07 January 2009

Bonne année

New year, new post.

So what's kept me so busy that I've posted only a handful of times in nearly 2 years? Truthfully, I'm not quite sure. However, I felt compelled to post today. When that annual urge strikes, I act! Not that I've really much to say. Hmmm... What to write about?

Perhaps the newest addition to my life? No, not these two cheeky scamps:

But this! Yes, this is very good indeed:

Meet my beautiful new sewing machine, courtesy of one Edward Steel.

Unashamedly stolen from the John Lewis website
(please don't sue me), the Janome 7025 Sewing Machine features:

24 stitches and a 1-step buttonhole. Also features free arm, foot pressure adjustment, one hand thread cutter, drop feed dog and space for storing accessories underneath the machine. Exclusive to John Lewis. Hard cover.

They left off the best features. Automatic needle threader, built-in ruler, and the orgasmic *drop-and-load bobbin*. That last one's for you, Rebecca. Come over anytime.

06 April 2008

Wilkommen zürück

I took some time off from blogging. In that time, I moved a few times (France, Germany, England) and here I am in London.

Things are pretty great these days. I finally live with Edward and I have a good job working on a pan-London environmental campaign.

More to come as life develops....

02 June 2007

Congratulations, Edd!

Today Edd wrote the final, final exam of his undergraduate career. Congratulations, [insert graduate's name here]!

For those who may not know yet, Edd has put the rest of us to shame by actually having a sweet career job lined up before graduation! As of this July, he'll be doing top secret computer hacking work for a polyvalent in Guildford. Double congratulations.

Here's to finishing one chapter (and finishing it well), and to the next!

22 May 2007

It's that time of year again...

I've done my best to inform everyone I've spoken with in the past week, but just in case I've missed you, here it is: I witnessed a giant omelette being cooked in the middle of a bustling avenue here in Brussels.

A taste (pun totally and utterly intended) of what took place:

If this is the sort of thing that interest you, click your way to my Giant omelette set on Flickr for full coverage of this event.

17 May 2007

Not a shoe.

I've been rather slack at posting lately. I use the term lately loosely here. I suppose one of the reasons for this is that my life has been rather hectic over the past few weeks and I couldn't be bothered to explain it (now is a good time for you to question why I have a blog in the first place). Not so much the actual day-to-day aspect of my life (which has in fact been very enjoyable, days spent cycling and walking and reading). I mean hectic in terms of my upcoming plans.

In case it needs to be clarified, I finished my internship in France at the end of last month, and am ever grateful to Edd's parents who scooped me out of Commercy and brought me back here, to Brussels. Just before my time ended in France, I was offered a fantastic internship with ICLEI - Local Governments for Sustainability at their European headquarters in Freiburg, Germany. In short, ICLEI's work focuses on training local governments from all over the world to develop initiatives to promote sustainability within their jurisdiction. As this is where my passion in Environmental issues truly lies, I could not be happier.

However, due to scheduling conflicts and complications, my start date has been changed a few times. As it stands, I will be starting in early July. This means that for the next month and a half, I am basically a loafer. Not the shoe, mind. I guess there are worse things than sitting around all day in the sun, drinking Belgian beer and eating frites...

07 May 2007

Oh nose...

... my fears, along with those of 17 million voters in France, have been realised. Say hello to the new president of the French republic.

24 March 2007

Les immigrés

Before I left for France, my mother expressed concerns over the fact I was going to live in a country where some very dramatic and highly-publicised racial uprisings have taken place over the past few years. Thankfully, I have not experienced any racism first-hand, though to be honest, I never expected to either. Perhaps its the naive Canadian in me, who was brought up in a country where the rhetoric of race was on the whole, very positive. Discourse on racism in Canada centres around 'celebrating diversity' as opposed to our neighbour to the south, where assimilation seems to be the prefered approach. However, I am not arguing that Canada is nation free from racial prejudice - in fact, those close to me know that I find it to be profoundly racist in certain aspects. It's just that in Canada, racism takes a clandestine form.

