Totally Frenched Out

From the blogger formerly known as Samdebretagne

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Are you a believer?

Last night, Anna, Sarah, Gui and I went to check out an event I'd first read about on Francine's blog. (Btw, y'all should check out her post on bi/tri-cultural couples and the language they speak). It's a show done by Robertto Strizzi at the Théâtre Clavel in the 19ème. He purports to be a mind-reader and his whole spectacle involves different activities in which he tries to convince you thereof.

He's been accused of "planting" people in the audience in order to make his show works, so he went out of his way to try to prove the randomness of his audience selection for each different activity. There were a few times where I could tell what he was doing was obviously faked (like the very first part of the show, with the watch), but there were other times where I was left wondering. Like when he was blindfolded and had someone else pick up several different objects. He then held the hand of that person and was able to say what it was. He was also able to tell random facts about people, like their job or where they were from.

So whether you believe in this stuff or not, I'd definitely recommend going to check it out - if nothing else, it's an entertaining show, and at 3€ per person, you really can't go wrong! The show is every Monday night at 9:30 - but get there early. We showed up a little after 9 and there was already a line out the door. If you want to be sure to get in, I would call ahead to reserve. I noticed a lot of people had done that, and there was a sign saying that his show was sold-out for the month of October, but they let us in anyways, so who know. It's worth a try anyways!

PS. If you go to his site, the video on the first page was taken after the show last night. Besides hearing what people have to say about it, you can see Anna coming out of the theater around the 40 second mark. Coucou Anna!


Monday, October 27, 2008


I've been thinking a lot about something over the past few days. Have you ever noticed how so many bloggers tend to give France a persona? Crystal and I talked about it this weekend, and it's totally true - so many of us talk about France as if it's a person (and most often, a woman). It's always "France did this" or "France did that". It seems though that most of the people who do this are ones who are in France because of love, not because they necessarily want to be. It's like France is an adversary, maybe the bitchy neighbor who's out to get you or the back-stabbing co-worker.

Personally, France has really grown on me over time, and she's now developed into what I like to call "Crazy Aunt Flo" - you know, the aunt who does things you don't really understands and who sometimes pisses you off, but you just love her anyways - she's not to blame, that's just the way she is *insert shoulder shrug here*. It's true we've had our ups and downs (okay, mostly downs) over the years, but we've reached a good equilibrium now and I'm quite happy with the way our relationship has turned out. Who knows, maybe five years from now we'll be BFFs.



Sunday, October 26, 2008

Did everybody in Europe change their clock back this morning?

I'm over my little freak-out from Friday - I was just so frustrated, having spent the entire day waiting by the phone for someone to call me and tell me what was up....and it never rang. All the flights are pretty much booked from Paris to Tunisia next week (it's les vacances here), so I'm just going to assume I'll be going to Bretagne next week, and that'll be that. Which is cool, because then I will be able to hang out with Yuri & Leah at least one of the nights I'm there.

Last night, I went over to Crystal's house, and we had a girly night that involved Desperate Housewives, wine and blueberry cheesecake. It was really nice to catch up, and we had an interesting conversation about living in France - at many points I felt like I was talking to myself two or three years ago. It wasn't that long ago that I hated living here with a passion, that I wanted nothing more than to move back to the US. I don't know when the tide started turning, but I think it was when I finally felt like I was moving forward. Moving to France was a big step back for me - personally, financially, career-wise. Before moving to Paris, I'd never once felt like my quality of life was better here than it was in the US. But finally around last Christmas, it seemed like we were about to reach the point we were when we'd left the US. After all those years of struggling, the end was in sight - we were going to have a nice house, a decent car, and each of us was only going to have one full-time job. And I think that's when I started to think "Hey, things are finally starting to come together, maybe I can stay here". Crystal has been through a lot of the same, and I really hope that one day the tide will turn for her as well. It's not something you can force, but hopefully it will happen over time as it did with me. But I guess the whole point of this is - for those of you who didn't immediately *heart* France, please don't give up hope. It took me five years, and I know that's a long time, but it's proof that it's still possible! Things really can get better, even if right now it feels like it never will.

