vendredi 31 décembre 2010

Bonne Année et Bienvenue 2011



Happy New Year! It's officially 1st January 2011 already in my hometown and country so it's only fitting to wish everyone a wonderful new year right now.

I can honestly say, without hesitation, that 2010 was one of the best years of my life. So many wonderful things happened. I volunteered for a number of film festivals and events, I progressed further in my French and in my career, made new friends, and I found out I was accepted into a programme for me to go and live and work in France (where I am now).  

I've travelled so much since I arrived 3 months ago and seen so much of the country already (as well as Switzerland and Germany). I feel so lucky and privileged. I have both my parents and my sister (and their partners) all happy and healthy. I really have a lot to be grateful for and really nothing to complain about. However I can't help but feeling a little sad because there is something missing... there is always something missing during Christmas, NYE and Valentine's day...

Anyway I wish to end this on a happy note so here's wishing you all a brilliant réveillon (NYE) and a smashing start to the new year! Enjoy yourselves tonight!

I thought I'd add this image of French sweets (chocolates) called Papillotes. They're actually for Christmas (so I'm a bit late) but the brand name sounds like réveillon ;) They are named for the pieces of paper inside.


Bonne Année ! C'est officiellement déjà le nouvel an, le 1 janvier 2011 dans ma ville et dans mon pays donc je vous souhaite toutes et tous une bonne année maintenant.

Je peux dire, franchement et sans hésitation que 2010 c'était l'une des meilleures années de ma vie. Beaucoup de bonnes choses se sont passées. J'ai travaillé comme bénévole aux plusieurs festivals de film et aux évenements, j'ai fait des progrès avec mon français et dans ma carrière, j'ai fait de nouveaux amis, et j'ai réalisé mon rêve de vivre en France. J'ai découvert que j'était admis à un programme de vivre et travailler en France (où je me suis installée maintenant).

J'ai voyagé beaucoup depuis que je suis arrivée il y a 3 mois, et j'ai vu tant de choses partout dans le pays (et aussi en Suisse et en Allemagne). J'ai de la chance et je me sens privilégié. J'ai mes parents tous les deux, et ma soeur (et leurs partenaires) tous sains et saufs. J'ai vraiment beaucoup pour être heureuse et je ne peux pas me plaindre. En revanche, je me sens un peu triste car il me manque quelque chose... il y a toujours quelque chose qui me manque pendant Noël, le réveillon, ou la Saint Valentin...

Bref, je veux terminer ce message heureusement et je vous souhaite un bon réveillon pour ce soir, et un merveilleux début pour le nouvel an ! Amusez-vous bien ce soir !

Je voudrais ajouter cette photo de papillotes. Elles sont nomées pour le petit papier à l'intérieur.




The small pieces of parchment paper inside have quotes and sayings. Mine says:

Which word means a chocolate delicacy, the state of a pipe which functions badly and a person who can't hear at the same time?

Une bouchée

In confectionery, what do we call the paper which surrounds certain candies: a butterfly, a curlpaper or a straw hut? (translation doesn't quite work - LOL)

Une papillote


Ils contiennent de petits morceaux de papier parcheminé à l'intérieur avec des citations et des énonciations. Le mien dit :

• Quel mot désigne à la fois une friandise au chocolate, l'état d'un tuyau qui fonctionne mal et d'une personne qui entend mal ?

Une bouchée

• En confiserie, comment appelle-t-on le papier qui enrobe certains bonbons : un papillon, une papillote ou une paillote ?

Une papillote






(image from SNCF website).

Test Podium proficiency tests II

Test Podium
French test level 2
Date of test: 31.12.2010

Test result: 75 % correct

Grading according to section

Grammar 75.00%
Vocabulary 50.00%
Communication 75.00%
Listening comprehension 87.50%
Reading comprehension 87.50%

Level: Advanced level 1 (50/60 Points)

Description of language level
Can understand a wide range of demanding, longer texts, and recognise implicit meaning. Can express him/herself fluently and spontaneously without much obvious searching for expressions. Can use language flexibly and effectively for social, academic and professional purposes. Can produce clear, well-structured, detailed text on complex subjects, showing controlled use of organisational patterns, connectors and cohesive devices.
(Referential description of level by the European language portfolio)

and their grading and corresponding CEFR levels:

Elementary 1 (00-10 points) A1
Elementary 2 (11-20 points) A2
Intermediate 1 (21-30 points) B1
Intermediate 2 (31-40 points) B2
Advanced 1 (41-50 points) C1
Advanced 2 (51-60 points) C2

So according to them, I'm at C1 level, bordering on C2! Woohoo!

I last did this test on 13 Sept 2009 (15 months ago!) and scored 37.5/60 (B2). I'd really like to be at least C1 bordering on C2 ASAP given how much time has passed and I've lived in France for 3 months now...

The Journey Part VI

The Journey Part I

The Journey Part II

The Journey Part III

The Journey Part IV

The Journey Part V



The Journey 
Part VI - all new. Now with even more pictures!  :)

In Part V I talked about the amazing pâtisserie. I don't know where it is exactly but it's very close to this strange metallic modern-looking building, on the corner of Rue Croix des Petits Champs and Rue Saint-Honoré which I found out is the Ministry of Culture and Communication of France (Ministère de la Culture et Communication de France).

Can you believe I saw this man walk by? I wasn't fast enough with my camera so I caught him with his hand across his face but how funny and stereotypical is that?! A beret and a blue/white striped shirt! All he needs is to do is carry a long baguette, and be riding a bike! hahaha


I was starving but it wasn't quite 12 noon yet so I walked into the first restaurant which was open and already had people in it (noone was eating though). Remember I hadn't eaten properly for many many days and I didn't even care how much the meal would cost me. I just wanted a proper meal and my first French meal for the start of my new life in France. How exciting!




I ended up at Cafés Richard and ordered a entrée and a main (I had the goodie from the pâtisserie for dessert and I find the desserts in restaurants don't tend to be as good as the beauties I find in pâtisseries anyway).

The entrée I chose was an onion soup and it was covered with melted cheese (soupe à l'oignon gratinée). Considering the weather, it was exactly what I wanted/needed. It was a little bit too salty for my taste but I quite liked it! It came with bread and a jug of water.

For the main I chose the rabbit with herbs, butter and Chinese cabbage (râble de lapin farci aux herbes, embeurie de choux chinois) just to try something new. I guess it's an acquired taste because I didn't like it that much and didn't finish it but I'm still glad I tried it. I was amazed at how finely the vegetables were chopped and remember some technique like that on Masterchef.

After that I made my way over to the Louvre courtyard and I'm sure you don't need to see photos of that! Ok just one. It was raining slightly (sun shower?) and it made an interesting reflection.


I spent ages walking around trying to find that mini pyramid that was in the Da Vinci code story but couldn't find it! Anyone know where it is and how I can see it from the street level? I already went into the Louvre before so I didn't need to go again but here's a tip that I read somewhere... don't queue at street level. Go via the métro (underground) Palais Royal Musée du Louvre and you don't need to queue!

I didn't have much time to do a lot so then I just wandered over to the Champs Elysées... and I noticed the gorgeous autumn leaves colours just adjacent.



Eventually I had to go back to Gare de Lyon to catch my train to my new future home town!! It was absolute chaos. The station is under renovations and I saw a sign which looked like this:


which is confusing for a newbie. Luckily I didn't need to know what any of that meant. I already found the consignes before and I was just sitting on my Zuca suitcase squished amongst the crowd, waiting for the signboard to tell me which platform to go to.

There are the blue platforms and the yellow ones and mine was a yellow one. They don't tell you the number of your platform (voie) until about 10 minutes before it departs so as soon as it does there is a big swarm of people getting up and walking quickly towards their train...

I was marvelling at the gorgeous autumn leaves colours from the train and a few hours later I was picked up by my new hosts that I found through Couch Surfing. I had hosted before but never surfed before and this was going to my first experience.

