A Travellerspoint blog




October 1~11, 2008

~”Operation French Job Search”! If only the French applied their “rules of the road” i.e. no rules…to all aspects of their life…my life here would be, like, way easier!

~So, here’s an example of my efforts in finding a temporary source of income. Go to Youth Hostel to inquire about potential employment. YH Manager guy says he “has all his staff”…perhaps I’m not YOUTHful looking enough. While there, pick up a brochure advertising Au Pair work. Worth a try. Email then pay a visit to agency. First thing Au Pair guy asks me is, “How old are you?”…I’m beginning to have a youth complex by this point! But while in the depths of my despair, the next day I get a phone call from a friend of Au Pair guy, would I like to join a Language Exchange Group “first chat night is tonight”! C’est très cool! Moral: use Oil of Olay before looking for work abroad!

~Yay! I finally found some French friends…and British and Australian and Canadian! 2nd gathering of Language Exchange Group was a Pub night and came home with the time and location of a weekly volleyball club! Double yay! Think I can spike in my hiking boots or Birkenstocks? Neglected to pack sneakers, knee pads, and health insurance along with that electricity bill!

~Also came home committed to a hiking/walking club! Turned out to be more of a Triathlon with me the youngest participant! Usually when I join “stuff”, I’m the oldest in the group, but this collection of really French ladies are aged 60 to 70! And they’re in better shape than me! So, first I had to bike across the city to find my ladies, then we hiked 12 kilometres, half of it upwards, then the bike journey home followed by the swim portion of the Triathlon…in my bathtub!

~Want to know how to say “I have a hangover” in French…just in case…J’ai la geuele de bois…I have the mouth of wood! Yup, that’s about right if I remember my wood tasting course correctly from back in my Forestry days! Seriously, our “Microbiology of Wood” Prof had us licking wood samples…only remember one species of pine, or was it spruce, that tasted like raw potatoes…the rest just tasted like wood to my tongue, the same taste as a hangover!

~I have a resume full of experience administering pills to cats…it’s filed in the bad memories pile. Therefore, I have developed a technique to ensure that at least some of the medication reaches the target destination i.e. INSIDE the cat: 1) crush pill gently between 2 spoons, 2) carefully place dab of canned cat food on crushed pill spoon, 3) gently massage pill powder into soft food, and, 4) offer to cat hoping he’s stupid enough to fall for the trick!

~I’ve given Carb a new name…in French, Ôte-Agrafes…in English, Staple Remover! Seems he likes all this attention and the canned cat food camouflaged pills and the taxi yeowling sessions and Monsieur Le Vet and the never-healing hole in him!

~So Carb had his corsette pulled down from his stitched and stapled incision in about, oh, 2 seconds! But the glued part on his back sure held well, causing Carb, and therefore moi, 2 weeks of incredible agony and grief, turning him and moi snake-like! I finally had to give him a hair cut to remove the retched thing entirely. Now Carb looks kinda like a French poodle, only worse!

~OK, this is too funny! You know that canned cat food camouflaged pill routine I just wrote about? Well, today I had the pill crushed on a spoon on the (next to zero) counter and as I’m going for the canned cat food tin from the fridge, I turn around and there’s Carb licking the ground up pill from the spoon!!! Who’da thunk? Now, had I tried to ram that thing down his throat, do you think he’d have liked it?

~So, I postponed our scheduled rendez-vous, by telephone…am I getting good or what, with Monsieur Le Vet, as I can see Carb is not healed i.e. still bleeding, and I begin doctoring him moi-même! I scout my scant first-aid kit for anything with “Healing Powers” and decide that if he had motion sickness or a headache…I could cure him! So Polysporin it is! Cure-all for anything that ails ya, even if you’re part cat! Et voilà! He starts to heal, like, right before my very eyes! Enfin! Shoulda been a Vet! NOT! My stomach dances at even the mention of red liquid, ‘cept le vin rouge!

~I finally broke down and bought a bike rack and a bunch of bungees so I can mount Carb’s cage on Jeep’s back and save some taxi fare costs! ‘Cept that we need to make at least 2 more trips to Monsieur Le Vet’s to pay off the cost of the rack…so here’s hoping one of the cats gets hurt or sick…JUUUUUST KIDDING!!!

~Murphy’s Law strikes again…day before Carb’s very first bike ride of his life (which I honestly was looking forward to)…upon inspection, because I do that daily with him now…I discover Carb has zero staples and zero stitches left to be removed! I think he finished the job and self-doctored after we tested out the viability of “cat cage on bike”! I think he didn’t like that idea of mine!

~So this daily inspection of Carb has also lead me to discover that he has all sorts of other wounds, minor, but not normal happenings on his body! I think he’s making up for lost time in the free world! Gotta be sparing with the Polysporin though…’cause as he likes the taste…he’s immune now…it kind of works a little like fur ball remedy…and everything passes through him rather smoothly!

~Here’s a sign I was thinking of posting in my apartment:

“Got a Fur Ball?…run to my nearest throw rug to throw up!”
(Please don’t vomit on the tiled flooring which is easy to clean!)

~I love Jeep! And my 2 “heavy” duty level-6 anti-vole/anti-theft locks that weigh more than my vélo, and my let-me-know-when-a-bus-is-sneaking-up-behind-me mirror and my incase-I-get-hit helmet! I’m becoming a really good defensive driver, avoiding dog poop land mines, Tram track ruts and formula one wanna be’s.

~Finally found a French café with WiFi whose coffee isn’t the price of a month’s rent! And they serve Spanish Tapas! I love France!

~I found myself a French man worth finding…my kinda guy…low maintenance and I found him in a dumpster! He’s actually a fine specimen of a man in billboard format. I just can’t figure out from the language if he’s advertising how to increase your abs or how to make them shiny!

~It’s October 3rd today, 25C in the shade…I know ‘cause I bought a thermometer so I know how to dress for the day…outfit # 1, 2, 3 or 4! I’m sojourning on la terrace in my neighbour-repellent attire, bra and shorts, sipping un café au lait avec une tige/a smoke, and writing! Je me sens bien! I feel good!

