Thursday, January 29, 2009

Man, I want to strike again

I know why the french like to strike so much. The strike today was like a parade. Thousand's of people marched down the street by my work, chanting and singing and dancing. There was even a marching band and a couple singers. Everyone had these big signs and banners, and even a couple people had costumes. According to the radio, 1.5 million people marched in protest across the streets of France today--40,000 in Lyon alone. I think it took 3 hours for all the people to walk past my work--it was a big parade strike!

Of course, I only pretended to strike for about 15 minutes during lunch break while I waited for my taco, then I went back to work. But next time, I'm bringing a sign.

Power to the people!

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Grève générale

(Those must be two important words, because I sure do see them alot. En grève means "On strike")

The French love to strike. Well, that's the stereotype anyway. When George and I came to France for vacation 1.5 years ago, our travel plans were interrupted by a transportation strike. The day before George arrived in France to stay, the pilots were on strike, and when I had to go to Berlin for work the trains were on strike (so we flew). Well tomorrow everyone is on strike.

People are not striking for better pay, or cheaper health care, or shorter hours, and the strikers are not holding out for any negotiations. People are just unhappy with the economic situation in general (and with President Nicolas Sarkozy) and want to make the government focus on creating jobs, reducing income inequality, and regulating banks more closely--things that just about every country in the world is concerned with now. I'd strike with them, but I am out of vacation days.

Strikes in the USA are different. In the US, we do not strike as often, but when we strike we are in it for the long haul. When I was in Seattle, the teacher's strike lasted 49 days, and would have lasted longer I think, except a local judge ordered them back to work. The NHL Player's union striked (struck?) for a whole year. In France, strikes tend to last a couple days at most, and I don't think any have lasted more than a week.

Strikes in the US seem to be more localized too. The Seattle teachers union, the American Airlines pilots, professional basketball players, etc. I don't think we have ever had everyone strike in the US. In fact, I don't think I have ever been personally affected by any strike in the US, other than having to listen to my dad--a member of one of America's most strike loving unions, the teamsters--complain about them (I love you dad!). Tomorrow's strike is supposed to throw the whole country into chaos. If you rely on public transit to get where you are going, you're screwed, and if your kids go to public school, i guess you are taking the day off to watch them since the school is on strike, and so is day-care.

I wonder if strikes are more successful in France than in the US?

(image stolen from

Saturday, January 24, 2009

San Nin Faai Lok (新年快樂)

Monday is Chinese New Year, one of the most important holidays here in France (that might be a bit of an exaggeration). This new year will be year 4707 by the Chinese calendar, and I believe that makes it the Year of the Ox. Unlike Western New Year, which is just one night of getting drunk and waiting for a big ball to drop so you can kiss that hot girl across the room, Chinese New Year is 15 whole days of drinking, eating, and giving money to people (or getting money if you are younger, but unfortunately that ship has sailed for me). George and I prepared for Chinese New Year by going to the Paris Store, which as its name implies, is the largest chinese grocery store in Lyon.

99% of the foods George grew up with in Hong Kong can be found in Seattle, and for that 1% that cannot, the largest population of Hong Kong-ers outside of Hong Kong can be found just a couple hours north of Seattle in Vancouver, Canada. Unfortunately, chinese products are not so easy to find in Lyon. Lyon has a few chinese, thai, vietnamese, etc. restaurants and groceries here, but for the most part the are all just generic asian food, wth mostly the same menu or choices of only the most common chinese items. They are lacking most of the items we like, and what they do have is quite expensive.

The Paris Store is on the south side of Lyon, and is US grocery store sized, and has many more choices, and more reasonable prices. We still couldn't find the things we really wanted, but maybe enough to hold us over until we go to Hong Kong in a couple months. My friend from work, Marco, gave us a ride, so since we did not have to worry about hauling everything back on the bus, we stocked up on sauces, drinks, and noodles. The store even had like 5 different kinds of peanut butter, which is unheard of in France! I didn't recognize any of the brands though, so I bought one of each, and we will see which is the best.

I'm starting to get used to the food here in Lyon, but I still find myself missing "American" food. Some french restaurants are, of course, amazing, but they are also kind of expensive and french fast food is pretty much pizza, sandwiches, McDonald's, or kebabs. I miss the variety that we had in Seattle--great thai food, great chinese food, good mexican food, better indian food, etc. And I miss the little things like Pop-Tarts, Mountain Dew, Starburst, Frosted Mini-Wheats, and Morning Star Farms breakfast patties. Also, not being much of a meat eater, my choices in Lyon are extremely limited.