Luckily for me, it was an awesome awesome one. They were so hospitable to me... They fed me and looked after me and were oh-so-kind. I couldn't have been luckier or happier!

... to be continued... stay tuned for the last part of "The Journey"!

The Journey VII

jeudi 30 décembre 2010

French Fashion and Clothing Vocabulary

All the words you'll ever need when you go clothes shopping in store or online!
C'est tout ce qu'il vous faut quand vous faites les courses dans les magasins ou sur l'internet !



Whilst doing some online shopping for clothes (more like window shopping as I spend hours browsing without actually buying anything!) I started to learn a whole heap of new words so I thought I'd compile some I found and share :)


Fashion vocab/Vocabulaire de la mode


 
des vêtements (m)/des habits (m)/
des tenues (f)/des fringues (f)
clothes
un haut top
un manteau coat
un imperméable raincoat
un blouson/une veste (de tailleur) (tailored) jacket
un anorak anorak
une doudoune down-filled jacket
un trench trenchcoat
une parka parka
un coupe-vent wind-breaker
une cape cape
un pull pullover/sweater/jumper
un sweat-shirt pullover/sweater/jumper
un tee-shirt t-shirt
un débardeur tank top (sleeveless top)
une tunique tunic
un bustier bustier top
un pantalon pants
un pantacourt 3/4 capri pants
un jean jeans
un legging leggings
un short shorts
un pyjama pajamas/pyjamas
un tailleur / un costume suit
une chemise (men's)shirt
un chemisier women's shirt/blouse
une robe dress
une (mini)jupe (mini)skirt
un paréo sarong
une combinaison jumpsuit
un gilet waistcoat/vest/cardigan
un cardigan cardigan
un boléro bolero
un bleu de travail (blue) work overalls
une salopette overalls
un smoking dinner jacket/suit
un survêtement tracksuit
 
Underwear/Lingerie/Swimwear/Vêtements de bain 
un soutien-gorge bra
des bas (m) / un collant stockings/tights/pantyhose
un slip/une culotte underpants
un string g-string
une chemise de nuit/un peignoir nightgown/dressing gown
une sortie de bain bathrobe
un jupon petticoat skirt
un porte jarretelles suspenders
un caleçon boxer shorts
un boxer boxer shorts (tighter kind)
un maillot (de bain)   bathing suit/swimming costume
un bikini bikini
 
Shoes/Chaussures 
des chaussettes (f) socks
des (chaussures à hauts) talons (f) high heeled shoes
des tennis (m) / des baskets (m) sneakers
des bottes (f)/des boots (m) boots
des ballerines (f) ballerina shoes/slippers
des escarpins (m) pumps
des salomés (f) t-bar shoes
des mary janes (f) mary janes
des derbies (m) derby shoes
des mocassins (m) mocassins
des richelieux (m) brogues/brogue shoes
des sandales (f) sandals
des bottes de pluie (f) rainboots/wellingtons
des bottes en caoutchouc (f) rubber boots/rainboots/wellingtons
des talons aiguilles (f) stilettos
des chaussons (m)/des pantoufles (f) slippers
 
Accessories/Accessoires 
des gants (m) gloves
une mitaine mittans
une écharpe scarf (wool kind)
un foulard scarf (thin silk/cotton kind)/shawl
uné étole stole/wrap/shawl
un chèche big veil/turban type scarf
des bijoux jewel(le)ry
un collier necklace
un sautoir long necklace
un collier ras de cou choker necklace
un bracelet bracelet
des boucles d'oreilles earrings
une bague ring
une parure set (of jewellery)
un noeud bow (or a knot)
une cravate tie
un noeud papillon bowtie
une casquette cap
un chapeau hat
une capuche hood
une capeline wide-brimmed hat
un bonnet hat (wool winter kind)
une ceinture belt
des bretelles (f) braces (straps)
des boutons de manchettes (m) cufflinks
un parapluie umbrella
maroquinerie leathergoods (usually refers to handbags)
un sac à main handbag
une sacoche saddlebag/satchel/big handbag
une pochette small handbag
une porte-monnaie purse
un portefeuille wallet
un sac à dos backpack
un porte-clé keyring/keychain
 
Parts/Pièces 
une braguette zip(per)
un bouton button
des lacets (m) laces (on shoes)
un col collar
un col rond/v/roulé/montant

col claudine
round neck/v-neck/turtleneck (or cowl neck)/high neck
Peter Pan collar
une manche / manches longues (abbr: ML) / manches courtes (MC) / sans manches sleeve / long sleeves /short sleeves / sleeveless
une poche pocket
un poignet wrist(band/cuff)
bords-côtestight sleeve/pant edge
une doublure lining
un revers reverse (side)
une finition finishing touches
 
Fabrics/Tissu / Composition/ Composition
coton (m) cotton
laine (f) wool
cuir (m) leather
daim (m) suede
soie (f) silk
acrylique (m) acrylic
polyester (m) polyester
polyamide (m) polyamide
lin (m) linen
cachemire (m) cashmere
feutre (m) felt
feutre (m) velour
velours (m) velvet
(façon) jean denim
nylon (m) nylon
dentelle (f) lace
viscose (f) viscose
rayonne (f) rayon
mohair (m) mohair
latex (m) latex
spandex (m) spandex
élasthanne (m) elastane
mousseline (f) chiffon
organza (m) organza
taffetas (m) taffeta
toile (f) canvas
lurex (m) lurex
alpaga (m) alpaca
poils de chameau (m) camel hair
lapin (m) rabbit fur
fourrure (f) fur
polaire (f) (polar) fleece
tissu synthétique (m) synthetic
tricoté(e) knitted (wool)
maille (f) knitted (tops/sweaters)
maille épaisse/grosse maille chunky/heavy knit
maille fine fine knit


Prints/Patterns/Motifs
imprimé printed
rayures stripes
(petits) carreaux checks/plaid
(petits) pois polka dots
intarsia argyle (diamond pattern)


Styles/Genre  
plis pleats
plissé pleated
bouffant puffy
fermeture boutonnée button closure
fermeture zippée zipper closure
 
Other  
un couleur colo(u)r
une tendance trend/style
une marque brand
une nouveauté new release
bonnes affaires on sale
 
Size/Taille
une taille height
un poids weight
tour de... around the…
(la) poitrine bust
(la) taille waist
(la) hanche/un bassin hips
la longueur d'entrejambe inner leg length


Example of a complicated description: (from brandalley.fr)






and my translation:


Manteau
        Col montant plissé et bouffant
        Manches longues avec liens de serrage
        2 poches plissées devant
        Bords-côtes col, poignets et poches
        Découpes surpiquées fantaisies devant et au dos
        Plis plats et élastiques au dos
        Fermeture boutonnée et zippée sous patte devant
        Intérieur doublé beige façon polaire
        Couleur : beige
        Composition : 55 % coton et 45% polyamide
        Tour de taille : 88 cm env. pour une taille 38
        Longueur côté : 100 cm env.
        Lavage à la machine à 30° recommandé


Coat
        High collar, pleated and puffy
        Long sleeves with tightening 'lines' (ribbons)
        2 pleated pockets in front
        Tight sleeve cuffs, wrists and pockets
        Die-cut seams (?) top-stitched in fantasy-style in front and at the back
        Flat and elasticated pleats at the back
        Button and Zip closure and underlining??? in front
        Interior lined in beige polar fleece
        Colour: beige
        Composition: 55% cotton and 45% polyamide
        Around the waist: approx. 88cm for size 38
        Length to the edge: approx 100cm
        Machine wash at 30° recommended






(Image of "sous patte" etc from here)

mardi 28 décembre 2010

Film review: Le Nom des gens (The Names of Love)




I saw this film today in Nantes when I am currently. It was so hard to choose a film. It's funny, when I was in Australia all I ever wanted to see were French (and foreign) films but now I'm in France I only want to see English-speaking films. I guess it's the "grass is greener" concept or the case of wanting what is rare!

