Tuesday, December 27, 2011

So Christmas Happened

The Christmas festivities started the 23rd, which meant Partner had to get his nose out of the books and stop thinking for a bit.  After all, everyone should know thinking too much gives you wrinkles.  Originally, we planned on leaving Rennes around 3 pm to get to Ploërmel around 4 or 4:30.  I was running around getting the last of the cleaning done, there really is almost nothing worse than coming home to a dirty house (especially when you know you have to clean it), while Partner finished up studying physics.  As we all know, nothing gets one in the Christmas spirit like Laws of Thermodynamics.  So I finish around 10 after 3, and start packing a bit for tomorrow, waiting for Partner to find a good place to stop.  He comes out around 4, and we go. 

Now as we pull onto the rocades, things seem to be going pretty well...until we get to our exit.  Of course, traffic headed west is backed up to lord only knows.  Well, we do in fact know.  It was right around Cleunay.  After a bit of finagling, we finally get onto the Rue National....only to end up in another traffic jam in Les Trois Marches.  By now, we're only about 2 hours behind.  So with the traffic, we made it there around 6.  We stopped over at Taty's, but she was the only one there.  It looked like Partner's father was celebrating a co-worker's retirement, so he'd show up later, which meant someone needed to pick up Partner's grandmother.  Naturally, the most simple was for us to go get her, so back to the car....

We parked over by the Mairie and stopped by.  Grandmother was delighted to see Partner and I!  That's one of the best things about being there.  Nothing makes her happier than seeing her grandchildren.  Her smile could light up a room.  She reminds me a lot of my grandmothers, especially my mother's mother.  Kisses and hugs were exchanged, and we walked with her back to the car.  Apparently though she had walked in the rain that day to pick up the bread.  (It's Bretagne.  There's practically no snow, but it rains buckets in the winter.)  So her sack was soaked.  It wasn't raining now though, but it was getting later.  I helped her into the car, and we went back to his aunt's.

The evening was pretty great.  We all exchanged gifts and we had a great dinner.  Everyone was smiles and sunshine.  Grandmother told some stories about Partner's father and aunt, and we had a bit of an aperitif before we ate.  Oh, and how we ate.  We started with smoked salmon, of which I could eat my body weight.  Taty had also made some blinis, specifically for Partner as they're salty pancakes to me, and the rest of us had pain de mie.  After that, coquilles-saint-jacques, and they were in the cutest plates, ever!  They were ceramic plates shaped to be like scallop shells.  Grandmother had made it yesterday, and oh, it was perfect.  All warm and covered with gruyère.  Heaven.  

It was around this time that Father-in-Law showed up.  He had eaten a bit before, so he wasn't feeling all that hungry.  He had drunk a bit, so that might have had something to do with it.  The next course; rosbif, which is nothing like an American roast beef, with pommes dauphine.  Everything was really well done, but what we didn't know is that neither Grandmother or Taty were going to have any of the rosbif or potatoes either.  So basically, Partner and I were splitting almost a kilo of potatoes and a rosbif that usually serves five.  We tried, but there was no way we were going to finish it before we left.  So we ate what we could and moved on to dessert. 

No matter how much I eat, I will always find room for dessert.  As tradition demands in France, we had Galette des Rois.  With everything that we had eaten though, we split it in half and each had a small piece.  It was really good, apparently the bakery it came from is nationally recognized for its kouign amann and galette des rois, but there was no way we could eat a whole galette after everything else we'd eaten.  We took our time between courses and we ended the evening with a nice tisane.  Partner is in love with everything fruits rouges, so of course, we had some loose leaf.  We talked and drank a bit of tisane to help digest.  All and all, it was a wonderful night.  Most importantly, I had an answer to what I would wear for the Réveillion.

After that, we picked up mother-in-law and headed back to Rennes so we wouldn't have to come back West before we headed East.  We talked the whole way about everything's that been going on with her, and how she was excited.  She had a lot of small sacks that we had to be careful with.  She, much like me, hates wrapping, and had all of the gifts wrapped in the store, so they were all beautifully done.  Now, positive and negatives of that story are that they're all perfect, but all have ribbons that are easily crushed.  So to avoid it, each has to be in its own sack.  We made it back to Rennes unscathed, and got some much needed sleep. 

Now, because Partner already felt culpable enough for letting the 25th slip by without the ability to study, he needed to suck the marrow out of the bones on the 24th and 26th.  He had to study the morning of the 24th before we left, and would be studying the evening the 26th pretty much as soon as we got back.  As a result, he was literally studying while putting the clothes he was going to wear for Christmas Eve dinner in the suitcase.  He did get the studying he needed done on the 24th though, and we packed up the car and made the two hour trip East with Christmas music playing the whole way!

You know how sometimes when you go places, it's like you just instantly just kind of decompress?  That's how it happens when we go to see sister-in-law's family.  Probably what makes it best is the nieces.  It's always great to see them, and we always have a great time, but it's just something about Christmas that makes it better.  The best of all is the youngest niece.  Shes' only 8 years old, so it's everything about Christmas is great for her.  Pretty much the second we got there she was stuck to Partner.  He is her partner in Pokémon crime.  They play a lot of games together and all kinds of stuff like that.  It was just so nice to be there.  

Given the situation, sister in law, mother in law, and Partner all needed to leave to get some last things for that night.  If I were to go along, I'd be hanging back like a little kid.  To better avoid this fate, I was on the couch watching Cuisine TV with a kitty on my lap.  I'm not big into decorating, much to my mother's chagrin,  and I've learned that it's best not to have an opinion on either French decor or Fashion.  So I hung back until it was time to help with dinner. 

We decided to do a more simple version than years past.  We made a lot of stuff for the aperitif, and just had mostly a lot of small dishes and the like.  After that we had shrimp and salmon both marinated and smoked.  We had oysters too, but really it's better just to have two or three.  Of course there was wine and champagne, and lots and lots of cider.  It's hard to explain how French cider is different, but, it's just better than any cider I had in the US.  I was just happy there weren't any crayfish.  It always makes me sad to see them lying there on a plate.  (We had a pet crayfish, an ecrevisse really, when I was a kid and I swear we named it.  We were geeky kids like that.)

Between the courses, we took a break to open presents.  La Petite Niece was very much ready after waiting patiently until 10 pm.  She started with the small gifts, surprise surprise all Pokémon toys, and then we had the plat.  After the plat, we started with the big gifts.  Partner and I hung back with Sister and Brother and Mother in law while the nieces opened their presents.  It was wonderful.  I have more video games than are necessary, and we even got some pretty nice decorations for the house.  We got everything we wanted, and what we needed.  We finished opening presents around midnight, and finally went to bed around 3 am.  

The 25th was more marathon eating.  The grandparents, brother in law's parents, came in from Tours.  This time we had a few less plates for the aperitif, but a much bigger main dish.  The maigret de canard was good, and so were the potatoes.  We found it much better to do something simple than to gorge ourselves.  Finally, more galette des rois and a bûche de Noël, as if we hadn't eaten enough.  All things considered it was a very nice time, and a quiet night of gluttony.  We capped it off with the first two Harry Potter movies.  I still wish we had watched a third, because the third is my favorite, The Prisoner of Azkaban.  

In an ideal world, we would have left around noon as planned.  However; none of us really felt like leaving and trying to wake up Partner when he doesn't want to get up is unfun.  Getting around the bags went pretty fast, and I managed to download 10 gigs of music from brother in law.  He usually has a lot of good stuff, so quite a haul!  We left Centre right around 2pm, so we were really not that far off.  We came back to Rennes, had another small quiet dinner and went to bed. 

Such was our Christmas odyssey.  I think Partner and I are planning a very quiet New Year's Eve.  I'll probably buy a bottle or two of cider and maybe some blinis.  We have some smoked salmon, and I might try and make something a bit special to go with.  I have to talk more with him to know exactly what it is he wants to do, exactly. 

In any case, je vous souhaite une Bonne Année du fond de mon coeur!  Be safe, be happy, and most importantly enjoy who and what you have!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Five Christmas Songs!

Yes, I have to start with this.  Hate me if you must!

He's absolutely right though.  I was spending a night trying to get all the numbers right.  I got confused after 6.  I know there are Lords a Leaping and Drummers Drumming, but well, never figured out.

When I was a kid, my mother used to listen to tapes, because remember, this was back in the early  90's.  CDs still costed about $20 a pop.  We didn't have a K-Mart or a Wal-Mart to buy CDs at for the longest time, so it was really between three tapes.  (If you wanted a CD, it meant having to go to National Record Mart and most likely ordering it!)  The first was all those very classical Mormon Tabernacle Choir Christmas songs.  This may have also been my grandmother's but I'm not entirely sure.  So whenever I hear certain versions of large choir songs, I get a big smile.  I don't know why, but of all these songs, probably my favorite is their version of "Away in a Manger."  I think it's the key they sing it in.  I find it lovely.