Going to the Chinese grocery brings some more variety to my diet, and some of the "American" foods that I had become quite used to. I'd still kill for a good burrito or taco though.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Snowboarding in the Alps part 2

This weekend we went to Areches Beaufort to play for a bit in the white stuff. Areches Beaufort is much closer to Lyon than the resort I blogged about below (Val Thorens), and much lower elevation. And unlike most of the resorts higher up in the Alps, Areches Beaufort has trees! Lots of em. I really like trees and tree runs (maybe not as much as my friend Dave Birchak who has an odd propensity for jumping into them), so I was very excited about going to this resort.

Clear skies and warm, and not at all crowded, the resort had a lot of promise. Unfortunately it hadn't snowed there in quite some time, and the snow was pretty hard and packed, so I had very few tree runs, and lots of sticking to the pistes, but if this place ever gets a good dumping, I am there the next day because I saw lots of awesome looking terrain.

Supposedly the place has a park, but I only saw one jump, and no rails or boxes or anything. Maybe they are waiting for more snow :-/

Oh, and this place had one of the worst types of lifts I have ever ridden. Resorts in the US, at least those that I have been to, only have 4 different kinds of lift. 2 for the big boys, chair lifts and gondolas, and 2 for the kiddies, rope pulls and magic carpets. Rope pulls kinda suck, but they are usually really short, and only on very slow inclines, so you deal with them when you have to (usually just when you are learning). So for the most part, you ride chairs or gondolas. This place, however, had one of these:

Yes that person is holding onto a metal pole that he has shoved up his crotch. That metal pole is attached to a lift line that pulls him up the mountain. By his crotch! Whoever invented this lift should be shot--In his crotch!

To ride this lift, you have to grab this metal pole with a small seat on the end as it swings by on the lift line. You then shove the pole between your legs quickly (because it is moving up the mountain), and clench your legs and hold on. The lift maybe makes sense for skiers, although all of the guys with me were skiers and they hated it too, but for snowboarders it is pain, exhaustion, and pain.

Fortunately most of the lifts at this resort were the normal sit in the chair ski lifts, but to get to the very top of the mountain, you had to ride this evil contraption. I only went to the top of the mountain once.

To see more pics of this place, cliquez ici.

Monday, January 12, 2009

I'm getting fat

I don't know how the French are not fatter than the Americans. French food is very rich, full of carbohydrates, and the serving sizes are almost American sized. And every meal here comes with appetizer and dessert. And you probably drink some wine with it.

I eat lunches out much more frequently here than I did in Seattle. Work gives me 7 euros per day to eat on, and depending on where I eat that covers 50-100% of the cost of my lunch (fast food is generally around 6 or 7 euros, and nice restaurants are between 12 and 15). Plus, I am required to take an hour and a half for lunch, so might as well take that lunch with some coworkers and relax over too much food and wine.

When you order food at a French restaurant, you either get it to-go, or you take a seat and eat it at the restaurant. You do not change your mind later and ask for a to-go box or something if you cannot finish it, so instead you just finish it. Plus you have a long lunch break to fill, so just eat it slow and enjoy.

Most restaurants here have a daily special, which is usually an appetizer, a main dish, and a dessert. You can order something other than the special, but it probably costs the same amount, and who wants to pass up dessert? French people generally don't eat much for breakfast—just a croissant and a coffee or something, so maybe that allows them to enjoy this big lunch without packing on the pounds. I am hungry when I wake up, so I almost always eat breakfast. A bowl of cereal, some pancakes or eggs or something—definitely more than a croissant and coffee. I also eat a big dinner, but I think everyone else does too, so that's okay.

I try to convince myself that it is okay for me to eat this much because I walk or skateboard 3 miles to work everyday (round trip) instead of taking the subway, and I am still very active on the weekends, going snowboarding or trekking thru the parks or the city, but my growing gut is making it harder for me to keep believing my lies.

Oh, and did I mention my daily afternoon snack?

Today's picture is a picture of Île Flottante, which is what I had for dessert today.

(image comes from