means I can’t even apply for my carte vitale until after December. Not to mention the fact that I cannot apply for housing assistance until after I have my carte de sejour.

Are you starting to understand why I have a problem with this country’s bureaucracy?

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Speechless


I don't really have much to say about this picture except that out of all the famous people I have seen, I was the most uncool with him. Talk about a stuttering idiot.
Actually, I should thank my friend Rachael for letting me pose with John and for taking the picture with her camera. I felt rather bad afterward because we didn't get a picture of her with him.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

A Food Post

I had a pretty fantastic weekend. I went to the French market twice for food and it was amazing. I had never gone by myself and I loved haggling with the merchants. I think my French is really improving, and if it isn’t, at least I think it is and that is all that matters. I won’t list everything I bought, but I will mention the fish. I bought some salmon and it was the best fish I have ever tasted. I don’t even think I would have to be a decent cook to make the fish from the market taste good. I am a convert. When I first arrived, I remember thinking, “I will never buy fish from a market,” because they handle it bare handed and it sits out in the open all day. Eating is believing and it banished all doubts. Yummmm. I will never go back to supermarket fish.

Pictures of my apartment are coming, I just have to clean first.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

A Disclaimer

Occasionally in my comment section I get a nasty little post from someone I have offended. I have either ignored or deleted most of these posts, but I won’t anymore; now I would like to take some time to address these “offended” people and answer some of their questions.

One of the most common questions is, loosely quoted, “If you don’t like France, why did you move here?” My answer to this is probably surprising, but I am not psychic. I had no way of knowing before I moved that I wouldn’t love France once I moved here. I didn’t wake up one day and say to myself, “France, what a horrible country, I think I will move there.” In reality, I don’t think anyone has ever been as excited as I was about the prospect of living in France. I am pretty sure I drove all my friends (and a few strangers) crazy with my constant ecstatic mantra of “I am moving to France,” for four months preceding the move. Even after arriving and realizing my situation was completely depressing, (living in a filthy dormitory in one of the worst neighborhoods in France at the age of 26 with my students, having a roommate after living alone for 8 years, arriving a month too early for a horrible job, not having any of the correct government paperwork because my employer did not find it necessary to inform me what to bring, teaching classrooms full of students who are only in school because they can’t find a job, having no materials to teach with nor any access to books, being ridiculed daily for trying to speak the language, having complete strangers as well as colleagues tell me how horrible and monstrous my country is) I still tried to be positive…for a while. Only a really simple or a really religious person could continue to fool themselves into being positive indefinitely under those kinds of circumstances. Honestly, I have always been a little moody, but looking back, I do not know how I would have lived through the level of depression I was experiencing without my friends here and at home. Unlike most people who move here, I didn’t come because of a spouse or because of an American company or to retire. I was thrust right into a very initially unfriendly French society with only a tiny support group. The only reason I stayed was because I wanted to see as much of Europe as I could and because going back to the States meant having to work 3 or 4 jobs to support myself. And I kept telling myself it surely couldn’t get any worse. Now things are looking up and I expect most future posts to be more positive.

The second most common question is, “If you hate it so much, why do you stay?” I have several different, yet equally good answers for this question. First of all, I have dreamed of traveling and living in different countries for longer than I have dreamed of doing anything else. If I was independently wealthy, I would travel for the rest of my life. Second, going back to working all the time and being stressed about money wasn’t (and still isn’t) so appealing to me; I wanted a vacation from American work and a reprieve from having to decide what I was going to do with my life. Third, and perhaps most importantly, I didn’t want France to beat me. I didn’t want to run home because I couldn’t hack it here. I want to be able to survive anywhere and if I can’t survive in France, what does that say about my personality? And just as an aside, I did not escape a horrible country. I didn’t leave the U.S. because I had a problem with it. I love my country. I was in the military for 8 years because I felt it was the only real way I could repay the good fortune of living in a country so incredible. My country is pretty amazing and I know I am going back to it eventually. I want to experience other cultures, even if I don’t like them, in order to enrich my futures experience in my country. I love being an American and all the naysayers who think I am being cheesy, go live in Mexico or in an African country where you are lucky to live to the age of 35. Also, a large part of me wants to be able to go home and honestly say, “Yes, the French are odd and they have strange ways and strange cultural habits, but after you get used to them, you can really begin to appreciate their culture.” I don’t want to go back to the U.S. with the idea that France is the bottom of the barrel, so to speak.

The third question I hear a lot (and this one puzzles me quite a bit) is, “Why did you move to a country if you can’t speak the language?” I find this question especially annoying because people move to countries everyday without knowing the language. Half of my family emigrated to the U.S. without knowing English; my friend is teaching in Japan and he didn’t know the language when he moved there. For those of you who ask this question, I have some questions for you. Where is your sense of adventure? Do you have any? Do unknown situations terrify you? Yes, it scary and sometimes dangerous not being fluent in French, but that is part of the adventure. I get to learn something new and exciting everyday. When was the last time that has happened to you? Can you remember the last time you knew every time you walked out of your house, you would learn something new, useful and fascinating? It is like being a kid all over again. It is an amazing and humbling experience and if I get the chance to move somewhere else and do it all over again, I will consider myself lucky. My only regret is that I don’t have the time, energy or money to take proper lessons. Most of my knowledge of French is from books, my friends or just random conversations with people.