The second Christmas song that really makes me happy is another song off the tapes.  My mother was a fan of Nat King Cole, and as a result she had that Nat King Cole Christmas tape as well.  Now there were really a couple, but this was the first experience I had with jazz of any kind.  It was the first time I had heard Lou Rwals, and my brother's swear by his version of Santa Claus is Coming to Town.

My favorite though was a song by Nancy Wilson.  I just always thought it was such a beautiful song.  I loved her voice too.  It just made me so happy whenever I heard it, and it just really symbolized how I felt about Christmas in general.  I actually bought CDs of her music based on that one song.  I'm sure that people will think I'm silly because she's an amazing singer in her own right.  But I will always love "That's What I Want for Christmas."

Now, another station that my mother used to listen to used to play a lot of Carpenters, so it was only a matter of time before they played the Carpenters Christmas album, A Christmas Portrait.  I am a sucker for anything that involves Karen Carpenter, so yes when I found out that she used to have a show, I was about ready to fly right on out of there.  When I found out that there was a video with this, well....there was cleanup involved.  Anyway, continuing, here's the Carpenters with "Merry Christmas, Darling."

Finally, the first Christmas song I ever came to love without any family involvement.  I actually found a version of it I really liked, because I'm not actually a huge fan of Bing Crosby, even though my mother is.  She had his tape too, but well, I am just not a fan.  I can listen to it, and sing along with most of the songs, but I just can't bring myself to really play most of his stuff.  However; I really liked one of the most unconventional of his Christmas songs I had ever heard, "Mele Kalikimaka."  It was one of those songs my mother hated, and she would always comment on how she didn't like it.  She is very traditional, especially in her Christmas music.  I found a version I like even more though, done by KT Tunstall.  It.  Has.  Kazoos!  That was all it took.  That, and I love her voice.  

Now there are a lot of traditional songs that didnt' make the list.  I have an entire collection of Mormon Tabernacle Choir music over at Grooveshark, should you be so inclined.  I also have a collection of other Christmas music I love.

There are a lot of other ridiculous songs that I remember laughing about with family like Gene Autrey's version of  Here Comes Santa Claus.  If you've never heard it, listen to it, because it's ridiculous, and perfect.  I also hate it, but well, you have to hear Gayla Peevey's I Want a Hippopotamus for Christmas.  I find it cringe-worthy.  And of course, what list of songs would be complete without The Voice Actress for Sailor Mars covering  Last Christmas by Wham.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

The Fourth Day of January

As hard as he may try, it seems like Partner really can't catch a break when it comes to schooling.  He finished off a degree in chemical engineering in France in 2004 only to find out that it wasn't really what he wanted to be doing, but it was a foot in the door.  However, the university he graduated from in Lyon did have Biochemistry classes, and an exchange program with the US.  So he could chose.  He could go to a school with a great reputation, but in the middle of nowhere, or he could go to a school in the center of a fairly large city with a well respected medical campus.  He chose the big city with the medical campus.

After starting in his Biochemistry masters at Ohio State, he comes to find out that he won't actually be able to do drug trials and hospital research with this degree.  He'll only be able to design drugs for pharmaceutical companies.  With this degree though, he's light years ahead of the competition in France.  So he keeps working on his Masters, and finishes.  After all his hard work, he graduates during the height of the American economic crisis.  No one is looking to sponsor anyone foreign to work; credentials and excellent grades or not.  So it's decided: we'll have to move back to France to start looking for work there. 

Every corner he turns, it's the same response.  You have a ton of experience, but it's all university experience.  None of it is practical, real world application.  (The problem is, French companies don't understand that an American Masters degree and a French Master are not the same.  With the new education regroupments in France, my B. A. in Medieval History may be the same as a French Master.)  We'll forget that he was basically running his own project on using proteins for cancer treatment and had around 6 articles published in peer reviewed journals in the US.  Apparently that has no real world application according to France.  Remind me to thank Sarkozy for the state of research in France.  So that was a no go. 

He had spent a good long while looking for work in any city in Europe he could find.  Pretty much the only requirement was that I could go with him and have some kind of legal standing.  He applied for work in Bordeaux, Lyon, Paris, Lausanne, Brussels, Bern, Berlin, Dublin, London, etc.  Hell, one job was even in New Delhi!  We both eventually got pretty despondent.  Partner took a job in his hometown, well below his qualifications, working in a medical analysis lab.  The good thing was is that the pay was good, and he found he really liked the medical aspects.  

So in January of last year, we start talking.  He had decided that what he wanted more than anything was to follow his original dream.  Partner wanted to know if I would mind, because it was very much outside of our initial plans, if he applied to Medical School.  We talked about everything this meant.  We'd be poor for a while, and I'd still not have much in the way of legal standing.  However; we'd get back to our own life, and be on our own two feet.  We'd finally get a chance to be back to something resembling the life we had in Columbus.  I told him the most important thing for me was that he was happy with what he was doing.  After all, Partner has always been the pony on which to bet the farm.

So we move to Rennes and we start living a great life.  This has been a horribly stressful first semester of his first year.  He had to be up for classes around 6:30 and when he got home, it meant he would spend the entire night studying.  We got into a rhythm and I came to enjoy the life we had here.  Partner and I are living now believing that this is a temporary year.  Afterwards, maybe things will work out better.  There's really only one way to find out.

Now, why title this post as I did?  Because true to form with the rotten luck he pulls for education, Partner's concours, the test that determines his placement at the end of the first semester and will let him know whether or not he can continue on and become a doctor, isn't until January 4th.  That means he has to spend his entire break studying for this exam.  Every time he takes a break, he feels guilty.  

Today for example, he started studying at 10 am.  He studied clean through with one break until 3:30 pm.  Then we went out and had some hot chocolate and wandered around town for a bit.  (Also, I may have found a Mountain Dew source!)  We also took in the light show on the Mairie.  It was really pretty and made fun of Sarkozy.  Absolutely hilarious.  We had a great time.  

The only problem was that Parther was worried the entire time.  He enjoyed the time with me, but sure enough, in the back of his mind he was panicking about the time he was losing by not being at home studying the five binders worth that he has to commit to memory to pass this thing.  I could tell he was worried, and slightly distracted.  I mean, he was really happy that we got to have a night like that together, but you know how it is.  Also, finding a parking place was murder.  Partner is not known for his patience, so after we couldn't find a parking space for about 30 minutes, he started getting annoyed.  

The recompense that he does have though, is the week after is break for him.  There will be a week where he doesn't have to do anything at all after his concours, but before he starts the new quarter.  So that will be his decompression time, and I hope somewhat of a chance for us to really enjoy a bit of the break.  I get the feeling we'll probably just  spend the entire week trading off on playing Skyrim, but you know that sounds perfectly lovely to me!

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Three Christmas Venues

So instead of just one big Christmas, and then the tele-Christmas I do with my parents, there will be two observances, and a tele-Christmas.  I'm not horribly upset by it, because it means actually getting to see everyone for the holiday, but it complicates the way we plan out our time.  (Yes, I'm fully aware 4 hours of Skyrim per day is not normally accorded to most people, but well, it's Skyrim!  I'm taking on fecking dragons.  Let's see another game compete with that!)  However; it means that we now have three observed Christmases.

The first will be on the 23rd at partner's aunt house.  It should be pretty quiet, as it will just be partner, his grandmother, aunt, father, and myself.  Partner's grandmother incredible when it comes to cooking so we're looking forward to a good night.  I'm not a huge fan of scallops, but I'd kill for her Coquille-Saint-Jacques.  It's just mind blowingly wonderful.  Of course there will be smoked salmon, which is a universal good, especially with the shallot rye bread and a bit of butter.  I still can't stomach a blini myself.  Sorry, but salty pancakes, just not my idea of a good time.  Everything the grandmother makes is poetry.  So this will all go down smoothly, I think.

Then on the 24th, we'll be heading to the central restart La Révellion.  This is the celebration basically to ring in Christmas.  We'll be stuffed afterwards, because I'm betting it will involve lots of smoked salmon, probably shrimp, and most likely oysters.  Oysters are something that are a bit of an acquired taste, but I think they taste a bit like watermelon.  Yes, I know, strange.  I have had some great meals, and this year should be no exception.  We'll probably open gifts the 24th, which should make things pretty smooth for the 25th.  It'll be nice to see everyone, and just have a small Christmas.  It would be nice to have everyone together, but well, what can you do?  Oh well.

Third will be tele-Christmas with my parents on the phone.  It should be a very quiet Christmas, as I believe it's just my brothers.  I'm never sure how people react to small Christmases.  Then again, I'm almost done with trying to have traditions.  Something always comes along and spoils them.  I find it better just to try and enjoy the holiday the most that you can, and then just go with the flow.  I have gotten a lot less traditional over the years though.

I get the feeling a non cold Christmas might be a little more than Partner can support.  We have a few years though before that's official though.  But well, who knows.  Merry Christmas, in any case, wherever it may find you!

