Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Jimmy Buffett

Friday night was one of my favorite events of the annual Jimmy Buffett concert.  This year I went with Amy and Marybeth, and as usual, the concert was amazing!!!  The music was, of course, great.  The hoards of crazy American Parrotheads (Jimmy Buffett fans) were fabulous and it was a lot of fun to see what crazy stuff people were wearing this year. 

 Amy, Marybeth and I in front of L'Olympia with Jimmy Buffett's name in lights and decked out for the concert!

Before the concert we met up for margaritas in the area, because you can't listen to Margaritaville without having had some margaritas, and we really didn't expect to find them at a French concert hall.  Then we headed over to check out the action in front of the hall before the start of the concert and to enjoy a quick beer with some other crazy Americans.  We threw on our "Jimmy Buffett" outfits (we were decked out with leis, grass skirts, shell bras, etc), met up with some people I had met at last year's concert and even got our pictures taken for a magazine.
with some friends from last year, dressed and ready to go!

margaritas before the show

The only downside was the location...L'Olympia.  While I had originally been excited to see that the concert was moved to L'Olympia (it was at La Cigale last year) because it is closer to my metro and my apartment, I ended up being quite disappointed.  For a concert hall that has been in the business since 1888 (making it the oldest music hall in Paris), it really wasn't well organized or prepared for this concert.  I mean, they ran out of beer 30 minutes into a 2 hour and 45 minute long concert!  Haven't they ever heard of studying the audience and preparing in advance???  They actually had to go out and buy beer in cans to serve (which resulted in a completely unexpected 1-hour line for a drink)!  But, despite the lack of beer, Jimmy Buffett was incredible and I had a great time with Amy and Marybeth.  We sang along at the top of our lungs and danced like crazy and enjoyed a very decent view of the stage.  Basically, the concert was fantastic and I'm glad I got to see him again this year!  His Paris concerts are definitely his best!

Jimmy Buffett performing

the concert

Jimmy Buffett and Antoine (a well-known French singer) singing Chansons pour les Petits Enfants

After the concert we headed over to O'Sullivans at Grands Boulevards for some drinks with some of the other concert goers and then we called it a wonderful night!  As usual, a great time!

having a great time at the concert

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Pity party pour moi

Well, it's happened...Jasmin has officially left France to return to the US and start her life there.  Which means that I have one less friend in France today than I did yesterday.  She was one of my closest, if not my closest friend in France, and I'm not quite sure what I am going to do without her. 

Jasmin and I getting some wine

Jasmin was the one I could talk to about anything, the one I would go to whenever I had a problem.  She would always listen and I always knew she could give me good advice and that most times she could completely relate.  We could complain about students and jobs together, complain about France, talk intelligently about American politics, have tons of fun together, even when doing nothing at all, we would text each other all day while we were on the metro traveling between teaching jobs, she basically got me my new job, we would shop together, go to Bercy Village together, travel together (when we had the money, of course) and I would see her at least 2-3 times per week.  She provided me with entertainment and with things to do since my husband is more of the stay-at-home kind.  And now she is gone, and my life in France is going to change drastically (however, my wallet will be much happier).

Jasmin at the Super Bowl party

I've known for awhile that she was going to leave.  At first she was just thinking about it, but then in June/July she officially bought the plane ticket for September 22, and that's when I knew it really was going to happen.  However, even with all that time to prepare for it, it was still very hard to say goodbye Tuesday evening (I even cried...).

Jasmin and I at the Chateau de Chantilly

I know that in the end it's the best for her.  She wasn't truly happy in France, and she was dying to be closer to her family.  And now she is going to be able to start her "real" life with a real career and she will be able to see her family often.  I know it's best for her, but I can't help but be selfish and throw myself a bit of a pity party for the next few days as I deal with the fact that I have one less person here in France that I can turn to every day, at any moment.  I'm happy that she is going to be happier, but I'm devastated that she isn't here any more.  I know we are going to stay in touch and that we will remain friends, but it will be hard to not have her here to do things with and to talk to over coffee or a glass of wine.

