Archive for July, 2009

I subscribe to “Americans In France,” a monthly email newsletter that talks about various things going on in France from an American’s perspective. Today it included the following blurb about the French and their dedication to schoolwork – even in the summer. I know quite a few American children who would not be very happy if this trend of “vacation workbooks” became popular in the U.S.

Cahiers de vacances

This tradition started by a bookseller in the late 1920s who wanted to sell school books during the summer has now turned into a multimillion euro business that shows no signs of abating. About 5 million Cahiers de vacances are sold per year in France, in a very competitive (i.e. profitable) market. So much so that last year someone had the bright idea to create a Cahiers de vacances for adults, becoming the summer’s bestseller.
The vast majority of Cahiers de vacances are sold from June 15th to July 15th and are for ages 2 to 17. Go into any French supermarket during the summer and you will see many, many Cahiers de vacances for sale.

Here’s a French tradition and it has nothing to do with food. Cahiers de vacances (Vacation Workbooks) are bought by French parents so their children don’t forget what was learned during the school year. Cahiers de vacances are just like regular workbooks, with exercises for math, French, history and so on. The only difference is they are for the summer so there are often tie-ins with popular characters like Dora the Explorer. France is by far the Cahiers de vacances sales leader in Europe.


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I received a request yesterday from the editor of my hometown newspaper, The Ponchatoula Times, to resume my old post as “foreign correspondent” (a role I first took on during my year studying abroad in Wales). I’m am happy to say that I have accepted this responsibility once again and should receive my own “press papers” this time (letters of introduction/photo id)! The newspaper now has an online edition which means you won’t have to be in Ponchy to read my work (I’ll post links to the online version of the articles in this blog).

I will also be continuing to write for City Social Magazine as somewhat of a “travel” contributing writer, so check out both publications for even more information on my adventures and life abroad!

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Lately I’ve been investigating more about my new home. Just about any information I can get my hands on is interesting to me at this point, but the following are links that I found particularly intriguing:

CLICK HERE for a map of France.

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The date has been chosen, appointment set, and I’m gathering all the lovely paperwork for my visa appointment at the French Consulate in Houston! It’s a shame that the New Orleans Consulate no longer processes French visas so I wouldn’t have to make such a big trip, but thankfully my boss also needs to visit the German Consulate there and has offered to foot the bill if I drive. Sounds good to me!

On August 6th-7th we’ll be making the trip. I’ve been checking and double-checking that I have everything I need:

REQUIREMENTS (from the Consulate website) :

- Passport valid for a period of three months beyond the applicant’s last day of stay in the Schengen states + ONE COPY. Please make sure your passport has a double blank page to affix the visa.

- 1 long stay application form completely and legibly filled out in French. Please print in black. Indicate your phone numbers and e-mail address.

- 1 recent passport size photograph. DO NOT GLUE on the form.

- The “arrêté de nomination” from the Rectorat stamped by the labor Department in France (DDTEFP) (original and 1 copy).


Personal appearance is compulsory.

It used to be that the entire process would not take long at all and assistants would receive their passports back on the same day, but, because the visa requirements have changed this year, I will have to wait two weeks and will receive my passport back in the mail. I’m perfectly fine with this change, however, because it means a lot less headache and paperwork once I arrive in France! The difference is that this new visa will last for the entire length of time I am working in France (instead of only the first three months, after which I’d need to apply for a “carte de sejour” or a temporary worker card). This change might also mean that I’ll be eligible for French social security sooner, but I’m still waiting for a definite answer on that question.

Now it’s time to check out hotels and see if I’ll have time to visit a few friends while I’m in town!

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To my incredulous delight, I finished up work this afternoon and checked my voicemail to hear my mother’s voice say, “Ashley, you’ve received an envelope from France. Call me back!.” Needless to say I did not pause for a second before hitting redial and impatiently waiting for her to pick up the phone.

Once she confirmed that, yes indeed, I had received my long-sought-after “arrete de nomination” (a.k.a. language assistant contract that allows me to get a French visa), mom proceeded to do her best at reading the information to me (in French) over the phone. This was quite amusing of course, but props to her for doing much better than is expected for someone who hasn’t studied French in 25+ years!

My parents couldn’t get their scanner to work so I have yet view the actual documents, but I do know that I have been placed in Annecy, a truly picturesque city at the foot of the Alps in Haute-Savoie. I will be teaching there at College Raoul Blanchard (11-15 year olds) and Lycee Claude Louis Berthollet (15-18 year olds). I should be able to look at all the paperwork tomorrow and figure out whom I should contact at my respective schools.

This day is truly a relief as I cannot obtain my visa without my arrete and I was beginning to get a bit worried. It will take about two weeks to receive my visa after visiting the French consulate in Houston, so even if I go mid-August it should be enough time. Now I just have to make sure that I bring ALL the documents needed. I’m one giant step closer to France!

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I first learned about this from the French table I attend bi-monthly and finally remembered to look up all the details. This is certainly something I will consider once I return to France and have my own vehicle!

CODOFIL Unveils French License Plate


The Council for the Development of French in Louisiana (CODOFIL) has introduced a new custom license plate to encourage Francophone identity and to help raise funds for the French immersion program in public schools.

“It started a few years ago at a fundraising committee meeting,” said CODOFIL Director David Cheramie. “We looked at producing specialty plates, like the universities have, and Carencro High has, and wanted to come up with one for our French heritage – for people who either spoke French or wanted to be a part of the movement.

“Richard Guidry, who passed away last year, designed the plate and did a beautiful job.”

The design features a Louisiana iris – la glaie bleue – an egret, a marsh landscape and the words “Chez nous autres” across the bottom of the plate. The crowning feature is “Louisiane” across the top, replacing the normal “Louisiana.”

” ‘Chez nous autres’ means ‘our home’ in Cajun,” Cheramie said. “We’re really happy with the ‘e’ in Louisiane. We had to fight for that ‘e’.”

Cheramie credited state Sen. Eric LeFleur has beeing influential in getting the license plates passed.

The plates will be available at the Department of Motor Vehicles offices throughout Louisiana in July. They may also be ordered now through the Office of Motor Vehicles by calling (225) 925-6371or by visiting any DMV office.

The initial cost of the plate with a number assigned by the Department of Motor Vehicles is at least $61.50. The annual renewal fee is $50 with some $25 of each fee being donated to French immersion.

“We need to get more (teaching) materials in French,” Cheramie said. “A lot of the kids in the immersion movement now are using English textbooks and translating into French as they go. We can get math textbooks from Canada, but you can’t get American history textbooks in French.”

Cheramie has been encouraged by early returns on the project.

“The OMV says they’ve had a very good response,” Cheramie said.

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It looks like Sarkozy is once again rocking the boat on the traditional French way of life, as a new law is passed that will overturn one from 1906 and allow more stores to be open on Sundays. Click the link below for the full CNN article.


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