Your twice-yearly update

Posted in Cats, Journal, Meta at 19:01

Kanoko and Susu together

Teasing with the title there. The pause hasn’t been intentional; more a collection of “later… later…” on my part. For nearly three months…!

The cats are doing great (the photo above was taken today), and I’ve been doing pretty well too. Paris holds more opportunities across the board, whether they be personal, interpersonal, career-related, cat-related. I’ve been making the most of it, so my blog has gone to the backburner in the meanwhile.

The biggest plus has definitely been for my career. I’ve finally been given long-requested promotions, ones for which work just wasn’t there in the southeast. The flip side is that, as a consultant with immediately-recognizable client companies, I’m not at liberty to talk about it in more than the most general terms. So, in the time I haven’t been writing here, I have been thinking about which direction to take my blog. I have some ideas, but they’re still fuzzy; my day job has been taking up most of my creative brainpower. Which is a wonderful thing! It’s great to have a job that asks creativity of me. I’ve always been an organic sort, so I know that when I say “we’ll see” for this blog, we actually will.

Tout va bien

Posted in Biographical, Education at 20:26

It’s been a long while since my last post. Thanks to all of you who patiently return to my site! As you can imagine, I’ve been busy working, whether at my job or on my Masters thesis.

I finished the bulk of my thesis a few days ago, and am now wrapping up translations of cites that were in English originally. Not an easy thing to do, since French is not my native language. I didn’t start learning it early enough to gain as much fluency as in English, beginning only at age 11. Just soon enough to have a good spoken accent, but not quite young enough to soak in an instinct for French phrasing. I really notice it in my French writing. Where in English I barely have to think twice, or when I do, it comes relatively easily and I know how and why, in French it’s a bit like pulling teeth. The demoralizing bit is that I can see that it doesn’t “read French”, but I don’t exactly know how to tidy it up.

My thesis defense will be sometime this month, in any case before the 30th since that’s the final deadline. Having picked a subject that I love, and having thoroughly enjoyed the research and writing, even when it gave me headaches, I’m actually looking forward to it. Oral presentations were my bugbear in youth, but having lived in three countries and fumbled around in several languages has served to wash away most of my embarrassment when speaking. Why worry about a subject I enjoy and discuss happily, when I can remember shopping in Finland on arrival and the only words I knew were “kiitos, kiitti, anteeksi”? (“Thank you, thanks, excuse me” respectively.) Why worry about mutual comprehension in a language I’ve spoken for decades when I can recall talking like a 2-year-old and entirely enjoying “discussions” I had in basic Mandarin Chinese with taxi drivers and artisans? Years of traveling have taught me the golden rule: try to speak their language, listen, and recognize that all humans know what it is to feel silly. Trust that they’ll relate, and the vast majority of the time, they will. Those who don’t, or who make you feel uncomfortable, are giving you valuable information – namely, to find someone else to speak with.

Life aside from my studies has been going very well too. I’m finally in a place where I’ve been able to start relaxing and enjoying the fruits of years of hardship and sacrifice. Where I can just sit in my adorable apartment with my adorable cat and enjoy life.

Kiku

Posted in Gardening, Journal, La France at 22:36

Chrysanthemum
A few weeks ago I became one of the many “lucky” folk to catch the H1N1 flu (“swine flu”). For the first time in my adult life, I understood how someone could die from the flu. Not to sound alarming, mind, just that on the fifth day of a high fever, bad cough, and exhaustion, I was so sore and tired that I barely had the strength to cough well enough to clear my throat to breathe. And that was with medication, and I was in pretty good physical shape before that. Flu vaccinations. It hurts less to get one than to get this flu.

While I was ill, the French national police knocked on my door. At first I wondered if I were in a movie, seeing the plain-clothed gentleman present himself with blue-white-red-striped official ID in hand and firm look on his face: “Bonjour madame, police nationale.” He was looking for one of my upstairs neighbors (the eldest son of his parents, who also live there, along with their two younger sons and the eldest son’s daughter), who has a warrant out for his arrest. Delightful. I swear my apartment is in a nice neighborhood overall. It would seem I’m just in a bad micro-part of it.

I finally recovered to the point where I was able to get back on my mountain bike yesterday at noon. Taking in the fresh autumn forest air on the rocky hills was wonderful, and raised my spirits. Then, this morning (on foot, not on my bike), a car driver decided that she would rather risk killing or handicapping me than lose ten seconds at a stop sign, which also had a clearly-marked pedestrian crossing. She accelerated — yes, accelerated, to my horror as I kept trying to signal “stop” with my hand and even shouted at her — then swerved to the side of the road to go around me, missing me by a few centimeters. I spent the rest of the day taking short breaks to pull back from my desk, wiggle my legs and look at them, happy they’re still attached and in good working order. Before that, however, I called the police. Again. It’s to the point where I recognize the dispatchers’ voices now. Good to know in this part of the world where there is no shortage of drivers who have a sense of entitlement the size of their hurtling metal narcissism machines: if a driver runs you down in a pedestrian crossing, you can write down/memorize their license plate, then go to the gendarmerie and file a complaint (porter plainte), also giving a description of the car as possible. The police will then contact them and handle it from there.

I could write a book on interactions with the police and gendarmes in France. I’ve now dealt with pickpockets, a drunken upstairs neighbor who would tip over his furniture at 2 in the morning while watching football, a mentally ill East German woman who’s hit her children, husband and niece, insults everyone in French and threatens to poison my cats, an upstairs neighbor who threatens his own mother (yes, I had called the police on him a couple of times — the national policeman’s visit didn’t entirely surprise me), and dangerously irresponsible drivers. Have a complaint? I probably know how to file it. In French!

Besides that, though, I found some beautiful chrysanthemums at a florist. They reminded me of Chinese and Japanese paintings. Earlier I had potted daffodil and iris bulbs I’d dug up and stored this summer, and am pleased that all of them are starting to sprout. From the two daffodils and three irises I had originally, I now have four daffodil and seven iris plants. Work on my apartment is also coming along, although very slowly.