And finally, since I am on a sort of make-shift soap box, I would like to remind folks the name of this blog is “Angela in Europe.” I created it; it’s mine. If I want to rant and rave and curse, it is my prerogative. It is the only place I can be completely self-centered without feeling guilty. There is no clause on blogspot that says posts have to be positive. I write about my experiences as I experience them. It is a semi-personal diary of my life in Europe, for me and the people I care about, people who I can’t contact often. They don’t even have to read it if they don’t want to, that is everyone else’s prerogative. I never said this blog was going to nice or fair; I just wanted a self-entertaining way to write about my experiences, post a few photos and keep in touch with folks. I am not a journalist, nor have I ever wanted to be one. I don’t even have to write about the facts; I could make up a bunch of nonsense if I want to (although I don’t) and nobody can stop me. I love writing and I miss it terribly. I am not talented enough to write fiction, but I am pretty good at academic writing and this blog fills the hole I have now I am no longer in school or actively trying to publish things. And I would like to point out, I have a readership of about 10 people I know and 10 people who I have “met” on the internet. As much as I appreciate these people and their comments, 20 people hardly make for a large audience.

The fact of the matter is, some people are “touched” by madness and I just happen to believe I am “touched” by a bit of the bizarre. Strange things always happen to me and around me and I find them amusing. Most of the stuff I put on here makes or will make me laugh in the future, even if it does sound horrible in print. I do enjoy poking fun at French people and French culture as I experience it and I will continue doing so. People say funny things and lousy things about Americans everyday and I just laugh or deal with it. So for those Frogs I offend by pointing out the bizarre, foolish or maddening aspects of your culture, get over it, or (and this might be a revolutionary idea) stop reading this blog.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Yee Haw

I finally have internet! I also finally have a phone line so I can call everyone and bug them again. I have so much to type and catch up with and so much to blog, but it will all have to wait until after Thursday. I am starting a new class on Thursday at a semi-posh school and I have no books or syllabi to teach with and the lady who hired me is M.I.A. most of the time. Needless to say, I have been stressed. I worked on the course with another teacher for 5 hours Saturday night. Saturday night is my time. My time for drinking, dancing, eating, etc., and I do not like working during my time, but I did. Grumble, grumble, grumble.

But I digress. I wanted to post this advert I have seen all over the metro. I think it is the best advert ever and it is French! I am pretty sure the byline translates to something like “London for lovers.”

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Fantastic Weekend!

I had the best weekend! I went to the American Literary Festival and met Chuck Palahniuk (author of Fight Club). I talked to him in the toilet (god love the unisex restrooms here) and he asked me about my accent because he couldn't place it. I told him I was from Arkansas, but since most French people do not know where that is, I usually just say I am from Texas. He laughed, I laughed and felt pretty clever until he signed my book. The inscription in my copy of Haunted says, "To Angela, a real Texan in Paris." Not quite, but at least he was kind of paying attention to me in the toilet.

I also met Benjamin Kunkel, author of Indecision, and talked to him for a while. AND, I met Guillermo Arriaga, the author/screenwriter of 3 Burials of Melquiades Estrada and 21 Grams; he approached me because I was reading Faulkner (while I was waiting for one of his sessions to begin) and told me Faulkner was the reason he became a writer. Magaret Atwood was also there and, as it turns out, I speak better french than she does.

All in all, I had a great time. I can't imagine a better way to spend a Saturday. For me, writers are the equivalent of rock stars or movie stars, except I don't have the urge to throw my panties at them.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

I Am Tired and It Is Only Tuesday

OH. MY. GOD. Classes started this week and I have 400 students. 400! Not only that, but my schedule has been changed 3 times since last Friday. I went from teaching 16 classes in two days to teaching 13 classes in 3 days. Although I am teaching less classes, I am really bitter about the new schedule because it means I can’t work an extra day at my other job; not only will I have to spend about 40 euros more a month on travel and waste an extra day at the university, I will also lose out on teaching a whole day at my second job! And to top it all off, I teach the same course 13 times. I get to say the same thing 13 times a week. Do you know how boring that is? Yikes, but I only have ten more weeks of class and if you forget about the two days I am giving tests, that makes 8 weeks I have to teach. It’s not so bad when I think of it that way. I guess I shouldn’t complain, but being positive goes against my nature.

I finally broke down and bought a gym membership. I paid about 3 times the amount I would pay in the States and the gym is about 1/8 of the size of my old gym, but I don’t care! I have missed the gym so much this year. I just couldn’t go another month without a gym. I had no idea how much I liked going to the gym. Fair enough, I used to go twice a day, but I just thought it was because I had nothing to do, but I want to go twice a day here as well. My gym doesn’t open until 7:30, so I doubt I will be going twice a day expect on Saturdays and Sundays. I am so American!

Monday, September 18, 2006

I Live in Paris!

I have been in my new apartment for a little more than two weeks and I cannot begin to explain what a difference living somewhere nice can make! I have not done much, went to a few museums, a few movies (Little Miss Sunshine and Thank You for Smoking, both of which are excellent), read a few books, including Chuck Pallahniuk’s Haunted, volunteered at the American Church in Paris, and just walked around Paris. (Speaking of Chuck Pallahniuk, he is going to be in Paris along with a load of other famous North American writer’s the end of this month and I am so excited!)

I can honestly say my attitude is 80 percent better than it was last month. Now, all I have to worry about is money, so if anyone would like to make a donation…..I have several other jobs lined up and am just waiting for my schedule from the university before I tell the other jobs what days I can work. School starts next Monday at the university and I still have no idea what days I will teach, how many classes I will teach, what classes I will teach, or how many students I will have. I was told today the secretary would try to get a schedule to me by Thursday. THURSDAY! Classes start Monday and I have no books. The university does not have any for me to use. I think we will be watching a lot of movies. I am going to see how much I can not do this year. I do not have a lot of incentive to excel; I cannot be fired or rehired and the university certainly does not care whether or not I am prepared to teach, so I do not see any reason I should stress over making decent lesson plans.

