24 February 2009
23 February 2009
We're lucky in many ways that I have the same breaks as the kids (aha, I just found one advantage of teaching!), but I can't help but wonder what families do who have two working parents. What do they do with the kids during the 8 weeks of school vacation that occur during the academic year (that's 2 in October, 2 for Christmas, 2 for winter break, and 2 for spring break in case you're counting)? I know the French -- and most other Europeans -- take more vacation time than the average American, but very often 3 or 4 weeks are used during the summer months of July and August leaving very few available during the year. I spoke to one friend about it the other day and he said, 'Look, we take 2 weeks in the summer, and one during each of the 4 breaks during the year. That's our six weeks!'
OK, didn't know it was that simple.
Late Update: A quick list of where some of my students are currently spending their winter break: Paris, Vienna, Switzerland, New York, Bangkok, Madrid, Tokyo, London, Amsterdam (I have a lot of Dutch students!), Moscow, Los Angeles, and Corsica.
22 February 2009
The kids chose items of the kids menu -- standard stuff, really, but very tasty. Kerri selected a vegetarian menu with a creamy risotto with sweet green peas and mint as the main dish. I went up a couple of notches and had the full Sunday menu: entree, carrot and nutmeg soup; roast lamb with puff pastry and legumes. For dessert we all sort of shared each other's choices -- rice pudding, ice cream, roasted pear with sorbet, and chocolate mousse.
A very nice lunch for everyone and a nice treat for just telling a joke. Our gift voucher was for 150 Euros and we came in under that by a few Euros.
Note: Julia wants me to tell everyone that the best part of the meal was the owner's dog, Punaise. She and the boys spent a good part of the lunch petting and rubbing behind the dog's ears. I think they even shared their lunch with Punaise. (Yes, dogs are very welcome in French restaurants).
21 February 2009
We actually didn't see too much today (the kids were more interested in getting ice cream), but the Carnival de Nice is quite spectacular. Besides all the grand stands along the Promenade des Anglais, the extravagant floats, and the thousands of people walking around, there is also loads of ways to waste money on rides and games for kids.
Oh, and enough confetti to keep everyone happy for quite a while. A couple of photos from the website.
20 February 2009
American Consulate is to French Préfecture, as efficiency is to _________?Here's why this question came to mind, briefly.
I've mentioned that we're going to Ireland next Wednesday and I am worried that my new passport (old one expiring) won't reach me in time for our departure. After going back and forth regarding whether or not this was going cause problems, we finally decided to call the American Consulate in Nice and see what our options were. Kerri called them on Tuesday afternoon and talked with a lovely woman about our options. Long story short: the Consulate suggested I get an 'emergency temporary passport'.
Augh! Sounds complicated. How long will that take and where am I going to have to go for that? Marseilles? Paris?
Actually, nowhere. As I write this entry my emergency temporary passport is sitting in Nice ready to be picked up. It took about 36 hours for it to get to Nice. No papers to fill out or sign. No faxes. No extra photos. No spending 7 hours waiting in lines. I'll swing by and pick it up Monday -- in plenty of time for the trip.
So, any thoughts on the answer to my word anaology?
19 February 2009
OK, that's enough. Today has been all about moi and things that are interesting to moi-- that's over now! But just watch the clip. It will make me feel good (and if you want to see what is generally considered the most incredible goal ever scored you can see that here -- oh, and Ovechkin scored that one too).
For what? That's a good question. Here's my initial reason for doing it, but I also just felt like trying something that is 'all the rage' (to quote the NY Times). I know it's not the same trying to accomplish 'twitters' on a blog, but even the general concept seems a bit far-fetched to me. Do people really want to read about my daily ordinary activities? I doubt it. Do I want to hear about other people's daily activities multiple times a day? Definitely not. I don't even care for the twitter-like function on Facebook.
Oh well, it's done with now. Back to silly observations, family anecdotes, posting photos, and taking subtle swipes at the French. That's more fun anyway.
(What is Twitter Thursday? Scroll down to 'Twitter Thursday is Here' to find out).
(what is Twitter Thursday? Scroll down to 'Twitter Thursday is Here' to find out)
On many levels, this service is annoying, really annoying. I mean, 1) who has time to update what they are doing all the time, and 2) who frickin' cares what I'm doing all the time. But since Twitter is all the rage right now (I know this because I just read two articles in the NY Times and Wall Street Journal that told me so) I thought I'd give this blog a one-day Twitter Makeover, just to see how it goes.
Off we go...
18 February 2009
My issue: my US passport expires on March 1, 2009 (we're due to fly back to France on March 2, by the way). I have applied for a new one, but I'm not sure it's going to get to me before we fly to Dublin on February 25. If I don't, how screwed am I? Well, I've been going back and forth on this one. At the American Consulate in Nice they seemed to think I should be fine as long as I have my passport, my French residence card, and a receipt showing I have applied for a new passport. Most people I talk to aren't so sure -- they seem to think I am going to have to have a valid passport. After long internet searches and fruitless phone calls to Ryanair and various Embassies, I finally went to the Cote d'Azur airport and talked directly to the information desk at Ryanair. Here's what they told me -- see if it sounds plausible (keeping in mind that the entire conversation was in French so what I heard and what was said may be very, very different.)
According to the woman at the Ryanair desk, I should have a problem. Since I leave before my passport expires I'll have no trouble getting into Ireland. And since I have a Carte de Sejour I'll have no problem re-entering France on March 2. Her main point is that it's the country you are entering that really cares about your visa/passport status, not so much the country you are leaving. Since I am a legal resident of France with working status I shouldn't have a problem.
Does that make me feel better? A little, but not much. I'm still holding out that my passport will make it to Marseilles by Tuesday and I can go pick it up. I'll feel a lot better with that little blue booklet in my pocket.