Perhaps this is why I find what happened last week in the 19ieme arrondissement of Paris so shocking. On March 20, 2007, a grandfather performing the loving routine of collecting his grandchild from a local école primaire was brutually assaulted by the genderarmerie. Apparently, a promise made by the French ministère de l’intérieur, one Mr. Sarkozy (sound familiar?) that he would ensure arrests would not occur within 20 metres of 'sensitive settings' such as primary schools was empty. So, what was the crime worthy of physically assaulting a man of Chinese origin in front of shocked parents and children? Not holding a valid titre de sèjour, a permit required by the goverment to legally reside in France. This incident, while deplorable in its own right, is a symptom of a larger problem I'm witnessing with alarming frequency here in France. Xenophobia masquerarding under the guise of 'concerns for national security'. Thanks to a new law passed by Sarkozy himself, violent acts (read: police violence) are no longer permitted to be videotapped and broadcast over the internet. Contravention of this law can lead to a 5-year jail sentence. With Sarkozy as one of the top canadidates in the impending French election, I worry about that this may become the future of France...

09 March 2007

I'm a Greek citizen! (And how fitting that this is my 100th post!)

Well, the title of this post essentially sums up my time in Greece, but allow me to expand somewhat. With only a few glitches along the way (which were resolved by some hearty handshaking at City Hall of Athens - thanks Dad!), my right to citizenship is now officially recognised by the Greek state. I'm giving off the impression that the process was a speedy one. Au contraire! It's taken over three years (incidentally, since Edward and I started dating) to have what the Greek government claim to be an inherent birthright officialised. Nevertheless, the end goal has been achieved and I am now officially a citizen of an EU country. Take that, French government with your xenophobic laws designed to make it as hard as possible for non-Europeans to live here. I can stay here as long as I want, and there's nothing you can do about it... (Ok, maybe there is something they can do...)

I did manage to sneak in some visiting with family during my week as well, which unfortunately, is a rare treat. Many people may not know this, but I'm actually an aunt to a charismatic and loving niece named Mary, and a intellectual ladykiller named Haris. As the passage of time between visits is always most evident with children, I was amazed to see how much they've both grown. Haris is now 20 and is doing exceptionally well. He has just started his studies at a private university in Athens, while Mary , 7-going-on-30 is the most mature and thoughtful girl I've met. She told me she had been worrying about how to communicate with me, as my Greek is rather pathetic these days, and then offered to give me private lessons! I also saw my dad after far too long, which was also wonderful. The trip was an all-around success (photos here) and I look forward to returning as soon as possible!

05 February 2007

Europa Tour.

Perhaps you have noticed my lack of posts. Well, dear reader, consider that as a favour. As the past month has been rather uneventful, I have spared you another post about a trip to the grocery store. See, I belong to the school of blog-thought that argues 'less is more.' If I'm not interested in my own daily foibles, I certainly don't expect anyone else to be either. This certainly does not mean that I don't want to read about your daily foibles, however. Keep writing!

Luckily, I will soon have much more to recount. I've decided to spend my third set of vacances scolaires on a whirlwind mini-tour of Europa. On Saturday, I'm headed north to visit my dear friend Frank in his natural surroundings in Norway, or Norge, if you prefer. I do. I'm not quite sure what to expect of this oft-dreamed about nation, beyond loads of Adonis-like blond men (does this qualify as an oxymoron?) and fish-based products, but I look forward to finding out firsthand. Following this, I'm stopping in England on a rather extended layover to visit Edd and my sister. Works out quite nice that I arrive in London on Valentine's Day, though truth be told, this is more coincidental than anything. Don't tell Edd though. After distracting those two from their academic obligations for a few days, I'm off once more to Greece. Everyone I've told this to has pictured me sunning myself on the beaches of a sun-drenched Greek island. Sadly, it is mid-February and the weather there will definitely not be tropical, as south as we may all believe Greece to be. The purpose of this trip is more business than pleasure as I'm headed to Athens to sort out my Greek citizenship once and for all. If all goes according to plan, I will officially be a citizen of Greece and thus of Europe by the end of my holidays. Wish me luck.

