January 2005 Archives

Make love, not war

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On Friday night, I met one of my mothers friends from her French classes in Australia for drinks. He is around my age, and travelling through town before trying to find some work in London, and since I love showing people around this fantabulous city, I jumped at the opportunity.

Sylvain met us (after I had put away quite a few of those Happy Hour beverages) in the Latin Quarter, and we headed to O'Neill for more drinkies (their beer is apparently excellent, but as I'm not a beer drinker, I can't say much) and flammekueches.

There are a lot of stereotypes about France, and about French men in particular - being experts on the ins and outs of love and all. Many of the older films and television shows celebrate this stereotype, but I have to say that as a general rule, the majority of programs and films of more recent years are a little more mild, and have a tendency to downplay this, at least in comparison to the older ones. But this weekend, we met a gentleman who took the cake.

Just before Sylvain met up with us, my companion and I were sitting in The Mazet, nursing a couple of drinks. A French gentleman in his fifties walked in and strode up to the bar.

"A beer for me!" he pounded his fist on the bartop.

"What do you want?" said the barman, gesturing at his choice of glasses. "A small one, or one like his?" He pointed at the beer that my companion held in his hand.

"Ooooooh la la," the Frenchman exclaimed. "I think a small one. I need to be able to make love tonight, you know."

The barman winked and handed him the beer, and the Frenchman turned to me, and raised his glass in a toast.

"I really do, you know," he confided to me. "I could not drink what your friend is having and be able to perform to the best of my abilities!"

I grinned and murmured a very polite "d'accord." He moved away and my friend looked at me expectantly, his French not quite having caught the gist of the exchange.

I explained, he laughed, and I said, "welcome to France!"

I think that my Australian companion was almost more delighted to see this particular stereotype come to life than if this guy had come in wearing a beret and carrying a baguette.

Saucy

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Since we couldn't participate in a barbecue for Australia Day, Sylvain and I decided to have a fake barbecue last night. Hamburgers (rissoles!) in the pan (he threw a sponge at me when I facetiously pulled out his precious crêpe pan to cook the hamburgers in - mwah ha ha ha!), along with lots of salad, slices of cheddar, pan-fried onions and some baked potatoes.

The table was set. The hamburgers were sizzling in the pan. The only thing left was to find the tomato sauce.

I went to the fridge...

...but there was not a smidgen to be found.

I turned to Sylvain.

Very very very slowly.

"Where. Is. The. Tomato. Sauce." I enunciated very clearly, so there could be no misunderstanding the gravity of the situation.

"The what?" he said, scrunching up his nose. "Ooooh you mean that icky red stuff? The Heinz Ketchup?"

"Yes. The. Ketchup. Where. Is. It?" I pointed to the fridge. "There is none in the fridge. Does this mean we have not got any?" I began talking very rapidly, a surefire sign that I'm panicking. "I cannot eat naked hamburgers! They must be lathered in tomato sauce! This is a crisis! The supermarket is closed! What am I going to do?! I cannot eat the hamburgers without tomato sauce!"

Sylvain grabbed my shoulders and pushed me out of the way. He rummaged around the fridge and emerged triumphant, ketchup in hand.

"It was behind the jam, love," he said, shaking his head.

I grabbed the bottle from him and clutched it to my chest.

"I don't know why you need to kill the taste of the hamburgers with that stuff," he shrugged and went into the lounge room.

This! From a fellow who eats tripe with glee!

I stomped after him, "A Missing Ketchup Situation is not to be taken lightly. Stop laughing at me."

Last night, an international crisis was only very narrowly avoided. I was able to eat my hamburgers lathered in tomato sauce, despite the quiet snickering coming from the other side of the dinner table, and all was right in my world.

Go left! No, the other left!

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I'm standing in front of the stationery cupboard. I have a bit of a thing for stationery, and love me those post-its and colourful pens, and I like to visit the stationery cupboard at least once a day, just in case there is something that catches my fancy.

Beside me, O is explaining to R how to get to a certain place in the city.

"It's simple! You should take the bus!", he says. "Turn right, along Rue X, then take the second street on the left, Avenue Y. Once you get onto Boulevard Z, you need to turn right and walk straight ahead for about 20 metres. Then you'll see the bus stop!"

R is looking confused, so I interrupt, "You really need to speak her language, you know."

I turn to R, "it's the bus stop just in front of Promod".

Comprehension dawns on her face, "ooooooooooooh, yes! I know it!" she exclaims.

O sighs.

I shrug.

Everyone knows that women calibrate their internal navigation system according to the shops in the vicinity.

Sing it out loud

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Since it's confession day in my world, I'm going to reveal another secret.

I don't like Edith Piaf.

It's funny, since I like almost all sorts of music. My tastes are very eclectic, and since I've been living here, there is a whole new world of music open to me. I really really really like lots of French-language musicians. Jean Jacques Goldman, Patrick Bruel, Garou, Daft Punk, MC Solaar. The list goes on. Even Celine Dion sounds better when she sings in French than in English.

That said, these are all what I would describe as modern French musicians.

Everything from before that just hurts my ears.

I'm talking about all those old French singers that sing all those old songs. Like Edith Piaf. Shaky voices. Weird songs.

It's really hard to describe, and I don't know enough about it to quote names and songs (given that I usually close my ears when it comes on), but if you've heard it, you'll know what I'm talking about.

