Monday, September 28, 2009

Jimmy Buffett concert!!!

What a great weekend!!! This weekend was the Jimmy Buffett concert here in Paris and I had such an AMAZING time! It was by far the best concert I have ever been to and seeing Jimmy Buffett in Paris is far better than seeing him in the US. Every time I see Jimmy Buffett in the US it's at the huge Riverbend arena in Cincinnati with 20,000 other parrotheads (Jimmy Buffett fans). But this time I saw him at La Cigale, a small venue in northern Paris that only holds 1,300 people. That's right, a very small show. It was amazing to get to see him with such few people, a completely different experience than a US show.

I went with my friend Jasmin, a Jimmy Buffett virgin until last night. Before the concert we met up with some other parrotheads on the steps at the Sacre Coeur for some tailgating complete with wine, beer, margaritas and boat drinks. Talk about a great place to tailgate...overlooking all of Paris with a beautiful church behind us. After downing a bottle of wine we headed over to the concert where we met up with Erica, the girl we were buying our tickets from. We found her pretty quickly and then headed into the extremely long line where we chatted with tons of other crazy parrotheads all dressed up Jimmy Buffett style (hawaiian shirts, leis, shark heads, parrots, grass skirts, coconut bras, the works) and drank another bottle of wine. It definitely got us in the mood for the concert. Once we got in we found our seats (front row of the balcony!) and settled in for the best show I've ever been too. The atmosphere was already pretty crazy before the show started, but as soon as Jimmy Buffett came out on the stage, people went wild. It was a true Jimmy Buffett experience and I danced, sang and screamed my heart out like the rest of them in my bright colors and yellow lei. Even Jasmin got totally into it from the second the music started and she definitely now understand the appeal of Jimmy Buffett and I think she is a convert. We definitely had an amazing time and I'm amazed I still have a voice after all the screaming and going crazy, but by the end of the 3 hour show I was hot, sweaty and exhausted.

After the show we all went to O'Sullivans up at Pigalle for the after-party where we blended in quite well with the dreary and drab Parisian crowd at the normally relatively hip bar/club. We danced like crazy meeting tons of other Jimmy Buffett fans and having a great time after such an amazing show. I just didn't want the night to end...but unfortunately it did and I had to drag my exhausted self onto the bus to get to the other side of Paris where I live.
The highlights of the show were of course all my favorite songs that he played (He Went to Paris, Cheeseburger in Paradise, Margaritaville, Volcano, Fins, I Will Play for Gumbo, etc), getting to see Jimmy Buffett up close and personal in such a small and intimate setting, getting to meet tons of parrotheads from all over Europe, the US and Canada, getting to introduce a good friend to the wonders of JB, having a good old American night out in Paris, and the fishing for flip flops guy. This man is a genius and he brought a fishing pole with a poster attached that read "Fishing for Flip Flops." He lowered the sign from the balcony down to the stage and Jimmy Buffett grabbed it and attached his flip flops to the end of the pole and then the guy reeled them back up. Lucky man! I wish I had thought of that, I would love to have a pair of his flip flops and I'm totally gonna try it next year (yep thats right, Jimmy Buffett said he would be back next year!!!!!). Overall it was one of the most amazing nights of my life (especially of my life in wedding here might be the only thing that could top it and even that is debatable).

In other quick news...I went to Bouygues Telecom yesterday and got a new cell phone! I'm pretty excited about that. I finally have a cell phone plan so I can make calls and not worry, plus it is unlimited texts and unlimited email (if I figure out how to make it work...any advice?), unlimited windows live messenger (can someone explain to me what this is) and unlimited web (if I can figure it out). And this is by far the most advanced phone I have ever had (not hard when I've never even owned a camera phone before). It has a slide-out keyboard, camera, does video, has a touch screen, internet capabilities and sudoku on it (by far the most exciting part!) and all that for only 1 euro extra with my plan!!!!!

My beautiful new phone

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Today has been une bonne journee

Just a quick post to say that today has been a pretty decent day after a terrible week. First of all, it's the weekend!!! And I have completely regained access to my email account. I even changed the secret question and the alternate email address so Mr. Hacker can't get back in. And I cancelled my online cell phone order with Bouygues Telecom since they are incapable of processing it and sending me my phone (it had been 2 weeks and it STILL wasn't sent...what are they doing over there?). My phone call to cancel the order was very quick and painless (completely unlike normal French customer service) and now I can just go to a store tomorrow and buy my phone and sign up for a contract and walk out of the store with a phone instead of waiting weeks for it to be sent to me. But best of all...tomorrow is the Jimmy Buffett concert in Paris and I have guaranteed tickets from a nice girl in Amsterdam and so I'm gonna go party it up in Paris Parrothead style! Can't wait!

