Thursday, December 31, 2009

Happy New Years / Bonne Année!!!

We are having a great time in the US and I'm sad to go back to France.  We leave in 2 days, and I really don't want to get on that plane.  For the first time ever, I am not excited to leave the US to go back to France.  It feels strange to be depressed about this, but I think it is because I feel like I have barely had time to visit with friends, especially with the wedding and the holidays keeping me busy.  But I hope to make it back in August, and if I'm lucky it will be for the entire month so I can really spend some good quality time with those I love on this side of the ocean.

However, we still have 2 days left and I plan on taking advantage of the time that is left to visit with family and friends and to ring in the new year.  This year I won't be going to any big parties or anything like that, but I think it will still be a great New Years Eve at home with my parents, my in-laws, my husband, my aunt and uncle and a few friends.  Then tomorrow we have more family coming for New Years Day and then I'm hoping to make it out with some friends tomorrow night to see them one last time before we head to the airport on Saturday to fly back to Paris.  I know my New Years will be great, and I hope the same for you!

Happy New Years!!!

Saturday, December 26, 2009

The wedding en photos

Just a few photos from our State-side wedding:

Lionel and I

 

Lionel and I

 

me before the wedding

 

the wedding party

 

married!  again...

 

cutting the cake



dancing like crazy!

The wedding was a great time and I couldn't be happier.  My friend made my dress, the location was wonderful, everyone seemed to have fun, the decorations turned out great and I think it all went well without any real problems.  I am looking forward to getting the photos from the photographer, but for now these will have to do!

Friday, December 25, 2009

Christmas

I'm having a great Christmas with my friends and family in the US and I hope everyone else is having a wonderful Christmas (or other holiday) as well, wherever they are.

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!!!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Update

Just a quick update...we safely arrived in the US on Thursday with very minimal travel problems.  It's great to be home and I'm having an amazing time seeing family and friends!  I know this is going to be a wonderful vacation, but it is going to go by to quickly!

We had the wedding on Saturday and it went very well.  Better than I could have ever imagined!  Hopefully I'll find time to get some photos up soon!!!  We had no problems and I had a great time, and so did everyone else (I think).  I loved my dress, the location was much more beautiful than I had thought and it was perfect.

Now that the wedding craziness is over and things are a bit more calm, we are getting ready for Christmas and doing some sightseeing with my in-laws.  So far we have visited Columbus and today we are going to the Air Force Museum.

Hope to post again soon with some photos!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Freedom!!!!!!

I'm happy to report that I survived this very long, miserable day of work and I am now on vacation!  An entire two weeks of freedom!!!  We leave tomorrow morning for the US, and I cannot wait to get on that plane and be headed back to see my family and friends.  I've been looking forward to this for so long, I was beginning to think it would never happen!

Of course, not everything can be that rose-colored.  In an effort to destroy my happiness, it is supposed to snow late tonight/early tomorrow morning and cause possible delays at the airport.  And of course, there is supposed to be a bit of a metro and RER strike tomorrow, making it even harder to get to the airport.  But I will not be deterred...I will arrive in the US, on time and happy, and I will enjoy these two weeks of freedom spent with friends and family!!!!

The next post will probably be from the United States, unless I am so busy I don't even find time to post until my return to Paris in January.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Yet another grève

I was hoping I wouldn't have to post about it because I feel like all I ever do is complain (that's what this country has been doing to me lately), but I officially can't take it anymore.  The RER A has been en grève (on strike) for days now, and I'm starting to get sick of it.  It was originally only supposed to be last Thursday, and I was fine with that because I neither use the RER A on Thursdays nor do I go to la Defense.


However, the strike continued, and on Friday I suffered quite a bit because of this strike.  On Friday mornings I teach two lessons in Rueil Malmaison (on the RER A) and then I have one hour to get from Rueil Malmaison to Ivry for my next two lessons.  Let's just say that on normal days this is already nearly impossible (I'm usually 5-10 mins late), but on Friday it just could not happen.  After arriving to work perfectly fine Friday morning, I was feeling confident.  But then they closed the RER station in Rueil Malmaison.  I ended up having to take a bus from Rueil Malmaison to la Defense, which took an hour.  Then I took the extremely crowded line 1 (because of all the people not taking the RER from la Defense into Paris) from la Defense to Palais Royal-Musee du Louvre to head into Ivry.  Of course then the line 7 decided to hate me and the branch going in my direction wasn't coming for 20 mins.  And the line 7 wasn't even on strike!  So I had to get off at Maison Blanche, walk to the Porte d'Italie, where I of course missed the tram, and so then had to walk to the company.  The entire trip ended up taking me 2 hours and 15 mins and I was hot, angry and tired at the end of it.  Luckily one of my Friday afternoon lessons had been moved to Thursday morning and the girl I saw on Friday (an hour late), is my friend and so it didn't matter and I didn't lose any money.

I figured the strike would end after the weekend, but of course when I got up this morning, the Frenchies were still on strike.  I had a fairly normal trip to work at la Defense this morning, but my trip home this evening was miserable and 30 mins longer than normal.  There were so many people taking the line 1 home that I had to wait in a line that went down two flights of stairs in order to just get onto the overly crowded metro platform.  I wish I had a photo of it, but I couldn't even move my arms.  Once on the platform I had to wait to get into a metro and then be crammed in all the way into the center of Paris where I could finally get off and switch to my line to get home.

When will these Frenchies ever learn that their ridiculous demands are not the problem of the entire French population and that they need to think about someone other than themselves?  I enjoy being in France, but I don't know how long I am going to be able to live with the strikes.  I know that they are a part of France and that you have to get used to them, but after having spent over 3 years in this country, I'm still not used to them and they still make me furious!  And I can't imagine how it will be if there is a two week long metro strike while I have my teaching job...I will lose so much money and be so incredibly angry!  Let's just hope the Frenchies calm down and start thinking about the entire population of the country instead of just their precious fonctionnaire selves!

Sunday, December 13, 2009

I just want le permis de conduire

France has a driver's license exchange program with some countries meaning that you can exchange your driver's license from your home country for a French driver's license.  For the United States, they only have the exchange agreement with certain states, and Ohio just happens to be one of them.  This is great because it means that I can just exchange my Ohio driver's license for a French one, for free (getting a French driver's license costs A LOT of money, usually around 1,000 euros).  Though I don't have a car, I still thought it would be a great idea to do the exchange since I am living here.  One never knows what will happen in the future, and while I don't want to drive in Paris, driving en province doesn't bother me.  I also can't imagine never being able to drive again because I love to drive.


On my last trip to the stupid Sous-Prefécture (to pick up my carte de séjour), I decided I would start the process.  They told me I needed to fill out a request form and mail it back and I would receive a letter in the mail one to two months later with a date and time for a rendez-vous to complete the process.  Sounded easy enough to me, so as soon as I got home I filled out the form and sent it out.  That was in August.  I finally got the response last week (4 months later!).  And it was not what I had hoped.  They said I could not do the exchange because it has to be done within the first year of the first carte de séjour.  Now, I already knew this, but I also know of people who have managed to get around it, so I was hoping for the best.  But of course, in true French fashion, that didn't happen.

