lundi, octobre 30
posted by Gina at 18:46

After almost three months of fruitless job searching, someone has finally recognized genius and swooped me up. The loooong process that took me from unhireable foreigner to owner of French working papers picked up when we decided to get married. Before then, I would have had to convince a potential employer to pay 800 or so euros and slave over a heap of paperwork in order to hire me. But after the wedding in May, things got more hopeful. Of course then I had to wait three months to get my titre de sejour (ie. right to work in France). After getting my working papers, I scoured through want ads that were either for stages (internships- It seems there are 50 internships for every one job in Paris) or for positions that had nothing to do with my background. I talked to people that had been searching for work for five months to a year before finding something good. It got to the point where I was writing cover letters that read: "Though my past experiences have been in journalism and fashion, I have always at heart wanted to be the coordinator responsible for European projects in the field of public health." And try writing that in French by the way. I can speak and write French pretty comfortably by now but French cover letters are another language on their own. They could translate to something like this:
Madame, Monsieur,
I am delighted to see that you look for (insert job title), position that is perfectly suitable to me. It seems to me passionate to work for you. I implore that you well find my enclosed cv(resumé). Please accept the expression of my distinguished sentiments.

I won't get into the specifics of the new job as I think employment and blogging should be kept far enough apart as overlapping the two is potential for trouble. But I will say that it is for a designer based in Paris' 1st arrondisement. Cork the champagne already!
mercredi, octobre 18
posted by Gina at 12:48

I used to parallel park a stick shift SUV on the steepest streets in San Francisco without having a problem. But for whatever reason, in France I am positively LAME at parking a car. The other night, after driving around for a half hour and finally finding a parking spot, I spend a good 10 minutes trying to wedge our car into it before my husband busted out laughing at my futile attempts. I let him park the car and sulked about feeling stupid. Luckily, my friend Lih made me feel better by sending me this story about someone big and famous doing something much more stupid.
jeudi, octobre 12
posted by Gina at 09:18

I'm by no means a food snob. I've had M&M's for dinner and felt no shame for it. But every now and then, you get treated to a meal that makes you truly appreciate the art of cuisine. Instead of a quick dinner before heading somewhere, you get an evening where the meal is the main event and you can appreciate those artists who turn ingredients into absolute poetry.

We got such a treat two weeks ago when we were invited to a hotel 40 kilometers outside Paris, which is the home of the restaurant Carmontelle. At Carmontelle, the women's menus don't have the prices on them and the servers announce your meal with a detailed description as your plate reaches the table. My entrée was lobster salad: the shell of a lobster's head that hid slices of tender lobster with wedges of coconut on a bed of roquette salad. Sounds simple enough, but there was something in the sauce that made me lose track of thought as I ate that lobster meat. So good. It couldn't be topped. Until I had my main dish: (If you're a vegetarian, look away. Otherwise, you'll know what you're missing out on.) The tenderest roasted lamb surrounded by walnut sized eggplants stuffed with garlic risotto. The meat was so tender, it almost had the consistency of fish. Literally melted in my mouth with all its flavors. As usually happens at Carmontelle, the portions are small but by the time dinner's over, you're helplessly full. We didn't order dessert but were given a tray of little snack size cakes and tarts anyway. A glass of Bailey's at the bar after, and we were off into blissful food coma.

To continue my gastronomic babble, it's mushroom season in France. We gave a visit to my in-laws in the countryside last weekend and arrived to see they had 5 buckets full of 'em. My father-in-law had gone out to the forest and came back with his car stocked. They go out to pick them and then look in their mushroom guidebooks to see if they are poisonous or not before eating them. I'd always thought there were 5, maybe 7 mushrooms you can eat, but my in-laws have have 3 novel-length books full of all these different shroomies that says whether they are delicious, so-so or toxic. Apparently, they'd had a mushroom dinner a few years back and spent the rest of the night puking in the bathroom. It happpens. I could see where you can mistake one mushroom for another- some of them look totally similar. I asked if people have really died after serving up a toxic mushroom omelette. They guess that maybe 10 people in France die a year after fatally mistaking one type for another. Then I asked the obvious question: Have people ever accidentally tripped out on mushrooms they've brought home for dinner? (I was picturing us all at the dinner table with finished plates, rolling on the floor, laughing hysterically at the singing sun and electric butterflies flying over our heads) But no, that's never happened to them. Then, my father-in-law says "You know what the neighbor told me? There's people out there who eat the toxic ones on purpose! It makes them hallucinate! They know which ones they are and they do it on purpose! Can you believe it?" Yea, I might have heard about that.

