Monday, February 21, 2011

Speaking of fesses

Okay....I'm done! Finished! I can't take it anymore! I think I have now qualified for the Bloggers Most Injured list. This is now how I pictured my name going down in infamy.

Last Wednesday, I decided it was high time to re-do my blog page. I had no particular ideas in mind and I began to play around. Trouble is...I pushed one of those damned wrong buttons and lost my old template. Thus, I was committed.

You need to understand, I'm a complete idiot at this I only know what I've had to learn so far...and since I haven't had to use this extensive knowledge for at least a year, it had flown from my brain like the french word for keyboard (I know it starts with the letter "c"), the password for my bank account, and the rules for every single card game I've ever been taught.

So...I sat in front of the damed computer, typing on that thing that starts with the letter "c", for 14 hours. Yeppers, 14 hours in my newly-made bathrobe, doing nothing but struggling with a dumb blog page.  I did finally eat something about 10 pm and at midnight I opened a bottle of wine. Which is probably why at 1:30 a.m., I closed up shop. Satisfied. At one point, late in the marathon, I thought I had sat on a pin, probably left behind in the bathrobe-that-had-the-day-before-been-a-sewing-project. I couldn't find it anywhere within the folds of my wonderful, new, fuzzy robe and so, continued on with my project.

The next day, I had a pain in the ass. Okay, actually two. The first was the fact that, by the light of day, I hated my new blog page. The second was, I had an actual pain in my ass. A big, excruciating pain in my hinder. Okay, it was really the top of the back of my thigh but these days the two seem to be one in the same. And when I sat down...well....that wasn't really possible!

During the course of the day, a little black and blue mark developed. I know this because I actually had to yank down my drawers and show my injury to a friend (this is, I'll have you know, downright degrading). She thought maybe it was an insect bite and we let it go at that.

It had improved...a little... by Friday but was still really painful. My friend Claire insisted I make a doctor's appointment for Saturday morning and I decided to placate her. Friday night I spoke with my mom and mentioned this little problem and by the time I was done with that conversation, I was sure I was in the midst of some sort of blood clot crisis and I skipped a party so as not to dislodge said clot and die of a pulmonary embolism (this is why one should never discuss minor health problems with one's mother).

I went to the doc on Saturday, downed my drawers again and said, "mes fesses sont mal. Je crois que c'est un probleme avec un vein. Comment vous les trouvez?" (I don't know if this is proper french....I never know. When I came home I ran that one through the translator and it came out, "My buttocks are evil. I think it's a problem with a vein. How do you find them"?). At which point he laughed and said in French, "now this is a special situation".

Yeah, really special. Hysterical.

After a little prodding and pain, he announced it was a broken surface vein and I had practically no chance of dying from it. He did however, tell me to get off my ass. Which I have been doing. Pretty much.

Today it's much better and I decided to re-do my re-do. I don't know if I'm satisfied. But I'm not going to sit here long enough to worry too much about it. However, I welcome any comments from ANYBODY who knows ANYTHING about this sort of thing.

And back to the subject of fesses. I still haven't gotten to to say "tu les trouves jolies mes fesses?"* which was the subject of a recent post and which I've since found out is a famous quote (here in France, anyway) by Brigitte Bardot in the 1956 movie And God Made Woman. I really had that line on my top ten list of things to accomplish in the near future. And I pictured the moment....oh yes....


But, sadly, my first fesses conversation did not go according to plan.


*roughly translated to "do you find my bottom pretty?"

Monday, February 14, 2011

Charm School

In a post this past fall, I mentioned that I was learning to charm and be charmed here in France. I suppose that seems like an odd thing to say, but the fact is, charm is a revered art form in French culture. I’m not sure if they look at is an art, but I have come to think of it that way.

The French have a certain something, I don’t know what it is, that is completely different from what I’m accustomed to. They are not afraid to turn on the charm. Not afraid to be laughed at by their peers because they said something slightly flowery and over the top. Not afraid to offend women by complimenting them or looking at them with admiration. Mostly because the women seem to expect it and practice the same captivating techniques on men. It’s normal and happens everywhere, including the workplace.

Being charming is not the same thing as being a drageur or womanizer/skirt chaser/player. France has its share of schmucks as much as the next country. But this je ne sais quoi seems to be just a part of this world that I’m living in.  I’m not even sure how to explain it so I’ll give you some examples.

Last year a friend had a small party for me on my birthday. I wore a dress and my red high heels because I had NO crown to wear on this momentous occasion. I was sitting on a stool having a conversation with my friend Pierre when he began to shake his head and finally said, “C’est dommage”.

I asked him, "What is too bad?"

He said, “tu es éduqué à mort”. You are educated to death.