Anyway, I thought I'd be brave and see my first ever French film sans sous-titres (without subtitles)! I wanted one around 3 or 4 pm so that limited my choices too (and therefore actually made it easier to decide)... I wanted a comedy too and ended up choosing Le Nom des gens (English title: The names of love, which is not a literal translation).

I instantly recognised Jacques Gamblin (Arthur Martin) from Le premier jour du reste de ta vie which I reviewed before. I don't think I've seen Sara Forestier (Bahia Benmahmoud) before but with her bright blue? green? eyes and dark wavy hair in the film she was stunning and looked like a cross between Miranda Kerr and Marion Cotillard.

I admit that while my listening is getting a lot better, there were some things in the film that I missed. Also I missed all the cultural references and nuances. Thus this is not really a complete review.

The film addresses culture and race and the subject of identity. As someone who is Australian but was not born here and does not 'look' Australian, it's something I can relate to a LOT.

It's funny, and sweet and touching and like all French films, it shows the joys and sorrows of life...  I really enjoyed it. There is plenty of nudity so it's something to be wary of if that sort of thing upsets you (or... it's not really a movie to bring kids to).

It actually wasn't as hard as I thought to understand the film without subtitles although I seem to have a delayed reaction syndrome where I'm 2 seconds behind what they are saying. Eventually I'll get there though.

If you like romantic comedies with a different spin, I'd definitely say to give this a go. The chemistry between the two leading stars is wonderful.

7/10.

Premiere: Le nom des gens
imdb: The names of love





Teaser 1



Teaser 2



Teaser 3

dimanche 26 décembre 2010

Christmas Holiday Fun in France (and Germany)


I've been travelling for a week straight now and had the most wonderful time!! So many great experiences and memories... The best was I got to experience snow in Paris. And during Christmas too. How many people can say they've done that?! When I get a moment to collect my thoughts (and photos!) I'll do a post on the places I visited...

Meanwhile, I hope you all had a lovely Christmas and will have a wonderful 2011.

Bonne Année tout le monde !


(image of German Christmas market from: here)

mardi 21 décembre 2010

The Journey Part V


The Journey Part I

The Journey Part II

The Journey Part III

The Journey Part IV

I should go back a bit from Part IV... I admit I was looking forward to seeing the famous Charles de Gaulle airport, the world's 7th busiest airport I believe. Last time I went to Paris (2005) I had taken the Eurostar from London.

I was sorely disappointed and I later found out why. It was because I was dumped in Terminal 1 which was undergoing renovations. It is also the oldest and smallest terminal. After having seen the amazing Singapore and Kuala Lumpur airports (which are both large, spacious, modern and.. well.. amazing) I was sorely sorely disappointed! I felt sooo claustrophobic.

However, I was happy to find that I literally pushed my trolley out the door and there was my bus. I did not have to go far which I was very thankful for. I'd looked up on the 'net where and how to catch my bus. No metros with this amount of luggage. Also it's nicer catching the bus in this case because you get to see the view out the window!

I caught the Air France bus (Les Cars Air France) from CDG to the Gare de Lyon. For the record, no, you don't need to be an Air France passenger to take the bus.

Once we got to the gare (last stop) the luggage guy waiting at the stop just dumped my suitcase roughly on the road! He couldn't even lift it 10cm onto the kerb for me. I was shocked and disappointed. Parisians.. pfft! ;)

It was about 15°C but felt more like 7. It was extremely windy and therefore cold and after coming from hot and sunny Asia I wasn't exactly prepared. Even though I'd brought and wore my coat it was still.. erm.. cold.

I was faced with climbing a big set of stairs or making a big detour to go up a ramp. The detour it was. As soon as I got into the station I asked the guy where the left luggage place was (I had already looked up online to make sure there WAS one) and quickly found out the name for this is consignes *. He was helpful and told me I could also walk along the platform where there are some escalators (once again a massive detour if I didn't want to take stairs!). I should remind my readers that I had a large 27kg suitcase, a small wheelie case (my Zuca!), and 2 other (tote) bags which all totalled almost 50kg.

I finally found it and that's when my first 'test' began. The machine that gives out change was out of order so I had to get 9.50 euros worth of change.

No problems I thought! I'll just go buy something from the shop and she'll give me change. So I bought a drink. First challenge in France. Getting the shopkeeper to give you change. YOU ARE NOT IN AUSTRALIA ANYMORE, Toto. Hmm...

She wouldn't give me change (saying she needed it) and to go to the café. But, it's kind of hard to be dragging my luggage everywhere and so I was stubborn and refused to move from my spot. So I had to muster up the courage to ask strangers for money (like I was a beggar, except that I wasnt!) Oh Lord. People just ignored me or just told me they didn't have it (without even checking first). I did eventually find a really nice lady who didn't have enough but then asked another stranger for me. So nice. All in all I had to ask 7 people (in my crappy French) before I could get the rip off 9.50 euros for a large locker!

If that wasn't a test of:
• My French language ability
• Perservance
• Patience
• Stress-levels

I don't know what is. You have to remember that up until that point I had barely eaten anything and I had just been on a 13 hour flight and a 1 hour bus trip and I was alone and I'm a little girl OK! :P

And with that, I very quickly learnt my first lesson in France. ALWAYS HAVE A LOT OF CHANGE OF VARIOUS DENOMINATIONS IN YOUR PURSE. I always follow this rule and it has helped me in many situations.

So off to the locker I went. Luckily it was big enough for all my bags. Then I had to navigate the huge and disorderly (an under renovation) Gare de Lyon to find my train out of there. All in all it took me over an hour to get the heck out of the station with the money saga and then walking what felt like 2km to get to my actual train platform.

With only 3 hours to spend, I didn't have a plan or an agenda and didn't even know where to go. I'd seen all the main sights during my last trip to Paris so there wasn't anything I HAD to do or see...

I chose to get off at Louvre Rivoli thinking that that was the station for the Louvre. In my disorientated state I made a mistake and in hindsight realised I should've gotten off at the NEXT stop, Palais Royale Musée du Louvre. No big deal.

First stop: La Pâtisserie! I hadn't eaten a proper meal or proper food for so long and with that food poisoning gone I was famished! I was soooo hungry. I saw a patisserie with lots of people going in/out and quickly went in to choose myself something beautiful and delicious looking.

I know I said no photos but I'm feeling more generous now... (see above)

Unfortunately I didn't note down the name nor address of this place.

...to be continued...

* Website to see if a certain station in France SNCF has left luggage lockers (consignes)

The Journey Part VI

samedi 18 décembre 2010

The Snow, Christmas, and random thoughts






I'm off on holidays as of tomorrow! Fingers crossed the snow doesn't foil my plans. I'll be travelling around parts of Germany and France and am very excited. I'll also be going to Paris for my third time :)

The Snow still continues to fascinate me. Thursday night (16 December) had the biggest snowfall since the start of the month. It's been so cold here that the snow from the last big snowfall hadn't even completely melted yet! (I didn't see any snow in Lyon last weekend but there are still bits and pieces here). One time I looked out the window and just stared and stared until I was lost in my thoughts (about the snow!)... I love how it glistens in the light as if it were made of crystals. I laugh inside my head when I look up at the sky and think that the snowflakes look like dandruff flakes. Well, heck, they were both white and unevenly shaped and sized! Haha. It's just such a magical and wonderful thing for me to see but I appreciate that it causes huge amounts of havoc for people who have to do any kind of travel anywhere (ie everybody) on roads, on trains, or on planes. :( Worst is when people are stranded in below freezing temperatures... It's all too sad.