FYI, I still do not have internet or a decent phone line and will not have them for three more weeks, so it will be a while before I can post regular updates, answer emails or call home.

Friday, September 08, 2006

Another Update

I like my new apartment and the area. It really does make a difference! I love waking up in Paris and knowing I just have to take a quick shower and in about 20 minutes I can be at the Louvre. I wish I had lived in Paris all this time; I bet my attitude would have been different.

However, things are completely fantastic yet. I have been without internet and phone for more than a week and it is driving me insane, and I see no solution in site because the phone line is not working. France Telecom has to come to my apartment to fix it, which will cost more. I really do not understand why everything is so expensive in this country and why it takes so long for anything to get accomplished.

For example, I had to apply for another work permit and on the piece of paper they gave me to prove I had applied for a new work permit, they wrote "not allowed to work." Why in the world would a work permit say I am not allowed to work? Correct me if I am wrong, but isn't that the whole idea behind a work permit? And because of this little mistake, I had to go stand in line for 6 hours another day to get a different permit so I can work, except I couldn't get it because my address had changed. I have to change my address before I can get a piece of paper saying I can work. Want to know how you change your address in France? You have to call a number. And guess what, that number is ALWAYS busy. I now know how dogs feel; I have been chasing my tail and I am never going to catch it. Why, oh why doesn't anything make sense in this country?

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Quick Update

Just to let everyone know, I found an apartment in Paris. It is fantastic and in a great (safe) area, so I am going to give it one more shot. If in a few months my attitude has not improved, I will try something else or go home. However, I really feel positive about this move; I am keeping my fingers crossed. Thanks everyone for all the positive wishes, prayers, thoughts, etc. I will post more when I get internet again (possibly three weeks!!!!).

Monday, August 28, 2006

Sainte Chappelle


St. Chappelle, considered by many guidebooks to be one of the best churches in Paris, is located on Ile de la Cite. Although I have been here for a year, I saw it for the first time last Sunday. I must say, I have been building it up in my mind for quite a while and was more than a little disappointed. Yes, there are tons of stained glass windows and yes, the majority of the bible is displayed on these windows, but it just seemed so small.

I love churches; being in Europe and seeing all the churches I have read about all my life is really a treat for me, but maybe I have seen too many, because I was just not very wowed by this one. I am sure St. Chappelle is fantastic in the morning or evening sun, but the sun was being very stubborn on Sunday and refused to shine at all. I didn't get the full majestic feel of the place because it was dark.

The history of this church is very interesting though. Louis IX (St. Louis) supposedly bought the Crown of Thorns and part of the cross from Constantinople in 1241 and commissioned the church as a place to display the relics. Oddly enough, the relics cost almost 3 times the amount of the construction of the church. During the revolution, the church, because of its association with the monarchy, was severely damaged and most of the statues and spires were destroyed.

However, I am afraid the history is more interesting than the actual church. It is very small and if the sun isn't shining, the beauty of the stained glass windows is lost. As an amateur guide, I cannot recommend this church for three reasons: there is an unreasonable charge, the lines are long and it isn't nearly as impressive as Notre Dame (which is free and located only a few streets away).

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Vacation Pictures

Blogger won't let me post more than two or three photos at a time so I am going to make this entry a photo post.

The first picture is Rue Rompi Cuou, or Butt Buster Street (see previous post). The second picture is of the beach right on the strip. I never went to this beach; it was always very busy.




These last three pictures were all taken in Bormes Les Mimosas. The views from this old town are amazing. It is atop a cliff and you can see everything from it. The town itself is quite charming but caters to tourists, so it is just a little too nice. It was beautiful though and it reminded me a lot of Capri, Italy.

Weird Facts

We rented this car in the South of France and it was kind of cool....at first. The doors were automatic, but the passenger door was broken so it would immediately start to close once it was fully opened. I am pretty sure I got a few bruises from it.

I spent most of Tuesday and Wednesday at the Prefecture, the French equivalent of the DMV and social security office, to tie up some administrative paperwork. After spending so much time there AGAIN (I spent more time than I care to remember when I got here last year), it made me long for the DMV! I will never complain about going to any American bureaucratic office again, I promise, cross my heart! I had number 68 and after waiting in line for 5 hours, they skipped my number. When I told the woman, she said she had called my number 3 times and suggested I was stupid. Well, the number appears on a huge digital screen at both ends of the counters. I might well have misunderstood someone saying my number in French, but I can read numbers and number 68 never appeared. After arguing with the woman in what I am sure was the worst French ever, she agreed to wait on me, after everyone else! I waited until the person with the last number, number 112, was waited on and then got to talk to her. I ended up spending 8 hours there. ARRGGG!

Street sign in the old village of Bormes Les Mimosas. Translated, it says something like "Butt buster street."

While I was at the Prefecture, I got to watch a show by BBC about sea horses. There was no sound and the program only lasted about 5 minutes, but they showed it every 15 minutes; I saw it a lot. It got me so interested in sea horses that I did a bunch of internet searches on them when I got home. Now I know the internet is not 100 percent reliable nor does it have completely accurate information, but I think this might be fact because I found it on every site. The males give birth! How fantastic is that? I think this is a brillant idea and more species should adopt this practice.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

No Profanity, Less Negativity

Cold weather and clouds make beautiful pictures!