Of course, I didn’t know what the he was talking about and he explained that each time I laughed, I unconsciously pulled my skirt down over my knees.  And he thought that was just such an awful shame.

He wasn’t chatting me up.... or beginning one of THOSE uncomfortable conversations. He was just doing what Frenchmen do. No harm intended and certainly none taken.

Last fall I was at the market in Marseille with my sister. We hadn’t had sugar in at least an hour and we stopped by the table of a bisquit  (a sort of French cookie) vendor. I asked him a few questions about a certain treat that caught our eye and after his explanation we bought a couple.

As he was putting our caloric indulgence in a little bag, he said to me (all the following conversations were in French which is, of course, part of the charm), “You speak French very well and your accent is charming.”  Well we all know this isn’t true and I told him so, but he was not to be deterred.

He said,  “If you will permit me, I must tell you that you have the most beautiful eyes. Absolutely beautiful”.

I smiled (most likely batted my eyelashes) and thanked him for saying such a nice thing.

He said, “it may be nice but it’s also true”.

He then picked up two bisquits and put them in our bag. He said, “a gift from me. Bisquits made from the flower of the oranges, especially for the flowers (meaning us). Wow! I can’t say that I’ve ever been likened to a flower!

This past summer I got on the bus one day to be greeted by a smiling driver. I tried to run my ticket through the machine, but it wouldn’t take it. I smoothed it out and tried again. Finally the bus driver said, “slowly. Go very slowly. The machine is very romantic”. And then he beamed at me again.

I was walking home from the University recently and reading a brochure about a belly dancing class I wanted to take. I passed a table full of men gathered around an outdoor table and one of them said something to me. I looked up, apologized for not understanding (after all, I was walking, reading and most likely chewing gum…ALL at the same time!), told him I speak only a little French and if he talked VERY slowly, I MIGHT be able to understand. He repeated himself, slowly, and said, “if you continue to walk while you read you might just fall…. into my arms …and I would like that very much. When I laughed and smiled and told him that was a nice compliment, he asked if I might join him and his friends for champagne.  And when I (charmingly) turned him down, he smiled broadly and told me it was his loss and I was très charmant.

This must be something French, like understanding wine. Whatever it is, each time it happens, it just makes me feel good. Charm for charm’s sake is a good thing. And I’m practicing with all my might.

In October I was at the office of Securité Sociale, trying to figure out how I might be able to get health insurance now that I’m a student (after all, doesn’t college life involve at least one or two beer drinking accidents? I need to be prepared!).  When I was finished and trying to put my 17 different documents that I had needed back in some sort of order, I was chatting with an older gentleman who was also waiting. At the end of the conversation, he told me I was ravissante. I smiled broadly and said thank you and then came home and looked up what he had said because I had no idea (someday this problem is going to get me in a heap of trouble).  Now, he could have possibly said I’m a kidnapper…but he’s French…and I’m betting that he was telling me I was charming/ delightful or maybe even possibly ravishing…. or something like that. And that sure as hell made the trip to a French government office a little easier to take.

I wish everyone a Joyeuse St. Valentin. Did anything charming happen to you today?


The silhouette and more cool clip art from The Graphics Fairy

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Daphnée Does Paris

Planning a trip to Paris soon? Language woes got you down? Never fear, Daphnée's here! Yeah, I guess I'm advertising (unbeknownst to anybody who would ever think to pay me for it)  but I spotted this new I-Phone/I-Pad application today. My old blackberry doesn't qualify and I hope to own a Kindle (mom.....) rather than an I Pad....but I did view all the trailers and these French lessons might be a fun way to learn a little French.  Click here to go to the web page. 


Actress Anne-Sophie Franck of the film Inglorious Bastards stars as Daphnée in the series, and it covers everything from shopping to dining, nightlife to ....a different type of nightlife. The entire series is only $2.99 and can be downloaded from the apps store.

I have once or twice had the opportunity to say "tu me fais mal!" However, I have never, ever gotten to say "tu les trouves jolie mes fesses?" Now that I know how to say it....well... I gotta go!

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Winter Wonderlands and Craft Projects

It's spring in Aix en Provence and Sunday afternoon the world was out and about soaking up the 55 degree (13 C) temperatures and taking up a little sun. A far cry from the temperature in Minnesota the day I left....-20 F (-29 C)!

People here are incredulous when I tell them what sort of temperatures we live with in the northern midwest. What exactly do people DO in Minnesota and Wisconsin in the winter?  How do people entertain themselves when surrounded by sub-zero temperatures and mounds of snow? It's not so bad have to roll with the weather and not fight it. Walks in the woods are fun...allow time for rest, wear the right clothes and make sure the dog is wearing boots!

Walks along the lake are wonderful. Colder than bloody hell...but beautiful. This is Lake Superior which rarely, rarely freezes over so you have to walk along it, not on it.

