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Forks, Portland, Lyon - France, Paris - France, Portland and ending up in Bellingham.... the adventures of my life!

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Monday, April 25, 2011

What-What: Paques

Ahh, easter.  When I was a kiddo in Forks, my grandmother would always have the most elaborate easter baskets prepared.  I'd find trails of jelly beans leading around the house and she would claim, "Well, Easter Bunnies certainly don't poop normal poop!"  It was always a pleasure going to the church (back when I was a Catholic) and hunting for eggs.  Coloring the eggs.  It's one of those happy memories that you hold in the back of your mind, and when it rolls around you almost expect that bushel of chocolate- step in France and her differences.

Easter, or paques as known in French, has a long history integrated with religion, the actual celebration is a bit different.  Instead of the 'Easter Bunny' there is the concept of a giant bell, or la cloche, that flies free and delivers morcels of chocolately goodness to children.

Apparently this tradition started as early as VII century, as the church would not ring the bells during the three days of paques- namely Good Friday through to Sunday.  Apparently during that century people kept claiming to see floating bells around- my opinion is they were getting a bit too happy with communion.

In all cases, there's not giant walking Easter Bunny- just a floating bell.

Egg hunting?  That definitely exists, but it's there we earn our chocolate- there are no lovely corporate baskets made up to lay at the food of the child's bed- instead the parents hide chocolate eggs and treats around their garden and the children 'fait la chasse' and gather up their goodies- a sort of like a working Halloween.

Typical food for paques:  just like my Grandma used to make- roasted lamb shank and a pot of lima beans.  It's quite delicious and it's the idea that we 'break lent' and return back to our normal lives.

The best part of Easter in France?  Monday is a holiday- thus we always get Monday off after Easter weekend.. just so we can continue relaxing and enjoying life of course.. which is how I had any time to write today.

I hope your Easter was great.. and for those in the States:  Sorry you have to work!


Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Advice: Writing a Letter of Motivation

Oh-là-là.  The letter of motivation, one of the most important letters that we write in France and pretty much obligatory for entrance to University as well as for jobs.  The worse?  If you don't follow the specific structure of the letter, than often the professors or hiring managers will toss the letter without a second thought.  A letter should be precise and not more than 2 pages (recto-verso).

Here's how to form the letter, it's important to know that the location of the information does matter, thus, for example, Number 1 is located in the left hand upper corner, etc.:

1: Information of the sender, aka, YOU.
(ex: Sasha STEINER, Address, Phone number, Email address)

2: Name/Status of Destination
(ex. M. Zoo, Title, Address)
*NOTE:  Look up the name of who you are writing to.

3: Place and Date
(ex. Lyon, le 19 avril 2011)

4: Subjet or Object
(ex. objet: demande d'inscription pour...)

        5: Madame/Monsieur,

6: The content, focus on:  previous experiences, future aspirations, travels and other pertinent information.  This will usually be around 8-9 paragraphs, please DOUBLE CHECK your French and avoid using slang or familiar French.  Use, of course, the 'nous' form instead of the 'on' form, and check for simple errors such as COD or what type of auxiliary verb was used for the passé.  If you can find a French french to edit, do it, it will be the best decision you've made.

7: Polite exit... MOST IMPORTANT.. Write as following:  "Je vous remercie de l’attention que vous porterez à ma candidature, et dans l’attente de votre réponse, je vous prie d’agréer, Monsieur, l’expression de mes salutations distinguées."  The parts in bold can be replaced by the appropriate term.

8: Signature

9:  (In TINY print) P.J. (pièce joint), and then a listing of any documents you are including with the letter.

Any questions, feel free to email.


Sunday, April 17, 2011

What-What: Paul Bocuse

After dinner with my French family last night we watched a documentary on the life and current state of Paul Bocuse.  I recall that the moment I arrived in France I had no idea who Paul Bocuse was and why he was so important.  Interestingly enough he's definitely a famous personality in our little region and our city of Lyon- but he's also got a bit of a juicy history!

Paul Bocuse was born in the 1920's in the mountainous area of Collonges-au-Mont-d'Or near Lyon.  Born into a family of chefs, he began cooking quite young and helped to run his family restaurant "l'Auberge de Collonges".  Bocuse was involved in WWII, and following this went on to achieve a series of Michelin stars in his restaurant before beginning his last 30 years of marketing and branding.