One of my friends just posted this shocking (but sort of funny) video:



Christmas... I've been quite ambivalent about Christmas for many years now. I generally feel that Christmas is only fun if you're a child or you have children. Since it's been many years or will be many years before either of those things will happen to me... well...

Also, my family are not Christians so we don't ever have a 'proper' Christmas and being in Australia, all our Christmases are in summer so.... Also I feel that in Australia it's just all about the presents. All about stressing about shopping for presents and people getting upset because there are no car spaces in the carparks etc etc. Stupid petty little things... all for what? To buy presents?! ARGH.

Christmas 2006 was the last Christmas that I had a long term partner to celebrate with. I can't help but feel sad and lonely that this is my 4th Christmas without someone special to spend Christmas with :(  This is a confession that I long for my own home, my own big kitchen (to bake Christmas goodies), a loving and supportive partner (and stable relationship) and kids! It seems like almost everyone I know has those things (or at least one of those things) and like a carrot danging in front of an animal, those things never seem to be within my reach. *sigh* One day...

Since I spend a lot of time by myself I tend to think a lot. I have noticed that those who write the most statuses on Facebook are people who are single and/or are living by themselves (or work alone at home) or are young stay-at-home parents. It makes sense because these are the people who have no adult conversation! I think most people take having someone to talk to when you get home from work for granted. But like anything in life, you take everything for granted until you lose it.

I find myself comparing myself to my friends a lot. Not in a competition sense, but just for interest's sake. I have friends who had kids at a very very young age and I have friends who are older than me and still single... so we're all at different stages of life but I do get a sense that those of us without long term relationships and kids somewhat feel left out. Or maybe not.

I find it hard to be around couples as I hate being 'the third wheel' and I admit I feel some jealousy (not in a nasty way but just in a sad, wistful way) when I see them being lovey dovey towards one another or doing really simple things like holding each others' belongings while the other goes to the toilet. In fact, when I was with my mother's or sister's partner and they offered to these simple things for me I was very humbled, shocked and thankful. I was/am just sooooooo used to doing everything myself!

But what is it with couples anyway? Once your friend gets herself a boyfriend you never see nor hear from her again. Usually the only people who call me up to do something with me are single people... I do have a few friends in long-term relationships who still go out and do stuff but the majority of couples I know seem to just stay at home every night and every weekend (with the tv and/or pet for entertainment). It's as if once you find a partner you don't need a social life anymore... Of course I'm talking about those without children yet as I realise that once you have kids your free time goes out the window (well yay for me in that respect because I have all the me-me-me time in the world right now and I do cherish it because one day that'll end for sure ;) )

Although I shouldn't really criticize or judge as I used to be EXACTLY like this. In my younger years. But I have learnt my lesson. You need to continue to socialise and make contacts, if not for making friends but for connections for work and for anything. You never know when you'll need help from other people and you can't rely on your partner or your family 100% of the time.

Another topic that is constantly on my mind is city living vs suburban/small town living.

• I'm a big city girl. I've always been one, always will.
• First, I want clarify... in Australia we have very few cities and they are all biggish. Then within each city we have hundreds and hundreds of suburbs.
• In France they have a different 'system' where you have thousands and thousands of little cities dotted throughout the whole country.
• So even if you live in a small town you only need to drive 10-30 minutes and you'll be in another bigger town. But if you were in Australia you'd be in the SAME town the whole time. Hope that makes sense?

I live in a town of around 10,000 people which is TINY to me, but it's decent-sized for France. In fact, after having visited various towns of various population sizes my idea of what is 'big' or 'small' has shifted dramatically. I now consider pop. 50,000 a medium sized town and pop. 100,000 a large town. I say this because in a town of  50,000 you can find most things you need but not all and 100,000 you can pretty much find anything you need and the train station is a decent size with many lines/connections.

Now I'll back to my life in Sydney. I grew up in the suburbs (like 99.9% of people in Sydney). It must be every parents' dream to buy a big house with big backyard for their kids in a nice, safe, suburb. I say this from experience with people that I know... Also with the huge immigrant population in Sydney I think that for them, having a large piece of land is almost impossible in their crowded home countries so it's the ultimate goal to have a big house/piece of land.

I grew up in a very nice suburb. It is very safe and full of friendly, helpful people. 10 minutes to the beach, 10 minutes to other bigger suburbs and 25 minutes to the CBD (central business district). It is very 'leafy' as they call it, full of trees and nature.

However, around my teenage years I got very very frustrated because I was forced to rely on the bus system to get anywhere (that made me get my driver's licence quick smart)..

Then it got far worse in my university years. The city is only 25 minutes away by car, but by bus in peak hour, it often took about 1.5 hours!!! I hated the commute. It was a nightmare as people who lived much further away got there quicker than me (because they had the train and I didn't). I had absolutely zero social life during my university years because of the bus that stopped running at about 7pm and only went to/from the city once an hour during weekends. Driving was not even considered as parking is hideously expensive.

I hated living in the suburbs then. Absolutely hated it. I dreamed of living in the city but I didn't make enough money from my part-time retail job to do so (rent in Sydney is amazingly expensive - so expensive it's calculated weekly and not monthly to not give people heart attacks ;) ).

I eventually got a car in 2001, started a relationship in the beginning of 2003 and moved out of home to live with my then-boyfriend in the beginning of 2006 and my life changed forever from then on...

A year later we both moved to Shanghai. 'A big change' is an understatement. I admit I didn't want to go at first. I had been there before (for a 1 week holiday) and couldn't imagine living there...

But it was living there that shifted my perspective on life and the world forever. I knew myself a lot better, and I changed my views on so many things in life... for the better I believe (and hope).

I was fascinated by how people could work so hard, live in such squalor and yet never complain. All these poor people living and working amongst those earning literally 10-100x more than they do.

Every time I have a 'hard' moment I think back and say to myself to get a grip and stop whinging. I have had such an easy, comfortable life that I took everything for granted. It wasn't till I saw how others lived that I finally began to appreciate all that my parents gave me. The fact that they were always telling me, "When I was your age, I had nothing... When I was your age, we didn't have cars, we had to walk 5km to go to school... we never had a washing machine... I only got one pair of shoes a year... I remember the first time I tried chocolate I savoured it as it was such a rare treat..." etc etc. I have to admit none of that meant anything to me till I saw it all with my own eyes and was old and mature enough to understand it.

Living in Shanghai almost made me realise just how much I LOVEd living in a big city. Although I'd always lived in a big city (Sydney) I never really lived IN the city. I just loved how the public transport was so good and it's walkable everywhere, I really appreciated everything the city had to offer and I didn't miss having a car at all because I never needed one! Taxis were also cheap and plentiful.

When I came back to Sydney a year later (after having broken up with my then-partner) I missed Shanghai dreadfully. I moved to another suburb in Sydney but this more like a city it's so big. I loved my suburb/city to death! It was so easy having everything I could possibly need within 10 minutes walking distance. There were also events and festivals. There was the bus, train and ferry. One of the biggest shopping malls in Sydney. A huge park. Sites of interest and more!

From living in those 2 places I made a mental checklist of my ideal city:

• pop. 100,000+
• excellent public transport infrastructure (both within the city and to other cities)
• easily walkable
• big park
• water feature (river, lake, beach, etc) and nature
• decent variety of shops and supermarkets
• decent variety of restaurants with cuisines from around the world
• puts on events, festivals and street parades

If I have all those things I'm as happy as a clam! Unfortunately the city I live in now doesn't fit all the criteria but most of them. My main gripe with my city is that there's not a lot of shops so I'm forced to do most of my shopping online (I mean for clothes and household items that are not common/everyday things). There is a beautiful river which I bushwalked around 4 times when I first arrived (it's too cold now) and the autumn leaves colours were so beautiful. I miss the lack of a big park though. There seems to be some sort of big city park and carousel in all the French towns I've seen over a certain size.

