samedi, avril 28
posted by Gina at 18:14

Task List for Twenty-Somethingeth Birthday:

1) Wake up at 4:30am

2) Drive to Germany

3)30 minutes after reaching German destination, get back in car and drive back home to France.

4) Arrive in back in France to meet friends for birthday dinner, drinks and dancing.

Despite a pre-dawn search for a gas station that nearly left us stranded in a deserted neighborhood north of Paris, we got off on our way to a little town in Germany where my Monsieur had an important errand to do. Yes, I had to come along and it was the only day to do it and I don't want to discuss it anymore than I already have. The upside was that I slept until we passed the Belgian border.

But I fuss not. What's your ideal way of spending a birthday? Have you ever actually spent it that way? Ideally, I would have had a day of drinking panachés in the sunshine instead of brief interactions with the tired looking cashier at that pit stop in Belgium or seeing right in the eyes of tailgating Germans in our rearview mirror.

It was yours truly at the wheel for the return home which, thanks to the speed friendly German highways, was quick. Thoughts of the limitless vitesse of the autobahn were still in my head as I flew through Belgium as well. What is the speed limit in Belgium anyway? Given the lack of signs, let's not worry about it.

We got home in time to take a shower, doll ourselves up and run to the restaurant where my friend Nacho was already the first to arrive. Friends trickled in, as did the champagne, and the night lead to a beautiful buffet and a dance floor that called come hither.

Fun friend Vincent had given me a phrase du jour: C'est le pied. Literally, "It's the foot", which logically means "It's great!" Between conversation, food, drink and music, yes , it was the foot. A size ten foot at that. The night's happy glow was revisited the next morning when I woke up to the little collection of gifts I'd received the night before.

Spoiled? moi?
lundi, avril 16
posted by Gina at 07:17

I've always thought asking me about politics was like asking a caveman about I-pods, but I thought I'd say a bit about the upcoming elections since that's all anyone is talking about. The campaign trail differs from its American counterpart in that there's no cars bearing "Sego 2007" bumper stickers or tv commercials blasting the evils of opposing candidates. I remember back when Clinton announced his presidential candidacy, People magazine put his family on its cover which read "Meet the Clintons." But French candidates don't seem to sell themselves along with their families. Other than Segolene's son doing some campaigning for her and Le Pen's daughter Marine, who's a senior member of his party, you don't see their kids in the process. We're a week away from election day with 12 candidates who qualified to run by getting 500 signatures of support from different elected officials of France. Among the final 12 are a jailbird, a communist, a man named Marie and a woman named George.

It's been explained to me that today's French Communist Party is not the Communist party of Stalin or Castro. What hasn't been explained is... well, why there's still a communist party in France. Umm... anyone? The mind reels. Their head is Marie-George Buffet who wants to unify the political left against the right.
Another communist on the ballot is the Ligue Communiste Revolutionnaire's young Olivier Besancenot whose slogan is "Our lives are worth more than their profits." His campaign, it appears, is not worth buying a suit since he's the most casually dressed presidential candidate I've ever seen.

José Bové is the anti-globalization ringleader who went famous in 1999 when he and a group of farmers trashed an incoming McDonald's. He was later jailed. Then he trashed some genetically modified crops and was jailed again. Last year, he and other activists destroyed the GM crop of a corn farmer and we saw on tv the farmer's reaction. He rammed his truck into one of the activist's cars. You've got to love the dramatics.

Speaking of drama, how about that Jean-Marie Le Pen? His far, far, all the way to the right Front National party has been called racist, anti-semetic and other pet names. I was driving down a street the other day lined with poster after poster for Le Pen and the FN and said to my husband, "What is this, white man's alley?" To my surprise, he told me that there are actually some blacks and Arabs in the FN, which is anti-immigrant. Perhaps you could compare it to Mexican Americans who are against heavy immigration from below the border. Jean-Marie himself is due in court to defend himself against comments in a 2005 interview in which he denied the brutality of the WWII Nazi occupation in France. You could chalk him away as a crazy bigot, but it is freaky to ponder the fact that he got to the second round of the 2002 elections against Chirac. A lesson in the racial tensions in the country- his approval ratings went up after the 2006 suburb riots.

Ecology is a hotter and hotter subject (it's April and we have summer weather already, but no pun intended). The Green party has Dominique Voynet as its candidate. She was on tv the other day zipping along on an eco-friendly scooter.
Another guy up for the role is Viscount Philippe le Jolis de Villiers de Saintignon. If the name makes you imagine a guy in knickers and tights who likes harpsicord music and slaps people with his glove, that's probably why he just goes by Philippe de Villiers. He's traditional and is against European integration.

François Bayrou, the "3rd man of the election", is the horse-loving farmer's son. That's important in a country that judges politicians by how they handle livestock at the annual Agricultural Convention. He came in 4th in the last presidential elections and may be the protest vote that opposes the right and the left.

Though its chiefs didn't want her for the job initially, the Socialist party has put forward Ségolène Royal. She and her babies' papa aren't married, they're PACS'd. For votes, she's willing to dance to hip hop and is all for gay marriage/adoption. She's a graduate of the ENA, alumnus of many French political hot shots. She's been the target of a lot of low blow, sexist comments. (She wore the wrong shoes when touring Chile! Who's going to watch after her kids if she's in office?) After criticism of her foreign policy, she made Sego World Tour and stopped by Israel and China. She made a few stumbles such as this one .

Nicolas Sarkozy, born to a Hungarian father and French mother, has been the front runner so far of all the polls I've seen, though he's been behind Royal among younger age groups. He pushed for stronger immigration regulations and deportation as Interior Minister and says France should choose its immigrants wisely. I myself came upon le loi Sarkozy here and there in my struggle to settle down with a residency card. Though French presidents are allowed to run for a 3rd term, Chirac isn't and is instead supporting Sarko.

No one's doubting France needs change. I've seen people with master's degrees stuck in internships due to the less than sparkling the job market. There's neighborhoods full of angry second generation immigrants. Let's all cross our fingers that the best candidate wins.
mercredi, avril 4
posted by Gina at 23:47

I'm following up my last post with another word on train rides. Work has had me commuting into the banlieu. Actually, it's so far that it's more campagne than banlieu. I pass hundreds of houses, three river crossings, and one gypsy camp. There are things I miss about commuting into Paris, such as walking by an organ grinder every morning, but it is nice to be guaranteed a seat on the train every time. A far cry from the hell of the RER B the other day.
The ride is long but I get lots of reading in. These days, it's Gone With the Wind. Excellent story. Made me miss my stop once. Trouble is, Margaret Mitchell wrote all the slaves' dialogue in their patois of the time which is impossible to understand by reading- you have to hear it to get the message. So I'm on the train where people can hear me whispering to myself things like, "Tell Mis Scarlett ter res' easy. Ah'll steal her a hawse outer de ahmy crall effen dey's ary one lef'. An' befo' Ah gits started ker-bloom! Offgoes a noise an' he tell me twarn't nuthin' but de ammernition our gempmums blowin' up so's de Yankees don't git it." (If you had to read that last bit out loud to get the message, you know what I mean.)

In any case, here are some thrilling shots of what I see on the way: