Archive for February, 2008

stove: declared dead

Wednesday, February 13th, 2008

I sent an e-mail to the owner of our house this afternoon, letting him know that it’s been nearly a week since the repairman came and did nothing at the house and I’ve heard nothing. He copied me on an e-mail he then sent to his management company, asking what’s going on. (Or something to that effect. It was in French.)

Turns out, they’d apparently not gotten around to letting him know that the estimate to repair his stove is higher than the cost of replacing the thing.

He called us tonight. He’s decided that if he waits for the property management company to do something, his baby will be in college when it’s handled. So his wife is searching the website for the big appliance store in France, looking for a new stove. Hopefully it will be installed before.. oh, I don’t know… summer.

dialing up a foreign language

Wednesday, February 13th, 2008

I always get nervous when I know I need to make a phone call to a business here. Even if I know that the person on the other end speaks English. Because it seems rude to dial them up and instantly speak English. So I fret and wring my hands for a while before finally dialing, then I try to stumble through the conversation in French until the person on the other end tells me (or begs me) to go ahead and speak English.

I’ve been silently pacing back and forth (mentally) all day because I knew I faced just such a call today. We chose an absolutely lovely looking bed and breakfast for our Easter weekend in Provence. The woman who owns it sent me an email explaining some crazy secret code she uses for emailing my credit card number for the deposit. But I couldn’t make sense of it (a frequent problem when someone attempts to explain something in a language that isn’t their first… I know because I’m usually on the delivering end). So I knew I needed to call her in order to make sure the room didn’t go to someone else. And family-sized rooms in Provence seem hard to come by.

Finally, I had to admit to myself that I do know how to dial another place in France… Kaitlyn and her friend who is over playing are plenty busy… I’m out of excuses. So I called. The woman was very nice. She put up with my French until we got to the actual reading off of my credit card number. (Well, I actually did say “credit card” in English because I drew a blank on what to say in French.) She told me to read her the number in English. It was probably the one part of the whole conversation I stood the best chance of being able to do in French.

That’s ok. She was so very nice about it. I think she’s going to be an excellent hostess. I’m really looking forward to our trip. We’ve only lived less than 2 hours from Provence for nearly a year and a half now. It’s about time we went to see what all the fuss is about.

Parlez vous francais? Pas vraiment.

Tuesday, February 12th, 2008

I couldn’t wait to talk to Bill after my French lesson today. I was so excited to tell him that I’ve been given the intermediate books… and bumped up two levels. Yes, I know that the levels are completely made up by the people who teach our classes. Doesn’t matter. It still made me feel like I’d accomplished something. Like I may actually one day be able to speak French. Oh, and it reminded me how I am completely kicking Bill’s ass at learning the language. (His two months in the UK helped me leap ahead.) Bill was entirely not impressed. He says that during his French lesson this afternoon, he didn’t even mention to the teacher that he’s depressed to be lagging so far behind me.

So all pumped up with my French ability, I hit a couple of stores. First, the fruit and veggie store where just last week the woman who works there actually struck up a conversation with me. And I managed to answer. Made me feel like I’m really starting to fit in. She wasn’t there today. The woman there was busy striking up conversations with every other customer in the store. Oh, well.

Then I went to IKEA. (It’s replaced Target as my all-too-regular shopping stop. And it’s no where near as practical as Target.) As I was wondering how on earth I (or anyone) was supposed to reach the boxes on the top shelf, a woman walked up and asked me a question. All I could do was stare. And after a few seconds when I realized that was bizarre, I told her I don’t speak French. That sure deflated my ego.

Ok, so maybe I won’t master the language. But it would be nice to be able to actually answer a question once in a while.

Unappetizing dilemma

Friday, February 8th, 2008

This afternoon the invitation came out for the annual winter ISE dinner. And it puts me in something of a pickle.

I am supposed to plan next year’s dinner. I have been included basically zero in the planning of this year’s dinner. So it’s not like I will be taking over with any insight. But I still feel like I am supposed to go to this year’s dinner. Expected to do so. To at least provide me some clue for next year.

Obviously, no one asked my opinion about the food. Looking at the menu… there is nothing I want to eat at this year’s dinner. So, I don’t want to go. I have zero interest in spending nearly 90 Euros on gizzards and quail or goat cheese with fruit de mer over fish. (fish alone is ok, but fish with squid and crap on it, well, no thank you) Those are our menu choices. At least, the best I can figure, those are our choices. Some of the words don’t even translate. Even dessert doesn’t offer something Bill would want.

I honestly don’t know what I’m going to do. Maybe I’ll go alone, so at least we don’t have to pay for two nasty meals.

Useless waste of counter space

Thursday, February 7th, 2008

The stove repair men came this afternoon. They left without even opening their tool box.

They came in, barely muttered “bonjour,” asked me what’s wrong with the stove (because when he turned it on, it came on, which it does… just not for long enough to cook), then nodded his head and declared they were done. I don’t know if the part they had with them was the wrong thing or if it’s simply an un-fixable problem. When he told me what was going on, I told him I couldn’t understand. To which he responded “c’est n’est pas grave.” It’s not a big deal. NO, buddy, to me it IS a big deal. The stove has been un-usable for months.

Whatever. The bottom line is: I don’t know what he was trying to tell me. Other than I think they will call me for another appointment. And he left. And my stove still doesn’t work.

At this point, I have a crock pot and a hot plate. I’d rather just cover the stove with counter top and make it worthwhile space. It would be more useful anyway.

sledding hill of death

Sunday, February 3rd, 2008

We got a little snow yesterday, the sun came out today, so we headed up the mountain to Chamrousse. So did the rest of France. Or at least the rest of this section of France went.

We drove all over trying to figure out where to park so that we’d be right by the butt lift and the bunny hill for Kaitlyn. We couldn’t believe our eyes looking at the lines for the lifts…. I’ve never seen them so long! And given that French people don’t queue up, I cannot imagine how long you’d have to shuffle along on your skis trying to push your way to the front. After a couple of loops through the packed parking lot, we gave up and headed for the piste du luge. The sledding hill. That’s what Kaitlyn really wanted to do, anyway. And after seeing those mobs trying to get onto the lifts, I don’t think Bill or I really wanted to deal with the ski pistes.

We’d never been to this sledding hill before. Yes, we know you aren’t supposed to sled on the ski pistes, but most people here seem to just do whatever they feel like. And when we have sledded there, if skiing is going on, we’ve stayed away from any area where someone might actually ski. (Unlike the three people I had to avoid on the pistes Friday.)

So, we get to the top of this sledding hill and cannot believe our eyes. The fairly steep hill (carefully groomed, by the way) ends right at a half-frozen pond! All that separates out of control sledders from the icy water is two plastic orange fences. The kind you see at construction sites in the US carefully marking which tree isn’t to be bulldozed.

Kaitlyn wanted to sled by herself. Bill would only let her do that from about halfway up the hill. Which was a lot higher up the hill than I’d have let her go. A couple of times she agreed to ride with her Daddy, and they went from the very top of the hill and they went, I thought, really fast. Although he did say it was certainly nice to have a sled he could steer.. as opposed to those horrible sleds in Switzerland he so desperately wanted to buy at the time.

While we sledded, no one ended up in the water. I did see the flimsy fence actually stop one guy. No, that guy wasn’t Bill.