I know that my first year in France isn't supposed to count against me because it was on a student carte de séjour and students are not required to do the exchange in order to be able to drive in France; they can drive on their home country's driver's license for their entire stay.  The rest of us are only "allowed" to use our driver's license for the first year, and then we must have a French one (in theory).  I really wanted to get a French one just to avoid any problems in case I ever plan to drive in this country.  So, my year as a student shouldn't count.  But what makes me angry is that the only other carte de séjour I have had before my current one was as a language assistant.

I don't think that this should count, for many reasons.  First of all, it wasn't even a year-long card (only 7 months), meaning I didn't even have a year to try to do the exchange.  If you are supposed to do it within the first year of your first card, why does a card that isn't valid a year count?  Secondly, by the time I got my assistant's card (in February of my assistant's year), I wouldn't have even had the time to wait for their response before it expired meaning I probably wouldn't have been able to do it.  Not to mention the fact that I left the country when it expired since I was hoping to do the assistantship again the following year, and I wasn't expecting to get married at the time.  The exchange rendez-vous would have certainly been while I was gone.  Thirdly, assistants don't make a lot of money, and therefore could never actually afford to have a car making it pointless in most cases to get a French license.  Fourthly, the assistantship is in theory a temporary situation, much like being a student, that allows young people to come experience the life and culture of France, without moving here permanently.  In some cases it does lead to a permanent move to France (from meeting a French boy/girl friend, etc) but this is not generally what happens.  So it seems pointless for France to spend the money on giving someone a license who is not really going to stay here and therefore does not really need it.

But even this is not what angers me the most.  What really makes me want to go and kick some fonctionnaire ass is the fact that when I applied for my current card, (carte de séjour vie privée et familiale), they treated it as a première demande (as a first application), meaning that I had to pay 300 euros to have it.  But now, when that could benefit me, it of course cannot be counted as being my first card.  When I have to pay, they are fine with it, but when they have to give me something, it just doesn't work.  This seems extremely unfair to me.  So, it looks like I am going to have to go and fight with the sous-préfecture when I get back from the States to see if I can get them to change their minds.  I'm also going to have to do a lot of research into the actual laws and see if I can find any loopholes that might allow me to get around this stupidity.  And if all else fails, I will just keep going until I find that one fonctionnaire who says yes and is willing to give me what I want (if you ask enough people, you are almost always bound to find someone who tells you what you want to hear).  Otherwise, I have a Tunisian student who told me that if I change my address to Paris and convince one of Lionel's friends to say that we live with them, I should be able to do the exchange no problem.  Apparently in Paris you go in with your license and they give you a French one while you are standing there (and thus must not spend much time researching your carte de séjour history).  And if even that doesn't work I guess that I will drive with my American license and if I ever get pulled over, I'll just tell them I'm a tourist or that I have just arrived and never show them my residency card.  I have to get a new passport soon, so it won't have any visas in it, and there should be no reason for them not to believe me.

Has anyone else found themselves in this situation?  Any ideas on how to get around this problem?  I would appreciate any suggestions!

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Why sometimes I really don't like mes élèves

Ok, so they aren't really des élèves, they are professional adults doing English training.  But still, sometimes they are as irresponsable as my lycéens when I was an assistant, so the word is fitting.  I am just sick of them cancelling.  They cancel constantly.  It is so unprofessional.  Don't they realize this is part of their job?  And the worst part about it is, every time they cancel, I can just see my end-of-the-month paycheck getting smaller and smaller.  And yet I have to grit my teeth, smile, and tell them "oh, no, that's not a problem at all, thanks for letting me know in advance" when actually I wish they hadn't let me know in advance because if they cancel at the last minute I still get paid.  Instead, they tell me a week in advance and I'm screwed out of hours, screwed out of pay and stuck sitting around Paris bored in the middle of the day because I don't want to spend money and because it can never be my students who are first in the morning or last at night who cancel so that I can at least sleep in or get home earlier.  It's always the ones in the middle of the day.

So far this week I've had to cringe, grit my teeth and force smiles through half of my Monday and Tuesday students telling me that they need to cancel for next week.  And I'm not happy about it.  I was hoping not to have any cancellations from Dec. 1 - Dec. 17 since my pay is already going to take a hit because I'll be on unpaid vacation for the second part of the month.  Things seemed to be going well.  When I told my students about my vacation, no one had a problem having lessons next week.  And then all of a sudden that has changed and next Monday and Tuesday are going to be miserable.  They now all have important meetings and trainings and business trips (you mean to tell me they didn't already know about these things!?!?!).  So I'll be working no hours (therefore earning no money!) but still stuck out in the city all day long.  Here's hoping that none of my Wednesday people cancel and that some of my Thursday and Friday groups want to get an extra lesson in before I go on vacation so I can schedule them for Monday or Tuesday!  Otherwise December's pay is going to be pretty miserable, and right before we move.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Marché de Noël at La Défense

Since I had an unexpected cancellation in the middle of my day earlier this week, and I was already in La Defense, I decided to go check out the Christmas market.  Christmas markets are one of my favorite things about Christmas in Europe.  They are such a nice Christmas tradition that we do not have in the US.  I was pretty excited to get to go because Christmas markets just put me in the Christmas spirit, and I also had some shopping I wanted to get done.

I went to the market at La Defense for the first time last year, and all I really remembered was that it was big and Christmas-y.  I figured it would be great to go again.  However, perhaps my memories were a little rose-colored because when I went this week, I was just disappointed.  I prefer a more traditional style market that sells more food and traditional goods, but the market at La Defense is just extremely tacky, not particularly Christmas-y, and kind of depressing. 

They barely sell anything traditional (except some food products such as foie gras) and the whole thing seems like more of a joke than anything else.  It felt like I was walking through an infomercial decorated for Christmas.  Most of the products for sale were the kind of junk you see for sale on American TV but that no one actually buys (a saw that can cut through anything...complete with demonstration, a machine to make perfectly layered candles, a stretchy scarf that can be a scarf, a shirt and a skirt, a jacuzzi! etc).  There were really no Christmas products at all, except one little building (not even a Christmas chalet) that sold Christmas decorations (now mind you, the French style Christmas decorations, so a lot of things in pink and black..........very ugly!).  And everything was extremely overpriced...raclette sandwiches for 7 euros for example.  All I had hoped to find were some nice, somewhat traditional, perhaps handmade Christmas ornaments to bring back to my family for the tree, but no such luck among all the junk.  Do people actually buy that stuff?

And on top of that, you would think they would play Christmas music.  But no, they don't.  I shouldn't be too surprised since this country seems to have something against the Christmas music that all Americans know and love, but still, it is supposed to be a very Christmas-y activity so some holiday music would be appropriate.  So, instead of Christmas music, they have a group, a band, an I-don't-know-what of musicians dressed up as Native Americans (moccasins, feather headdresses, the works)  playing Native American style music.  First of all, I can't even understand why they are there, it just seems bizarre to me.  And second of all, what does Native American music have to do with Christmas?

So this weekend I plan to hit up the Christmas market on les Champs Elysees, the one here in the KB and perhaps also the ones at St. Germain des Pres and St. Sulpice in hopes of finding some actually nice Christmas ornaments and perhaps some other nice products as well that I can bring back to my family.  Here's hoping that there is at least one Christmas market in Paris that is as nice (though not as big) as the one in Strasbourg or the ones in Germany, Belgium and Eastern Europe!

