(the misadventures of an expatriate corporate dropout)

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

lost in translation ... sorta

okay I've been living in France for almost three years now (omg, has it really been that long and yes that's right world, looky me LIVING in France ... but I digress) and I am still learning the most basic of vocabulary. or sometimes finding out that I had a word completely wrong in my head based on how it sounds.

an example.

I'm always asking my dogs nicely (okay yelling)to go outside. since here I have heard JY tell the dogs to go out, in French. It sounds like vah door. now of course it isn't that ... and many times I am loathe to ask since it seems continuous and so many times I will just think it over in my head, imagining finally that I know what the words are. doesn't matter anyway, really ... I just tell them 'vah door' knowing it means go outside. but I am always in search of the written as well as spoken word. it helps me to retain the words when I can picture them written in my imagination.

so of course I know that the first word is vas. derrrr. I turned over the second, door, in my head. no it isn't d'or because I know that or is gold and it isn't 'go of gold' we are shooting for.

so then, still talking to myself in my pea brain, I think about dor or some version. well hell, dor would be some version of dormir which is sleep and we aren't telling them to 'go sleep' (not usually anyway). hmmm. being the femme au contraire that I am, there is no way I am heading for the dictionary. I resolve to reflect more but since I know how to pronounce the phrase and its meaning I can use it and worry about spelling later.

meanwhile I am confronted with the word 'hors' more and more, always ignoring it until I reach an ATM that is hors services and I am all like what the ??? I don't see any hours written, oh wait that would be horaires or heures ... hmmm. and how did hors get wrapped up with ATMs AND appetizers?????????????

okay so I cave in look up hors and it means out. you mean to tell me I have been here almost three years and never learned (or needed to learn) the simple word OUT???? good god woman.

take it a step further and look up the word outside. dehors. pronounced duhor. when spoken quickly, door.

so yes folks it is ' vas dehors ' ... go outside. but more like GET OUT!!! when said by JY! lol

I could give more examples exactly like this where words you know to speak, when written are entirely off base. then begins the scavenger hunt, piecing bits together to get to the whole picture. fortunately, the main form of communication is spoken and one can slip by a bit ...

zee franche she ees a funny ting, no??

Sunday, December 26, 2010

what the ?!

yes, we are here in the north of France where there has been snow for 2 weeks ...the local city (Laon) has run out of salt for the roads. and, like all similar places I am sure, many of the locals have forgotten again this year how to drive in the snow. the first day here zhen we drove the route from Paris to Laon the road was littered with stranded or crashed cars. we are in a petite village where the snow is deeper and the roads unmaintained so it is truly driver beware.

It is lovely though; like being captured in an alpine postcard. everyday we have made our drive into a village or bigger town in search of baguettes, tobacco or just a glimpse of the outside world.

yesterday (christmas) we made our way into Laon in search of an epicerie who in a postal hub of sorts, in addition to being an amawing gourmet food and wine shope. we took our time admiring all of the delicacies and in fact chose a fez (delicious smoked bacon, oranges from spain - individually wrapped like the jewels that they were, one perfect melon, some pretty confiture (myrtilles) ... and we retrieved a package from orange.fr containing the awaited phone replacement for henry's son. laden with goodies for all, we carefully pieced our way back to the car and returned home to enjoy a magnificent brunch ... scrambled eggs, potato pancakes, freshly squeezed orange juice, croissants, bacon, pâté de compagne, cotes du rhone ... miam miam.

we have been making a daily promenade around the village, sometimes with one dog ... sometimes with two. Lou was worn out after his first, henry had to carry him home and the next day he walked like an old man so now we are taking it easier on him. bruno on the other hand is like a snow rabbit ... flying across the snow and scampering back and forth keeping tabs on us and then continuing the adventure.

