samedi 26 mars 2011

A life changing event

I had the best time with my friends last night! After such a heavy week emotionally I really needed to relax. I was soooo tired though. We didn't get back till 1:30am which I think is the latest I've stayed out since I came to France.

Well my life is about to change in a big way... I'm excited yet scared at the same time. Really really really really really scared. I will tell more later once I figure it all out myself.

jeudi 24 mars 2011

Saying goodbye is hard to do

I've had an emotionally draining week this week. Just finished teaching a class and at one point I almost burst into tears (talking about something that triggered a memory for me back home) but luckily I held it together. It's now been over 6 months since I've seen my family and friends. I know that that isn't that long in the scheme of things but given I'm alone here too (ie without a partner or other family) I think I've been pretty tough so far.

Thinking about the rest of my life frightens me a great deal. At the moment I know I'll have to say goodbye to my life here soon and despite all the bad things that happened, in the end I'll only remember the good things and good experiences and all the wonderful people (friends, teachers, students) that I met. I feel extremely sad when I think that one day I'll walk through this school one last time, I'll eat at the cantine one last time, I'll stay in my cute little dorm room (that I've called 'home') at the internat one more time, and that I'll live this cushy holiday-filled life for one more moment...

I know I'll have to say goodbye soon and yet, if I stay on in France or Europe I won't be able to go home for a while so it's doubly sad as I will have to say goodbye to all the friends I made here and I still won't be able to see my old friends and my family back home. And that, is really hard to bare. Plus, I'll have to start all over again. Find accommodation again. Do all that administrative stuff. Find and make new friends. Again.

Definitely, the worst part about being an 'expat' is when you have to leave behind the friends you made. Yeah yeah everyone says they'll stay in contact but when you don't physically live in the same town you can't be with them and do 'stuff' with them anymore.

My heart is very sad. Why do I always have to say goodbye? I just wished I belonged to someone or to something or somewhere and that I'd never have to say goodbye. I got exactly the life I wanted, and now, I'm not so sure I want that anymore... I'm scared. I guess I'm kind of tired of playing the big strong 'I can do everything on my own' tough girl. In the end I'm still just a 'little girl' who's scared shitless and wants her mummy and daddy.

mercredi 23 mars 2011

Long day

I had a lo-o-o-ng day today. I wouldn't say it was the longest ever but it was long enough. I had maybe 4 hours of sleep last night, woke up at around 6am, got up at 7am, started work at 8am and then was on the go (bus, train, tram, bus and then all again in reverse and stressing about not missing any my connections) and didn't get home till almost 8:30pm and only just finished dinner and a shower and it's almost 10:30pm. And I almost lost my voice. Sorry this is a vague post.. I might elaborate later if it becomes relevant... wanna go to bed so badly but need to prepare tomorrow's lessons too... *le sigh*

lundi 21 mars 2011

How I got myself an impromptu interview

On Geneva, How I got myself an impromptu interview, and Random Ramblings

Being a lovely day and all and not needing to work I decided I needed to go somewhere. I actually originally had this crazy idea to go to Chamonix-Mont Blanc. Why? Because I'm obsessed with snow and it's melting away - fast. And just because I can. However, I checked out their webcams and it was already patchy and not lush and COMPLETELY covered in white. Plus, it's not exactly that close to me and I would feel like it would be one big huge rush if I tried to get there and back in one day. Plus I wouldn't be going skiing so what's the point? So I changed my mind.

So last night at midnight I was hastily looking at the giant 1.3 metre map on my wall of my region trying to decide where to go. It had to be reasonably close (as I only had one day and wanted to be back before 6pm, and I didn't want to spend too much on the train tickets) and somewhere easily accessible by train of course. Everywhere that I COULD go I'd already been to before and everywhere else was just too small. I always check out the population size thanks to Wikipedia and anything smaller than about 30,000 is just not worth the effort. I mean, I may as well stay at home! Unless it's really well-known or something.

Then I suddenly remembered! That's right! I needed a new hard disk. I somehow managed to fill mine up with all the photos and videos I've taken and movies I've downloaded (shhhh). I brought with me a 2Tb HD from Australia... I know it sounds excessive but it was already over half full when I brought it over (because I'd copied all the files from my computer as well as my former HD). Yes, I'm a geek and I'd never know when I'd need something from the past (and it's happened many times already) and it's not as if I can tell someone to go through my computer to find some obscure file. It'd never happen. I'm too private about my files and besides, they'd never find it anyway since I would've forgotten which folder I put it in!

