December 25, 2009

Happy Western Holiday of Your Choice!

Posted in la vie bordelaise tagged , , , , , , , at 5:12 am by Fat Girl Dancing

Today is Christmas, a day with important meaning for many people, but usually just a day of rest for me!  My normal tradition involves going to see a new release movie in the theatres and then eating sushi or Chinese food with friends, but here in France, NOTHING is open on Christmas Day; no movies, no restaurants.  I’m surprised to hear that the tramway is running.

The parents of another assistant are coming into town today, so my roommate and I are going over to her apartment for a Christmas dinner of raclette.  I took the plunge yesterday and baked my first batch of cupcakes here in France, so we’ll have those for dessert.  I absolutely love to make cupcakes from scratch, and at home I’ve experimented with a variety of different delicious flavors.  Here I’ve been so overwhelmed with the fact that 1) they don’t even understand the concept of a cupcake in this country; 2) the ingredients are hard to substitute (I accidentally used baking powder instead of yeast when trying to make rolls for Thanksgiving last month); and 3) the measurements are hard to convert.  With those three obstacles, I’ve been avoiding making cupcakes, even though it’s something that makes me happy.

After plans to travel over Christmas fell through, however, I decided to spend my free time experimenting with baking.  I used a nice, simple vanilla cupcake recipe and spiced it up for the holidays with a little nutmeg.  I bought a hand-crank mixer, and I have to say if I’m going to make any more cupcakes, I need to invest in a real electric mixer.  My hands just can’t take any more of that!

But the results were so worth it!

Vanilla nutmeg cupcakes

Vanilla nutmeg cupcakes

Now that I know it can be done, I hope to make a lot more interesting varieties and bring these treats in to share with my teachers!  I must introduce France to the cupcake!

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December 13, 2009

Visiting a French urgent care (how else will I know what they look like?)

Posted in la vie bordelaise, travailler tagged , , , , , , , , at 7:22 am by Fat Girl Dancing

Friday was starting out to be a good day.  I finished school three hours early because two of my classes were on a ski trip.  I was practically skipping as I left at 11:30am.  “Happy Hannukah to me!” I said to myself.  “What a great present.  I get to start the weekend early!”

I walked home from the Place de la Victoire instead of taking the tramway because it was a nice day and the tram was crowded.  I stopped for a salmon panini for lunch at a panini/crepe cart.  It was absolutely delicious, and I munched it happily as I walked through the busy, bustling streets of Bordeaux.

Panini cart

When I got home, I found a notice that the postman had tried to deliver a package from my parents.  It had some things I really wanted, including special granola and my birthday present from two years ago, so I really wanted to pick it up the same day, and not wait for him to try and redeliver it.  I looked up directions for La Poste package depot and found that it wasn’t terribly far from my new apartment — just at the end of the tram line and down a few streets.  I wrote out directions and set off on my bike.

The only time I have fallen off my bike is when trying to cross over the tram tracks.  They’re too deep, and my bike just kind of skids and then falls over.  Unfortunately, on this ride I reached a point where there was no sidewalk and the rode and the tram tracks merged — I was on the road, but also on the tramline for awhile.  When they split, I tried to move off the tram track and back on to the road, but again, my bike would not cross the tracks.  I went down hard, right into the road, and slammed my head on the pavement.  I was very lucky the oncoming car stopped in time.

People came from everywhere.  The driver got out of his car, a woman passing by helped me get out of the road, a man from the patisserie across the street came running out.  He went and got my napkins to put on my face, for I was bleeding quite badly from my brow.  Once everyone was sure I was all right, nothing was broken, and not going to pass out, they went on their way.

I continued on to the package depot.  I wasn’t going through all that and not getting my stupid package!  I walked my bike to the next tram stop, holding the napkin to my profusely bleeding brow, and rode the tram to the end of the line.  I rode my bike carefully and cautiously — my knees protesting the whole way, they were pretty scraped up too — to the package depot.

When I got there, the man at the reception said “You didn’t call ahead?”  But then he seemed to take a look at me, bleeding, limping, shook up, and said he would go look for my package.  I thanked him.

The very important package!

I rode my bike back to the tram stop and rode the tram home.  I cleaned out my wounds as best I could with just soap and water, and then went down to the supermarché to try and find something like neosporin.  There was nothing like that there, so I tried the pharmacy.  The pharmacist took one look at me and said I needed stitches.  A nice older lady offered to lead me to the urgent care.  She took great care in making sure I didn’t injure myself further under her watch, not letting me step off into oncoming traffic or in front of a tram.

I waited at the Urgent Care for about an hour.  I still don’t have my medical card, so they made it clear to me that I’d have to pay and then be reimbursed later.  When I was called back, a student nurse had my lie on a bed and she disinfected the wound.  Then I waited another 20 minutes or so for the doctor to come and sew 4 stitches into my brow.

All stitched up

I went back to the pharmacy to fill the orders the doctor had given me.  The pharmacist was very nice, and asked if I was feeling better and commiserated with me about how terrible the tram rails were for biking.

Once I was home, I had no time to sit around feeling sorry for myself! I was hosting a Hannukah party that night!  I immediately began peeling potatoes.  It was my first time making latkes.  The first two rounds were a success, but after that there were oil problems, and someone else had to step in and finish the batch.