yesterday we encountered a car with three terriers stuck in the car while bruno danced around outside, barking as if to tease and say, 'ha ha, too bad so sad for you'. the dogs barked like mad inside... not too much later when we were stopping to put bread out for the deer the same car pulled up and the man let his dogs out...they caught wind of bruno who still was feeling frisky and descended upon him en mass, barking, snapping, snarling. bruno snapped back some but the odds were too great and he began to cry. we had to kick off the dogs and he shook like a leaf in my arms, terrified. they looked at him as if to say, 'that will teach you to taunt us!';

once they were gone I let him down again but he seemed a bit more subdued and stayed closer to our heels...until we reached the cows and I coaxed him under the fence to go investigate. we laughed and it was all fun and games until we realized that the entire small herd had turned heel and were making their way towards us, en masse and at a brisk pace.

I cried out for bruno to hurry and he hightailed it back and scooted under the fence into my arms. I in turn hightailed it back down the road, escaping the hot cow breath on my neck... lol

just another day in the life of my ongoing adventure!

Friday, December 24, 2010

the myth of the FICO

the FICO score is really an "I Love Debt Score" ... only way to keep a high one is to go in debt and stay there a long time!

haha, thanks Dave Ramsey ... I love that quote and am so glad to be freed from caring...

the lower your debt, the lower your score!

the perfect storm with FICO is long term debt, perfectly repaid .... but never ended.

all of you 'mericans striving for the perfect FICO have drunk the kool-aid (just as I once did....)

Thursday, December 23, 2010

continuing adventures of Louis & Bruno, savvy travelling dogs of the world!

I took the train today to spend Christmas in the north. I was on the 6am TGV to Paris from Angouleme ... which meant heading out before 5am.

I decided to bring Louis and Bruno. This information might also be helpful to those of you coming to or living in France. I did a bit of googling around before I left and gleaned that there are 2 options for taking your dogs on a French train. If they go in a basket or carrier of some sort ... it can be 10 euros. Google didn't tell me if this was per dog or per carrier. If they are on a lead it is supposed to be half the ticket fare.

I got out Bruno's carrier (smaller of the 2 I have) which got him from Oregon to Paris on the plane. Cleaned it out, put a doggy bed inside and, when we got to the station, had them both get in the one carrier.

My trusted monsieur, JY, took me there and helped me haul my valise and the dog carrier and a big purse up and down the stairs to the platform, the dear. The billeterie was not yet open, so I retrieved my ticket from the machine and figured I'd deal with doggy tickets on board. Got us all loaded and thankfully, no one had the seat next to me so I set the carrier on that. As usual, the conducteur began his tour shortly after we got started. He gave me his friendly conducteur smile, stamped my ticket and moved on. Didn't even comment on the dogs let alone charge a fee!

when we arrived at Montparnasse, we were met on the platform so I had all the help needed for my exit!

It went smooth as silk, of course the train was not completely full so I suppose that could have made a difference. but from what I have read, if you are prepared to pay, you will have no problem.

we are now happily ensconced in the north and there is loads of snow so I'm glad I decided to forego driving. The boys had a nice long walk in the snow and are now passed out ... dreaming of their next adventure!

They were content to rest in their carrier the entire journey (about 3 hours)

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

so apparently now I am a bully ...

a fellow blogger and former Facebook friend recently shared a video on Facebook because "she loved this video".

It was by a woman who was sharing make-up tips, life stuff, etc. You know there are more and more gals out there with this sort of thing ...

so I click over to watch the you tube presentation ... and I was more and more fascinated AND disturbed at the same time. certain aspects of the video were quite artistic and aesthetically appealing ... it wasn't only her sat in front of the screen but included breakaway shots and great music.

but when she was on the screen, there were times when it was, to me, too weird. her affect and body language were quite bizarre and she seemed strangely focused ... preoccupied with herself and in particular, her lips/mouth. her lips were obviously injected with something and seemed strangely out of place. now, this lady is a blogger and a youtube poster .. so it doesn't seem out of bounds to me to comment upon my reaction to viwing this shared video. and after viewing ten minutes or so of her video creation, the pièce de resistance was the ending , where we are treated to footage of her in the chair of a doctor? or aesthetician, receiving injections in her lips. again, her expressions during this segment were really disturbing to me.

so yeah I get that I don't know this woman and maybe she is a very nice person etc but that doesn't change the fact of my reaction ... and if she were my friend, I would be telling her my thoughts, albeit perhaps in a fashion more tailored to our friendship, knowledge of each other ... but still I would not be applauding this or masking my concerns simply because she is SO NICE or she is MY FRIEND or other excuses. that is not true friendship. in my world anyway.

