November 2006 Archives

Of chaos and coats

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The turmoil churning around me is taking it's toll, and I'm tired. Rather than going out with my friends, I find myself curled up on the couch, staring at the television, and trying to distract myself from the uncertainty by wondering where I could get Willow's coat from New Moon Rising and The Harsh Light of Day.

Then I read about what my sister has been getting up to and smile. Only 13 sleeps to go until we're in Australia. Everything that happens here will be dealt with when we get back. When our batteries are recharged.

Three weeks and counting

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We've been busy writing our list of things we want to do in Australia, but yesterday my father asked me to write a list of things he can stock up on for when we arrive. Favourite foods.

I thought carefully, chewing on the end of my pen.

LIST OF DELICIOUS THINGS TO HAVE IN THE PANTRY WHEN KATIA AND SYLVAIN ARRIVE IN AUSTRALIA
- salt & vinegar chips (my declaration that I would be happy living on them for the entire time we're there wasn't taken seriously)
- smoked mussels
- fresh orange juice

I thought and thought and thought. Nothing else came to mind. Surely there is more than this?

"I'll come back to it", I thought, and started another list.

LIST OF DELICIOUS THINGS TO EAT IN AUSTRALIA
- fish & chips (preferably whilst sitting on the beach)
- meat pie
- yum cha
- bento
- roast pork with crackling
- barbecued corn on the cob

This list was easier to make. The more I thought about it, the more the words flowed from my pen. I went back to my first list and thought some more. But I couldn't add anything else.

Three years away, five years all up, and I've forgotten what I used to like to eat.

A good friend recently came back from her first visit back to the US in two years. She told me that she was a little flustered by the all the new products in the supermarket. I fiddled with my necklace and started worrying that I wouldn't feel at home any more, that with all the changes in popular culture - not to mention those surrounding friends and family back in Australia - after all this time, I would feel like a foreigner in my own country.

Today, I'm not so worried. Change is inevitable. But I'm sure our first trip to the supermarket will bring it all flooding back, and I'm positive I'll be as giddy as a schoolgirl, sweeping things from the shelves into my supermarket trolley. All of those new things will just be something else to discover. And I can't wait.

After all, with everything that has changed in me over the last few years, I might just find that I like Australia even better than before.

And now I'll have to get started on writing my list of things to bring back to France.

Scars

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Skipping down to the station yesterday morning, I slipped and scraped my knee. Blood trickled down my shin, staining my jeans. I limped down to the station and once on board the train, I (oh-so-elegantly) pulled my jean leg up and picked bits of asphalt out of my knee.

I'm not the most coordinated of lasses. This is just another scar to add to a lifetime of scars.

I still have one scar, one prominent scar on my knee. I was the only child in my primary school to catch the little blue bus - one in a long line of much bigger buses waiting impatiently for the final school bell to ring. I had to run all the way past all the other buses to catch it, right up to the high school, my maroon bag slapping against my back as I ran. I was always terribly scared that I would miss it.

It's only now, years later, that I know that because I was so small, and being the only primary school child on the bus, they would never have gone without me - but how can you explain that to a four year old?

Sprinting, darting desperately between mountains of bags and busy bodies climbing on buses, I fell over. Sprawled on the ground, my maroon bag fell under the wheels of another bus. Monstrously tall high school kids crowding around me, barely noticing that I was there. Blood trickling down my shin. Tiny stones embedded in my knee.

Moments later, before I could even take a breath, my bag and I were scooped up in strong arms and carried to my bus. Protected, my tears stopped. Our neighbours son, Troy, was looking out for me, was always looking out for me. After my dad, he was the first real hero I can remember.

That scar on my knee reminds me of him, of that sunny day in my first year of school, and the sensation of being scooped up, taken care of - knowing that someone was watching out for me. This is one scar I hope never fades.

Becoming blasé

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I was not becoming blasé, per se. I still try to look at everything around me with a childlike wonder, but I was just getting a little tired of Paris, of France. I've lived here, all up, for nearly five years, and that's a long time, by any standard. There has never been a doubt in my mind why I'm here - I love Sylvain with every bit of my soul, and literally moved to the end of the earth to be with him - but my adventure has been a little different to that of many other expats I know : I've never been a francophile, and did not come here to live the French "experience", and I would like to live in my homeland again one day.

The podcasting hoo-ha has come along at the right time. Just at the moment where my passion for this country, for this experience, was beginning to wane, it has inspired me look at things around me a little differently, with new eyes.