~If I can make a judgement of all French people based on those who live in my apartment residence, then I think the French have little imagination when it comes to naming their pets! The well-exercised French Poodle is named “Cookie”, the nice neighbour’s nice dog is named “Tina”, the new cat upstairs is named “Scooby” and the dog who used drip drool on me but has since moved residence…I think his name might have been either “La Ferme” or “Ta Geuele”, which both translate to “Shut Up”, because that’s what everyone called him! One guy even named him “Shut-The-Fuck-Up”! Now this guy’s either been watching way too many American movies or he’s an English speaker in disguise. The dog did bark a lot! It’s no wonder my French neighbours are confused when I tell them Carburetor and Gasoline’s names. Then I proceed to ask them if they want to know what I named my daughter!

~Friday’s my favourite day of the week…it’s “Clean Sheet Day”!

~I’m experimenting with my washing machine today (it didn’t come with a manual)…I know I probably shouldn’t because experiments usually turn out messy or wet, but there are 2 mystery settings…maybe you can help me out here…each setting has a picture, one’s a little snowflake (that’s the one I’ve been using because I like snowflakes) and the second one is a rectangle with an “X” through it (and that’s the one I haven’t been using because “X’s” usually mean DON’T DO IT!). So I’m trying out the “X”ed out rectangle today…wish me luck! Ummmm…It’s kind of making some peculiar sounds…so maybe I should just stick to snowflakes!

~I guess what makes living abroad so challenging is that there is no instruction manual to follow! It’s a matter of figuring out the rules as you go, generally after you needed to know them! For example, I received a notice in my mailbox that I had received a parcel. I carefully read the notice and map my route to the other side of Montpellier where I can retrieve my package by providing a piece of identification. No problem, same system in every language. NOT! Cycle to Post Office on the other side of Montpellier, I’m exaggerating a little, to be informed that “Le Gardien” has intervened and should have my precious-as-I-don’t-receive-that-many parcel! So then I cycle home empty handed and incredibly disappointed and worried only to realize I don’t even know where to find the consierge, the notorious “Noto” (like moto only with an “N”) in this conglomerate of buildings of Residence La Guirland. So I ask a random resident, I like random guys, who sweetly escorts me to Noto’s office to discover he’s on holidays! Man…how come “some days” are just so difficult in a foreign language!

~So, besides the missing oven, sauna and washing machine manual, my apartment is/was also missing a toilet paper dispenser! I finally got fed up having to reach behind me to the top of the toilet tank every wipe! So I am utilizing the doorknob which is conveniently located directly in front of my toilet in my little toilet room and my one and only belt I brought from Canada. It’s rubber, made from a recycled tire, and works perfectly…except…you guessed it, now what do I do to hold my pants up?!

~The only mirror I possess is an average sized, above the bathroom sink mirror…but there’s a full-length mirror in the elevator. So if I want a full view perspective, I have to go for a ride!

~The hummingbirds, which are the size of my baby toe, are still siphoning the flowers which are still blooming! I’m thinking maybe a Palm instead of a Pine for a Christmas tree this year…Palms are not indigenous to this area, but one would never know that!

~I was taught a French expression that could prove most useful: “Tu peut me dire tu”. It gives your listener permission to be less formal than addressing you as “vous”. But I’d like to use it as a pick-up line, say in a bar, or, on the street, and you see a good looking guy, I’d just walk up to him and introduce myself…”Hi, my name’s Dana and you can call me Tu!!!”

~I think it would suck to be Supermarcher guy who accidentally addressed me as Monsieure today! So I stuck out my chest and pointed to my boobs…problem is when I lose weight, I lose what little I had to begin with…not that I mind, because I can run without a bra! But he smiled and blushed in a way only a French man can blush!

~I had to dump the Hiking Group for the Volleyball Club! First night of Vball left me staggering 2 days later…haven’t touched THOSE muscles in over a year! It’s a fun league with a serious calibre of players and a 100 commitment but I get a T-shirt! A huge Gym, 6 teams, I’m not quite the oldest and one other member is non-French speaking. Scary starting something new in a foreign tongue. Really, I only had a map with a big circle showing me the general vicinity of where the Gym of unknown name should be located…and the day and the time. I found it, then just mimicked the other 40 players through the drill and training portions of the evening. Echo-y gymnasiums and 20 to 40 bouncing balls make French even harder to understand than in a bar! I smiled a lot!

~It is my findings that my updates are most regularly read by:
1) retired people
2) government employees
3) High School teachers
4) university students who should be studying for exams!

~If anyone out there has any stove-top dessert recipes to share with me I would love you for life! I love my sweets and without an oven or microwave I’m limited to rice pudding, custard and uncooked cookies…the only recipes I brought assuming every home has an oven! I can’t find (yet) real brown sugar or I’d be living on fudge!

~Today is the Saturday of Thanksgiving weekend. The sky is crystal clear, the sun is sooooo present and I’ve just returned from my first visit to Montpellier’s best street market, 2 blocks from my home! A French market on a perfect autumn 25C in the shade day…and I think some guy made a pass at me! He approached from behind and asked, “Party much?” The English threw me as much as the question! At my age, this is a pass! I ditched him at an olive stand!

~So, no oven means no turkey this Thanksgiving, but I’m making a tribute to Canada…listening to Sarah McLachlan and planning homemade burgers, fries and Smirnoff for supper! It’s not like I can smell basting turkey smells coming from my neighbours ovens!

~Thanksgiving and my mom’s birthday…for me, this is a time of reflection…to take a deep breath and be conscious of all I am grateful for…so I just re-read the 72 typed pages of my lasts year’s adventures, and I know what I’m thankful for…I am so fortunate to have the ability and stability to be where I am…happy…a result of the internal and external encouragements of my past and present! The greatest powers of my life…my mom and my kid…and all the experiences and people in between…so…thank you!

