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!