So take Père Lachaise, for example. I'd never been there, despite my best intentions to go someday. And finally, this weekend, I went. And loved it. You'll hear about it on an upcoming episode. And I am planning my next trip back, armed with my tripod and, hopefully, some sun.

The podcast is just an excuse, really, to get out and do some stuff here - to visit things I've never seen or done before, and to appreciate how lucky I am to be living here. And to have a bit of fun and laugh a bit (ok, make that a lot). Now I just have to convince the people around me (other than my partner in crime) that they need to join in, too. And we won't force them into talking into a mike while we're at it.

(Yet.)

So, anyone for episode 9?

Drizzle

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The cold weather is upon us, and with it comes a change in mood, temperament.

The dark grey clouds hang low overhead, and it starts to drizzle, gently. The people around me are a little grouchy, "oh but it's ugly (moche) today". I try not to let the negativity overcome me and instead I think about how much I like the word drizzle, with those two "z"s sitting so fabulously in the middle, finished off abruptly with the short "le" at the end.

drizzle
fizzle
swizzle

The public transport system is a sea of black coats and solemn faces. Despite my own black coat, I try to break the mould with my purple shoes and a brightly coloured scarf (knitted by moi, of course).

I wonder, briefly, if I should fart as I get off the train, just to see if people will react.

The moment passes and the only sound I make as I get off the train is an "oof" as I slightly twist my already fragile left ankle. I smile, as I rub my foot absent-mindedly, at what could have been.

I love winter here - it's so different to the winters I grew up with that I can't help but love it - but it's hard not to be influenced by the negative atmosphere around me. The winter blues. So I wrap myself up and lift my face into the drizzle and smile. Despite the spots of rain on my glasses. I keep reminding myself that I'm not one of them anyway - Parisians are not happy unless the temperature is a perfect 26°C. Any higher and it's too hot, any lower and it's too cold.

And in just under a month, I'll be basking in the Australian sun.

Shyness

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As loud and forward as I am with people I know well, I'm actually a very shy person. Throw me into a situation where I need to hold my own amongst a bunch of strangers, and I turn into the Ice Queen. I am incapable of starting, not to mention actually sustaining, an intelligent conversation, and end up appearing aloof and unapproachable. If I actually do get drawn into conversation with a kind-hearted stranger, I generally end up babbling incoherently in an attempt to distract myself from the butterflies welling up from my tummy.

No small-talker am I.

This whole shyness in front of strangers business is multiplied a thousand-fold when I have to speak French (problematic, when one lives in France, you could say). I speak French relatively fluently, but when my less-than-perfect French is combined with my shyness, I end up saying things like, my cow often uses black pens in the toilet or I listen to my book on the television. Classy stuff, and I am certain that to the person in front of me, my bright, enthusiastic eyes do not show intelligence, as I would like to think, instead revealing something akin to madness.

The same conversation with a French person that I know well will go smoothly, and I am generally capable of constructing sentences that make sense. But getting to such a state can prove difficult, given all the circumstances working against me.

Tackling the daily challenges surrounding my life as a foreigner here in France has made me more confident, but I've still got a long way to go. When I can genuinely make small-talk in French, I know I'll have overcome two challenges - the language and my shyness. And hopefully I'll have learned how to come off as somewhat intelligent, rather than completely batty.

This podcasting business is probably a good exercise for this shyness then, since we're effectively talking to people we don't know (as well as some we do). Wanna hear episode 8?

Beans, beans, good for your heart

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I love those string bags - the sort that hold chick peas, lentils, beans, popping corn.

I like rolling the bag around in my hands. Feeling the kernels moving underneath my fingers, a mass of potential.

In my little world of bliss - it doesn't take much to amuse me - I grabbed a string bag of red beans instead of red lentils at the supermarket last night.

I was so excited by the string bag that I saw the label "rouge", surrounded by bags of lentils, and assumed that I was getting lentils. The red ones allow me to make dhal without the long soaking process, but when I arrived home I realised that I had in fact, picked up beans, and would have to find a good chili con carne recipe instead. And to do that, I would have to soak these beans anyway.

I pulled the beans out this morning, ready to put them in a bowl to soak for the day whilst we're at work. Rolling the beans around my fingers, distracted by the joy that is the string bag, SNIP!!, I break the threads and the beans go flying all over the kitchen.

I picked them all up, one by one, and washed them off, one by one, before dumping them in a bowl of water and racing to catch my train.

Who knew that beans could be cursed? Or, more importantly, that I could get so easily distracted by something as simple as a string bag?

Peeves

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A pet peeve of mine.