Love and appreciation,
dana, carb and gas xox

Posted by hiitsdana 09:34 Archived in France Comments (0)




September 15 ~30, 2008

~Carb’s got a French souvenir…no, not the petite amie who’s still lookin’ for lovin’ (and food)…haven’t yet broken the news to her that the guys are impotent! No, Carb’s souvenir’s even more permanent than “till death do us part”! Carb’s acquired French stitches! Just when I thought I had life kind of under control, apparently an impossibility, and I was finally able to relax and reap the joys of a month and a half’s hard labours, Carb comes home with a hole in his chest! Fuck, more writing material! It actually may have been there a day or two and I just didn’t know it yet, till I was holding him on my lap, tummy up, not a position of normal posture for Carb, and there it was…a very clean hole in his skin about the size of a toonie or a 2 euro coin! Jeeeeeeeesuuuuuuus, don’t panic Dana! First a phone call for a taxi…and all of a sudden telephoning in French felt natural, and a good thing I kept the business card from my unhappy taxi/moving company…then a direct visit to Le Vet, looking up “my-cat’s-hurt” kind of words in my French/English dictionary en route! Carb got an all-inclusive (anaesthetic, drugs, shave, needle and thread etc.) overnight stay at THE most expensive hotel in Montpellier! Told the vet Carb only speaks English and un peu d’espagnol…so I don’t think there was a lot of conversation going on that night…but he made up for it during the taxi ride home! He was overjoyed to be home in a still-WAY-too-over-drugged kinda way, even purring knocked him off his feet! Poor guy…poor ME…but, we’re both survivors! And Gas? Well, he seemed OK with the whole experience…he had me, the nightly treats and Clic-Clac all to himself!

~So after Carb is home stitched and sound, life is seemingly under control once again, MORE writing material arises! Carb rips his stitches and I can see inside him once again! Of course the discovery is made “after-hours” so we wait till morning ‘cause I can only IMAGINE the cost of “emergency” stitches after paying for “regular working hours” stitches…but I don’t panic, as that very day I had by-passed Le Vet’s and asked for extra bandages…so I patch Carb up for the long night’s sort of sleep. Next morning, another unhappy taxi ride for everybody: naturally for Carb who’s falling apart at the seams and hates our mode of transport, for me because each taxi ride is one less case of red wine I’ll be drinking, for the taxi driver because he’s afraid Carb’s cage is “dirty” when I put it on his precious back seat…oh yeah, plus probably the yowling screeches coming from said dirty cage! So at Le Vet’s Carb gets a series of rapid staples without anaesthetics with me holding him and a corset to wear home, all for only 15 Euros! Jeeze, cheaper than the cab ride! I think Gas was pissed off because Carb didn’t overnight it again and because he didn’t get new clothes to wear like Carb! So I hope this story has an ending eventually…don’t worry, I’ll keep you posted!
~Le Montpellier Vet has become what I figure is Carb’s “home away from home away from home”!

~P.S. Why don’t veterinarian offices have separate waiting rooms for dogs and cats?

~So now the cat’s list of “Top 10 Worst Enemies” has been modified…

1 Sharp things that rip holes in skin (applies to Carb only)
2 Vets, all nationalities
3 Any mode of transportation other than paws, especially airplanes, taxi rides to Vet’s and Spanish train station x-ray machines
4 Cat-eating Clic-Clacs (applies to Gas only)
5 French fleas
6 Dogs, some, most
7 Collars (Gas again)
8 Diarrhea and long fur combos (Gas)
9 Stuck fur balls
10 Hiccoughs (applies to Carb only…comes from drinking from the tap
is my guess)

~So, I think I found the culprit of this update’s featured highlights…a French fence…do they not understand that Carb is the stray of all strays and doesn’t take kindly to confinement!

~Carb is a dawn and dusk I-wanna-be-outside kinda guy…unfortunately, dawn is a dirty word in my lifestyle!

~Remember Jeep my new vélo vehicle and remember the “creative” car drivers I mentioned in my last update…well, never in my life have I so wanted to look geeky and wear a bicycle helmet while cycling! Helmet head is soooo worth it in Montpellier!

~So for a month I thought something in the cupboard under my kitchen sink had died and NOT made it to heaven! I have a mystery space behind this cupboard but was too afraid to investigate! Then I suspected an open vertical pipe, which I think is an exhaust for something or other, as the culprit of stink and constant cultivation of fruit flies, so I dumped half a bottle of bleach down the pipe, crossed my fingers and voilà, no more fruit flies! Bad smell gone!

~Everyday I assign myself one mission…some days I accomplish two missions and that’s just a huge day! Hence, Jeep. Feet just aren’t cut out for the size of this city. I prefer thunder thighs over funky feet! My morning is consumed with looking up all possible vocab that might be needed to accomplish the daily mission and mapping out a tangible bike route, then my afternoon…accomplishing my mission. This may sound retardedly time consuming, but when you live in a world that’s not yours, life is a lot trickier than you’re used to. It is getting easier though…not so much because my language is improving, slightly, but just because one can actually get good at blundering one’s way through the unknown. And every time I get a little overconfident…I fuck up!

~The French dress “like there is no tomorrow”! So, I analyzed my international wardrobe of 4 outfits, which took 30 seconds, and decided my flared Parisian jeans I bought back in 2004 are looking a little dated! And I have a pair of holey Lauren-leftover cords that could be repaired if only I had packed my sewing machine. So then I priced jeans! So then I found an alteration store and agreed that a hole and flare-removal would give me two new pair of pants at 1/3 of the cost of one pair of Montpellier jeans. So now I have French stitches too!

~About the language…I am learning lots, it’s just that stuff just doesn’t stick the same as when you’re young. Sometimes I’ll hear a word within a conversation and spend 5 minutes trying to unbury it’s meaning from the depths of my brain…I have a really deep brain!

~I’ve concluded the only things the French and Spanish have in common is their plugs (and sockets) and they both pronounce WiFi the same (wrong) way!

~Another funny French word:
~French word for walkie-talkie…is talkie walkie…that’s just backwards!

~So I haven’t actually started looking for a job yet…hard to psych oneself up for guaranteed rejection! I’m still in the thinking process of determining the path of least resistance! One has to be careful whom one tells of their illegality! Carb and Gas are the only ones here with “papers” but they’re not the employable type!