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Le boulot - apéritifs and compliments

I know I already said I don't love my job, but it has been interesting lately.  A week and a half ago my boss hosted an apéritif at her apartment for all the English teachers at my company.  At first I really didn't want to go.  The idea of spending my Friday night acting professional at my boss' home while speaking to people I don't know really didn't appeal to me.  However, I am glad I went.  I had originally planned to only stay an hour, but I ended up enjoying myself so much that the next thing I knew, four hours had passed and I was late to go see my friend's band play.  I didn't have to act professionally, I ended up learning a bit about my company, I finally met my colleagues, I put some faces to the different names I had heard and I discovered a little bit of hope for the future.  I hope these good feelings last.

My boss made a ton of food (all kinds of great little apéritif snacks - cups of endive and roquefort salads, pesto, mozzarella and tomato salads, mini pizzas, lentils and salmon, etc) and she had tons of wine and champagne.  We ate and drank a lot (that's what happens when you get a bunch of anglophones together).  I spoke to my colleagues about work and our lives, I met the other people who work in my company's office (people with whom I have constant email contact, but have never actually seen) and I just had fun.  My boss even ended up quite drunk (after 4-5 bottles of wine and more champagne than I can count, we were all a little tipsy), which was funny to see.  And I discovered that half of my colleagues are American, and that one of them has been with my company since they were founded, 16 years ago.  Yep, that's right.  He's done this job for 16 years (and he's happy with it) so it must not be all bad and maybe it will get better for me.

Other news on the job front...my evil woman from Monday mornings almost gave me a heart attack at the end of our lesson yesterday.  After 10 weeks of yelling at me, treating me like crap and basically implying that I am a complete idiot, she actually complimented me.  At the end of the lesson I had prepared she turned to me and said (and I quote) "wow Michele, thank you.  That was a very interesting lesson."  My jaw dropped to the ground and I think it is still there today.  All we did was read a boring article on finance, study the vocabulary and expressions (derivatives, options, securities, over-the-counter trading, etc) used in the article and then discuss some of the topics presented.  I was bored to tears and not happy about learning all of this financial vocabulary, but I was thrilled she was happy!  It won't make up for 10 weeks of torture though, and I'm still looking forward to her lessons ending next week so I don't have to stress about her any more!

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Thanksgiving en France

We celebrated Thanksgiving on Friday night.  I made a huge meal and had a bunch of friends over.  In the end there were 7 of us enjoying Thanksgiving in my tiny apartment (it was very tight).  I made turkey legs, stuffing, green bean casserole, roasted carrots, mashed potatoes, cornbread and pumpkin pie.  It was delicious.  I very much enjoyed my Thanksgiving dinner, and I think most of my friends did as well.  We were an interesting group: 2 Frenchies (my husband and my student), 2 Russians, 2 Americans (me and Jasmin) and 1 Canadian (Marybeth).

We started with a nice little aperitif around 8pm, then ate dinner around 9pm, and then relaxed and enjoyed some wine and nice conversation until around midnight.  Then some of us decided to head out to a bar for another drink (since Lionel had to get up early for work on Saturday).  Unfortunately, one drink turned into many and we ended up out until VERY late/early.  But all in all it was a great Thanksgiving, and one of the best that I have had in France.


turkey and hot wine (Jasmin's delicious contribution!)


 


 the spread




pumpkin pie

 


Cincinnati Reds banner at one of the bars we went to after dinner!!!  Go Reds!

 


my anniversary flowers for our 1 year and 4 year anniversaries

In other news, I'm extremely happy to announce that my husband has FINALLY sent the préavis for our apartment today, and so we will finally get to move out of this miserable little box in 3 months!!!!!!!!!  If you can't tell, I'm very excited about this.  But more on that another time.... 

Thursday, November 26, 2009

4 years!

Today is Thanksgiving, and it's also the 4-year anniversary of when Lionel and I met.  Four years ago I was a young grad student doing the first year of her Masters program in France.  I was studying at the Universite Francois Rabelais in Tours and my friends and I decided to come up to Paris for Thanksgiving weekend.  We had a great weekend in Paris, visiting some sites, doing some shopping, eating out, and just enjoying the city.  One of the girls in the program had studied in Paris as an undergrad and so on Saturday night she wanted to take us to a bar she used to go to called La Guillotine/Le caveau des oubliettes.  So we all decided to go out for the night.  We were enjoying ourselves, drinking and having fun, when one of my friends turned to me and said there was a guy in the corner who kept checking me out.  I turned to look and saw a good looking guy having fun with his friends.  I told my friend that I thought he was pretty attractive and so my group of friends decided that I absolutely had to talk to this guy.  So, when he walked by to go to the bar and get a drink, my friend grabbed his ass to get his attention and then told him he needed to sit next to me and talk to me.  He did and we hit it off and spent the rest of the night chatting (it was hard because my French was absolutely horrible at the time so we had to do a mix of English and French...now we speak almost exclusively in French).  When the bar closed (at 4am) he and his friends tried to convince us to go to a club with them, but we were all too tired so we decided to just head back to the hotel.  Lionel and I exchanged contact info and that was that.

I went back to Tours the next day freaking out that I would never hear from him again.  We had hit it off so well and I really wanted to see him again.  After an excrutiating week with no news, I finally got a super cute email on Friday.  He said he could come down and visit me the following weekend if I was ok with it (he even offered to get himself a hotel room...how sweet!).  I immediately replied and he came down the next weekend, and that's when I realized this was for real.  I was so excited to see him and the weekend went so well that we were hooked, and the rest is history.....

So, to celebrate four years together, here are a few photos of us:

our first New Years Eve together

 

at one of my favorite bars in Tours

 

at a bar in my hometown in the US

 

on our honeymoon in Prague

 

 in Blaye, visiting the citadel in April

 

visiting St. Emilion

 

at the Dune du Pyla

As for Thanksgiving, it may be today, but I'm celebrating tomorrow.  I have some friends coming over for Thanksgiving tomorrow night, and I'm making a huge meal.  It should be fun!  I'll write about how it went this weekend, but Happy Thanksgiving to all the Americans! 

Monday, November 23, 2009

One year!

Today was mine and Lionel's one year wedding anniversary.  It's crazy to think we have already been married for a year!  We didn't do much to celebrate today, but we did go out to dinner at the Chinese restaurant we ate at after the wedding a year ago.  It was nice.  We spent the rest of the day relaxing at home since the weather wasn't very nice and before dinner we did a little shopping in the KB.  Nothing too exciting, but that is ok.

So, to celebrate, here are a few photos from the wedding day-November 22, 2008:


Just arrived at the Mairie, waiting to go in for the ceremony.
 

Signing our lives away....
 

Officially married!
 

At the Mairie after the ceremony

The English-speakers enjoying some champagne after the wedding


out to dinner

And there you have it, the major events of our wedding day!  Looking back I think it was actually very nice, even if I didn't have the white dress and most of my friends and family couldn't be there.  If I could change one thing it would be that they were there, but that is why we are doing this second wedding in the States in a month.  The one in France was a lot less stressful though!  But it's been an amazing year and I'm so happy to have Lionel in my life!  I'm looking forward to many more!
 

