Archive for October, 2010

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The relentless drama that was my search for a roof and a bed has, I am proud to announce, officially come to a close. I am a proud lessee in a 2-bedroom apartment near Place Castellane, in quite a chic neighborhood of Marseille, if I do say so myself. I’ve been moved in for about five days now, but since I only signed the lease and paid the rent last night, I wanted to hold off on any celebratory blogging, lest something else go wrong, which, let’s face it, is not unheard of.

One of the other language assistants sent out a notice about two weeks ago, saying that a teacher at his school were looking to rent a second bedroom in an apartment where another English language assistant was already living. As this announcement came to me while I was deep within the throes of exhausting internet searches and telephone calls to real estate agents, looking for a place with Corey, this seemed like a rather handy solution for me, one in which I wouldn’t have to pay a finders’ fee, easy to get to the train station to commute to Marseille…seemed pretty sweet. So I visited, I thought about it for a few days, and I eventually decided that although this apartment wasn’t perfect, I preferred it to the agonizing uncertainty that would be continuing to look. So, without even having met the Liverpudlian roommate, I agreed to move in the following weekend. (more…)

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I am well aware that strikes have been a popular topic of discussion here on Etang. Well, I happened to arrive at a period of particularly forceful political unrest, and things have only gotten better/worse in the three weeks that I’ve been here. The strikes have expanded, from union and transport strikes, to strikes by port workers and university and high school students, all theoretically up in arms about the proposed hike in the national retirement age.

It seems dubious to me that 16-year-olds would skip school for any reason besides not having to take a math test, but if the ones being interviewed on the evening news are any indication, many of the student strikers are incredibly well-informed and genuinely perturbed about a change in the retirement age. I would have thought that retirement would be the farthest issue from the minds of teenagers. Then, today in class, I got…well…schooled. (more…)

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You normally have to be wary of places that call themselves the [Major City] of [Entirely Different Place]; “The Paris of the Midwest,” “The Tokyo of the Middle East”….it’s generally not only misleading but a complete affront to the original city.

My front porch

In the case of Martigues, the Official Tourism Website of which features, in huge font, the words “La Venise Provençale,” the claim to be a French iteration of the northern Italian lagoon/city does, I find, a rather large disservice to both cities. (more…)

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August 2010

8/15: After having sent a frantic email out to all the language assistants, I find two or three who are willing to room with me in Martigues. One of them says “I’m not racist but…” and one lives far away and wants to live in her town. The third is Austrian Christina. We agree to look for a place to live together.

September 2010

9/22: I arrive in France, and immediately begin looking for an apartment in Martigues. They are all old, unfurnished and overpriced.

9/23: I see a few more apartments, but not very many, because everyone is on strike.

9/24: I meet up with Austrian Christina, we walk around aimlessly looking for low-cost housing options. Everyone tells us we should go to the Foyer des Jeunes Travailleurs for an inexpensive option. We go, they are closed.

9/27: I go back to the Foyer, and they agree to rent me a room. I take a tour, and it is kind of crappy, but I’m okay with it, and agree to move in on Oct 1. I take the rest of the week off. (more…)

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In the continued saga that is my search for a home/living place/bed for the next seven months, there have been a lot of ups and downs and ridiculous encounters with various people who either want way too much money or who are trying to get rid of super crappy apartments. This is boring. I am not going to tell all those little stories because they are terrible and will make you never want to move to France, and above all they make me very very angry.

However, today was a first. While I searched frantically for accommodation in Martigues and also in neighboring Marseille, I was the intended victim of a fairly classic scam, and quite frankly it added a bit of spice to the supremely boring and frustrating task that is finding an apartment for such a short period of time. Thus I will share it with you.


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