Jusque le mois d’octobre,
C’est moi, dana et mes chats carb et essence

Posted by hiitsdana 07:53 Archived in France Comments (0)

CLUB MED...MONTH 2! september 1~15



September 1~15, 2008

~Apartment details…there have to be negatives…the bed a.k.a. Clic-Clac and the water are hard and the kitchen sink is inconveniently located directly below the hot water heater…so, I kind of have no place to put my face when I’m washing the dishes! And I have next to zero counter space and zero oven. I have a stupid shower door, the kind that folds out, although it doesn’t like to do that. There’s also one of those wall-mounted clothes drying racks which I inevitably walk into, face first…every time…so I don’t use it much.

~The greener side of apartment 302 (or 1935)…the bathtub, proximity to Centre Ville, the terrace and freedom for the cats definitely outweigh the few less-tolerable hiccoughs (see above list). And my bathroom sink is the size of a bathtub! And I have a washing machine (now without pressurized leaks) which I discovered is a rare commodity in a French rental “location”! And the hot water tank-thingy isn’t actually a tank. It’s one of those thingies that heats the water as it passes through, so guess what, the length of my shower is no longer directly proportional to the size of my hot water tank! This is a good thing!

~I’ve had a bath EVERY SINGLE night since our arrival. My bathtub is the next best thing to a sauna. I know, it doesn’t start with the letter “S”, but the letter “B’s” pretty good too…beer, Biernacki, uh…bonbons!

~I’ve met our concierge, Monsieur Noto (comme moto he tells me, only with an “N”). Says he hasn’t been to the Centre Ville (5 blocks from here) in over 30 years! What a weirdo!

~My gardener…Darling…appears to come every Thursday to trim the grass and hedges and do his other gardener duties…so I must remember (to tell the maid) not to sweep the terrace until after he has finished!

~There’s this French guy, aren’t they all, that lives in MY building, who faithfully walks his French Poodle twice a day and walks his wife twice a week.

~Carb and Gas have had their first taste EVER of rabbit! Well, not really real rabbit, but the chopped-up, dried-up, French Purina version of lapin! It’s their 3rd dietary change since Canada, but they need to work with me here and eat whatever’s available at the closest grocery store…I love ‘em but I’m not hauling kilos of specialized cat food across a city on foot! Uh uh, no way! Besides, I’ve had to change my brand of cigarettes a fair few times these past couple of years, and you don’t hear me complaining!

~With our sliding patio doors in perma-open position, the cats come and go as they please…just…because…they can! Of course, each time they come, they have half a kilo of natural debris stuck to their coats, whiskers, paws, bums…but better to clean up a bit of nature than “nature calls” I say! No more pee-puddles to contend with now that Carb is content with life! (We all have different definitions of happiness!...although Carb and I agree, freedom rocks!)

~C and G have picked up French hitchhikers…Montpellier fleas, les puces! More language to learn before the task of finding a Vet…but I never did make it to the Vet’s…’cause after Tourist Information Office girl gave me 2 non-existent addresses of Vet’s, some random guy whose door I knocked on, I love random guys, directed me correctly, but en route I passed a Géant Casino, couldn’t resist, and went grocery shopping instead…and what did I find within? Flea collars and flea treatment stuff. So I now know the location of a Veterinarian and a great grocery store that even sells vanilla extract! (shame that I have no oven!)

~So, the flea treatment stuff makes the cats smell like 2 walking bowls of Lavender Potpourri! And now our apartment smells like Lavender and Moroccan spices! Quite nice actually!

~So Lavender does not actually repel fleas…just other cats, and I’m sure Carb and Gas have become the laughing stock of Residence de La Guirlande of the feline populace! So, back to the Vet’s to spend yet another 30 ! But now the cats smell like cats and most of the fleas are in flea heaven!

~Dogs are definitely number 2 on a cat’s “Top 10 Worst Enemy” list…fleas ALWAYS bite!

~Had our first thunderstorm…a nice reprieve from the perpetual hot sunshine. Sat on the terrace and watched the grass grow…and Carb cower under Clic-Clac! Le froussard=scaredy-cat!

~Never underestimate the speed of a snail…one minute they’re not there and the next, they’re there! I was thinking of opening a “U-PICK ESCARGOT” on my terrace every morning! And after that thunderstorm, I had an amazing crop!

~So, you can buy empty snail shells at the grocery store, stuff your own…I could sell my escargot full or empty!!

~The novelty of freedom sure wore off quickly…Carb and Gas spend more time siesta-ing on Clic-Clac than they do venturing!!! But as soon as I shut that sliding patio door…who wants out? Once outside, Carb checks in every half hour or so…he doesn’t trust me…might move when he’s not looking!

~Carb and/or Gas have a petite amie, a French souvenir!!! But I don’t think she’s French. She’s Siamese, obviously an illegal immigrant somewhat like themselves, with striking blue eyes and a nice figure. She wanders into our apartment when our door is open, which is all the time, eats from our crunchy bowl and like typical boyfriends they continue their couch potato habit. They don’t even get up to like offer her, I don’t know, like a drink or a seat or something. Men!

~You know, that first month of living in a new country, and this is my third experience, so just MAYBE I know what I’m talking about…it becomes a big blurr! As I recall, I can’t recall many details about my first month here. Just an over stimulation of the senses, an overwhelming emotional impact and fuzzy, fuzzy, fuzzy! The combination of lack of sleep, lack of appetite thus lack of nutrition, lack of confidence, excitement, nervousness and confusion made it hard sometimes to put one foot in front of the other foot. Each uncertain moment in the beginning is meaningful though in creating eventual familiarity and comfort in this new environment, eventually, but at the time, the purpose of your being here is really questionable. Especially on some days.

~Official people, like police, make me nervous! Sometimes I pull out my map in public (a traveller’s taboo) just so they think I’m a tourist!

~Man, the French are really resistant to illegal immigrants. I’ve never been rejected by so many people in such a short span of time. Bank account guy rejected me.