On the way back from the Alps at Christmas, my Father-in-Law put on a cd full of that music in the car. My FIL and MIL started singing and humming along, even Sylvain did a little head jigging as he sat behind the wheel, but Carolyn looked at me with pleading eyes.

"This is the sort of music that we mock when we hear it!" She whispered to me in horror.

"I know!", I whispered back. "Just plug the headphones into the Gameboy and play Zelda at full volume. It's the only way to escape!"

Sylvain's mum gave me a cd of classic French songs for Christmas a few years ago. I listened to it once and now it is gathering dust on the cd rack. She keeps asking, "do you like it?", and I reply, "well, it's not exactly to my taste". She insists, "but you've got to listen to the words too!", and I respond, "yes, well, I appreciate the lyrics... erm... so... how was your day?"

I feel really bad that I don't like it. As if I'm committing a crime by not appreciating an important part of this country's history and culture. I wonder if they could reject my next application to renew my carte de séjour because of it?

I have to be extremely careful when I say that I don't like this sort of music. I offended Sylvain once by describing Edith Piaf as "caterwauling" (he didn't understand the word, but got the gist). hehe. Amongst many French people, there is a sort of national pride about this music.

I suppose it would be like them mocking Slim Dusty. I know he was a dag, but he was a legend too, and I won't hear nary a word to the contrary.

Confession time

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I have a confession to make.

I am a banlieusarde.

How about a little bit of history for those who are not in the know?

BANLIEUSARD, E. n. Personne qui habite la banlieue d'une grande ville, notamm. de Paris. (from Le Petit Larousse)

Basically? I'm a suburbanite.

SUBURBANITE. A person who lives in the suburbs of a large town, notably Paris.

I live in a wealthy "suburb", ten minutes drive from the Périphérique, the big (nightmare-ish) road that entours centre Paris "proper" (ie. all those Arondissments). Technically, I am not a Parisienne, since I do not live in an Arondissement, and I live in the Petit Couronne (ie. those suburbs very close to Paris Proper). We have to drive for at least an hour from our apartment to get outside of the greater Paris area.

I found some interesting definitions, most notably this one :

PARIS
Paris intramuros is the expression used to denote the area of the city of Paris, lying almost exclusively within the boulevards extérieurs, which were built in alignment with the walls surrounding Paris that were demolished at the turn of the last century.
Paris intramuros comprises the city's twenty arrondissements, which are separate communes, but none of the other areas or suburbs around the city. The expression is accordingly used to distinguish the city of Paris as strictly defined, from the wider expression "Paris", or "Paris area", which denotes the metropolitan area of Paris.

I also found some interesting statistics.

So... I work in center of Paris, in the 5th Arondissement. Half of my colleagues are banlieusard(e)s, and half live inside Paris itself. We're constantly making jokes about the merits of living inside and outside Paris Proper, and my Parisian colleagues get a real kick out of calling us "suburbanites". I get the impression that it actually matters.

But then I talk about our apartment of 85m², for the same rent as their 35m² apartments, and my "Parisian" colleagues turn green. It takes me about 40 minutes to get to work in the morning, and whilst I sometimes suffer from the whims of the SNCF and their frequent strikes, I think I've got the best of both worlds. I work in the centre of one of the coolest cities in the world, but I have a big apartment (for this city), and I actually have some breathing space. We still have the same bakeries and butchers and little markets and shops and stuff, it's just not in Paris.

My colleagues quickly recover and argue, "but you can't just go downstairs, and be in Paris!".

Honestly? This country-girl-born-and-bred wouldn't be happy there anyway. So what if I can never technically call myself a Parisienne?

Paris is the weirdest city ever - I don't know any other city in the world that make the definition between what is "Paris" and what is not (if there are, please let me know!). I mean, Healesville, over an hours drive from the city centre, is still considered part of Melbourne.

Happy Australia Day!

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... to all Australians all over the world :)

Aussie Aussie Aussie!

I did suggest to my boss that I should take today off (out of respect to my national holiday), and that I would be happy to work on Bastille Day, but he wasn't all that impressed with the idea. Poo-ey.

Edited to answer several questions : Australia Day is celebrated amongst friends and family, generally with barbecues, cos it's so hot (according to The Age, at 8:30pm, it is still 33°C). Lots of awards are given out to important people who have done important things during the year. The major cities do have fireworks too ;)

Edited to add : My colleages are asking, "but what is there to celebrate? We Frenchies celebrate Bastille Day to celebrate the cutting off of heads, but what have you got to celebrate?" I responded that "we celebrate the fact that we are Australian. Isn't that enough of a reason?" I think I've got it about right. :)

Shake your groove thang

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Whilst my sister was here, she'd often meet me after work, so that we could take the train home together. At the beginning, she'd come upstairs to my office, but by the end she would say, "I'll be waiting for you downstairs."

"What's wrong?", I asked. "Don't you like saying Bonjour to my colleagues?"

"No," she replied. "It's not that... It's just that the way you shake everyones hands and say goodbye at the end of the day is really really really weird."

If my site hadn't been eaten by my host six months ago and all my archives for the last two years were available, I would be linking to a particular entry I wrote about this last year. But my site did get eaten by my host six months ago and my archives are unavailable, so I can't link. grr.