By the way, this wouldn't even be and issue if Ireland had agreed to the Schengen Agreement, which basically removed systematic border controls between countries in the EU. Britain and Ireland opted out, making my life a lot more difficult right now.
Anyone have experience with this (or Ryanair, specifically)?
17 February 2009
15 February 2009
13 February 2009
Now rate it! On a scale of 1 to 10.
To make my point I asked (again) the students to interview me in order to find out information about me. The twist I added this time was that when they asked me their questions I wrote out the question and answer on the board -- except that from time to time I lied about the answer. I just made things up. [Note: do you see where I'm going with the lesson? I know 'the value and limitations of historical sources' doesn't exactly sound interesting, but it such a critical part of the French Bac that we go over it a lot -- and try to make it interesting and relevant. The point is to get students to think critically about where they are getting their information and not to just trust that information is always correct]. Anyway, we were plowing along -- 'where were you born?'; 'how old are you?'; 'are you married'? -- and sometimes I was giving a truthful answer and sometimes I was making it up. Then one young boy asked 'have you ever been in prison?'
Now I know an opportunity when I see one, and this one was staring me right in the face. Time to have a little fun. 'Actually, yes,' I said. 'When I was in my early 20s I was held in a Turkish prison for two months.' The look on the faces of these 13 year-olds was priceless (remember, they don't yet know that I'm making some of the information up). And as if I had planned it, the bell rang at that moment signaling a 5 minute break in the lesson.
It was a lively break as the corridors began to fill with rumors of my time spent in prison. I couldn't hear the details, but the chatter (mostly in French) centered on what I could have possibly done to warrent 2 months in a Turkish prison. When the students returned they had all sorts of theories -- my favorite being that I was an Eastern European arms dealer in the mid-1990s. I have to admit I didn't tell them about my sqeaky-clean police record until the end of the lesson. I kind of enjoyed this Lord of War moment.
I guess, if nothing else, I showed that even a history teacher can be a very unrealiable sources.
11 February 2009
I've taught the rise of Hitler many times, but never at a school where so many students have grandparents who were actually part of the Hitler Youth.
I've taught about the Vichy government in France during WWII, but never in a class where some students had relatives who were part of that government.
I've taught about the French-Algerian conflict in the 1960s, but never with the children of Pied Noir sitting right in front of me.
I've taught courses on Russian history dozens of times, but rarely with so many Russian students in the class.
And I've taught about the emergence of the United States and a 'hyper-power', but rarely with so few Americans in the class.
I get some new and interesting perspectives on this side of the Atlantic.
09 February 2009
If you don't know Cecile or don't know how we got to know her, you can read about it here.
06 February 2009
Well, I won!
My joke was played on the air this morning as I was taking the kids to school. The fun part of this little story is that the prize this week a pretty good one: a €150 gift certificate to Le Relais des Coches in Tourrettes-sur-Loup -- one of the best known restaurants on the Cote d'Azur. You can click here to take a look at their menu.
Our friend Michel stayed in Tourrettes-sur-Loup when he was here several months ago and bragged about a very good meal he had at one of the restaurants -- I wonder if this was the place?
So sometime in the next couple of weeks we'll enjoy a nice weekend lunch at a nice little retaurant in a nice little village that has a nice little view Nice, Antibes, Cannes and the Mediterranean Sea. All because I told a nice little joke about an Englishman, and Irishman, and a Scott who walk into a bar...
In general the questions the students asked followed the pattern I expected -- fairly straight forward with the goal of learning basic information about me. I had questions like: where were you born? what is your birthday? are you married? how many children do you have? where did you attend university? All good, foundational kinds of questions. But about 10 questions in I called on a student in the front row and his question was a bit different. His question was:
What are your wife's major shortcommings?Now that's thinking outside the box. This kid's going to make a good historian!
Answers to above questions, in order: Takoma Park, MD; June 14; yes; 3; Andrews University (B.A.), Johns Hopkins University (M.A.), no chance I'm answering the last one.
04 February 2009
Bernard Madoff financial scandal that has hit most corners of the globe (including some very big French banks). Markopolis testified before the U.S. Congress today and was asked why the Securities Exchange Commission (SEC) didn't do more to figure out the Madoff scandal. He answered by saying this about the SEC investigative team (these are the guys who are supposed to make sure financial institutions are legit):
If you flew the entire SEC staff to Boston and sat them in Fenway Park they wouldn't be able to find first base.Zinger!
It's a very American reference, I know, but I can't help but get a fuzzy feeling anytime baseball and politics mix. What could be better? Fenway Park, for those of you who don't know, is where the Boston Red Sox baseball team plays. First base is, well, first base. I don't know how else to explain that one.
Not a bad idea. What other things could you use old phone booths for?
This photo made Julia sad because her fish (who's name was Pam) died on Monday morning, just over a week after we bought her. I tried to cheer her up the best way I know how -- by making a joke -- and it didn't go over ver well. I told her at least all she murdered was a little fish.
Apparently that wasn't even close to funny.
02 February 2009
- Australian Open Final: can I just go on the record right now as saying I will never tire of Federer vs. Nadal. Yesterday's final was Wimbledon, but it was great.
- Handball World Championship Final: don't laugh, but I actually watched a bit of this (only because France was playing) and it was actually a great game and France ended up defeating Croatia to become World Champions.
- The Super Bowl: I watched the first half at a friends house (thanks, Justus) and the second half from my bed. It was a terrifically entertaining game -- even if the team I was rooting for lost.
It wasn't quite like watching an NFL game in the afternoon and a World Series game at night (we can do that in October) or Opening Day in the afternoon and the NCAA Finals at night (we can do that in April), but yesterday I watched a lot of sports...and it was a lot of fun.