Now, this is one thing which really shits me about people who choose to live in suburbs/smaller towns. They like their peace and quiet and space but still need to go to the city to buy supplies so this crowds the city up with loads and loads of cars. I was shocked at the hideous traffic jams I saw on a Sunday morning (!!) in Lyon last weekend. The people who live in the city walk or take public transport everywhere and they must get the shits at all the cars. I know I would. In fact, I LOVE the rues piétonnes (pedestrian-only roads). I get sick to death of seeing cars when I'm in a walkable city. Every time I am exploring a new city I wish ALL the roads in the inner city were rues pietons! And I wish every city on earth was walkable!!

(related post)

Those were some random thoughts I wanted to get off my chest so there they are!


HAPPY HOLIDAYS, EVERYONE!




(pictures from here and here)

vendredi 17 décembre 2010

Memorable blog posts about Life in France


When I first started to become interested in France (around the time that I started this blog) I started to read a lot of blogs about life in France because I wanted to know what it was really like! And not just in Paris!

There are some posts that I remember quite well and ever since moving here I think about these topics a lot...


1. Prêt à voyager and the water blogpost

It's true! French people don't seem to drink very much and they NEVER EVER carry water with them (unless, of course, they are hiking or on a long train journey or something). I tried to find a small 500ml (as opposed to 1 litre) thermos flask thing and it was impossible for me. I was going to buy it online but the pictures were not clear enough. In the end I bought it on eBay from the States!

I seem to be perpetually thirsty (and in Australia too, not just in France). I often notice when I am having dinner with other people I'll drink about 3-4 times as much water as they do. I'm not sure why that is. Many years ago I was even paranoid that I had diabetes or some other health problem but every blood test I've ever had has come back normal so now I don't really think about it.. that is, until I came to France!

I've often heard people say in various places and at various times, "j'ai soif" (I'm thirsty). It's as if they just don't think to ever carry water with/on them! It's as if you can only get water from a shop. I don't think people really drink tap water much either. Remember, this is the country where Evian and Perrier come from!

Also, in France and pretty much everywhere in Western Europe, interiors (houses, restaurants, schools, shopping malls, offices, etc) are heated very well so that makes your skin feel dry and your mouth feel thirsty (well it does to me anyway)... constantly! I don't know how much money I'm going to spend buying lip balm, facial moisturiser, hand moisturiser and body moisturiser. I've already had to replenish my supplies...

I don't go anywhere without carrying water with me. To me it's like carrying a purse or a phone. It's a necessity!




2. Le Franco Phoney and the roundabout blogposts

Ever since I started reading about French roundabouts (ronds-points) in this blog I noticed all the roundabouts I ever passed both in my town and others I travelled to/in. The vast majority of them are decorated with flowers, trees, plants or random statues and large outdoor ornaments. I saw one that had a large beach scene with sand, and a huge pail and shovel. I don't live in an interesting, big, or well-known town but one roundabout has a little bridge on it, another has a 3D light up model of an igloo and a penguin and another has a fountain with lots of flowers (which has now been replaced by a 3D light up model of Santa's sleigh and his reindeer).

It's so cool seeing the 'art' on these roundabouts as I would never see such a thing like that in Australia. It's just a concrete (sometimes tiled) thing, I think. Or maybe I just notice everything more here since it's all new and different (and special) to me...

One of my French friends told me that a few (?) years ago the government decided to replace large intersections (which had traffic lights) with roundabouts which means during non-peak times you can drive through without having to wait for lights to change.


There may be other blogposts too but I can't remember them off the top of my head now... Suffice to say that with all my "pre-knowledge" about life in France I can't help but compare my own findings to that of other expats and chuckle...

jeudi 16 décembre 2010

The Journey Part IV

The Journey Part I

The Journey Part II

The Journey Part III


I'm so behind in my 'story' now that I can barely even remember anything in detail from way back then...

So with my illness and the terrible weather (lots of rain) and it nearing peak hour, I caught a taxi and high-tailed it to the airport - FIVE hours before my flight was due to depart. It wasn't even on the board yet! Yes, five hours is a record for me but surprisingly I didn't once get bored or run out of things to do.

I sent off some postcards to my family and even looked up on the internet in advance that I'd have to got to a particular terminal and then change to another to catch my flight. I took my sweet time with everything like I was a sloth...

At first they wouldn't even let me into the customs area saying my flight was too far away (timewise)! grrrr...

Well as everybody knows, Singapore Changi is one of the best airports in the world so I had more than enough to keep me occupied. They had lots of games and promotions on and if you spend $x you get a ticket which may win you a prize. All I won was $5 off the next purchase which was crap. They said you could swap this for a prize if you punched a punching bag or something strenuous and sporty and won which, given my delicate state of health, would have been impossible so I just put on my best puppy dog face/eyes and asked if I could have the prize instead of the $5 voucher (without playing the game) and they said yes! I could choose between a toiletry bag or a shoe bag. Since I already have the former I chose the shoe bag. Good for separating your dirty shoes from the rest of your clothing!

I had lots of fun walking around REALLY slowly and... I had to go to the chemist as I started feeling worse at one point and I also needed to (still) go to the toilet very very often so it was a pain but I just tried to make the best of the situation.

I will say this though, being sick AND alone AND in a foreign country miles away from anyone you know is one of the WORST feelings in the whole world. I think I actually cried at one point because I felt so terrible both physically and emotionally.

Thank God those antibiotics kicked in and I got rid of that stupid gastro bug.

I'll leave out the boring details about part where I then arrived in KL and tried to do a little bit of sightseeing and shopping and nearly killed myself doing so... I gave myself asthma-type symptoms because the air was so polluted and I ended up in a shopping mall full of smokers. Then I was back at the airport AGAIN.

At Kuala Lumpur airport I met the nicest young Parisian couple. It all started because I started panicking that I had too much hand luggage. The sign said you could only have one and I asked the couple behind me in the queue if they could say one of my bags was theirs, just for the check-in part, but they told me they already each had a bag. They said not to worry so I tried not to stress (and luckily noone said anything when I checked in!) but anyway we got talking...

I told them what I was doing... and that is, I am going to France to teach English. I am flying to Paris (like they are) and then catching a train to my little town in the middle of nowhere.

On the plane I had my first taste of French politeness. The majority of people on the plane were French and they were just sooooooo polite. At one point I needed to get out to go to the toilet but the man next to me was asleep. I could climb over him (via the armrests - it's a move I have perfected from many many years of airplane travel and always taking the window seat, and quite often flying alone) but I had nowhere to put my tray full of food!

The girl sitting in the seat on the other side of the aisle saw me and offered (using just body language) that she could take my tray for me so that I could get out. Not only did she take my tray off me (I thought temporarily), she actually brought it to the kitchen for me!

It was only until the end of the flight that I started talking to the guy next to me. He was Chinese and since I speak Chinese I spoke to him in Chinese (prior to that I spoke to him in English) and then he started opening up to me (as opposed to reading or sleeping) and we talked a lot about our lives. He said he's staying with a friend who lives in Paris and even gave me his number in case I wanted to visit his friend!

The flight was 13 hours long but seemed to pass rather quickly. I actually fell asleep for the entire first half which was a miracle. Of course I woke up frequently (or they woke me up for meals) but still, that's pretty good. I really needed the rest.

There was a big high school group (from Australia in a town not far from Sydney) on a tour (for sport) and they were rather loud but apart from that the flight was pretty good. Usually I have to put up with a bratty kid kicking the back of my chair or getting no sleep whatsoever because people can't shut up (when everyone else is asleep too) but nup, nothing super bad that I can even remember...

All sorts of wonderful and amazing things happened on that flight.

After I got off the plane I had the guy who sat next to me offering to get my huge suitcase off the carousel for me and even push it out into the arrivals area. I had the young French couple ask if I was alright getting to the city.