So... a quick history... At my current place of employ, I must shake the hands of everyone when I arrive and when I leave. Everyone. Everyone. Ok. It's not that big a drama as there are only 10 full-time staff, but there are a lot of volunteers whose hands must also be shaken when they arrive and when they leave.

I still haven't gotten used to shaking hands all the time here. I go through the motions, but I still find it REALLY annoying, not to mention a major time waster.

I know my place of employ isn't the only one which does this, but there are some French companies which do not do it quite the same way. I did a stage here a couple of years ago, and I would kiss all my colleages of the same age in greeting, and shake the hands of my superiors. I waved goodbye to everyone at the end of the day.

Anyway. Carolyn was pretty freaked out by this whole custom, and was somewhat relieved when I told her that I thought it was weird too. After all, in Australia, you will shake hands with people at meetings, or when your important boss arrives, but the rest of the time we just greet people with a wave and a "hi".

Here, I just want to wash my hands all the time. Think of all the goobies that could be passed around!

It's made me really curious... I don't normally do this, but I must ask the Monkey Gallery blogosphere... How do you greet your fellow employees and/or superiors where you live?

Taste testing

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One of the best things about living in a foreign country is that one is constantly discovering new things, new places, new food. The people at my work, despite constantly annoying me with stories about eating rabbit and horse meat, do like to help me discover new stuff.

So, today I had my first Navette à la Fleur d'Oranger. I munched on it as I drank my after-lunch coffee. It had quite a weird flavour, and I wasn't sure if I liked it - then I was told it would taste better if dipped in hot chocolate.

Therefore, someone from my office has been dispatched to one of the nearby chocolatiers to find some good hot chocolate. Because, you know, life is all about priorities.

Will keep you up-to-date on the tasting.

hehe.

You too!

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I have heard rumours that U2 are going to be doing a concert here in Paris, on the 7th July at the Stade de France.

I've never been to a real concert in my life, and I suppose that if there is one band that I should start with, it should be U2. I can't seem to find out where to get tickets, so I assume that they're not on sale yet. I'll be haunting the fnac site and all the other possible points of sale on a regular basis until I have some of those lovely tickets in my hot little hands.

Whee!

Oi oi oi

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Last Friday night we met up with a friend of my sisters boyfriend for drinks, in a tiny Dutch bar called "Klein Holland" near Le Marais. It was a pretty cool bar, very laid back, with good drink prices - not that easy to find here, so it's an address to remember.

The girl that we had gone to meet kept giggling at Sylvain's half-Australian accent, and his habit of saying "no worries" at every opportunity.

I think I may have had a bad influence on him, and we need to start meeting more international people and/or watching more Anglo shows on tv. He needs to drop the accent, or at least learn some more sayings.

I swear that if he comes out with "bonza" or something like that, we'll have to switch to speaking French at home. heh.

Banality

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There has been a big drop in temperature in the last 24 hours, and apparently it's set to stay that way all week. I walked to the station this morning and even noticed a little snow on the cars - nothing significant, but it proves that it's getting darn cold.

At least the days are getting longer again. There is nothing more crushing to the morale than going to work and coming home from work whilst it's still dark outside.

So yep... that's all I've got to talk about today. The weather. Oh yeah. And knitting.

Yesterday afternoon I set about the continuation of my feather and fan wrap. I somehow did a reallyreallyREALLY big booboo and it all went to hell.

I ripped out several rows, a task that I have discovered is not so easy with mohair, and there were tears and much swearing involved. I finally figured out where it had gone wrong and managed to put it back on the needles, but then I think I did something else wrong because it's slightly wonky. It's still got the right number of stitches, but I think I did an extra row in there somewhere or something.

Ah well, I'm only feather and fanning the ends of the wrap (the first 30 centimetres or so) and moss-stitching the middle, so you can't really tell. I'm such a spazmo knitter.

As I was having my tantrum over gaining ten stitches in a row that was supposed to contain 58, Sylvain actually tried to help me figure out what was going on and fix it. He's really very lovely, but it does worry me slightly that he said, "I reckon I'd be really good at knitting".

This, from a boy who is happiest when he is up to his armpits in grease and oil from pulling apart a car.

Hmm.

There she goes

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... and my sister has gone back to Australia.

I kissed her a million times before she walked past the point of no return at the airport, I hugged her a million times more, and I cried a million times a million tears. I miss her already, but I'm trying to be brave.

Sylvain just reminded me that at least now that the whirlwind has left, we will be able to keep the apartment clean. He's not wrong. Man, she's messy. hehe.

I admire her so much, she's one of the most wonderful people I know, and it amazes me that, despite the same upbringing, we can be so different. I love her to bits, and I'm so glad that we were able to spend the last month together. Being away from family and old friends is the hardest thing about being a foreigner.

So now what?

Well. Operation Joiner begins. This week I'm going to join the library. I'm going to hunt down some groups to join and do stuff with. Not sure what, but I'm gonna do stuff. Joining. I think that might be a good way to help keep the homesick bug away, and might help me to really embrace this foreign land I'm living in and come out of it on top.

Put your left foot in

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Oh yep. Way too many beverages consumed last night.

I suspect that is why I nearly walked out of the door wearing odd shoes this morning (and why I couldn't hold the cameraphone straight).

Wrong Shoes

Have I mentioned that I have a tummy ache?