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Two Christmas Trees

So back when I was in Columbus, I was a big time into Christmas.  I was that guy who was decorating directly after Thanksgiving as my mother did before me.  I started playing Christmas music on All Saint's Day.  There aren't really any good Halloween songs anyway, and no I don't believe Monster Mash counts, much less decent Thanksgiving songs.  I don't think I've ever met anyone who knows more than "We gather together . . . ."  So I blast the Carpenters starting in November.    Our real enjoyment came when the Christmas tree was going up.

Partner and I had it down to a science by the fifth year.  We found the best place to put it was in the dining room between the table and the pantry that led into the kitchen.  There was a plug right there, so we were set.  It was my responsibility to get the tree out of the guest closet and set all the branches in place.  For some reason, Partner always put them at wonky angles, and it looked really artificial.  That or he was just really good at making it look like he had no idea what he was doing.  I always positioned all the branches.  We would look at the tree for a bit undecorated and make sure all the lights were plugged in.  Then we'd start decorating.

My family had always had an angel on the tree.  Not just any angel either.  There was a specific angel that always worked, much to my mother's chagrin.  She would buy these little French Country Styled Angels and every year they'd blow out or they wouldn't work when we plugged them in.  So instead, we'd go back to this plastic angel that my parents had since they were married.  It's worked since 1973, and is the only one that worked with every set of lights we had on the tree, ever.

My partner's family though, were always star people.  When we got our tree, we talked about it, and since neither of us were terribly religious, we decided to go with a star.  Both are religious artifacts, but stars, less so.  Of course, the star we ended up getting was rather big, and fairly gaudy.  I loved it!

Now, we didn't have any decorations of our own, so we had to buy all our stuff.  We found a lot of stuff we liked, and absolutely loved the tree skirt.  It was all shiny.  I was always afraid of getting it caught in the sweeper.  I tend to be good like that.  But it was perfect because it was ours, and we made it ourselves.  It was wonderful.

It was really sad to pack it away every year, and especially sad to pack away the last time.  It's still in my parent's basement.  We'll probably just end up giving the tree itself to goodwill if we ever move back to the US, but the decorations we'll finally take back for our own.  I miss the Christmas that my partner and I had.  I miss going for coffee and having pumpkin spice lattes.  There aren't really any starbucks in this part of France, which is pretty unfortunate.  I do miss what all went into the tree though.

This year's Christmas tree is far more loaded with memories for Partner than for me.  These are the old decorations that he used to have when he was young.  If you notice, there's an angel ornament just to the right of the red bow towards the top center.  Apparently no one was allowed to put on that ornament except him.  He said it's very odd to see them.  I am really happy to have a Christmas tree though.  I just feel wrong if I don't.  It's hard to explain.  It is reassuring though.  I think even if I'm living in Thailand or Guam or someplace that feels completely foreign, I'll still have a Christmas tree.  I think it's impossible to feel right without one.

Monday, December 12, 2011


On the first day of Christmas, my true love gave to me, A Santa that looks this creepy!

Ok, now I've learned to let nothing relating to Père Noël throw me off,  but literally, this plastic decoration was enough to make me fear for the sanity of the decorators in our building.  It started out small, just with some garland and tinsel in the hallways, and a few boxes wrapped up to look like presents.  It was actually really cute and understated.  However, with the introduction of this bit of horror greeting me every time I come into the building, it's a bit different we'll say.

I feel like France has kind of a love/hate relationship with Santa Claus.  Of course, I remember my first time in 2004, I came just after Christmas, and feasted my eyes on this vision:

So herein lies the question:  Is Santa going to be breaking and entering, or is he just hanging on for dear life?  It turns out, apparently, neither is the case.  I don't know if it's all over France, but in Bretagne, a lot of the houses don't have chimneys, so Santa comes in through the windows.  I just remember thinking how absolutely insane it looked to have Santa Claus hanging off your house as a decoration.  (As if his being perfectly still in people's yards in the US is somehow more so.  Then again, decoration is always something I've had questions about.)

Of course, I had preparations for this for years in the US.  My mother changes the decorations for her house once a month.  (Seriously not joking here.  She has a different theme per month.)  Christmas though, used to start after Thanksgiving.  Not like, ok we wait a day and change over.  No, seriously, that afternoon when we got back from Thanksgiving dinner when Dad went to work, the entire house changed from turkeys to snowflakes and angels.  My mother never had a shortage of creepily happy santas, snowmen, elves, and reindeer.

The worst was this snowman she had.  It was life sized and she would st it on the stairs.  So there would be sometimes when you would come around the corner and feel like you're being watched.  Nope, just the creepy lifelike snowman sitting on the stairs, peering into your soul with his cold, dead eyes.  Sometimes I wonder if my mother was decorating to be cheery, or if she was actually creating this world of things being so cute they were creepy.  This coming from a woman who used to have a different festive sweatshirt for every holiday, would surprise me a little though.  

Hopefully there's nothing that makes you feel like pyramid head is watching you every time you step outside with your significant other!  Have a good first day of Christmas.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Mele Kalikimaka

Am I the last person to realize that it's the 10th of December?  I have felt completely un-Christmased.  Almost anti-Christmased if you will.  I see the decorations in the stores, and some of the ones downtown, but it really didn't hit me until we went back to Ploërmel this weekend, and I realized that in two weeks, it's December 23rd.  Yeah, seriously, December 23rd.  So far Partner and I hadn't decorated.  Of course, all last week, I really wasn't fit to be anywhere besides on the couch or in the bathroom, so that's not really fair to consider.  Week long illnesses, suck.  

That also slightly worries me about Christmas.  In France, it's not like in the US.  At my house, Christmas dinner on the 24th meant ham, mashed potatoes, and probably a pie of some kind for dessert.  You might feel a bit full, considering that we would probably have spent the whole day eating all of the chocolate in the house, but generally, there were no major concerns. 

In France, there's the Revellion.  The Revellion is every imaginable thing to eat, served in shifts.  So there's smoked salmon and blinis, there's fois gras, usually about 3 difference sizes of shrimp, there's snails, there's langoustine, sometimes coquilles-st.-jacques, crab, basically imagine a type of seafood, it's there.  And that's just the first course. 

I still haven't completely recovered my appetite.  I eat a little, but I don't eat like I used to be able to.  I basically have two weeks for my GI tract to reestablish itself, or I'll be in the bathroom every 20 minutes.  Here's hoping that happens.  I can eat whatever I want, but I just don't feel well.  

Maybe there's more at play for why I don't really feel like Christmas anymore though.  Maybe I'm getting more and more annoyed by building traditions and just seeing it work out to nothing.  Part of me wonders if it would maybe be better once we have kids to never have two Christmases the same.  Maybe one Christmas will be in France, and the other in the US.  Then after that, maybe we'll be in Auckland, and maybe another year in Tokyo.  Of course, I would wonder how that idea would work with kids.  I dunno.  

I remember how much I loved Christmas as a kid.  Christmas music started in my house on the 1st of November.  We would come home from our grandmother's and start decorating for Christmas.  We bought our tree in December of course, but it was a real one.  I always was the one pushing for it to be put up that night.  I wanted Christmas to start as early as possible and end as late as it could.  

Probably since I started college, Christmas has been getting more and more depressing.  It feels like we're clinging to these traditions that just are losing what they meant.  I think everyone suffers from the same problem of Christmas not being what it was when they were young. 

I have an idea I'll start on the site the 12th.  Hopefully you'll find it amusing.  Why you've stuck around this long, leaves me with questions, even though it makes me happy that you have!

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

I'm not dead, really.

I swear I'll have a real post soon.  Time has slipped away from me, at least that's the excuse I'll use.  I hope you had a great Thanksgiving should you be in a Thanksgiving celebrating region.  Last month or not, hope it was good!

Also, why don't I look like him!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Curl into ball, sleep like kitty....

You would not believe the list of excuses I can give you for my absence.  Seriously, I took my time, and I can give you a nice organized, laminated list.  Sometimes, I think I'm better at making excuses than getting everything done that I need to in a day.  Seriously, if procrastination were an olympic sport, they'd have to mint a new medal just for me.  Gold wouldn't be enough.

Last weekend was the Armistace in France, so no one was doing much of anything.  Partner and I decided that it would be an ideal weekend to take a trip up to see family in the Center region.  Since Partner had the day off as well, we could leave on Friday afternoon and get there around 4 or 5.  It all depended really on traffic, and how fast we were planning on going.

We ended up leaving around 1:30, because well, we're good like that.  There was, happily, next to no traffic, but the weather change was hilarious.  We left Rennes with bright open sunshine.  When we finally got around Le Mans to catch the Autoroute, you could see the sky change.  There was fog everywhere and it was completely overcast.  My ears were popping as the air pressure changed, and my back, which was just getting back to normal, wasn't handling the 2 hour drive so well.

We got there in one piece though, and everything was good.  We spent some time talking and just having a good time seeing everyone.  Sister and brother in law were well.  They were just finishing up their work they needed to get done before their daughters got home from college for the holiday.  Of course, my niece was running around, but she was more excited that her sister would be bringing her boyfriend, and that meant a Wii.  Of course, that would all have to wait until after dinner: crepes.

