Saturday, October 30, 2010

The clouds rolled by faster than my day.

I woke myself up laughing this morning on my friend's couch, a very comfortable couch I might say. My laughing woke up my friends too. What was I dreaming about? Well, it might have been about losing my cell phone at a bar on the Vieux Port... maybe not. Today was a good day and it isn't over yet! I was supposed to go to a football match tonight L'OM and I don't know the other team :-/ Well tickets ended up being sold out. I hope they win! My friend had this great idea to dress up as pumpkins for halloween (we're going to a party tomorrow night) and it turns out we're going to be a pumpkin patch! We busily made the most adorable Ah-lo-ween costumes today, 6 to be exact. Six of us are going as pumpkins! Well, after a meal and costume making, I left to get a new cell phone. I walked in the rain, and my feet got wet thru my Uggs. Anyhoo, I got a new phone using my debit card for the first time and withdrew money from the ATM for the first time! I took the metro as far as it would take me, then I waited for the bus to take me to the end of the line (term-ee-noos) so that I could go home. As I waited, I noticed how fast the clouds were rolling by. I could even see other clouds higher behind them that weren't moving at all. I recorded it. Thanks for reading my stream of consciousness, peace out! Till next time! À tout à l'heure!

Friday, October 29, 2010


On Sunday it's Halloween. It's the best holiday of the year! I got a big pumpkin thanks to my wonderful uncle, but let me tell you it's not a proper pumpkin. Tell me, how am I supposed to carve this monster?

I need power tools for this one. Either way, I'm totally stoked! I was blessed with the wonderful gift of my Aunt (Tatie) who is a couturiere (she makes custom bridal dresses, costumes, circus costumes, acrobat clothes, etc.) If someone in my family got married, she probably made their bridal dress and she's helping me and some friends make last minute Ah-lo-ween costumes. We're going as pumpkins :-D There is an Italian girl throwing a party on Sunday night, I'm curious how the Europeans celebrate this holiday- we'll see! 

Monday, October 25, 2010

Random photos

La Plage de Corbières

And I thought french people had more style than white sweat socks with dress shoes. :-/

Not the best getaway.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

There's something in the air.

I went for a run, didn't know where I was going. I ran up the steep hill, passed the house with the cute dog, turned corners, dodged cars, switched from sidewalk to street and back again. I knew where I was going all along, I skipped up the steps, I walked thru the 2 way tunnel that is only one car width, got barked at, let tears run down my face letting go of emotions, kept running. Passed my grandparents old house. It's different. It's dead.The new owners have destroyed something that meant so much to me. I'll always have my memories. I continued up the street and stopped. I could hear the pitter patter of rain on the leaves of the trees, but I didn't feel anything. Once the rush of emotional energy started to leave my body, I decided to head home. I ran home in the rain, in the dark. It was beautiful. 

My friends in France showed this to me. I love it!

Thursday, October 21, 2010

I'm in the middle of a revolution.

Take a look at what the lovely lycéens have done to the entrance of my school. The students are on strike. That so would have been me at that age. lol. They barricaded the main entrance of the school. What is usually under all that trash is steps. 

 Because of the strike, public workers such as trash collectors haven't picked up the trash in over a week. That's just in front of my school. Believe me there are hundreds of piles like this and worse all over the city.

Vive La France! I'm so psyched to be here! I was unable to go into work today because there was no way for me to get there. Wow. Gas stations are running dry, buses and tramways are blocked by strikes. The worst part is, I can't even get to the manifestation!! The subway is pretty much the only thing in service, and I'm a reallllllly far walk from the nearest station. UGH. Anyway, I plan on hiking and taking a day of repose I guess. Not what I really feel like doing right now, but something good has to come from it. Tonight, I'm going to the Fiesta Des Suds (Fiesta of the South). It's this amazing musical event that happens every year and my uncles are performing! Tomorrow night I hope to return to see more musical events.