I have neglected posting about my trip to the south because I haven’t really had many good things to say about France in the last week. However, before the guy on the metro attacked me, I had just gotten back from two weeks in Provence, on the coast around Bormes Les Mimosas, Le Lavandou and Toulon. It was great because I got to play in the water a lot and it was relatively inexpensive (stayed at a friend’s grandparents). However, the weather was not fantastic and the water was extremely cold, between 62-68 everyday. I don’t know if any of you have ever swam in water this cold, but let me tell you, it is really painful. And while there are no sharks (really, there are no sharks), there are a ton of jellyfish. None of this stopped me much; I got in the water everyday and enjoyed every minute of it.
View from the top of the old town of Bormes Les Mimosas.

I also got to experience nude beaches. I have been to topless beaches before, but never to nude beaches. It was quite….entertaining. I met a lot of people for the first time while they were naked. It is very weird meeting people and being introduced when they are naked. I was never naked so I always felt a little out of place shaking or kissing random nude men. One of the nude beaches, or rocks, we visited often was a gay beach and I felt like an anthropologist studying the gay man in his natural habitat. At first, it was a little awkward, but nobody ever really paid attention to me because I am a girl; in the end it was just another place to swim.


The views are fantastic in the south. There are lots of cliffs and bluffs and the water is amazingly clear. Besides a ton of jellyfish, I saw a squid, countless types of fish (even anchovies), and a lot of gold sand. I was literally a gold dust woman most of the time there.

The food was also amazing! My friend’s parents and grandparents fed me a ton (not exactly a good thing when bathing suits are involved), but we also ate mussels two nights. I love mussels, and these were fabulous. An old lady who calls herself “Grandma Mussels” cooks them in a roadside stand; you just take your pot to her and she fills it up.

I always love trips to the beach because I love the water. If I could pick anywhere to live in the world, I am pretty sure it would involve a beach. This trip was really special because I got to spend two weeks just going to the beach and hang out with my friends.

I will have to post more pictures in my next entry because blogger won't let me put anymore in this one.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Healthy Anger Release

I thought this might be fun, if not a little healthy. Moment decided to tag me with a "20 Things That Irritate Me." At first I didn't think I could finish a list of 20, but once I started typing, I realized I had waaay more than 20.

1. Terrorists
2. Alot. Listen up people, I am a teacher and if you choose to use “a lot” it is two words, not one.
3. People who pick their noses in public.
4. People who make-out in public.
5. People who listen to music on their cell phone/ipod loud enough for me to hear it.
6. Gas prices (European and U.S.)
7. Celebrity obsessed people.
8. Using public transportation.
9. People who admonish me on my blog but do not sign their names (if I ever find anonymous….)
10. Random Europeans who tell me how much they hate the U.S., especially if they listen to Rap music, eat at McDonalds, or wear Levi’s.
11. That I am not incredibly, ridiculously wealthy.
12. Bad comedies
13. Sharks
14. Bad hair days and fat days.
15. People who bash the military.
16. People who try to “convert” me to their chosen religion.
17. Socialism/Communism
18. Carpet
19. Transfat and the fact that I know what transfat is.
20. The state of health care in the U.S.

I am going to tag Diamond Lil because she sounds like she is having a tough day.

Saturday, August 19, 2006

More Me, Less Europe

Apology and Disclaimer: This entry is rather personal. I try to stay away from entries like this because I don't really want my inner life on display for the whole world, but as I have said in the past, "It's my blog and I will curse, use bad grammar, bitch, complain or cry if I wanna."

As the days slowly pass and the “incident” becomes less traumatic, I am faced with growing confusion and filled with questions. My mind and emotions have always been subject to what I like to think of as a roller coaster effect and for as long as I can remember, I have always over thought everything.

One of my friends (Amanda), recently said I am very cerebral, and well, if there is one way to neatly box my personality and my being, it is that word. Cerebral. I do live in my mind and have, more often than I care to think, wished the wheels would quit spinning. They never do, probably never will, so I deal with it the best way I can: burdening my friends with my thoughts, writing them down, introspection, etc. I always think by telling my friends and by saying what I am thinking out loud will help, but all it ever really does is annoy people. I know nobody can make my decisions for me, and I wouldn’t accept a decision from someone else, but for a brief moment, after letting it out, I feel somewhat relieved. And it is nice to hear other people’s reactions; it makes me feel less alone. When I can’t discuss things with others, I tend to have the conversations in my head, which adds to the roller coaster effect, which usually confuses me more. Writing (or rather typing, because I am a child of the computer age) never really helps either because I tend to write in the same circles. I always think, “If I can just get a clear and concrete idea….,” but those clear and concrete ideas elude me with every keystroke. What I end up with usually looks as if it should be bound in a psych book. Introspection is the worst, because, well, that is what I am usually trying to get away from. I can think things through and never find the answer, winding up more confused and more convinced that the answer will never come.

So that is where I am today. You see, what happened on the metro the other day seemed like a culmination of every negative feeling I have had since I arrived in France. At the time, it seemed like a cut and dry sign telling me to leave and yet, in retrospect, it wasn’t so bad. The guy didn’t mug me, he didn’t rape me, he didn’t shoot or stab me. Millions of people experience things ten times worse everyday, and I am whining about some guy who pulled my hair on the metro. Don’t get me wrong, I know it was horrible; I haven’t been able to sleep more than a few hours a night nor have I been able to eat, but am I overreacting?