~Next time I venture abroad to live illegally, remind me to pack an old electricity bill…’cause had I brought one with me, I’d have a French bank account now! Bank account lady has also rejected me…because the rules in her bank state I need an official document showing my home address…Driver’s Licence and Teaching Certificates don’t cut it! So, I didn’t get a bank account…but I made a friend! Séverine and I have a rendez-vous (appointment) for coffee and she’s invited me with her boyfriend to visit a familial village outside of Montpellier. In every negative, there’s a positive!

~Without a bank account I can’t get the Internet! It’s the last thing I need, outside of a job, to make my life complete here! Stay tuned for the illegal job search next month…THAT should be interesting!

~The Tourist Information Office employees are baffled by me! I don’t ask typical questions…they’re more of the practical living-here-illegally sort, like, could you please tell me where I could find a washing machine hose replacement store, or, do you have the addresses of the Electricity Co., Gas Co. and all the Veterinarians in Montpellier?

~Every time I try to take a short cut, I get either distracted, lost or find myself in a dodgy area of town I’d wished I’d not roamed into, and it takes me more time and sometimes stress to reach my destination in the end. But it’s much more exciting going the non-direct route!

~There are a a lot of creative drivers in Montpellier!

~OK, so I bought these OB wanna-be tampons, Casino brand, cheap, half the price, and I can’t get the cellophane wrappers off unless I use a scissors…till I put my glasses on and, well, you’ve heard of twist-off beer caps?...well, these are twist-off tampons…how cool is that?! I might still be struggling with them if the miniscule word “twist” hadn’t been printed in English, ‘cause I don’t always carry my French-English dictionary to the bathroom, and I don’t know how to say “twist” in French yet!

~So, what do YOU do with those cereals that you buy to try and discover you don’t like? I wanted Granola and I got bird fodder! Do you leave them in the cupboard till they hatch little crawly flour bugs or mothy creatures like the last tenant here must have done???!!! Or do you suck it up and just eat the disagreeable tasting stuff and say, “Damn it, I’m not wasting that 2,50 !” I ate mine. Here’s hoping the next brand is something just a little less natural!

~It’s kinda like the prune yogurts they put in the middle of the crate of 12 so you can’t see them! I ate them…did nothing for me…till the next day!

~’Twas a sad sad day when I finished my gift tin of 100% pure Canadian maple syrup…I’ve never held a can upside down for 20 minutes before!

~Impostor Saran Wrap just never seems to make it to it’s target without doing somersaults on itself…I know, I need to get a life…I’m writing about plastic wrap.

~Another life’s firsts…my kid has made her way through time and space to Kingston and Queen’s University! She, too, has a new address and phone number for the year, although I doubt she’s hankering for Temptations cat treats!

Lauren McCormick
Room 210, Wing A
Victoria Hall
Queen’s University
Kingston, Ontario
K7L 3N8

(613) 533-5444

~Even chosen changes are challenging…but the changes that come about in our lives that we DON’T choose, are undoubtedly the toughest! I’m so proud of my kid! It’s a good thing you’re practiced at new beginnings kid!!

~Harry Potter is teaching me the basics of yet another language!

~Don’t know what it is about running water (e.g. showers, brushing teeth), but it stimulates my thought process for writing material…I could never be an environmentally friendly writer!

~Some favourite French words/expressions, so far:

~oh la la…they actually say it, I heard it on the street!
~la jacasse…good word for a magpie (bird)
~C’est du jus de chausettes, ce café!...from the dictionary…do you think
the French really say this? In English, we say bad coffee tastes like
dishwater…but, ew, sock juice…that’s just nasty!
~and I love when you look up a French word, because you don’t know
what it means, OBVIOUSLY, and you find the English word is identical!
Yikes! (No, I’m not telling you what the word was, I might look stupid!)

~If you’ve tried to call me and couldn’t get through…try again!
(011) (33) 645638385. If I park my Virgin in certain dead spots of the apartment it tells me “no service”…and yes, I’ve paid my bill!

~Incidentally, when I recite my cell phone number to someone, which I so proudly remember, I do it in a more memorable way than clumping the numbers in 2’s like they do here: 06 456 38 38 5…I’ve been called on it, questioned, why I don’t just put the numbers in groups of 2’s like normal people…well, they didn’t actually say normal people…but I know that’s what they were implying, in French!

~Lauren and Meagan…when/if you come to visit Montpellier…you must bring your Moroccan Jalavas…you can wear them here without being laughed at…really…this time I promise!!!

~Happy 60th mon oncle…hope you had a beer on me…unless, of course, you’ve switched to sipping hot water?

So, until the month of Halloween,
Salut mes amis,
dana, carb and ess…short for essence…doesn’t work as well in French, does it?! xox

P.S. I just bought myself a vehicle…a JEEP CHEROKEE-OVERLAND…she’s mauve and black and pretty and very comfortable to drive…I say “she” because it’s a girl’s bike! I figure your average bike thief won’t want a mauve girly-girl’s bike! I’m mobile once again and it feels sooooooooooo good! She’ll never replace Mike-the-bike, but as he’s resting dormant in my storage unit 6,000 plus Klics away, I had to buy Jeep ‘cause I can’t walk the walk anymore…this town’s too big…Jeep’s the name I gave her…I’ve always wanted a Jeep because that’s always been our family word for fart!

Posted by hiitsdana 07:01 Archived in France Comments (0)




August 11~31, 2008

~Our new Temptation Cat Treat receiving address:

Dana Biernacki (& Carburetor & Gasoline)
75 Rue de Font Carrade
Residence La Guirlande
Batiment B3, Appartement 302
34000 Montpellier

~”La Guirlande” means garland in English, so, I’m celebrating Christmas all year! I’m actually labelled apartment number 1935, should you visit in person and need to pass the security entrance or should you want to retrieve my mail! I now need 7 keys and/or key-like things called Bips, to live here. The French are a much more complicated species than the Spanish! In France…they actually have guys that board the public transit systems to check the validity of your ticket!!!