In the next few days, I have two appointments to see some flats. Judging by their photos, I'm not really excited. I have two great options that are mine if I want them, but the thing that is the most important to me right now is non-existent at these places. Proximity to the center. Last week I had an appointment to see a flat and my lovely friends offered to come see it with me. It was really close to both of them, check. It was really close to everything, check. It was huge, check. View of the port, check. It was in a sketchy ass neighborhood, check. Ghetto, check. I wouldn't get to meet my flat mates until after- um no thanks. Eerie feeling, check. I had to say no to this unfortunately. But as my friend told me, something perfect will come at the perfect time. Alrighty, I'm off to explore this neighborhood I know so well. A town I've been visiting since I was 6 years old.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Solitude; anti-social or just quiet?

I am a person that really enjoys her quiet time. I enjoy being with people, but there is something so exciting about being undisturbed by sounds and action. Not listening to music or anything for that matter. Getting away from the sounds of the television in the other room, people in a rush, pressures from friends and family, or people talking on their cell phones on the bus in a harsh sounding foreign language and the "lead anchor" happens to clearly be pissed off (happened today, then I stuck my ear phones in). Anyway, one of my favorite creative people Chase Jarvis posted a blog entry about creativity. It was nice to see how Chase does things because I practice some of those habits too! I keep a notepad and scribble ideas as they come. I take photos of things that capture my interest. I'm curious and I ask a lot of questions. I'm starting to sound futile but I guess it's just nice to find something in common with such an interested/interesting person. He also links to the blog "Zen Habits" which has a great post that shares a collection of responses from other creative people. For me, seeking quiet time gives me the opportunity to collect my thoughts, ideas, get past mental road blocks either by writing it on paper, walking in less populated areas (where-ever that may be, mountains, quiet city streets, whatever), creating photos, snowboarding (yes, it's quiet for me because it's singular and fleeting) and more. I think these acts help me to be less attention deficit when the moment strikes, because sometimes I find myself zoning out if I haven't had proper "me" time.

Thanks for reading!

Ah Marseille

I had a great time with some new friends this weekend! Had a fabulous dinner at an even more fabulous couple's home. They had a huge terrace with an amazing view of the Notre Dame de la Garde. Our host made a delicious curry. I was just telling some other assistants how imperative it was for me to have some yellow curry or maybe a chicken tikka masala, so it was fate. Dinner was filled with several bottles of wine, good conversation, story swapping and french language corrections. After dinner, a strapping young french man picked us up to go to a party that was "close." Well, I guess the 30 minute walk wouldn't have been so bad, but the mistral was blowing and let me tell you- it was icy! We arrived at the party and it was filled with frenchies! Yeah my first french party (excluding the millions of parties I've had with my family...)! A good time was had by all, even my smiling, happy, sleeping model friend. It was great, the frenchies spoke in english to me and I spoke in french to them! The dudes were dancing, wore gummy candy vampire teeth and tried to launch them to the neighboring roof and the boys played some sort of drinking game with bottle caps. I laughed a lot.

After a long night, and public transportation schedules in search for an easier way home, we headed home à pied (on foot). On our hour long journey home, we stopped for fresh crêpes and gyros from a street vendor. (Yes folks, late night food in France doesn't consist of dollar menus and drive-thru's). We three ladies were walked to our doorstep by the strapping young french gentleman. At 5 am, after we climbed the 3 flights of stairs at my friends apartment, we crashed out until lunch. We just didn't want this weekend to end.

We went out on a trek to find pizza, a great idea by my ladies! Store after store was closed, we finally found a boulangerie which made fresh pizzas. Two young handsome young men (they were brothers) ran the store with smiles, they were very busy! Took our nosh back to the fab apartment, watched a film and ended up staying for dinner too! These ladies like to cook, thank goodness. Homemade puff-pastry, homemade panisse, and pasta. Delicious! You may be thinking, "that's a lot of carbs," yes ladies and gentlemen, yes it is. Vive La France.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Thank goodness it's Friday- too bad I have to work at 9 am every Saturday

I have 16 different classes that I am assisting. Not gonna lie, it's a little much but I'll get thru it. Today I met with 2 classes and I had a great time. After class around noon I went wandering around the neighborhood in search for something to eat and for listings of apartments for rent. There was a little outdoor market selling old comic books and records, I browsed.