The Eternal Question

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Carolyn:
'So I was watching cartoons yesterday and I saw the most inspiring, the most death-defying, the most incredible cartoon ever!'

Katia:
'Oh my god, tell me more!'

Carolyn:
'It was Road Runner v Speedy Gonzales in a real, live, race!!!'

Katia:
'Like, did he have a car?'

Carolyn:
'Uh-huh, well... actually, Sylvester and Wile E. Coyote had a rocket type thing and won the race so we never found out who is the fastest in the wild west. Very disappointing.'

WHICH LEADS TO THE ETERNAL QUESTION....... MUCH MORE IMPORTANT THAN 42 - DEFYING LIFE, THE UNIVERSE AND EVERYTHING....

What is with the French Road Runner?

He is not called "Road Runner" in French, instead, he is named "Bip Bip" (Beep Beep).

The noise that he makes is a distinct "Meep Meep", even in French (because there are no voices, there is no need for dubbing), so I don't understand why they have changed his name as such?!

Carolyn complained about this today, and I exclaimed, "OMG! I spent an entire morning arguing with a colleague about this!"

Sylvain's only response was a pathetic, "He has a cold."

CLAUSE 1: Carolyn thinks that the actual eternal question is "who is the fastest, Speedy Gonzales or Road Runner?"

Co-authoured by Carolyn The Stinky after both young lassies had partaken in several vodka and oranges. excuse the spelling errors.

Dress-ups

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I've been complimented three times today on these earrings that I'm wearing. They're long and dangly and fun. I don't normally wear such earrings.

Charlie gave them to me for Christmas, and we've dubbed them my "grown up earrings".

earrings.jpg

Pity I can't grow up.

Heroic acts

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I break the photocopier and beg two of the guys at my work to come and fix it (because goodness knows I don't want to get my hands all inky and dirty).

They fix it within minutes, then stand around admiring their handiwork as the photocopier happily begins spitting out paper again.

The secretary and I make a few jokes about how manly they both are.

"Les heroes de la [insert name of company here]!", I exclaim.

Grammatically correct, but doesn't come out right when I forget that "hero" is special (like "halle"), and I make the liason in "les heroes" and it comes out like this :

"Les zeroes de la [insert name of company here]".

So basically, instead of saying "the heroes of the company", I say "the idiots of the company".

...and yet again, laughter ensues, and everyone is too breathless from laughing so hard to explain what I'd said wrong.

Darn those special "h"'s!

When I started to study French here, all the rules and stuff were floating around in my head. Everything was alright in theory, and I felt like I was learning the important things. Then I finished my studies at the Sorbonne, but I still didn't feel that I could apply what I had learned all that well.

So I kept watching tv, listening to people talk, and a few months after I finished my studies, all of a sudden, it started to sink in. The rules made sense, I was able to carry out vaguely commonsensical conversations. But without a doubt, the best thing for me was the fact that I started working here just over a year ago, in a French organisation.

It forced me to use my French on a daily basis, and as a result I started improving in leaps and bounds. I used to come home from work with enormous headaches, and there were days when I couldn't handle it any more (if all my old blogging from that time was still online, I'd provide heaps of links here!), but it slowly got easier and easier to get through the day without getting confused.

I know I've still got a long way to go, and my collegues like to challenge me with new and obscure words and sayings. The worst is when they start throwing in "verlan", and I know that I won't reach the end of the tunnel for a few more years yet.

That said, the best thing about it all is that I've learned how to laugh at myself.

A lot.

And often.

An invaluable lesson.

Mary mary quite contrary

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I started knitting something last night, and ripped it out twice before I really got onto the good rhythm. I am trying to knit a wrap in "feather and fan" stitch, and I think I bit off more than I could chew, but it seems to be ok now.

I have been feeling a little contrary and out of sorts for a few days. It's probably got something to do with Charlie leaving this weekend. I'm going to miss my baby sister tremendously.

Anyway. I'm all cheered up now, because I just got a phone call from a charming frenchman who spent ten minutes telling me how adorable my accent is.

No better way to cheer up someone than to rub their ego. Whee!

I also popped into the Abbey Bookshop yesterday at lunchtime (picked up a copy of "Justice" by Faye Kellerman). The owner tried convincing me again to join a book launch they were holding last night, for a new and apparently very interesting Paris tour guidebook. I declined, because of the train strikes and all, but I promised I will make an effort to come to another one of their events in the next few weeks. I'm going to be a joiner.

He also told me that I'm in denial, and that I've got to stop calling myself a "visitor" to France. He might be right, but I refuse to put on the "expat hat". On principle.

So this is my New Years Resolution. To be a joiner. Joining stuff. Joining groups and things. Joining.

Basically, I'm sick of talking in French all the time. heh.

ABC and 123

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Am I the only person who still runs through parts of the alphabet in her head when sorting stuff, to make sure she's putting things in the right order? And still counts on her fingers?

I'd like a general concensus from the blogosphere. Is this scandalous behaviour? Or do you do it too?

And why why why do I have so much time on my hands today that I'm posting like a maniac? Well, I am sending something to the printer and it requires me to print big batches of pdfs, so whilst my system is ramming away and printing these pdfs, I can't do anything else except surf and blog, surf and blog, surf and blog. And that's only because I can't justify pulling out my knitting. heh.

So. Here I am. Delightfully Delirious.