Do I really want to give up a dream I have had for years just because Paris is a miserable place to live? Ever since the first time I came overseas, I have wanted to travel. Life is too short to wait until retirement; who knows if I will even be around that long. Living in Europe is increasingly hard for Americans because of all the restrictions of the E.U. If you aren’t working for an American company or in school, there is a very small chance of ever finding something. If I leave, I may never have another opportunity to come back.

I know my circumstances are terrible. My “home” is a morbid box, I share with students. I have to share a toilet, shower and kitchen with people 7 years younger. I live in a horrible neighborhood in the worst part of France and the place where I will move if I stay is much worse. The university where I work is despicable. There are no resources; I am expected to provide my own books and teaching materials. The classes are painfully overcrowded and the students are way too aggressive. I can’t learn the language; I rarely understand what people are saying to me and I don’t think it will get any better if I stay another year. Other than my few friends, I don’t like French people. I swear, I have tried, but more often than not, I find them to be miserable people. I don’t know more than a few people and those few people are the same people I met the first day I arrived; they were all introduced by my friend Sebastien. I have made no friends independently. As you can deduct, I am not exactly thriving here.

I know the good is outweighed by the terrible; the museums are great, the wine and food are fantastic, the city is romantic, and my friends are beautiful, but I feel, more often than not, that I have to struggle to see this through all the shit. I know satisfaction and happiness are no guarantees and they only come if you work for them, but I don’t know if I am fighting a losing battle here. I don’t want to fight; I didn’t want to fight, I wanted it to work, to click, or at least be easier than it has been.

I know I should leave, but I don’t want to run away from failure, that is not who I am. If it was, I would have run away at 19 when life was really crappy. I feel that running away from this will mark my personality and that it will always hang over my head. Logically, I should leave and try something else, something better, but what if leaving is not better? What if I regret it? What if it changes who I am?

Thursday, August 17, 2006

FUCK YOU FRANCE!

I am breaking one of my golden rules of not putting curse words in print in this post, but I am so damn mad, I can’t help it. I am not going to apologize because it is my blog and because of what just happened to me.

I had just gotten back from the south of France (more on that when I don’t feel as if I want to blow up this entire miserable nation) and was making my way through public transportation, thinking about spending another year here and trying to convince myself that I would like France even if it killed me when it finally happened. I was violently attacked on the metro.

At first, it seemed like a joke. I was on a double decker metro, sitting on the steps reading The Scarlet Letter, when something hit my foot really hard. I didn’t realize what it was so I looked down and saw a young black male on the bottom level. He had punched my foot for some unknown reason. He looked menacing so I just quickly put my head back in my book. I don’t know if that pissed him off or if he has a little dick or was abused by his mother (and frankly, I don’t care), but something antagonized him enough for him to come up to me and try to punch me. I blocked the bulk of the punch, thank god, but it wasn’t over. He yanked me off the steps by my hair and starting pulling handfuls of my hair out. By this time, I was yelling and screaming, “Stop, Help me!” Nobody helped; everyone was watching, but nobody even bothered to get out of their seat. My attacker thought this was hilarious and began mimicking me and then to my horror and, I admit, my surprise, the fucking assholes on the train started laughing at me. There I was, being pulled around by my hair like a fucking rag doll and the only thing my fellow passengers could do was laugh. Nobody came to my rescue. I was too scared to fight back because I was convinced I saw a knife in his pocket.

When it was all over and the guy got off the train (without any of my possessions), nobody came to see if I was alright or if I needed help. My fucking scalp was bleeding and nobody even gave me a kind smile as I shivered, bawling in the corner. NOBODY. NOBODY. Not even the fucking assholes who were sitting within arms reach of me. FUCK YOU FRANCE. I HATE YOU! I am tired of searching for good things and trying to make myself enjoy it here. I am done! I have had to constantly tell myself I don’t hate it here since my second week. Well guess what, I have been lying.

Don’t get me wrong. I know people get assaulted everyday in the States, but I can’t image anywhere in the States where people would actually laugh at the assaulted. I am sorry, but from where I come from, this guy would have gotten his ass beaten before he ever had a chance to grab my hair.

I am mad because this happened; I am mad because I have to take the metro and I have no other options; I am mad because I am afraid to take the metro now; I am super mad at myself for not fighting back, but I was terrified; I am mad because I was terrified. But mostly I am infuriated at the other people on the metro. How dare they ignore blatant and abject violence and laugh while it occurred. I didn’t even think the French were capable of that. Thanks for disappointing me AGAIN!

Before all this transpired, I was thinking about how much I missed the slow life and how I was looking forward to going some place new next year. I am not a religious person, but I do believe in signs and I definitely see tonight as a sign. A big fat sign that says, “ANGELA, GO HOME!” Or at the very least, “ANGELA, GET THE HELL OUT OF FRANCE.” Guess what? I am not ignoring this sign. I am leaving. I can’t live in place like this anymore. I won’t force myself to be happy in a room the size of my former bathroom; I won’t try to force positive thoughts anymore; I won’t try to convince myself that if I only knew the language, I would like it better. I refuse to live another year among people who think bathing is bad for their skin and who act as if they would die if they were nice to strangers. Fuck it, I have had enough.

As I have always said, my friends are great and I love them and will miss them dearly, but I am tired. And I don’t think sleep will help my kind of tired. I feel like I lost and I feel like a complete failure.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

On to the Next Vacation

Bavarian sunset.