I know I'm getting off the topic but anyway, the other day when I was with my friend I mentioned this to him and he said to go to Geneva! Why? Because computer stuff is cheaper in Switzerland. Hurray! Something that is cheaper over there compared to France. I actually compared prices on and and he was right. He also gave me the tip to go to Interdiscount which is cheaper than Fnac.

I went to both just so I could compare prices (not because I didn't believe him but for my own research purposes for future use) and yes, Interdiscount was cheaper for the same products. But both stores sold the same and yet different brands/models as well so it just depends on what you want, really.

So anyway I get back home, keen to try out my new external HD (which is the same brand and similar model to my current one) and clear out my computer and existing HD only to find out I had to reformat it to a Mac version. No problem. But then I had all sorts of problems copying data from the old HD to the new one and realised the problem lay with the old one and not the new one! And after furiously Googling what the heck the problem was (it would only copy a little and then stop and tell me there was a disk error - quelle horreur !) I suspect that I have a virus. Yes yes, everyone says that Macs don't get viruses. But I'm reminded of a week or so ago when I clicked on a search result for Google and that warning page come up (I think you might have seen it before?) that says not to go to that page but I was being stubborn and determined to go there anyway and I think that I may have caught a virus that way. I don't know. Maybe I don't have one? But things are certainly slow and weird. My computer seems to be fine except it's slow to start up and Safari seems to be crashing a lot more than usual. My external HD has problems too and right now I can't do much with my files since my computer's HD is full as well. Anyway I won't bore you anymore... Ugh. What a nightmare! (If you don't hear from me for a while you'll know why).

So where was I? Oh yes, a gloriously sunny day. Nice and warm. Well it would have been if it wasn't so windy. Almost every time I go to Geneva it seems to be windy. I was feeling rather happy because of the lovely blue skies and sunshine though. It was just that I still had to wear long johns and boots and a big coat and gloves :P

Well I should have known it'd turn out to be an interesting day when this happened on the train platform. A random guy sitting next to me on the bench asked if he could borrow my mobile phone since his was (I assume) out of credit. Now whenever a male stranger talks to me, my defences will automatically go up at the start. It's just a natural instinct to keep myself safe. It doesn't matter who they are, what they look like, how old they are, etc. It just happens without me even thinking about it. If a guy tries to talk to me, my first thought is, "What does he want from me?"

So because I must've had this frozen stupid blank look on my face, he assumed I didn't understand him and tried speaking to me in his (very bad) English. That's when I relaxed and smiled and said that I do speak French. So he repeated again if he could borrow my phone because he wanted to call his mother. Automatically I start jumping to (negative) conclusions and have images of him raking up a big phone bill. I don't know why I did that but anyway, I just asked if she's in France and he said yes and then I said OK. Afterall, I'm not a total bitch ;)

So he calls his mother and tells her to call him back on his phone. I was nice of him not to have the entire conversation on my phone, I suppose, so he was decent and honest afterall. He then asked if I was going to Geneva ("You are go to Geneva?") and while he was dialling on my phone, he started to tell me he used to have that exact same phone and we both had a laugh about it because my phone is so old. I kid you not, it's more than 6 years old (but it looks like new because I keep it in a case so it's in excellent condition). I had this weird feeling that he wanted to keep talking to me but obviously he couldn't since he obviously had something really important to talk about with his mother, and then soon after the train came...

Given it was about noon I was surprised the train was so full. I hate full trains because it means I can't get a window seat! I'm lucky if I can get a seat at all. So I found a seat and sat down and as soon as I did so, the guy sitting on the window seat got up (to look for the toilet I assume). Then, soon after, the guy I was previously talking to asked if he could sit next to me (in the now empty spot). I got this weird feeling that perhaps he had actively sought me out because there was no way he could have known whereabouts in the train I ended up as there were people everywhere. I mean, the train is pretty big too!

Because I had all these weird thoughts going around in my head I didn't answer him immediately and the lady sitting opposite me answered my behalf LOL. She said that the seat was already taken. So then the guy left, obviously disappointed. Now I was in two minds. If I had continued a conversation with him, I suppose it would've been nice but then I wasn't that disappointed either that it didn't happen. It's just one of those things! Hmm...

