Wednesday, December 2, 2009

CAF : "Vous êtes étudiante."

That was the first line of a letter I received from the CAF (Caisse d'allocations familiales) a few days ago.

I really wasn't expecting the CAF to reduce my housing benefit. Last year I had a good job, a low rent thanks to the logement de fonction, and received 135€ per month from the CAF. This time around, I have no job, am a full-time student with a higher, yet normal rent, and will now receive ... 87€ per month. As such, I now have to reimburse the outstanding money I received since September.

Why the change? Apparently, "vous êtes étudiante" = you will receive less money lol :( Anyway, I guess it's still better than receiving nothing ...

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

The snow has begun

View from my window yesterday morning:
Well I wasn't particularly thrilled. However, fortunately it didn't snow heavily! Similarly, I appreciate that the snow didn't begin earlier in November like last year. :-)

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Folliet

Chocolat viennois - 3,10€ @ Folliet, Chambéry
Best hot chocolate ever?! My taste buds were surely delighted! :-)
I'll have to return to sample some of the other delicious-sounding treats on the menu!

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Update

A lot has been going on lately. I don't feel like blogging when I'm stressed / matters are unsolved ... hence the delay. Anyway, here's the gist of things:

I'm back at uni! :-) Lol, feels good to be productive! Anyway, so far so good.

I'm no longer an English-language assistant. My contract got renewed (same two collèges like last year). However, I resigned because I didn't have enough free hours in my uni timetable to fulfill my teaching requirements. In addition, given that the Préfecture also sent me a letter asking what I'll be doing "réellement" this year, "soit assistante... soit étudiante", perhaps it wouldn't have been possible to do the two again ... at least not on a student carte de séjour. Anyway, I sincerely hope that my schools don't go without an assistant this year!

Similarly, I had to give up the apartment reserved for the language assistant. I went through some stress to find suitable accommodation, but now I'm sharing an apartment with three colocataires in Jacob Bellecombette, just a 10 minute walk away from the university. I found the apartment on www.appartager.com.

I've met up with a friend from back home who's now teaching in Annecy! It's cool having someone from Trinidad in the same region :-)

This September, like last year, I got the cold (not swine flu!). Oh, not to mention that I've gotten the cold again! It's October, ridiculously cold (from summer to winter in one week!) and I've got a pretty persistant cough... which will soon go away!! Just about two weeks ago a uni lecturer held one of my classes outdooors! (The classrooom inside the building was really hot!) Anyway, that's no longer the case. I guess it'll snow in November (like last year!).

After roughly three weeks of walking around with an expired récépissé (no fault of mine!!!) and the letter from the Préfecture asking what I'm really doing, I finally received a new récépissé on Friday. :-) Hopefully I'll get the carte de séjour before it expires.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Journées Européennes du Patrimoine 2009

Les Journées Européennes du Patrimoine or European Heritage Days were this weekend in France. This is an excellent opportunity to : visit places which are usually not open to the public; go on tours/guided visits; and choose from a wide variety of activities which are often free or at a reduced price.

I returned to Lyon this Saturday for this event and went on the following tours with a friend and her mom:

- Vieux Lyon : Renaissance et Traboules (10am to midday, €5)
- Vaulx-en-Velin : Usine de tissage de soie (3pm to 5pm, €2)

Here are some pics!!!


Place Bellecour, statue of Louis XIV
According to the tour guide, the queue du cheval is a good meeting place.

View of buildings around Place Bellecour

Le Rhône

City bicycles

Cathédrale Saint-Jean

Tax was determined by the number of windows you had.
Result = people got rid of some windows

La Maison du Charmarier, which was occupied by high churchmen
There is a well on the right of the photo.

A lion which was bought at an annual auction.
Apparently there are several other lion statues around Lyon (I've yet to see them!)
This one is outside the Musée des Miniatures.

Upward view from inside a traboule in Vieux Lyon
A traboule refers to a passage through buildings connecting different roads. They have been quite useful in the past (e.g. transporting silk, escaping an enemy during WWII, etc). Many traboules are private, but there are a few which are opened to the public during the day and closed at night. I don't think the residents would enjoy having people walking through their building 24/7!

Rue du Boeuf
Given the statue, perhaps there was a butcher at this location in the past?