Sing-along

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I'm a very lucky lassie, as Christmas came for me even at my place of employ.

I returned from holidays to find a lovely new printer on my desk - an Epson Stylus printer.

Three problems have cropped up here.

The first problem is that every time I select that printer to print something gloriously colourful, I sing the Epson Stylus jingle : "It's the Epson Stylus colour range for you and me!"

(And I wonder why everyone looks at me strangely?)

The second problem is that it's clear that I'm a serious victim of commercialism. This is an ad that used to be on tv when I was living in Australia more than 2 years ago. The fact that it's still floating around in my subconscious worries me.

It is the third problem that is the most concerning.

I suspect that this spontaneous-jingle-singing maladie is hereditary. Or maybe it's catching, because I'm reminded of my dad, who used to randomly belt out "[something something] white ants in your floor, silverfish galore... Call the Flick man! That's your answer!"

No "rock-a-bye-baby" or "mary had a little lamb" for me!

Striking it out

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This week is Strike Week - every man and his dog in France has decided to go on strike this week, and while most of it doesn't affect me (the schoolteacher strikes etc.), the train strikes today have hit most people hard.

Train arrives.
Run to the door.
Head down.
Shoulders hunched.
Barge!
NO mercy.

Not exactly the most elegant of tactics, but if one wants to get to ones place of employ within the vaguely alloted time period for arrival, one does what one has to do.

Speak-easy

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I have to say that my French has improved vastly over the last couple of years (that said, if it hadn't, I'd be worried). Grammatically, it still sucks, and I can't write to save myself, but I can at least hold my own in conversation.

Last night I really felt the difference, as I was slipping in and out of French then English then French conversation with ease. I went home, chest puffed out with pride.

That bubble, of course, got burst this morning when the following exchange took place.

Katia's colleague is kneeling on the floor, trying to fix some cables to the wall, "Erk, la moquette est degueulasse!" (Ick! The carpet is disgusting!)

Katia kneels down beside him, "Err, oui, il faut que quelqu'un fasse le repassage ici!" (Oh, yes, someone really should do the ironing here!)

Total silence.

Katia thinks for a moment, "ooooooh, crap! je veux dire, il faut que quelqu'un passe l'aspirateur ici!" (Oh crap! I mean, someone should really do the vaccuming here!"

Laughter ensues. The tale is told and retold around the office, embellished and exaggerated.

I suppose I should allow them this little pleasure. My French has vastly improved in the last year that I've been working here, so they have fewer and fewer funny stories to share. Although the ones they do have are still pretty funny and they won't be forgetting them for awhile.

The Louchebem

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It's been awhile since I did a Categorical entry in The Joys of Eating - surprising, as it's not as if we haven't been eating well. Obviously time has been of the essence.

So... Last night Sylvain, Charlie and I went out for dinner with Sylvain's dad at the Louchebem. Nice restaurant that serves good meat.

Sylvain and I started off with a typical "Mad Salad" (teehee! I love translating badly! "Une Salade Folle"!), which had bits of liver and magret de canard and stuff. Jacques and Carolyn both had "Les Couilles d'Âne" (perfectly translated, surprisingly keeping it's real meaning, as "Donkey Balls").

Sorry to burst the bubble of those who were hoping that my sister really did eat a couple of Donkey Balls, but it actually wasn't anything of the sort. It was a couple of poached eggs floating in a goopy-looking sauce (I know I'm not doing it justice, but there might have been mushrooms involved in the making of said sauce and thus I cannot be held responsible for my description).

Apparently it tasted rather good. I'm just glad that I stuck with a salad. I then ate some "canette" (female duck), whilst Sylvain had an Andouillette (a special type of sausage), Jacques had a mighty blue steak, and Carolyn ate a Beef Bourgignon. We rolled out of there, not managing to fit in dessert.

Jacques was both impressed with Carolyn's ladylike restraint, and slightly disappointed that she didn't live up to her reputation... Last time we went there with him, she wolfed down 12 Snails from Bourgogne, a Steak Tartare, a Colonel (sorbet with vodka poured over it), then proceeded to finish off everyone elses desserts. heh.

Down and out

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Neopets-related entry. You have been warned.

Oh yes, I'm cranky. For some reason, the backend to TNC has been down for a few days. I contacted my host about it yesterday, but I've had no response.

I fear the worst.

Thankfully I have a backup (from December) of articles we've written (only a couple have been written since then), so even if things really are bad and we've lost the database and all the templates and stuff, I haven't lost all our content (so, Iris, don't panic - hehe).

I've been so busy for the last month that I haven't had time to write for TNC, and have been feeling really bad about it. Then I got contacted to write two more articles for the NeoMag and was preoccupied with that. I hope to relaunch the enthusiasm for TNC next week, when I need interesting stuff to fill up my spare time (ie. when Charlie returns to Australia *insert sad face here*).

Other than that, hoorah for Sloth Day! I put the new background on my desktop at home, cos it's just too cool. I wonder if I could get away with putting it on my desktop at work. heh.

Hearing Voices

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After nearly three years of watching French television, I've gotten used to the voice-overs. If I can, I prefer watching things in their original version (and I love watching SerieClub and Jimmy late at night, or the occasional Arte movie in VO for that!), but sometimes I have no other choice. I used to really really really hate it, because it sounded so wrong, and it used to really annoy me that all the voices sounded so silly in comparison to the original, but I'm not going to simply stop watching my favourite shows just because the voices sound funny.