Just up the way, I came across a really awesome part of town where there are play grounds and cafés. There was a little building near it selling all sorts of food. On their menu were sandwiches, paninis, and hamburgers! The names they gave the hamburgers were awesome; Le LA, Le Boston, Le Vegas, La New York, Le Obama- I think I got the Vegas one because it had bacon on it mmmmmm. Mine originally came with bleu cheese, but gross! I asked sans blue cheese si vous plait. Then he was like you want Cheddar? Me not wanting to be too American said, noooo. He was like then would you like camembert or gruyere? I said camembert, then he asked me what kind of sauce I would like and I replied just mustard (that's how I always make my sandwiches, mmmm) and he says no mayo and ketchup? I make a sour face in response- of course not! I tuck the wrapped up burger into my handbag and I'm off in search for some apartments. My trek was not satisfied. On a side note, I don't think this is normal, but there have been enormous piles of trash in the streets where trash cans usually are. You can't see them because they are buried in trash. Since many public workers have been on strike, it's been pretty dirty.

Anyway, as I eat my hamburger although filling, it did not really hit the spot. Maybe it was the french cheese or the Dijon mustard...  At any rate, I had a difficult afternoon. Since many of us assistants have reloadable phones (not really practical for us to enter into contracts), my plans to meet up with a friend went down the drain, c'est ok. Instead, I decide to head home after a busy day. I got to the nearest Métro station which happened to be Vieux Port and my RTM card (trans pass) is denied. I go to the office and wait in line for 3 minutes when I get to the front of the line, the man behind the counter is clearly annoyed, hates his job and doesn't want to deal with anyone- including the girl with the heavy accent. He refused to help me telling me I needed to bring in a new photo and I.D. card so he can print me another one, so I say well what am I supposed to do now? He says buy a ticket! Me totally pissed decided I didn't want to buy a ticket because I spent 40 euros or so on an unlimited monthly pass- screw that. So I decided to take the road less traveled. I walked down the Vieux Port and slowly there were less and less people around. Now I'm walking along the sidewalk with a view of a cruise ship. Ahhh, peace. It's crazy, I totally knew where I was going despite me being so new to the city. I walked to Joliette where I boarded the bus (I stuck my ticket in hoping it would work, it didn't) but the bus driver let me by anyway. Ahh sweet sweet victory, grumpy little french métro man.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Home Grown

For real, this a-mazing tomato came out of my aunt and uncles garden. I mean, they've had consistently delicious tomatoes since before I arrived.  Yummmm. You don't find tomatoes like these at the supermarket. 

Le grève! (Strike!)

Ever since I've arrived in the South of France, there has been a lot of talk about le grève (grev). The public transportation workers were on strike, then they were on strike again. Then some of the professors told me they weren't going to be in class because they were striking on Tuesday (today). At first I thought they were striking for teacher reasons, boy was I wrong. After my third class, I was walking thru a hall with an open window. The professor I was walking with mentioned the chanting of the strike, again I'm thinking "teachers... wow that's loud." I get out of the building to grab lunch since I have 3 hours before my next class in the afternoon. Here is what I come out to. 

There is no way to describe how many people were striking except that they filled the major streets. It was insane. They were striking because the French government is raising the age for retirement. Not only were teachers striking, transportation workers were striking, also lycéens (highschool students) were striking. The French love their strikes and they do it joyfully. They strike as much as there are national holidays ;-)

I'm learning more about the french education system and it's more complicated than any school system in the States. In a nutshell, the students until age 15 are in "General" education then they choose a tract. Science or Literature (broadly defined) which they will study until they are 18, then at the end of school they take the BAC, either Sci. or Lit. Students taking the science route will have more job options. If they pass the BAC Science, they move on to University where they will have many more options for "majors." And at that age how many people really know what they want to do? Ok, at this point you may be wondering, "and how does this relate to the strike?" Well, the students who are moving on to higher education will end up working a little later in life, and therefore retiring later. You need a certain number of trimesters of work and be at least a certain age to retire (or something like that). The more highly educated students, with this new law, won't be eligible for reitrement until age 70. So, the lycéens participated in the strike as well. Bravo for the youngins for participating in this big event.  Anyway, thanks for reading thru my stream of consciousness.