La Tour Rose, from one of the traboules
Align Center
View through the traboule with the Tour Rose (pink tower)

More sealed windows

Les Guignols

Another upward view from a traboule to give an idea of the space

Holes to allow air to circulate through the traboule

Horloge astromonique in the Saint-Jean Cathedral


Weaving factory in Vaulx-en-Velin


A one-day TCL transport ticket proved to be a wise purchase considering the amount of travelling done around Lyon! From the 8ème district to Bellecour, morning tour (from Bellecour to Vieux Lyon), lunch at Toutes les Couleurs (restaurant for vegetarian/organic food in Vieux Lyon), afternoon tour in Vaulx-en-Velin, return to Vieux Lyon to meet some people and chat a bit, then back to the 8ème for dinner, drinks alongside the Rhône river (by the péniches), followed by catching the last métro and returning to Chambéry by car.

I wanted to visit the Abbaye d'Hautecombe (in Savoie) today, but unfortunately didn't go because I got the cold (not swine flu!). Anyway, guess I'll do that another time. At least I was able to take advantage of one of the two days of the Journées Européennes du Patrimoine. :-)

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Une année!

Today is exactly one year since I arrived in Chambéry last year! :-)

Wow, time flew fast!

P.S. This day last year was nice and sunny, and fortunately so since I had a particularly heavy suitcase, and some other luggage to tug around. Today it rained (and was cold!) but that was ok, because going to Lyon for a few days doesn't require travelling with a 32kg bag lol.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Summer recap

Yesterday was my last day of work. The two months went really quickly, and I actually feel a bit sad that it's come to an end. It was a great experience! Now in hindsight, I can safely say that I'm glad that British Airways cancelled my return tickets. Lol, in fact by not going home this vacation, I got valuable work experience in an international organisation, met new people, and of course improved my French. As for the ticket cancellation, that also worked out! A few weeks ago, British Airways refunded my mom the amount of the cancelled ticket.


Homesick? Nahh. It's a question people usually ask me and perhaps my response surprises them. It's been a little over 11 months since I've been here. Well, it's a bit hard to be homesick when you have a mom who sends daily emails to keep me up to date. Plus just being abroad is exciting in itself.


Current plans? None really lol... ok to be honest plans are a bit vague. Well a few days in Lyon from this weekend as usual, and then once I return to Savoie, I have quite a few things to sort out... such as cleaning my apartment, registering at the university, and visiting the Préfecture (not the most exciting activity on the list, but I can only hope that things go smoothly and quickly!).

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Hottest day of the year?

Yes (according to the media) and very hot indeed!! Like an oven, seriously!

Random stuff:

Today - because of the heat and mountains - the driving speed limit in Grenoble was reduced by 20 km to prevent pollution.

Normallly the trains between Grenoble and Chambéry are composed of several voitures. This evening, I was shocked when they sent a train with only une voiture!... my first thought was "euhh, how is everyone going to fit in this?" Fortunately I got a seat... but unfortunately and ironically on the supposedly hottest day of the year, there wasn't any air-conditionning! ... ahh, a window was opened, but that wasn't much help.

Who's ready for autumn?! :-)

Friday, August 7, 2009

Random observations

A real post, well sort of lol! Well, a few days ago on the train home, I decided not to sleep (usually this is quite a challenge lol), but instead to jot a list of things I've noticed here in France. My observations, not meant to be generalisations. Voilà la liste :

  • Summer (work) fashion : Women --> colourful clothing, thin strap tops, flip flops, sundresses, short pants, short skirts ... yes, to go to work! Men --> Jeans are pretty much standard, but I've even seen some men in knee-length pants and sandals ... and well there's also the capri, ugh!

  • More fashion comments : In winter, it seemed as though almost everyone here dressed in black, or maybe brown or grey. It's quite common to see people going to work in jeans, t-shirt or shirt, sneakers or a nice pair of shoes. Shirt and jeans ... well no surprise if your boss dresses like that. Shirt, jacket, tie for the men? Huh, what's that? The dresscode is so casual that I've not felt the need to buy an iron since I've been here lol.

  • Recently there was something on TV about police in the south of France handing out free t-shirts (labelled "Souriez vous êtes à ____") to men walking around the town (not the beach) torse nu. Lol.

  • Tu or Vous? Well, this is still a bit confusing to me. From what I've gathered, use tu with your colleagues in the office, apparently regardless of age, and use vous with someone on a higher hierarchical level (e.g. the boss, although it may be possible to tutoyer the boss, etc. In this case, it's better to wait for him/her to suggest the change in register. "On se tutoie?" or something to that effect).

