Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Pretty quiet on the southern coast...

I know I promised to be better about blogging and that I haven't been better at's probably because the strike is still going and not much is happening here! I was inspired to blog today because of an interesting incident:

I wanted to sign up for fencing or dance or both (why not! I have the time!) at the university and I needed to get a medical slip signed. So I found a GP (generaliste) who had a walk-in clinic. From previous experience it seems that most doctors here do everything themselves, including making appointments and taking payments. I think they have someone else answering the phone, but you don't even check in when you arrive - you just sit in the waiting room and the doctor comes to get you. The generaliste was wearing a regular suit instead of a white coat, and was a very mumbly speaker which made him hard to understand. He seemed to be overconcerned with my eyesight and whether I could wear glasses behind a fencing mask. I did an eyechart and read out the letters in French - it was worthwhile to learn the alphabet! - and then I looked at those cards that are supposed to tell if you're colorblind or not. I kept getting the numbers half wrong because French numbers are written just slightly differently and it didn't occur to me that that would be the case on an eye test, and besides it was hard to see among all those colored circles. So the 9 in 79 looked like an 8 to me, and the 8 in 48 kind of looked like a 3, etc. In the end, he was convinced I wasn't colorblind. Maybe he thought I was just stupid.

I told him that my student insurance would reimburse me for the visit and I paid the whopping 22 euro fee. Doctor's visits and prescriptions here without insurance are about what they are at home with insurance. It's almost not worth the effort to get reimbursed for 22 euros.

In other news or lack thereof, the university is still on strike and this week they're on vacation! To summarize briefly, the strike mostly concerns new requirements and less autonomy for research professors, plus cutting the number of available teaching positions nationwide. I don't think this means that people are losing their jobs, just that fewer new ones are going to be created. Last week I attended a general meeting about it. I can't say I'm sure what the point was: it seemed to be mostly run by the student strike committee and mostly attended by students. An administrative staff member represented the president, but the president himself was not there. They took a vote among the attendees: 800 for the strike, 8 against, 49 abstaining, but honestly I do not know how the vote affects things, because it's the teachers and staff who initiated the strike. I suppose it just shows whether or not the students are supportive. That week the student committee blockaded the door and only let in professors and foreign students. Eventually they passed a mike around the audience - the minority tended to be the most vocal, explaining how they understood the teachers' dissatisfaction but did not think classes should be cancelled. Someone else stood up and said that if 800 people are for the strike, how come there were only 50 at last week's protest? Then he called the other 750 pro-strikers liars for not being active in the cause. He was harsh but in the end I think he was right: part of the ridiculousness of the strike on the students' end is that they are not going to class, but they're not trying to learn about the problem or fight against it. They're just on vacation and causing people like me to be bored. To be honest, at first I wasn't sure the strike would matter that much to my project, but being in the classroom just a few times a week really is significantly better for practicing French and meeting locals. I've met a lot of Anglophones who have become good friends, and I'm happy to have them especially since I have no classes and there aren't shows every night like there were in Paris, but I'm the first to admit that it's bad for my French. :P

On the other hand, I have been watching more French TV! You can download a program called Zattoo and play the basic French channels, and a couple German ones, on your computer. One afternoon they played about 5 episodes of Will & Grace in a row. No commercials, and Will & Grace isn't so well written that much gets lost in translation, so that was great practice. I have given up my resistance to watching dubbed shows - they are almost all dubbed, so you just have to get used to it (though I couldn't really get used to Malcom X in French. But interesting fact: since there are so many American movies released in France, the big American actors have a French voice "assigned" to them. So the same French actor always dubs for Bruce Willis, the same French actress always does Julia Roberts, and so on. It makes sense but since it's not common in the US, I had always figured whichever actor was available that day got the dubbing job). There's also a show called Un gars, une fille (A guy, a girl) which consists of very short scenes in the daily life of a thirty-something couple, illustrating how men and women think differently and how hilarious that is. For example, the girl calls the guy from work to tell him that she just got a promotion. But in French promotion also refers to a special, as in at a store, so he thinks she's talking about some great buy she got and gets mad that she spends too much money. Ha ha. I don't think it would fly at home because it's a little gender role-y, but I'll admit that it can be pretty funny and very good for learning le francais quotidien. I'm also not sure if the couple is married or not - another French touch.

This week Matt is coming to visit so there might not be blogging but there will be picture-taking! On facebook I have photos of St. Remy, a little town where Van Gogh was treated for whatever was ailing him that day, and of Orange, where an ancient Roman theater is still standing. Photo is of me and Van Gogh. Hopefully Matt and I will make it to Cassis and Lyon, and possibly a vineyard or two. Here are two videos: one from the Truffle festival a few weeks ago, and one from this weekend of a street performer singing opera in front of the Papal Palace.

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