Sometimes we have to help others in need. As someone did for me when my car broke down in -10 (-23 C) temperatures. Or when someone's plane lands on a frozen lake, breaks a ski and crashes.

We do spend a lot of time outdoors. It's actually fun to drink wine by the fire on a cold night. .

Some people think it's fun to drill a hole in the ice and stand there all day waiting for a fish to decide he'd rather be someone's meal than remain in the frozen water for one more moment. But truthfully, ice fishing really just an excuse for guys to get away from their wives everyone else and drink beer

We plow through all kinds of weather to get where we're going. And sometimes we even make it!

And we eat. Yessirree bob, we eat!  But, if we're lucky, we have a son who makes sure we do it very well.

Of course, often we have to just give in find something to do indoors. Playing games in a bar is an option. It's close to a beer tap and someone else cleans up after you.

And periodically, our indoor activity involves craft projects. This year's Christmas craft is actually the same as last year's. It's a simple project really and I'm going to share it with you so you too can do this at home.
You don't need much really. The most important item for this project is...
1 Frozen Mouse (keep in mind he has to have frozen quickly and never, ever thawed.

Then all you need is cotton, red ribbon, a glue gun, and... one... crazy... mother.

Decorate your mouse simple and elegantly (avoid dripping glue which we didn't do) and work quickly (advice from crazy mother) because a thawed Christmas Mouse is not a good thing.

Use your finished creation in any of your outdoor Christmas decorations.

I do believe, this is the only site on the internet with clear and concise instructions for this particular project. Happy crafting! Who needs spring anyway?


Friday, February 4, 2011

Lingerie questions....answered

This afternoon I browsing through one of my favorite deal sites, Vente-Privee, and thought I'd check out some new lingerie offerings. Hey, it's high end stuff at a fraction of the regular price, and I will NEVER pay 150 euros for a bra. NEVER!  Now, when shopping on-line one has to be sure, so I clicked on details where I found a complete description of this particular black lace number. There were a few words that I didn't fully understand (hey, I can buy carrots and sign up for health insurance but this is learn as you go!) so I ran the description through a translater. This is what I now know about French lingerie thanks to Google Translate:

Balconette bra underwired

Moulded cups
Adjustable straps
Contrasting embroidered tulle on top caps
Closed with staples

Don't ever let it be said that this blog isn't jam packed full of good information! 


Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Airport Blues

The week before I left France to return to Minnesota for Christmas, I posted an article entitled I’ll Be Home For Christmas…I Hope. It was actually a Monday Memory article that I had written the year before when I wasn’t sure if I would get home due to “French Bureaucracy” issues. I felt a little smug writing it because I knew that this year I had it going on and there wasn’t going to be a single problem. I had all my cards, papers and my ticket set for December 19th.  In actuality, I arrived at the Minneapolis airport at 2:30 p.m. on December 24th.  Next time I get all smug, would somebody please remind me what country I’m living in?

Yes this is a rant…it’s my blog and I can do what I want! 

On Saturday the 18th when I wasn’t able to print my boarding pass, I tried to call Air France to find out what the problem was. After 2 hours on hold I was simply disconnected. I tried again and the same thing happened after an hour and a half of twiddling my thumbs.  I called the United States KLM (Air France, Delta and KLM are all partners and I use all 3 to get to Minnesota) customer service number and they informed me that there was a snowstorm in Amsterdam and flights were being cancelled. Hey, I get snowstorms! I’m from Minnesota. So they rebooked me…through Paris. But they said Air France insists that you go to the airport tomorrow to validate this ticket. We don’t know why, but they insist.

So Sunday I took the bus to Marseille, stood in line for 3 hours and validated a ticket that was…. already validated!  Okay, don’t get your undies in a bundle, Delana. You’ll be going home Monday.

Snow in Paris Monday. Flight cancelled. I spent another 3 hours on-line with Air France. Disconnected. Website locked up. Called United States. I was rebooked for Tuesday.

Tuesday, I arrived at the airport at 5:30 am, checked my luggage and the ticket agent asked if I wanted to check my carry on. I said no, I didn’t want to pay the fee for two pieces of luggage. He said, no worries, today it’s free…because…and then he leaned forward and whispered, “the security people are having a little strike…not to worry…but it will make things faster. And you’d better start through that line right now because it will probably be slower than normal”.

I skipped my coffee that I had so been looking forward to and got in line in front of the security door. I was one of the first. And I waited…. and waited. Finally, an announcement told us there was a “little problem with negotiations with the security company but not to worry, the planes would wait for us”. I sat down and began to plow through my French novel.

We began to pile up like ice on the shore of Lake Superior in February, everyone checking their watches and looking around for…. something. Finally, another announcement that went something like this (I was desperately trying to translate in my head).