Now, I have helped make crepes before.  I always watch for the first few and let the pan heat up, because it has to be done a certain way at first.  Once you get going, it's just a matter of getting into a rhythm and spreading the batter correctly in the pan.  It's a hard motion to explain.  The best I can explain it is that you take a ladle full of batter, start at about 10 or 11 o'clock, and spread in a circular motion back on itself.  After that, it's just a matter of getting under it correctly, flipping it, and letting the other side cook about a minute.  Here's a video I made of the process a while ago.

I was going along just fine when the last niece got back.  At that point, I had probably made a good 35 crepes, and was doing just fine.  Then we broke out the wine and I had a glass.  I was feeling so tired before that I didn't want to risk falling asleep by 9, face down in a crepe.  Unfortunately, I had also only had 5 of those little butter cookies topped with chocolate, think petit écolier, and a cup of earl grey.  I had to stop after one glass because I knew that it wold be a bad idea to go further, until I had more in my stomach.  I drank one glass, and I messed up my first crepe.  That was the perfect excuse to stop.  We had a great night of eating crepes and later playing Mario Kart.

The next day was pretty quiet.  We just talked and partner tried to study.  With everyone in the house, he only got through about 3 pages of the 15 he wanted to study.  He eventually gave up.  As for myself, I couldn't really sit down and relax in front of the computer, so I checked email and left it at that.  I watched some TV, because they have cuisine TV and telemaison.  I miss it, so much.  Later that night, was raclette.

Raclette is potatoes served with cold cuts, covered in a cheese called raclette.  It's a very particular type of cheese, from the same group as reblechon, if you're familar with it.  it has a very low melting point and a very particular taste.  the actual name of raclette when translated directly into English is squeegee.  It's named for these small, flat, wooden spatulas that you use to clean the cheese off the thing to heat it up.  It's absolutely wonderful.  Anytime when you can eat coppa, chorizo, and jambon bayonnne sandwiched between melted cheese and potato; I call that a win.  I drank less that night as to be in better form for Mario Kart.  I still...did terribly.  Give me an RPG any day of the week!

We ended up leaving the next day around 4 in the afternoon.  It was another nice opportunity to decompress.  I got a few more leads about work in Rennes as brother and sister in law are pretty well connected.  I just called today about one but got an answering machine.  All and all, I was pretty glad to have a chance to relax. The only problem is how long it took for me to get back on track.  Seriously, I spent 4 days just catching up on stuff.  Ridiculous.

So that was why I have had absolutely no drive to do anything.  I got stuck in relax mode.  I'm finally coming out of it, as my back problems are going away too.  We'll see how all this works out.  I have a few more ideas for posts and such, and I need to get back to NaNoWriMo.  I just stopped right before we left.  Anyway though, back to it!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Faux Paris


Now this is pretty fascinating.  Apparently the French Government started work on a copy of Paris to trick the Luftwaffe.  It's a pretty interesting article.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Haven't Felt Like That in Years

Last night I had serious déjà vu.  I got off the metro stop, and there was Place Sainte Anne, filled with drunk and or drinking people.  All of the restaurants had that same familiar smell of fried food and alcohol.  I walked around the place a bit, just to get my bearings, and figure out exactly what was going on.  The more I looked around and the further I walked, I realized that somehow I had been transported back to High Street.

I guess I should probably explain what on earth I was doing out at midnight in Rennes.  My sister in law told me about a friend of her's who was performing that night who would be a great contact to have in the city.  He had a lot of friends and might be able to help me out in the job search.  On the one hand, this would be a chance to maybe make a connection and possibly have some work come out of it.  On the other hand, this meant navigating Rennes by night.  I had never been left to my own devices in Rennes past 3 pm.  I had taken the metro/bus system all over town, so that wasn't an issue.  The greater issue would be myself. 

Back in the day, there was very little that scared me.  I remembered walking through the creepy part of High Street between the Short North and the University District back coming back from the Gallery Hop.  Of course I was also usually drunk and as a result afraid of nothing, or with someone who was coming back to my place.  Yes, I mean that exactly as it sounds.  I never thought anything of walking back from visiting a friend that lived down on 12th Avenue past Big Four.  Hell, I even once walked the whole way back from Micro Center to my apartment on Lane.

After Partner and I moved out of the University District, I started to develop this fear of cities at night.  It's like I had reverted back to this scared kid that I was back when I started at Ohio State.  I don't know if other people have this same oppressive feeling they get, where everything is so exciting, but so scary at the same time.  I used to get this feeling when I first started going to house parties or to clubs and bars.  I get fascinated by everything and all of my senses seem to heighten.  It's like this huge adrenaline rush.  Of course, the problem is, after that's done I find myself exhausted. 

Part of me was secretly hoping that I could talk Partner into going with me.  He had just finished his mock exams this week, so he had been hitting the books even harder than normal.  I figured maybe he could come out with me and we could just walk around a bit late at night.  I would leave it up to him if he wanted to take the car or not.  After all, the metro was running until 12:45 and the buses later than that.  I was of the mindset that maybe being out in it would put him in a different mindset. 

That became a solid no when Partner came home.  he had gotten stuck in an hour long traffic jam for an accident that he never saw the remnants of.  I knew that he would be staying in tonight when he told me that he expected blood on the highway with the time he waited.  He's not a horribly violent person, but as with most French people quite the râleur.  Ok, so I would be going myself tonight, even better. 

I decided that I should leave around 9:30 since it was at 10.   The metro is pretty fast, because it's not very big of course, so really the longest parts of my trip would be walking to the station and finding La Salle de la Cité.  Google Maps made it look like it was nothing.  Seriously, it was right off the Place Sainte Anne.  How could I miss it?  So I get dinner around for us, we eat, and then I head out around 9:20.  I make it to the metro and take it down to Sainte Anne no problem.  So I start off in one direction, find the road I was supposed to take, and head down it.  I start to notice that I'm not on the Place anymore.  

I ask someone where to find it, and they have no idea where it is.  I head back to the place because I don't want to get lost.  I ask someone else, and they say to take that road over there and make a left.  Ok.  So I keep going, and well, end up somehow near a town market that I have no idea where I am, but take the next road.  Mother in Law always told me that pretty much all roads in Rennes lead you back to a Place.  I finally am within spitting distance of the place and I ask a guy walking by if he knows where it is.  He says to take this road back to the place, but keep going straight, and that I couldn't miss it.  After 20 minutes of dicking around, I finally get there. 

So it was kind of a strange night.  It was a presentation of film projects by the lycées in Rennes.  They were actually some really great movies with some great ideas.  One film was about this guy who finds a book that tells about his life.  There was another about a woman who was running from her past.  They tried to be international and spoke English in it.  The speaking would be best described as "correct," but in the French sense of correct.  Afterwards, the guy I went to see came on stage.  It was an interesting concept.  He redid the soundtrack to the movie Duel.  He built some really good tension with his use of guitars and other ambient sounds.  There was some really interesting parts like when he would change the radio, he'd switch what was playing.  Of course, the film has a lot of meaning that can be drawn from it too, so overall it was a good experience. 

At the end of the performance, I tried to find him to talk a bit. Of course, I had to keep an eye on time, and make sure I wasn't going to miss the last metro.  I waited for probably about 15 minutes outside after probably a good 20 of searching for him.  I tried to talk with a few people, but there was nothing going on, so I just said that I'd have to try and talk with him another time.  I walked back to Sainte Anne.  

Of course, things were only louder and drunker there.  People were coming off the metro in costumes, because French people don't seem to realize that Halloween is over and you can't just celebrate it the week thereafter.  I was just taking the steps down when 5 police officers were coming onto the place.  I got out of there in a hurry.  Naturally, on the train there was a kid drinking Kronenbourg on the metro, something I had assumed illegal.  He was speaking very loudly, and would have been amusing if I didn't have a problem with watching people publicly embarrass themselves.  Finally, I made it back to my stop. 

So I'm walking back and nothing's really looking familiar.  I come to a cross walk and look at one of the signs for the road.  I am at a road that is a good deal North of where I should be.  I'm starting to think that maybe I should turn around, but I don't know, that maybe I just came out at a weird place.  I walk a bit further on the same road.  I generally know where I am, so I'm not concerned about being lost.  I keep going until I see an escalator.  I had walked back an entire metro station north of where I needed to be. My metro card was still active, so I went back to the station, took the road back the right sense, and finally got back home about 12:40.  

Overall, it was a strange night.  I had a good time to be sure, and I'm glad I went.  I just haven't felt that adventurous in a while.  I don't know exactly why either.  In any case, I've conquered Rennes by night, and I got to feel like I haven't in almost 10 years.  Hope you're all doing well, I've got NaNo to get back to.....

Monday, October 31, 2011

October; or why I don't really bother with Halloween

The best part of Halloween in my opinion is that it means October is over.  Since I was little, I have always just had bad memories that are associated with October, and because of it, I wanted to move onto something happier.  This week specifically, I'd like to move on to something a little better just because my back hurts insanely, because of a sciatic nerve problem I've had since I started working jobs that required 8 hours of sitting a day.  Seriously, I went to go get groceries today at Carrefour, and I felt like I was walking like an old man.  Ridiculous.

