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...