Wednesday, May 26, 2010

expressions: words ending in "ing"

Where do you park your car?  In un parking.
Where do you hang your clothes? In un dressing.
Where do you put up your tent? In un camping.
What do you call your schedule? Un planning.
What do you use to wash your hair? Un shampooing.
What do men wear to fancy functions? Un smoking.
What do you call going for a run or a jog? Un footing.

For whatever reason, the French have adopted these English words to mean something other than their definitions in English (much like how we use "entree" to mean a main dish, when it actually is the entrance or starter to a meal). Of course French people expect anglophones to understand these words because they think they are English words, and they seem genuinely surprised to find out that we don't use these words in the same way!

Sunday, May 23, 2010

favourite things: milk

When I came to France in 1990 to work as an au pair, I remember going to the grocery store to look for some milk and I couldn't find any! The reason being, as I later discovered, that the French don't buy fresh milk from the cooler, but rather tetra pack-type bottles from the regular shelves. Since most of rural France doesn't really have convenience stores and the regular grocery stores close early, it's good to be stocked up. The milk doesn't quite taste the same, but it is handy to be able to pick up a six-pack and have it at the ready for those times when you inevitably run out of milk! (By the way, bio means organic.)

Saturday, May 15, 2010

find of the week

This may seem like a very banal thing to get excited about, but my super find of the week was baking powder. I should explain that most baking powder in France comes in little pink paper packets, with maybe a teaspoon or two in each one. When one does as much baking as I do, these little packets become tiresome, so in the past I have resorted to bringing baking powder with me in my suitcase when I travel from Canada to France. Indeed, I have also filled my suitcase with other hard-to-find items, including brown sugar, rooibos tea, maple syrup, vitamins, peanut butter and pumpkin puree! This week, when Jean-Marc and I went to the city on Thursday (it was Ascension, so we both weren't working), we went to an "asian" supermarket. I put asian in quotes because this store has products from Africa, India, the Middle East, Japan, China, Korea, Vietnam and Thailand (and yet it's still called l'├ępicerie asiatique). I can even get peanut butter there! Anyway, we were looking at the chinese soy sauces and vinegars and there I saw this huge can of baking powder. It makes our large jars from home look tiny! It's a French brand but I have never (ever, ever) seen it for sale in the traditional supermarkets. I guess most French people buy their treats instead of making them and so those little pink packets are sufficient for the occasional baker. This giant can will do me just fine, and I may even have a difficult time getting through it all before its best before date of 2012!

Saturday, May 1, 2010

work update

Part of the reason I haven't been writing very much here lately is that my workload has increased dramatically over the last few weeks. The Chamber of Commerce and Industry, whose Language Centre I work for, has given me a lot more contracts, including a long-distance one at 70 kms away from home. On Thursday and Friday, I drive out to a tin can producing plant and teach English to a number of groups. It takes over an hour to get there, but it's a beautiful drive through the countryside and I get paid for the kilometres driven (thank goodness, what with gas being 1.34€ or $1.85 CAD per litre!). In addition to the tin can place, I still am teaching a number of hours at the CCI. On Monday and Thursday I start at 8am and finish at 8pm, so it makes for somewhat tiring days!

In addition to the CCI work, I have started working for an English school in Paris for their clients in Angers (who happen to be in the same building as the CCI, coincidentally!). They have hired me as an "auto-entrepreneur" (self-employed) worker, so I have to bill them and then declare my earnings every three months so that I can pay my deductions. Since I haven't had to pay my deductions yet I have no idea how much I will actually be making, but now that I've officially declared myself self-employed, in addition to salaried, I can try and drum up some of my own business. Which leads me to my last work lead...

My yoga teacher actually has a doctorate in English Studies and he also teaches English. He has declared himself self-employed, and when I mentioned that I had done the same, he suggested that we work on something together. Selling English classes by yourself can be a lot of work, but with two people it makes it more manageable and less daunting. We are putting together a brochure that explains all of our services (individual classes, group classes, workshops and translations) and we will put on a series of workshops throughout the year, starting with a four-day workshop in July. I will likely have very little work through the summer, so this will be a way to tide me over until September.

It's funny how I have fallen into this line of work and I'm still surprised at how much I enjoy it. The only down side for me is the uncertainty of the work and how much I will or won't work in a month. My students can cancel their classes and then that means I don't get paid, which can be a serious blow if somebody cancels 6 hours in one week! The flexibility, however, is great because I can pretty much give my availability and they have to work around it, allowing me the time to go to the farmhouse or do other things, like auditions. I have yet to earn a "real living" from teaching, but I think it might come with a bit more time.

Alright, nose to the grindstone for me!