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

L'histoire du hijacked hotmail continued...

To continue the story of my poor, hacked hotmail account...yesterday I got a response from Microsoft and they sent me a link so that I could reset my password on my email account and regain control. Which I did. And around midnight I was able to enter into my email account and check my messages and respond to the most important ones. And get lots of unpleasant news (coming later). So I went to bed happy to know that I had access to my email and that none of my emails had been deleted.
I woke up today, went to work and when I got home I was looking forward to checking my email and responding to the rest of the less important messages as well as getting some emails sent to my students about scheduling as well as some wedding-related emails sent out. I sat down, typed in and prepared to log in with my shiny, new password. And then my jaw dropped and my heart sank in my chest. The new password didn't work. Mr. Hacker had hacked his way right back into my email account and changed the password again. Great. Another message to Microsoft explaining the new situation and requestion another link to reset my password. Hopefully I will have that tomorrow so that I can actually get something done tomorrow night! But the first thing I will do when I enter into my email account this time is change my alternate email address and my secret question and answer. Better safe than sorry at this point. And then hopefully all will be well. Because if there is something on my computer, then we can't find it and neither can and malicious software or virus scanner we have tried.
As for the bad news I found in the short time I was in my email of my students spoke to my school and said she didn't like doing book work and so when I finally got this message at midnight I had to stay up late replanning the entire lesson I had planned for today so that there would be no book work and only "lively" discussion as she put it. I also found out that Bouygues Telecom is completely stupid and I will officially NEVER receive my new cellphone with happy plan that allows me to make phone calls. They received all my pieces justificatives, except they magically couldn't find my RIB which I know was in the envelope with the other documents, so Lionel had to fax a new copy of it over today from his work. If I don't get this phone soon I'm going to be super pissed. At this point I just want to cancel my internet order and go to a Bouygues store to get my phone and abandon the idea of having a free month of service, cause this is just ridiculous. At least 2 weeks to receive an online you France for your lack of intelligence and customer service! The other bad news was I found out I didn't get a job I applied for that would have made a great second job to compliment my current teaching schedule. They had already found someone. Oh the fun of my email disaster!

In other news, I am being harrassed by Kelly Services (the temp and interim agency). They called me and emailed me a few times last week, but since I didn't really feel like going through the interview process again and changing jobs already, I had just planned to ignore them. However, Monday they called again, but I thought nothing of it, prepared to continue ignoring it. Then yesterday they called me 5 times! FIVE TIMES! And all while I was teaching and my phone was off. By the time I got home it was too late to call. So when I finally got into my email and found an email from them last night, I decided to respond. Though I had never even spoken to them or expressed any interest in looking for a job with them, they took it upon themselves to schedule me an interview with one of their clients for 11:30 this morning. So I wrote back saying I would be interested in interviewing for the position (native English speaking administrative assistant) but that I was not available at 11:30 as I had to teach. So she called me again today wanting to arrange a time ASAP when I was available. I called when I got home from work and FINALLY spoke to the woman and so I probably have a job interview tomorrow (she just has to check and make sure the client is available, otherwise we have to reschedule again). I love how they just decided to schedule me an interview without even speaking to me when it has been 6 months since I sent in my CV (did they ever think I might have found a job in those 6 months). So, I'm going to go to the interview and get some info and check it out. Perhaps it will be interesting, well paid and a CDI (permanent contract) and I will be able to leave the world of English teaching behind earlier than expected. However, I'm being realistic and I know it probably won't be anything great and almost certainly not a CDI and so I will have to turn it down no matter what because we need my CDI to be able to move sometime in this lifetime and I want that more than anything!