  • First name basis in the workplace with coworkers (maybe zee boss as well). No Mr or Mrs So-and-so lol.

  • Apparently, bureaucracy in France not only irritates foreigners, but can also irritate French people.

  • Why is Grenoble sooo ridiculously hot? Answer: Because of the surrounding mountains. Grenoble is too cold in the winter and too hot in the summer. Ok, end of complaint lol.

  • Lunch time essentials: entrée, plat chaud, dessert, pain, eau. Desserts include yogurt, compote (i.e. stewed fruits/yummy baby food?), pies, cheese, cream dessert, etc.

  • After-lunch: a nice time to continue chatting with co-workers over a coffee/hot chocolate/cigarette. A lot of people smoke; Actually, as a non-smoker, being in France has made me a lot more tolerant/perhaps even indifferent to whether people smoke or not. (ok, although this indifference does not apply to my former students - like 14 years old - who were taking a smoke before and after school right next to the schools).

  • There seem to hardly be any women who overdo their makeup, if they're wearing any at all. Natural look, nice.

  • Everyday there are lots of people who run/speed up in order to catch their bus. I've done this on numerous occasions lol. Do bus drivers ever secretly chuckle?

  • Sign in a Grenoble bus: small dogs can travel for free, but large dogs must have a titre de transport. Wow, imagine a doggie bus pass.

  • Les Soldes are great! I did more shopping in July than in January, but still didn't buy anything much.

  • Playing a computer game online in French with other players who communicate in French, can be deemed "educational" for a non-native speaker like myself ^^. Yes, that's me trying to justify my recent game-playing.

  • Apparently, a camping is quite a popular destination for French people over the summer. Think of a caravan site with activities for the family, etc.

  • Maintaining a cell phone can be expensive and it helps to beware of rip-offs. For example, 6 EUR per month for about 20 TV channels on your mobile/cell phone ... where's the catch? Well, after losing 27 EUR in about 15 minutes thanks to this "lovely" service from Orange, I called customer service and cancelled it. Ahh, they didn't mention the Internet fees in the ad.

  • Unfortunate/bad things happen. For example, a few weeks ago someone stole the basket from my rented bicycle which was parked right outside the Vélostation at the train station. In addition, someone decided to attach their bike next to mine, essentially making it impossible for me to get my bike. This incident cost be 20 EUR *grr* ... 10 to take a taxi home since buses stopped running, and 10 to buy/rent another basket to replace the one I rented with the bike. I've not been keen on using my bike ever since. Another incident took place today. Well, last night an individual/individuals threw stones at the glass in the front of my apartment building (logement de fonction next to the collège ... guess they dislike the school??), which has resulted in two holes in a now large cracked pane of glass which can fall at any moment. In addition, the individual(s) also broke the back windscreen of my neighbour's car.

  • Precocious children. For example, a boy around 6 years old gave a correct, detailled enough explanation of "how babies are made" on Attention à la marche (a TV game show) a Saturday morning around midday. This explanation was given just before la Question coquine. Lol, well any children who had any doubts got their answer! (If I remember correctly, the question coquine that day was "Out of 100 parents, how many have already sent their children out to play in order to have some adult fun?". Lol)
Et c'est tout pour l'instant!

Thursday, July 30, 2009

July's over!

Just a quick update!
I'm fine, keeping busy with work, coping with the heat, and can't believe my summer job is almost over!! So far so good :-) Anyway, I'll have to make an effort to write a "real post" soon :-)

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Quick update

Today marks my tenth month in France :-) Everything is fine at the moment. Work is interesting, and I've had the opportunity to communicate in English, French and Spanish! I'm hesitant to consider myself bilingual or trilingual, but I guess as far as French goes, I must admit that I'm quite comfortable with the language. Yayy, benefits of living in France :-) The weather is ridiculously hot, but at least there's la climatisation at work! I really enjoyed a friend's bday party this weekend, and now I'm considering attending salsa classes... once I find a good teacher/class nearby, mais ça, ç'est pas gagné!

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Another récépissé! Back to work!

After one and a half days "sans papiers" and thus "sans boulot" (my contract was temporarily suspended), I received my new récépissé from the Préfecture today! Finally!!!!!!!!!! I had to collect it at the mairie. I'm starting back work tomorrow :-)

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

First day of summer job

I had a good day at work today :-)

Since I work from 8am to 5pm in Grenoble, I have to get up pretty early to commute: a 15 minute bus ride to Chambéry, then a train from Chambéry to Grenoble (45 mins or 1hr depending on how many stops the train makes), followed by a 10 minute bus ride. Fortunately, I woke up in time to get ready! Actually, I reached Grenoble about 7:15 am... it's better to be early than late!... waited around a bit, then took the bus to the workplace.