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

One more month!

That's right.  Only one more month till I am on my way to the US!!!  I can't wait.  I get to spend 2.5 weeks in the US for Christmas.  I have only spent one Christmas in the US with my family in the past 4 years and I'm so excited to get to go home for the holidays this year (not to mention I haven't seen most of my family and friends in over a year).  And even better, Lionel is coming with me!  It will be his first American Christmas, and (this is pathetic) only his second trip ever to the States (last time was to visit me for a month at the end of the first year of our relationship). 

This is going to be one of the best Christmases I have had in years.  Not that spending the holiday's with he in-laws is bad, but every time I'm in France for Christmas I miss all of my family's holiday traditions and just the atmosphere and spirit of the US at Christmas.  The houses are all decorated, the cities and towns have much nicer decorations than they do in France (in my opinion), we have a large Christmas tree, Christmas music is playing on every radio station, we have a fire in the fireplace and a house warmly decorated for the season.  I miss it all and I can't wait!

I do enjoy Christmas in France/Europe as well and there are things I wish we did in the US.  For example, the Christmas market.  I absolutely love the Christmas market with the vin chaud and the holiday atmosphere and the cute chalets full of ornaments and other seasonal goods.  It's a great Christmas tradition, but for me, nothing beats being in Ohio for the holidays.

This trip home is also going to be excited because of the upcoming wedding that Lionel and I are planning for December 19.  It's been stressful, but I am confident the end result will be worth it.  And it will be nice to finally celebrate our marriage with my family and friends.  And to get to wear a white wedding dress!  Plus it's going to be a great opportunity to get to see everyone I miss at once since I won't have time in 2.5 weeks to go visit everyone I know.  I think this holiday season is going to be the best ever and I just hope it lives up to my expectations!  And I hope our trip goes smoothly because I'm really looking forward to it!!!

Monday, November 16, 2009

Musee Carnavalet

This afternoon I went to visit the Musee Carnavalet with some friends.  This is by far my favorite museum in Paris.  You see, I'm a big history nerd and I'm completely obsessed with French history.  The Musee Carnavalet is the Paris history museum and for a history buff like me, it is heaven.  Ever since my history professor recommended it to me years ago, I've been in love.  On my next trip to France I made sure to visit it and I go back quite regularly.  It is just that good!

The Musee Carnavalet is located in the Marais district of Paris, snuggled in between falafel restaurants and the beautiful Place des Vosges.  It is also free.  All the time.  For everyone.  All the permanent collections are free, you only have to pay to see the special exhibits.  And even then the price is very reasonable.  Usually 5 euros for full entry, 2.50 if you are under 27 years old.

This specific trip was to see their new special exhibit, La révolution française, trésors cachés du musée Carnavalet.  It opened in October and I've been dying to go.  This is totally my kind of exhibit because I think the French Revolution is one of the most fascinating historical events ever.  And it definitely lived up to my expectations.  The Musee Carnavalet already has the largest permanent collection of French Revolution items, but for this exhibit they took out everything else they have that is not normally on display.  I think my favorite thing were the clothes worn by le dauphin (Louis XVII) and la dauphine (his sister) while they were imprisoned in the Temple Prison during the Revolution (and where Louis XVII died of tuberculosis in 1795).  Unfortunately, photos were not allowed in the exhibit, but I recommend going to see it yourself.

The exhibit itself was somewhat small only 5 or 6 rooms, but in my opinion it was definitely worth the 2.50 euros.  After we wandered through the rest of the museum and went to check out the permanent French Revolution collection to continue the theme of the day.  I was in heaven.




A model of the Bastille carved out of a block from the Bastille.  After they tore it down people collected pieces of the Bastille and carved models out of them to keep as souvenirs of the event.  This is one of those.  This is actually part of the permanent collection since I couldn't take pictures in the exhibit.

 


View out of a window of the musee Carnavalet overlooking the courtyard.



The banner for the French Revolution exhibit.  Unfortunately the photo is a little dark.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Seine swans and falafel

I had a great Friday night. Jasmin and I made homemade falafel entirely from scratch (without a mix or anything!). It was delicious, but hard work to mash the chickpeas and fry all the falafel balls. It would have been restaurant quality if the pitas had been better, but we couldn't find much at Franprix. We wanted to make stuffed grape leaves too, but we couldn't find any grape leaves for sale, so we bought some already stuffed with rice and spices that were delicious and we also served it all with humus and red wine. A great meal and if you want the homemade falafel recipe we used you can find it on Jasmin's blog.

After dinner we decided to go out for a drink. Since we couldn't think of any quiet bars along our common bus route we finally decided that since it wasn't too cold we would stop at an épicerie to pick up a bottle of wine and drink along the Seine. We were enjoying ourselves and chatting away when all of a sudden two swans swam past! Unfortunately I wasn't quick enough to catch a picture, but it was amazing. I've never seen swans on the Seine, and neither had Jasmin. Usually there is nothing, or maybe some very brave ducks. But this time we saw two beautiful, white swans gracefully swimming against the current from Notre Dame toward la Bibliothèque Nationale. A very interesting day!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

The glamourous life of a professeur d'anglais à Paris

On this wonderful day off for Veteran's Day (or Armistice Day), I would like to take some time to reflect on the misery of my job. People usually think that living in Paris means that one leads a glamourous and magical life; however this is not often the case for the unfortunate, young American who finds themselves with little to no career opportunities, except to teach their native language. This is what I do because France HATES foreign degrees and has diplomas and certificates that correspond to EVERY job. So, I teach business English at companies in Ile de France. I teach to small groups of 1-3 people, at all levels and I have to teach them English that will be useful at their jobs. So, what are the pros and cons of being and English teacher in Paris? Read on to find out.

The Good:

  • I have a job.
  • I have job security. Everyone needs English lessons no matter what the economic situation because English is generally the international business language. And companies in France are required to pay for training for their employees, and more often than not that training is English training.
  • It is an easy job to find. If you are a native English speaker with a college degree in anything, you can basically find a job teaching English somewhere in Paris.
  • I have a CDI (permanent contract). This means I have a job for life if I want it and it is going to be really hard to find me. It also means that I can move more easily, get loans, etc. I basically get to feel like part of the successful, working world in France.
  • I get to meet lots of new people.
  • I get to explore various parts of Paris and the surrounding area.
  • I get to learn a lot. I learn about working in France, different companies in France and around the world, various French vocabulary (ranging from horses to finance), different views and opinions on different subjects, etc.
  • My language school provides books. This makes lesson planning a little bit easier.
  • Every day is different. I see different students every day, go to different places, and talk about different things so it is always interesting.