Everyone was just wonderful to me but then, after I caught my Air France bus to Gare de Lyon I was dumped on the footpath and I was alone. I felt kind of exhilarated yet scared at the same time.

I was, finally, IN FRANCE!

... to be continued ...

The Journey Part V

mercredi 15 décembre 2010

Christmas / Noël



Christmas is a time of giving, no? I sent off a big batch of letters/Christmas cards, photos and small gifts to some of my family and friends back home in Australia as well as around France and I felt so excited and happy. To be honest I don't even care if I don't receive anything in return (because I have nowhere to put it hahaha. I'm kidding.). Seriously, I can imagine the look of surprise on their faces and that's enough for me.

I can't afford a great deal (and heck, the postage usually costs more than the gift!) but it's the thought that counts right? And even if it was a pain queuing up in the LONG queue at the post office (twice!) it was totally worth it to me :D


Noël, c'est le temps de donner, non ? Je viens d'envoyer beaucoup de letters/cartes de Noël, des photos et des petits cadeaux à ma famille et aux mes amis en Australie et autour de la France et je me sentais très heureuse. Franchement, je m'en fiche si je ne recevrai rien (parce que je n'ai pas assez d'espace pour les placer.. je plaisante ;) ) Sérieusement, je peux imaginer le regard de surprise sur leurs visages et ca, ça suffit pour moi.

Je n'ai pas les moyens d'acheter pas cher.. (et le livraison coûte plus cher que le cadeau!) mais c'est l'intention qui compte, n'est-ce pas ? Même si c'était ennuyeux de faire une longue queue dans la poste (deux fois!) ça vaut la peine.


This will be one of the rare Christmases that I don't spend in Australia with my family and friends :( so it will be a little bit sad but I will be with new friends so I'm looking forward to it... and some lovely home-cooked French food! :) 

All that snow and all those Christmas decorations has put me in somewhat of a Pollyanna mood and I like it! It's so unlike me! I just feel happy and giddy all the time. It's kind of crazy. The locals don't even like their town and I love it! Everything is beautiful to me... Every little thing intrigues and surprises me and everything is just beautiful because... it's Christmas and I get to experience a REAL Christmas, in winter, with real Christmas trees, and real snow and soon... skiing!

Merry Christmas / Joyeux Noël to all my readers. Stay safe and happy and I hope that you will have some special and memorable moments with your loved ones.

xxx

vendredi 10 décembre 2010

Lyon Fête des Lumières 2010


Right now I'm in Lyon enjoying the Fête des Lumières (Lights Festival). Don't ask me how I managed to wrangle 2 nights for free in an apartment in the heart of the city right during one of its busiest period for accommodation... it's my lucky day/week/month! However, it seems I won't be getting any sleep tonight... It's almost midnight and there is a big band playing downstairs on the street... Everybody is in such a festive mood!

Boy on boy was it cold. It was a pretty much cloudless day and those days are always colder than cloudy days. I am surprised I managed to stay out for over 4 hours in -2°C temperature ! Incredible. At times I didn't think I could last but everyone else did, even the little kids and old people so I pushed on although I did give up queuing up for the Jungle one. I might see it tomorrow... It looked good but I really did not want to stand for ages in a queue! (I hate queues).

I'd been looking forward to this even for a year (well since the last one) so I had very high expectations and I was a little disappointed. I'm not sure why exactly. Maybe the massive crowds has something to do with it. I enjoyed the lights festival in May/June in Sydney and it was hardly crowded at all! As well as that it went on for much longer than just 4 days. I guess the crowds and the mega cold was a dampener for me but there were some nice things to see.  My fave (of those that I saw) was the one in Place des Terreaux. The combination of the lights, the sound/music and the water was just amazing!

All the restaurants were open and many had little stands selling fast and cheap snack type food, and vin chaud ((hot) mulled wine). I didn't try any though because I wanted to bring the bare essentials so I didn't even bring my wallet or a handbag! I didn't want to get pickpocketed amongst the crowds. Although I shouldn't have worried because it felt really really safe. There were stacks of police everywhere and everyone was well behaved. I kept thinking to myself if this was in Australia and it was late at night and a Friday night at that and almost Christmas there would surely be many loud, annoying drunk people about but I didn't see any of these... just annoying smokers everywhere :P

---

17 December: added photo

mercredi 8 décembre 2010

Ski wear and Snowboard wear in France



I'm planning to go skiing in the near future (who wouldn't when they live so close to the snowfields?!) and looking to buy some ski clothing. I've been skiing once before. A LONG time ago. I think I just wore whatever I had at home which was far from appropriate. My pants were not even waterproof! They were those thick fleecy pants you wear for sport (or in my case, for sleep). Yeah, I cringe at the thought of my lack of knowledge (or my parents' lack of knowledge rather) about skiwear...

So, a few weeks ago (before it even started snowing actually) was reading up on skiwear (and also watching tutorials on YouTube and other video websites about how to actually ski instead of 'falling gracefully')...  I discovered some key words such as breathability (respirant) and waterproof (imperméable) ratings. They start from 1,000 and go up to around 20,000+. The average ski jacket/pants in the shops is around 3-5,000 and 10,000 is very good. I doubt you'd need anything more than that unless you are a hardcore winter sport enthusiast. Of course the higher the number the more expensive the item is too. And then you have Gore-Tex which is a whole other world altogether and defies numbers.

It's all a bit confusing so I won't even try to explain it but here are two (one, two) good websites which explain it well.

I decided I wanted at least a 5000/5000 rating (or more if I could afford it).

I have a few problems:

1) I live in a small town and don't have a car so it's a pain to do any shopping for anything other than food (a whole new post on this topic coming up soon)
2) I seem to be the size of the average French woman so almost everything I want to buy is sold out in my size. This happens all the time. Even if the product is not on sale! It is beyond frustrating.
3) Ski clothing is ugly. Am I the only person who thinks this? Why can't they just come in normal colours other than black or white? I don't want to wear hot pink or puke chartreuse or look like I'm 8 years old. It's as if - how should I say this? - somebody threw up in Photoshop. Why do the patterns on ski clothing have to be so loud and garish and 80s? As well as that, it makes you look fat and/or pregnant.
Also, why are there so many white ski clothes? Do people want to be camouflaged or what? I don't get it. I keep having paranoid thoughts about being stuck in the mountains and noone being about to find me because... I am wearing head to toe in white! Hahahaa. Call me silly but I think about these things. And then to me, black is just too dreary which leaves the highlighter pen type colours, or your wacky crazy patterns.

Ho hum.

I have no choice but to buy it on the internet but I'm never sure what size to get as it largely depends on what brand it is... It's going to be very interesting seeing if I can even find anything that I like, in my size, AND in my price range!

On the plus side, ski wear (and sports wear/equipment in general) seem to be a heck of a lot cheaper in France than in Australia, and I love that there are so many sport stores with discounted prices. In fact, winter technical clothing, accessories and equipment (for randonées, skiing and snowboarding, etc) seems to be about 1/3 price of that in Australia!

---

Edited: I ended up buying a jacket from Intersport in Lyon. It's by the brand Protest and cost 169 euros. It's more than I wanted to spend but I figure if I can wear it as a normal jacket then it's like getting 2 in one. It has a rating of 8000 for both breathability and waterproof... waterproofability? waterproofedness? watertightness? so it's totally worth the price I think. I fully recommend that store in the Croix Rousse in Lyon. It was huge. It had 2 storeys and the largest range of ski clothing I'd seen in any store. Of course it also sells other sports stuff too including actual skis.

dimanche 5 décembre 2010

The Journey Part III

Part I

Part II

... so they took us on a quick boat ride from the floating pontoon onto a sandy beach for a.... shark feeding session! It was fun and exciting except I desperately needed to go the toilet... and then I discovered there was no toilet paper and I had nothing on me (as all our belongings were still on the pontoon). And I REALLY needed it if you get what I mean. So I asked a girl from a different tour group and luckily she had some.