Well I had an awesome time in Germany. Thanks Gary, Deb and Kayla! Two weeks of living in a normal house and doing normal things like riding in a car, going to the gym and spending the American dollar is much sweeter than it sounds. My cousin and family live in Germany right on the Czech border. All the surrounding area is countryside and it was really nice to just be so close to nature. I forget how hard city living is and how much I miss being able to get away from it all. The country air did a lot of good too, because most days I was up around 6:00, which is way more normal for me than the 8:00 mornings in France.

This is another picture of Prague. I took it from the courtyard of the castle. See the tiny flag on top of the building? It is the American flag!


Coming back to France was hard because...well, the list is just way too long. However, tomorrow I am off on my next vacation in the south of France. I am really excited about this because supposedly there are no sharks in the ocean and I love to swim! I plan on spending at least 5 hours a day in the water.

I will be back August 16 and I don't go back to work until the last week of September. All this vacation time is really tough on me and I am not being sarcastic! I am one of those people who likes to stay busy. I have no idea what I will do for a month. There are a few museums I haven't seen yet, but I can't go to them everyday. Any suggestions?

Sunday, July 30, 2006

Prague


Last weekend my family in Germany and I went to Prague. What a beautiful city! I can't wait to go back. We stayed in an awesome hotel but I think staying in a hostel would be just as fun. There seems to be a lot to do and see in Prague: a bunch of castles, churches, bars, etc. And although, it is part of the European Union, they don't use the euro, so things are a lot less expensive than in other major cities, big plus for me at the moment.


We had a leisurely weekend, however we did go on a 4 hour tour of the city. It was really informative. Back in the day, Prague was 5 cities which eventually merged into one, so each section of the city holds different charms. Each one is named and they all have a few really interesting sites.


The Jewish area was one of my favorite areas because of the cemetery. It is located on a hill, but it isn't really a hill, it is layers of bodies. They only had a limited area of space so they had to keep burying the bodies on top of each other. Supposedly, the bodies in some areas are 12 people deep. The museum in the Jewish section is very educational and interesting as well.


Even a long weekend certainly isn't enough to explore this fascinating city and I can't wait to go back. I bet it is really pretty in the winter!

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

German Encore

I am visiting my cousin, his wife and their toddler in Germany for the next two weeks so my posts will be somewhat erratic. We are going to the Czech Republic this weekend and I cannot even begin to describe how excited I am about that. I have wanted to visit Prague since I arrived in Europe and now I am finally getting to go! Yay!

I spent some of the day on an Army post and in a gym. It was fantastic! Oh, and I got to buy running shoes, Jello, deodorant, and macaroni and cheese. I felt like a kid at Disneyland. I miss the U.S.A. I think I might get the flag tattooed on my forehead

Weirdness Becomes Me

The other day my friend Marion helped me look for apartments (again). We basically searched ads all day and she called the places for me. Trying to find an apartment is emotionally draining and Marion did most of the work, so I would like to take this space to give her a big, virtual high-five; Marion, you are the greatest!

After spending all day doing this, I got in the metro system (the bowels of Paris) to do the long ride back to my ghetto. In Auber, one of the large stations, an old, wealthy looking woman asked if she could pass with me through the turn style because she was fat (her words, not mine). I thought this was really strange, but she was old and I was tried, so I let her. She kissed me three times for letting her pass and said, “Grazie, Thanks, Merci.” Then she started talking to me in English, which was terrible, and told me she was a teacher of “diplomat babies” which I assumed meant children of diplomats. I didn’t really believe her or understand her much, but she was old and was holding my hand so I was sort of stuck with her. There were some stairs and I decided to help her down the stairs.

I have a heart necklace I wear often. It isn’t expensive but it was expensive for me when I bought it and I love it. The old woman saw my necklace and touched it and said, “Someone has your heart.” I said yes because I didn’t feel like getting into the whole relationship talk with a woman I didn’t know. Then she asked me if I had babies and I said no because I hate children. She slapped me. Just in case you didn’t get that, A TOTAL STRANGER SLAPPED ME for saying I hate children. Then she kissed me again and pinched my cheek.

At this point, I was a little worried I was going to get my pocket picked because the situation was so bizarre. She told me about being a Jewish woman and said she didn’t want to be Jewish anymore and then kissed me again. Then she asked me what I did and I told her I was a teacher so she kissed me some more. She started talking about religion once more and asked me what I was and I said, “I am nothing,” and she slapped me again. This slap was also followed by more kisses and a cheek pinching session.

Finally, I was able to pull myself free of her grip and run away. I really think she was just a lonely old woman, but I am beginning to think this southern politeness thing is for the birds. The only reason I helped her and spoke with her is because I was raised to respect my elders and I think after this experience, I will let someone else respect them. I don’t want to sound like a big baby, but she hurt me! My cheeks really stung for hours after those slaps and pinches. And for what? I didn’t get my pocket picked or anything; it was just a really crazy occurrence.

I don’t think I would mind the fact that my life is obviously marked by the powers that be to entertain others, I just wish it wasn’t in comedy form. Even as I type this, I still can’t believe this happened; however, if somebody were to predict this farce and tell me that it would happen to someone in my life, I would automatically know it would happen to me and I think all of my friends would know that I would be the one to endure it too. Why can’t my life be cool instead of goofy?

Saturday, July 15, 2006

Bastille Day 2006

National Assembly building decorated for the 14th of July.

