August 30, 2003

Seattle Assistants Meeting...
I drove down to Seattle today to meet up with some other assistants who are heading to France next year.
I guess the adventure started when I got to American customs, or maybe I should say I got in line at the border. It took an hour and a half just to get up to the place where the guy asks you the 5 W's (who/what/where/when/why).
I got into Bellingham an hour after I was supposed to pick up Isaac (I drove him down to Seattle). I was worried that he would have left, but he was still there thankfully.
Surprisingly, we actually made it to Le Panier (a French bakery in Seattle by Pike Place Market) almost on time. Then came the question, "how were we going to find the other assistants?" That was answered for us when Karina asked, "are you looking for someone?"
It was great to meet some other assistants who are heading off to France next year too. There was a girl there, India, who was an assistant in France last year. She was able to answer a lot of our questions, which was great. It's cool to meet other people that love languages, and travelling.
Oh, la belle France! J'peux pas attendre d'aller en France...

August 29, 2003

New VISA Card...
So, I get a leetter from VISA a few weeks ago saying that my VISA card won't be valid past October 30th, because they are discontinuing service on the particular card that I have. (Not due to me, just the agreement between VISA and the company that has its name on the card.) Well, that's just great because I'm leaving for France on September 17th, and won't be back until next summer sometime.
I sent in the form that they attached to the letter, requesting a different type of VISA card. I didn't hear anything back, and I want to get my new VISA card before I'm in Europe, because it won't do me any good back home in Canada.
I called VISA this weekend to see what was happening, knowing that it could take a while to send out the card, get it activated, etc. The guy was very nice and everything, and said that he'd send out a new card to my local bank by this Wednesday (it's now Friday). I went into the bank today to pick up the card (which supposedly had arrived already), as well as to buy some Euros and US dollars, and deposit my last cheque from work. To make a long story short, I was there for 30 minutes, the didn't have the card, and didn't know anything about it. I went to the another branch of the bank (which is on the same road so maybe the guy got the two mixed up), but they didn't know anything about it either.
So, now I'll be calling VISA wondering what's going on. At least I've got just over two weeks to get all of this stuff sorted out...

August 28, 2003

"French identity is not that hard to achieve; if you speak French, you feel French."
-Adam Gopnik, Paris to the Moon
Of course he writes on from there, and the quote is slightly out of context (he's writing about the national French soccer/football team), but I think that it's quite true. If you speak French, you feel French, even though you may have an accent, and may not be fully accepted into French culture. It's quite hard to explain, but I think that some of you out there know what I mean...

August 27, 2003

Shopping in Calgary...
I went shopping today in Calgary. The great thing about buying things here is that there is no provincial sales tax! That saves 7.5%, which doesn't sound like a lot, but I bought a Sony MP3/CD/tuner thingy from Future Shop today, which saved me about $12CAD in taxes. I also got a digital camera, so I can take photos in France (and Europe) and post them on my website.
It sounds like the Seattle meeting is going ahead! A bunch of assistants from all over Washington state, who'll be working all over France next year, are planning on meeting in Seattle at a French bakery (Le Panier). I'm planning on heading down, even though it's a 3 hour drive each way. It should be a lot of fun, and it'll be great to meet some people.

August 26, 2003

Hello from Calgary!
Hey! I'm in the hotel in Calgary (they've got free internet access, cool, huh?!). We were in Banff yesterday, and visited Emerald Lake (I went canoeing), as well as Lake Louise. We had a great dinner at The Old Spaghetti Factory (mmmmm, you've got to try it if you haven't).
On the way up to Banff, we drove through a lot of smoke, due to the forest fires that are burning throughout BC. The smell was aweful, and it burnt in the back of your throat. I feel so bad for the people (more that 250) who have lost their homes. The good news though was that my great-aunt didn't loose her house.
Banff was great. I love hearing all the different languages (there are a lot of tourists from around the world). I even talked with a French couple (in French), which was cool.

