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May 26, 2011

Surviving unemployment

Last night my good friend Sac came over and gave me advice on how to handle all my newfound free time:

"Make baked goods and give them to some random person. It gives you something to do, somewhere to go, and when you get there, they have to let you in and talk to you for awhile because you just made them a delicious treat."

I may be temping pretty soon, but anyone within a reasonable bus ride from Uptown want some cookies in the meantime? Write me an amusing limerick in the comments and I'll show up on your doorstep with treats in my hand and a slightly crazed smile on my face that won't go away until you let me in and talk to me about something... anything... with real human words. 

May 25, 2011

How I know I'm no longer in France

 -Teeny tiny bits of French cheese from Kowalski's cost a fortune. Au revoir, comté, délice de Bourgogne, bleu d'Auvergne, et al... at least until I have a job.

-Bureaucratic matters have been a breeze. I went to get fingerprinted yesterday for a temp agency that may send me to work at a bank, and I was in and out of there in five minutes flat.

-Wine from Australia is way cheaper than my favorite Burgundies. I went to the neighborhood liquor store a few days ago and lovingly caressed the bottles from all my old hangouts, all of which were in the $20-$40 range. I guess I'll be making new friends with Woop Woop Syrah.

-At nearly every store I enter someone pops up and asks if they can help me, and if I say yes they drop what they're doing and actually help me.

-I can no longer read the blogs or Facebook posts of broads still abroad, for I am consumed by a fierce jealousy that turns me a sickly shade of clover.

-People on the street stop me and say things like, "Are dose snap-dray-guns? Dayr bee-yoo-tee-full! Fer nice!"

May 15, 2011

How I helped my little brother graduate

 I peer-pressured him into drinking some mystery liquor from the Iceland airport's duty-free shop.

Taking it like a champ.

Those are tears of joy in his eyes.

Good to the last drop.

....And he's ready to graduate.

He loved it. Being slightly buzzed from a tiny bottle of mystery Icelandic liquor is the ONLY way to get through three hours of excruciating college graduation ceremony boringness. You are so welcome, little bro. Heartz. <3

May 12, 2011

Passover Do-Over

I got back here to the good ol' USofA on Tuesday evening, and I've passed two sleepless nights and one foggy day wandering around Minnesota in a jet lag haze. I'm really hoping tonight's the night I can bed myself at a decent time and sleep in past 3 a.m.

Because, my dear dudes, I gots so much to do. tells me there are only 72 days left until the nups. That's two months and change to cross a gatrillion things off my to-do list. My task for myself at 2 a.m. was to goose my bare-bones registry with the result that my guests now have several outrageously expensive crystal bowls and frames (SO many frames) and brightly colored table runners to choose from. I also found a really cool sweater de-fuzzer and I was all, "YOINK."

My other big pre-Big Day task is to get back in fighting shape. Mama ate a lot of cheese in France-- in fact, my two most recent Monday evening meals were Repas de Frommage-- as well as pastries and baguettes and lord knows I drank wine like a fish (...a fish that drinks wine).

So I'm doing a Passover Do-Over. I was in Berlin during the week that celebrates the my fellow triblings' exodus from Egypt, and I wasn't about to abstain from beer or bratwurst during what may be my sole trip to Deutschland. But I feel I owe it to the Big Guy to atone for that, as well as all the traif I snarfed down during the past seven months. And what better way to France detox than to deny myself anything that contains flour?

Answer: there is no better way and this is the best idea ever. Remind me that I said that when I'm carb craving in three days' time.

PS: A blog reader recognized me in the airport in Iceland during my layover, which pretty much made my life and I can die happy now mercibeaucoup. Elizabeth, an English assistant in the region north of Paris and fellow Minnesotan, posts the most delectable pictures from her French life on her blog: Go check her out!

May 9, 2011

Au revoir, mes enfants

"Profitez, profitez, profitez."

At the orientation for assistants this fall, one of the program employees urged us to make the most of our year abroad.

Many people put traveling off-- it's something to do once you've established yourself, once your family is grown, once you have saved enough money. But I didn't want to wait until my knees were too weak to handle all the merde-ing stairs and I was so set in my ways that I couldn't handle a different way of life. Though they were too polite to say so, lots of my friends and family probably thought I was being completely irresponsible for leaving a good job with good benefits for seven months of gallivanting. But it was one of the best decisions I've made, and this was the best year of my life.

