January 29, 2004

Snow Day, Elephant, Good Bye Lenin!, Dracula, Blind Shaft...
"One of these words is not like the others..."
It would be Snow Day! Today was a snow day for me, sort of. I did try to make it out to school, but the teacher who drives me in was sick, so I had to take the bus. Three hours later I arrived 3/4 of the way to work, in time to miss the bus. There was no point in me going any further, because the next bus was after my day was over. There's only about 3cm of snow here, but people are going crazy. There was a tiny bump in the road (by Canadian standards), so traffic was severely blocked up.
Another problem with snow in Lille is that it covers up the dog crap that is all over the sidewalks. You just have to hope that you don't step in any (good luck, it's hard enough when you can see where it is!).
This past weekend there was a film festival in Lille, with the best films of 2003. First of all I went to see Elephant, an American film (I don't know if it came out in North America or not, any insight?) by Gus van Sant based on the shootings at Columbine High. It was quite controversial, but won two prizes at the Cannes Film Festival. I can't really say that I enjoyed it, but it was a good film.
Then I went to see Good Bye Lenin!, a German film. It was about a lady who falls into a coma just before the re-unification, then wakes up eight months later. The doctor tells the son that she may relapse if she is subjected to too much stress, so he pretends that East and West Germany are still separate. I thought it was a great movie.
On Monday I went to see the play Dracula, in English, at a theatre in Lille with one of my schools.
Then I went to see Blind Shaft, a Chinese movie about miners, that was banned in China. The movie shows problems with China's mining system (many mines collapse on the workers), at the same time as it tells the story of two crooked miners and teaches a moral lesson.

January 27, 2004

A visit from Alex...
On Sunday, Alex from Edmonton, came to visit for the day. He was in my French class in Jonquiere, Quebec about three and a half years ago (summer 2000), and I haven't seen him since. He's working nearby at Vimy Ridge and Beaumont-Hamel as a guide, so he decided to come up to Lille for the day.
We wandered through town, and saw everything in about two hours. There's not much to see in Lille, and most shops are closed on Sunday to make things worse. It didn't help that it's been a while since the sidewalks were washed. There was a lot of dog crap all over the sidewalks (as usual I guess...).
Despite Lille, it was good to see him again. It's quite the thing when you don't see someone in your own country because you live far away, then move to another and you're almost neighbours. Ashley, a girl that I know from Jonquiere the same summer, may come out and visit too. She's living in Strasbourg at the moment.
A+, the snow has stopped. For now.

January 22, 2004

Going on Strike...
There was a notice in the staff room today calling teachers from various unions to go on strike on January 30th. As to whether it will happen or not, I don't know.
However, it doesn't affect me since I don't work on Friday January 30th anyway. Tant pis.

January 21, 2004

En Greve...
(On Strike...)
I don't know if you've heard, but the French love to strike. They will strike about anything, and everything. They take it seriously, as it is one of their rights as a citizen of the Republic of France.
So, public servants are going on rotating strikes in France. Today happens to be the SNCF (the national French rail network) that is on strike. They're striking that their pay raise isn't good enough. They are only running "essential" trains, which means that you really don't know which ones are running, and which ones aren't, because you don't know which ones are "essential".
You can even check out www.greves.org, which has info about strikes in France.

January 19, 2004

Un Grand Weekend a Bruxelles...
This past Wednesday evening, I decided to go to Brussels on Friday morning. So I went to Brussels this weekend.
My train on Friday was 55 minutes late (another not-on-time high speed train). At passport control in Brussels, the guy gave me a hard time. He asked me what I was doing in Belgium, if I knew that I was in Belgium (yes I said, I'm here to visit a friend in Brussels), then asked if I knew that I had left French territory, then again asked if I knew I was in Belgium, before asking to see my return ticket. Maybe he was mad because he was Flemish and I addressed him in French (he would only speak English to me).
Anyway, I met Sophia at the station, and we went to the Grand'Place, and I had an amazing Belgian waffle (with whipped cream and chocolate sauce, mmmmm...). Then we saw the Manekin Pis (the famous statue of a boy peeing), before going to the Courthouse, a church or two, and finally the Royal Palace.
On Friday evening we went to The Fuse, the largest club in Brussels. Some of the stagieres working for the European Commission from Scotland, Ireland, and Wales put on the party (called the "Celtic Connection"). Early in the evening, before the DJ's started, they had an Irish band playing. Some Greek people started dancing Greek style (ooo-pah) to Irish music. Quite amusing. We left around 4h30.
Sunday was relatively quite. I watched two football (not American football) matches between stagieres, then had another Belgian waffle and a coffee before discussing Northern Cypriot politics and economics.
I had to come back to Lille on Sunday, because I'm working today.
But hey, at least I escaped France for a weekend and made it back safely!