August 24, 2003

Some other stuff...
So since I'll be away for a few days, I thought that I'd leave you with some 'interesting' links to keep you occupied...
Try typing "Going to France" in either or, and my page (the one you're reading right now) comes up as number 2! Isn't that crazy? I've only been writing since like the end of June... Anyway, onto some other sites:
->Here's the website of one of the collèges that I'll be working in. The other school has a site too, but it's not up and running right now...
->Have you ever wanted to build a Hobbit-like-house? Well now you can...
->This one is a crazy Swedish song about a hat. Yes, it's weird, but kinda funny too. Here is a translation of the crazy lyrics to help you out...
->A blog from Basra, Iraq...
->And here's a really cool photo taken by a fellow assistant in Paris, France...
->Have you ever wanted to learn Tibetan? How about Scottish Gaelic or Norwegian? Why not find out why there are two written languages in Norway?
->Ever wondered about those WMD (Weapons of Mass Destruction)? Well, here they are, just read very carefully...
->What about travelling the Trans-Siberian railroad (something I'm going to do one day), or going to Kyzyl, Tannu Tuva?
->There's always trekking in Turkestan, or temple touring in Thailand (mmmm, I love Thai food)...
->Or you could check out some photos from the overland route through Turkey, Iran, Pakistan, and China taken by a student in Calgary...
If you're still bored, check out some of the links on the right hand side of the page...

August 23, 2003

Plane tickets, and BC is burning...
I paid for and picked up my plane ticket to Paris, France yesterday! Now I just have to wait for September 17th, then I'm off. I'm flying out of Vancouver, with a layover in Toronto, then onto Paris where I'll arrive on the morning of the 18th. It seems so weird to think that I'll be leaving for so long; yet I'm incredibly excited at the same time. I've always (or as far back as I can remember) wanted to live and work in another country.
We were planning on heading up to BC's interior today to watch Bard in the Vineyard (A Mid-Summer Nights Dream), in Kelowna. But, Kelowna is basically up in flames, so we're not going. We were planning on staying with my great aunt who lives up there, but she was evacuated early this morning. So we might still go up to Banff and Calgary. I'm going to get a digital camera in Calgary, because there's no provincial sales tax there!

August 22, 2003

Le Pacte des Loups...
I watched "Le Pacte des Loups" ("The Brotherhood of the Wolf" in English) yesterday. I watched it just in French yesterday, but I'm going to watch it with English subtitles today. It's a French horror movie based on a legend about a wolf that ravaged the French countryside killing peasants back in the 1700's. Of course the film directors decided to make some liberal changes for the sake of the plot line.
But it's got some cool fight scenes (HongKong style action, they actually brought in a crew from HongKong to help out). I also loved the editing, and the cinematography was excellent. But the ending was kind of dissapointing.
The weird thing is that it's rated 12 in France, but 18A in Canada (well, 13+ in Québec).
Now I want to see "L'auberge Espagnol", but I haven't been able to find it over here. It's a comedy about students from several European countries and what they live through while going to a university in Barcelona. I've heard from several people that it's a pretty good movie (and it's got the girl from Amélie [that was another great movie!] in it!)

August 21, 2003

Plane Ticket to Paris...
I finally booked my plane ticket to Paris, France. I was hoping to be able to make an extended stop-over in Montréal, to visit a friend of mine who lives there, but the ticket won't let me do that without paying a lot extra. So that sucks.
My flight out is at 7:30 in the morning, and I arrive in Paris the next morning, after a stop in Toronto. It was one of the last seats available the week that I wanted to fly to France, so I guess I was lucky to get anything.
Once I get to Paris, I guess that I'll stay in a youth hostel for a week or so. At present, I'll be able to go to the three meetings in the Luxembourg Gardens that some of the assistants from the States are organising. I'm looking forward to going and meeting some of the other assistants, who'll be working throughout France.
From there, I'll probably travel for about a week on my way to Lille. I haven't decided where I'll go, but I'm thinking about Normandy to the west of Paris, or the Champagne region or the Lorraine to the Northeast of Paris.
I'm planning on arriving in Lille on the morning of October 1st, where I'll have housing. Then I have an orientation meeting in Lille on October 3rd, where I'll meet all of the other assistants (English, German, Spanish, Italian, etc.) who will be working in the same school district as me.

August 20, 2003

Tourist Brochures...
A week or two ago I ordered some tourist brochures on the region in France that I'll be working in (Northern France). I thought that it would be cool to look through them before I go. A whole package of stuff arrived last Friday, and I've been flipping through it.
I didn't realise that there are about 100,000 students in the greater Lille area (that's just about the population of the town where I live!), and that the city where I'll be working is literally a stone's throw away from Belgium. All I have to do is jump over the river, literally.