Now, an old man at 85 years old, Bocuse sort of just panders around for money... I say this with a sort of 'gentillesse' but, in reality, the guy knows how to get money.  Once one of the most innovative chefs, now a man who utilizes his name to make as much as a profit as he can.  I'd like to highlight two of his most famous creations:

Soupe aux Truffes:  A simply delightfully rich soup that is composed of those oh-so-expensive truffles.  I probably will never make this at home, but I would love to try it when I have enough cash to eat at his establishments.  RECIPE: http://www.bocuse.fr/recettes/ficherecette.asp?id=199

Loupe de Méditeranée en Croute:  How can anyone go wrong with a sea bass bundled into a feuillité and served with a decadent sauce?  Always the one to push from 'fatty' to 'cardiovascular destruction' this takes a healthy dish and twists it into a buttery delight.  RECIPE: http://www.bocuse.fr/recettes/ficherecette.asp?id=194

However... there is more to this 85 year old dude, not only is he a keen marketer, a top chef and a legend to Lyon.. the guy is a virile as we say in French, or basically a love monkey.  Bocuse has three women that he has been seeing similtaneously for the last 30 or so years, officially married to one, he keeps three houses in order to satisfy his craving for different personalities... way to balance the love boat.

Raymone, Raymonde and Patricia.  Somehow we never truly hear about the fact Bocuse is a polygamist, most likely because his amazingly talent in the kitchen leads us to sort of forget the three-women syndrome.  Why 3?

One of them is his hunting/outdoors partner.  Every day, after waking up next to his wife (Raymonde) he wanders out to his forest home to see his lover (Patricia).  Together they walk around the lake, slowly taking in the scenery.  He makes open-fire meals from the animals they fish or hunt together... a parade of hunting dogs following behind.

Once this gets boring, he heads out with the other one for his foreign affairs, her with her coiffed up hair and pristine young look, perfect for photos and the superficiality.  She loves to travel, so she comes with him oftern around the world.

What about his actual wife?  Well she's there for any official 'local' publicity.  Taking photos with the chef dressed in his toke, smiling and still looking as though none of this is abnormal.

It's strange.. but yet so French?  It seems more of a parisian attitude to have mistresses and lovers, and the Lyonnais tend to be more on the 'stick to one' type of relationship.. but Bocuse opens that for discussion.

Outside of Bocuse's private life he runs a few restaurants in Lyon.  Le Sud, Le Nord, L'Est, L'Ouest.  He also has the original restaurant located on the collonges-au-mont-d'or... for a price.  By far, L'Est is the best restaurant out of his collection.

Want to catch a glimpse of the master?  Try mornings at Les Halles next to La Mère Richard.. that's an old French and cheesemaker so he oftens makes visits to share a coffee and a laugh.

Now I wonder if anyone ever noticed this...

BOCUSE = GUSTEAU?  Perhaps....


Friday, April 15, 2011

Long Time No Write?

What can I say- I have gotten extremely busy... and I obviously have so much to 'recount'..  I'll start with the beginning of the month:

In the beginning of the month I was working for Baby-Speaking and trying to balance out my social life, my love life and all the multitude of tests I was taking.  What tests- you might ask?  First off the mid-terms for my CIEF classes, which typically counts for a whopping 50% of my grade.  Secondly, the IAE-SIM test, or the entrance exam so I can 'postuler' for a Masters at Lyon 3.

The IAE-SIM score test is a requirement for any person that wants to continue into Lyon 3 (Master's 1 or Master's 2 level).  I had signed up back in March, and knew it would be absolutely dreadful... and was it.  French testing is so much more in depth and complicated than American testing- the test itself was held in an Amphitheatre for 300; everyone evenly spaced in uncomfortable folding seats.  Bring nothing.  Put your bag in the corner.  Pencil is handed out.

The questions were even worse- there are four sections:  Culture Générale, Compréhension Français, Logique/Mathmatique, Compréhension Anglais.  Awful... the general culture tests asked questions such as:
-What is the height of a tennis net in meters?
-What region in France became recognized as a world heritage site by UNESCO in 2008?
-Who sang Purple Rain?

And yeah, the questions were multiple choice- but when the choices are almost exactly identical.. it sort of casse la tête to find the answer.

The French comprehension- surprisingly- was a strength.  I managed to get higher on that section than my French counterparts- explain that logic.