I also need to give a shout-out to Leesa, who is so great at organizing all of these big blogger get-togethers. The Big Finn was in town, along with Mrs TBF, and a bunch of us met up at Starbucks on Saturday. I was tired, but had a great time talking with everyone, including Jasmin, Mira & Animesh. And I am secretly relieved no one forced me to bust out my rusty Finnish in public, lol. As a side note, I highly recommend checking out the Starbucks at Opera (blvd des Capucines) - that is one fancy building. (Picture taken from

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Get out there and vote!

No, I'm not talking about the US Presidential Elections - I'm talking about the podcast awards. Our favorite podcasting duo has been nominated twice (TWICE!) - once in the General category and once in the Travel category. Starting today, you can vote once a day through November 6th. And as Kyliemac said, this is basically a popularity contest - so I'm encouraging you all to bookmark it and vote for them in both categories every day for the next two weeks. Every vote is just one small step towards building the K&K empire. :)

I also updated my blogroll, taking off some of the expired links and adding some of the new blogs I've found. I was just about finished the first time around when I accidentally closed the template page - and you guessed it, I hadn't pressed save at all during the process. So if you don't see your blog on the list and you would like it to be, just leave me a comment here and I'll add it in.

PS. For those of you who are wondering, I'm still asking people not to link to my blog anywhere...


Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Accidental brunette

Yesterday I went to the Toni & Guy Académie in order to be a color model for one of their hair demonstrations. There was some kind of mix-up and I'd accidentally been sent to the wrong salon - the salon where they were doing all kinds of funky hair cuts in order to impress some of the top hair stylists in Europe. I'd been sitting there for about 30 min when I started to get a bad feeling. People kept walking through the room where we were waiting saying "So, who's ready for a major transformation?" with a wicked grin. I kept seeing all of these girls walk out with exactly the same hair color but really weird cuts - like a bowl cut with 2 or 3 long rat tails in the back. So I finally pulled aside one of the stylists and that was when I realized I'd been sent to the wrong salon. The two VIPs came to talk to me and really pushed me to stay. I kept protesting that I was trying to grow my hair out and that I didn't want short, spiky hair, but they were talking over me, all excited with the things they could do. I finally semi-yelled "No really, I think I should leave, this isn't what I came for" - which incited this big lecture about how people were so afraid to stray from commercial haircuts and that I should just be brave for once God damnit!

I'm brave about many things, but when it comes to hair cuts, not really. They can pretty much give me any color and I won't complain, but the length of my hair is something I'm pretty picky about. It was nice to cut so much off in May to change things up a bit, but I missed the length, plus it was a huge pain to keep it pulled back while working (I have to wear a hairnet when visiting my clients for biosecurity reasons). So I got up and left. The secretary felt bad about the mix-up though, so she rescheduled me for a color stage at their Bastille location this morning. Hairdressers from all over France had come to Toni & Guy for the week to learn the latest color & cut techniques from their top two hairdressers. I had an idea of what I wanted - dark underneath and blond on top, but besides that, I said they could do whatever they wanted as long as they kept the length.

Which is how I ended up going from this (taken this past weekend):to this:
and the glasses version...grrrr, wish I could get rid of those things:
The whole thing was sort of intimidating actually, as I was sitting in front of a room full of people with my glasses off, so I had no idea what they were doing to me. People would come up and take pictures every once in a while, or poke at my hair to see how it was progressing. I'm extremely happy with the results, though I would've liked to have kept a bit more of the blond on top (I'd been hoping to be more blond, not less). But oh well, how often do you get to have a top stylist working on your hair for free, right?

In case anyone else is interested, you just need to call the Toni & Guy Académie. My tip - book the morning session, because then you'll have your hair done by the stylists. The afternoon session models get their cuts/colors done by the stagiaires (though really, they're all professional coiffeurs as well, so it's not like they're newbies or anything). But the point is that they need to practice the techniques seen in the morning, so you may have less say in what gets done. And you do need to want to change a bit - if you're just going in for a trim or basic highlights, they probably won't take you.


Monday, October 20, 2008

First of all, congratulations are in order for L & B - I hope you have many happy years of marriage ahead of you (though L, if I were you, I really would take my advice and sock him one every once in a while. Just to keep him in line, lol).