First, I had to wait a while to receive my badge for the site. My photo was taken while I was encouraged to look at a bright yellow smiley face positionned next to a camera. Lol! The rest of the day went quite smoothly.

I worked along with friendly student who is almost finished with her internship there (my "teacher" for the next few days!), had a mid-morning break with some staff members (it was cold outside, like around 12°C. Sweaters were a must!), enjoyed a delicious lunch at the on-site restaurant which provides meals for under 3€, and learnt much more from my student coworker again this afternoon. Of course I took lots of notes, and at the end of the day felt a sense of achievement since I am able to complete some tasks! I'm actually looking forward to continuing the work tomorrow! Surely, working in an office in front of a computer is a lot different from teaching, but I've really welcomed the change!!

Now I need to get some rest, so I'll have enough energy to continue it all over again tomorrow :-)

Monday, June 22, 2009

Return to the Préfecture

My relaxing weekend in St Etienne was continued in Lyon, and then I returned to Chambéry today by bus since there weren't any Lyon-Chambéry trains when I left. Even the bus ride was relaxing lol.

Anyway, I returned to the Préfecture this afternoon, in spite of the depressing visit last time. I still don't have my university results for the second semester, so I carried my results for the first semester. This time I spoke to a different person, and the gist of the conversation was as follows:

1st worker: "Oh, you're Alicia ______, you were a lectrice d'anglais?"

Me: No, assistante d'anglais *I'm surprised that she knows who I am, since all I showed her was my official grade slip which had my name*

1st worker: "We received your file last week and haven't looked at it as yet."

Another pleasant worker passes by. I had spoken to her in the past, and she had assured me that I would get to extend my stay in France this summer.

Me: Ok, well I only have 8 days remaining [till my current récépissé expires] so je m'inquiète quoi. *together with a genuine semi-depressed facial expression caused by my frustration with the Préfecture*

2nd worker: I'll look at your file and send the récépissé to La Motte. *she then takes the copy of my 1st semester results, and heads off*

Me: *hoping for this to be true but not wanting to get excited too soon* Ok, merci. :-) Au revoir


I guess all I can do now is wait patiently!

Saint-Etienne

After visiting many of the main towns in the Rhône-Alpes region, I finally made it to Saint-Etienne! It's 45 minutes away from Lyon by train, and only cost a little under 10€ aller-retour Lyon Part-Dieu - St Etienne thanks to my TER Coup de Foudre reduction card for young people (aged 12-25).

Even though I didn't have much time to faire du tourisme - the weather wasn't the best either (it was windy and relatively cold) - I enjoyed my time there and liked the bit of the town I saw.

Cool train station : Gare de St-Etienne Chateaucreux

First view of Sainté from the train station

My weekend (well, actually 24 hours, Saturday-Sunday) with four Frenchies consisted of:

- TV shows online: The Simpsons - in French of course -, Southpark, The Inbetweeners, funny parody videos in French on Youtube, etc.,

- Games: billard at a pub in the town, and the Service Compris board game,

- Food: After a trip to the grocery, we spent the weekend eating pizza, homemade crêpes, snacks, etc.

Bref,
I had a relaxing weekend :-)

Friday, June 19, 2009

Paperwork stress

So I got a summer job in Grenoble (adminstration/accounting, June-August), and I'm supposed to start next week. However, the Préfecture... well, in a few well-chosen words...ça fait chier! My récépissé expires in less than two weeks, and today when I went to the Préfecture they told me the new récépissé hasn't been done (although I was told by one of the employees that I would have received it this week!) and that I need to include my grade slip with my application for an extension... grades aren't out as yet! First they had asked me for an acceptance letter, then a pré-inscription 2009-2010, now my grades. It's hard not to imagine that someone might be trying to make things difficult for me, an étrangère with a full time summer job during the recession. Hopefully all this crap/paperwork galore! together with the limited time wouldn't result in a last minute return flight to Trinidad.

Anyway, I'm trying to de-stress. This weekend I'm off to Lyon/Saint-Etienne, so at least I have something to look forward to :-)

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Summer job!

June has been a lot less boring that I had imagined!