Shredding potatoes - notice the Hello Kitty bandaid!

Latkes!

I had a great evening sharing my holiday with my friends, and they were even good sports and played a round of dreidel for m&m’s.

It wasn’t exactly how I planned for my day to go, but I find that in France, nothing is ever as simple as you plan it to be, and you have to learn to relax and just go with whatever comes up.  Or with whatever comes crashing down!

December 9, 2009

Homeless in France

Posted in la vie bordelaise, planning tagged , , , , , , , , , at 6:52 am by Fat Girl Dancing

It’s been a busy month so far.  I’ve been settling into my temporary home here with another assistant, trying to maintain a balance between living out of my suitcases and unpacking everything when I know I’ll just have to repack it again.  Fortunately I’m able to stay here until at least the beginning of February, so I’ve got some time.  I’ve been keeping up with the apartment search, but it’s so much more difficult here than it is in the States!

I’m primarily searching for roommates, and everyone I apply to has dozens of applicants, so they’re free to pick whom they choose…and it’s not me.  If I were to try for a small studio, I’d most likely find it not furnished — not even with a fridge or a stove! — and I’d need a guarantor, someone here in France willing to put up their last three months paystubs and credit to vouch for me.

I went to change my address, because I still haven’t received my very important CARTE VITALE, and found it was 34 euro just to change my address with the post!  That is one area where the USA definitely wins.  So much for socialism!

France is hard.  I’m not going to lie, in the last few weeks, there were times when I thought about how much easier it would be to give up and just go home.  Yesterday I bought a ticket to see Christophe Maé in concert in June 2010 in La Rochelle, and I’ve got a ticket to see the Mozart musical in April.  I can’t leave, I have concert tickets!

Christophe and Mozart!

Last week I visited the Christmas Market in downtown Bordeaux with a few assistants.  We went Tuesday and Wednesday night.  It’s a beautiful village marketplace set up on the town square with lights and craft shops and HOT SPICED WINE.  It was wonderful the first night, but it started pouring the second night and kind of put and end to the whole evening.  I still haven’t properly shopped through the whole market, since we really just took a fast browse through each store.

Vin chaud

Last Friday I went out to dinner with some French people to the Quebec Music Cafe.  It was way down in Pessac, so I got a ride with someone, which was very nice.  It’s so cool seeing Bordeaux from a car, I see parts of the city I never notice because I’m always on pedestrian or tram streets.  You must go look at their menu, I loved it.  I wanted to eat everything.  I ended up with the “Menu Bistro” which gave me a burger, a poutine, a beer, and a crumble dessert.  I had the three-cheese cheeseburger, the classic poutine, maple syrup beer, and the chocolate-pear crumble.  It was all SOOO GOOD.

Quebec Cafe

OM NOM NOM

One of the guys sitting next to me was excited to try and practice his English, and kept speaking English to me, and then speaking English to the other French people around him.  Eventually one of the women said to him, “She’s here to improve her French, so speak French!”  I didn’t mind him speaking a little English, but I thought it was weird that he would speak English to everyone else.

It’s been quite warm here the last few days — in the low 60s and upper 50s, but we’re about due for a cold snap, in the 40s!  Oh no! 😦

Holidays in Bordeaux

Holidays in Bordeaux

December 2, 2009

Let me explain…

Posted in la vie bordelaise, travailler, travel, Uncategorized tagged , , , , , , , , , , at 7:26 am by Fat Girl Dancing

No, there is too much.  Let me sum up.

I’ve not abandoned this blog!  I just got behind and then stressed about catching up and then life went CRAZYGONUTS.

Here’s your November update in a nutshell, and then we can move on to December ^_^

  • Things started getting awkward with my host family when I returned from the Toussaint vacation
  • I came right back to my first bus strike!  I was late and missed my first class, then it took me two hours to get home.
  • I went on my first outing with OnVaSortir, a socializing website for meeting French people.  We went out for cafés.  It was good to get out and meet real French people, but very exhausting to try and keep up with the conversation for several hours!
  • I BOUGHT A BIKE!!  I love my bike.
  • Riding on the streets of Bordeaux is terrifying.
  • I started hanging out more with the other English assistants, which I’ve really enjoyed.
  • I got my hair redyed and trimmed, and it wasn’t a disaster!
  • I spent a beautiful Saturday biking all over Bordeaux and along the river, and then came upon a Pro-choice rally and joined it.
  • I saw “New Moon” in French, and it was still hysterically funny.
  • I picked up a tutoring gig (starts today, actually!)
  • I went out to a bar with some French people, and a French guy bought me a drink!
  • I went to a potluck dinner with other assistants.
  • Things went from awkward to REALLY BAD with my host family really fast 😦
  • I Skyped with my parents on Thanksgiving and watched the Macy’s parade from their kitchen via the internets.  Then I called back around midnight my time to “sit” at the dinner table with everyone.
  • I went to La Rochelle for Thanksgiving weekend with my friends Wes and David.  We made a great feast and had a lot of laughs.
  • I moved out of my host family’s house and into a temporary situation with another assistant.  I’m currently looking for a permanent place to live.
  • And we end November with another transportation strike!  Ahhh, France.

French bike!

Banana creme pie

Banana creme pie

Thanksgiving - French style

Banana creme pie - YUM!Thanksgiving - French style