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

L'histoire du hijacked hotmail

Well, I got some rather upsetting, extremely irritating and relatively embarrassing news today...someone hacked into my email account, changed my password and sent emails to everyone I have ever known basically. They sent an email (in rather incorrect English) stating that I was in London and needed to have 1,000 pounds sent to me as someone had stolen all my valuables. Hopefully no one I know actually believes this.
So, why is this upsetting...someone has access to all my emails, basically from the day I set up my account in high school, until today (yes I am that lazy and I have NEVER cleaned out my email inbox in 10 years). And they have access to the email addresses of everyone I have ever corresponded with via email. I hope I didn't have anything extremely important in there like bank account information or anything. There is nothing recent, of that I am sure. But who knows what is in there from back in high school or college. And if I ever regain access to my email account, my emails even still be there?
Why is this irritating? Because I don't know if I will regain access to my email account. Because I have all my copies of the stuff I need for my upcoming wedding in the US in that email account. Because I don't know exactly what information is contained in the nearly 900 emails that are in my inbox. Because I don't know if my emails will still be there if I can get my account back. Because this just wasted a large part of my evening and has prevented me from getting a number of things accomplished that I had planned to do tonight. And really, the list goes on and on. I am very angry that this has happened and that I can't access my email and I really hate that I don't know if I ever will be able to again.
Why is this embarrassing? Because included in my address book was my boss, a number of my students, some of my old high school teachers, people I have not spoken to since high school, my family, colleagues, etc. And as far as I can tell, they have all received this fake email (except my parents, somehow they did not receive it). And I am horribly embarrassed and not at all looking forward to explaining this one. And if they sent the email out to people I have received emails from as well but who were not in my address book then that includes every potential employer I have sent a resume to in the past 7 months. A long list of people I can never apply to again....
So, what am I doing about it? Well, everything I can do when I don't have my email contact list and I don't have other ways to reach a number of the people. I have posted it on my facebook page and spoken to some friends and family to reassure them that I am in fact OK and to let them know I will keep them updated on the situation. I have also sent in an ID validation form to microsoft in hopes that I can provide enough information to confirm that I am in fact the true owner of the account so that they can send me (to an old school email address) a link to regain access to my account. And then I have to hope that all my emails have not been deleted. However, to fill out the form and prove your identity as the account owner you had to provide information such as the answer to your secret question and your alternative email address. Unfortunately, I set up my hotmail account in high school and I have no idea what I may have put as an answer to the secret question nor do I know what I may have put as an alternative email address since this was actually my first email address. I also had to tell them the IP address from which I most often access the account, information on different folders in the account, contacts in my address book, subjects of recent emails, etc. Let's hope this other information is enough for them to believe me, otherwise I am screwed and my email is gone. I explained in the comment section that I could not remember the answer to the question or the alternative email and why, and I can only hope that will be enough!
Needless to say I am quite unhappy and stressed right now, but I am still hoping it will all work out for the best. And thanks to everyone who tried to warn me that my email may have been hacked and for testing out their investigative skills! I appreciate it! And sorry to those of you who received the fake email. Don't worry, I am fine and I am not in London with no money. Let's face it, I never really was a fan of that city and I'm not likely to go back. Here's hoping for better news tomorrow!

