Archive for February, 2008

credit… where credit is due

Tuesday, February 26th, 2008

When my French teacher arrived at the house this afternoon for my lesson, she didn’t even get to take off her coat before I announced that she needed to call the ski school to find out if I can get my money back since Kaitlyn is sick and cannot go to her lessons all week.

I handed her Kaitlyn’s enrollment card, my receipt (she gasped at the price of lessons – 115 Euros — but immediately understood why I was worried about the money), and the note from the doctor excusing Kaitlyn.

She called and I perfectly understood her side of the conversation. No, her friend hadn’t called yet… no, she waited because she’s American and can’t speak French and is intimidated by the phone… yes, she has a medical certificate… no refund? she lives nearby, can’t she just get a credit? Yes. Good.

I’m thinking of trying to go skiing Saturday. It’s change-over day, the end of February school holidays, the only day working parents can go grocery shopping…. I hope not too busy. Hopefully that credit will work. And Kaitlyn can ski. At least a little bit.

chez medcine

Monday, February 25th, 2008

Well, there’s not going to be any skiing or ski school this week. We left the doctor’s office this afternoon with a note to that effect. I sure hope we can get a refund.

Despite that, I left the appointment fairly proud of myself. We’d done the entire examination in French. Ok, she had to ask me one question in English. (They always secretly speak English. Watch what you say. Always.) But otherwise, the whole thing was in French. Although the noise she made when she looked in the ear with the infection was a lot like the gasping sound Kaitlyn’s pediatrician once let out.

And here’s the part that really amazed me. Kaitlyn understood everything that doctor said to her. From “Do you go to school?” to “Take off your shoes and climb up there” to “Stand on the scale”… every word. The doctor said it was perfectly normal for me to not realize how much French Kaitlyn knows. Maybe she can use her secret knowledge to get our money back from the ski school.

stupid internet

Monday, February 25th, 2008

I hate the internet service here. It’s a world wide wish. It works ok… as long as no one calls the house.

About ten minutes ago the phone rang. I didn’t answer because I couldn’t find the phone. We only have one handset because we really hardly ever use the phone…. we probably would have just gone with cell phones if we didn’t need the phone line for the internet. The call was from a friend looking for my doctor’s info because her daughter is sick. I went to call her back to let her know the doctor isn’t in today, but need to look up her number first. We don’t have caller ID and I’m not worried about getting it since, pretty much, we don’t use the phone anyway. I need to look up the number on the ISE list online. But I can’t get online. The internet stopped working when the answering machine picked up. And it is yet to reconnect.

I’m going to have to tell people to only call my cell phone. This is ridiculous.

je voudrais un rdv pour ma fille… elle est malade!

Monday, February 25th, 2008

Kaitlyn has been sick all weekend with a cough and a fever. Normally if she’s sick, she’s better within a day. So this is very unusual. She just lies around and barely eats. She can’t sleep at night because she can’t get comfortable. And now she’s complaining that her ear hurts.

We skipped ski school this morning (again… and, obviously) and when I told her I was going to call the doctor, she perked up. Kaitlyn is a great believer in the power of medicine.

With all the confidence in the world, I picked up the phone and called our doctor. She speaks English, but is always encouraging me to work on my French. So I’d practiced what to say in French. I launched into my speech when the woman cut me off… it wasn’t the doctor. It was the secretary. The doctor is not in today. Drat. If I’m going to have to go to a strange doctor and speak a strange language, I might as well go to the doctor in town. (My doctor is about 15 or 20 minutes away.)

I finally found her name and number in the little town booklet we’d gotten in the mail a few weeks ago. (I wasn’t even sure why I’d kept it, but it’s a good thing I had.) I called her and started by explaining that I don’t speak French very well. The doctor answers his or her own phone. There’s no nurse or receptionist… only an answering service if the doctor is off. An answering machine if the doctor is busy. Anyway, she said my French was fine, which was kind, so I kept going. I gave her my rehearsed bit about Kaitlyn having a fever, a cough and now her ear hurts. We have an appointment this afternoon. I hope I got the time right. And I hope I can find the office. She was super nice on the phone. It should be ok in person, when I can point and act things out.

lesson: giving directions

Saturday, February 23rd, 2008

While I was vacuuming this evening (yes, I vacuum) Bill rushed downstairs yelling that the doorbell rang. It was way too late in the day for the poste lady to be delivering a box, and hours too early for our dinner guest. Honestly, I may not have answered the door if it were up to me. But Bill answered it.

I hung out in the living room, eavesdropping. When I couldn’t stand letting him stand there struggling to speak French, I walked over. As if I could help. That’s what cracks me up about myself… I’m such a know-it-all that I think I know-it-all in a language I don’t even speak. (The other night at dinner… I caught myself correcting another American on her French. Correcting it! That took nerve. But she said the meal was “tres bien”… basic lesson is that when you are speaking of food, you say “tres bon.”)

So back to the door: There were to teenage boys standing there asking for directions. I think they wanted to know how to get from where they were standing in our driveway to town. As if I could answer, I tried to explain to them there’s a bike path at the top of the street. Then they acted like that wasn’t what they were after. Even though they were standing there with their bikes. And that bike path is the only one I know of.

Bill started pointing up and down the street and telling me in English that there are two ways down… down the path or down the street. Which seemed amazingly obvious in any language.

We finally gave up. By we, I mean all of us… Bill and I and the bike kids.

After they left, I thought of all sorts of things I could have said to make myself sound more intelligent while still not supplying directions.