Saturday afternoon, we biked to the only bar tabac in town- actually, the only public establishment in town and played pool by the fireplace. Two old men came in during our game and chatted up the owner for a bit before turning to us. One asked us if we knew how to cook mushrooms (we said no, but we knew someone who did) and then gave us a sack of mushrooms to take home that he'd just picked. He said they were delicious, and due to their white stems and dark brown caps, he shamelessly added they're called tête de nègre. (Nigger heads?! Is he serious?!) Offensive language aside, we took them home and looked them up in the book. No, that wasn't their official name and yes, we could eat them. They even had two forks in one of our books' description which means they are between ok and phenomenal. We cooked up them with butter, creme fraîche and some herbs and .... miam miam! I am starting to prefer the French word for yum. They add an extra letter because here, you get more than M&Ms for dinner.

mercredi, octobre 11
posted by Gina at 22:36

I used to keep two journals. One for profound thought and one for silly little observances of everyday life. Since I haven't touched either of them for a year to the day, I've composed a short list of 2 fairly significant things I've done since October 11, 2005:

1) Gotten married
Planning a wedding in France entailed tons of paperwork (among which was a legal document that doesn't exist in the US saying I am officially single and eligible to marry, as well as an officially translated birth certificate that set me back $120). It also introduced us to some colorful characters, such as the French priest who married us. Not long after meeting him, he told us, "In France, a priest without a good wine cellar is not a good priest." And thus, we were rarely without a good bottle of Sancerre or Saint-Emilion during meetings for our "preparations du mariage." And it wasn't always just for us. One day, we arrived as another engaged couple were ending their meeting with "Père Apéro", who told them to stay through our meeting and have a drink after. Then he gave us a lovely tour through the cathedral where we would have our ceremony. Along the way, we picked up some German tourists who were invited to come back and have yet another drink with us. We left every meeting with him happy to be getting married, happy to be crossing the street, even happy about being happy. Cut to the wedding. Were we married in a beautiful 17th century cathedral. There were 100 guests, but as it was a substantially enormous cathedral, the photos make it seem that there were only 5 of us there. See evidence:

I suppose we could raise the headcount if we counted the tourists who were peeking in from outside the nave.
The reception after, at a chateau somewhere in the woods, lasted until 6 am. Reason enough to get married in France, as I get looks of confusion and pity when I explain to people here that weddings in the U.S. usually wrap up around 1 or 2 in the morning. I was reminded that my friends are amazing when I saw how many of them made it out to France for the wedding. While most of the guests on my side spoke no French and only a few on the French side spoke English, we were touched by how much fun people can have together without the ability to really talk to eachother. Was it the mood or the champagne? You be the judge.

2) Learned how to say "balls" in French
The French you learn in school is really only gets you so far. Sure, "The bus is late" and "The dog is under the table" are phrases practical enough. But what do you say when you're in a crowded metro car and some six foot sleazeball is trying to rub up on you? (actually, screaming at the groper in any language would work, but that's beside the point) In the last few months, I've had to expand my vocab due to a variety of situations and can now talk my way through stopping a hairdresser when I see she is in the middle of turning my hair into a cyclone of dreadlocks and gel, consoling crying French football fans after a painful defeat, and pushy women trying to cut in line at post offices and department stores.
I have made progress, though I freely admit the slip ups along the way. Two in particular stand out:

-Speaking to the grandfather of a nice family in my neighborhood:
What I wanted to say: "J'adore vos petits-fils." (I adore your grandkids)
What I said: "J'adore vos petites fesses." (I adore your little butt)
-Speaking to an 11 year-old I babysat, upon sending him to school:
What I wanted to say: "Tu as oublié ta compote!" (You forgot your applesauce!)
What I said, or rather yelled in front of the other kids and moms: "Tu as oublié ta capote!" (Your forgot your condoms!)

In the end, flubbing up is how you learn, listening closely is how you accumulate new words, and whether you've anatomically got cajones or not, it's practical to be able to call something (or someone) a casse-couilles when necessary.
mardi, octobre 10
posted by Gina at 19:25

Welcome to Américonneries. Being a Californian writing from France, I join the ranks of many other anglophones blogging from here. I'd love to be blogging from some exotic country with an unpronounceable name, doing some odd job and being paid in livestock, but Paris is where I studied abroad, where I met my now husband, and where I'm starting a new chapter in life. So, voilà. Enjoy.