My other favorite CoCo

Last week, Conan did a great joke about the French during his monologue.  Thanks to older bro Alex for this video.  If you click the link below and go to about 4:19 you’ll see it.

http://video.teamcoco.com/video/conan.jsp?cid=233011

I don’t care if you side with Leno or if you’re on team CoCo, everyone loves a good joke about the French and their stereotypical laissez-faire attitude.  The whole mustache, bicycle and baguette part is just the cherry on top.

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French bureaucracy at its worst.

This morning (okay, this afternoon since I woke up at 1), I received a letter from the French health insurance office.  I FINALLY got my insurance card.  It has taken 7 months.  I mean really France? REALLY??!! Good thing I have been covered thanks to mon pere in the United States.  Otherwise, I could’ve been one sad, sick americaine.  Maybe if they didn’t spend so much time creating this high tech card (it has a memory chip and my face glued to the front) it would take less than 7 months to be processed.

I think I am feeling a bit under the weather and may need to make a trip to see my local medecin. I mean when in Rome…where the taxes are high and the prices for healthcare are low that is.

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American Invasion

Today at school was a big day.  The American exchange students arrived.  And man, was it a big deal.  I am excited to meet them for obvious reasons, but the whole school was in a tizzy.  I got to the staff room and people were practicing their American accents.  And when they actually arrived at the school in their bus it was, as Will so amazingly put it, like an invasion.  The combination of all of their wheelie suitcases traversing the cobblestone sounded like an airplane landing in the courtyard.  The best was when I was teaching a class, they heard the suitcases hit the pavement and one of the guys screamed “THEY’RE HERE!” All of a sudden, chaos broke out.  The entire class was running to the window, diving under tables, throwing open the curtains, just in time to judge every American walking by. I didn’t get everything but I did catch “They are so tall!” “He’s got a big head!” Welcome to France.

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Fashion forward?

I think that one of the stereotypes of French people is that they tend to be very a la mode, very fashion forward.  I guess I have this impression from living in Paris and being among all of the fancy French designers and wishing that I could afford or even pull off half of the clothes I saw donned by the average Parisian.

There are 2 things I have noticed recently about clothes in France that I wanted to note.

1. French people dress for the season, not the weather, and it drives.me.crazy.  I don’t know why this one simple quirk bothers me so much but it really does.  I mean take yesterday for example. It was in the mid 60s and people are running around in knee length down coats, toboggans and scarves wrapped so tight I wonder how it is possible they are even breathing.  It is almost APRIL people.  Let’s be happy that we are no longer freezing and show our appreciation by showing a little skin.  A little vitamin D never hurt anyone.

2.  It was brought to my attention last night while watching a French soccer match that they have changed their uniforms.  Now, I am not a big soccer fan (although I have become more of one since I have been living here) but this deserves note because it is hilarious.  The new jersey worn by French players is black and white striped.  Can we say stereotype at its finest? Who can tell me that when they think stereotypical French person they don’t think striped shirt, cigarette, beret and a baguette in hand? Something tells me the new design was created by a foreigner.

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These are a few of my favorite things

As my time in France is quickly coming to a close, there are a few things here I know I will miss once I return stateside:

1. The fact that eating excessive amounts of cheese and bread and drinking excessive amounts of coffee and wine is not only acceptable, but frankly it’s encouraged.  And going along with that idea, I will also miss walking by the bread truck bringing fresh bread to the bakery by school.  That smell is heaven and I wouldn’t be surprised if I jumped in the back to take it all in before I left.  Just once.

2.  The fact that on any given day, when it’s nice out and Megan and I decide to go for a stroll or I decide to get ambitious and go for a run, that it’s possible to end up in the middle of a random village that I have never seen before.  I mean really, who can normally say “today I woke up, ate breakfast, stumbled across a village…” That right there is special.