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Un petit update

The Good:
  • Working (i.e. earning money for once!). I am happy to have a job and to be earning money, even if it still feels like I don't have any, I know that at the end of September it will be better when I get that first complete paycheck in my bank account. And maybe then I can do some shopping.
  • New shoes. I managed to convince my hubby to buy me a new pair of black flats...super cute, pointed toes with a buckle across the toe. And they are from my favorite shoe store...Bata!
  • Repaired engagement ring. We had a little disaster this week and the diamond fell out of my engagement ring. Luckily we were at home and I noticed exactly when it happened so we didn't lose it. Lionel took it to the jewelers around the corner, and the next day it was better than new (the melted the gold of the setting a little so the diamond would no longer be able to fall out).
  • Married to a Frog meetup. A meetup group for foreigners married to frogs who are living in Paris. This was the second meetup and it was a lot of fun. This time I felt like I really started to get to know some of the other people there and we had a lot to talk about ranging from our battles with France to work to just everyday life.
  • Girls night out. Went out Friday night with Jasmin and Marybeth (who just got back to France). We had a blast. We went to Jasmin's for dinner and mojitos, then out to a few bars where friends work to visit, drink, catch up, complain and relax. Good times.
  • DJ. I found and booked a DJ for our American less thing to do!
  • Invitations. I ordered our wedding invitations...something else that is done for the wedding!
  • Pistachio ice cream. Need I say more?
  • Jimmy Buffett! In less than one week I will be enjoying the soothing, tropical sounds of Jimmy Buffett here in Paris. Yes, he is playing a concert here, and I have tickets!!! Can't wait to party it up with some fellow Americans and have a good old US style evening out in Paris while seeing one of my favorite singers!!! It's gonna be a blast.
The Bad:
  • The laundromat. We had to do laundry today. Since our apartment is so small we don't have space for a washing machine. This unfortunately means that we have to waste 3 hours of our life going to the laundromat every 1-2 weeks (depending on how lazy we are). We see this as a form of torture.
  • Bouygues Telecom. Still don't have the new phone (and phone plan that allows me to actually make calls with my phone) I have been dreaming of owning for at least 6 months and that I finally ordered last Monday. According to my account on their website, it still hasn't shipped out because they haven't yet received my pieces justificatives (i.e. justificatif de domicile). I'm getting really impatient...I just want my new toy so I can figure out how to use it (it will be the fanciest phone I have ever owned considering I've never even had a camera phone).
  • Monday mornings. I see my evil bitch student first thing on Monday mornings. Last Monday it was horrible (again). She acted irritated and angry and she questioned my choice of activities and subject matter. And I was 30 mins late because the receptionist couldn't let me go up to their floor until someone answered their phone, and no one was answering, but when I finally got there she acted like it was my fault and not theirs. And this is what I am dreading right now because in a few hours I have to see her again.
  • Oktoberfest. So, after having reserved a hostel back in February and then searching like crazy this week for a way to get there, Marybeth and I finally had to admit defeat and drop the idea of making it to Oktoberfest this year. It was quite depressing because I've been dreaming of going for forever, but we are definitely going to make it next year when I have been working for longer and can plan to take an extra day or two off.
The Ugly:
  • Moving. The hope of moving into a new apartment sometime in this century is practically gone. After having investigated with numerous agencies, it seems like we will have to wait until January to move, which means at least part of another winter in our tiny hell hole of a studio in the KB. Lionel and I have both been grumpy this week because of this realization. It feels like we will never be able to leave this tiny, moldy, disgusting, cold, crappy apartment. We have been wanting to leave for about 2 years (since we moved in) and we haven't been able to. And now that I have a semi-real job we had been hoping to be able to get the hell out...but no. Since I earned so little this summer when I first started I need to wait to have 3 real paychecks before any agency will accept our dossier and consider us for an apartment in the budget we want...otherwise we could move now and end up in another tiny, shitty studio. So we have to wait until the end of November/beginning of December to turn in our dossier and since we will be in the US the last two weeks of December we will never be able to move before January. I can't believe this!!!!!