My real problem now (in addition to Jason's complaint that adults putting on a high-pitched voice are used for the dubbing of childrens voices!) is when the same voice actors jump around different programs.

Just as when you watch Shrek or other major animated films, and you can recognise the voices of the various actors, after a while, you begin to recognise the voices of the different voice-actors, especially because it's always the same few companies that do the dubbing of most of the programs here.

Sylvain and I often finding ourselves looking at each other in surprise and saying, "but that's Spikes voice! No! How can he be dubbing this character?! It's so wrong!" and so on.

Sometimes we play games - "guess the voice actor! what other shows do they talk in!?"

Obviously we watch way too much tv.

Spidies

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Leaving this little monster on the wall where I squished him is pretty disgusting, but I can't bear the mere thought of wiping it off. So I must wait until Sylvain liberates himself from the Gameboy Advance and comes to my rescue.

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I thought I was pretty darn brave just squishing the darn thing.

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Honestly, how am I supposed to reach the keyboard when you're sitting there?

Keep it down in there

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To top it all off, last night Carolyn's plane to Turkey got diverted at the last minute due to fog. She landed somewhere and sms-ed me to let me know what happened. At 12:30am. She sms-ed me half an hour later to say that she wasn't sure what was going to happen, but they just had to wait (for a few hours) but everyone else was in the same boat and I wasn't to worry. At 3am she sms-ed me again to let me know she was on her way again. At 7am she sent me a final sms to say what hotel she was in and she would email me the hotel contact details later. Probably after she had had a very long nap. heh.

These are the sorts of things that happen when you travel, and there is nothing that anyone can do about them. At least she's having an adventure.

I'm glad she kept sms-ing me with updates, because I would have worried. That said, lots of middle-of-the-night phone-beepage did not facilitate sleeping.

This morning I finally rolled out of bed at 8:15am (instead of the usual 7am), sleepily pulled on some clothes (now that I am conscious, I realise that I'm wearing a horrific ensemble consisting of a pink shirt and red socks), did my hair and put on my makeup (I forgot the mascara) and stumbled out of the front door. I arrived at work half an hour late, having called to let them know that I'd had troubles with the lock on my door last night and was still fixing things up.

But I didn't have any brekkie.

At 11am my stomach started rioting.

I've downed three cups of coffee (wheeeeeeeeeee!) and several lollies, but that's just not sustaining enough. I just realised that before I left this morning, I had the presence of mind to put some breakfast-like goodies in my bag (but was obviously not conscious enough to recall doing it until just now).

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Amongst my mp3 player, bits of yarn and a book, there is a Kinder Delice and a Chausson aux pommes! Who knew I was so clever?

And what am I waiting for?

btw, that fabulous stripy bag in the photo is something I found last week. It's made out of cord, and it's reversible! It can be either stripy or green! I heart my new bag in all it's reversible goodness!

Locked out

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314 euros later and I am PISSED OFF.

Sylvain went to Germany yesterday. Carolyn left for Turkey yesterday and locked the door behind her.

All was hunky dory until I got home last night, to find that I only had one of the keys necessary to unlock our two locks.

*insert many expletives here*

I ran down to the Guardians office, to see if they had a double of our keys, leaving messages for Sylvain on his mobile. The Guardian wasn't there, but a sleepy-looking guy came out of a nearby apartment and told me that he was replacing the Guardian for the evening, and how could he help me?

I explained the situation, and he went searching for doubles. Alas, no cigar. He spent 20 minutes trying to call the real Guardians, but we couldn't reach them.

Sylvain called back and said, "we'll call Nath, she can come and help you, and perhaps we can call a locksmith." For some compleltely illogical reason, I said, "no, I'll just call the locksmith now". In retrospect, I probably should have just let Sylvain call Nath... I would have stayed at their place for two nights until Sylvain got back from Germany. I think part of the reason that I told him not to was because I wanted to prove (to Sylvain? to everyone else? to myself?) that I could take care of it by myself.

So the Replacement Guardian and I called the locksmith, who said he'd be there within the hour. I stood for nearly an hour in the cold in front of our apartment, waiting for the locksmith to arrive.

He came, he saw, he conquered. He ripped out the old lock (Katia : "please, mister, don't break it! Isn't there another way?" ; Locksmith : "too late") then nailed a piece of metal over the gaping hole in our door.

Then he tried to charge me 777 euros for having broken my lock and to come back today and replace it with a new one.

I flipped.

I looked at the bill, and realised he was trying to sell me a lock that was worth 490 euros. He shrugged and said that he didn't have anything else and I really should be thinking about my security because all sorts of people could break in, especially when I'm here in this apartment in a big scary city by myself. He then suggested that we go to the Police Station and file a report that someone had attempted to get in to the apartment, and then we could claim it all back on insurance, but I shook my head - other people can do it, but I just can't lie like that.

I rang Sylvain and passed the phone to the locksmith. He argued with him and said, "we're NOT getting the lock".

The locksmith scowled, hung up the phone and wrote me another bill, this time for 314 euros (around 100 for opening the lock, 70 for the work, and 135 for the stupid piece of metal that he nailed to my door). I still wasn't impressed, and queried why there were things on the second bill (ie. the cost of the metal on my door) that were not on the first. He shrugged and said, "well I was offering them to you for free in the first bill, but now..."