3.  My character flaw that I like to refer to as my “listening problem” is not as much of a problem here.  Now don’t get me wrong, I still have a tendency to zone out mid-conversation. In fact, maybe even more often here than at home.  However, my spaciness is looked upon merely as incomprehension (silly American does not understand) instead of disinterest (this rude American is paying me no attention).

4.  I get paid to talk to people.  Sometimes it’s light chit chat about weekend plans or plans for our 100  school vacations.  Other times things get silly – jokes or stories from a crazy soiree.  And other times serious – politics or life problems.  But really, anything and everything.  And we all know how much I like to talk.  So as I’m sure you can assume, I am very pleased with that aspect of this job.

5.  Here in France my existence is intriguing without any effort on my part. I don’t have to crank up the charm or be super outgoing/friendly/awesome.  People find me interesting simply because I am American and I live in Mulhouse and (shocker) that apparently does not occur very often.  I can’t tell you how many times this scenario has played out:

“Wait, you’re AMERICAN? So, why are you in Mulhouse???” and include with the quote a look of utter confusion and incomprehension.

I can’t lie and say that I am not happy (really happy) to be going home in a few short weeks.  But at the same time, I know there are certain things about Mulhouser life that I will not be able to find outside this quirky little town.

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He’s out there.

My friend Sam just shared this amazing link with me and it is definitely blog worthy.  As a dedicated fan of the show Monster Quest and a believer in all things big foot (go ahead and judge), this is ground breaking information.  And in NC!

http://blog.zap2it.com/pop2it/2011/03/bigfoot-captured-on-film-in-north-carolina.html

These are the important things I am missing while I am away.  Looks like someone’s going to be taking a trip to Bostic when they return to the U.S.

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Socialism at its finest.

Thursday morning I woke up early before class because I was on a mission.  As some of you may know, in France if you do not earn enough money each month (aka me) you can apply for government assistance to help pay your rent.  There is a lovely group called the CAF (don’t worry about the acronym.  It’s in French but it basically means the people who give you the money every month because you are poor).  Anyways, these people at the CAF department request all kinds of information from you in order to process your file and give you this money i.e. pay stubs from work, rental agreement, your birth certificate, your dog’s birth certificate, a blood sample.  Okay so maybe not those last few things, but you get the idea.

I started my file at the CAF in January but we were told when we arrived in France not to necessarily expect the money to ever come through.  At first, I found this really annoying.  Why offer this option if you never intend to actually give out the money?  Well, I quickly learned how the French system works and let’s say there are a lot of people wanting the CAF and we all know how efficient things are here.  So long story short, I had basically given up hope.  UNTIL Thursday.

I decided to try and give the CAF one last go before I left in April.  I would go down there and just try to explain my situation and try to get some sort of response from the people even if said response was more along the lines of “what is wrong with you silly American girl? go home to ze United States and geet ze welfare zere!”  Because, as in most government run offices, the people are not super super friendly.  I pumped myself up for this experience.  I had a speech prepared.  I even had my roommate Oria help me translate certain words because I wanted to sound firm but nice enough.  So off I went.

I arrived in the office and it was empty.  Literally no one was there.  And let me tell you how rare this is.  Usually I am waiting for a solid 30 minutes.  I took that as a good sign.  I got called up to the desk of this sweet old man and immediately jumped into the speech I had prepared about how I started my file, hadn’t really heard anything, that I am leaving in April, that I’m poor yada yada yada.  He just stares at me, points to his computer screen (where he has entered my information)  and says “but Mademoiselle, we have paid you already.”

SAY WHAAAAAAAAT??! I looked at the screen and low and behold there it was! I was literally speechless.  Of course, he just looked at me like (here it comes again) silly, clueless American girl.  So I thanked him profusely and literally floated out of the office like I had just won the lottery (which, let’s face it, I kind of had).

So I just wanted to say touché, French government, touché.  Watch out world, this die hard capitalist may be coming home a socialist.  Okay well maybe not but I can enjoy it while it lasts.

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