~Apartment hunting, an annual sport for me, is a mervielleux way to become acquainted with parts of a city one would never venture into otherwise! Walking is a safer bet of getting less lost than buses which spit you out in unknown places, which you then have to locate on your Montpellier tourist street map, which only indicates the name of about every 10th street and incidentally has a lot more folds than my Jaca map!

~By the 2 week mark, my feet were fried, my brain was burnt and my tan was darker than ever! Then a magical thing happened…2 apartments appeared on the same day! (Never trust a Secondary School Counsellor…thanks Leslie!)

~Definition of a “critical/crucial moment”…

…You’re standing at a Bank Machine about to withdraw $$$$ to secure
an apartment…that accepts cats, finally, and a phone call comes in on
your Virgin…that new French cell phone Xavier sold you, offering you the
apartment you REALLY want!
…You’re making arrangements, by phone, to meet and sign the lease of
the apartment you REALLY want, and your Virgin…that new French cell phone Xavier sold you, runs out of $$$$ mid-call!
…while all of the above is happening…you start your period! Where is
the justice in this world…and where is menopause when you really need


~Once in possession of said apartment you REALLY want…having NOT told the landlady about your possession of deux chats…I studied every balcony in the Residence complex of about 15 apartment buildings, for signs of domestic animal life, fearing the “what if pets are forbidden within La Guirlande”. I even searched the grass for dog poop!

~But, as time passed, we quickly discovered oodles of cats strutting around the grounds and even more oodles of dogs leaving the building with their look-a-like masters to be walked and relieved in the park next door! Whew! (But I still haven’t told the landlady about Carb and Gas.)

~It’s definitely going to be cheaper living here than in Jaca…Carb and Gas now have freedom…to roam the wild yonder of the vast residence grounds and shit where ever they like! So, Carb no longer uses the civilized kitty litter box…so, half the cost of kitty litter, and half as many trips to the store, not to mention half as much poop to scoop! God I love nature! Gas, on the other hand, is such a city mouse…he doesn’t even know how to squat in the bush!

~Carb and Gas have a social life…they have made beaucoup de French cat friends in the 2 short weeks it’s taken me to clean and get us settled in! They need to get their priorities straight…there’ll be time for socializing later!

~The price of freedom and happiness…Carb and Gas have itches!

~When Carb is happy…everybody’s happy! (i.e. Gas and I)

~Unlike Jaca, my skyward neighbours don’t drop laundry fluff/lint/hair or any other debris on my personal space. I only get the occasional dog drool drip, which doesn’t occur frequently, only when our neighbouring canine directly above us is sojourning on his balcony, gawking and wishing he could eat Carb and/or Gas!

~I think moving residence is an excellent “weight loss program”! It accidentally happens every time I move. But I’m eating lots and eating well, cooking on my little 2 burner stove with a matching little fridge in my little kitchen in my little apartment…the only big-ish thing here is a monster Clic-Clac that has the potential to eat cats!

~So if you like cosy, I like cosy, then come and visit! I’m here till August 14th, 2009. Book your vacation package now! And note that Ryan air flies from London, Stansted, or Frankfurt to Montpellier, cheap.

~No beeping fridge! My fridge is undersized, ancient, tacky…and quiet! I love it!

~I have scoured every possible surface in the apartment…even my belly button got it’s whenever-I-think-about-it cleaning! Now the dirt is ours, and I can live with that.

~A lot of Europeans iron their sheets…I vacuum mine! Lesson learned…never buy solid coloured sheets when 2 cats, donning orange, black and white coats, share your Clic-Clac! I swear they can selectively shed whatever colour they know will be viewed most easily!

~My apartment possesses those peculiar southern European blinds, that live on the outside of your windows…great for blocking out the light…if that’s what you want to do with all that glorious Mediterranean sunlight…but what a bitch to clean!

~Anna…I need you to visit…I’ve got some more ugly dishes needing breaking! They’re of the same clone as my Jacian repertoire…must have been a sale on ugly dishes in France and Spain!

~It’s a 5 block walk to the periphery of Montpellier’s Centre Ville! I pass through Little Morocco to get there…and actually, Centre Ville is like a Moroccan Medina, ever-confusing to find a place twice. Honestly, Montpellier is a phenomenal city. I picked a REALLY good dot on the map.

~Montpellier has a lot of good garbage! Like really a lot! Man, every time I turn a corner, there it is, more really good garbage. But I have to be very selective in what I drag home…remember, cosy. Plus, I’ve already made several trips to IKEA (say it right) and Pier 1, ‘cause setting up house is just so much fun! So, considering I entered Europe with one backpack and two cat crates…you’d be totally impressed with my home!

~The sound of the French accordion makes me melt! Or is it the French man playing the French accordion…doesn’t matter…I know the perfect street to stroll if you ever feel like melting!

~The only French I’ve learned is on a need to know basis! Like apartment hunting associated vocab…I’m good! Creating accounts for electricity and gas, I’m awesome! Buying smokes…I got it! But when bank account guy asks me if I have a visa…I know he’s not talking credit card! And I’m not sure I had enough French lying words to convincingly talk my way around that one!

~ I just got my first French haircut, in a Hair Salon Academy…and, well, it’s different, but different is good, right? I think maybe next time I shouldn’t say, “comme vous voulez.”, as you like. One side of my head is whispy and one side isn’t…and she meant to do that! I definitely look Frencher!


~I won’t be doing any baking this year…I’m oven-less! But I’ve got a BATHTUB! A soak in a tub surpasses even Butter Tart squares! And we have a magnifique ground-floor terrace that opens into a groomed jungle of Palm trees living in harmony with Pine trees, flowering shrubs, and grass! It’s Eden, especially for freedom-deprived cats! A squirrel accidentally wandered into our terrace one day…tsk, tsk! How was he to know 2 of the 3 new residents of apartment 302 or 1935 were carnivorous felines suffering from predatorial withdrawal. Carb and Gas thought they had died and gone to heaven…and so did the squirrel!

~I meet escargot in person every day! They attract to and walk around my terrace like teens to a shopping mall, no apparent purpose and nothing better to do!