13 January 2007


There are effectively two grocery stores here in Commercy within a reasonable distance (the third being over a bridge and on the far edge of town if are curious). While Match is centrally-located and downhill from the school where I teach, helpful when I realise in the middle of my 11 am lesson that I have no food in my flat and *everything* in town closes for two hours at lunch time (ah, la France profonde), it is a rather unfortunate place to shop. I could probably tolerate the rotting produce as I prefer to buy it from the local fruitivendolo anyway, but I draw the line with the security guard that not-so-clandestinely follows me around the store while I shop. Intitially, I thought there must be something sketchy about my behaviour - I admit that I don't have the most logical method of trolling the aisles, and on top of that, I have a ridiculous bicycle basket for carrying my groceries around in. Although I have since realised that they extend this treatment to anyone who appears to be under the age of 30, I prefer to shop unmolested.

Unfortunately, to get to the good grocery store, which FYI is Intermarche, I have to cycle up a giant (ok, sizable) hill.

I went there the other day specifically to procure a replacement water filter for my Brita water jug as the water had begun to taste like death. I was thrilled to find them at this grocery store, as I'd already exhausted the other potential vendor in town. Bear in mind that this is France and certain environmentally-conscious products are not readily accessible, particularly in a rural town. I cycled home feeling triumphant, thinking perhaps life wasn't all bad.

This lasted for approximately five minutes. Upon my arrival home, as I was pawing the box open with the fury of a moderately-dehydrated person, I realized that I'd bought the wrong kind. I'd even say I was crestfallen, especially since I'd spent the better part of the preceeding week putting slices of lemon in my water to try and mask the awful taste of chlorine and heavy metals when I was too sick to venture into town.

But being familiar with the reality of French refund policies and not wanting to get stuck with this box of useless filters, I immediately trek back up to the hill to the grocery store in hopes that the less time that passes between purchasing and exchanging the filters, the better. After explaining to the woman at customer service in my halting French my error (who has first ignored me for five solid minutes while chatting with a co-worker, greeting the random people who walk past her counter and filing her nails), she takes pity on me, and allows me to exchange the filters, for which I am elated. As I go to pay the price difference between the filters, (the ones I actually need invariably being more expensive, although I did know this when I left my house)...

I realize I left my wallet on the counter at home! 'Oh for the love of God', I think to myself. I turn to her, feeling like a putz and explain 'I've forgotten my wallet, I'm afraid', and realise that my erratic behaviour is beginning to look like a clever scam to I've devised to score some filters on the cheap. I assure you there was nothing clever about my unfortunate situation.

Anyway, feeling that perhaps it's not my day, I am about to ask the kindly lady to refund my money so that I can come back and try this all another time, when I'm a bit more together and instead she says 'I'll hold onto these for you while you go get your wallet. N'y a pas de souci.' And I realize it's too much trouble to explain en francais that I'd rather return another time, so I get *back* on my bike

Cycle home *again*.

March upstairs to my flat. (All of this requiring me to shut and lock every door behind me around my building so as not to upset my disagreeable neighbour, which is indeed the last thing I feel like doing when I'm in a rush.)

Get my wallet.

And cycle back up the hill which now feels like Mt. Everest on my third ascent.

I return to the customer service counter where the woman assured me she would be waiting when I fled, and naturally she isn't there. So I take up my usual position of standing there, hoping that no one else will try to help me while I wait for phantom lady to return. The one time I actually want to be ignored... but no, this is the day an eager employee rushes to help me. So I have to explain the entire situation en francais once more to another lady who eyes me wearily. "I bought the wrong filters for my Brita, and then I came back to return them but I realized I'd forgotten my wallet so then I had to leave again. Receipt? Oh, the receipt is with the boxes" (which are clearly not visible on the counter where I left them)...

In the end, it all got sussed out. I got the filters, and I got some well-needed exercise, and I am no longer drinking water that is likely to poison me. But it makes me wonder, how do tasks that should be simple turn into *that*?

09 January 2007

Bonne annee 2007!

Happy New Year.