August 18, 2003

I've got my visa!
I went into the consulate today, expecting that I was going to have to leave my passport and other documents for a day or two while they got my visa ready. I gave the security guard all of my documents, and took a seat with several other people who were also waiting for visas, and looked very bored. Some people came in and out with photocopies of documents that they needed for the visa. After an hour, I was hoping that I had all of my things in order, and that I wouldn't have to go hunting for a photocopier, or documents that I had forgotten.
Around noon, several other people in the office started packing up to go for lunch. I could just see the visa lady getting up and saying, "I'm going for lunch now and we're not open after lunch. Please come back tomorrow." Luckily she didn't. The waiting room slowly (very slowly) emptied, while I just sat, bored almost to death.
I knew that it was taking a long time when the security guard got up, moved the chairs around, and straightened out the magazines. He then went into a room, and changed into his normal clothes (i.e. out of his security guard outfit).
It ended up taking almost three (3) hours to get my visa, but at least I don't have to go back again in a day or two.
Now I just have to buy my plane ticket!

August 17, 2003

I saw this funny comic thing on the assistants site, but I've been having problems posting it here. So, here's the gist of it.
Fake French is both fun and easy to speak:
Guy 1, speaking in French, "I hate coffee, it's very bad for drinking (franglais word) in a cup, hello, hello".
Guy 2, in English, "Wow, where did you learn to speak French!" not having a clue what the first guy said.
It was funny, trust me.
If you want to see what I'm talking about, you can click here, the comic should (cross your fingers and hope for the best) open up in a new window for you.
Filling out Fun French Forms...
Since I got my arrêté on Friday, I'm planning on going into the French consulate in Vancouver on Monday to apply for my visa. I've got most of the forms filled out, photos printed out, and my passport ready. (Sorry Karl, your arrêté will come too, eventually).
The visa section of the consulate is only open from 9:30 until 12:00. That's right, it's only open 2.5 hours each weekday. This is my first foray into the fun that is French bureaucracy, and I'll be sure to let you know how it goes.
I've seen this a few times before in several variations, but I think that it rings true even more now:
Heaven: The Germans look after administration, the English are the policemen, the French do the cooking and the Italians are the lovers.
Hell: The English do the cooking, the Germans are the lovers, the Italians are the policemen and... the French look after administration.

August 15, 2003

Arrêté Arrived!!!
I can't believe it! My arrêté arrived today :) My parents stopped by where I was working, and let me open the envelope. I'm so excited because I can now go the the French consulate on Monday with all of my paperwork, and get my visa!
I also got a copy of my long birth certificate in the mail today (see the July 26th entry as to why my current birth certificate isn't good enough).
I don't know if you've all heard of ultimate or not (I know that I hadn't heard of it until two months ago), but I played it last night with some friends. I haven't been able to go for the past month or so (they get together once a week) because I've had to work every morning, afternoon, and evening.
A bit more about ultimate though. It's like a cross between frisbee and football (soccer if you're in North America). You pass the frisbee to your team mates, who then have 10 seconds to pass it to someone else. Once you're holding the frisbee, you can't continue to run. The goal is to pass the frisbee all the way past the goal line at the other end of the field. It may sound kind of weird (it did to me at first), but once you get playing, it's actually a lot of fun. There are some other minor rules, but that's the gist of the game.
And I got a call yesterday telling me that they had started up the machine at work again, and could I come in as soon as possible to run up and down the rows pulling wires. Great fun

August 14, 2003

Vacation travel...
I believe that I get just over six weeks of vacation during my seven months of work in France. The first week comes at the end of October.
I went out and bought the Lonely Planet guides to France, and Europe on a Shoestring this week. Reading through them and seeing all of the places I can go is so exciting! One place that I for sure want to visit is Morocco. My mom isn't too keen on the idea (you'll get sold into slavery, drugged, lost, kidnapped, arrested, etc.), so I've been easing her into it for the past two months or so.
Apart from Morocco, I'd also like to go to Belgium (a return bus ticket from Lille to Brussels is less that $20 CAD), the Netherlands, Switzerland, maybe part of Germany, Spain, Glasgow (to visit relatives?), and London. How could I forget, I'd also like to visit Italy and Eastern Europe. Not to mention France, since I'll be living there. Yah, I know that I'm not going to get to see everything this time, but that's my wish list for now, and years to come.