~The terrace is my summer home, my clothes drier, my smoking room, my sanctuary! It’s big enough that I have both sun and shade all day! If it ever rains here, there’s coverage for that too. And at night I can sit in my new purple canvas chaise longue, my gift to me, listening to music by candle-light sipping whatever I care to sip and count stars, escargot or my blessings!

~French poodles aren’t an urban myth! They’re as real as croissants, crepes and baguettes, and as shaped and manicured as the jardin of an OCD victim.


~I washed my entire bathroom. I actually meant to wash my clothes but the washer hose sprang a big pressurized leak so I changed my focus of my list of things to do. A video camera could have captured the eternity of moments of chaos until I could see clearly enough through the spray of really cold water to find the water turn-off valve! A huge task replacing a washer hose in a foreign language…a lot harder than cleaning my bathroom!

~My toilet has it’s very own room. That’s all that’s in that room, my toilet.

~What colour toilet paper would you prefer? Pink, purple or peach…none of which match my simply white toilet room.


~CBC’s ”Sounds Like Dana” (copyrighted by the Toopes, I like it!) isn’t happening…seems I didn’t “fit” the criteria of “Far Flung Canadians”! I think I’m too far flung!

~You know you are Canadian when…you cook supper at 5:00 PM!

~Carb, Gas and I have finally resumed our siesta habits…you just can’t take the Spaniard out of a true Canadian!


~I have a religion which I’ve cultivated over time, it’s all my mom’s teachings condensed into 7 sweet words…”be the best person you can be”!

Bon anniversaire Dean and je t’adore Lauren…

Dana, Carburateur et Essence xox

P.S. My SINCEREST apologies to my Spanish seemingly-non-sucking vacuum, whom I have cursed relentlessly and kicked on many occasions over the past year! I just discovered the suction adjustment knob!
…Sometimes I am such a 3-dimensional loser!

August 4~10, 2008

~I’m going to be on CBC radio this week!!!

The CBC radio program, Sounds Like Canada, does a feature called “Far Flung Canadians”, and we’re taping via telephone this week! Day and time, to be announced. If we can swing it, Lauren will also join us on the show as she is a Canuck who has flung herself abroad! As soon as I have the details, I’ll post the info on Facebook and can email a brief note out to everyone!

~My Skype name is: hiitsdana if anyone wants to call me (for free)! It’s also free to downloadin case you didn’t know, and with the help of my buddy Mac, you can see me and Carb and Gas via Mac’s built-in web cam! I promise I’ll put clothes on when I answer!

~If you scramble the letters in the word “EVIAN” (a French brand of bottled water)…you can spell the word “NAÏVE”! I learned this in Finland from Darin! So, I bought some, because, I am! … but Darin, naïve is spelled naïf in French…it only works in English eh?

~OK, so the first studio I looked at was a dive…but it allowed me to practice my bad French language skills, master Montpelliere’s fantastic Tram system and get some perspective of what 450 /month will not buy us!

~2nd potential studio…apparently doesn’t like Canadian cats…so we won’t be living there!

~3rd and 4th possibles insisting on letter stating I have an income…hmmmmm, they won’t take my year’s rent upfront! French systems…I know, the Spanish warned me!

~So people in Montpellier wear shorts…and everyone has a tan!


Do you know what a Clic-Clac is??? Gas knows it IN-timately…it’s a sofa bed also known as a fold-out couch, and Gas got folded-in this morning!!! He appears to be OK...but then that’s what I thought after he went through the x-ray machine back in Madrid!

~Gas is completely confused…inside the dehumidified and air conditioned hotel apartment he grows his fur, then out on the 35° in the shade balcony and he sheds his fur…he doesn’t know if his fur is growing or going!

~Gas also seems to prefer Spaish shadows over French ones!!!

~Think I found a potential job for me…do you think my experience in Madrid’s nude bicycle rally will serve as adequate qualifications?

“strip teaseuse lap danceuse”

~I’m in the land of Dijon Mustard, it grows on trees here and it’s cheap and I love it and I feel more French when I eat it!

Well, mes amis, wish me more than luck in finding an apartment that likes Canadian cats and doesn’t mind if I’m not working…and if any of you have any connections here in Montpellier that could help me out (Nick) please feel free to give them my number 06 456 38 38 5! Thanks, et jusqu’à la prochaine…

Dana, essence et carburateur xox


August 2, 2008

~The Med is my neighbour, but I haven’t met him yet! Apparently there’s a massive nudist beach in the neighbourhood…stay tuned!

~Day 2 shopping at Inno, le supermarché près de moi, and I discovered what was missed on day 1’s investigation…Smirnoff Ice…so I’ve decided I’ll stay in Montpellier!

~Had to buy a Virgin today…a new phone…NB a French user manual is somewhat easier to figure out, even without pictures, than the Spanish one I still can’t completely read!

~Here’s my new #:

From Canada:
(011) (33) 645638385


~Today I walked the periphery of the old, central and “c’est COOL” section of Montpellier. It took over an hour…a tad bigger than Jaca, and I only got temporarily displaced once and that was in the shopping centre looking for the grocery store!

~Carb and Gas update…not much to report. I think they’ve got the hang of this moving thing I do to them. They only spoke for the 1st hour of the 8ish hour car journey. They approve of our air-conditioned hotel room with the glass walled balcony, although gas’ fur is confused by the cool air and growing thicker as we speak, and he has only dived into the glass wall once…that I noticed!

~I, too, seem to have the hang of moving cities, cultures and languages! It just isn’t as scary here…have more confidence in my French education than I did in my Spanish pocket dictionary! Plus, now I have experience and just know what I need to do.

~So if you’ve got the notion to do what I’m doing…definitely read the following…

8 simple steps to sorting out your new life when moving to France:

1 Get there, somehow…trickier with cats…I can give you Anna and Phil’s
phone #.
2 Find a temporary place to stay…that likes cats.
3 Find a phone store that employs a Canadian guy named Xavier to help you pick out a new cell phone that suits your purposes, no frills. Then Xavier becomes your first and only friend and throws in a phone case for free!
4 Ask your new and only friend if all stores in France are closed on Sundays.
5 Learn how to say “carton” in French so you can buy cigarettes.
6 Spend hours in the local grocery store until you find Smirnoff Ice, Canada
Dry Ginger Ale and Werther’s candies. (Don’t even look for peanut butter
if you’ve brought residual gifts.)
7 Find a real place to live for a year…that likes cats.
8 Find a job.