Over the past month, I've galvanted in Paris with Hayden, a friend I only get to see on an annual basis, each time in a different major city (NYC, London, Paris... where next?); gluwein-ed it up in Bonn at the fantastic Christmas Market; cycled-en-masse around Brussels at nighttime admiring the architecture and the gorgeous displays all over the city; spent a jovial Christmas with Edd and his lovely family, the festiveness then being relocated for a subsequent week in Meribel (the Alps). It was hands-down one of the best months I've had in quite some time, and yes, I do know just how fortunate I am to have such opportunities presented to me....

... However, the diversions of the past month have made resuming my life here in Commercy all the more difficult. I know the 'January blahs' are ubiquitous and that I am certainly not alone in feeling a sense of disappointment that the holidays are over. Still, this brings minimal comfort as one of the characteristics of self-pity is to focus solely on one's own situation while choosing to ignore the trials of others who indeed may share the same feelings. Selfish at that is, it's how I feel at the moment. Everyone tells me how lucky I am to have the opportunity to live in France, and despite my current state of melancholy, I still see the merit in my being here. But I've been back four days and I've probably spent 3 hours of that maximum with other human beings. It's quite a shock after being with people 24 hours a day. Granted, I have the flu and it's for the best I'm not with other people so as not to infect them, but this is temporary and when I've recovered, I will still be alone...

01 December 2006

Nancy vs. Feyernoord

Call me Canadian, but I'm not quite accustomed to yobbish sporting event behaviour. By and large, the most excitement that ever happens at a hockey game is a couple of drunkards punching each other. Pretty tame.

Last night I went to a qualifying UEFA match in Nancy (known here as match a poules which directly translates as hen match ) against Feyernoord Rotterdam. While the match itself was good, the main event was definitely the riotous behaviour of the Rotterdamers who were none to pleased by the direction of the game and subsequenlty communicated their frustration by destroying the stadium. Hilsborough it was not, but the game was stopped after 78 minutes out of fear for the safety of the Nancy fans (us) who were thus forced to evacuate the stadium while the riot squad kept the Dutch fans locked in. In the end, the match was finished after an extended delay, but the only people left in the stadium were the cloistered Rotterdamers who had to watch us win 3-0. Suckers. That's what you get for being stupid.

28 November 2006

Le Foot.

Some of my younger students took part in an annual football event this afternoon. Irritatingly, football is known simply as 'foot' here in France - the 'ball' part apparently being superflous. Still, in the spirit of bastardising the English language, I dubbed today's event Club Foot because it's the right thing to do. Also because the double-entendre amuses me to no end.

Moving right along, thanks to the beautiful and unseasonably warm weather here in La Meuse, we all profited from the hours spent in the sunshine. (Sara, that was for you!) Voici quelques photos que j'ai pris:

This was taken right after Kerem, the boy in the foreground of the photo, informed me that in Canada there are restaurants where women do 'Sexy dance'. I'm not sure what exactly that means, but as you can see, the girl in pink is demonstrating her own interpretation.

One of the stars of Club Foot. Ronan went far above and beyond the call of duty. What a legend.

And finally, a lovely group shot. Just another hard day here in France for me....

22 November 2006

Convocation Medicale

So I finally got my crisis resolved with Banque Postale. Thank goodness. At my final appointment with the bank, the lady who had been 'assisting' me throughout this debacle informed me she'd called her daughter who is currently in the US to ensure she wasn't experiencing banking problems such as I had. I'm not certain as to why her telling me this was so bothersome - perhaps it's because she was the one largely accountable for the problems I'd experienced and was inadvertantly telling me that I had indeed been jerked around. Moving right along, I have finally been paid so there's no need to worry about me perishing here in France.

Now I'd like to tell you about a queer little procedure all foreigners living in France must be subjected to called the 'Convocation Medicale'. In order to ensure that we, as foreigners, are not vectors of Tuberculosis to the good people of France, it is necessary to have an x-ray at a state hospital. The fact that I'd already had a rather intensive medical exam back in Canada in order to participate in this program is moot. So is the fact that I've already been working in close proximity to my children at school and would have certainly transmitted TB to them by now. Nevertheless, I went to this all-day examination in Nancy where I had to trek out to the largest and most depressed-looking hospital I'd ever seen (thus leading me to the conclusion that all hospitals constructed in the 1970s should be torn down and replaced by more cheerful buildings). Upon checking into my appointment in the bowels of this monstrous building, the nurse instructed me to go into the cabine and take of all clothes above my torso. This is where I will admit that I am a product of a prudish country. There are very, very few times in a Canadian adult's life where they must disrobe to the point of nudity beyond the bedroom, including medical visits. Luckily I'd been forewarned by another assistant that I would need to do this, so I'd spent the preceeding week morning gearing myself up for it. My French colleagues found it hysterical when I told them I was nervous about taking my clothes of for my impending medical visit and asked if we kept our coats on in Canada for the procedure. Cheeky.