I tried arguing, but my French (and the stress) failed me and I just wrote him the cheque to get rid of him.

He stood at the door and patted the remaining lock thoughtfully, then turned to me and said, "don't you feel scared being in this city, at home all by yourself when your husband is away on business?"

I wished him a good evening and closed the door.

Then I sat on the couch and cried.

Effing criminal ripped me off 314 euros. 12 hours later and I'm still fuming.

I understand that night calls and stuff are expensive, but I really feel like I've been taken advantage of - for being a female alone in her apartment and for being a foreigner unable to argue. In a stressful situation where I need to stand up and defend myself, it's clear that my French simply doesn't hold up. I wondered if I would have been able to argue it down if the transaction had gone on in English, but I think I could have done it.

Sylvain was furious. He's going to call them next week. I don't think it'll do any good, but at least it'll make him feel better.

So... with 314 euros down the drain, it looks like I'm not going to be "doing the sales" that started here yesterday.

*insert many expletives here*

The goose has gotten fat

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Christmas has been officially over for weeks now, but the spirit of giving continues.

Or at least, at my place of employ, it is.

We keep on getting gifts and things from various people - mostly chocolate-related delights from some of the best chocolatiers in Paris. Honestly, faced with that, how can I really resist?

I've only been back at work for 2 1/2 days, but I think I've already eaten the equivalent of at least one box. The worst thing is that I barely even notice that I'm eating them. The receptionist is a bigger chocoholic than I, and it is she who is the Keeper and Distributor of the Chocolates. Whenever the craving comes upon her, she makes a tour of all the offices. So we take one. And then another. Then an hour later, she comes around again.

The solution is for people to simply stop sending us chocolates*. Because I just don't have any willpower.

* At least until Easter

Family Ties

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I adore my little sister.

But not only do I love her to bits, but I have a lot of respect for her too. She's one of my favourite people in the world.

It's been so good having her with us for the last three weeks. She's jumping on a plane for Turkey today, to return on Saturday, and will be with us for one more week before she heads back to Australia.

I lay in bed last night, listening to her moving around the apartment, and was surprised to find tears trickling down my cheeks. I'm already dreading her leaving, because I don't know when I'll see her again. I just like spending time with her, and am sad that with my family so far away, I don't have the opportunity to do this very often.

For me... that's the hardest thing about being a foreigner. It's not about missing the food or the climate, but the people. Not being able to have coffee and a game of Scrabble with my mum on a Saturday afternoon, not being able to watch my dad cooking on the barbecue, not being able to go shopping with my sister, not having old friends to joke with. My life here is good, and I'm so very happy with Sylvain, but it is missing some important things.

So... it's good to have my sister here. For now. And that's what I'm doing : appreciating the now.

That said, she did traumatise me when we were younger.

One of the biggest traumas that she inflicted on me as a child (this being MY blog, and I talk about the traumas that SHE inflicted on ME, not the traumas that I inflicted on HER - ha!), was when she cooked up a storm in the kitchen (a fairly regular occurence), and left me to clean up the mess.

Because, you know, she had gone to all the effort of cooking, so the person who didn't do the cooking should be the one to clean up. I loved cooking too, but she usually got in first. And anyway, I couldn't bear cooking with a messy kitchen, so I was always cleaning up after myself, so I couldn't get my revenge that way either.

Her habits have not changed, and whilst I appreciate her cooking (last nights Caramel Slice was delish!), I don't like cleaning up after her now any more than I did ten years ago.

On the weekend, Sylvain and Carolyn got it into their heads to roast some chestnuts. I don't like chestnuts, so I decided not to get involved in the process. The two nitwits forgot to split the chestnuts before they roasted them, and I ran into the kitchen to find them both doubled over with laughter, and chestnuts exploding all over the kitchen.

Three days later, I'm still finding bits of chestnut in the most unusual places.

I really appreciate my sister being here, but one good thing about her going is that I will be able to establish a little more order in the kitchen again.

A little splash of gold

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Last week I received a very exciting package from a certain lovely lassie in Australia. Amongst an exciting range of Tupperware items, Vegemite and more MacDonalds Neopets plushies (to add to my Neopet army), I found an enormous jar of Golden Syrup!

Sylvain was so excited that he pulled out the recipe for Caramel Slice and started reading the instructions straight away.

It was a real red letter week last week - what with the Milo, condensed milk and then the Golden Syrup... What more could an Aussie Lass ask for?

I'm told that there is a supermarket somewhere here in Paris which does sell more of these things, but I have not yet managed to get there.

I've got so many things I want to do now - join the library, try to meet more people (perhaps join a crafty club and/or yoga or something)... I think that having my sister here has reminded me of how socially active my life used to be in Australia. Here, I am surrounded by my work, and the friends of Sylvain. We don't do a huge amount of stuff... Not a bad thing, but it's not necessarily the way I want to be living my life.

So... if I want to this to change, the only person who can do that is myself.

Photography

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For Christmas I got a brand spanking new digital camera. There was nothing wrong with my old digital camera, but Sylvain thought I might like to have a few new buttons and things, and this one really is very lovely and takes some incredible photos.

So... I need to find the time to make a photoblog...