The month started off well! Last Monday (the 1st), a friend from uni emailed me an ad for a job in Grenoble :-). I spent the day researching the company online, editing my CV and writing a lettre de motivation. On Tuesday I emailed my application, and was contacted on Wednesday by the company. I had an interview on Thursday; it went well (an hour long! en français for a job that requires fluent English) and I was told that I would find out the decision in a week's time since there was still another candidate to be interviewed.

Well, after a week of waiting and hoping for the best, I finally received a phone call today... I got the job!!! Woo hoo!!! I start work on the 22nd of June. I'll be taking the train to Grenoble on a daily basis since that's cheaper than renting an apartment in Grenoble for the summer.

Other events so far have included:
- a punctured bicycle tyre ... sigh, I've no idea where that thumb tack came from! Fortunately it's a 40 minute walk (and not longer!!) from my apartment to the Vélostation where I rented the bike (located at the train station in Chambéry). I will carry the bike there soon enough. Hope they don't take out of my deposit!

- several trips to the Préfecture (I need to extend my stay. My visit to the Préfecture today was the most productive/enlightening (lol) so far, and now I only need to submit my documents to the mairie!)

- numerous trips to the university (It took a few visits there before I got an acceptance letter for the Préfecture, then being told by the Préfecture that that letter might not work and I need a pré-inscription, so I had to go back to uni today to get an attestation de pré-inscription (even though registration begins in July). Ahh, France and paperwork! Anyway, the lady at the scolarité was really helpful. I also went to the CLOUS today to get more info concerning my accommodation in a résidence universitaire from September.

- visits to the bank, lots of TV viewing :-), reading, and a weekend trip to Lyon.

Tomorrow I hope to go to the mairie and the CLOUS to submit the relevant documents. I hope I'll have another good day like I did today!

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Last week at uni

Final exams, dinner with the M1 MI, visit to Lac du Bourget, and acceptance to the university residence ... these events sum of the final week of uni.

On Monday I bought a fan! A much needed investment since any temperature over 30°C is too hot!

On Tuesday, I had two final exams: Spanish and Accounting (in English). They were fine overall. Compared to my exam experience last semester, there was less "culture shock", since this time we had to put our bags in front of the room. This makes a lot of sense for the obvious reasons, but strangely enough this procedure only took place for the Accounting exam.

Wednesday was a bit boring. No Internet for most of the day *gasp*. I spent the free time doing some cleaning/sleeping/watching TV/ and I made a quick visit to the uni to check my email (lol, I can't help it!).

On Thursday, the majority of my classmates had the soutenance for their thesis. I didn't do a thesis this year, so my vacation/boredom (lol) really started on Tuesday after my exams. Anyway, there was a last get-together with all the International Management students at Le Savoyard restaurant in Chambéry. The dinner was nice and of course it was great being with the students who were present. It's hard to believe that some of us may never see each other again... Hopefully we'll stay in touch!!!

Friday was a day of exercise (2 hours of cycling)! I cycled to Lac du Bourget from Chambéry with one of my classmates and then at the lake we met up with another classmate. It was prety windy at the lake, so we only spent an hour there (not bathing), before returning to Chambéry.

Today I received an acceptance letter from the CROUS, stating that I can stay in a university residence next year, provided that I hand in some documents in the next three weeks. After that, I went to Lyon (ma ville préférée?!)! I really enjoy exploring the city, and it's usually a lot more fun on foot! I walked from Gare Part-Dieu, to Bellecour, to La Croix-Rousse, and back!

I'm still anxious/frustrated over finding a job, so I think I'll be putting up flyers for English lessons! Hopefully this will prove to be a successful endeavour :-)

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Parc de la tête d'or

Last Wednesday I visited the Parc de la tête d'or in Lyon!

The day's highlights included:

  • There were a lot of primary school children. I guess they were on a school outing, and as can be expected, there were children who were not behaving as the teachers would have liked. I heard the following several times: "Alicia, tu te calmes maintenant!" Lol, no no, that was not directed to me, but rather to a little girl.
  • I walked for hours, and still didn't see all of the park.
  • It's absolutely gorgeous there!
  • It was a hot day, about 31°C! A bit like being at the beach too, since some women clad in bikinis took advantage of the sun to tan.
  • I spent some time studying for a Spanish exam while I was in the park. A guy decided to bypass an empty bench to come and sit on my bench. He then ate his sandwich, proceeded to talk while I tried to study, and then when he realised that I'm from the Caribbean, started talking about Martinique and Guadeloupe. I said, yes, the Caribbean. He then proceeded to tell me, yes, he has been to La Réunion, and then he said something about Tahiti. Lol, I didn't bother to correct his geography. (Sigh, not all islands are situated in the Caribbean!)
Ok, time for some pics!!