Easy as pie and your sorted!

~Day 3 is reserved for reading French newspapers! Emma, can you google who invented the French-English dictionary…I really want to thank them!

~That’s all I know for now…and now the real work begins…finding my sanctuary and a job to pay for the sanctuary…it is exciting!

Je t’embrasse,
Dana, carb et essence xox

July~August 2008

~Cigarettes in Finland are sold in “Family Packs” (as Darin calls them), 28/pkg.

~Retraction from last update (July) “Men are slobbish”…amendment…”but not Darin!”

~I hope, Ali and Darin, you enjoyed your beer as much as I appreciated the lift to Tampere airport Ali and for lookin’ after me Darin…I miss you and the refugee camp…in a strange kind of Punkalaidun-ishy way! Still awaiting your updates!!!!

~My stint in Finland, July 13~28, was welcomed by a Finnish text message, which I received July 28th on my way out of Finland!

~I resisted Stansted airport’s floor, as inviting as it appeared, as a most hospitable Finn/Brit couple whom I met in the Tampere “International Airport” offered me a bed in their London home. My inflatable pillow, Thermarest and sleeping bag traversed Europe twice, for not! The bed was accompanied by morning coffee, a shower and a walking tour of Stoke Newington. Plus, they’re kindred cat folk. They took a risk inviting a complete stranger into their home…I never forget kind and sharing people like this…perhaps they noticed my cat hairy apparel. They definitely get to be added to my collection of good people in this world!

~Piko and Mike’s 1846 home is older than my country!!

~The 2 day journey to Finland, in perspective, was short, in comparison to the 3 day journey back to Jaca!

~I’m thankful I’m not young and attractive…waiting in bus and train stations would be even more annoying!

~Travelling teaches you there are good people worldwide…but it also confirms there are losers in every language!

~I had under 12 hours back in the Jac to drink and pack up! My boxes and bags are as disorganized as my emotions!


August 1, 2008

~You know the expression ”Get a Life”…well, I’m on it!

~If first impressions are true impressions…then, I LOVE Montpellier!

~Day one in Montpellier…international cuisine, copious grocery food selection (including Canadian maple syrup!), Gitanes cigarettes, French men, really yummy fermented grape juice, Mediterranean sunshine and heat, and clumping cat litter…yes!

~By the way, if you happen to be waiting for a personal invitation to visit me…you could be waiting a long time. Here’s the thing about me, I have an open door policy…you just need to confirm I have a door at the time you invite yourself to visit me! Once you have crossed my path in a positive kind of way…you make my email list…I only delete those who ought to be deleted from the human race!

~Brendah…you have no idea how often and regularly the word “Bella Bella” comes up in my day-to-day conversations!

~Lauren’s response to my last update…”it made me laugh, it made me cry, it made me miss you!” Awwwwww. The next person to cross Lauren’s path, could you please give her a really big hug for me?

Well, all’s well east of the Pyrenees…French day one was wonderful…can’t wait for the next 364 to come!

À toute a l’heure,
Dana, Essence, et Carburateur xox

Posted by hiitsdana 04:36 Archived in France Comments (0)




August 4~10, 2008

~I’m going to be on CBC radio this week!!!

The CBC radio program, Sounds Like Canada, does a feature called “Far Flung Canadians”, and we’re taping via telephone this week! Day and time, to be announced. If we can swing it, Lauren will also join us on the show as she is a Canuck who has flung herself abroad! As soon as I have the details, I’ll post the info on Facebook and can email a brief note out to everyone!

~My Skype name is: hiitsdana if anyone wants to call me (for free)! It’s also free to downloadin case you didn’t know, and with the help of my buddy Mac, you can see me and Carb and Gas via Mac’s built-in web cam! I promise I’ll put clothes on when I answer!

~If you scramble the letters in the word “EVIAN” (a French brand of bottled water)…you can spell the word “NAÏVE”! I learned this in Finland from Darin! So, I bought some, because, I am! … but Darin, naïve is spelled naïf in French…it only works in English eh?

~OK, so the first studio I looked at was a dive…but it allowed me to practice my bad French language skills, master Montpelliere’s fantastic Tram system and get some perspective of what 450€/month will not buy us!

~2nd potential studio…apparently doesn’t like Canadian cats…so we won’t be living there!

~3rd and 4th possibles insisting on letter stating I have an income…hmmmmm, they won’t take my year’s rent upfront! French systems…I know, the Spanish warned me!

~So people in Montpellier wear shorts…and everyone has a tan!


Do you know what a Clic-Clac is??? Gas knows it IN-timately…it’s a sofa bed also known as a fold-out couch, and Gas got folded-in this morning!!! He appears to be OK...but then that’s what I thought after he went through the x-ray machine back in Madrid!

~Gas is completely confused…inside the dehumidified and air conditioned hotel apartment he grows his fur, then out on the 35° in the shade balcony and he sheds his fur…he doesn’t know if his fur is growing or going!

~Gas also seems to prefer Spaish shadows over French ones!!!

~Think I found a potential job for me…do you think my experience in Madrid’s nude bicycle rally will serve as adequate qualifications?

“strip teaseuse lap danceuse”

~I’m in the land of Dijon Mustard, it grows on trees here and it’s cheap and I love it and I feel more French when I eat it!

Well, mes amis, wish me more than luck in finding an apartment that likes Canadian cats and doesn’t mind if I’m not working…and if any of you have any connections here in Montpellier that could help me out (Nick) please feel free to give them my number 06 456 38 38 5! Thanks, et jusqu’à la prochaine…

Dana, essence et carbutateur xox

Posted by hiitsdana 02:02 Archived in France Comments (0)

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