New Year

Fake snow for Christmas

Fontainebleau might have only 18000 residents, but the Christmas decorations rival Paris and New York. Star-shaped Christmas lights are strung up and down every street, and to make up for lack of real snow, the plant life in all public spaces is sprayed with a thick, toxic-looking white substance.


The vaccine in my fridge

This year, I bought two flu shots (one for me and one for Gahl) in the pharmacy across the street for 6 euros each, and store them in the drawer at the bottom of our (half-size) refrigerator. Apparently last year, some people rushed to pharmacies to buy the flu shot, believing it would protect them from avian flu.

The woman behind me in line at the pharmacy explained that, as a nurse, she would give the shot to herself. I opted to make appointments with our doctors instead. Then I carried my flu shot to the doctor wrapped in an ice pack (I thought it was supposed to be refrigerated?), and the doctor laughed and said a vaccine would be painful to get cold, so he had me warm it with my hands before he administered it. Now I'm home sick, but it must be a cold, not the flu.


French phones

Often when you call the France Telecom service hotline (as I seem to do often for phone and internet problems), after passing through an automated menu and entering some information, you get the message, "All our counselors are assisting other customers. Please call back later." The message repeats once, and then the line goes dead.

Quite a lot of French offices don't have voice mail, and if they do, people's messages might be something like, "I'm not here right now. Please call back another time." A common secretary's response to a call is, "Mr/s X is busy right now, please call again in a little while." My doctor's phone line just disconnects if the line is busy (it usually is - I suspect he has a secretary who makes personal calls all day). No more voice messages ever again - really seems like reason enough to stay and work in France.