Those big rolls of toilet paper? Encased in big round metal thinges that are attached to the wall? In theory, you pull the paper out through the bottom, the roll rolls and all is well.

But I pull it just a little too vigorously and I am stuck rummaging around trying to find the end of the toilet roll.

It's like spinning a roll of sticky tape around and around in circles, trying to find the end.

Only worse, because it's enclosed and you can't actually see anything.

Finally, I get frustrated, grab about 4 layers of the paper and riiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiip.

That, of course, makes it worse, because now there are lots of bits of paper hanging down from the little hole in the big round metal thingy and I have to pull it all out, bit by bit.

Still can't find the end, so I spin and spin and spin the toilet roll until FINALLY I find the little bit of loose paper that will allow me to unroll the paper, and I pull, carefully, carefully, carefully.

All that just to wipe the seat before I sit down.

Because I really hate sitting on a toilet that's covered in drips.

Repeat every time I have to go to the toilet during my working day.

Combine that with the toilet seat that threatens to throw me to the floor and it's all fun and games.

Vous et tu : you and you - Volume 182

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The fight to master the formal vs. informal in this language continues.

Last weekend, just before we left to meet the neighbours, I asked Sylvain which form of address I needed to use with them. He grinned, then frowned, "I never thought about it... I think we should vousvoie them, then I'm sure after five minutes we'll all be tutoying each other".

And thus, it was so. After five minutes, she slipped a "oh goodness, we should all be tutoying each other" into the conversation and that was the end of that.

It's just so darn difficult, I don't want to offend anyone, but I don't want to be overly formal either, so I'm glad I had asked Sylvain beforehand, because I would have been anxious the whole time and made a far bigger deal of it than necessary.

Fast-forward to Tuesday. I was talking to someone who I regularly deal with on the phone at work. He's a little older than me, and our relationship has always been quite formal, although I do use the informal with one of his colleagues, who I speak to on the phone at least once a day.

He accidentally tutoied me, then hurried to cover up his mistake. I (with my newfound confidence on the subject) jumped in with, "ohhh, we should totally be tutoying each other".

He audibly sighed in relief and said, "really? I would really prefer that!" I laughed and replied, "I'm far from formal myself, so I think this is much better".

Of course, typically, I did have a little panic attack after I hung up the phone, "have I done the right thing? does anyone else here tutoie him? did anyone hear our conversation? was that weird? is it appropriate? oh but he was the one that instigated it. i think it's fine. really. fine. fine. I'm sure it will be fine."

And so it was. And it continues to be. The sky didn't fall down. The earth didn't explode. I'm still standing.

Deciding if and when to use the informal in a professional environment is not easy.

Especially when you are inclined to think too much about such things. Like me.

I'm sure it would be far simpler if I just didn't give a flying fruitcake about screwing things up.

Monday morning kisses

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It is always hard to come back to work after a few days off. I am relieved to see that my desk is not covered with work that has piled up whilst I've been away. My email, on the other hand, is different story.

All is not lost, however, as I discover in my handbag, a crumpled packet of Hershey's kissables - a treat sent by a friend's mother.

Sharing? This shouldn't come as a surprise to anyone, but I'm no good at sharing. Especially on a Monday morning. These kisses are mine.

Of wine and weekends

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We've had a few well-deserved days off. There is really something to be said for breathing space, time to recuperate and renew ourselves. We realised that a big hurdle in the year is now past, and our trip to Australia is rapidly approaching - we are both so excited, I wonder how much work we'll really get done in the next 6 weeks.

As part of our long weekend activities, we met the neighbours. I covered this in an upcoming episode of the podcast (that we recorded yesterday), but I can say that I found a kindred spirit - a French woman who really enjoys a few glasses of wine (surprisingly enough, a rare find) - and we had a marvellous evening. I am not normally one to suffer from hangovers, but I have now discovered that too many kirs can give me a headache the next day.

In other news, I got a new toy. A reward to myself, of sorts, for the work done this year. We still have to figure out how to use it, but I expect that will be the fun part. We're going to look like tourists in Australia at the end of the year... I apologise to everyone in advance ;)

Oh, and episode 7.

More cheese, please!

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We can now add Silver Beets to the list of Food That Katia Will Eat. Who knew?

And speaking of food, in an unexpected turn of events, the new fromager has agreed to order some cheddar. Apparently I'm not the first to ask, and the shipment should be arriving shortly.

Thanks to everyone who so kindly commented and emailed me with offers to ship cheddar to me. The internet is really really great... for cheese.

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This page is an archive of entries from November 2006 listed from newest to oldest.

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