And to end, here's a video of an elephant (same one from the pic above) playing with sand:

video

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Updates from an unemployed student

I will surely miss collecting a salary at the end of the month! But besides that, I just like to have things to do, be occupied! Where's that new job already? :-)

Otherwise, things are fine. I feel as though I'm on vacation, minus the part about having "shopping money" lol. I took my usual trip to Lyon this weekend *yay*, which included visits to a hairdresser in Villeurbanne (too expensive, I won't be going back lol), Le Citron (the staff there are really nice, and the music is good too), the cinema (UGC Part Dieu to see "Good Morning England" - very funny movie, even dubbed over in French), etc.

Back in La Motte, I've continued studying for my two exams and reading a chick lit book in Spanish (El Club de las chicas temerarias). Today I went to the food market in Chambéry for the first time. Cheaper veggies, good quality, hence no complaints!

Now all I need is un emploi !

Monday, May 11, 2009

A new month... new ups and downs

Some recent happenings:

Number one on the list (as in the number one surprise/shocker!) Well, I found out that BA cancelled my return ticket (since I didn't take a connecting flight in September). Actually I didn't take the flight on purpose because my visa was not yet valid to enter France, so I ended up overnighting in England and going to France the next day. Anyway, I've found out that there is absolutely nothing I can do about the situation (hmm, about 600€ down the drain?), and if I want to go home for the summer I'll have to buy a new ticket... great :S ... Apparently, had I informed the airline that I wouldn't be taking the flight, this drama would have been avoided. *makes note for future reference*

I bought a new computer/netbook :-) Sooo cute, so girly, and great price/quality and amazing battery life (up to 9 hours!) ! The new ASUS Eee Pc (1000HE model).

Almost all of my language assistant buddies have already returned home. Sniff sniff! Fortunately, before they left (last one leaves tomorrow!) we enjoyed a fondue dinner in Grenoble (at a themed restaurant), a relaxing afternoon at Lac du Bourget soaking in the sun, and a couple café outings in Chambéry.

I had a seriously weird experience one morning when cycling to uni. I fell asleep for a few seconds when waiting by a traffic light (Fortunately I was in the cycle lane, so no real danger). I then continued cycling, but because of a headache and some "not-feeling-all-here", "losing-consciousness" and "ahh-i-need-to-get-off-this-bike-as-soon-as-possible" sensations, I ended up attaching my bike to a bike post in Chambéry (of which at least 5 minutes were spent just holding on to another bike post to physically support myself and figure out what was going on, and trying not to pass out). I then covered my head with my hoodie and walked slowly to a bus stop, where I took a bus to uni. *moral of the story... a few hours sleep, followed by a very light breakfast, followed by intense cycling so as not to be late for class ... not good!)

Last week I had dinner with three of the English teachers from the collèges at a cool Moroccan restaurant in Aix-les-Bains. The evening with them and the food were great! I had saumon piment doux, which was served with couscous.

Uni is almost finished! I've got classes till Thursday midday, then a week off :-), then two exams during the last week of May.

I've been searching for a job. Really hope I get something soon!!

I received a lovely letter, as well as a lovely "present", from the CAF :-) At last!

The one sink in my apartment is finally unclogged!! After some weeks of frustration with a sink that drained incredibly slowly, a store-bought product did the trick a couple days ago! Guess I didn't need a plumber after all :-)

While I'm not much of a reader, I've been reading "a lot" lately. Books in English too, yay! lol

I received a nice Fedex package from my mom today! A pair of jeans that fit :-)

Thursday, April 30, 2009

End of teaching contract

October 2008 to April 2009!
I can't believe those 7 months are up already! Today I had my final hour of teaching.

My last few days at the two schools were spent answering my students' most obvious question, "Pourquoi vous partez? (Why are you leaving)?" *accompanied by sad faces* Uhh ... well my contract has finished. Sorry!

I received a lovely card signed by the students from one of my 5ème classes, which included pics of the collège, a class pic, and the following text: "I love this year to spend with you. Pity that you leave." (Awww, aren't they sweet!). "Merci Beaucoup. Thank You."

