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Terracotta Travelers

10 Jun

Everywhere Once

Terracotta Army 1

For as long as I’ve known of their existence I have longed to see them. Forever after I assumed that meant going to China and, given our travel plans, China always seemed forever away. It never really occurred to me that they might actually come here. You see, they don’t get around much and I can’t really blame them, being clay and all.

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More from wonderful park for flower lovers!

28 May

These pictures are wonderful and making me miss Spring. Now, where has that pesky Spring gone?

Leaving Home: Ten films about migration

20 May

Good stuff. A little twist on my own interests. Enjoy!


The immigrantI was recently asked to put together a post on films that deal with the experience of migration by a friend who is about to take the big plunge. Of course, this is a huge topic. People migrate for all sorts of reasons, and so the experience is hardly a unified one. The act of leaving behind what one knows for an entirely new frontier can be an act of hope that brings about fresh beginnings, a means of escaping from tyranny or oppression, or of course there is the ultimate final migration and whatever that might entail (depending on what you believe).

So without further ado, here are ten films that encapsulate some of the many incarnations that the migration experience can take.

1. The Immigrant (1917)

Where better to start than with Charlie Chaplin’s classic short on the difficult and yet hopeful experience of migrating to the United…

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My First (and Hopefully Last) Trip to the Doctor

17 Sep

Saturday night we came home after a fun night out with friends.  Half way through dinner I thought, “Humm, my throat is scratchy.”  During dessert on a boat on the Seine I thought, “Humm, I’m getting the chills.”  By the time we arrived home, I knew I was already sick.  The key sign is when that muscle at the back of your neck hurts.  Sore muscles, dripping nose, sneezing, and an overall bleh feeling drove me away from my homework yesterday and straight into bed… all day.  AJ was a sweetheart and made homemade chicken noodle soup chocked full of garlic and ginger.

Thankfully I had made a doctor’s appointment with a GP last week in order to get my birth control prescription refilled.  This is how that conversation went: [Middle-aged man answers] “Hello?”  [Me] “Hi, I’m an AUp student and I’d like to make an appointment to refill a prescription.”  “OK is Monday at 11:30 OK for you?”  “Yes.” “Your name…”  So I thought I was making an appointment with a female Dr. Elena Pria and this was perhaps her receptionist, odd enough as it could be that an older man would be a receptionist in a doctor’s office.

This morning, I arrived perhaps 15 minutes early.  The courtyard was beautiful and a middle aged man came out after I rang the “CABINET MEDECIN.”  I explained I was there to see Dr. Pria.  Shortly after 11:30 an older man comes up with his rolling backpack, takes a message from this middle aged man, and opens the door.  I’m thinking, “This has surely got to be the man who answered the phone.  Is Dr. Pria hiding in there somewhere?  Maybe she lives upstairs…”

Well, Mr. Doctor Pria holds open the door for me, puts on classical music in his very small waiting room (6 chairs), goes into his office, checks his voice mail, and calls me in.  [Please read: no wait.]  His office is composed of: his desk and chair, a chair in front of it, and on the left, a patient’s table with paper wrap over it, a table with tongue depressors, the ear/nose/throat thing-a-ma-bobber, a stethoscope, and that’s it.  It was even messy to some extent.  No posters advertising Cyallis or pictures of the body’s internal systems.  This was Dr. Pria.

He took my demographics and asked questions about my not feeling well and about my birth control prescription.  He examined my ears, nose, and throat, listened to my heart, and asked a ton of questions.  He gave me a prescription for a few different things, but basically for a fever reducer, nasal spray, and an antibiotic.

I then walked over to the pharmacy and gave all my papers to the pharmacist.  He got everything together immediately, explained to me how to use it, and even gave me some pointers on how to get well a little faster, like to drink tons of water.  I paid 40€ for the visit and 27€ for my prescriptions.  All is refundable 100% with my student insurance.  Normally, each French citizen gets a Carte Vitale and it covers all of your healthcare and Rx up front in full.