There's no better place to start than with my time back when I was a kid as to why I am slightly bitter about Halloween.  As they say, you attract more flies with sugar than honey.  My mother never really knew what to do for Halloween costumes for boys.  When I was a little kid, my options were pumpkin or dragon.  These were hand me down costumes from my older brother.  One of the most fun parts about Halloween is supposed to be choosing what you want to be.  For me, the choice was already made.  My sisters could always do something with what we had, like wearing one of my mother's old bridesmaid's dresses and be a Southern Belle, or wear a lot of jean material and be a hippie.  For boys, it always seemed like it was harder.

As I've mentioned before, we lived in Cornfield Central.  Because of that, our nearest neighbors were a ways away, and walking at night was scary.  Our other option was to take my mother's old car.  It was a really nice muscle car back in the day.  She had a 68 Firebird that she drove off the showroom floor in Defiance.  Now; however, it was 1987 and no one had rebuilt the transmission since it was bought.  So when you'd be driving the transmission bands might slip, and you'd drop from 60 to 0 in less than a second.  If the transmission didn't kick back in, you'd be pushing the car home.  We only used it for short trips, like to church and back.

We did it one year in the Firebird, and that was kind of disastrous.  There weren't a lot of young families in our neighborhood, so some of the families didn't have candy.  So we had to figure out which houses to go to.  Another problem was space.  A Firebird isn't designed to hold 6 people, regardless of age.  It also had no heat, and no radio.  Those were stolen when a cousin had the car on the local college campus.  On top of that, my youngest brother was all of 2 years old, and really didn't want to be out that long without making a fuss.  So between a young child, and nearly getting pushed off steps by one of my siblings for a snickers bar, that was the first and last year we did trick or treating.

That's not to say that my mother never tried to have fun on Halloween.  When we were younger, we actually had a really fun party among the 6 of us.  Since my dad worked second shift, we only had one car with a dependable transmission until 1996.  So instead of feeling sad about not being able to go trick or treating, we each got a sack of candy, dressed up in our costumes, and had pizza.  It was pretty fun.  I guess I just never really got into the spirit.

One of the worst parts about October was that my mother always used to get really depressed during the month.  She just seemed like she didn't want to do anything, and most of the time we'd just be curled under blankets watching Must See TV, hoping that no one would bother coming over begging for candy.  I never really understood why until I remembered that my grandmother died on October 21st.

My parents moved in with my grandmother back in 1981 to take care of her, and because the rent would be free.  My grandmother was getting to an age where it was hard for her to get around, and she would forget things sometimes.  My mother was a stay at home mom at the time, and she already had three kids.  It was pretty ideal.  After she had me in 1983 and my younger brother in 1985, it started to get more complicated for her.  My grandmother's condition was worsening.  She started to get more and more confused, and angry.  Finally in 1987, my grandmother passed away.

It took a good 10 years for my mother to really move on from the death of my grandmother.  I think much of it had to do with living in the house and seeing all of her clothes and possessions around her 24 hours a day. My parents even moved into my grandmother's room a few months after her passing.  On top of that, there were some problems with family because of the will.  My grandmother wasn't insanely rich or anything, but she had more than enough to live comfortably.  It was so bad, one  uncle and aunt wouldn't come into the house for the wake.  They were that ashamed of what they had done to the rest of their family.

Growing up with all this bad stuff happening in October, it seems like it's when bad stuff happens to me.  I always tend to have health problems in October.  I think the first breakdown I had was in October.  My sophomore year of college I got a sinus infection for the first time in my life and guess which month it happened?  The first time I had really bad sciatic nerve problems was in October.  I'm also pretty sure I just lost out on another job today.  It gets me coming and going.

So you'll have to understand that none of this is blaming, or whining, even though it may sound like it, but statements of fact all.  I don't actually mean to sound as crotchety as I probably do.  If I'm invited to a Halloween Party, I'll try and find a costume and go.  I'll smile and say Happy Halloween to people, but after I'm done, just let me go home and curl up on the couch or if it's been a particularly bad day, in the shower with the hottest water I can stand either running over my head or against my lower back.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

The Queerest of Birds

While finishing the cleaning today, as I clean every Saturday to get it the hell out of the way, I was thinking about a lot of things, and I finally had a stroke of inspiration for writing, so I think I'll try and turn it into a full length book.  If you do National Novel Writing Month, I'll probably work on it there.  If you're around, I'm also Tamayn there.

I plan to try and make it similar to an Agatha Christie style story.  There will be an overarching murder plot, but a focus on the relationship of a long lost brother whom the family despises at worst, or wants nothing to do with at best.  The only grandchild will be the other focus character.

Lord knows that I read them enough, and have been watching them often enough here.  I still have more research to do on a certain aspect of the interesting part of the story line, but well, I'll leave that to be found out later.  If people want to see it, I'll post what results.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

La Pilule Amère

So I'll start slow with this because basically all I wanted to do yesterday, and I still kind of feel like it today, is curl up in the bathtub with some cake mix.  As I mentioned, I started applying for jobs here in France.  I knew this would be a bit of a complicated situation.  I guess I never expected to get even a response.

I should really mention a problem I have.  The best way I've found to describe it is that I go up like a rocket, and come down like a stick.  Outwardly, I am a bit cynical about things, but secretly I'm already counting on success on everything I do.  So when I got a response from one of the first places I applied to, I was floored!

The schedule would have been 12 hours a week.  It wouldn't have been a terrible amount, but it would have been a start.  They asked me if the hours worked for me, and wanted me to respond as soon as possible.  So I called the number I had been left at the bottom, and set up an appointment to speak with the people necessary.  I was really excited, because this meant that I wouldn't feel so useless here.  I could contribute real money to the situation here, and we wouldn't have to worry about next year.  I was really excited.

I called my sister in law and mother in law to ask them how I should approach this.  I've never been terribly confident in my actual French level, so I always feel like I'm at a disadvantage.  They said to try and keep it simple.  Don't get in over your head.  Explain the situation exactly as it is. They said that given the level of the job, and that I wouldn't be speaking with people all that much, so I should relax on that front.  The one thing they said though was that this job isn't something that would appeal to a lot of French people.  Frankly people who are already on chomage make more than this job would give a month, so it's not to their advantage to take it.  I had maybe a bit more confidence with that.

They said for a job like this, the most important thing was to present myself well.  I just got a hair cut last week, so that was fine.  I needed to shave, which I did (even shaving against the grain with a new blade to make sure it was smooth.)  I wore dress pants and a dress shirt.  I even put a sweater over the top of it, one to look even more French, and number two so that no one would notice the shirt was off white.  Since the sweater was tan, the shirt looked really nice and white.  I even took one of those chemises with me and a pen and paper.  I don't think I ever tried to look that French in all my life.  ( I should just mention I hate shaving and never wear a sweater with a collared shirt because I get really warm easily, and I think it just looks so ridiculously Ned Flanders that I want to beat myself up. )

Digressing, I got there with about 15 minutes to spare.  I had always heard it was a good idea to arrive between 10 to 15 minutes before the appointment.  I spoke with the person at the Acceuil and was told that the person I was supposed to meet with was in a meeting, but someone else would be down to receive me.  In a few minutes I see a person in a suit come to the desk.  I assume that it's him.  He comes over and asks if he should know me.....?  It's not the right person and I'm turning about a thousand shades of red.  But I smile, excuse myself, and the woman at the acceuil explains that I'm waiting for someone and that he's fine.  She tells me that the person I'm going to meet with will be down in just a few minutes.

The guy arrives just a little bit after, now that I'm really embarrassed and even more nervous, it's a match made in heaven.  He's a young guy, probably younger than me in truth, and he asks me how I'm doing.  I reply that I'm doing fine, and we walk to the back.  He asks me if I had ever worked in a store like this before, I say yes, and explain a bit.  I'm so nervous I really don't know what to say.  So I try to explain a bit, but it's not going so great.  So. Damn. Nervous.....

We go to an office, and he explains a bit about the job.  We go over the hours, the days I'd work, how many people would be on the team I'd be working with, and just a few general things.  I get the feeling he's killing time until I can speak with the person I need to talk to.  He asked me if the schedule would work.  I say yes, not a problem.  We talk a bit more, and he asks me if I can take on more hours sometimes.  I say it's fine.  I try to explain the situation but I'm still a bit tongue tied.  Someone comes in and tells him that the woman I was supposed to speak with is now available.  So we get up, and walk to her office.

She says hello, we shake hands and she has me take a seat.  She asks me how high my level of French is, and I try to stammer out a response until the guy says "small," and she says, "oh, small."  That was it!  At that point, something just snapped in my head.  Now it was a challenge.  I responded with, "J'aime penser que je peux parler très bien Française, mais j'n sais pas."  She blinked and opened her eyes a bit wider.  She smiled a bit and said, "Ah bon, je trouve que vous parlez très bien!"  I felt vindicated!  We talked a bit more.  I'd be on a CDI, but for students, at which point I had to explain about visas and such.  She said that would be worked out with the person who handled that.  Of course, I was to speak with her next.

