French May Day Blues

61157-lilyvalley-300x300My muguet and a single rose are on the dining room table in water, thanks to hubby. He was out early this morning and came back bearing gifts and bonheur – happiness. The selling of flowers, without a permit, is permitted to the general public only on this day. It is a tradition, along with the marches around the world on this International Worker’s Day.

Happy 20th Anniversary South Africa!

Today marks the 20th Anniversary of South Africa’s first democratic election of April 27, 1994. South Africans will go to the polls once again on May 7 to cast their ballots in the fifth democratic election of the country. By all standards, the country is still a young democracy. In just two decades it has changed from being a country with a legally mandated national policy of racial oppression to one that is transitioning to being inclusive and representative of its diverse people.

The economics of a foreign language

The Economist recently published an article on a study about the worth of a foreign language. To briefly summarize: the overwhelming negative listed against the better decision-making and cognitive development positives was an underwhelming 2% premium on earnings to Americans – with French, Spanish and English earning different premiums.This had me thinking about my experience with speaking a foreign language in a foreign country.

These days the words flow easier. I no longer phrase, re-phrase and edit my sentences, silently trying them out in my head before I blurt them out. I am not yet dreaming in French, but I am at least thinking in it – there is less mangling of my articles and verbs, and an easier switching from English to French. On some days I do not have the energy to conjugate the conditionnel and on others the  plus-que-parfait just stumps me.

On local politics and cabinet reshuffles

Out with the old, in with the new.         Photo:

After his Socialist Party’s crushing defeat at the polls this past weekend, The Hexagon’s President, François Holande was quick to make like other past Presidents of the Republic: fire the right hand man. So Jean-Marc Ayrault is out, and Manuel Valls is in as the new Prime Minister.

Switzerland’s ‘stand-alone’ vote

Source: Picture-Alliance/DPA

The Swiss voted in a referendum on Sunday  to curb immigration from the EU. Granted it was a close vote, with 50.3% voting for this move, it is however an Anti-EU stance by this quaint country of chocolate and snow-capped picturesque mountains. For the average non-EU traveller – it means no real change  – perhaps a more arduous  visa application process. The impact of this vote though is a lot more hard-hitting for future employment trends and foreign investment

Chasing dragons

The weather has been fairly mild in Paris for this time of the year, and an added bonus has been the sunshine we have had. The mild reference may just be a misnomer, as a friend in South Africa pointed out when I mentioned this. Today the sun was out and although it was fresh – read 9 degrees, we bundled up and headed for the Chinese New Year parade in the Marais.

Happy Chinese New Year!

I am officially acknowledging the start of my new year today, on the day of the official Chinese New Year, the year of the wooden horse. Paris info has listed all the parades that will be taking place in the various arrondissements over the 15-day celebrations. This is not my year, but this article states that…

Bench shuffling…the great equalizer

The waiting rooms of immigration halls are the few places in the world that bridge that vast social divide. I was recently at the Nanterre Prefecture Immigration office renewing my Carte de Séjour, and it dawned me that: for as long as I am a guest in a country that is not my own, I will spend some fraction of my life doing the bench shuffle.

The bench shuffle is that tedious movement you make on a waiting room bench, often plastic, in the immigration hall of your host country while waiting to be legitimized in some way. Whether you’re seeking a temporary or permanent status; fleeing or touring; are financial secure or spiritually content; a captain of industry or of your own street corner  – the bench shuffle is for everyone. It does not discriminate.