The Bad:
  • Paid by the hour. This is how it is with pretty much all the private language schools in Paris, except Wall Street Institute (who pays a very low salary instead). It sucks. Also, since I am paid by the hour I only get paid for the time I am actually giving a lesson. I do not get paid for the time I spend on the metro going from company to company from one side of Paris to the other. I also do not get paid for the time I spend at home preparing lessons, doing paperwork for my job and responding to work-related emails. This really sucks.
  • No stability. Because I am paid by the hour, I do not get paid when my students cancel lessons. They can cancel whenever they want and as long as it is earlier than 24 hours before the lesson, I do not get paid. And they cancel a lot. In October, at least one fourth of my lessons were cancelled (probably closer to one third) and so I lost out on a lot of money. It just hurts thinking about the money you are losing each time someone tells you they need to cancel. It also sucks never knowing how much money you are going to make each month. It makes it hard to budget and hard to know how much money you can spend on things like rent and bills. Plus, on days like today, it is a day off in France. My students were all happy to have a day off. While I was happy, I was also worrying about the money I was losing by not having 5 lessons this week.
  • No paid vacation. Goes with the being paid by the hour. While most French people get at least 5 weeks of paid vacation a year, if I take vacation I don't get paid. And in August all of my students are on vacation which means I get very little money in August. This vacation situation also sucks.
  • The metro. I spend about 20 non-paid hours a week on the metro. I will soon know the entire Parisian metro by heart, and not by choice. It is quite boring to spend this much time on the metro. I can't do anything except read or listen to music. I lose 20 hours a week to the metro which is time I would rather spend relaxing or preparing lessons. Also, when there are metro problems I am late to lessons and I can't do anything about it. And god forbid there ever be a major strike. I can't even imagine how much money I would lose because of a metro strike preventing me from doing my job. And I am sick of running through the metro to try to do impossible trips with limited time (like one hour to go from rueil malmaison to ivry).
  • The schedule. I work insanely long days and when I get home, instead of relaxing I have to prepare lessons. I know most English teachers in Paris tend to complain about not getting enough hours at their job and needing to work 2-3 jobs just to make ends meet. But at my company I do not have this problem to worry about. I teach 35 hours of lessons a week. Add to that the metro time and preparation and paperwork time and I am working at least 60 hours a week and only being paid for 35 of it. So much for those short work weeks and long vacations that the French are known for! I work 12-14 hours a day BEFORE I come home to prepare lessons and do paperwork.
  • The students. This is not the case for all of them. And I think I am actually quite fortunate because right now almost all of my students are amazing. However, I do have that one horrible bitch and I can't imagine what I would do if I had more students like that.
  • The preparation. I HATE coming home from work and having "homework" to do. It sucks. And I hate having to work so hard to plan lessons. I just want to take everything from the books and save myself some time, but some of my students don't want to work out of the books because it reminds them too much of being in school.
  • Low pay. In my opinion the pay should be higher because I am helping people learn English so they can perform well at their jobs and get promotions and raises. But I get paid poorly. Especially when there are cancellations.
  • Lack of organization. The language school I work for is not very well organized at all, which just makes more work for me. They send me lessons to start which are at the same time as lessons I am already doing which means that I then have to contact the students and arrange new times to see them or push back their start dates. I also look like an idiot because of this, and sometimes my future students get angry.
  • The down time. It is horrible when someone cancels a lesson in the middle of my day or a group whose lessons were in the middle of the day ends and I don't immediately have anyone else to start with because I end up with an hour and a half of nothing to do and not enough time to go home. So I just end up sitting around Paris trying not to spend money (since I don't have a lot). This was ok when it was warm out, but now that it is getting cold, it really sucks to sit around in the cold for that long with nothing to do.
Well, I think that about sums it up. So what do you think, does my job sound glamourous or not? Do the pros outweigh the cons? I don't think so which is why I am going to start looking for a new job ASAP!

Monday, November 9, 2009

Un petit peu overwhelmed

I'm feeling very overwhelmed lately. It's understandable...between my insane work schedule, planning the trip back to the US with my hubby and the in-laws in tow, planning the wedding, starting to work on the miserable moving process and just normal, everyday things like cooking and cleaning, my life is hectic! I almost can't believe it! Just a few months a go I was bored and miserable sitting around my extremely small apartment with no job, no projects, no money and absolutely nothing to do except send out my resume. And now things are so crazy I feel like I can hardly find the time to breathe!

My work schedule has become insane. I know that most people with a similar job to mine, teaching business English in and around Paris, complain that their companies never give them enough hours and they can barely make any money and they need at least two jobs to survive. Well, that is certainly not the case for me. I currently am teaching 23 lessons a week! That is a lot. Especially considering they are not all near one another and I have to spend a good portion of my day on the metro going from one company to another. I currently teach 34.5 hours a week (the time I am actually in lessons). Add to that 18-20 hours of metro a week, and you already have way more work than most French people could even imagine doing. And then add to that the time I spend preparing lessons, doing work-related paperwork and responding to work emails when I get home (sometimes up to another 2 hours of work/day) and you can see that its chaos! I'm happy to have a job and be working, especially during the economic crisis when people are losing their jobs, but this is crazy! Most of my days are 11-13 hour days not including the work I have to do when I get home!

Then there's the wedding. Once I finally get home and get all my work done I have to focus on the wedding plans. And let me tell you, planning a wedding from another country is not easy. Thankfully I have some wonderful friends who are helping me and my poor mother who has basically become my wedding slave since she has to go meet with everyone and do anything that can't be done by phone or email. It must suck for her to. It will be a relief when this wedding is over! I just hope it all goes well and that we don't forget anything! I'm pretty excited for it though. My friend, Michelle, is making my dress, we are going to have a Christmas theme since the wedding will be Dec. 19, and it should be fun, just stressful since we arrive in the US two days before the wedding and will have very little time to take care of all the last minute details! I'm lucky I have a lot of friends and friends of friends planning weddings right now cause they definitely made it easier to find vendors. My friend, Susan, hooked me up with her DJ, a friend of a friend hooked us up with her photographer, another friend of a friend hooked us up with an officiant. It's nice to know that someone else has used/is using the same person and that they seem trustworthy since I can't meet any of them until the day of the wedding!

While all the wedding stuff is stressful, and is very hard to deal with from another country (luckily I'm not picky or bridezilla or anything since I haven't seen anything...not even the wedding location!), I am looking forward to getting to have a "real" wedding! Not that my wedding in France wasn't real, but it was kinda depressing. I wore black, I didn't have any of my family and only a few friends who I met since I came to France...it just wasn't the same as this is going to be. It will be so nice to get to celebrate with my family and all my friends who I've known for forever, and to get to wear a wedding dress and follow American traditions! I just wish Lionel could have some of his friends and other family there too. But at least he will have his parents!

And we are also trying to plan our trip to the US. While most of the time will be spent in Ohio, of course, we are hoping to travel a little between Christmas and New Years. It will be my in-laws first (and perhaps only) trip to the US, so we want them to have the chance to see a little more than just Ohio (and mainly all the restaurants and I want to go to and all the stores I'm looking forward to shopping at). We were originally thinking New York City, but we are a little concerned about the prices (since the cheapest flight I have found is $400 round trip). I know it is the worst time of the year to go, right at the holidays when everyone wants to visit NYC so flights are expensive and I've heard (I'm too scared to look) that hotels are even worse! So now we are branching out a little and also considering maybe Philadelphia, Boston or Washington DC. What do you think? Where can we go with a car and not have too much trouble driving around? What would be most interesting for Frenchies? Cheapest at Christmas? Or would it be possible to do more than one of these cities in 4-5 days? Any suggestions/advice would be appreciate since we have to figure this out ASAP!