Jasmin and I visiting wine cellars in Vouvray

Since I've arrived in France I've tried really hard to find myself a few good, close friends who I can rely on, who can keep me sane and who I can have fun with.  And every time I make the effort to find a very good friend, they leave.  Laura left after our year as assistants.  But Marybeth was still here.  Then I met Jasmin and we really clicked.  We had lots of fun together, could rely on each other for anything, had very similar situations, en bref, it was perfect.  And I really didn't think she was going to leave France.  In fact, when I met her, she had no intention of leaving.  But that changed, and now she has left too.  Luckily Marybeth is still here, but she is leaving to return to Canada at the beginning of November.  I'll still have my Russian friend, but she is very busy being a good, dedicated Russian wife and so I'll be lucky if I see her once or twice a month.  And there is Julie, my French friend, but she doesn't live in Paris so I can't see her very often.  And my new American friend, Amy, and perhaps that will work out well, but I don't know her that well yet, and chances are she will be leaving France next year unless she finds a job. 

For now I will enjoy every last minute that I have with Marybeth and I guess I might be spending more time with my husband's friends.  I can also spend more time with my husband, but when I want to go do things, it's going to be rough since I know I can't rely on him for actual activities, only watching TV at home.

It definitely looks like I am going to have to get out there and really make an effort to meet new people, make some new friends and hope that I can find someone else who I really click with and who can become a very close friend!  But I'm really gonna miss you Jasmin, you can't be replaced!

Jasmin with the silver monster in Tours

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

3 years and counting!

After catching up on some other blogs I read (Amber and Ksam) I realized that it's scary to think about...but on September 19 it had been 3 years since I arrived in France to do something I never wanted to do (teach English) so that I could spend time living with Lionel and testing our relationship to see if it could really work.  I guess that in the end it was a good idea since we got married and all, but it's hard to believe that it has been 3 long, difficult years battling with French administration and doing a job I don't particularly love, just to be able to have a life here with my Frenchie.

At least at this point I can finally see some successes and hope that a decent amount of the worst is behind me.  Here's hoping that my future in France will hold even more success, happiness and less French administration!!!

Une semaine de ouf

Well, I haven't posted in awhile, and it's because I've been quite busy!  It started two weekends ago, and there is no end in sight!

The craziness started with a going away party/barbeque at my apartment for my friend, Jasmin's, imminent departure (more on that later).  After a very fun and late night of French and American food and drink, the rest of the weekend and all of last week was crazy because my friend Julie was staying with me while visiting from Angers and we were trying to spend as much time together and also with Jasmin, all while I was working and trying to settle in at my new job!

This weekend wasn't much better since it was Jasmin's last weekend in Paris and she had a few things she wanted to be sure to do on Friday night with all her friends such as visiting Nicolas at Bercy Village one last time and having one last night with wine along the Seine.  We ended up having a huge group for Bercy Village and then the quais, so it was quite fun, despite a little mishap with Marybeth's bag which was almost stolen (it's already been stolen 2 or 3 times in less than a year!).

Even though Julie left on Saturday and I didn't really do anthing else exciting over the weekend, I was very busy getting a million things done that I have been putting off (some of which has been put off since the end of my vacation) such as cleaning, organizing papers from the old job, getting everything really set up and organized for the new job (I've kinda been flying by the seat of my pants for the last few weeks because I haven't really had time to get organized how I wanted), etc.  We also had to drive up to Jasmin's apartment last night to pick up a bunch of things, such as books and clothes, that she is leaving to me since she can only bring two suitcases back with her to the US.  I also inherited her eliptical here's hoping it motivates me to work out and get into shape and at least lose some of the extra pounds I picked up in the US!

Not to mention this week is busy with work, Jasmin's last days, ANOTHER strike on Thursday, a very exciting concert on Friday night, and then Cambridge Day on Saturday!  Since I still haven't gotten all my stuff organized, I will have that to work on Sunday as well as housework, paperwork for work and tons of mail to go through concerning our new bank accounts (did I mention I opened a new bank account at La Poste - actually a checking account and a Livret A (my first Livret A in France) - and Lionel and I also FINALLY opened our joint account at La Poste).

I'm glad I have had a lot to do and I'm glad things are going well so far with my new job, but I'm ready for things to calm down a bit.  Unfortunately, there isn't really an end in sight, but I'm sure I'll get through it all!  Maybe I'll be able to relax around mid October!

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Cambridge Day

For those English teachers out there...if you are in the Paris area, or even want to travel to Paris for the event, Cambridge Day is September 25 in the 13th arrondissement.  It is an all day event which is free for all teachers. 