So I meet with her, we talk, and she says that she doesn't know how it would work to hire me, because with my visas, it becomes more complicated.  So she calls the prefecture.  Of course, no one's there until tomorrow morning, as the person who handles it only works two days per week apparently, so she'll have to call back tomorrow, get word back, and speak with him then.  I figure, ok so she'll do that, and I'll be working next week ok.

I'm pretty happy, I'm telling everyone on the phone that I don't know what will happen, but everyone seems pretty confident that it'll work out.  So I'm pretty happy, talking with partner.  He's happy for me, and we're a little relieved.  He has to go back in for his afternoon class that day, so I walk out with him.  I come back upstairs and see that I missed a call.  It's the woman who needed to call the prefecture for confirmation to let me know that with the visas I have, it would be IMPOSSIBLE!  No real explanation other than that.  She said to call back if I had any questions.  So just.....whatever......

So I was really pissed, and just annoyed with the whole situation.  I took a walk and called a few people...  The search continues only now, I'm just slightly less enthusiastic about the search.  France is a tangle of bureaucracy, so I'm not completely saddened by it, but I'm just, yeah....  If I could just marry my partner like in the majority of European countries, I wouldn't need 2000 euros per month with 400 dollar a month health insurance.  So I'm just done for a bit.

Where's that cake mix.......?

Monday, October 24, 2011

Elle est ma cousine!

I remember one of the first things I asked partner was " so since you're from Bretagne, do you speak Breton?" His response, naturally, was no.  He told me that people don't really speak Breton anymore.  There are older people who know it or knew it.  Such was the case with his grandmother.  She knew and could speak Breton until she had a stroke back in the late nineties.  Unfortunately neither of her children had studied the language, like I said earlier, this is a cyclical thing where people care about it and then don't, or her grandchildren.  This is how languages die out.

However; there will always be some vestiges of Breton culture.  People speak a few snippets of the language, and most people know basic phrases like degemer mat for welcome, or that the Breton word for Breton is actually Breizh.  These are things that people see on signs, not normally something that's shared among family members though.  The actual nuts and bolts of the language are only maintained through songs or in the names of dances, or the occasional song.

This song here, for example, was popular a while back in France.  The band, Matmatah, was formed in Brest, the westernmost city in Bretagne.  The song itself is Lambe an dro is actually in French, but it has that very Celtic rock edge to it.  You can find the lyrics here.  If anything, this song actually reminds me a lot of that song "500 Miles" by the Proclaimers or to a lesser extent "Jump Around" by House of Pain.  It doesn't have all that much to do with actual Celtic culture, but it's more than happy to borrow from it. 

Breton in Brittany is more of a cultural thing now than an actual language.  You will see the black and white flag and coat of arms all over the place.  Also there's a certain symbol called the triskelion in English, know as la triskell in Brittany.  It's the regional symbol, and you will see it everywhere they can stick it up.  Originally, it was a sacred symbol, but now, you'll see it on everything from a taxi service to pizza places.  

Another interesting thing that I remember seeing long before partner and I moved was a character called Bécassine.  It's a stereotypical creation of the old fashioned Breton woman.  Her name is also used in French as slang for a fool.  She was created as a caricature of Bretons in general, showing her as old fashioned.  She still wears a lace coif and clogs, and usually is not drawn with a mouth.  She's kind of a classic plouc.  It's an old joke, but a lot of people say, "Bécassine; c'est ma cousine."  It's actually a song written by Chantal Goya.  

The language still exists and there are always attempts to maintain the level of the language, but like any language, it will only stay alive so long as people speak it.  I can't say I've ever heard it spoken, but it's amazing to think about how this language has lasted all these years.  Of course, like any language, it's changed with the times.  For example, most signs are in Breton and French in the Rennes subway system.  That's the sign of a language that can stand the test of time honestly.  It has to be able to stay current with the times.  

Saturday, October 22, 2011

I've seen things....

I'll make a list of things lately, and we'll vote as to the order I talk about them.

1.  I saw a man lick a woman's face, and yes, in a romantic way.  This will actually be more of a rant organized to appear like a serious article.  Just to let you know.

2.  I saw more Breton that I ever planned to today, and it still fascinates me, much like all Brythoic-Godelic Languages.  It would be one thing if it were just at the Brittany Museum, but we're talking about in the Subway.  I. love. Rennes. so. much!

3.  I saw a beautiful old map of Bretagne, which I will show soon when I get a chance.  It has a lot of old place names on it, and well, it's just beautiful!

4.  The Brittany Museum is incredible.  All I can say.  I'll be keeping an eye on what else they're showing at the Champs Libre.

5.  Apparently some French CV's require a photo.  Go figure.

6.  I am totally inspired to write the rest of chapter 2, because of the Brittany Museum.

More to come soon.  Let me know what you guys want to see!

Monday, October 17, 2011

The 35 hebdomadaire

The original reason why I didn't know what and if I'd be able to post was because I spent the week on the job hunt.  Monday was all about getting my CV in order.  Tuesday was getting help with my lettre de motivation, and then Wednesday was getting the word out.  Thursday my mother in law came for a visit, and to leave a few things next week for when she goes to see her daughter for Toussaints, my sister in law's family.  Friday would be a bit more relaxed.  On the docket that day was just a hair cut.  Saturday and Sunday promised to be more relaxing though.

Having never before written a CV, this was going to be an adventure.  A resume, I could write in my sleep.  I had modified my own three times in the US.  I had my form for Academic use, another for sales use, and a third for clerical/office work.  Each I had tuned over the years for the correct case and application, highlighting specific skills necessary for whatever I was applying.  With a CV, nothing doing.  You have to put everything on one form, and in less than one page.  So it becomes a matter of sorting out what is necessary and not, and how to present oneself overall.  There's the additional fun of having to write it all in French.  Of course in French, there is certain jargon and expressions that one uses in French, much like in English.  I wrote it out as best I could in French first, and showed it to partner, who corrected it.  After that, I sent it to my mother in law, who used to work in HR,  and sister in law, who works in online retail.  They ripped it to shreds and then told me how to do it right.  Step one, complete.

Tuesday I didn't feel like fooling around, because I got the feeling that trying to translate my cover letter wasn't going to cut it in France.  There are two things that displease me about the lettre de motivation in france.  The lettre de motivation has nothing to do with your skills.  It's about explaining why you were sending them the letter.  I was joking with my mother in law about explaining that since I was a child and I used to play grocery store, I dreamed of working at Carrefour and arranging cans in a supermarket.  The other fun comes in when you find out that if it's not formatted exactly to French standards, they will take one look at it, assume you have no idea what you're doing, and throw it the hell out.  My mother in law showed me exactly how to write it and what needed to be included, and then sister in law tinkered with it to make it exactly what I needed.  Now I just had to get up the courage to pass it out.

Wednesday is partner's long day in courses, so we had decided that I would leave with him the afternoon, pass out my CV and letter of motivation, and meet him that night by the car.  That meant that I would need to take the metro.  I hadn't taken it much, mostly out of fear of getting lost.  I don't usually get lost, as I do believe myself to have an excellent sense of direction, but I didn't want to risk anything happening.  I figured maybe it would be wiser to start the morning off with the places I could walk to.  So that meant that I was applying to the Netto on the corner, the Super U a little further down, and the Lidl that was just down the street a bit further.  Later that afternoon, if all went well, I'd get a day pass for the transit system and take the bus to Alma to drop off applications there, then take the bus back home.  That night I'd take the metro over to the school, trying to complete the impossible task that partner and I screwed up last time: how to get to the car from the metro.

I spent the morning finding the routes I'd need to take, and after breakfast and a shower, I was ready to drop off my CV and letter of motivation.  I hit the ones close by quick, and even got my shopping done along the way.  The only concern was Lidl.  I'd never actually been there, and it was supposed to be really close by.  I'd never gone though just because there were closer, and what I found to be cheaper, options.  I walked up the length of the boulevard, and came to the same road the metro was on.  I knew I had gone too far.  So I asked someone nearby if they knew where the Lidl was, and they said that I would need to take the metro to get there.  I could walk but it was a good 30 minutes then.  So I decided that I'd save that application for the afternoon before taking the bus to Alma.

I come back to the house, put away the groceries, and relax a little before partner arrives for lunch.  He and I eat a bit, we talk, and he goes to study.  I kill a bit of time before he has to go and we leave the building together, around 5.  I headed to the metro and went two stations north, and I start asking people where the nearest Lidl is.  No one knows.  I finally give up and look on a map, because I had to put it in an envelope with the address on the front.  I found the road, and it turns out that this particular road goes on for a while.  I have no idea what to do at this point.  I can go north where the road starts, or I can go south where it veers off and I have no idea how to get there.  I decide I'll go north first and see.  So I go two more stations north and look around a bit.  No one seems to know where the road is when I ask.  I even randomly ended up asking a Russian woman.  We spoke English as it was less complicated.  She said she had no idea where the road was, but wished me luck.  I walked a bit further down, and found the road, but no indication it was nearby.  So I looked around a bit more and headed south.  I went back down to the station where I started, and asked someone.  He said just turn right at the real estate office, and keep going.  It's about 500 feet from the station.  I gave them my CV, walked back to the metro, and caught the bus to Alma.