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Married to a Frog

Last night was the 3rd meetup of the Married to a Frog meetup group. For those who live in Paris or Ile de France, or who are visiting Paris and want to meet some other people in a similar situation, this group is great. It's for foreigners who are married to Frenchies (or who are dating or engaged to Frenchies) and who want to meet and talk to others with similar experiences. The people are a lot of fun. Every time I go I find myself meeting new people who are fun to talk to and who understand my situation and are in a similar one themselves. New people come every time, but also a lot of the same people come back for each meetup. It's a great way to meet new English speakers in France, and ones who are here permanently, or at least who are going to be here for a number of years. As an expat I so often meet people who are in Paris for only one year and then they are gone, and it is very difficult to create real, lasting friendships. But with this group, the people are going to be here and it's nice to know there is finally a way to meet someone who is here to stay!

So far the group has met at three different bars either on Thursday or Friday evenings. Last night we met at a bar in the Marais and had some drinks while chatting about life in France, among other things. There were about 25 people there from all over the world. It was a nice way to spend a Friday evening and I'm looking forward to the next meetup!

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Halloween à Paris

Last weekend was Halloween, and I celebrated it almost American-style here in Paris. I guess I'm lucky that Paris has a huge American ex-pat community and so there are still a lot of Halloween events going on and plenty of Halloween parties. Nearly every Anglophone bar has a Halloween party and most of them include costume contests and free drinks for people who come in a costume. I even finally found some decent costume shops here in Paris that aren't too expensive (at least for accessories) on the rue du Faubourg Montmartre. My Halloween was as close to American as I could made it. All it needed were more people in costumes in the streets and bars, but unfortunately the French may never understand the true wonders of the holiday and how much fun it can be. Most of them just seemed puzzled that I was dressing up; they all think it is only for little kids to ask for candy. I had to explain that even adults celebrate in the US, just we prefer to go to Halloween costume parties rather than go trick-or-treating. Maybe one day Halloween will finally catch on in France, but I don't really expect it to.

On Friday night I went to an American Expats meetup at The Thistle. We had a pumpkin carving contest. The organizer brought all the pumpkins he could find and then everyone split into teams, paid a few euros for a pumpkin and carving supplies, and got to work. We had an hour to carve pumpkins and then we lined them all up on the bar, put candles in, and enjoyed the site of a bar covered in jack-o-lanterns. Unfortunately, our team did not win, but it was still fun and there were some amazing pumpkins!

My team's ghost pumpkin


The pumpkins lined up on the bar



Another team's pumpkin: a cat vomiting



On Saturday night I went out with a few friends and we went to a couple of the different bars having Halloween parties. I was a witch, Marybeth was a bunny, my husband was a cowboy and our Polish friend, Catherine, was a flapper. Our costumes weren't perfect, but we did the best with what we could find at a reasonable price. We stayed out late and had some fun with the other Halloween aficionados.

Catherine and I


Catherine and Lionel

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Le salon du chocolat

Two weekends ago I went with a few friends to the salon du chocolat in Paris, at the Porte de Versailles. I've been so busy I haven't had time to upload the photos to my computer, but I finally got a chance to do it today, so here are some photos of the salon. We tasted some really delicious chocolate, and also some things that were absolutely disgusting. It was fun and I managed to find some delicious cannolis to buy, but it would have been better if there hadn't been so many people. There was a huge crowd of obnoxious Parisians (of course, it was Saturday afternoon, and we should have known better), and so that made it a little less enjoyable than it would have been otherwise. The highlights of the day were tasting chocolate and going out for wine afterwards.

Jasmin and I out for wine after the salon.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

La Sécu - French bureaucracy at it's best!