January 14, 2004

Going to Brussels...
Well, I'm going to Brussels this weekend. I figured that now that I've got my titre de sejour and can leave the country, why not!
So, I'm taking the Eurostar on Friday morning to Brussels, and I'll be returning on Sunday afternoon. I'm not exactly sure what I'm going to do yet. I do know that I'll be spending the two nights at a friends boyfriend's flat. I met him once when he came to visit Sophia (the friend) in Lille, and she'll be going this weekend too. So, I hope it's not too awkward. I don't think so, I'm just happy to be getting out of Lille for the weekend!
A+, and a 'bon weekend'!
No Longer a sans-papiers...
Yay! I'm no longer a "sans-papiers". Yesterday I had an appointment to go to the Prefecture and pick up my titre de sejour, which lets me legally leave and re-enter the country, as well as apply for social security/medical benefits (which I'm already paying for out of my salary), and my housing refund.
In French, "sans-papiers" literally means "without papers", and is used as a derogatory term for someone in the country without the right paperwork (like a titre de sejour). It's usually used for illegal immigrants, but in this case I really was "sans-papiers".

January 12, 2004

Unexploded Bomb in Lille...
I was reading a news thing posted in the school this morning. Back in the middle of December, part of the centre-ville of Lille, near the Zénith, was evacuated for a day. They had to remove a 250kg (110kg of explosives) unexploded bomb from the First World War (aka the Great War, or Guerre 14/18) that was in the area.
You can read the story in French from the Voix du Nord.
Kind of scary...

January 08, 2004

No new news is... good news?
There's not much new news here. I've been searching flights, and looking for places to go during the break at the end of February.
I thought about writing an entry on:
-a typical day at school
-French hygene
-playing hopscotch over dog caca in Lille
-French politics
-cafeteria lunches
-why every French person I meet wants to go to Canada
...but I decided not to today. Maybe later.
Does anyone has a suggestion for something they want me to write about?

January 06, 2004

Getting paid soon...
I have been paid an advance (about 80%) on my salary for the months of October, November, and December, but I have to wait until the end of January before I get the remaining 20%, plus my salary for January. Why can't they just have paid me normally starting in October?
I guess that would require too much "le planning", and considering that the French use the English word for planning, hmmmm... makes you wonder.

January 05, 2004

Seven weeks and counting down...
Today was my first day back at work after two weeks of vacation, most of which was in the south of France.
I feel slightly guilty, but not too much, because I really don't want to start back to work yet. Only seven weeks until the next two week vacation.
I know I can, I know I can, I know I can...
I guess that it didn't help that I had the two worse classes of all time this morning. One of the classes had the kid that I kicked out a few weeks ago, and the other was taught by the same teacher as the first.
I think I can, I think I can, I think I can...
I was so sad to get off the train at Lille from Paris. It hit me while in the metro. I'm back, and I need a vacation already.
I hope I can, I hope I can, I hope I can...
Can I ?

January 02, 2004

New Years Eve in Paris!
So, as you may have heard, I went to Paris for New Years Eve this year! The train left Cannes at 7h44, and as always, arrived in Paris late (I've never been on a TGV that has arrived on time. I guess it's just my luck).
My friend Kelly was there to pick me up, and we walked by the Tour Eiffel (crowded with tourists, like me).
Around 20h, we went out onto the Champs Elysees, which was crowded, as the police had stopped traffic at either end for the celebrations. We had dinner on the street, then headed over to a friend of her's place.
About half an hour before midnight we headed back out to the Champs Elysees, which was even more crowded by now. Some people were already drunk, as was evidence by the guy puking on the road.
Unfortunately there were no big firework displays (I was between the Arc de Triomphe and the Place de la Concorde), but several people lit some off anyway. We had a little champagne, and said Happy New Years in several languages. We wandered around a bit, then went back inside.
A little latter we ventured out again to discover that some people, probably drunk, decided to throw bottles at the police. So, the police put on their riot gear, and were standing in groups of about 10 at each corner. By the Arc de Triomphe they set up their big riot vehicles (that look like monsters), then started charging the crowd to disperse it. At the same time, further down the streets, non-drunk people were having fun, singing and dancing. I later found out the police ended up using some tear gas on the people who were trying to riot.
On January 1st, as I was leaving Paris for Lille, it started to snow! There is snow in Lille right now, as there is snow at my place back in Canada.