This was a really positive experience, other than being sick, of course.  But both doctor and pharmacist were very nice, owned and handled their own business (even down to answering the phones), and both were helpful!  In a country plagued by a bureaucratic system, it seemed like this slice of life was thriving.  So never fear, there is a friendly medical system near!

The Informal vs. The Formal

15 Sep

We all know that there are differences between countries and cultures, especially when a different language is present.  So, if I were to over simplify the things that I have seen here in France based on things I’m accustomed to in the USA, I would break it down like this: France = formal; USA = informal.  And, no, I’m not talking about anything in the big scheme, but just the “everyday person.”

“Tell me, tell me, Karin!” you shout!  (See, I can hear you from my computer over here.)  Here are a few things that I’ve noticed:

The Dress:  In France you will never, and I repeat NEVER, see a French person go to Wal-mart in their PJ’s, wrapped up in a college emblem print blanket, like I saw numerous times in Texas.  (First, there is no Wal-Mart.)  As a functioning human being, you are expected to wear real shoes, pants, a top, and make some effort putting yourself together.  I guess that’s why it’s the fashion capital, huh?  And yes, people will give you snarky looks if your outfit is not what they would have put on this morning.  Get on with it.

The Food:  I have never had a bad meal here.  Whether it be a sandwich or an excellent Paella restaurant, the food is always excellent.  However, they will NOT go out of their norms for you.  They are the gate keepers of this food tradition.  If you buy a sandwich, it comes pre-made the way the boulanger wants you to eat it.  No ordering like Sally Albright.

You CANNOT get a hotdog without a bun—this is completely unacceptable and they will not sell it to you, because “Zat iz not don, meh-sur.”  [The French accented waiter is all from my imagination.  We have not had anyone tell us that word-for-word.]

The System:  Yesterday I went to the two schools I will be teaching at.  I will be teaching 9-10 year olds and 7 year olds.  After a brief meeting with the principal, she took me to the meet my students.  After knocking gently, she walked right in, the teacher stopped, and the entire class stood up.  She said, “You may sit down.”  After our good mornings, she asked if the kids knew who I was and they all knew exactly who I was and what I was there for.  I have never seen such show of respect; it was awesome.  They are the guardians of the formal-ness of France going forward.

These are funny little things that I have seen, but what I want to hit home is that the French are a reserved, formal people.  That stiff upper lip is not because you smell on the Metro or that they don’t like Americans.  They are taught to respect your personal space and they expect you to be a functioning, put-together human being.  So, be respectful to yourself while you are in France, put on some pants and smile after saying, “Bonjour, Monseiur.”


(Thank you to MGM’s WHEN HARRY MET SALLY for the stock film footage and the picture of Sally and Harry)

Looking Back at Week 1 & 2

8 Sep

Tomorrow marks our two week point here in Paris and I want to take a few moments to reflect back, in no particular order, on things that are memorable.

First, bedbugs suck.  Thank you everyone for being cool and not acting like I have leprosy.  I sure do feel and almost look like it.  I could not have asked for a better landlady who has really taken care of us and got the bedbug issue addressed STAT.

Secondly, I don’t think I will ever get tired of Paris.  Every time I come here, I love it.  There is so much to see and there is never I time where you can truthfully say, “There is nothing to do.”  It is much different from Houston and coming straight home to sitting on the couch and watching TV.  I don’t think we have watched more than three movies since we’ve been here versus watching a movie almost every night.  We also don’t watch TV.  Why would you watch TV (other than for news) when you can go out to see something or just have a beer at a café and watch people walking by?  Exactly.  Also, the history.  The history just gets me going.  It makes me flustered just thinking that this used to be a maid’s quarters, that Marie Antoinette was in Paris and I can see the place where she was beheaded.  It just makes me giddy with all the old stuff.  I love history.  On the other hand, Paris is as cool as the Cheetos Cheetah, but we have decided that we would like to be a little removed from the urbanism.  We would like a little house with a big backyard… maybe a little chateau, who knows?