I have not been posting a lot recently because I did not have many positive things to say. After the last few posts and out of consideration for my French friends, I swore to myself I would write something positive about France or French people in my next post. Nevertheless, it has not been the easiest thing to do; mainly because I am looking for an apartment and it seems like it is going to be impossible to find one. For those of you who do not know, I signed another year contract with my university, but if I cannot find an apartment by September, I will be coming back to the U.S. So American friends, start getting your spare rooms ready! The longer I look, the more I feel coming home is highly likely.

Planes flying over Champs Elysees with the colors of the flag. I couldn't get the blue.
Anyway, I have not been feeling much love for France or the people and I do not want to complain every time I post so I just decided not to write about the two crazy, scary experiences on the metro, or the guy who took my picture WITHOUT my permission, or all of the insanity around Zidane. I am getting ready to go to Germany for two weeks and I think this visit, followed by another two weeks in the South of France, is really well timed. Hopefully I will come back with a better attitude.


I feel sorry for these guys because their berets look so stupid.
But for the time being, I do have a few positive things to say. First of all, yesterday was Bastille Day and Paris was alive with people, parades and fireworks. I got to Paris around 9:30 and stood behind a ton of people to see all the military personnel march down Champs Elysees. I expected a little more from the air show than just planes flying in formation, but overall, it was a nice experience. I stood next to a man who kept letting me stand on his step stool so I could see. He was really nice; he told me all the names of the military vehicles in French and then told me I should marry a Frenchman. I laughed a lot at the suggestion until I realized he was serious.

Yes, that is the Eiffel Tower in the background.

I met some friends around 9 p.m. for a picnic by the Eiffel Tower and to watch the fireworks. I have to say, the show was awesome. It was fantastic seeing the Eiffel Tower turned off to then be lit up with fireworks. (I have a few videos for those of you interested). To top it all off, the weather was incredible yesterday. The worst part was getting back to the ghetto because the trains are being rerouted this weekend (not such a smart public transport move by the powers that be); it was just really crowded and slow, but not dangerous.

The second positive thing involves a church. And no, I did not burn one down. I am going to start volunteering at the American Church in Paris. Although I do not buy into organized religion (by product of being raised in the South and having it shoved down my throat everyday of my everlovin’ life by everybody, after which a person either love it or really, really, really, really, really hates it, but that is a whole other blog), I am excited about it. I think I will probably meet some nice and/or interesting people there plus I will get to help the community. My week picked up after these two things and I was able to end it on a positive note.

Monday, July 10, 2006

Last Sports Post

Shop window in the Marais. Amusing because this is a predominately gay area and I would be willing to bet the majority of the inhabitants could care less about sports.

Well the French lost in a very anti-climatic or underwhelming (semi quote stolen from my friend Dan) game. All the surprising and recent support of their fellow countrymen didn't help Les Bleus. Paris was in a state of frenzy yesterday in preparation for the game. There were tons of French flags for sale at all the clothing stands around the main metro station and everyone was dressed in red, blue and white. This massive display of patriotism is quite unnatural in France so I really liked being able to see it for a change. My friend, Marion, was less than impressed because she felt it was too little too late. I think I agree with her because nobody was cheering for France during the France/Togo match. Nonetheless, it was nice to see French people finally supporting their country.

The match itself was massively disappointing mainly because of what happened in the 110th minute. Zinedine Zidane made what could possibly be argued as the worst mistake of his career. For those of you unfamiliar with him, he is considered one of the best football players ever and French football fans hold him in a type of god-like awe. The match between France/Italy was his last game, his retirement game.

Fans outside a public viewing arena 2 hours before the game began.

Did he go out in a blaze of glory? No, he violently head-butted an Italian opponent, Marco Materazzi. Physically unprovoked, Zidane turned around and hit Materazzi so hard in the chest that the Italian player fell down. I don't care what was said between the two players, Zidane's aggressive physical attack was shocking and repulsive. I have had a bunch of nasty stuff said to me and I don't remember ever reacting with violence. Zidane ended his career with an explusion from a World Cup final game and to top it off his team ended up losing. Now he has to answer the questions of whether or not the French would have won if he had played the game to the end.

Honestly, after seeing Zidane act in such a way, it was hard to cheer for the French. I think Zidane knocked the breath out of all the French fans as well. It was like a giant balloon deflating. I think the Italians deserved to win after that incident.

Nobody seems to know why or what caused him to do this, but I think his behavior was shameful! The French commentators even said, "Why Zidane, why?" After leaving the game, he did not return to accept the second place medal or to stand with his team. A continuation of his nasty behavior, or embarrassment? Who knows, but I thought it was reprehensible to act the way he did and then refuse to come out and be with his teammates. The French fans may not want to say it, so I will: Shame on you, Zidane for disappointing your teammates and your fans.

Friday, July 07, 2006

Yes, France Really Does Hate Me

Well the French won. They will play Italy on Sunday for the World Cup. I cannot even begin to explain the atmosphere in Paris after the game yesterday. As soon as we walked out of the bar we saw a man shooting fireworks into the windows of a nearby building, people were walking around draped in flags, cars had massive amounts of people in them, on top of them, and everybody was shouting. It was a crazy, scary, exciting environment and the only thing I can compare it to is Mardi Gras.

I wanted to go to Champs Elysess but my friends and I thought it would be too dangerous. We ended up walking through the Latin Quarter and watching the people dance in the streets. We stopped to talk with a group of people around our age (mid to late 20’s) and that is where my night went south. I was talking very excitedly with the females in the group about how much I love football and how much I want France to win. They smiled at me and very rudely told me I couldn’t understand football or France because I was American and Americans cannot understand anything about football or France.