Other cute gestures included a signed sheet of paper from some of my 3ème students, and numerous designs on classroom whiteboards: "Goodbye forever. Don't leave my darling because I love you. Don't leave please! I love you so much." Lol, awww!!! Even yesterday when I was at the cashier in Monoprix, getting ready to pay for my groceries, I heard two girls shout "Helloooo!!!". They waved and flashed beaming smiles. Lol, then the cashier at Monoprix smiled and said something about anglais.

I'm really glad I did the assistantship. It proved to be a nice, interesting experience overall and fortunately I had lovely students :-)

Thursday, April 23, 2009

New récépissé!

Today I received my new récépissé!!!! Last month I had applied to change my status from travailleur temporaire to étudiant. I'm so happy that things worked out! ^^

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

1st Paris trip

I finally went to Paris for the first time! The SNCF had a lovely deal that I just couldn't resist. Thanks to my SNCF 12-25 card I was able to go to Paris from Friday morning and return to Chambéry on Monday (midday), all for the low price of 57€!!! My weekend was quite busy, and went like this:

Friday
  • Bus at 5:35 a.m. from La Motte-Servolex to Chambéry
  • Arrival at Gare Chambéry Challes-les-Eaux 15 minutes later
  • Patiently waited for my TGV Chambéry-Paris Gare de Lyon: departure 6:22am
  • Paris!!! A friend from Trinidad came to meet me at the train station.
  • After two RER trains and a tram, we arrived at his place in the 14th arrondissement.
  • Breakfast: eggs, grated emmental cheese and a yummy spicy sauce!
  • My friend had to work, so I was soon on my own, left to explore Paris.
  • I met up with another friend from Trinidad for lunch close to Boulevard Saint-Michel. Among the many touts trying to get us into their restaurants, she and I decided on a Greek restaurant. I had a tasty salad, salmon/potatoes/rice (didn't too fancy the seasoning), and a Greek dessert. We also got a free glass of sangria each.
  • She was leaving for Belgium that same day! I accompanied her to the bus station after we had lunch.
  • I then made my way back to Saint-Michel.
  • Visited the Cathédrale Notre Dame de Paris.

  • Walked around a little bit until I reached the Hotêl de Ville.
  • Walked back to Boulevard Saint-Michel, looked around a bookshop there, then looked at clothes in Etam to pass the time.
  • A little while after my friend (who met me at the train station that morning, who I stayed by) met back up with me since he had finished working.
  • We went to the Louvre: saw Mona Lisa (I thought it would have been bigger though), giant paintings, etc.
  • Back to the apartment. It was too late to go out for dinner, but we didn't starve! : store-bought gazpacho with homemade Trini macaroni pie.
  • Bonne nuit!
Saturday
  • I woke up around 10:30 a.m.
  • I took a bus at around 11:45 a.m. then dropped out to visit the Luxumbourg gardens. The weather wasn't at its best though --> light rain.


  • I then kept walking until I reached Châtelet.
  • More walking... including past a store with disgusting dead creatures (e.g. a giantttttt spider, rats,...)
  • Visited Centre Georges Pompidou. Ok, well I went into the bookshop there, then looked at the lovely exhibits (e.g. cool furniture, a pyramid shaped metal thingy with holes for storing oranges!, etc.) which didn't require an entrance fee.
  • Hunger! lol --> 4€99 for a vegetarian pizza at an Italian place outside Les Halles.
  • Quick tour of the Eglise Saint-Eustache.
  • I then spent hoursssss (a little less than 4 hours!!) in Les Halles. I did some shopping (3 tops at H&M), but mainly spent forever (not fun!) looking for a pair of comfortable ballerina shoes, which I didn't find!
  • Gave up the search for the shoes, left Les Halles and headed to Pigalle.
  • Lots of sex shops in the red-light district of Pigalle. Saw the Moulin Rouge.
  • I then walked up to Montmartre. Lots of stairs = exercise.
  • Visited the Basilique du Sacré-Cœur. It was after 6pm and mass was taking place, while all of us tourists walked around visiting the basilica at the same time. :S
  • Walked around Montmartre.
  • I was going to take a photo of a mime, but he smiled and pointed toward a basket on the ground. Pay to take a photo? Hmm, nah.
  • Strawberry yogurt on a cone! Yummy!
  • Back down the hill, where I finally got a pair of ballerina shoes. They aren't particularly comfortable though, so I think I'll have to stop buying shoes in France! Can't find my size here, which falls somewhere between 39 and 40.
  • Métro to Opéra.
  • Then I searched for the Grands Boulevards stop where my friend said to meet him and his friend from Spain who had arrived in Paris earlier that day. With the one way streets it was a bit confusing to find the stop, but we eventually met up.
  • The three of us had dinner at the Restaurant Chartier. We had to wait about half an hour in a line before we got in.
  • The food... not particularly fantastic, but I must say that the building was nice. I paid 2€20 for a supposedly fantastic egg and mayonnaise entrée. Lol, it was exactly that! A single boiled egg, cut in half, topped with regular good-tasting mayonnaise... however I did get it with a bit of lettuce (a bonus I guess lol). Fish (like the whole fish! uhh, with eyes and bones...) with potatoes. The wine was fine.
  • We then went walking a bit, and looked at the Louvre at night, with the pyramid lit up.
  • It was raining and the Spanish guy was ill, so we decided to call it a night and head back to the apartment.
Sunday
  • I slept well and woke up late once again.
  • I went with my Trinidadian friend to the market, which was right around the corner. It was cool.
  • Once we went back to the apartment I took a nap.
  • That afternoon, the three of us left the apartment to visit Paris a bit.
  • First we passed by Les Invalides.
  • Then we walked along the fancy bridge (lots of gold), Pont Alexandre III which crosses the river Seine.
  • Walked past the Grand Palais and the Petit Palais.