Next, the people I come into contact everyday make this experience what it is.  When I lived in Belgium and in France before, I arrived alone with no friends and I was discouraged from associating with other Anglophones.  This time I am confident enough that my French is good and that it will improve as time goes on, but I have American friends.  In fact, I have my best friend here every day.  Having AJ here and bringing home to Paris with him and our cat’s really made it easier to transition.  Next, I’ve met some really awesome ladies who are in the same Master’s program I am.  Funny thing is that we all come from Texas and we have our husbands/boyfriends here in Paris, too.  It’s like the “Husband’s Club.”  I’m also looking forward to starting work to make more contacts with the families and the other teachers.  I have also been scoping out some boulangeries to begin going in and making a connection.

I am scared, though.  I have to start school and have to get serious about my career.  I don’t know which foot to put forward and I don’t know where we will end up.  I don’t know about what type of internship I should do or when.  I have begun thinking about if we want to stay in France and/or Paris and what that would look like.  Then I have this underlying feeling that I just need to go to every market and see everything.  I don’t want to leave without traveling or having great experiences.

Looking at all of this, this is all quite silly and if I’ve had a combination of good experiences with a 1% bad experience, I think this is a good indicator of what will come.

Let’s just all take a breath in, take a sip of this wonderful wine, and enjoy Paris.  Santé!

I Got a Job!

6 Sep

Today was a pretty good day because I went in for an interview and got offered the position.  I did some searching on-line before even coming to France and did a Skype interview with a company called Baby Speaking.  They seemed legit because they actually document your hours, etc.  So what you need to know first that is on a student visa you have the right to work, but only up to 20 hours per week, or all of those hours during the summer.  Since my goal is to pay monthly bills and I am so adjusted to working a big-girl job, the weekly thing works fine for me.  If I need supplemental hours, like walking dogs, that is not recorded on my work week hours because it is cash-in-hand work.

So, how did the interview go?  They sent out an email saying that they had a part time position in a school and asking who was in France, who had taught for 2+ years, who spoke French (this was probably the factor that actually qualified me), and who was available for the whole school year.  I responded back right away because I needed a job and I qualified under all of those requirements.  They sent me back an email asking when I would be in France (I already am) and then scheduled me an interview with the Commercial Director.  I had to bring my CV and a cover letter.

I arrive, we go into a meeting room, and she first explains in English that we will have the interview in English and in French (OK, d’accord).  She really didn’t look through my CV, other than asking why I was in France, how old was I (she thought I looked young and this normally does go on a French CV), and why I wanted the job.  I will tell you that this was not for the faint of heart.  After her intro, we conducted the entire interview in French.

Happily, at the end, she came to it without hesitation.  She explained that she thought I would be a great fit and would like to offer me the position right out.  I explained that I had already decided because I had enough time thinking about it over the past week and I accepted.

What will I be doing?  I will be the English Oral instructor at two Catholic schools.  I will teach two separate groups of 7 year olds Mondays and Wednesdays from 8:20-10:20am.  Then Fridays I will teach at a school down the street with 10 year olds.  I’m looking forward to it because she explained that respect is a big deal in the school and the kids actually want to be there and realize what an opportunity it is to have a native English speaker.  Plus, what I am looking forward to the most is making a connection with the parents and the other instructors.  Maybe I can make some French friends.

I am excited!  School starts on Monday, October 1st.  I go to meet the principals (les maîtresses) on Monday to see if they like me, too.  School starts for me on Monday, so it looks like real life is settling in.

Next big job on the docket: cell phone!  C’est parti!


5 Sep

Funny little word, “punaise.”  Let me tell you what it means so you don’t have to go Google translate it.  “Bedbug.”

We have bedbugs.  This was the end of the world for me yesterday.  How could this have happened?  Where did they come from?  How do you get rid of them?  Holy mo, we have to wash and/or burn anything that came in touch with our apartment.  It’s like a contaminated zone!  Damn those little vampire bugs eating me from (literally) head to foot.

How have we been here for one week and not noticed that we have bedbugs?  Because I have never seen them before!  I thought they were an urban legend.

