Saturday, August 29, 2009

They Got Me Covered

My trip to Greece is in exactly two weeks and it feels like I've been planning the adventure for ages. With the maternal unite in tow we will explore mainland Greece and the islands of Santorini for 10 days. Hopefully we don't kill each other.

However, just in case I fall ill or suffer some freakish accident I took a precaution and applied for the European Health Insurance Card or the carte européenne d’assurance maladie as it's called in France. According to the European Commission website:

The card ensures that you will get the same access to public sector health care (e.g. a doctor, a pharmacy, a hospital or a health care centre) as nationals of the country you are visiting. If you have to receive medical attention in a country that charges for health care, you will be reimbursed either immediately, or after you go home to your own country. The idea is that you are given the care you need to allow you to continue with your stay.

That good news for a hypocondriac like myself. I easily applied for the card by submitting a request on the Assurance Maladie website and two weeks later I found the little blue card in my mailbox. The card is valid for one year and will cover me during any visits (personal or business) to any EU countries and a few others. So paying the pied piper isn't so bad afterall and actually has some benefits.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

The Man Giveth and the Tax Man Taketh Away

Yesterday when I got home from work I checked my mailbox as I normally do. Because I love getting mail I was excited to see several letters waiting for me in my mailbox. One piece of mail that caught my eye was wrapped in a blue plastic wrapping with the emblem of the Republic Francaise in the upper left hand corner. Curisous as to its contents I quickly ripped open the packaging en route to the elevator. After a quick scan I realized that what I was holding my hands was in fact nothing at all to be excited about.

What I held in my possession was my avis d'impot sur les revenues or more simply put my tax bill. Now, while I understand the importance of paying taxes and I'm more than willing to pay my fair share of them in order to reap the social benefits, when it comes down to it I'm less than thrilled to have to write a four figure check made out to Sarkozy (I jest the check was actually made out to the treasurer or something).

Since the day I started working I knew that this day would eventually come because unlike in the US no income taxes are withheld from my monthly check. Because of this, each month I would studiously put aside a portion of my paycheck into a separate account to cover this expense. However, as the balance in that account increased I became quite attached to it and the idea of such an untimely parting seems cruel and harsh. You see I just replaced my stolen iPhone with the updated 3GS, my summer holiday to Greece is rapidly approaching and a trip back to New York is in the works to celebrate my cousin's wedding. So while I generally love France and put up with their way of doing things, in this case I would much prefer to deal with my taxes the way I have in the US which is by getting a nice tax refund check several weeks after filing my tax returns.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Provocative French PSAs

Because I'm feeling too lazy and emotionally drained to write a proper blog post I present you with the first and probably last the series "Public Service Ads in France That Would Probably Never Fly in the US". The following are brought to you courtesy of the Paris mayor's office.

"Woman's Best Friend"

"Man's Best Friend"

Sunday, August 9, 2009

A Day at the Park

During a conversation several weeks ago with some friends it came to our attention that one of our friends had never been to an amusement park and has never ridden a roller coaster. As someone that has very fond memories of warm summer days and evenings spent at Six Flags riding the scariest rides and roller coasters I was completely shocked and so was everyone else. It was then that we decided that a group trip to Euro Disney was in order. It would be a first for me since living in Paris.

On Saturday, we were all up early to meet on the platform of the RER A and to make our way out to the happiest place on earth. After about 40 minutes or so our trained arrived and instantly upon exiting the metro station we were all instantly transported to another world. After getting oriented, the requisite coffee stop and a potty break we decided to make our way to Space Mountain first after catching the tail end of the parade of course. I was nervous that the first timer wouldn't enjoy the ride or find any amusement in it at all. However, when it was over and with a huge grin on his face he asked us if we could ride it again. The answer of course was "non" because there were plenty other attractions to see that day in the park.

Surprisingly everyone had a blast in the park and it was as if ever so briefly we were all children again. The best part about the whole experience is that we get to do it again for free before the end of September thanks to a special 2 for 1 promotion Euro Disney is currently running.

Oh and so you all don't think we're mean people we did manage to ride Space Mountain a second time before heading home and it was even better than the first time around.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Scrapping Cheese

My colleagues have been great at teaching me new French words and phrases and for the most part they have the patience of saints. However, most of what they teach me is usually quickly forgotten because the exchange oral only and I rarely get a chance to visualize the words to help the memorization process.

During lunch with my colleagues yesterday I asked one of them if I could have a taste of his dessert. His dessert was a tart au chocolat with a perfect dollop of chocolate goodness melted on the wrapping. Being the generous colleague that he is he agreed to let me have a taste and walked away to get a cup of coffee. By the time he came back I had already helped myself to the lonely dollop. Unaware of this he asked me if I still wanted to taste his dessert. My other colleagues responded to him in French and told him that I had already scraped the dollop off the side. The verb racler or to scrape was new to me and for a few moments lingered in my thoughts which is rare for me when I hear a new word. A few moments later after some mental gymnastics a light bulb went off for me. It was at that moment that I associated the verb racler with the cheese raclette. Raclette is typically eaten by melting it over a grill and then scraping off the melted portions and serving over potatoes. I mentioned this insight to my colleagues and they seemed both impressed and slightly amused.

For me making that connection was key in helping me to visualize the new word and to commit it to memory in a place in my brain where it won't easily be forgotten. If only I could do that with every new word I'd be all set.