I actually saw him again when I walked through customs (douane) and saw that he had been stopped and so were a bunch of other random people (mostly men with backpacks). I was tempted to go and say Hi again but I didn't. Don't get me wrong, I didn't find him attractive in that way and nor was I 'interested' in him. I just think random encounters like that are so rare (for me) and I felt that our conversation could've gone somewhere... or something. I dunno... perhaps it wasn't to be.

Once upon a time when I was younger and watched romantic comedy movies I used to think that all the scenarios in which people met up were bullshit. Seriously. I mean does that kind of stuff really happen in real life? But during the last few years of my life I have experienced a lot of things which I think would make interesting storylines in movies and I have also spoken to other people with interesting stories about how they met certain people in their life... I have definitely changed my tune. I now believe that the scriptwriters who write those films often base it on (their own) real life events.

But, onto more adventures!

I decided to check out some new parts of town that I hadn't seem before. Actually make that the old parts (haha), meaning the old town (vieille ville). I just walked and walked until a sign caught my eye. It was pink and white and gold (so rather eye catching) and it said to find the entrance of the office around the other side of the building (in a small narrow-ish lane). So I did. I thought to myself... hmm... this could be a nice company to work for! Do I dare go in? I never planned to do anything job-hunting related today so I didn't have anything on me like my CV or a business card (not that I have any business cards)...

I knew there was someone or something telling me I had to go in there and talk to these people but I was as nervous as all heck. The butterflies in my stomach were going nuts. Actually, I already had butterflies in my stomach from some mild period pain (sorry for TMI) so now I had a whole farm full of butterflies in there! I paced up and down that small narrow lane for about 10 minutes. I looked at my reflection in a window to make sure I was decently presented (luckily I was). Finally, I just thought I'd do it. It was actually kind of below street level and when I went in it wasn't quite what I expected at all.

There was only one person there (the rest were out at lunch or in other sites/with clients) and I started to say what I had already memorised and practised in my head (which is what I always do when I need to say something in French and it's important)... « Je m'appelle _______ . Je suis _______ et je suis à la recherche du travail dans le domaine de ______ . Est-ce que vous êtes actuellement .... » and she interrupted me with a "Do you speak English?" and I said something like, "Yes... even better."

Turns out she was Swedish and didn't speak any French at all. She said her boss was out of town, in London, but he'd be back tomorrow. I got both of their business cards and was about to leave when... right at the entrance/exit I ran into a colleague of hers. Without even hesitating, I introduced myself and told him what I was doing there. He asked me if I had a CV on me and I said No but I could get it online and show/tell him whatever he wanted to know about me... So he invited me to sit down and we looked at my stuff on his computer and that's how I managed to get myself an impromptu interview. :)

Turns out he's Australian too. He said he'd speak to the boss and will get back to me. To be honest, even if no job comes out of this I'm still happy that I had the guts to do what I did. It was a real ego and confidence boost too when he told me he was impressed that I was being so pro-active and asked me how many other companies I had approached in this way! Ha. (answer: zero). I think he's onto something there though...

Then I continued my aimless wandering and self-designed discovery tour and came across this really interesting looking temple/mosque thing (Russian Church). I asked the only person there what it was. In French of course until he interrupted me and asked if I spoke English. Turns out he was English! He was with his baby and was really nice and even suggested some other areas nearby that I should have a look at.  When I said I didn't have a map on me (which is so not like me) he even got out his iPhone to show me. He asked me where I was from and I said, "Guess" and he guessed Australian (based on my accent) and told me that my accent wasn't that strong. I jokingly said that I've probably lost it.. hahaha.

Then, I found myself at the top of a hill with a gorgeous view looking back down to where I'd come from. I asked an old man if he could take a photo for/of me. The same old spiel I've said 100 times before.. "Pouvez-vous prendre une photo de moi, s'il vous plaît ?" (and then thrusting my camera into their hand and pointing to the shiny silver button where they should click, or press/appuyez in French). I know it's not the most elegant way of saying it ("Can you take a photo of me, please?") but it's such a habit now I never bothered to learn another better way of saying it until he gave me the idea... To confirm what I wanted, he said something that ended with "...photographier ?" That's it!, I thought. That's a verb! OMG why didn't I think of that before? OK, next time I'm going to ask, "Pourriez-vous" (afterall, "could" is more polite, so "Could you") " photographier, s'il vous plaît ?" ("...photograph me, please?)"