August 13, 2003

Tracker trouble...
Well, I thought it would be a cool idea to put a tracker on the page, just to see who was stopping by, and how often, blah, blah, blah. So, I picked a site that does tracking, but I've been having problems with it. Their server is down more often that it's up (like 4 days down, half a day up).
I've been checking out other blogs, to see what trackers they use. So, I've decided to switch trackers. I think that I'll run the two simultaniously for a bit, but I'll eventually get rid of one.
Before I put in the new tracker today, I had 70+ unique hits in just over a month. I also had about 70 English hits, 6 Korean hits, 2 Japanese hits, 1 Spanish hit, and 1 'other' hit. If you're the person out there who speaks 'other', let me know! I'd love to learn some of your language.

August 12, 2003

No work...
Well, the raspberry harvester (the picture shown is of a much newer and nicer harvester than the one that I work on) that I work on has broken down. The engine has gone kaput; it just won't start at all. So I get a few days off while they put in a new engine (they've tried a lot of other stuff already). So, that's given me time to get some stuff done around the house, like filling out my visa application (although I'm still waiting for my arrêté), reading some travel guidebooks, and writing too many posts on the new assistants in France website! :)

August 10, 2003

Fireworks in Vancouver...
Last night I went into Vancouver to see the fireworks (the HSBC Celebration of Light) with some friends (a shout out to all of you who are reading...). It was the grand finale, where each of the three countries (the Czech Republic, Canada, and China) each presented a short programme, then there was a big finale with lots of fireworks.
I ran into a few people that I knew. At the station in Surrey, I saw a girl from school who was in my Ecology class this past spring semester. Then, after we got off the SkyTrain and started walking towards the beach, I ran into my cousin and his girlfriend. In the huge horde of people (over 400,000) that went to the fireworks, I think it's crazy that I run into people I know, even though I live an hour out of Vancouver.
Assistant Web Ring...
A new assistants in France web ring was created, so I decided to join. The link is at the bottom of the page if you're interested. At present there aren't a lot of sites, but the numbers will grow as other assistants find out about it.

August 07, 2003

"We breathe in our first language, and swim in our second."
-Adam Gopnik, Paris to the Moon

That is so true. It seems like the more you learn, the more there is to learn. But I guess that's part of the fun in learning a new language.
Thanks Srah for the quote (I saw it on the new French assistants site).

August 05, 2003

Arrêté on the Way (hopefully)!...
Well, several other assistants who will be working in the Lille académie have received their arrêtés (they let you get your visa from the consulate) this week! That means that there's hope for me getting mine before the middle of September. Although since I got my first letter from Lille a lot later than most of them did, maybe that means that I'll have to wait longer. We'll see.
I've been in touch with some of the other assistants that will be working all over France next year. Some people in the Seattle area are hoping to get together in August, and I'm thinking about going down, even though it's a long drive. A lot of people (like 50+) are planning on meeting in Paris around the end of September before we go off to our own cities. We're also thinking about staying in the same hostel (or at least in the same end of town). I can't wait to head over to France!
A la prochaine...

August 03, 2003

The Swedish Royal Family is French...
I'm not joking. Back in the early 1800's, the Swedish nobility was plagued with in-fighting, so the Riksdag (parliament) decided to put a foreigner on the Swedish throne. They admired the French army so much that they decided to elect Jean-Baptiste Bernadotte (born in 1763 in Pau, France) as crown prince of Sweden in 1810.
Bernadotte was a general and diplomat for Napoleon. However, once in Sweden, he did not follow pro-French policy. Instead, he joined a coalition against Napoleon, and in 1813, his allied army gave Napoleon his first major defeat. Bernadotte became king Karl XIV Johan of Sweden in 1818. His descendant, Carl XVI Gustaf, became king of Sweden in 1973.
You can check out the Swedish royal line, and the Swedish royal family online.

August 02, 2003

Uni update...
I got an email from the lady at EduFrance not too long ago. She emailed the school in Lille, but because they are on holidays now, they won't mail out an application form or any info until August 25th.
However, she did send an email to director of the program's personal address, so we'll see what happens.