In all seriousness though, thank you for inviting me to be part of your special day. Because no matter what everyone else thought, I admire both of you for trying to do it your way. At the end of the day, Saturday was about the two of you and no one else. Hopefully you don't mind me including these pictures on my blog. And if you do, I guess it's too late! :)As for my impressions of the weekend - all I can say is that I was blown away by the kindness of everyone involved. It was just one more experience that made me so glad I decided to stay in France, and did not leave with Bretagne being my only image of this country.

B's family and friends welcomed me with such open arms, I couldn't believe it. I admit that I was a bit nervous about spending the weekend with a bunch of strangers considering how awkward I can be sometimes, but they took me right in and made me feel more at home than anyone did in my 5 years in Brittany. Even B's friends were great - they made an effort to talk to me, ask me questions, interact, etc - there was no me sitting alone and having everyone look at me like I had 2 heads involved. It's like this continuous realization like "Hey, maybe the French aren't so bad after all". And it really makes me sit back and think about how different my experience would have been had I lived elsewhere in France, or maybe just even had a different belle-famille (or if Fab's friends hadn't been such alcoholic losers *S*).

After so many years there though, I couldn't help but develop des repères - things and reactions that seemed to be normal for French people to do in certain situations. But I'm slowly learning that what I thought was "normal" was really just either specific to Bretagne, or to Fab's family & friends. Like when we had the apératif - there was still punch in the bowl at the end of the night! Everyone had a glass or two and that was it - the thing was not drained dry. And then when it came to the meal, several of the guys were driving, so they didn't have a drop of alcohol - they literally drank water all night. Water! In Bretagne, water is for animals (kind of like corn). As for everyone else, most people had one glass of wine with the meal and that was that. I sat there a table full of people in their 20's/early 30's the whole night watching two-half full bottles of wine sitting on the table, not believing no one was touching them. Not a single person was drunk at the wedding. It was like "Does not compute". At least where I lived, a Breton wedding was not considered successful unless everyone was passed out on the floor at 5am. Here, everyone left around 1:30 and there were no worries about anyone having to drive home. What a change.

There were a few unexpected things though - like when the other two witnesses pulled me aside the day before the wedding and asked how the song I was preparing for the wedding was going and if I needed a guitar accompaniment. I was like "Song? What song? Nobody said anything to me about a song??" forgetting that most French weddings involve a lot of singing and games. And then the same thing happened the day of when they asked if I needed any note cards to write a speech. "A speech? What you talking, a speech? I don't really *do* public speaking people". Which is why I have to give my apologies to L & B for my terribly awkward discours - I'm not exactly an off-the-cuff kind of girl.

The other strange bit was being THE single girl at the wedding. It's the first time that's ever happened to me, and there were times where it took me by surprise - it's like sometimes I forget I'm single. But it meant that anything and everything with two legs and a penis was proffered my way over the course of the weekend. B had my list of man criteria en tête and "kindly" went around asking everyone if they corresponded to it. So B, here is my public thanks for that (insert sarcasm here).

But awkwardness aside, I had an absolutely fabulous time, and I hope I can make my way down in that direction again sometime soon!


Saturday, October 18, 2008


It's not hard to take beautiful pictures of this city...


Friday, October 17, 2008

I got back to Paris last night just in time for my Finnish class - still really enjoying it. I suprised myself by understanding out of nowhere "haluasin nenäliinoja" (I would like some kleenex). The teacher didn't think anyone would understand it since it was only the third class, and was about to translate it, but all of the sudden "Je voudrais des mouchoirs" just popped out of my mouth. I was as surprised as she was. I will unfortunately have to miss next week's class (assuming I actually end up going to Tunisia, that is).

And after less than 12 hours chez moi -and barely having time to unpack and then repack again- I am off to Nîmes for the weekend. That means I will be missing rhumrhums this Friday night, but I've always wanted to visit Nîmes, plus I've got a very good reason to go to the area...more coming on that later!


Thursday, October 16, 2008

Alright, here's the deal with the whole Creepy Jesus thing for you newbies out there. My saying this is Creepy Jesus country mean the Pays de la Loire is full of religious zealots. What I mean is that there are scary Jesus-on-the-cross statues on the corner of pretty much every country road you pass by here. I wrote a posts about it here and here on my old blog.

