We went to Kehl, Germany yesterday. Most items are significantly less expensive in Germany than in France. And since Amy got paid we decided to go shopping. The bus only got as far as the France side of the Rhine and then stopped telling us it couldn't go any farther due to some demonstration. So we walked. As we were walking across the river we noticed several International and German police milling about. Just over the river at what must have been an old border check point there were all kinds of police standing around and blocking traffic. There were also several demonstrators of some kind holding colorful signs and a few men with gigantic cameras who must have been the press. We never did find out what the heck it was all about.
In Kehl we took a wrong turn and wound up following one of the main highways instead of turning down a side street and into the shopping areas of downtown. We got hungry so we stopped at a McDonalds for lunch. It was about as awful as the American version. Humorously though, an outside window of McDonalds advertised that it had a bar and had the silhouette of naked ladies usually seen on trucker mud flaps! Fascinating!
Last night we went to the pub with Laura, her parents, and Damien. Damien and Laura are fellow teachers of English with Amy. They were talking about the lessons they did using the letters written by the Brittish to undecided Ohio voters, and the subsequent flack from those letters. If you haven't heard about it click here. Anyway, Laura and Damien both had their students write similar letters as writing practice. To their horror some of the students actually mailed the letters! If the Ohioians got that mad over Brits writing them can you imagine what they'll do when they get similar letters from the French!?! And these are English students so their vocabulary is limited and their grammar even worse!
We were unable to get the absentee ballot for the US elections. I talked to someone at our local registration board and she didn't have a clue as to how absentee ballots work. She transferred us to the specialist but all we ever got was voicemail. We could have downloaded the application online, but we would have to go to an internet cafe to print it, and then find somewhere to print it. Timewise we would have had to overnight the application and ultimately the ballot. In the end we just got busy/lazy and didn't get things done.
This morning Amy was supposed to be at her class by 8 am. She set the alarm for around 7. It went off and I remember hitting the snooze button and rolling back over. Either it went off again and I simply turned it off instead of snoozing or when I snoozed I accidently hit the button to turn it off. Either way, it did not go off again and I awoke at about 7:40 to realize Amy was still in bed. Poor girl had to rush around and fly out the door to make it. Luckily we live about 5 minutes away from school so she wasn't too bad off.
It is another rainy, dreary day out there today. All in all the fall has not been as bad as I suspected. We've had several spouts of sunshine and warm weather. This is always followed by several days of drizzling rain, but hey at least we've had some sun. The winter, I am afraid, will be miserable.
We are tentatiely planning a ski trip in the Alps. Prices are quite expensive but if I can get the AIMers to come then individually the price won't be too bad. We cannot actually go to the Swiss part of the Alps because our Croatian friend does not have a proper Visa. Croatia is not part of the Euopean Union and to get a Visa for a country that is part of the Union is quite difficult. Now that he is in France (part of the Union) as a visitor it is not wise for him to leave the Union (Switzerland) and try to come back in. So we are looking at maybe hitting the mountans in Germany. Amy has never gone skiing before, and I am psyched about her learning in the Alps, even if she is not.
A lot has happened in the last few days and I have been too busy, or too lazy to blog them. So, I will try to remember it all.
A couple of days ago Amy and I rode the tram to get her work permit. On the way, just before our stop we saw this old lady start to cross the tram tracks. The tram driver blew his whistle to let her know that crossing was not a good idea. All we could see was the ladies face, which was full of fright and then she disappeared from view. At the same time the tram slammed on it's breaks. A couple of people close to the door frantically beat on it to get it open while the driver hurried out of his seat. We thought this lady was surely ran over! When we got out of the tram the lady was laying a few feet from the tracks on the sidewalk obviously dazed. As it turned out she was not hit by the tram, but had been so frightened she slipped, fell and banged her head into a lamp post. Oddy enough, just before that awful sight I had been was standing in the front of the tram watching the driver and noticing how often people jump out in front of the tram to cross. Sometimes they fake a jump across only to stop, realizing it is too risky. I had just thought was a stressful job that must be to never know when someone is going to get hit. Then bam, someone almost does get nailed!