When we arrived on the first day we noticed all these little brown bugs with a big bum.  We were so tired we just crashed on the bed and called it a day.  AJ said that he saw this little bug and when he squished it, blood squished out (like a mosquito).  “Cool, French mosquito.  No big deal,” I thought.  The next day when I fell asleep on the floor, one more bite.  In the past week I have changed the sheets three times and we sweep and clean daily.  (Thank you,, for the picture of the punaise)

Last night was just it.  I don’t know what happened to increase the bites from one a day to a billion a day, but I look like I have chicken pox.  I am bitten from head to toe.  I have a bite on my cheek, some on my neck, my shoulders are eaten from here and back, my arms look simply terrible, my back is not as bad since I sleep in a night shirt, and my legs and feet are eaten alive.

What to do?  Freak out?

YES!  Not even pouting and a glass of wine can make bedbugs go away.  I tried to get AJ to call our landlord because I didn’t want to ask for help, but I had to bite the bullet and call since he doesn’t speak enough French.  The happy part of this story is that she was very sorry to hear about the matter and was open to helping.  She called back and said that she would order a new mattress right away (although it might come in a few days, we are in France after all!)  She will also call SMASH (Le service municipal d’actions de salubrité et d’hygiène) to come and fumigate or whatever needed to be done.  We slept on air mattresses that our landlord’s parents let us borrow, but I’m hoping this will all be fixed soon.

AJ says this is not a big deal and he once had bedbugs when he was in culinary school.  My Facebook friends also seem to act like this is not such a big deal either.  In Karinlandia, it is a BIG deal.  Until I have a fresh bed and no pox, I will be itchy and reminded of those dang bugs.

So bedbugs, bite this…  No, wait.  Don’t bite this…


2 Sep

Dear Readers,
Since I have been slacking and do not have all the pictures I want to share with you yet about our apartment.  I give you – CHEESE!


This is all we did yesterday —


51 Rue de Grenelle  75007 Paris
01 42 22 82 24

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Bon Appetite!

Chez Nous

31 Aug

My legs hurt.  My hamstrings, my quads, my calves.  Thankfully the bottoms of my feet stopped hurting today.  It hurts so good!

Today is Day Four and it feels like we are finally settled in and we are “HOME.”

We have been working hard at not sleeping in too late because of the décalage (time difference).  Our first full day in Paris was full of over sleeping and lots of walking.  We slept until 4pm then did some house wares shopping at a little shop called Eureka! in Marché St. Quentin and then did some grocery shopping at Franprix.  We will go back to the lady at Eureka! because she was super nice and helpful.  The cashier at Franprix was total jerk so we will not go back.  After a quick sandwich and apple at the house, we walked down to the Seine and saw Notre Dame.  We got back a little after 1am and AJ then started dinner. Doing grocery shopping and eating AJ’s food meant “Life is back to normal.”

Yesterday we had another long day.  We decided to take the Metro and go visit our schools.  We bought a carnet of Metro tickets.  We got lost a little, but thankfully we had a bottle of water and a map.  We also stumbled across this thing you may have heard of – the Eiffel Tower.  On the way home it was so dang hot on the Metro.  I was sorry I wore skinny jeans, they were stuck to me like glue!  When we got home, the phone rang.  It was so funny AJ came to the bedroom door looking at me with puppy dog eyes, “Phone!”  He answered it and did quite well talking to our landlord’s parents, who were calling to ask us if we wanted to bring our bags to the basement.  And let me tell you how friggin cool an 1890’s building basement is – it’s like a dusty castle!  So fun!

“Grandma,” as we will call her, asked what we did for the day.  I told her that we were going to go to Montmatre that night and she invited us up and talked to us a little about Paris safety and let us borrow her Michelin guide!  I give her three stars!

Montmartre was awesome.  It is my absolute favorite place in Paris.  We had a beer across from the auberge where many of the artists stayed.  We celebrated just being here and loving life.  In just a few days regular life will have to start with school and work, so we are enjoying it while we can!

Tune in next time for – “Our Apartment!”  How we found it and what it looks like!

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