It's not the easiest thing in the world to be here - this area is so linked to my old life as well, and if I'm not paying attention, I could easily turn left on the freeway out of habit and start going back to Bretagne at the end of the day, instead of going right towards Angers. The particular customer I visited today was the one Fab and I had visited the day we broke up. I was a little nervous about going there, but it actually ended up being just fine. Thinking about what happened on that drive home though still gives me little pincement au coeur - how ignorant I was to have looked forward to that day for so long, to not have realized why Fab was trying to get out of coming with me on my visit. I thought he was just worried about being away from the farm for a whole day. But I guess hindsight is 20/20, right?

And on that note, I would like to wish a very happy birthday to Miss Yuri - I wish I could be there to celebrate with you!

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Monday, October 13, 2008

Whew, where is the time going? What a busy weekend - L from "Toutes Directions" came up to Paris Friday and we went straight from the train station to the rhumrhum bar. I unfortunately did not follow my own advice and drank more than 2 rhumrhums. Which meant we got home pretty late Friday night, and ended up getting a slow start on Saturday. We were able to walk around the Rue Mouffetard area a bit though, and then headed on over to the Jardin des plantes.

Saturday night, I'd invited a bunch of people over for a Mexican food. Since my place is so small, I finagled Kendra into letting me hold it chez elle. Yum. I need to make Mexican food more often (or at least my Minnesota-version of Mexicanfood, lol). I also attempted to make mojitos for the first time, with mixed results - some people said they were good, others thought they were too strong. Though now that I think about it, maybe the people who said they were okay were just being polite!

And now I find myself back on the road again - I'm in the Pays de la Loire all week for work (read: creepy Jesus country). Things are still a big mess with my Tunisia trip, but supposedly I will be over there all next week. It was just really unfortunate though, since I had had a lot of things I needed for this week shipped with the Tunisian stuff, and since it's stuck in Tunisian customs, I don't have it for this week. Which means I will probably have to come back here again in November now, but oh well. There are worse things in the world than spending half of one's time in Paris and the other half in the French countryside.


Friday, October 10, 2008

Friends by circumstance?

This is a post I've started and then stopped for almost a month now, unable to find the words to fully express what I wanted to say. And it's definitely something I've often considered over the years, having gone through cycle after cycle of assistant friends in Bretagne. While I enjoyed meeting *most* of the people I've met during my five years there, there was only a small handful of people that I think I would've been friends with back home in MN. And then last night, I was thinking about my wonderful Parisian friends - there are so many that would never have traveled in the same circle as me back "home", that I never would have met had I stayed in Minnesota, yet I'm so lucky to have them.

But I've met people who've tended to discount these "friends by circumstance" friendships, as if they hold less weight than their so-called "real" friendships from back home. I acknowledge that it's true that people, when thrown into unfamiliar situations, normally tend navigate towards the familiar - hence all the expat blogs, groups, meet-ups, etc. It happens all over the world, no matter which language you speak or what country you live in. But does that mean these friendships are any less important? Or that these people are any less your friend? Not in my opinion. My new friends come from all walks of life, from several different countries, from very different backgrounds than my own, and I love them for it. I'm still not being as clear as I wanted to be, but all I know is that I'm a long way from cookie-cutter Scandinavian-filled Minnesota of my youth, but my life is so much richer because of it.


Wednesday, October 8, 2008

It's just one of those days...

Do you guys ever have days where you wake up feeling ugly and like no one will ever love you again?

Or is it just me?

(And yes, I realize that tomorrow will be a new day)


Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Gimme some room

This is by no means an original topic in the expat blogosphere, but my God, there are just times when it has to be said again - what is up with the French sense of personal space? Or more so, the lack thereof it? I know it's something that varies depending on where you come from in the US as well, but in my little Scandinavian corner of the world, we give people a wide berth.

Now, over time, I've gotten used to the close quarters - I mean, small country + large population = not really much choice. But what I don't really understand is why, when people have the choice, do they choose to do it?