We went to the modern art museum a couple of days ago. In Strasbourg, museums are not free to attend. So we bought a pass that will get us into every museum in the city (there are several) for a year. It makes me feel high class to have a museum card. It is a very nice museum, and very "modern" arty. There were several exhibits that were absolutely hilarious. A table with rope and tools on it! Ooh, here's a trash can with authentic trash! Now that is art! Some of it was very cool and beautiful, some of it was just bizarre.
My friend Jamison has solicited me to take pictures for the French class in the high school where he works. It has been quite fun wandering around the city looking for cultural things that would be interesting for a high school class. One thing specifically asked for were scenes involving high school age children in daily life. That proved quite difficult since I do not actually know any people that age and they tend to not like foreign males, carrying digital cameras peeping into the public schools!
Last night we went to see some zombie movies at the local art house. We were supposed to see Return of the Living Dead and the original Romero version of Dawn of the Dead. The first film also had a short zombie film from Portugal. Then we found out that the print they had of Return of the Living Dead was Return of the Living Dead Part II. The man putting the zombie fest on, started to get the DVD version Part I, but decided he didn't have the rights to show it so we just watched part II. Now the original Return of the Living Dead is a very gorey, cheesy 80's zombie flick, and the sequel is about two steps below that! It was dubbed in French with no subtitles so I couldn't understand a word, but I really didn't need to! That one was shown in the basement of the theatre on a rather small screen, but Dawn of the Dead was shown in their main theatre which is a gorgeous old theatre with big red curtains and a balcony like the old theatres! It was quite cool, even if three zombie movies in one night is way too much.
Today we went to church in Germany. So the entire service was in German and then translated into French. Two languages and I still couldn't understand it! The Germans were very nice and most of them actually spoke English so we were able to visit a good while.
Today was a bad day. Amy and I bickered all day. It started when she wanted me to go with her to the outdoor market at Place Broglie. She was very excited about it. It is a very ecclectic market with lots of fresh vegetables, meat, fruit and an odd assortment of clothes, knick knacks and toy guns. Frankly I found it a bit dull and must have showed my boredom because Amy got upset that I wasn't as excited as she was about it. My reaction, "it's just vegetables, what am I going to get excited about?" Then we spend the rest of the day snapping at each other.
We later went to the bank to set up our internet usage so we can pay our bills. For some reasons the French don't really use checks to pay their bills. Everything is set up on automatic payments from one bank account to the other. Our land lady, for example, gave us her bank information so that we could pay rent. I mean she GAVE us a piece of paper with her routing and account number on it. Who in their right mind would do that in America? But that's the way things are done here. So anyway we want to go online each month and be able to pay rent and other bills. Daniel had told us to do it that way because the other option is that the bank sets it up for you and takes the money out on a specific day. The problem with this option is that they charge more to do this and that if you don't have the money on that specific moment you are gonna get nailed. And the French system of being payed is a little slower and more sporadic than the states. So after a long trip to "our" branch of the bank Amy had to sit and argue with the teller about being able to set it up like we wanted. The teller called two other people and the end result was that we couldn't do it via the internet when we want, but had to have them set it up for a monthly withdrawl.
The kicker for today was that we received the customs form for some books that Amy's folks sent us. The books were in two boxes in a bag and were very important. They contained books and study notes that Amy needs to take her PhD exams, which she has to take in January. They are, in affect, her academic life. Now what we received in the mail is the customs form which should have been attached to the bag containing the books. It is a form containing the address of the sender and the receiver and declares what is in the package and its estimated worth. It was not connected to the books, nor was there a letter from the post office declaring they had our books. So we asked the concierge if she had the boxes. She did not. We went to the post office who looked at us like we were crazy handing just a customs form over. They searched the back frantically and found no such boxes. They did copy the form and said they would research it. The form does not contain any tracking number that we might use to locate our books. Amy's folks are on vacation at the moment so they could not tell us if they had any type of receipt that might help.