I will share a link at the end here so you can all jump on the bully bandwagon if you choose!

in any event, after watching this ... my reaction was yuk, that was really creepy, and I commented as such. she is also quite thin, and I threw in the fact that someone needs to give her a sandwich ... ha ha. to be fair I also commented on the lovely editing work and her great shoes. granted, I probably could have worded my viewpoint more kindly, but hey that isn't my strong point.

this was all on facebook. well, within seconds someone chided me for being mean and also for being mean on this sweet person's blog.

I answered back that sweet person knew me and that I was always direct.

and then in a few sentences I also commented on what i think is the crux of the matter, that there are lots of females, young and old, watching these make-uppy things and these types of blogs/videos are just like the twisted U.S. media ... creating ideals for women that are so off kilter. I also stated that this woman appeared to me to have a preoccupation with her lips , reinforced by the ending and it was creepy.

well with the time difference and all, it took a day to realize sweet person had summarily deleted me from her page and then proceed to join in on disparaging me as a bully, a mean girl, why can't women just be nice,oh and let's not forget envious, ugly and childish (all quotes of sweet person) blah blah blah. no consideration for the content of my comment, no opportunity to respond, etc. at a minimum, I am an acquaintance of this person for some time now and yet not even the courtesy of a note questioning my remarks ... nada. Its a shame, really because this is an interesting topic and opening a dialogue amongst a group of women would be far more productive than immediately shutting it down in the guise of being nice ... good manners ... how mean and all. a missed opportunity. but hey, maybe this is a sensitive topic for sweet person as well. which also bears reflection ...

sweet person, whom I have actually met and corresponded with over the course of the few years I have had my blog, is a licensed therapist and frankly I also found it disturbing that she would be giving kudos to someone who appears to have some issues. she also apparently forgot she had added me as a friend through my shop and that I could still see the page there. Funny in a way but also ironic and a little sad ... but hey, I wanted to have a forum to respond and so here I am!!! lol

so what say you? is criticism bullying? when someone shares something for public consumption are we supposed to keep our viewpoints to ourselves unless they are "nice"? and in this particular example, is this something you'd want your daughter to watch and applaud, maybe even emulate?

My answer is no on all counts ... what is yours?

this is the link to the video, sometimes it is up and sometimes it is blocked as private ...

PS- I am adding this postscript to further explain my statement, "I will share a link at the end here so you can all jump on the bully bandwagon if you choose!".

As a result of a couple of commenters, I can see how this could be misinterpreted as my urging people to take part in bullying the video or video maker.

My message was meant to signify - here, I am providing you with a link to the video. Watch it and decide for yourself if you think I am a bully with the comments I have described. If you think I am a bully, you can jump on the bandwagon with Tracey Cleantis and her Facebook gang and let me know.

I was going to just reword my original post ... but as it seems there is some group attention continuing out there, I wouldn't want to appear deceitful....

Saturday, December 18, 2010

un jour typique ...