There are 4 different sessions of workshops, as well as an opening and closing speakers, lunch, and coffee breaks during which you can explore some of the most recent Cambridge titles, as well as some of their most popular titles, including the option to buy them from Attica bookshop (who will have a stand there).  Also (and very interesting in my opinion), all online registrations receive a free copy of the 25th edition of English Grammar in Use (one of my favorite English grammar books) and all attendees recieve a copy of English Unlimited.

Workshops include:
  • The impact of the recession on business English
  • Blended learning - innovation in English language teaching from Cambridge
  • Teaching effective communication in the modern world
  • Assessing all 4 skills with BULATS
  • Doing business wiht a spoken corpus: grammar in action
  • The technical English toolbox - equipping engineers with the language they need most
  • Unlimited technology to teach - and learn
  • Designing a programme of financial English, based on needs - and means - analysis
  • Collaboration in ESP and Business English course design and delivery: ideas, models and experiences
The opening plenary is "Fluency and the Common European Framework" and the closing plenary is "Teaching - and Learning - Grammar Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow.

For more information and to register online, click here.  Hope to see you there!

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Sarko, son of Petain?

Immigration has recently been a major topic of discussion in the United States, especially during elections and with the new Arizona laws.  But it is also a topic that is often debated here in France, especially recently during Sarkozy's presidency with the discussions of national identity, and most recently, with Sarkozy's new anti-crime proposals.

I've been hearing a lot about the new anti-crime proposals, which were announced in July, and I must say that I am actually shocked by this latest affront on immigrants in France.  When you hear the term "anti-crime proposals," you think these are proposals that are intended to fight crime in France.  However, I would more accurately label these proposals "anti-immigrant proposals."

One of these proposals would revoke French citizenship from any naturalized immigrant guilty of certain crimes such as polygamy or attacking a police officer.  I just find this idea appalling; the fact that Sarkozy things France should be able to give out citizenship and then take it away if they decide they don't like the person's behavior.  Can you really do this?  Does France have the right to declare someone a citizen only to later decide they no long want that person? Can, and should, citizenship be taken this lightly?

According to Sarkozy this is possible, it should be done, and it would appear that he believes this is only logical.  He seems to believe that French citizenship is a privilege, going so far as to say "one must earn French nationality and be worthy of it.  Anyone who fires on an agent enforcing order no longer deserves to be French."  However, why should a naturalized immigrant who has worked hard to become French be treated any differently than someone who was born in France to a French family and therefore automatically is French?  If "one must earn French nationality and be worthy of it," shouldn't this apply for those who are born French too?  In fact, they haven't even done anything to earn French citizenship, and they very often don't show themselves to be worthy of it either.  If I go through the trouble to become a naturalized citizen, I think that shows an additional dedication to being French that natural born citizens have never had to show, and often do not feel.  If Sarkozy is willing to take the step of revoking citizenship from naturalized immigrants, it seems only logical that the same will eventually be proposed for natural born citizens.  Once one is French, one is French.  It shouldn't matter how that Frenchness was obtained.  If one can lose their Frenchness for commiting a crime, it should apply to all citizens, not just one group of citizens.  Natural born citizens commit the same crimes as naturalized immigrants, therefore they should be expected to uphold the same laws.  If these proposals are ennacted, natural born citizens should also risk losing their citizenship seeing as Sarkozy said that "anyone who fires on an agent enforcing order no longer deserves to be French."

To me, it seems that allowing this proposal will eventually lead to a number of other affronts on immigrants in France and that this is a very risky move for a country that already has so many other immigration problems.  This proposal will only further highlight the separation between natural born citizens and naturalized citizens in France, which in the end will almost certainly lead to more crime, rather than reducing crime.

I'm just shocked that the French president would take citizenship so lightly.  Once citizenship is earned, it is supposed to be final.  Saying that it can be taken back is dangerous.  If France wants to better control who receives French citizenship, they should make additional regulations and requirements for obtaining citizenship in the first place, but once it is obtained, it should not be able to be revoked.  Once someone has been chosen, they should not be able to be considered undesireable.  Why should I ever take the time and use the energy to get French citizenship if I believe that one day it can be taken back?  By making it possible to revoke citizenship for certain crimes, the doors are opened to coming up with additional reasons to revoke citizenship from naturalized immigrants, and eventually French citizenship will lose its appeal and its value.