I was originally planning to post about the Salon du Chocolat, but that will have till wait until this weekend since I am too lazy to upload the photos onto my computer. Instead I am going to discuss la sécu, or sécurité sociale, a shining example of the misery of French bureaucracy.
So, I once again went to the social security office yesterday to try to turn in all my papers and finally start the processing of getting my carte vitale (the card you need to be able to benefit from the wonderful French health care system). And yet again, I left shortly after, disappointed, angry, irritated and no closer to getting my papers turned in than I was before I came. Because, as usual, I needed yet another document that wasn't on my previous list.
But to fully understand my never-ending battle with la sécu we must go back a few years to when it all began.
September 2007. I had just finished my Masters and was heading off to France to spend a year teaching English and living with my boyfriend. I was also thrilled about the timing...I was just about to be dropped from my parents plan, and it was perfect because I was going to get to France and be able to benefit from their amazing system. Little did I know how miserable a process this would be. Upon arrival in France I learned that I would have to wait a while before I would be able to go in and get my official social security number, my social security rights and my carte vitale. Ok, fine, I was sure that wouldn't be a problem. Just had to wait to get my carte de sejour, which would take a while, but I would have to avoid any hospital emergencies until then. It didn't bother me too much.
February 2008. I finally got my carte de sejour and at the beginning of the month I planned to visit the social security office in the KB on one of my days off. I readied myself, meticulously reading and rereading the list of documents to present and making sure I had them all as well as an adequate number of photocopies, and any other document I could possible think of, just in case (one can NEVER be too careful with French administration). I went to the office, waited my turn and when my number was called, proudly walked up to the woman and explained why I was there. I began presenting all of my documents, and that is where the problem began. The list I had been sent was for Paris, not the KB, therefore my list of documents was slightly different. While I had almost everything I needed, she said I was missing one key element...my pay stub for October. I kindly explained that one the list it said I just needed 3 pay stubs, and I had indeed come with 3 pay stubs, I just couldn't find the one from November. Nope, she says. That list is for PARIS, this is the KB and you have to have the pay stubs from your first three months of work. Ok, fine. So I verify with her that if I go home, find this pay stub and come back with all these same documents and the October pay stub, then I will be good to go. Yes of course, she says. Ok, thank you and I will be back.
March 2008. Unfortunately right after my February trip I was on vacation for a few weeks, so I didn't make it back until March. After having turned my apartment upside down, I had finally found my October pay stub, so I returned to the social security office with all the papers that I had been told I needed (as long as every other paper I own, as usual). I went in feel confident. I waited my turn and when my number was called I walked over, excited to finally get this done. I explained why I was there and presented all my documents. And then to my surprise, the woman told me I was missing something. What? How was this possible? I was assured by the last lady that this was all I needed. No, I needed another document that unfortunately I did not have with me (I can't even remember what it was, that is how ridiculous it was). Fine I mumble, not at all okay with the situation. And so I verify, once again, that once I have that other paper, I would not need anything else. She promises me that this is the case. I leave, tail between my legs, mumbling about the stupid French system under my breath.
April 2008. I know, it took me another month, but I had a friend visiting. I go back, armed with all the necessary papers and everything else I own (including the kitchen sink). I wait my turn and wearily walk to the window when my number is called. I fearfully explain why I am there and hand over my papers. And then, those dreaded words came yet again telling me that I needed another document. What!?!?!?! I cry. This is not possible, I explain. I have been here multiple times and each time they assure me that this is all I need. But the evil French fonctionnaire just shakes her head no (without saying sorry) and says I need this form filled out by the school I work for before they can take my papers and process my file. She hands me the form and waits for me to gather my papers and leave. I ask her how long it will take once I turn in all my papers. 2-3 months she says. Well, I am about to leave France, my contract ends at the end of the month and I have no idea if I will be returning. She explains to me that it probably just isn't worth it then, unless I am sure I will be back. I organize my stuff and storm away, loudly cursing the entire time and I walk the entire 20 minutes home this way, extremely angry.
I finally decide not to return with the form and go through the hassle of hunting down the correct person at my school to have them fill it out. In retrospect, this was a bad decision, but at the time I had no set plans to stay in France and no reason to believe that continuing the torture would benefit me.
Fast forward. November 2008. I get married to a French man. Lots of paperwork. I'm here for good, I have to figure it all out.
March 2009. The carte de sejour stuff is finally finished and I finally have at least my recepisse for my carte de sejour. We can call the social security office and get me attached to Lionel's number until I find a job and everything. He calls. Oh, he had never changed his address when we moved to the KB. He has to do that before I can be attached. Should be simple right? In America we just give them our address over the phone, they type it into the computer system and you are done in 5 minutes or less. Unfortunately this is France. He has to prepare documents, make photocopies, find information, make requests and fill out forms. And then he can finally go to the office to have the address changed.
April 2009. We finally have time to go to the social security office without Lionel having to take a day off work. The lady tells us she must take the photocopies and that they must be processed internally before the address will be changed. We will get an attestation in the mail when this is all completed. It shouldn't be more than a few weeks. What!?!?!?! For a simple address change? Are you joking!?!?!?! At least she gave us the list of documents I needed to be attached. Fine, no choice, we have to live with it. So we wait, and wait, and wait. And yet no attestation.
June 2009. Lionel calls to see why we haven't received the attestation. Oh, they were changing the computer systems so it hasn't been processed yet. What? It will be done in the next 4-6 weeks. WHAT? Is this even possible? It is an ADDRESS CHANGE people. A few strokes on the keyboard and it is done!
August 2009. The attestation finally came over vacation. So we go into the social security office with the list of documents we were told to bring for me and the attestation. We explain why we are there. We also let it slip that I have a job now. Oh, you have a job? Have you done more than 60 hours in a month? No, not yet, but I will do far more than that in September. And then she explains that we shouldn't bother to attach me now because I will still have to apply for my own number in October. I should just wait and do it then. Fine. We decide to wait. She gives me the list of documents I will need and we leave, me cursing under my breath utterly dismayed at the fact that I am once again walking away from the social security office no closer to having what I need.
October 2009. I have my September pay stub and everything else on my list of documents to present. I have an afternoon off work (cancelled class). I have every other important and not so important document I own. I go to the social security office, feeling confident that this time it is going to work. There is no way it won't work. I go in, just barely making it before they close (half an hour early I might add). I thank the universe for my good fortune. I wait for my number and when it is called I explain why I am there. I hand over all my precious documents. The man takes one quick look at them and asks if I have filled out the declaration. What declaration? This one, and he hands me a form. I look at him puzzled, hardly believing this. But its a short form, perhaps I can just fill it out now. No. He tells me to fill it out at home, attach all the documents, and mail it in (what, I never even NEEDED to come here!?!?!?!). I ask him to verify that with this form and all the documents in front of him, I will be fine and will not need anything else. He assures me that this is the case. I leave in a state of complete shock that I have once again been rejected, turned away in need of yet another document that did not exist the last time I came. (How is that even possible...where do all these surprise documents come from!?!?! And why doesn't the previous person ever know about them?) I get home, look at the form, and it says I need other documents which were not on my list and which the guy had not mentioned. Including 3 pay stubs, rather than just one. Do they all need to be pay stubs with at least 60 hours on them because I won't have that until the end of November! So now I need to go back in and ask that precious question and I'm sure they will tell me about some other document as well! But if I have to wait until December to apply, and then it will take another 2-3 months to get the carte vitale I am going to go crazy on the idiots at the KB social security office! I can't even control my anger right now! I just want to know how they managed to find so many incompetent morons to work in one place! And how is it that I can't get a decent job in this country when I actually have a brain and these assholes are set for life with their fonctionnaire positions!!!!!!
And so the saga of social security shall continue...hopefully soon there will be better news (now I just need a conveniently cancelled lesson so I can go in to the office again and probably get rejected again). All I can say is the French health care system might be great, but you have to be able to get signed up first!!!!

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

What a week et c'est seulement mercredi!

It has been one rough week! After a relatively uneventful weekend spent with friends I should have known something would have to happen to spice up my life. And it sure did, Monday morning at 8:30! Monday mornings my 8:30 lesson is with a group of three women, one of whom is a complete bitch. Every week she treats me horribly, gives me nasty looks throughout the entire hour and a half lesson, lets me know she thinks I'm stupid, and so on. So, as usual I was dreading this lesson but dragging myself there because I had no choice. And I should have just dug myself a hole and buried myself in it; it would have been less painful! I arrive at the building 10 mins early and as usual go to the reception desk to get my visitors badge. The receptionist knows me well because she helps me every Monday morning when I struggle to get into contact with these students upon arrival so we can start the lesson. Well, this morning was no exception. She was unable to reach them, and we tried 5 different phone numbers. None of the students would answer, not at their desks, not in the room where we hold the lessons and not on the one cell number I have. After spending about 15 mins at the reception the receptionist finally said that she knows me now and I can go up if I want to see if someone is in the office to let me in (cause you have to have an employee badge to get into their offices, visitors badges only allow you access to the elevators, this is why we have to call them every week, so they can open the doors for me). I decided to go up, figuring I could always come back down if no one was around. I reached the 8th floor and didn't see anyone, so I waited at the doors for about 5 minutes. Finally, a man who works there walked by and saw me and opened the door for me. I asked him where I could find my three students and he told me they hadn't arrived yet, but that I could sit in the waiting area near the door. So I did, figuring they would be there soon. The man shut himself in his office, and that was that. After waiting for about 20 mins, I really started to wonder if they had cancelled and I didn't know about it, or what the problem was. Sometimes they are a few minutes late, but never half an hour! I finally see another man who works there and so I asked him. He volunteered to take me to them, and that's when I knew my day was going to be shit. He gets his badge and takes me into another locked room in the company's offices and leads me to a desk where 2 of the 3 work. We went to the room where we normally have class, and then they went and got the 3rd person. And it was all downhill from there.
I told them I was sorry and prepared to start the lesson. Then the really bitchy student just started yelling at me for being 30 mins late. So I explained the situation (basically yelling back, which was probably bad, but I couldn't contain my anger after all the shit she had put me through). Unfortunately, she didn't believe me, treated me like I was stupid because I didn't just ignore their colleague who said they weren't there (as well as the fact they didn't answer their phones which in the normal world means a person isn't there) and just wondered around the offices until I found them. Ummm...not my style I told her. So we battled about it for about 15 minutes, yelling the whole time while she basically said she thought I was lying about my arrival time and refusing to sign the paper for the day's lesson. She said it had already happened twice before and blah blah blah, it's just ridiculous and she thought I should do a whole extra lesson for them without getting paid to make up for the 3 lessons I showed up for half an hour late. And I nearly exploded. Out of the three times I have been late, only one of them was in any way my fault. And that was the first one and it's because I had the wrong address and so I went to the company's other office on the entire other side of La Defense and sat there for 15 minutes before the secretary and I realized I was at the wrong location. Fine, I had agreed to make up that half an hour. But not the other two. The second time I was late was similar to this third time, except I never even made it upstairs because the receptionist didn't know me yet. So we just spent 30 mins trying to call the students while I sat in the lobby bored and irritated. They finally answered at about 9:00 and so I was able to go upstairs. That is why I requested to have the phone number for the room as well as at least one cell phone number: to avoid having that problem again. Unfortunately for me, that didn't work.
After the lesson on Monday I immediately called my boss, before I had even left the building. She was freaking out because they had emailed her and said I didn't show up. I told her that no, I had been there since 8:20, waiting. My boss took my side, luckily, but it has been a battle this entire week. Non stop emails and frustration. I spent the rest of Monday pissed as hell, wishing I had just punched the lady in the face. When I got home I emailed a more detailed explanation to my boss and she is in the process of trying to figure out how to handle it. Luckily she believes me entirely. She even emailed me to tell me not to worry, she knows I'm telling the truth and she knew even before the lessons started that this lady was going to be miserable just because of the way she had been acting on the phone and through emails even before beginning classes. Now my boss is trying to confirm with other people so she can completely confirm my story so that she might be able to shut the crazy bitch up. She also offered to let them change professors if they so desired and I'm praying that they do. I don't care if they think they have won (though it kinda irks me that crazy woman will think she was right when she wasn't), I just don't ever want to see her face again and I can't even imagine the tension that will be in the room at the next lesson if I have to continue with them. Evil woman even lied and said that they were letting me leave the lessons early so that I could get to my next class, which isn't even true. I moved that class back 15 minutes so I would have no problem finishing with these people at 10 and then making it to the next lesson in their company's other offices. Evil! She thinks I should have to make up an hour and forty five minutes of class time when only 30 mins of it was my fault! If only I could smack her.....
So this has been occupying most of my week and every time I think about it I get really pissed again. I'm just glad my boss really believes me, I'm not going to lose my job and I might be rid of the bitch for good.
Well, nothing else really to update with. That was the biggest event so far in my week. Other than that it's been a normal week of teaching, running around Paris, and working on wedding stuff. Can't wait for the weekend though, it's the salon du chocolat!!!!