The procedure itself was pretty painless. I waltzed into the x-ray room topless, pretending I hadn't a care in the world and about 45 seconds later I was back in the cabine getting dressed. All that worrying for nothing. And the best part is that I got to keep the x-rays for myself.

Oh, and that I don't have TB, of course.

08 November 2006

I hate you, Banque Postale.

I'm reluctant to post about my current woes here in France, but I think if I repress it anymore, I may explode.

Following the well-intended advice on the Wikibook for Assistants in France, I decided to open an account at La Banque Postale. The initial meeting went smoothly enough, bearing in mind I was opening an account as foreigner (non-EU) in a small town that isn't accustomed to dealing with internationals. I wasn't surprised during those following two weeks when I received a phone call every other day at 13h30 telling me "On a besoin une autre formulaire avant 15h00 aujourd'hui" which would have me running around like a madwoman to try and get whatever obscure paper they needed in on very short notice. I figured that this was probably the case for many other assistants so I didn't let it bother me (much). I was thrilled to get a RIB, the requisite document from the bank in time to apply for the October salary advance after some 'minor' problems. I didn't complain all that much when the bank asked me to give the last money I had to support myself as an initial deposit in order to open the account, which would then be held for 'about a week', according to Madame Bank Lady. I figured I could live those 7 days without that money if I was very frugal...

Well, imagine my lack of surprise when I receive another phone call requesting me to come in with another piece of paper, a full three weeks after the initial meeting. I figured we'd sorted everything out but I cycled over as optimistically as I could, paper in bag. I walked in to the bank, preparing to give la Madame said paper when she bluntly told me there has been a problem with my account. I need my Carte de sejour before the head honchos at the bank will even consider opening my account a document which won't arrive until at least the end of December.

So the outfall of her telling me was this: it being October 22nd at the time, my salary had already been released by the Rectorat. Even if I did open another account elsewhere (which I did asap, believe me), I had to wait first for the salary advance to be sent to my inactive account at Banque Postale where it was required to sit for 15 business days before it was returned to the Rectorat who would then direct it to my new, functional account at another bank. A huge problem in its own right, this situation got worse when she told me that they couldn't return the money that they forced me to give them until 3 weeks later... leaving me with no money to live on to this day.

I hope no one ever has to deal with Banque Postale in their lives. It's just not worth it.

07 November 2006

Kinderen voor Kinderen song - Two Fathers

If there's one thing I love, it's people expressing our need to embrace our differences as a single humanity. This sentiment is increased ten-fold when I see children propogating such a message, as they truly serve as a litmus test to collective societal attitude. This video features a Dutch boy praising his fathers through song and really is worth viewing. (Thank you to my lovely friend Frank who sent this to me, and who will one day make a most fantastic father himself.)

My kudos to Dutch television for broadcasting a very positive piece on same-sex parents from the perspective of a child, especially on a children's program! This is a huge step towards teaching children from a young age we should celebrate our differences by teaching through such a positive manner (I can only imagine what would happen if this was aired on American tv....)