I dropped off my CV at the different locations, but I'm not going to get too excited about it.  The market is hard, especially for those people who have some education, but not tons.  Of course, right now it seems like it's hard for everyone.  I did the tour of the restaurants there.  I had to be careful about which clothing stores I applied to, because some of them require a special formation after high school.  They told me that they were full up, but they'd keep my CV all the same in case.  I applied to a few more places, one of which was a video game shop, and that made me very happy.  They were even looking.  So like I said, no getting my hopes up, but oh damn, that would be sweet.  Of course, I'd probably never have a check at the end of the month, because I'd spend it all there.  But damn, that'd be sweet.

I still had some time before I'd go meet partner.  I decided to bum around the center of town and see where might be interesting to apply there.  I always like the idea of applying at Fnac, but apparently there's some sort of formation you have to have, but well....who knows.  Anyway, I figured I'd try at Saturn and Virgin.  If no one hires me, no one can say I didn't try.  So I keep going.  I look around for an hour or two, and then take the metro further north to Villejean.

I should probably talk a little about the disaster it was trying to find the way to get from Pontchaillou to the medical campus.  That day, we thought it would be a cinch to find, so partner and I had just bought the hour long metro cards.  So we got the cards at about 4:30, expecting to have this wrapped up in about 20 minutes tops.  We wondered down past the Cardiology center, and back along the side towards town, but the buildings all started to become residential.  So we found a map posted, and looked around.  We couldn't really find where we wanted to go, since it was a map of the hospital, not the medical school included.  We figured if we kept going though, we'd find it, eventually.  So we came back and tried the other way.  Even worse mistake, as we were almost in Villejean.  So we try one more time, can't find it, get pissed, and make it back to the metro with 3 minutes to spare on our card. Partner is now determined that he will never EVER take the metro into school.  I time it all the same, and it's about 12 minutes by metro.  Truthfully, that's about how long it takes him in the car anyway, and he only has to fill up the tank for 20 per month, so it's less than a monthly pass anyway.

This time though, I came prepared.  I found out that we had taken the wrong way around.  We should have gotten off at Villjean-Université, and then it's just 800 meters to the parking lot.  I find the first road I need to take, and keep on going.  I am doing just fine, as we weren't supposed to meet for another half an hour, and I didn't want to get there too early.  It's a really nice night for a walk.  The campus is beautiful all lit up, and the buildings are almost enough to make me think of when we used to take the bus back to partner's place from campus.  It's just nice to feel independent and do what I want.  I make the turn, exactly where it said it would be.  The buildings are getting familiar, and I am right next to the car.  I wait a few minutes and then decide I'll surprise him and meet him a little closer up.  So I move closer up by the parking entrance, wait a few more minutes and inevitably get bored.  I decided I'd meet him in front of the school.  So as I'm walking up, someone is walking down.  It's partner.  He had finished early and was waiting on me.  We walked back to the car and decided since it was late we'd just get Dell'Arte.  It was bliss!

I guess the most important thing is that I have conquered the Rennes transport system.  I am confident I could go wherever necessary now with minimal preparation.  This Wednesday I'll head back to the center of town and drop off more CVs, Thursday mother in law will be staying the night before she catches her train south for Toussaints, so it will be good to see her again.  I have to meet her at the Autogare downtown, and we'll take the metro/bus system back.  So this week should be quiet.  Who knows, I may even get an extra day with partner for Toussaints!

Saturday, October 15, 2011

An Outing in Two Acts: Act II

I run upstairs and take the portable phone off the charger and shut myself in the sun porch, a room that used to be an open air porch that was closed in but never heated.  No one came out there unless they wanted to put more pop in the refrigerator.  Since it was around 10 at night, that was unlikely enough.  Finally the phone rang.

Just hearing his voice was enough to make my heart race.  It was exciting and nerve wracking all at the same time.  He was sweet, and funny, and everything I imagined.  We talked about how strange it was to put a voice with the words.  I don't think we'd even seen pictures of each other at that point.  He was an absolute sweetheart though.  That's when my mother opened the door.

She asked what I was doing out here.  I told her that I was talking with someone.  She looked a little confused, and asked who I was talking to.  I said a friend.  She said, which one.  I said another time with a stern look on my face, a friend.  She got the message and left. That should have been a hint right there.

So we kept talking until the phone started to beep, which meant the battery was almost dead.  I didn't want the phone call to end.  This was the happiest I'd been in 19 years, and I wasn't about to let it end because of an old portable phone. I took the phone from the living room and ran the cord across the living room and into the den, running the cord under the crack in the door.  I took the phone of the switch hook and put the now dead portable phone back on the receiver in my parent's room.  

I came back downstairs and we talked for another hour or so.  He told me all about his life, and I about mine.  I told him about hopes, fears, and what I wanted to do with the rest of my life.  I just felt so at ease with him.  I had never had the chance to talk with anyone else like this, ever.  He was interested in me, and what I did and what I was doing.  Finally, we talked about him coming to visit.  I told him that it wouldn't be a problem for me, and I could just tell my mother that he was a friend from the college where I was going, so she wouldn't even know.  He would have to stay in a hotel in town though.  He and I talked more about it, but now that we could talk, we figured it might be better to wait for the planning until later, like around spring break or something.  We said our goodbyes and hung up. 

Another thing I should mention was that the phone I had chosen was supposed to have a security function on it, where if anyone picked up the phone, the light for the line would dim.  It had always worked before, and it's specifically why I chose that phone. I even told my friend about it when he asked me if I was worried about anyone listening in.  I told him I wasn't too concerned. 

I was absolutely thrilled that night.  I felt like I could do anything.  Since I lived in the middle of nowhere, I ended up watching TV with my brothers.  My mother came upstairs to say goodnight, and she made a point to tell us all that she loved us and kiss all three of us.  That should have been a sign that something was up, but it was maybe just a coincidence.  She also stayed up to see my dad when he came home.  My mother was usually in bed by 9:30.  My father usually never got back from work until midnight.  Hint number 2 annoyed.  It should have been pretty obvious when she whispered something to Dad with a panicked look on her face before she went upstairs, but I was still partially in denial, and still partially just too happy to care.  I do remember telling myself before I went to bed that if she did know, it was too late to worry about it now.

This had all happened on a Friday, so on Saturday morning my father was the first awake.  It took about a half an hour for him to ask me about it.  He explained that yes, my mother had listened in on my phone call last night.  I spent probably about an hour denying it before I finally just said, you know what.  I am.  I still don't know why I spent so long denying it.  I felt better afterwards though.  My father had two things to say about it.  First and foremost, I needed to be careful.  Not only were there physical dangers, but more so there were a lot of diseased out there.  (He's a nurse, go figure that would be his first concern.)  Second, he thought that maybe we shouldn't say anything to Mom about it, and just say that everything was resolved.

The day was pretty calm, and I was up on the computer as usual when the phone rings.  "So I hear you're gay, and you're running away to Minnesota, never to see any of us again!"  It's my sister.  My mother had called her apparently last night, in a panic.  My sister was calling back to find out how much of it my mother had embellished, she has a tendency to do that.  I explained the situation as it was, and she said she figured that it was more reasonable than what my mother had decided.  So everything was fine there.  She said she was happy for me, and that she loved me.  

The last great hurdle that day was my mother.  She and I talked about it though, and her biggest concern was that I was going to run away and she'd never see me again.  Just for some perspective, after living through 15 years of schooling, she thought I was going to drop out of high school a half a year before I finished to run away with some guy I'd never met.  I had already been accepted into college, so come on.  Seriously.  She said she loved me though, and my being gay didn't matter to her in the least.  So that's now everything resolved nicely for me.  

Things haven't been easy all the time, but I wouldn't trade my life now for anything else.  There's more to the story, but I'll talk about that another time.  I also have some stories about subway fun, but I guess I'll talk about that later.  

Friday, October 14, 2011

An Outing in Two Acts: Act I

I thought it would be important to explain exactly where I came from to get to this point.  The two most important times I came out where forced.  I never got the chance to choose my moment.  Frankly, I thought that one day, my parents would show up at my dorm unannounced and I'd be in bed with a guy.  Then we'd find out everything.  I guess though, things don't always go as planned.  They just kind of happen.  So, here we go.

After I had come out to my friend, I started to get more comfortable with who I was.  I guess it took the first time for it to become a reality.  Before it had always been something I had written, or something I whispered, but never anything I said out loud.  Slowly though, it was all becoming a reality.  Online I had developed my own life.  I had a couple of very close friends, with whom I passed much of my time online.  At that time, ICQ was my life line.  

The first was a young man from near by.  He lived in Dayton and said he was in high school.  He was a nice enough guy, but I always found him a little confusing.  He was very progressive, which I loved, but I was always a bit thrown off by him.  The pictures he sent were always a little too posed.  I talked with him all throughout high school, but we just lost track of each other when I graduated, and that was the end of him.