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Nuit Blanche

Saturday night was Nuit Blanche here in Paris. Nuit Blanche is an all night arts festival that takes place once a year. You can walk all around the city and see outdoor and indoor art displays (films, statues, illusions, music, etc) all night long (it starts at 9:00pm and continues until 7:00am). This year I went out to explore with some friends and we had a great time and saw quite a few things. We started at 10pm and I didn't get home until 6:30 in the morning...I was exhausted the next day, but it was well worth it. We stuck to the Latin Quarter and the Chatelet-Les Halles area (we didn't have enough time to make it to the Marais). The only downsides were that they closed Notre Dame early so we didn't get to go in and see what they were doing and the line to get into the Mosque was so long we decided not to do it. For me the highlights were the giant disco ball at the Jardin de Luxembourg (despite the line to get in), seeing the inside of St. Severin, le Musee du Moyen Age (getting to see some of the museum, not the film) and relaxing in St. Eustache until 6am. It was a great night out!

display at Jardin de Luxembourg

inside St. Severin

film inside St. Eustache

disco ball at the Jardin de Luxembourg

Monday, September 28, 2009

Jimmy Buffett concert!!!

What a great weekend!!! This weekend was the Jimmy Buffett concert here in Paris and I had such an AMAZING time! It was by far the best concert I have ever been to and seeing Jimmy Buffett in Paris is far better than seeing him in the US. Every time I see Jimmy Buffett in the US it's at the huge Riverbend arena in Cincinnati with 20,000 other parrotheads (Jimmy Buffett fans). But this time I saw him at La Cigale, a small venue in northern Paris that only holds 1,300 people. That's right, a very small show. It was amazing to get to see him with such few people, a completely different experience than a US show.


I went with my friend Jasmin, a Jimmy Buffett virgin until last night. Before the concert we met up with some other parrotheads on the steps at the Sacre Coeur for some tailgating complete with wine, beer, margaritas and boat drinks. Talk about a great place to tailgate...overlooking all of Paris with a beautiful church behind us. After downing a bottle of wine we headed over to the concert where we met up with Erica, the girl we were buying our tickets from. We found her pretty quickly and then headed into the extremely long line where we chatted with tons of other crazy parrotheads all dressed up Jimmy Buffett style (hawaiian shirts, leis, shark heads, parrots, grass skirts, coconut bras, the works) and drank another bottle of wine. It definitely got us in the mood for the concert. Once we got in we found our seats (front row of the balcony!) and settled in for the best show I've ever been too. The atmosphere was already pretty crazy before the show started, but as soon as Jimmy Buffett came out on the stage, people went wild. It was a true Jimmy Buffett experience and I danced, sang and screamed my heart out like the rest of them in my bright colors and yellow lei. Even Jasmin got totally into it from the second the music started and she definitely now understand the appeal of Jimmy Buffett and I think she is a convert. We definitely had an amazing time and I'm amazed I still have a voice after all the screaming and going crazy, but by the end of the 3 hour show I was hot, sweaty and exhausted.


After the show we all went to O'Sullivans up at Pigalle for the after-party where we blended in quite well with the dreary and drab Parisian crowd at the normally relatively hip bar/club. We danced like crazy meeting tons of other Jimmy Buffett fans and having a great time after such an amazing show. I just didn't want the night to end...but unfortunately it did and I had to drag my exhausted self onto the bus to get to the other side of Paris where I live.
The highlights of the show were of course all my favorite songs that he played (He Went to Paris, Cheeseburger in Paradise, Margaritaville, Volcano, Fins, I Will Play for Gumbo, etc), getting to see Jimmy Buffett up close and personal in such a small and intimate setting, getting to meet tons of parrotheads from all over Europe, the US and Canada, getting to introduce a good friend to the wonders of JB, having a good old American night out in Paris, and the fishing for flip flops guy. This man is a genius and he brought a fishing pole with a poster attached that read "Fishing for Flip Flops." He lowered the sign from the balcony down to the stage and Jimmy Buffett grabbed it and attached his flip flops to the end of the pole and then the guy reeled them back up. Lucky man! I wish I had thought of that, I would love to have a pair of his flip flops and I'm totally gonna try it next year (yep thats right, Jimmy Buffett said he would be back next year!!!!!). Overall it was one of the most amazing nights of my life (especially of my life in Paris...my wedding here might be the only thing that could top it and even that is debatable).

In other quick news...I went to Bouygues Telecom yesterday and got a new cell phone! I'm pretty excited about that. I finally have a cell phone plan so I can make calls and not worry, plus it is unlimited texts and unlimited email (if I figure out how to make it work...any advice?), unlimited windows live messenger (can someone explain to me what this is) and unlimited web (if I can figure it out). And this is by far the most advanced phone I have ever had (not hard when I've never even owned a camera phone before). It has a slide-out keyboard, camera, does video, has a touch screen, internet capabilities and sudoku on it (by far the most exciting part!) and all that for only 1 euro extra with my plan!!!!!


My beautiful new phone