Sadly, this climate of acceptance isn't universal. I'm reposting something Becca wrote about the institutionalisation of homophobia by the Polish government on a blog she contributes regularly to:

I was going to write a post about the upcoming local elections. They fall on my birthday, and as I’m an EU citizen registered to vote in Warsaw, I’m going to have to take time out of my partying and present opening to go and vote, but I don’t know who to vote for. I was going to ask for your help in choosing. First though, I need your help for something so much more important.
I came to Warsaw originally to take part in a European Voluntary Service project. This has now finished, and I’m running a second follow-up project, but a few days ago I received an email from a current EVS volunteer. She’s working with the Campaign Against Homophobia organisation, here in Warsaw, and the Ministry of Education seems to have decided to wage war on them.
I’d better give you a bit of background, or it’s not going to be clear how the ministry could have such an impact on a section of civil society. EU funds for EVS are managed by National Agencies for the Youth Programme in member countries. The Polish National Agency is governed by the Foundation of Educational Development, which was established by the Ministry of Education.
EVS projects have to be submitted to and approved by a committee in the National Agency. This brings us back round to the Campaign Against Homophobia, whose latest project was rejected on the following grounds:
[The] “majority of members of the Selection Committee stated that [the] project of [the] Campaign is against the policy of raising children and youth, which is implemented by the Ministry. The policy of [the] Ministry does not support actions that aim to propogate homosexual behaviour and such attitude[s] among young people. Also, the role of [the] Ministry is not to support cooperation of homosexual organisations.”
When I first read that my brain hissed and fizzed and then my head exploded. Oh sure, we all know this country’s administration is homophobic, but to have such a blatantly discriminatory statement from the Director of the Youth programme in Poland (a programme whose aims include giving young people “a better understanding of cultural diversity and the fight against any form of racism and xenophobia or discrimination”) is just very simply wrong.
Jaroslaw Kaczynski knows how to sweet talk the Brussels lot. “I ask you not to believe in the myth of Poland as an anti-semitic, homophobic and xenophobic country… People with such preferences have full rights in Poland, there is no tradition in Poland of persecuting such people.” You can ask me not to believe what you like Jarek, but when a ministry is persecuting organisations that are working against discrimination, I’m just not going to believe you.
The Ministry of Education is spitting out homophobic statements left right and centre, with absolutely no shame nor the slightest inkling that what it’s doing is wrong. A different LGBT project that was funded by the Youth Programme last year was considered a “depravation of young people” and it was said that “as this project was financially supported under the Ministry of Education, we seriously need to review the criteria of supported projects. […] The rules and priorities of the programme under which such projects get money, need to be changed in order to prevent such projects getting money in the future.”
These attitudes get me foaming at the mouth with rage, and when I hear Giertych and his cronies have got their way so far, and have managed to block projects that deal with homophobia from getting EU funding, even accusing organisations of fraud, when the project documents prove otherwise, I want to scream.

I’ve had enough and I hope you have too.

If you do one good deed this week, hell, this year, let it be this: write to someone.

The European Comission has a responsibility to stand up to member states that propogate such poisonous attitudes. Write to:
- Jose Manuel Barroso, President of the European Commission
- Vladimir Spidla, Commissioner of Employment, Social Affairs and Equal Opportunities
- Anyone you like at the Directorate General for Education and Culture

Your Member of the European Parliament has a responsibility to target discrimination, wherever it rears its ugly head and get the issue into the public sphere. Write to:
- your MEP

The National Agency has a responsibility to distribute EU funds according to the principles stated in the Youth Programme and the founding treaties of the EU. Education ministry bigots cannot be allowed to retain the power to pick and choose projects according to personal preferences. There are clear guidelines for EVS projects. If the requirements are met, they should be funded. Write to:
- the National Agency

We all have a responsibility not to sit back and watch as Poland sinks in a bog of ignorance and discrimination. Those of us who went on the equality parade have already showed solidarity with those people fighting discrimination. Don’t stop there, do more.

Then you can tell me which of the Warsaw candidates is the least homophobic, so I can go out and vote on Sunday.

More information here.

28 October 2006

Hello from sunny Warwickshire.

I'm currently in England for the Vacances de la Toussaint (All-Saints Day). We get a week and a half off for Toussaint, which is pretty great since I only started my job a mere 3 weeks ago. I love France.

My journey from Commercy to London was relatively uneventful, spare two noteworthy situations that occured. One was the sounding of the 'International Incident Alarm' which went off right as I was about to make it past baggage claim in London. Instead, I found myself being ushered onto the tarmac while we waited out the alarm. This is the second time the very same thing has happened to me at a London airport upon arrival.