Later, I realised I was really dehydrated and extremely thirsty and once again some nice person in a different tour group gave me their bottle of water. I was feeling really sick the whole time but managed to put on a happy face and enjoy myself as best I can and even get some great photos of me in and out of the water. I bet if someone were to look at the photos they would have no idea just how sick (and weak and dizzy) I was feeling...

The water was so clear and there were so many tiny little fish swimming around and I even saw some sea cucumbers. It was pretty cool.


Then they took us back to the pontoon for one last snorkel (where I did nothing and tried very hard to get rid of that nauseating feeling) before getting back on the ferry to go back to the mainland. Luckily that stupid woman was not making a racket this time!

Once we got back I was really sad to say goodbye to my 2 new friends but that's life! Hopefully we'll meet again sometime somewhere in the future...

Then everybody caught a bus back to their hotels I was last to be dropped off. The driver even forgot to drop me off and when he did, he didn't even drive me inside and dropped me at the road so I had to walk up that LONG driveway whilst feeling sick and weak... ugh... bad memories and I would complain to the company if I could be bothered.

I was thankful I had such a nice hotel room to relax and get some rest in...

I had zero appetite and didn't eat anything that night. Then the next morning I was off again! Back to the airport to go to Singapore...

I was excited to see Changi airport again because last time I was there it was some hideous hour in the early morning where all the shops were closed so I didn't get to see or do much. I had a quick look at some of the shops after I landed and then caught a taxi to my hotel.

It was taxis all the way... I was soooo glad I was in Asia where I could actually afford to take a taxi everywhere. The driver dropped me off at the wrong hotel, but it was all good because my hotel wasn't that far away and I didn't have much baggage on me (because I'd left it in my hotel in KL if you have been following my story).

I stayed at the Fragrance Selegie that I booked through Agoda, who, I discovered have lower prices than other hotel/accommodation websites (but their range isn't so big). It was exactly as advertised and I have no complaints at all. The room was tiny but for 1 person this was not a problem for me. It was well sealed against sound (as I am a really light sleeper and probably my main complaint apart from cleanliness is noise) and it had a tv, and kettle, and bathroom.

I spent the afternoon sleeping hoping this problem would go away... I'd barely eaten anything yet still had no appetite.

That night, one of my lovely friends who lives in Singapore came to visit me and took me out to buy some medicine and just have a walk around. I couldn't walk very fast or very far but I was OK. I had a light snack so that I didn't faint. I was so thankful and happy to have a friend around. It does get rather sad and lonely travelling by yourself.

After seeing her I started to feel better and the next day I even had enough energy to walk to the train station and take the train. However, it started to go downhill rapidly... I actually thought I was about to pass out at one stage and just when I made it to a GP in this big shopping mall she told me she was closed for lunch! (contrary to the sign on the door too). I was furious but too weak to argue. After walking around the mall forever (where there were no maps to be found anywhere) and getting really fed up I just decided to leave and took the next taxi out of there and told him to take me to the nearest doctor.

Luckily the driver was really helpful and said it would be better to take me to a doctor closer to my hotel so that I could just walk home afterwards (otherwise I would need to take 2 taxis which would cost more and take more time). He dropped me off in front of this medium-sized commercial building which was mostly full of medical professionals (but had a few shops and hairdressers and stuff in it too)... Seeing the GP was so easy and so great. It's usually really good in most places in Asia.

You don't have to wait long (I didn't have to wait at all), it's not that expensive, and you don't have to go to a separate pharmacy as they fill all your scripts for you right there! And they even give you the exact dose so you don't end up with half a box of (whatever) left over that you paid for and won't need again.

He was very understanding and told me basically that I had food poisoning (I don't know why I thought I didn't have it... maybe because I wasn't vomiting and I was convinced you needed to be vomiting AND having diarrhoea to have it) and that I needed antibiotics. He only gave me 2 tablets. I requested more but he said I didn't need it. Whaddya know? I didn't. He also gave me some other stuff like this probiotic powder (which was a French brand funnily enough), painkillers (for stomach pain/cramps), well basically he gave me too much and I didn't take it all but I was glad to have it 'just in case'.

It was also raining that whole day and suffice to say I did not do a lot or see a lot in my time in Singapore. I was really disappointed because the first time I went there a few years ago I was also really sick and spent most of the time feeling like death and sleeping in the hotel room... Perhaps Singapore and I just aren't meant to be!

...to be continued...

Part IV

samedi 4 décembre 2010

French compound nouns (noms composés)



So I was marvelling at the fact at how fast these orange snow sweeping trucks seem to just come out of the woodwork (so to speak) and do their job, and then 15 minutes later I'd see them come by again... I asked my friend what those things are called in French. Heck, I don't even know what they are called in English. I like to stick with "snow sweeping truck". (OK, a quick Google search tells me they are called snow plows. Please forgive my ignorance, I come from Australia, OK!)

So he told me they are called chasse-neige which I assume literally means "snow hunt(er)"... so after having recently bought a sèche-cheveux, this got me thinking. Whereas in English we use a noun+noun to describe an object, French uses a verb+noun (usually).

So you have snow-hunt and hair-dry, instead of snow hunter and hairdryer. Another example I quickly thought of was tire-bouchon, a bottle-opener/corkscrew, or in French, a cork-pull(er).

And with these compound nouns we come across the problem of what to do in the plural form. Yes, it's time for one of my language lessons. It's been a LONG time since I did one of these so I hope you'll learn something new.


Information compiled with help from the very excellent Shaum's French Grammar book and this website.


If a compound noun is ... formed by Two Nouns, an s or x is added to each part to form the plural.
Un chou-fleur               Des choux-fleurs  (cauliflower)
Un wagon-restaurant    Des wagons-restaurants  (dining car)

Une station-services     Des stations-services    (service station)
Une porte-fenêtre         Des portes-fenêtres     (French window)
Un oiseau-mouches     Des oiseaux-mouches    (hummingbird)
Un garde-chasse         Des gardes-chasses    (gamekeeper)


...formed by a Noun and its complement, only the first part is plural.
Un arc-en-ciel            Des arcs-en-ciel  (rainbow)
Un chef-d'oeuvre       Des chefs-d'oeuvre  (masterpeice)
Un timbre-poste        Des timbres-poste  (stamp)
Une pause-café         Des pauses-café     (coffee break)
Un hôtel de ville        Des hôtels de ville   (town hall)
Une pomme de terre    Des pommes de terre    (potato)
Un garde des sceaux    Des gardes des sceaux   ("Keeper of the seals")

In some rare cases, an s is added only to the last part
Un pique-nique     Des pique-niques  (picnic)

In other cases, it rests invariable
Un pot-au-feu          Des pot-au-feu (boiling beef (dish))
Un rez-de-chaussée     Des rez-de-chaussée  (ground floor)
Un après-midi         Des après-midi  (afternoon)
Un hors-d'oeuvre    Des hors-d'oeuvre   (canapé)
Un tête-à-tête          Des tête-à-tête   (private chat)


...formed by a Verb and a Noun, both parts are invariable
Un abat-jour            Des abat-jour  (lampshade)
Un gratte-ciel          Des gratte-ciel  (skyscraper)
Un passe-partout     Des passe-partout  (passkey)
Un réveille-matin   Des réveille-matin  (alarm clock)
Un sèche-cheveux   Des sèche-cheveux     (hairdryer)
Un chasse-neige     Des chasse-neige    (snowplow)
Un gratte-papier     Des gratte-papier    (office worker/"pen pusher")
Un faire-part           Des faire-part     (invitation)
Un porte-monnaie   Des porte-monnaie  (purse)

but
Un cure-dent          Des cure-dents  (toothpick)
Un tire-bouchon     Des tire-bouchons  (corkscrew)
Un couvre-lit          Des couvre-lits  (bedspread)
Un couvre-pieds     Des couvre-pieds (bedspread for end of bed/feet)
Un ouvre-boîte       Des ouvre-boîtes  (can opener)
Un garde-manger    Des garde-manger (cold room)
Un porte-plume      Des porte-plumes  (fountain pen)
Un garde-fou          Des garde-fous  (railing)
Un porte-clé(s)       Des porte-clefs   (keychain/keyring)
Un tire-ligne           Des tire-lignes   (calligraphic drawing pen) 
Un porte-avion(s)   Des porte-avions  (aircraft carrier)

but
Un compte rendu     Des comptes rendus   (report)