For those who read this blog on a regular basis, you know I am not a Francophile and that the French culture and the French get on my nerves. This is a prime example why I will never be able to say, “I love France.”

The French football team was the first French thing I liked immediately. Everything else I like now had to grow on me, but I instantly liked the football team and, after team U.S.A. was out, I cheered for France. I yelled “Allez les Bleus” so much my throat hurt and then I was told by French people I couldn’t understand the game, the French or anything because I am a stupid American. Thank you again France for reaffirming my belief that France houses the most unpleasant, negative people in the world.

I am not saying all French are that way, my friends never act like that, but I am afraid this type of behavior and attitude reflects a large percentage. This is also one of the reasons why I haven’t tried to learn more French; when I arrived here I was excited about speaking the language, but I ran into many people who more or less told me my French was so bad they would just speak my language. It is like they get pleasure out of making other people feel as bad as they feel. After about a month of hearing from the French that my French was intolerable, I just quit trying to speak it. I mean, after all, it isn’t as if French is the dominate language in commerce or anything and they are such jerks about it, why should I try. I know it is a lousy attitude and I want to learn the language now, but it was hard to talk myself into being positive in the beginning.

I truly believe the average French person strongly dislikes the United States and Americans and they have no problem telling an American how they feel. They will tell Americans how much they hate the American lifestyle while wearing Levi’s and Sketchers, drinking a Starbucks coffee, eating a McDonald’s cheeseburger, and listening to 50 Cent.

I could respect their attitude, whether it is deserved or not, if they weren’t so nauseatingly hypocritical about it and if they could give me a concrete reason why they feel the way they do. However, most of the time I never hear a valid reason why they dislike Americans so much, just the same old mantra of bad politics or bad lifestyle. (My friends are not included in this generalization and certainly not the whole of France, but as an expat living here, this is how I see the general attitude.)

Anyway, a lot of my enthusiasm died after talking to the random French folks; I realized my friends are part of my bubble and I don’t really consider them French and therefore I forget how I am really viewed by the average person in Paris. I felt like a total moron for thinking the French might actually appreciate the fact that I was trying to fit in here. It took the wind out of my sails, so to speak, and I seriously doubt I will cheer as vigorously for the French team now. I still want them to win, but I don’t want to celebrate with the French population. If I watch the game at all, it will more than likely be at a friend’s house or on my computer.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Have a Great One!



This isn't one of my photos and I kind of feel like I am cheating by using it, but I wanted to wish everyone a safe and happy Fourth of July. I wish I could celebrate! Shoot off some fireworks for me, please.

Football Fever


Another picture from EuroDisney. Did I mention how much I LOVE Disney?!

I have football fever! France beat Brazil; the number one team got beaten by a bunch of old Frenchmen. There is a real chance France might win the World Cup. That would be so exciting! Paris exploded Saturday night and I sure it will be crazy Wednesday if they beat Portugal. I cannot even begin to imagine what Paris, will be like if France wins the world cup! I have never been in a big city when a major sports event was in progress.

I really dislike the way the Portuguese play because they are such drama queens; I definitely hope France wins that game! I hated Brazil so I am quite happy France beat them. As much as I dislike many things about France, I like the way the French players are playing; they practice good sportsmanship. I do not know if this is always the case, but from what I have seen, they act very decent during the games.

Saturday, July 01, 2006

A Not So Scary Experience


This picture has nothing to do with the post. I took it last year in Miami. I am in vacation mode and long for a beach and it reminds me of one of my best vacations ever.

I got my hair cut in Paris yesterday. It is the first time I have had my hair cut in Paris. I got it cut once in Germany and loved it and once in one of the suburbs of Paris and hated it. I must admit, I was very worried. I don't dress up much or wear a lot of make up or jewelry, so my hair is my one object of vanity. It isn't great or anything, and I never fix it, I just like it.

The lady who cut my hair had a really funky hair cut and I wondered if she would cut mine like hers. She picked up the razor (the type they use to cut boy's hair) and cut off a huge chunk! It was horrible and the place was hot (of course) and I just keep thinking, "I am going to have to wear a hat for the rest of my life." However, after she finished my hair looked great! I am really happy with the cut!

Friday, June 30, 2006

America, How I Love Thee


For the past few days, I have been giving France the double finger. I know flying the bird isn't classy, but I have been having so many problems with paperwork, housing, my work permit, and the people in general that I am pretty sure I can be forgiven. To top it all off, I burned my hand with boiling water because a FRENCH teapot broke while I was pouring tea.

However, all my bitterness ended on Wednesday with an impromptu trip to EuroDisney. I have never, ever been to any Disney park so this was especially cool for me. I felt like a little kid. I think I actually jumped up and down and clapped my hands a few times. I had to refrain from going into full park mode because I really wanted to buy the Mickey Mouse ears or a 8 euro hotdog.

Walt Disney Studios is there too, so I got to see some "movie magic." There is a trolley that takes you through the back lots and you can see how certain affects are created. This would have been more entertaining if there weren't about 7 kids who cried and screamed the entire ride. I don't think that stuff would have scared me at that age, but who knows.

Disneyland Park has the daily parade at 4 and I wanted to see it. I loved it. Most of the adults around me enjoyed it too because they got a short break from standing in line and buying candy for their young ones. I took lots of pictures-Beauty and the Beast is my all time favorite!

The best part about all of it is that it is America. Everything is in English and for a little while I didn't feel like I was in a country which obviously despises me. I liked the park so much I bought a year pass. I think I am going back every week.