As for the second incident, I learned of it in retrospect. Now, I wouldn't classify myself as being the paranoid type, having travelled solo quite extensively. But taking the RER from Paris to the airport Wednesday afternoon, I couldn't help but feel like a bit of a target with my huge pack. Any hopes of looking like a local student en route home for the week were dashed by the conspicous Canadian flag patch affixed to my bag. I initially chalked my feelings of uneasiness down to me being overly self-conscious. However, reading the newspaper yesterday, I learned that this weekend marks the one-year anniversary of the deaths of Bouna Traore and Zyed Benna, which catalyzed the Race Riots in suburban Paris and later of all France.

According to this story on BBC News, on Thursday afternoon,
"Two armed men forced passengers from a bus in the northern Parisian suburb of Blanc Mesnil, before burning it."
Comforting news, as I actually passed through Blanc Mesnil on transit the day earlier. Maybe I'm not so paranoid after all....

13 October 2006

My flat.

A lot of people have been asking me lately about where I live. Basically, because the French education system is super organized (no! I really mean that in this case!), they have staff-loging in nearly every town which is particularly useful when you live in a very small one and have limited accomodation options (i.e. camping in a tent). As you may have guessed, I live in a building for staff of the town lycee (high school, for the uninformed), but I teach at the primary level. They threw me into the mix just to keep things lively, I suppose. As the town lycee is the only one within a 40 km radius, many students whose homes are too far away to commute daily live at an internat (boarding quarters) which is directly adjacent to our building. This means that due to proximity, I am privy to the late-night sordid affairs of the hormonal 16-year-olds who hang out below my window, keeping me up with their late-night flirting. Hot.

Anyway, enough small talk. Here are the pictures I'm sure you're all itching to see:

My sweet (single) bed and chaise. After having a queen-sized bed in Toronto, this is quite a change. I've basically almost fallen out of it every night I've been here so far.

My 'kitchen'. Yes, it really is as small as it looks. I can proudly say that I have the smallest 'kitchen' my friend Laura has ever seen. It's better if you simply don't ask questions.

My sweet shower. Surprisingly not as bad as you may imagine. I can usually manage to wash for a solid 8 minutes before the basin at the bottom of the shower becomes threateningly close to spilling onto the floor.

And lastly, my unphenomenal view. I can actually see the town steeple-mit-clock from my window, but I didn't capture that here. Tant pis.

07 October 2006


Sorry for the delay, folks. Anyway, to translate an expression from French, I am now 'installed' in the charmingly provincial town of Commercy where I will be living for the next several months. Consisting of a mere 7000 inhabitants, Commercy's claim to fame extends far beyond the confines err, limits, of this modest country town. For this very town is credited with the creation of a biscuit of (inter)national notoriety, the 'Madeleine'.

Voici une boite des Madeleines de Commercy:

The story behind the biscuit is rather inconsequential, but should you be truly interested, you can watch a hilarious Flash presentation explaining its rise to fame here. Though completely irrelevant to the story itself, I enjoy how the artist decided to enhance the heroine's 'assets'.

The town has more to offer than delicious butter-infused biscuits alone. Last Sunday, I took advantage of the sunshine and went on a bike ride around the town and environs. Here is a photo of la Meuse, the region's namesake and the very river responsible for floods in neighbouring towns which trapped residents in their homes last week. It looks so peaceful, doesn't it? Deceiving...

And here's one of my beautiful bicycle, purchased on last week's visit to Bonn. Let it be known that finding an adult bicycle for someone around my height is no easy feat, particularly in Deutschland, where everyone is at least 6 feet tall.

Until the next time I can scam free wireless internet from some poor unsuspecting soul...

15 September 2006

The road ahead...

I leave for France in just over a week. I can't remember the last time I've been this excited to go somewhere. Perhaps it's the opportunity to resume my life as an independent and semi-mature adult, or possibly, the appeal of moving to an unknown place and adding a new chapter in my life is the reason. While both of these are solid justifications, I think what's most exciting of all is the feeling that I don't have a set path ahead of me, but I know I'll have the best partner, no matter where I find myself. I love you, Edward.