I often ask myself where my time goes, why even though I no longer have the corporate career, I never seem to have enough time. I was reflecting on this today, Saturday, where my day so far has been ...

rise at not the earliest hour (around 8:30)*
check email
get dressed for snow
take Bruno for a tour down into the village, lightly snowing
buy my pain au chocolat at the boulangerie
buy my local paper at the presse
stop in at the bar/tabac for a pack of cigs and a coffee, with bruno
bundle back up and continue my tour
check out the progress on the new restaurant and the renovation of another
muse on my way home re the fact Brantôme commercants are guarding their optimism, yay!
arrive home at 10:30
empty washing machine, start a new load and hang the clean laundry on the drying rack
go outside and gather kindling
stack kindling and wood near back door in preparation for incoming snows
measure fuel in boiler tank, call to order heating fuel delivery
head into boutique and start a fire in the wood/coal burner
remerchandise shop, moving all furniture and create new displays
sweep shop
dust shop
open shop, creating outdoor displays, light all the lights and candles, start music
sweep shop outdoor entry
heat vin chaud
place an update on the boutique's facebook page
go inside to prepare my lunch and return to shop to eat, browse the new elle decor
write this blog. it is 12:30!!

after lunch I will be sanding furniture and awaiting (hopefully) a few visitors.

I still have a half-finished stack of administrative paperwork and christmas cards to finish and get in the mail

I have a list longer than both arms of boutique development tasks that seem to languish ... I am slowly chipping away at them but it can be frustrating as daily life, however enjoyable is always intruding.

yes I could forego my daily walk but sheesh !!! no way ... I'm here for a new life not the old one where the balance is ignored in favor of fitting it all in. this is what I remind myself ... the pace is what it needs to be, I am where I need to be, it will all be there tomorrow, and most importantly ... it will all get done, get done well, and in its own due time!

Friday, December 10, 2010

back to basics ... take bread, for instance

well, now that I'm coming up on my 3rd winter in France ... and experiencing the solitude and reflection that allows when you live in the French countryside ... here's an example of what I love about the life I've created here that will most likely and, sadly, change.

Bread. Here it is still a simple basic of life. part of the 'quotidien' (routine) that I embrace and others cling to. our daily bread is still a fact for so many.

Imagine a daily routine that includes arising and walking in to town to collect the bread for your breakfast. you do this daily, because the bread you choose to eat is baked daily and without preservatives. likely just 2 or three ingredients. prepared in an old bread oven, brick (four à pain), that is located in a tiny bakery (boulangerie) that has existed for several hundred years ... in the heart of a medieval village that houses a benedictine abbey founded by Charlemagne. Your bread is prepared by the 5th generation of the family that has operated the bakery. While there, you might choose a chocolatine (pain au chocolat) or croissant to accompany your morning coffee. Most french will opt for the simple daily baguette (or two) that will be eaten with butter and confiture at breakfast ... and the rest will be eaten with lunch or dinner.

You buy only what you can eat because by tomorrow, the baguette will be hard and suitable mostly for croutons, tartine or a treat for the ducks. You will rise and go to the bakery in the morning for your fresh baguette.

My village (the one with the benedictine abbey) has three boulangeries for a population of 2,000. Everyone has their favorite ... and some, like me, have divided it further ... whose pain au chocolat do I prefer versus baguette versus pain au campagne. Parisians who visit decry the quality of the baguette for the lighter crusts of the north. When I moved here, the first question demanded of me by my french acquaintances was if I had chosen my bakery yet.

Unfortunately, the behemoth Carrefour bought out and expanded our local supermarket last winter. The 2 'hypermarchés' (markets) in the center of town forego selling any bread save that sliced white stuff the non-french cherish so. Carrefour now hauls in a variety of baguette style breads at a discount to our downtown boulangeries. They of course have preservatives and last longer. they taste like it as well.

This is just another reason I resist giving my business to Carrefour except when absolutely backed into a corner ... when I need a supermarket's wares versus my local boulangerie, butcher and my beloved vendors at the Friday market, I frequent the tinier markets in the center of town.

I prefer to give my support to those who recognize the need to support these small, history sustaining businesses. There's a fragile connection that is worth tending, even at the cost of the few daily centimes more I may be spending to do so. For once the boulangeries and butchers are gone ... the Friday outdoor market, unsupported due to Carrefour's so-called advantage ... well my quotidien will be not much different than it was from whence I came.

funny what a big difference a small thing like bread can make.

Thursday, December 9, 2010


the fire hydrants are sexier in France ...