...formed by two Verbs, both parts are invariable
Un laissez-passer     Des laissez-passer     (special travel document for UN or EU)Un va-et-vient          Des va-et-vient     (coming and going)


..formed by Adjective and a Noun
Un beau-frère        Des beaux-frères  (brother-in-law or stepbrother)
Une belle-soeur    Des belles-soeurs  (sister-in-law or stepsister)
Une grand-mère   Des grands-mères  (grandmother)
Un grand-père      Des grands-pères  (grandfather)
Un coffre-fort       Des coffres-forts     (safe)
Un château fort      Des châteaux forts    (fortified castle)
Un garde-champêtre     Des gardes-champêtres  (village policeman)
Une plate-bande     Des plates-bandes    (flower bed)
Un rouge-gorge     Des rouges-gorges (redbreast)

but
Un nouveau-né     Des nouveau-né(e)s


..formed by Two Adjectives
Un sourd-muet      Des sourds-muets  (deaf-mute)
Un franc-tireur      Des francs-tireurs (irregular soldier/sniper)


..formed by an Adverb and a Noun
Une arrière-boutique   Des arrière-boutique  (back shop)
Un sous-sol                 Des sous-sols    (basement)
Un sous-multiple         Des sous-multiples  (sub-multiple (mathematics))

Invarible:
Un après-ski        Des après-ski
Un après-midi     Des après-midi



I learnt early on when I started learning French and I definitely have to revise this!  I think I just confused myself 100x more by making this article. I think it'll be easier to just learn the vocab first!

mercredi 1 décembre 2010

Snowed under


I think I saw a lifetime's worth of snow in one day today. Last night it snowed a lot and then today it continued to snow heavily all day long (stopping around 4pm). In my parts I was walking (wading?) in knee-deep snow! It has caused chaos for transport and many buses and trains stopped running. People with cars complain about the roads, and have to get new tyres. Walking through thick snow is pretty hard work too!

So, it's been 6 days straight of seeing the snow for me and it still amazes me and I still take lots of photos every day all throughout the day. I guess if you're used to seeing it year after year it's nothing special but for me it's still pretty special!


I HAVE seen snow before but after many people have asked me if it's my first time, I've kind of started lying and saying it is because it's just easier than explaining plus it feels like my first time anyway. The real first time I saw snow was when I was 14 and my parents took my sister and I, and went with their friends to the snow in Australia.

For those that don't know: YES, IT DOES SNOW IN AUSTRALIA. I am kind of tired of getting asked that question! For some reason people think Australia (despite it being so huge) has the same weather and temperature throughout the entire country and that it's always hot and sunny??? Yes we have seasons and it can get cold too! And yes, we have snow and skiing too! However it's only in a tiny part of Australia, the highest part where all the mountains are.

Back to my thoughts about the snow...

Thursday 25 November 2010
Lunchtime (around 1pm) - I looked out the window and saw snow for the first time in my town.
Dinnertime (around 6:30pm) - I looked out the window and saw the snow making the ground white
Around 8pm - The ground and all the cars etc were all covered in white and I was soooo excited!

Friday 26 November 2010
Morning - there was a lot of snow overnight and it looked gorgeous.

Saturday 27 November 2010
It was still snowing a lot and was overcast. It stopped around 3-4pm and then it started up again around 6pm. I built my snowman (snow family).

Sunday 28 November 2010
It wasn't snowing but there was still a lot of snow on the ground everywhere. Around noon I walked around the block and took some photos. Saw lots of kids building snowmen and playing with their toboggans. Ahhhh to be a kid again!
Late afternoon the snow started melting a bit but then in the evening it started falling again. I felt really really cold that night.

Monday 29 November 2010

It was beautiful! The snow had melted a bit overnight and then new snow had covered the melted snow, making a 'bubblebath' effect which I loved. That, combined with the sun which shone brightly made the everything look so beautiful and dreamy. Luckily I didn't have to work that day and pulled myself out of bed early to walk around the town and take pictures of the snow in the beautiful, perfect sunny morning light with blue skies.


Tuesday 30 November 2010
It was very overcast and continued to snow a bit and then stopped. In the early afternoon it had been swept and was that ugly murky brown-grey colour from cars, and from people walking in it and I actually started wondering whether I'd see that brilliant bright white colour and full coverage again. I needn't have worried because around 3pm it started snowing heavily and did not stop...


Wednesday 1 December 2010
It snowed a lot overnight and all the grass outside my window was covered. Completely covered. It was the thickest I had ever seen and it continued to snow throughout the day. A lot. The roads were not swept as I guess it was too hard to do and it was very hard to walk through it in many places. I noticed the cars were driving very slowly, at around 40km/hour or less. A few people have told me they needed to get new/special tyres for their cars.

Observations
• I love looking out the window when it's snowing heavily and marvelling at the wonders of Mother Nature. This morning I started thinking to myself there must be some mathematical formula that calculates how much snow an object can withstand, ie how wide must the object be to the ratio of how high the snow can be on top of it. And at what angle it can hold snow, ie vertically it can't really hold any snow, but diagonally it can.  Although it was snowing so much today that even vertical things (like wire fences, walls and poles) had snow stuck all over it!

• You know it's been snowing a lot when even the electrical wires and the thinnest, tiniest branches are all completely covered in snow!

• I need to wear sunglasses because the whiteness of everything is so blindingly white. Today all I could see was WHITE WHITE WHITE everywhere!

• Surprisingly, it's not actually that cold when it's snowing. It seems colder when it's not actively snowing.

• I like and hate walking through the snow at the same time. I like it for that 'crunchy' effect and marvelling at how it turns to ice when it's melted and then refrozen. I hate it because I want everything to stay pristine and perfect and beautiful without footprints and dirty spots!

• I suck at making snowmen. I tried and the snow was too dry and I couldn't make even a decent sized snowball in my hand. However, I do know it's possible as I've seen them around the town. I lack proper training, obviously! I even watched some YouTube tutorial videos (yes, that's how seriously I take it ;) ) and found out you make the snowball in your hand first and then start rolling it on the ground which will pick up more snow in turn.. (hence the term 'snowball effect). I watched a father and son do it so I know it's possible but I think I need  personal tutor to show me (just kidding!) :) I did manage to make a mini snowman though, complete with snow wife and snow child.

• I don't know when I will get sick of the snow. I know it is causing a lot of hassles for people but it makes me feel sooooo happy looking at it and being in it. They say that no two snowflakes are alike. Isn't that amazing? And all the snowflakes are different sizes and diameters.  I tried to take a photo of one/some but they melt too quickly.

• Walking through thick snow is a bit dangerous. Actually you can't tell how deep it is and you don't even know what's underneath: is it concrete, grass, sand, dirt, mud, (frozen) water? It could be anything and I have nearly put my foot into some frozen water (ice)! Also you can't see where the kerb is or where the steps are when it's that deep. It's hard to estimate depth or distance. It also becomes very slippery when it's re-frozen and turned into ice. I keep thinking I'm on a giant ice-skating rink! Even with really good rubber-soled snowboots I have slipped a little and felt like I was nearly going to fall.

• It's taken me a while but I think I have actually acclimatised. From the 23-24°C when I came to minus degrees. I think it's been anywhere from -1 to -10°C lately.









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