Next time, I’ll just keep vacuuming.

short-sighted cruise line!

Saturday, February 23rd, 2008

I think I’m being discriminated against by Royal Carribean Cruises.

Today Bill and I started looking at the shore excursions we can chose from during our April Mediterranean cruise. One in Croatia looks really fun… a bike ride through the countryside going past vineyards. Oh, there’s a catch. You have to be 63 inches tall to participate. I am 60 inches tall.

I know I’m short. I get that. I can’t reach stuff on the top shelf at the grocery store. And now that they’ve moved the milk, I have to practically climb the portable refrigerator unit it’s in just to reach what I want, even though it is right next to the information desk. (the ladies there are prize-winning ignorers)

I don’t expect prize-winning service at Carrefour. But on a cruise…. well, I think that they could accommodate a not tall adult. I guess it doesn’t even matter… you also have to be 18 years old to go. Which makes me wonder… why do they have a child’s price for it?

It’s like spring already

Saturday, February 23rd, 2008

I don’t want to say we picked the wrong year to buy season passes for Chamrousse. I’ve gotten a lot of enjoyment out of mine. (Bill has managed to use his twice. So far, that’s not a lot of bang for the buck… or Euro as the case may be.)

But now I can read just enough French to be able to conjugate enough verb tenses to be able to read the long-term forecast on the web for Chamrousse. Without using Google Translate. And, well, I’d have been better off not being able to understand it. Basically, it says we’ll enjoy warm, mild weather through the weekend. And there’s a chance that the snow will return Wednesday. But that’s days from now. Let’s be honest. Meteorologists are just guessing when they forecast past this evening.

Kaitlyn is signed up for ski school all week. They should be able to make snow… although only if it cools off. It’s 12 degrees Celsius up there right now. That’s about 54 degrees Fahrenheit. (yes, yes, that I did calculate with Google. Give me a break, I’m learning French do I have to learn to convert temperatures too?) Too warm for February in the Alps (Wow. I just got smacked again with the realization that I live in the Alps It’s just hard to complain about the weather when you look at it that way. Not that I’m complaining. I don’t like snow… except on the pistes where I ski.)

Well, I’ll ski all week. If Kaitlyn gets over this cold she’s gotten. She was up at 4am… burning up and wide awake. Who knew, fevers apparently make you alert? She’s napping now. If she’s too sick to go skiing…. it’s just another gamble we took with the mountain this year and lost. At least all our losing gambles only involved money and no broken bones.

hot stuff

Wednesday, February 20th, 2008

I just had one of the best cups of tea ever. I made it with water heated in my tea kettle on my new stove. Woo!

The installation guys from France’s scaled-down version of Best Buy arrived promptly at the end of lunch. They called this morning to narrow their window of opportunity from between noon and 7 to between 12:30 and 3:30. But it was silly, because I’m sure they weren’t working between noon and 1:30. That is lunch time.

Anyway, they arrived, and fairly quickly had the old stove out and the new stove in. I fumbled through asking them to put the old stove in the basement (the homeowner wants to try to fix it when he gets back). And when he asked me to cut the power to the stove, I flipped the breaker in the garage with a little picture of a stove above it, then hoped it actually did control the stove. Really, there’s no telling. He didn’t get shocked, so it must have been the right one.

(Bill is home sick from work and managed to conveniently finally doze off right before they got here.. so I got to handle it all alone. Which is what I’d expected anyway… but he missed all the fun.)

They left and I heated up water… a first in weeks. I can finally return the hot plate to my friend who kindly lent it to me! Ironically, I have dinner plans tonight and am going to make a lasagna for Bill and Kaitlyn to eat. Don’t even need the stove. I’ve gotten quite used to not using it.

tuned in, not tuned out

Tuesday, February 19th, 2008

I am working really hard at listening to the radio and actually understanding what they are saying. And not just when they are saying the names of songs by American bands. That, I get. No, I want to be able to really REALLY understand.

I understand when they give the date and time. (Sounds easy, but they don’t say “today is Tuesday the 19th of February.” oh, no, that would be too easy. They say, literally, “we are the 19 February.”) I understand when there is a traffic jam on the interstate, even if I’m not exactly sure where it is.

I know that one station gives recipes each morning. Today it was for some sort of fish… with sauce.. I didn’t get much past putting the fillet in a hot pan.

I know another station with the requisite moronic morning dj team (my apologies, Todd) plays stupid quiz games with callers. They sing the questions to a tune that I don’t know but I also hear on a commercial for I’m not sure what… that makes it hard to understand. When they do actually just speak, I can normally figure out what the question is.

I’m also trying to listen to the news. Today I heard a story about paintings and a parked car in Zürich! I’m not saying I got everything about the story (which I later looked up online in English) but I got part of it.. they recovered two of the stolen paintings!

Now if only I could understand people who call me on the phone.

too slow

Tuesday, February 19th, 2008

Everyone is driving much slower than usual around here. It isn’t just my imagination. It’s the pollution.

When there are high pollution days, or high risk that there will be pollution days, or something of that sort, the speed limit on the interstate drops… by 20 kilometers an hour. Drivers who normally will go screaming past you if you dare to go the posted 90 km/hr crawl along at the new limit of 70. That’s about 45 miles an hour… on the interstate. It’s unnatural to drive that slow on a road like that. What’s just as bizarre is that the police or the air police or someone goes around and actually changes all the speed limit signs. I cannot wait for the sign fairy to go around and change them all back. 70 is just too slow.