Take last night - I decide to go see a movie (Cliente, for those who are wondering). I buy my ticket and notice there are 368 free seats. "Whew", I think, "It's not going to be crowded". I go in and there is a grand total of 5 other people. I choose an empty row and take my seat, waiting for the movie to start. Enter a extremely large French woman. Who, out of all the other 368 seats available, decides to pick the one right next to me. Now, not even two seats down - she literally heaves herself into the seat next to me. I take a look at her and then a look around at all the other empty seats. I look back at her again, trying to make my point. I contemplate getting up and changing seats, but the Minnesota side of me is worried about insulting her. But she smells so strongly that I finally get the guts to stand up and move - only to see another woman coming to sit down on the other side of me. Granted she's two seats down, but now I'm going to have to ask one of them to stand up if I want to move. So instead, I sit there and vent my frustrations on twitter.

After the movie, I go upstairs to the ladies' room. I enter, and there are ten empty stalls. I pick one and hear the door open after me. The lady proceeds to make herself comfortable in the stall next to mine. WTF? Everybody knows you pick the stall farthest away to give the other person some privacy.

I then hop on the bus to go back home. I take my seat in the back, where there are a lot of empty ones. We stop at the next stop, and, you guessed it - the dude takes a look at all the empty seats available and for a reason unknown to me, chooses the frickin' seat next to me. At this point, I just had to laugh - not wanting to give people their space is just such a foreign concept to me. But then again, "Duh Samantha - you're in a foreign country!!!"


Monday, October 6, 2008

She's making a list and checking it twice

I should've known it wouldn't be that easy. Things were just going too well with my new Tunisian client. So enter the Tunisian customs agents who are holding our machine hostage, meaning I am no longer going to Tunis this week. The problem is that I need to rebook everything today if I don't want to lose out on all that money (airfare, car rental, hotel, etc), but I don't know when to rebook it for since I don't know when the customs people will stop acting like the big, fat babies they are. (You hear that customs people??)

So I find myself with an entire week with absolutely nothing to do, nothing planned. But because the idea of looking at a completely blank calendar freaks me out, I am starting to fill it. At the top of my list is finding a way to rig up a curtain so that I can at last get a decent night's sleep. Second on my list is *finally* going to visit Ms Kyliemac. Third - maybe trying to get a haircut and highlights if I'm brave enough (or conversely, if I feel like torture). Fourth - unpacking the last of my boxes and organizing the mess of papers & books that are strewn everywhere. Fifth - checking out which movies have been released recently. Sixth - get groceries since I literally have nothing to eat. Seventh - catch up on the new fall episodes of all my favorite shows (which up until now have been put aside in favor of obsessively watching "Weeds"). And on and on. Knowing my luck though, my French clients will harass me non-stop all week, and I'll get none of the above done!


Sunday, October 5, 2008

Even though I practically had a nuit blanche last night, I did not actually get around to attending any nuit blanche activities. I went to an apéro at Veronica's house and ended up staying into the wee hours of the night. Her parties are always so much fun, and usually involve some kind of game, last night's being Loup Garou.

But there was some confusion about how late the metro was actually running, so people eventually started heading out, and I was faced with a decision - should I be responsible and head home at a fairly decent time, or hold out for the Frenchies who were on the way? Since I always complain about not speaking French anymore (and the Frenchies in question were en principe young, eligible men), I decided to stick it out. And thus began a two-hour long conversation with probably the most ignorant Frenchman I've ever met. I honestly hope for his sake that it was the alcohol talking last night. This guy, who was supposedly supposed to be hitting on me, kept throwing out shit like "I hate the US and all Americans" or "In my opinion, there's New York City and then the rest of the country is just a bunch of hicks." Followed by "Oh my God, you're just like my sister, you're so chiante". Right.....

It was actually funny in a way because the guy was just so damn ridiculous I couldn't help but laugh at the idiotic things coming out of his mouth. On top of that, in between his ever-so-enlightened comments, I was getting jabs from Jasmin & Veronica, saying "But just think about the angry sex you two would have!!" Thanks ladies. Later on in the night, he tried to redeem himself by saying "No, come on, I don't really hate the US, I was just saying that because you were pissing me off" - cuz that's a good excuse. After which he proceeded to ring the neighbor's doorbell at 3:30 in the morning. And then he ran away once we exited the building, leaving me alone in an unfamiliar neighborhood, stuck finding a way home by myself. Classy stuff, I'm telling you.