The math was my weakest point... I'm almost ashamed to even say my score (15/100).  Yes folks, I am mathematically and logically retarded... but whatever it's never been my strength.

The English, of course, was easy- but somehow I still missed 2 questions.  I say it's based on the fact that it was British English and the language in the States differs in quite a few ways.  (Although I adore saying 'lovely' now).

So you can see why I wasn't available for the first half of the month- but what about the second half?

The second half of the month I was busy working and preparing for my SECOND exam I needed to get into Lyon 3.. the DELF B2.

The DELF B2 was suprisingly easy, even though I stressed about it.. unfortunately I won't receive the results until mid-May which means I have to wet myself in anticipation!!

Last week, however, I went on a business trip!!  Baby-Speaking sent me to Paris to meet with the team, get to know how it's done Paris-style and basically have discussions about good business practices.  I left on a Wednesday, returned on a Friday, which left almost no time for fun and games... plus I had to work a complete day on Thursday.

Paris is an incredible place- way to big for my taste... but still am amazing city to visit when wanting to experience a city that always is on the go.

I arrived Wednesday afternoon, and I quickly scoured through two different magazines (Management/Entreprise) to gouge for some business information.  I was able to lift a bunch of vocabulary in order to have some 'knowhow' during my visit.  Once I arrived I had to hustle around the city, figure out the Metro system and get to the office.

As soon as I got to the office I was on the go, chatting it up with some entrepreneurs, charming my co-workers, having small talk with whomever waltzed through the door.  I missed Bri, of course, but I had my 'small talk business face' on and I was perfectly fine.

The night continued on after our little wine/cheese soirée, and I got dragged out to a club about 1 km away.  I need to mention that I was wearing boots, that were not flat, and carrying to huge bags of my crap for the stay.  My feet were killing me, but we arrived unharmed.  The bar was a little hidden and to my surprise was a specialty club for R+B.  Needless to say I felt pretty white that night but I totally got into the groove and swayed around Jamaican style.

The funniest moment of the night was one of the entrepreneurs that shares the office.. he came with us to the club.  The guy was kind of the geeky type, business suit, leather briefcase and glasses, kind of looked like the guy in Kick-Ass.  As soon as we got into the club he was waving around, bobbing his head and shouting, "I MET THIS ARTIST THAT'S PLAYING WHEN I WAS IN THE CARIBBEAN".  I stared at him and responded, "ARE YOU A BLACK MAN IN A WHITE MAN DISGUISE?"  He just smiled and responded, "TOUS MES AMIS ME DISENT QUE JSUIS NOIR COINCÉ DANS LE CORPS D'UN BLANC".  I laughed.  After about a good 30-45 minutes of swaying around I decided it was time for me to head home on the M8 to see my good friend Thévi.

30 minutes in Metro later....

Thévi had a lovely spot ready for me, we had a bit of water, talked and I totally crashed. 

The next day, I had to be at work by 10h30, so I popped up, took a shower, put on my cute dress (that I had originally worn to go SIGHT SEEING) and got to work.  Luckily, Aurélie, the Development intern in Paris, was like my identical twin in regards to work ethic; we slammed through our plans and determined a new method of development for myself in Lyon.

A nice business lunch, the rest of the day spent in the office- I was finally free to wander around.  I decided to avoid the monuments (I really didn't feel like roughing it through tourists) and made my way to Les Halles for a nice beer.

That night, I had my first sushi since I left Portland, and I almost died with happiness- it was so amazingly good.  I remembered how much I missed my foreign foods and how much I live in the French diet now.. and the rest of the night was fabulous.

It ended as soon as it started and I was happy to be back to my simple small city of Lyon; I felt a euphoria coming off the train as I looked around and felt at ease.  Lyon has officially become a second home for me and I was elated as I waltzed around the Metro to get home and smiled at everyone I ran in to.

Since the trip I've been busy going to classes, working, tutoring, breathing and having some time to enjoy my life with Bri.  The weather has been incessantly fabulous and although the temperature has dropped a bit over the week- we see that it will only get better and warmer as the month goes on.  So lovely.

Right.  I'm off to clean and prepare for our little 'soirée' for tonight- tomorrow I'll be posting about Paul Bocuse, and I promise- I won't fall off the face of the Earth again.. this was, as we say in French, exceptionel.

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