In my opinion, a better way to control or even prevent immigrant crime, especially attacks on police officers, protests and violent riots, would be to look for ways to close the gap between immigrants and natural born citizens, rather than looking for ways to make this gap wider and further highlighting the extensive immigration problems that exist in France.  Immigrants are already treated very poorly and often find themselves struggling to find jobs and to be treated equally and this proposal would only make the situation worse.  Once someone has earned citizenship, they should be treated as equal to natural born citizens, not as being forever inferior.   Whatever happened to "liberté, egalité, fraternité?"

Perhaps Sarkozy should remember his roots, after all he comes from an immigrant family.  His father was born in Hungary and fled the country in 1945, eventually settling in Marseille in 1948.  However, he didn't ask for French citizenship until the 1970s, remaining in France as a "stateless person" until this time.  I think Sarkozy's background should encourage him to be more understanding and accepting of immigrants and their situations, but instead he seems to have forgotten this background, often adopting anti-immigrant policies.  I also think it is interesting that his father lived in France for such a long period without citizenship, only remaining with the legal status of being "stateless" which is the same status of the Roma people who Sarkozy works hard to expel from France (just recently having expelled 8,300 Romas).  His father was able to remain here with this status, why should the Romas not be given the same rights.  After all, had their been a "Sarkozy" in office when his father was here, perhaps he would have been expelled too, and Sarkozy would never have had the opportunity to become President of the French Republic.

Overall, I must say I am extremely dissappointed in Sarkozy's constantly anti-immigrant policies, and in my opinion these most recent proposals may be his biggest and most shocking affront ever on immigrants.  What do you think?  Is citizenship really something that can be given and taken away?  Does this go against the most basic French values of liberté, egalité, fraternité?  What would this mean for the future of immigrants in France?  And would these proposals somehow devalue French citizenship?

Friday, September 3, 2010

Good Mexican food in is possible!

I have finally done it!  After three years of hunting, getting my hopes up, and then being miserably shot down (do we remember the salmon burritos of El Rancho???), I have finally found a decent (dare I say even, good) Mexican restaurant in Paris.  And I couldn't be happier!!!


O'Mexico is located in the 13th (20 rue du Père Guérin), right near the Place d'Italie.  It's a small restaurant and there aren't many tables, but the food is good, the service is actually pleasant and it is definitely worth a bit of a wait if you are craving good Mexican in Paris.

When Lionel's friend, Jean-marc, suggested a Mexican place he had just discovered near his apartment, I was sceptical, to say the least.  I've never really had a good Mexican experience in France.  The best I've ever had was a place in Tours, and even that couldn't completely satisfy me.  But he insisted, so since it was only a few minutes away, and there are plenty of other restaurants we enjoy right in the area (it is near China town after all, and we love Asian), I said we could at least go look at the menu.  But I didn't really get my hopes up, figuring I would just turn away, dejected, but at least having dodged the bullet of having spent a lot of money on horrible food, yet again in my quest for even edible Mexican in Paris.

After a quick perusal of the menu, I tentatively said we could eat there, but I still wasn't sure I would enjoy it.  I figured at least they didn't have salmon burritos, chicken wings or hamburgers on the menu.  It was only Mexican-y items.  So in we went, and I plan to go back often!

the menu (click on the photo if you want to enlarge it)...sorry,
it was taken with my cell phone so the image might not be amazing

The restaurant is very cute, though a bit small for my taste.  It is decorated with Mexican-y things like sombreros.  But the reason to go back is definitely the food.

Lionel and Jean-marc in the restaurant

While the prices are a bit high (cheapest 3-course dinner menu is 17.50 euros, a bit less for lunch), it is definitely worth it in my opinion.  We sat down and debated on what to order and I was still feeling less-than-convinced, when the server came out with a basket of homemade tortilla chips with guacamole and chili to dip them in.  I'd never seen that one before in France: free chips and dips AND homemade chips!

Lionel and Jean-marc enjoying the homemade chips


We ordered and settled on a pitcher of (very expensive) Margaritas for an apéro and we all three got the 17.50 euro menu and a bottle of wine for dinner.  Off the menu I had the guacamole for my entrée, enchiladas mexicanas for my plat and we ended up exchanging the dessert for a Mexican coffee liqueur.  The guacamole was served on lettuce in a tortilla bowl and was some of the best I've ever had (unfortunately I was too busy eating it to think to take a picture of it).  Lionel had the ceviche for an appetizer and Jean-marc had the chicken quesadilla, and I tried them both and they were very good too.  Even the margarita was better than any other I've had in France (and cheaper than Indiana Cafe or El Rancho).  Then came the enchiladas.  We all three ordered the same plat, so I can't say anything about the other choices, but the enchiladas were amazing.  They were filled with ground beef and cheddar cheese (and you could taste the amazing cheddar in every bite).  They were served with Mexican rice and refried beans (something I've never seen in France!), just like in a Mexican restaurant in America.  But these refried beans were exceptionally good!  I also like that the portions were reasonable and I left feeling filled, but not stuffed (which is often the case when I eat Mexican in America).  At the end of the meal I was shocked, then thrilled, then ecstatic and then I told Lionel that we were going back every week!!!