Again, my camera battery died so I only got these few photos. Either way it's good to have a handy dandy point and shoot in my purse at all times.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Stories of Marseille

My parents have told me many stories of growing up in Marseille. My mom talked about a café called Narval she would go to with her friends as a school girl. My dad about the navy and his auto shop. As I pass by places with my uncles and aunts, sometimes they have a little tidbit or story to tell be about a place or a person. While I'm here, I'm going to rediscover these places and make my own memories.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Grenade de jardin et le bouchon de champagne français

The french kiss

bisous (bee-zoo) = kiss

Ok so when french people greet eachother, if they already know the person or are being introduced to someone, they kiss on the cheeks. Left cheek first then right. In other regions they may do it 3 or 4 times, but the standard in the south is 2 kisses. Because I grew up in the states, I've really only done that with family and it's like second nature with them. I literally don't even realize when I do it. When coming to France it's a whole new ballpark for me because I'm greeting different people. For example, I'm greeting American people who find the sport quite delightful (me included). I also am beginning to meet people my age and we greet eachother this way too, I even greet little children this way- it's adorable. When signing letters to family you write "Grosses Bisous" (big kisses), I sometimes get the spelling wrong, it'll be gros bise, or gross bissous or grosse bisous. I always get it twisted, but oh how delightful it is, the act of french kissing!

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Photos at a governmental office of some sort.

 I couldn't tell if this was old or new.
 This is plain rad.
I like me some interesting gardens.

I just had to snap a photo

I captured a little Fiat passing by.

Les éléves (the students)

When arriving at the teacher's lounge this morning, I was lucky to meet two more profs that I will be working with. I am really surprised at how welcoming they are. I was lead by the English director thru the halls to an area where some classes will be. There are stairs everywhere. I'm not sure if they have wheelchair access. Anyway, that's Miss Curious coming out. Today was my first day meeting students. The students in this particular class were 14-16 years old, I found them to be very cool! I've also noticed that compared to american highschool, the teachers are little bit more strict and disciplined with their students. Two students arrived maybe 10 minutes late and she made them return to the office for a "late ticket." Apparently these boys make a habit of being late (the prof explained to me that other profs told her they do it in every class) It's too bad because they missed out on meeting me. :-) A couple students spoke english very well. One of the girls spoke english with an american accent, I wonder how that came about. The kids are very curious- I dig it. I think I was in front of the class for 1 hour. I feel relieved that it was an amicable experience, I feel fulfilled and I feel this will be very rewarding. My first experience as a language assistant was totally rad. Next week I start my first full week and will be assisting maybe 5 teachers. oh la la.

For those of you I told I was teaching at a technical highschool, I do apologize I was incorrect. I don't completely understand the french school system. I'm at a general lycée. Lycée (lee-say) is the french word for highschool. Apparently, this school has a great reputation as the best in Marseille. 90% of the students pass the BAC, which I believe to be an "exit exam" that is very difficult and if they don't pass, they don't move on to Université so it's very important.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Université de Provence, 3 place Victor Hugo, 13003 Marseille

Today was another long and glorious day. I woke up early to catch the bus to the métro to get to the La Gare St. Charles. Next to the "la gare" (train station) is a université where all of the language assistants from around the globe for our region (Aix-Marseille) gathered for administrative and social matters. If i had to guess, there were probably 300 of us. As we waited, a man approached me and handed me a flyer telling us that there was to be a "ballet spectac" in front of the université. I laughed because the flyer looked like this.