My hope is that the bag, or the boxes also had our address, her folks address, anybody's address on them and this might bring them to someone who can at least contact us. I assume they made it to France and that the customs form got dislodged somewhere in this country. That assumption is based on a French postal worker not being able to read the English to understand what the heck it was. He/she would just see our address and send it on its marry way. If so then surely the boxes will eventually make its way here.
Making a mix tape for our pumpkin carving party in a couple of weeks. Listening to some Rolling Stones at the moment which is where the subject comes from.
We went to my French tutor (Anne) and her husband's (Mohammad) apartment tonight to watch some of the Presidential and Vice Presedential debates. It was quite funny because she was very explicit in saying that we would only have chips and cokes and not an actual meal. So Amy and I rushed back from the store to fix us some supper before we left. After about 30 minutes Anne retreated to the kitchen to make us some sandwiches and then about 30 minutes after that Mohammed made us some ice cream floats. We are so stuffed now! The debates were, um, interesting. I had read most of the Presidential debate transcripts online so I knew most of the rhetoric, but it was a much different thing to see them say it. My favorite non political moment was in the opening of the Vice Presidential debate when John Edwards was introduced and he flashed that million dollar smile of his. We rewound and played it over several times busting out laughing each time.
Unfortunately I believe Amy and I have missed the deadline to vote this election. We talked to a lady in our Indiana countee about the Absentee Ballot, but she was pretty clueless and gave me the number to the specialist in that area. I have only been able to get voicemail for her. It is a short time span between now and the elections and they have to mail us the ballot and it has to be back by noon election day. We have been trying to find a way to get the ballots through the mail in the time span alloted, but I think we are not going to be able to. We can fax the applications, but cannot locate a place to print the request from the internet and fax the request in France.
My blogs are getting a little less frequent these days. I guess that just shows that we have really settled in and I have gotten a routine going. There is a lot less things to do now that we have settled besides the regular things that have already been discussed. I did add some more pictures of the folks from church. So anyone interested in putting some faces to the names I have wrote about may now check do so at my webshots site.
Amy making a face overlooking Petite France. And a reminder to visit my Webshotsphotos. I just added over thirty pictures
Amy and I went to Petite France today. It is one of the older and more beautiful districts in Strasbourg. It used to be the tanner district, but now it is basically a tourist trap. There are tons of shops and restraunts there, all of which are way over priced. However it is also very beautiful. It runs right along one of the canals and the buildings look like old Europe. They all have German and French trim and those crazy high oblong roofs. And every window has flowers in them. It was funny because it is called Petite France and yet nearly everyone there was German as were many of the shops.
The French language is killing me. The other two boys in my class pick things up really quickly and have sharp memories. Where as the old man that I am take forever to grasp the simplest concepts and can't remember them after 5 minutes. Amy says she will help me practice, but we have yet to work out a schedule. Oh well, I suppose I will learn a little here and there.
Did I mention there is dog crap everywhere? The French love their dogs, and even though the law is they have to scoop the poop, they seem to refuse to. They try to be relatively kind and have the dogs go near trees or at least the edge of a curb, but sometimes its right smack in the middle of the sidewalk. yuck!
A couple of long, boring days I've had. Which is really great! I thought I would get bored of having nothing to do, but so far I love it. Maybe I'm just lazy at heart.
We're going to Germany this weekend. A lot of products are cheaper there and I am jonesing to have some blank cds.
We finally have a shower curtain and rod! A friend of ours and my French teacher had told us she was going to get one for us, and just never did until yesterday. you have no idea what it is like to take a bath everyday. I would just sit and think about all the germs floating in the water.
Amy has actually been teaching this week. It's not too bad of a load, but she's been pretty busy getting everything prepared.
Dominique Pinon. Amy and I went to see the director and stars (Jean Pierre Jeunet, pinon, and Audrey Tautou) talk about their new movie (a long engagement) and their old movies together (Amelie w/all of them, Alien 4, City of Lost Children without Audrey). The lighting was terrible for my pictures but I liked this one mainly because I really like the actor and he was just as funny in person.