the amazing enchiladas with rice and refried beans!!!

So, obviously, I highly recommend this place for anyone craving some Mexican-y food.  While it is not exactly like what we eat in America (and probably not at all like what they eat in Mexico), it certainly satisfied my craving for the kind of Mexican I grew up with in Ohio!

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Champagne, champagne et champagne!

Something else I've been meaning to post about forever is my little day trip to Champagne back in July with Lionel, Jasmin and an American friend of Jasmin's who was visiting for a week.  We decided to take Jasmin's friends on a day trip out to Champagne to visit a champagne house, so we drove out to Reims (about an hour and a half from Paris) and visited the city and tasted some champagne one Saturday afternoon. 

vineyards of Champagne

We made a reservation at G. H. Mumm and headed there first.  It's only about a 15 minute walk from the center of Reims, where we parked the car.  We were able to visit the champagne house and the champagne cellars and learn about how champagne is made.  Then at the end we got to taste a flute of champagne.  The visits with tasting start at 10 euros and the prices increases from their depending on how many champagnes you want to taste.

cellars of G. H. Mumm

cellars of G. H. Mumm

Jasmin and Lionel with giant champagne bottles

Afterwards we headed back into the city and walked around a bit and explored the city.  We saw some ancient Roman ruins, the beautiful town hall, and the absolutely amazing Cathédrale de Reims where almost every French king was crowned since Clovis.  The cathedral, dating from the 13th century, is very interesting to visit and besides being the location of coronations, it has amazing architecture and beautiful stained glass windows, including some which were designed by the famous artist Marc Chagall in 1974.  The cathedral is one of my favorites in France (since I'm a French history buff) and I've already visited it once, when I took a few of my American friends out to champagne taste in Reims at Taittinger and G. H. Martel, two other champagne houses that are a short walk from the center of the city.  Of the three that I've visited, Taittinger was the most interesting because the house was built on the ruins of an abbey and you can see some of those ruins when you visit the cellar.  But at G. H. Martel you get to taste the most champagnes with the basic, cheapest tour, so it gives you a real chance to compare different champagnes.

Cathédrale de Reims

city of Reims

street in Reims

Last day on the job!

I don't think I've mentioned it yet, but I found a new job back in July!  And today was my last day at my old job!  I'm starting the new one tomorrow morning!

Now don't get too excited.  I know I've complained a bit about my old job here on this blog and in general about being an English teacher in Paris, so it would make sense for my new job to be outside of the world of teaching.  But it isn't.  In fact, I will be doing exactly the same thing: traveling around Paris giving English lessons to business professionals at their companies.  However, I am working for a different language school.  And I'm getting paid about 35% more than I was at my old job.  And I've been guaranteed a very decent number of hours.  And I get to make my own schedule instead of having it planned for me.  So, while in theory the job is basically the same, it has a few benefits that make it much more interesting and hopefully I will be happy enough to be able to stay for a while.  Besides, making more money never hurt anyone before, right?

I'm pretty excited for this change and I'm hoping that it will improve my life a bit and that I'll be happier than I was this past spring when I was pretty down.  It also helps that my new boss seems to be extremely nice and is definitely more organized that my old boss. 

My biggest regret is that my old boss is mad at me because, even though she has known that I was leaving at the end of August since mid-July, she is mad at me for leaving and for making her rentrée des vacances complicated because she has to organized new teachers for all my lessons.  Seems to me she could have started working on that back in July but instead she wants to be angry with me.  Unfortunately, it made for a very tension-filled meeting this morning when I turned in my books and took care of last minute paperwork!

But oh well, I couldn't miss the opportunity to make more money and have a better schedule just because she didn't want to have to work when she got back from vacation!

And now I'm off to bed so I can head off to my first lessons with my new company tomorrow morning.  Wish me luck!!!