Well when the event actually happened. All were captivated by the enchanting dance and music. Unfortunately, my camera died trop tôt (too early) and I missed the opportunity to take more photos :-( This group was called G.U.I.D. - Groupe Urbain D'Intervention Dansée  from the company Ballet Preljocaj.

Un repas et apero avec le consulat des etas unis

A meal and aperitif (before dinner drinks) with the consulate herself of the united states.

Today the american language assistants met in front of the "Le jardin des vestiges." This garden was created after discovering ancient roman ruins, they were going to build a parking lot for a mall, but instead got garden. So here we waited for our director to introduce himself and lead us to our car. It seems we do a lot of waiting in this program, but it makes for good bonding with the others. We boarded a big tour bus, I would say there were about 40 of us american language assistants. They drove us to a location along the coast where the diplomat lived. When arriving at the gate, we were asked for identification by private security, one by one, checking our names off the list. We climbed a ton of stairs to this amazing terrace where we were greeted by the diplomat- she didn't say here name... weird. Anyway,  we were served wine, pastis, whiskey and coca- cola. There was a very delicous and interesting menu. However, the very first thing placed at the table were some chicken nuggets and some bbq/ketchup sauce, how american of her. Then there were some traditional entrées, taboulet, etc. Then came the desserts, yum yum. Two types of chocolate cake, some sorbet, and some apricot tart. We weren't served any coffee though... strange. Anyway, I think we all felt very privileged to have been invited there because according to the other assistants from other countries, they didn't get the same welcoming. It was a wonderful evening, what a nice way to be greeted.

Monday, October 4, 2010

à la table

 My Aunt drew a map to direct me to the Roman ruins that were discovered.
un café français
This is a view of the Mediterranean Sea just up the street from my uncles house.

Today it rained

This is the first time I've experienced rain in Marseille. Before this year, I only visited in the summer when everyday is sunny and gorgeous. I need boots. Oh well, I forgot to bring a pair with me from the United States so I'll just have to deal. Today was also my first experience on the metro and might I say it was a great experience. It's much cleaner than the subways of LA, NYC or even Paris. I praise public transportation because quite frankly I haven't got the gall to drive here. Maybe one day I'll feel comfortable enough to drive here but not today.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

For my first day at work, I woke up at the crack of dawn so that I could get on a bus that would take me into the city. I then hopped onto a tram that takes me a few stops to my school in centre ville. I walked up to the school where I was greeted by a kind administrator. He showed me where to go leading me into the hall guiding me to the stairs. My breath was taken away. The halls were empty and the students were in their classes. This school was old. The halls had black and white tiles and old clocks. What sort of history took place in this building!? I met with the school administrators and filled out paper work and after was directed to the teacher's lounge where I met the three english professors. They seemed really cool! I didn't expect the administration to be so welcoming, but so far this is frickin awesome!

It seems french lycée is different than american highschool. I'll let you know the differences as they come. There are 3 linguistic assistants at Lycée Thiers, where I am working. One who is from Italy, one from Germany and one from the US, me! According to my cousins, I've been placed into the best school in the city. I really lucked out I might say, because there are maybe 100 assistants in my region alone.

Alright, so after meeting the teachers, the other assistants and I went for un peux du café et croissant. After that we did a little tour of the area because we had an appointment at the bank at 13:30. Well, it turns out there were 20 or so of us with appointments at the same time. They took us alphabetically which made for a really long wait. I wasn't called into my appointment until 17:45 when the bank closed at 18:00.  There were a few bright sides to the horrible wait. 1st, I met many of the assistants and learned about where they were from and where they were staying. 2nd brightside is that the bank was on the Vieux Port so there was a lot going on. We took over the nearest sidewalk café and we "blagued" (talked, gabbed) with one another. After I was finished, I got my first ride on a scooter thru the city. Have you seen how crazy people drive in Europe? Setting that aside, I survived it. All in all a great day!