I noticed that there were trees sprouting gorgeous white cherry blossoms! Spring is certainly in the air. Seeing those trees made my heart fill with joy.

Overall I felt it was a very successful day. And I feel/felt happy. I just love talking to strangers, especially nice ones!. It may sound strange but it's something I've always loved doing and today I had several random encounters with strangers...

Image: Wild World Wiki

dimanche 20 mars 2011

Yann Arthus-Bertrand and Green Films

Earth from Above - Yann Arthus-Bertrand
I was reading this interview with Yann Arthus-Bertrand by the Guardian... Now I have to say that he is my hero! I love his work. I love his beautiful aerial landscape photos taken all around the world (turned into a book "Earth from Above" ), his film "Home"  and all the messages he tries to convey about the world, ecology, sustainability, etc. It's timely that I come across this interview with him, given the situation in Japan now and all those recent worldwide disasters... :(

You should have a read of the article.
Yann Arthus-Bertrand isn't just an aerial photographer: he's on a mission to save mankind by teaching us to love our beautiful planet. To many, he is France's answer to Al Gore, but why do some think he's an "enormous idiot"? ...
Anyway, as I was reading it, it occurred to me that did the interview in English and his English isn't quite perfect and they left his mistakes in which I thought was rather 'cute' and authentic. (not so 'cute' about leaving his wife though ;) ) Examples:

"Together we have made a safari park (which lasted?) for 10 years"
"I quit left my first wife, and went to live with my second wife and her two children in Kenya"...

I love this quote. The reporter asks, "How, I wonder, does he now measure his success, beyond sales figures?" and he says:

"I don't think it is necessary to measure it exactly," he says. "You want to spread the message. To have success in your professional life is not so hard. To succeed as a man is more difficult. What I am doing now helps me to succeed as a man."

Watch Home on YouTube

Buy the French version of Earth from Above (La Terre Vue du Ciel)

And on the same topic, recently I wanted to go to the Festival du Film Vert (Green Film Festival) in Geneva (and all over Switzerland), but couldn't make it. It was a Film Festival screening films with an environmental/sustainability message. I wish I could've seen them all as this topic interests me a great deal.

Films with a Green Message
You could also use them for French listening practice ;)

A la découverte de l'énergie (Discovery of energy)

Blue gold - world water war

Chomsky et compagnie (Chomsky and company)

Déchets, le cauchemar du nucléaire (The nightmare of nuclear waste)

Dive! (Dumpster Diving)

Dive! Trailer from Compeller on Vimeo.

Du poison dans nos vêtements (From the Poison in our clothes)

Du poison dans nos vêtements 1/3 by Wakeup-

Etre éco-citoyen (Be an eco-citizen)

(can't find video for this)

Food Inc.


Hold up sur l'écologie (Hold up on ecology)


(as above)

I bought a rainforest

Il était une fois... notre Terre (Once upon a time... our land)

Jura, instants volés (Jura, stolen moments)

La fin de la pauvreté ? (The end of poverty?)

La vie sauvage en Suisse (Life in the wild in Switzerland)

Trailer WILDNIS SCHWEIZ I LA VIE SAUVAGE EN SUISSE from Roger Maeder on Vimeo.

Le pouvoir de la communauté (The Power of Community)

Main basse sur le riz (Take over of rice)

Mister Carbone

Notre poison quotidien (Our daily poison)

Pig Business

RAS nucléaire: rien à signaler (RAS Nuclear: Nothing to Signal)

Solutions locales pour un désordre global (Local solutions for a global disaster)

Sous les pavés, la terre (Under the pavers, the earth)

Taking root, the vision of Wangari Maathai

Tchernobyl, une histoire naturelle? (Tchernobyl, a natural story?)

Un avenir? A quel prix... (A future? At what price...)

Water makes money

I also remember this book Where the Forest Meets the Sea by Jeannie Baker, from my childhood. The book is composed of 3D collages where all the images are made from objects found in the natural environment. It won numerous awards. Even back then in the 1980s-early 1990s the "saving the environment" message was out there.

It really angers me when people don't think about these issues which affect all of us and just go about their daily lives ignoring the harsh realities of our future, consuming and consuming, making 'progress' and polluting... ugh. It's just too depressing really.

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