Recently in Flustered Foreigner Category

In which Katia learns English


Katia happens to be on the phone with a supplier, "Ohh, so you write graphic the English way in your company name?"
The supplier replies, "oh no, not like the English at all. It's spelled G-R-A-P-H-I-C."
Katia is perplexed, "ok. so you DO write it the English way?"
The Supplier is frustrated, "um no, i told you it's not. the English spell it G-R-A-F-I-C!"
Katia is bemused, "oh really?"

No wonder my English is going down the drain.

psst. is this blog still working?

Sea pen


I have a bit of a cold at the moment.

There's lots of snot involved.

A colleague, hearing me sneeze for the umpteenth time, made a suggestion :
"Il te faut quelque chose pour décongestionner les sinus - style, eau de mer."
(You need something that'll unclog your sinuses - like, sea water.)

The only thing was that he said it really fast, so with my cotton-filled head what I HEARD was the following :
"Il te faut quelque chose pour décongestionner les sinus - stylo de mer."
(You need something that'll unclog your sinuses - sea pen).

Of course, I was all, "c'est quoi, un stylo de mer?" (What's a sea pen?)

Two days later and he's still asking me if the sea pen is working.

Sea pen

Formules de politesse


In my line of work, I don't have to write that many letters in French. But when I do, it's always an adventure. If only the french would be happy with a letter that was signed, simply, "regards". Or maybe even "best regards", for a little something extra.

But no, of course they're not happy with that. Whilst you can simply sign a letter with a "cordialement", you usually have to add a paragraph of literary flourishes just before signing off, and there are all sorts of horribly complicated rules that you have to apply to letters according to whom you are sending it to and why. We do have similar rules in English, but I feel like the formal choice of words in French takes it to the nth degree.

Of course, I love translating them literally into English (à la k&k learn french).

"Dans l'attente de votre réponse, je vous prie d'agréer, Madame, Monsieur, mes salutations distinguées."
Whilst waiting for your response, I beg you to accept, Madam, Sir, my distinguished salutations.

"Veuillez agréer l’expression de ma considération distinguée."
Please accept the expression of my distinguished consideration

Hours of entertainment. Truly.

It takes so little to amuse me.



My sexy and husky voice that was my (rather pathetic, I'll admit) highlight in the middle of last week turned into something a lot less appealing by Friday.

And whilst acute bronchitis (made worse by my little encounter with whooping cough a couple of months ago; which could possibly turn into pneumonia if I'm not careful; which has my chest and throat feeling like they're burning; which has meant that I've drunk about five gallons of water this weekend (replete with straws, ice and lemon slices); which has left me coughing and spluttering every night for the last 4 nights; which has left me resorting to whispering rather than talking) is not much fun...

... at least Sylvain has had a quiet weekend.

Between me and pirate cat (imagine me, for the last two weeks, making up a whole bunch of little ditties like "Pirate Cat, Pirate Cat, Chases Other Cats When She Knows She Shouldn't", sung to the tune of "spider pig"), I suppose he needs a bit of a break.

3 days before Christmas

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Today's Very Important Tasks :
- Send Birthday Greetings To A Friend. Given my track record with remembering 30th birthdays, she should count herself lucky that she got an e-card. Ahem.
- Taste The Bread For The Foie Gras. Analyse the taste - toasted and untoasted - and decide whether it is appropriate to eat with The Foie Gras. It was.
- Put The Christmas Tree On A Stand. This requires some manly sorts of activities. Holding bits of wood. Talking about the bits of wood. Drilling things. Sawing things. Lots of standing around with hands on the hips.
- Keep An Eye On The Lobsters. They were purchased this morning, alive and kicking, to eat on Christmas Eve, and my mother-in-law plans on cooking them 24 hours in advance. So we have wrapped them up in newspaper, covered them up and put them just outside the front door, in the hopes that they'll stay alive until tomorrow. But we need to check on them occasionally, to make sure they don't escape.
- Figure Out If We Have The Ingredients To Make My Mum's Famous Pavlova Roll (Eggs. Caster Sugar. White Vinegar. Cornflour. Fruit. Icing sugar). We do.
- Visit The Local Christmas Market. Just because that's apparently what we have to do.
- Play Scrabulous. Read a little. Play cards. Etc.

I'm missing Australia and everything in it terribly right now, but a couple of days of this suits me just fine. Sadly, there is no snow in sight here at my in-laws, but we might have to take a trip to a slightly higher altitude to see if I can romp in that glorious white stuff that delights me so much.

I'm dreaming of a white Christmas


I have no idea how I managed to find myself in the middle of December with hardly any Christmas shopping done (this is my very unsubtle way of telling people far away that their presents will be arriving late. ahem). I'm very slowly and surely descending into a state of complete and utter panic. What the heck am I supposed to get my 2 1/2 year old niece? That doesn't involve cheap plastic crap and the exploitation of underpriveledged countries in the manufacturing process? Ahem.

The year seems to have flown by so quickly that I have a hard time realising that Christmas is only two weeks away, and although I feel like the extreme stress I was under at the start of the year and my sisters wedding in July was just a few weeks ago, I also can't shake the feeling that it was a lifetime ago. I just hope I can figure it all out sooner rather than later, because I'm already starting to have to write 2008 on things at work and I still feel like I should be writing 2006.

The weather has gotten progressively colder, and this morning I wore a scarf, a coat and gloves to work, which is saying a lot for me - I enjoy cold weather and love having the sensation of frosty wind caressing my neck, but when it's 0°C outside, even I need to cover up a little. This morning the quay at my train station had been salted, which is basically a sure-fire way of guaranteeing that there will be no snow (if you don't put salt down, it will snow, but if you do, it won't), but I keep my hopes up, anyway.