  • Then we walked along the Avenue des Champs-Elysées.
  • I was a bit hungry so bought a chocolate (Nutella) crêpe. Delicious!
  • Further along the Champs-Elysées, we stopped at Pomme de Pain for hot chocolate and a free? granola bar (in my case), and coffee. We sat outside in the terrace. It was cool, especially since the sun came out, hooray!!! Unfortunately, we had to try to avoid pigeon droppings. It was funny though! Those pigeons, those pigeons, lol.
  • The Trini guy then left to go back to the apartment to cook dinner for a get-together later that evening.
  • The Spanish guy and I continued along the Champs-Elysées. We had planned to spend 5 minutes in FNAC, lol, but that turned out to a bit longer. Then we visited the Virgin Megastore since I was looking for Spanish DVDs.
  • We then continued along the Avenue and looked at the Arc de Triomphe.
  • Métro to the Eiffel Tower.
  • We walked to the Eiffel Tower, where the Spanish guy (a professional photographer) took photos of me, yay! It would have been a lovely day to go up the tower, but since we had planned to meet up with some other people at the apartment for dinner we decided to leave. I could have stayed, but I think that it wouldn't have been fun walking up the Eiffel Tower alone.
  • When we arrived at the apartment, three of the guests were already there. More arrived a bit later.
  • It was a nice, enjoyable evening, spent eating Trini food (roti, channa, mango, pumpkin, and well meat for the non-vegetarians) and French dessert, talking about Trinidad, France, Martinique, Guadeloupe, Morocco, Spain, dancing styles in the different countries (along with youtube videos lol), etc. There were 8 of us there that evening.
  • A little before midnight, the 5 dinner guests left.
Monday
  • The three of us then embarked on cleaning the apartment. I did a little bit of sweeping, nothing stressful lol.
  • Talking, Spanish TV online and a bit of reading later (A year in the merde, borrowed from my Trini host), and I called it a night (or morning lol, since I went to sleep around 2 a.m.).
  • I got up around 6 a.m., said goodbye and left the apartment a little before 7 a.m. to head to Gare de Lyon.
  • A tram and two trains later, I was at Gare de Lyon, and I was quite early too (I arrived at around 7:45 for my 8:22 a.m. train).
  • My train Paris Gare de Lyon - Lyon Part-Dieu, arrived in Lyon two hours later, then I took the Lyon-Chambéry train at 10:38 a.m.
  • When I arrived in Chambéry a little after midday, I took a bus to La Motte-Servolex, returned to my apartment, dropped off my stuff, took a shower, then hurried to one of my collèges to teach for two hours! Yes, I was tired, but I survived the afternoon! After that I hurried to my university in vain since the class was cancelled.
  • I felt a bit "spaced out"/disoriented later that evening. I guess it was because of all the rushing.
Paris was great, however, I doubt I would like to live there. Too many people lol! Really high rent! I was actually happy to come back to my little town lol. Among the French cities I have visited so far, my favourite is Lyon! :-) Anyway, Paris is a lovely place and I do indeed hope to visit there again!