Though it makes my heart ache to leave the country I've come to know and love so well, I do so knowing I made the very best of it.

Ce n'est pas adieu... je vais retourner. 

May 6, 2011

Sacre vache!

I spied these moos right across the pont-canal from Diggy.

My hood here in Francey is known for many things: splendid wine, beautiful paysage, succulent snails... but there's a reason I call it Cow Country. On a drive in most any direction from this fair metropolis, you can't not notice the great white beasts strolling along their hedged enclosures and mooing to their hearts' content. 

I love them so, and I tell anyone who asks me what I will miss most about France that "mes amies, les vaches" are high up there. My conversation partner Solange invited me to St. Christophe-en-Brionnais this Wednesday for the weekly marché so we could get a closer look at my favorite fauna, and sweetened the deal by saying we'd be accompanied by a woman is is the daughter, wife, and mother of cow farmers.

Dairy air. (Get it? Like derrière?)

The St. Christophe market started more than 500 years ago, and though it isn't as large as it once was it still attracts 1,000-1,500 head of cattle each week. Until a few decades ago all transactions were done in cash, and buyers would come to the market with their pockets bulging with franc notes. Solange's friend Michelle said her husband used to put all his money in the pockets of one pair of pants, and then wear a second pair on top of them for security.

O hai.

A tourist's typical day at the market includes a behind-the-scenes tour of the cows' holding pen and a quick stop in the auction room. Afterwards, most will dine at the nearby Le Mur D'Argent restaurant, which offers up a hot steaming plate of boeuf charollaise-- said to be one of the best in the whole wide world. It's just another example of how close the French are with their food: the thought of eating their favorite cow's brother or sister doesn't phase them one bit.

For just 1.500 Euros, one of these pretty ladies can be yours!

May 5, 2011

Notes from the rock I'm now living under

I have been couped. 

Before I left on my latest European tour, I sent my internet and phone companies very lovely letters rife with French legalese that politely requested that end my connections on May the 10th, as I am departing abroad and would no longer be in need of their services. In a flash of efficiency that boggles the mind (seeing as I have yet to receive the social security card I was promised a full six months ago), they decided to end our relationship within 10 business days of receiving my letters.

So I returned from vacation with no phone, no internet, no way to arrange goodbyes with my French friends other than inviting them to holler at my balcony and hope I was there. You guys, I had no idea Osama was dead.

I have been surviving my coupure in the following ways: 1. Sneaking into the vicinity of the lycée at 11 p.m. so I can leech off their wifi, which allows me to check Facebook (but Gmail is blocked). I generally creep myself out by imagining Stasi members lurking in the bushes within 20 minutes or so of my arrival, so I can't accomplish much. 2. Sneaking into the Salle des Profs in between classes so I can use the staff computers, which allows me to check Gmail (but Facebook is blocked). Using a French AZERTY keyboard and the 1995-era technology are so infuriating that I can stay an average of 15 minutes before I want to scream. Again, can't really accomplish much. So please excuse my absence.

You shall communicate no more!

The other day I went to the Telephone Store to get my phone unblocked. While I was there I asked if I would be able to pay my last phone and internet bills online or over the phone. The clerk, after spending 15 minutes talking to Orange to unblock my phone, had to call a different number and wait on hold for another 10 minutes to find out that yes, it is possible to pay your bill online. But you can't do it today, they said. Their systems are down. Try again later.

Then I tried to buy 5E worth of texting credit for my phone so I could alert someone in the event that my plane got delayed (apparently this Osama stuff is getting American airports on high alert, and could complicate international flights). He gave it ago, but for some reason the phone wasn't letting him add the credit. Instead of trying something else or calling someone, he said he was sorry, he couldn't help me, have a nice day.


I went to the post office today to see how much it would cost to send a box of books back to the States. The Dude brought an entire library over in one of his suitcases, and despite my frequent protests, the Egghead has acquired more. The conversation went like this:

Me: Hello, sir. I am here to inform myself on the way to send livres to the United States in the most cheapest way.
Him: How much in dollars?
Me: Um... I know not... $50 could be?
Him: You see, you cannot send livres to the United States. You must send dollars or Euros.
Me: I am very much sure that one can send livres to anywhere one wishes.
Him: Well, how much?
Me: I do not understand this question. You want to know the weight? I am guessing 10 kilos.
Him: This is not possible.
Me: I have many livres!

At this point I realize that while I am talking about books, he is talking about British pounds sterling.