Every time I see snow I get as hyper as a little kid, and just seeing the salt on the quay this morning made me squeal in anticipation. Out loud. A lady in front of me on the steps turned around and stared at me. I pretended to tie up my shoelace instead of staring back.

My in-laws live in a region which is susceptible to snow and usually experiences heavy snowfalls all throughout January and February. I'm still having a hard time being so far away from Australia at the moment, but if we have to miss out on spending Christmas with my family this year, at least I can hope for a white Christmas.

But even if we don't get snow, at least one thing is guaranteed. There will be Sauternes. And the foie gras. Can't forget the foie gras. Oh, and the bûche de noël. Ooooh, the bûche.

Christmas in France isn't so bad, after all.

Oh, and can you believe we hit 100? And more? We're podcasting up a storm!

Of dreams and doing


I dreamed of Australia last night. I dreamed we drove down the Great Ocean Road and played in the sea. I talked to everyone I care about. For a long time. And laughed a lot. And played ridiculous amounts of Scrabble. It was wonderful.

I woke up, read my mum's latest post about Christmas, and felt melancholy. Why does my world have to be spread so far apart? This year we'll be celebrating Christmas with Sylvain's parents, replete with foie gras and Sauternes and other deliciousness. And if we're lucky, maybe some snow. It's not quite enough to balance out how much I'll miss being in Australia at Christmas, but it's not so bad, really. I'll survive, after all.

I'm reading. Devouring. Book after book. Late into the night. Sleeping well. Dreaming. Eating giant choco-coconut covered marshmallows from Ikea that are quite like Snowballs. Hugging my husband. Lots. Taking photos. Working less. Being more efficient. Making new friends. Drinking ridiculous amounts of juice. Playing lots of Scrabulous. Doing yoga. Maybe even taking up a theater class. We're almost at episode 100. And I have all sorts of exciting things up my sleeve, more plans and adventures.

I'm in a good place.

That's it


I Am Officially Over The Strikes.

Of course, I've been much luckier than some, with a very flexible boss and being able to work from home most days. But I still don't understand why they need to make the rest of the country suffer while they have their little hissy fit. Watching hundreds of people walking down normally empty streets early in the morning is certainly something, but the Parisians around me are getting Very Cranky Indeed. And I have almost-blisters on my heels from walking in only semi-practical shoes for a bit longer than I expected today. And I feel like a pawn in something that smells like a stalemate.

I just want it to be Over. I have things to do this weekend, people! I'm all for freedom of expression and standing up for what you believe in, but not when it gets in my way. Hmph.

Of surprises and socks


I'm sitting on the couch on Sunday morning, chatting with my nephews, aged 6 and 9. They are bouncing around as they have done for the last few hours, with a never-ending energy that always amazes me.

The couch is deep, and my feet don't reach the ground, so I'm swinging them back and forth.

"Bah, Katia?" My 9 year old nephew suddenly stops, flops down on the couch beside me and stares at my feet. "You are wearing odd socks!"

His brother comes to a halt in front of me, and gazes at my feet with big, round eyes.

"I know," I say. "I never wear matching socks!"

"But..." my oldest nephew gasps- the very fabric of his universe has unravelled, just a little. "They don't match..."

They both look at me, heads tilted slightly, as they contemplate the magnitude of this revelation. Odd socks. Who knew?

I am the one who won't eat pieds pacquets. I'm the one who speaks rather funny. And I'm also the one who wears odd socks.

Am I becoming the crazy aunt?

Pieds paquets

Here are the famous pieds pacquets. Click to see a bigger size, if your stomach is tough enough ;)

Apple tart

Luckily we finished the meal off with an apple tart. No feet in sight.

Strike out


The second serious round of strikes here in France started at 8pm last night, with extremely strong "perturbations" on the entire public transport network in Paris and the suburbs. The need to strike in this country (because there is apparently no other way of negotiating), still leaves me flabbergasted. In my imaginary world, I would like to think that striking is a last resort, when all other negotiations have fallen through. But we're in France. And striking here is simply par for the course.

Strike day for me usually means that only 1 in 3 or 4 trains are running, and I just have to make sure I get to the train station a bit earlier than usual and prepare to squeeze my way into an overflowing train. But like the last one, this strike is a little different to the rest, which means that it is a lot more extreme than anything else I've experienced. Both train stations within walking distance of me are closed entirely, the bus service is only operating at 10% (so, 1 bus every two hours if you're lucky), and no other way of getting in to work. With an extremely stubborn French president facing an extremely stubborn set of strikers, there's no way of knowing how long it will last, and most probably will go on today and tomorrow, with the possibility of continuing until the weekend (although next week there is another strike predicted in the public services, so who knows how things will turn out).

But the immediate solution for me is to simply work from home. I have access to my work email and all my software on my computer at home, and I lugged a bag of cds and dossiers home with me last night. I have to spend much of my time with a phone perched on my shoulder as I type, and although Symphony thinks me being at home is a brilliant thing and keeps bringing me pipe cleaners (so that I throw them and she chases them), every cloud has a silver lining. Working from home means that I get to sleep in a bit. I can get a little bit of washing done in between phone calls. I can eat my breakfast whilst working. I don't have to worry about looking semi-presentable. I can even work in my pajamas.

Speaking of which, I suppose I'd better get back to it. And throw another pipe cleaner before Symphony sits on the mouse pad again.


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