And to find out if some magical MT3 compatible moblogging thing has appeared recently. Hmm...

Damn the spam

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I have had to delete several hundred spam comments over the last couple of weeks. The fact that they have to be approved before they hit my site (hence do not even appear on my site because hell will freeze over before I approve those horrible spammy comments) is not a fact which seems to dissuade them.

I understand that there is a problem with MT3 rebuilding itself even if the comments are held in unapproved limbo status. I need to run the MT update sometime in the next few weeks, because the amount of spam is beginning to make my hands shake.

We've done so much in the last couple of weeks that I barely know where to start.

That said... I probably shouldn't start whilst I'm at work because I have a couple weeks of work to catch up on. hehe. But I can't resist the temptation to do a little blogging anyway.

Last week we spent most of our time in Paris, wandering around the city. Carolyn did all the typical touristy stuff last time she was here (the Eiffel Tower etc.etc.etc.), and wasn't really interested in redoing it again. So we decided to do simply float around the city and let the "feeling" take us.

Paris is like that...

The best way to explore Paris is by foot. The metro/RER system is excellent for getting to A to B, but the city itself is made up of so many fabulous nooks and crannies, filled with so many wonderful little things, that it's a shame not to wander through on foot when one has the time.

For example... Last Monday we compiled a list of yarn shops (given my current fling with knitting), and decided to do some trekking around the city. Having a list of shops that we wanted to visit was really good, because we just made our way from one to the next, and we didn't have any time restraints. We spent most of the day doing everything BUT shopping for yarn, because being the girly girls that we are, we conveniently kept falling upon some excellent shoe and clothes shops in our travels. Luckily Sylvain had stayed home that day ;)

So our entire week went pretty much like that. Each day we had a few places in mind that we wanted to visit, and spent more time looking at the places in between than at our actual destinations ;)

We made a few really exceptional discoveries - a wonderful Lebanese supermarket in the 15th that sells lots of fresh goods, a brilliant Indian supermarket in the 10th which sells MILO (!!!!!), that the flea market in Saint-Ouen is so big that even if you wander around for three hours, you'll only visit a quarter of it...

In terms of yarn, we've found a few interesting shops. Printemps and Galeries Lafayette have some basic yarn collections (mostly Phildar stuff), but in terms of big stores, Bon Marché is definitely the best. We were surprised that even our local Monoprix has a really good selection of basic yarn.

Without a doubt, La Droguerie was the best by far, but we were a little scared off by the long lines and the haphazard way of serving customers in the store. I'm too inexperienced to be shopping there just yet, and with the amount of mistakes I make, it would be a waste of good yarn ;) I'll definitely be going back, but it would be best to have plenty of time on my hands, and to be equipped with a good book to be able to handle those queues. Their range of buttons and other bits and bobs was really excellent too.

There are one or two other yarn shops that I want to have a look at that I haven't had the time to visit - perhaps another day. Until then, I'll wait for my copy of Stitch'n'Bitch to arrive from Amazon, and I'll keep on plugging away at my two beginner projects : The Ultimate In Crappy Scarves (count how many mistakes Katia has made!) and The Best Cat Blanket Ever (how many random squares can Katia make?).

Starting over

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It's really hard to come back to work after two weeks of holidays. Especially holidays such as the ones we've just had - being adorable snowbunnies, gallavanting around the French countryside, traipsing around Paris...

But all good things come to an end, and here I am at work again.

Here is my ugly, sad, back-at-work-on-a-Monday-morning face. If my sister could see me now, she'd say, "get that horrible look off your face". But she can't, because she's still fast asleep in bed back in our apartment (the lazy bum is still here for another two weeks).

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My mood didn't improve when I found this on my desk when I arrived - yet another play on the fact that I refuse to eat rabbit.

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It's pretty hard to make out, but it's basically a stamp (featuring a rabbit) stuck on a piece of paper, around which is drawn a dinner plate, some carrots and mushrooms, some cutlery, the word "miam!" (yum!) and "bonne année 2005 Katia!" (happy new year 2005), and signed by some of the people in my office. Very touching.

At least they refilled my bonbonnière with lollies. hehe.

It doesn't take much to cheer me up. A strong coffee drunk out of my brand new mug ...

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... and I'm ready to fight another day.

... oh... and blogging should resume it's normal schedule ;)

Update

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Will make a more concise update later, but for now I'm absolutely knackered.

Here it is in a nutshell...

Picked up V.I.I.V. Whirlwind of gossip and huggles and working for a few days. Went to the Alps for a few days over Christmas. Ate mountains of food. Frolicked in the snow. Bruised my bottom while toboganing. Came back to Paris. Discovered fantastic new Indian restaurant. Explored Le Marais. Tried to decide if I need to buy new shoes. And if so, which ones to buy (the jury is still out on that one). Started to learn how to knit. Made spur-of-the-moment decision (the best sort!) to spend NYE in Bretagne. Drove down on 30th. Put on Official Tourist Hats. Ate lots of seafood. Romped on the beaches. Came back today, after stocking the boot with piles of oysters, calvados and cider.

And we still have a whole week more of holidays! Who knows what crazy adventures we might get up to! Hoorah!

I will do a serious update soon, but I think I need a bit of rest for now after all that.

Happy holidays to one and all!

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This page is an archive of entries from January 2005 listed from newest to oldest.

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