And y'all are wondering why I'm still single....


Saturday, October 4, 2008

Minnesota Nice

I'm really touched - I'd sent the lady in charge of absentee ballots an email the other day, thanking her for all of her help, and in it, I happened to mention that the only downside of voting by email was that I didn't get my little "I voted" sticker. I received an email from her yesterday saying "You know, I was thinking about you all last night, and while I can't send you out a sticker, I decided I could at least scan one and email it to you."

So while it's not exactly the same, I now have at least a virtual "I voted" sticker:


Friday, October 3, 2008

So - my Finnish class. Even though it was done in typical French style, ie. strict teacher focusing mainly on grammar, it was really good to be back in that environment again. Besides ice skating when I was younger, studying Finnish is really the only thing I've ever been passionate about. But when I turned 18, both of them were kinda pushed aside, because really, how far would being an ice skater or a Finnish speaker get me in life? Especially since I knew that I didn't want to teach either. So I went with nutrition instead, which I always enjoyed a lot, but I didn't love. It was like an awakening last night though, like "Hey, remember this? Here's something that you used to love doing". To the point that I'm disappointed the classes are only held once per week. I do have my old Finnish books though, so I will probably use them along side.

Afterwards, I was trying to explain to the lovely Sophie (hi sophie!!) what the first class was like. The closest thing I could come up with is that it was like running into someone you knew, but you couldn't remember their name. And you knew you knew them and my God their name was just on the tip of your tongue, but you couldn't quite spit it out. That's what it was like. I just sat there listening to the teacher and the words were so damn familiar, but I just couldn't understand. Not to mention how weird it was to be trying to produce those sounds again, but yet awkward at the same time because my mouth kept trying to say them the French way.

Either way, I'm really glad that I'm able to do this - just one more thing to love about Paris! I'm also lucky that I'm allowed to set my own work/travel schedule, which means that I won't need to miss too many classes. And now I'm off to finish watching the VP debates...


Thursday, October 2, 2008

Tonight marks the first night of my Finnish classes. I am SO excited - I've been counting down the days for weeks now. In preparation, I've been trying to think in Finnish when possible, though unfortunately without much luck. I have quite a large vocabulary still, but my head is all confused now the "le/la" and "un/une" and all kinds of French grammar.

I seem to have a one-language brain. Meaning my brain seems to be able to handle only one language at a time. The better my French gets, the worse my English gets, and vice versa. I used to speak Finnish fairly fluently and now I can barely form a sentence. I know it's all still in there, and will come back quickly, but I'm wondering what effect it will have on my English & French.

The most frustrating thing for me though is the fact that I have lost my "knack" for the Finnish accent. Years of trying to properly pronounce the French R and all the nasals have triumphed over my ability to correctly pronounce Finnish words. I think that's the worst hit to my ego - I have never sounded like a foreigner when speaking Finnish, and now I sound like a French person trying to speak it. Super.

I am still excited for my classes quand même though, and I hope it will be a good way for me to meet some more French people. I signed up for the beginner's class just as a way to revise all the basics (for example, for some reason I am drawing a blank on how to say "Thursday"), plus I will be traveling a lot for work between now and Christmas, so at least that way I can make sure I don't fall too far behind!


Wednesday, October 1, 2008

I would just like to say to everyone that y'all need to go out and see "Entre les murs" straight away. I saw it yesterday and it was by far the best film I've seen in a long time, and it portrays a side of French education & culture that's often hidden from the public. (It's sort of like the French version of "Dangerous Minds").

envoyé par elle

In other education-related news, Laurel Zuckerman's book, The Sorbonne Confidential, is finally being released in English. Her book is loosely based on her experience trying to become a public school teacher in France - those of you who've tried taking or who have even considered taken the CAPES/agreg here will really identify with a lot of the story. The book launch is planned for October 14 at WH Smith at 7:30pm. I'm really disappointed that I'll be out of town for a business trip that week, I'm sure Laurel is going to have a lot of interesting things to say!