I spent a lot of time talking with another really nice guy, but he was in at Georgia Tech.  He and I never talked about anything very sexual but he was there for support a lot.  He was an absolute sweetheart of a guy.  I always thought about what a nice guy he would be.  For a long time, I wanted to emulate him.  He had gone through a lot in his life, but he always seemed so open to things.  I always hoped I would be able to be like him.  One day we stopped talking, and I never talked with him again after my junior year of high school.

There was one guy though, whom I fell absolutely in love with.  He was from Minnesota.  I randomly found him on an ICQ chat group, and sent him a message.  He struck me as a bit cold at first, but well, having a random guy message you with, "Are you really gay?" must be slightly off putting.  I got a chance to explain myself a bit more, and we talked, and it turned out we really enjoyed and appreciated each other.  He made me laugh, and vice versa.  We got to be pretty good friends, but he would often disappear for months at a time, and show up again with all sorts of new things to talk about.

I think what really sold me on him was how direct he was.  He was gay and refused to be anything other than himself for anyone.  I enjoy people who are that honest about themselves and their lives.  He told me all about his life in a small town, but he moved to Minneapolis for high school and college.  I was absolutely enamored with him.  His life was so exciting, and he did so much stuff.  It was so much unlike my own life.  I wanted to experience it, even if it were indirectly.

As I said, he would disappear for long spans of time.  In fact, we stopped talking around the end of my sophomore year, and I got an email from him every now and again, but he pretty much disappeared off the face of the earth after that.  I continued along wondering how he was for a while, but eventually I just let it go.  That was until the fall of my senior year, when he and I started talking again.

We picked up right where we left off and as time went by, we started taking the relationship further.  He and I would talk for hours, and I could finally tell him about how things had improved, and about how I was finally going to get some independence soon.  I was just so excited about everything and ready to get on with everything.  I finally was feeling comfortable with who I was, and as though I didn't have to live up to other people's standards.

One night we started talking, just about the usual stuff, nothing too impressive.  While we were talking he told me that he'd like to give me a call.  He said he had a cell phone and he'd really like to hear my voice.  I thought about half a second on it and said yes.  I signed off the computer, and ran to get things around for him to call.  

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Part 4: He Said It....

I have actually never told this story.  The one I tell everyone is the story of my coming out to my family, which I consider to be the most important.  However, this story is actually based on the person to whom I first came out.  She was a very close friend, not the same that I mentioned earlier though.  I always just tell the story as it is, but I've never actually tried to see it from her point of view.  This is my attempt, and I thought it might be more interesting as a story.

The night had been very exciting as everyone piled back onto the bus after the band concert.  Most of the larger bands from the area had been invited, and everyone was exhausted.  This was the first time the band had been invited in probably about 10 years.  Most likely it was a good will gesture.  It was a relatively large band for the area.  The only problem was there were much larger schools competing.  Some even combined their Junior High and High School bands.  Basically the whole night had been kind of a wash.

The buses started up and pulled away, to make the short trip north.  The times on the buses usually were the best.  Sometimes there'd be sing alongs to Bohemian Rhapsody, or someone might have an air horn handy, but no one was in a festive mood.  Most people in the front were talking across the aisles to friends, discussing the disaster that was the performance.  Others in the middle had started a game of euchre, hoping to at least cheer themselves up by taking a few hands solo.  Further in the back, most people were curled up in blankets to protect from the November weather.

"So," Paula exhaled, shifting her position on the seat, "that was kind of a disaster."  She leaned sideways, her head coming to rest against the window.

"You're telling me," John laughed.  He pulled off his coat and let his hair out from the ponytail.  "Damn uniform regulations."

Paula smiled, looking at John.  They had been friends now for a while.  He was not exactly a great looking guy, but they had so much in common.  It had started with a few jokes after they had mentioned they both watched those Brit-coms they ran late at night on the local public TV station.  It had been so long, neither could remember who had started it.  Every time they passed one another in the hall though, they'd smile at one another, the joke shared without saying a word.

In the four years they had been together, they had always sent each other valentines.  Never had a year gone by that they couldn't think of a joke between them to send to each other.  Often people would wonder why either one was laughing instead of getting choked up by what was sent.  That was how their love worked though.  They liked to make the other one laugh.

Paula had been planning how to handle this for a while.  The trip home would take longer than normal, since the bus couldn't take the interstate back.  John played quads, and he had a tendency to hunch forward after playing.  It was impossible for John to rest completely flat against the bus seat, so he would need to lean forward against the seat.  That's when she would make her move.

"So do you want to play some Diablo tonight?" Paul asked, yawning.  He was trying to get comfortable against the hard bus seat, but that was unlikely at best.

"We can if you want," Paula responded.

"I didn't ask what I wanted to do.  I asked what you wanted to do."

Paul changed positions again, "This goddamn bus seat."  I need something to support my back."

He brought his head to rest against the back of the seat in front of him, folding his arms to support his forehead.  John exhaled deeply and tried to stretch out his back.  Paula brought her hand to rest on his shoulder.

"You know," said Paula, "if it hurts that bad, I could rub it for you."

"Thanks, but no," John responded curtly.

She was losing him fast.  He was going to get more and more surly as he couldn't find a comfortable position.  Paula watched him as he breathed.  Four years she had waited for this moment.  She thought about all the times that they had spent at each other's houses, all of the times they had hung out for pep band, and how great it would be from then on.  She imagined they'd both go to the same college.  She'd already been accepted at Bowling Green, and he to Ohio State.  It was less than 2 hours between them, and practically a straight shot on 23.  Anyway, she could transfer to be with him.

Paula took a deep breath and moved closer to him, her head now resting next to his elbow.  He lowered them for her so they could talk.  John turned his head and smiled, and as he did, Paula moved in for a kiss.

"Paula," John said coldly, "Don't."

She retreated quickly and looked at him with a mixture of anger and shock.  "What's that supposed to mean?"

"What do you mean, what does that mean?  It mean's don't."

John returned his head to it's original position and looked down at the floor.  Paula wasn't really sure what to do at this point.  She thought of all her plans, and everything she had dreamed about.  She thought about finally being able to have her and her mother's suspicions confirmed.  She thought about all the times she'd imagined them sitting together watching a movie, or just TV downstairs.  She had imagined what the first kiss would be like, and how it would be.  Now, it all just vanished in smoke.  Tears filled her eyes as she watched everything vanish before her eyes. John squirmed a bit next to her.

"Good," she thought.  "I hope you're uncomfortable.  It wasn't supposed to be like this.  You were supposed to love me.  We were supposed to be together forever.  You never cared about me. It was all just a cruel act!"

Paula cried harder, all the bitterness coming out at once.  If he refused to be with her, he should feel uncomfortable.  She wondered what the last four years had been for him.  Why had he even bothered to be nice to her if this was how he was going to treat her now?  She'd seen his other girlfriends.  They weren't exactly fashion models.

John turned towards her, "What's wrong now?"

"Why don't you want to be with me?  Is it that I'm not pretty enough?"

"No, it's not that."

John was sitting straight in the seat now.  "Among other things, I'm going to be college in Columbus and you'll be in Bowling Green.  I couldn't even make the last relationship I had work, and we were only 20 minutes apart."

"Oh, that's an excuse and you know it.  You think I'm ugly.  Ugly and stupid."

"No," John said rubbing his eyes, "No, I don't."

"Well, then there has to be some reason."

"It's just that --"

"It's just that you never cared about me, and have just been doing this to hurt me."

"No, if you'll let me finish it's that--"

"I don't even know why I bothered with you."

"Ok," John said.  "You want to know why I don't want to date you?  It's because, I think.....I think....I think I like guys...."

John rubbed his temples and tried to hold back tears, and lowering his head.  His forehead came to rest against the seat once again.  He ran his hands through his hair and down along his neck and sighed.  Paula had not been prepared for this eventuality.  He had always been so open in flirting with girls, and never even showed the slightest interest in anything very feminine.  He loved video games.  He used to do sword fighting with his friends, and played dungeons and dragons.   He had a horrible sense of style.  None of this made sense.

Paula put a hand on John's shoulder, "Oh my God!  So how long have you known?"

"I guess I've really known forever," John said," but I didn't really admit it to myself until I started high school. Since then, I've really just been trying to appear as normal as possible and get through this to college."

"So have you told anyone else?"

"You're the first..."

He had just been pretending all these years back in school. Paul explained that it was not that he didn't have some feelings for girls, but never sexual feelings.  It wasn't a choice he had made, and if it were it was the worse choice to make.  People weren't exactly kind at their school to people who didn't fit in already, but gay was something far too controversial.  People might call someone gay, but no one ever seriously meant it.  It was just an insult after all, like saying someone was dumb.

When they arrived back at the school, they decided it would be best for each of them to go home and rest a bit.  They had originally made plans to do something at Paula's house, but neither of them felt much like doing anything.  They hugged one last time in the band room when they said goodbye, and each went their separate ways.