“We’re sorry but the this gate will not be open.  The company that we hire to do security has gone on strike and we cannot reach an agreement. This is not our fault. It’s the fault of the security company. Everyone is asked to go to terminal 2, which does have security in place. Everyone in the airport will be going through security here so we know it will be difficult but it’s the best we can do. It’s not our fault”.

What he should have said at that point is, “good luck my little sheep. You are on your own now. Air France is no longer responsible”

The herd of sheep turned as if confronted by a pack of wolves and made off for the other terminal. And of course, because I was at the beginning of the line, I ended up at the end of the line at the other end.

And there, the masses waited, like the sheep that we were, with absolutely no shepard. Air France did not organize lines according to who was leaving first, did not have an agent posted, did not give us any information… and hundreds of people were gathered en mass trying to get through a 2 foot wide door. Oh excuse me; Air France did start passing out water. But the only answers anyone could get from the 2 souls in charge of making sure none of us died were, “I don’t know anything”, or “it’s not my job”.

About one hour into that wait, les bâtards who went on strike (after 3 days of delays because of snow and only days before Christmas, mind you) had the nerve to march by us with their union flags. Babies were crying, children were getting squished by the crowds and these idiots smirked at us as they marched by. I’m getting all heated up again just writing about it.

After several hours waiting, at first hoping they were telling the truth that the planes wouldn’t take off and finally realizing that even if they did wait I had now missed my connecting flight, word came through the line, like a game of telephone, that the flight to Charles Degaulle had taken off…. empty. As had the flight to Amsterdam and all other flights to Paris. Empty. As did the rest of the flights that morning. Which stopped more than 3,000 passengers in their tracks, a huge number of whom were like me; rebooked passengers just trying to make their way home for Christmas. And did we get this word from Air France? Of course not!  They were hiding.

After the debacle at the security gate I knew exactly where to go because I had spent hours there on Sunday. The line at the ticket/exchange desk.  The line that this day, I spent no less than 6 hours in because in spite Air France knowing this strike was forthcoming, that had no extra people on board. So the 18 windows were manned by 5 people…. who had to listen to, console, and exchange the tickets for hundreds of stranded passengers.  Nor did Air France have a soul at their customer service desk to answer simple questions.  They did  eventually pass out a flyer that said we should just go home and go on-line or call customer service. I had already been down that road a few times and knew exactly how it was going to work. I stayed put.

So here’s the kicker, after becoming best friends with several couples, playing games with their children, and breaking bread with them (oh yes, Air France began worrying about our imminent deaths again and handed out more water and croissants) it was my turn at the desk. Yeppers, 6 hours later! Right around that moment a group of people approached the desk on my left and started shouting and stomping and decrying the bad treatment of Air France who hadn’t gotten them on a plane and had ignored them too. I don’t know where they came from but they definitely acted as if they knew this manifestation thing inside and out. They caused such a ruckus that the riot police arrived in full gear.

I did my part by flashing them evil looks and making nasty gestures. As far as I was concerned, they weren’t accomplishing anything and they could just get in line like the rest of us.  And they were delaying my turn, damn it! And just as I was opening my mouth to say to the ticket agent “please Madame, help me get on a plane before Christmas”, all 5 people behind the Air France desk got up and fled. They were “fearful” is what I was told. All they would say to my desperate, shouted questions aimed at their backs was “there’s nothing we can do. Check the website or call.”

Yeah, okay and while you’re having coffee in the back room, I’ll just stay out here and help the police deal with the rioters. You just go on and be fearful…go on…really, I completely understand. And then I’ll call Air France who will be happy to help me!  Big Weenies.

I trekked back out in the rain with all my baggage, dejected and weary and hopped the bus back to Aix. Wet and near tears, I called the U.S. customer service number and spent another 4 hours on hold. Air France passed me to KLM, KLM passed me to Delta and while waiting for Delta to DO SOMETHING and listening to the (at this point) obnoxious hold music, my friend Claire came over and announced she was going to remove the evil eye that had obviously been cast upon me by somebody.  She performed a little ceremony while we continued to enjoy the hold music and as we sat down for a cup of tea, me now free of the evil eye, Doreen, a ticket agent from Delta stationed in Chisholm, Minnesota, got on the line.  And I didn’t have to be a hard ass and “take no shit” as Claire had advised. Doreen was from my hood. She was “Minnesota Nice” as we say and knew all about customer service. And Doreen got me on a plane on Christmas Eve, routed through Amsterdam, so I could see my kids on Christmas. And she extended my ticket by 4 days to make up for my loss of time with them. All with a smile (I could hear it), a little chitchat about places we knew in common, and…. a result!

What’s the lesson learned here? Nothing I shouldn’t have already known. Air France sucks.

Okay, I feel better now.