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

My best friend - the Justificatif de Domicile

What is there to say really? The justificatif de domicile is quite possibly the highlight of the ridiculous, paperwork-crazy French bureaucratic system. So what is the justificatif de domicile exactly? Well, it is a list of papers, which all combined, prove that you actually live at the address you provided. Yes, in America we write down our address and this is not questioned. At most you show your ID to prove your address. Simple and convenient. But in France, nothing is simple and convenient, especially when it comes to bureaucracy. The French love their paperwork. They have a sick, fetishistic obsession with paperwork. The more pieces of paper they are provided, the better they feel. The bigger the pile, the brighter the smile.
So, what specific papers must one provide in order to prove their address? In general you need to provide copies (or originals) of gas, electricity or phone bills (within the last 3 months) with your name and address. Sometimes a copy of your lease is acceptable. And you also generally need a copy of your ID card to prove that you are at least in possession of the ID card bearing the name that matches the name on your bills. However, should your name not be on the lease or the bills because you live in an apartment under someone else's name (my case since I live in the apartment Lionel rented and we may NEVER be able to move into our own apartment), the process becomes more complicated. You not only need bills or the lease with their name and address on them, but also a declaration written and signed by said person stating that you live at their apartment and a copy of the front and back of their ID card as well as your own ID card. Still, none of this sounds too horrible...some extra papers, extra copies to make, extra trees unnecessarily killed and that's all.
Unfortunately it is never that simple with the French, and just 1 justificatif de domicile would never suffice. That would just not be enough papers to satisfy the French fetish. The justificatif de domicile must be provided for EVERYTHING. We had to provide a justificatif de domicile to receive and even more official justificatif from our town hall (which consequently cost around 50 euros) stating that the town hall officials had reviewed our documents and proclaimed our justificatif de domicile to be valid. A colorful, stamped and expensive document that was necessary in order for us to marry. This was needed for my visa to come and get married. Fine. But then we needed to turn in another justificatif de domicile to our town hall in order for our town hall to marry us...and the original document they provided us wouldn't work, we needed more copies and originals of the same documents for them to keep in order to be married once I arrived in France. The fancy, expensive document the provided for the visa could not be used again for this. Ok...more dead trees, more wasted paper and ink. Done. But oh no. We are married, our addresses has been checked, rechecked and validated. Time to apply for my residency card. We need yet another justificatif de domicile as if the fact that the town hall had already reviewed, validated and accepted all these documents wasn't enough. Ok, done again, more trees in agony. We must be finished now. But no, of course not. You need a justificatif de domicile for absolutely EVERYTHING in France. They want their paperwork and the justificatif de domicile is by far their favorite. I will never be able to escape this pile of documents. You must have a justificatif de domicile to open a bank account in France, to move your bank account from one branch of your bank to another, to register with social security, to change your address with social security, for a drivers license, for work, for any sort of membership, for school, in order to be a witness at someone's wedding, to look for a new apartment, to change your ID card address once you have moved, to renew your residency card, etc etc etc. You truly need it for everything.
However, I thought I was going to at least have a short break from the justificatif de domicile until we moved and I had to change my address on my residency card. And then I decided to order a cell phone and plan online. I was very excited to finally be able to afford to sign up for a plan (complete with 2-year contract) and to get a new phone and to be able to afford phone calls. I ordered online because it was faster than going to a store and they had an online deal for one month free. Sounds great. I place my order last night and thought all was well. They even promised that my phone would be delivered on Sept. 17. Excellent. I'll have my new toy soon. And then today I opened my email account and immediately got a sinking feeling in my stomach upon seeing an email from Bouygues Telecom asking for my pieces justificatives. Oh great. And of course, included in the ridiculous list was the justificatif de domicile. Because even to order something online I have to prove my address and either mail for fax my documents.
My question is, why? Other than the fact that they are in love with the pretty pieces of paper that make them feel important and powerful..why? Why do I need to prove my address in order to receive my cell phone? Why would I go online, order and pay for a phone and service and then give you a fake address so that I would never actually receive the phone I just bought? No, I just felt like spending the money for the hell of it and sending some unknown stranger a nice little gift of a shiny new phone. This goes for the bank as well...why would I lie about my address? So you can send my debit card, debit card codes and info as well as all my bank statements and online access codes to an address where I don't even life? So that strangers can easily access my account and steal my money? And not to mention that I don't even understand why they care or how it is their problem. As long as they are getting money for their services, then I don't see how it matters what address I give. Why do they need to verify that I live there, and with whom, and since when, and how much we pay on electricity/gas/phone, etc in order for me to buy a phone online or open my bank account? As if it wasn't enough that I gave my name, address, phone number, email address, date of birth, place of birth, debit card info, bank account info, residency card number and god only knows what else. Now you need hard copies as well...for an ONLINE order. What is the point of ordering something online if you still have to send in copies???
But the even more annoying aspect of this is that they all require copies of my residency card as well. My residency card which has my name, address, and all other important information already on it. And my address has already been checked and verified through a long and torturous process of numerous other justificatifs de domicile. Those weren't enough? You can't just verify the address by seeing it on my ID and knowing that hundreds of little bureaucratic French drones had already checked it? But then they wouldn't have that pile of papers...
And the most annoying part is that now my phone will never arrive on Sept. 17 because they have to receive my papers before they can finish processing my order....and I have to send those papers by mail. Damn the justificatif de domicile!
Wow, sorry, that was extremely long. I just had so much to say about my best friend, the justificatif de domicile!

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Quelle semaine and it's only Wednesday...

It has been one crazy week for me. I finally started working a normal amount of hours at my teaching job which has been keeping me quite busy with lessons, lesson planning, and metro time as I run around Paris and Ile-de-France all day. But I am happy to be working. I finally feel like a normal person again. It feels great to have a job, be motivated, have things to do, have responsibilities, and not to mention to have some money to spend (even if it's not a lot). Nonetheless, settling into my new routine has been rough and has made for quite the hectic week of falling asleep late, waking up early, and working non stop. Plus, I have been extremely busy planning our second wedding, the US version. It is really starting to stress me out. There is so much to do and so little time to get it done before Dec. 19. Not to mention the fact that I am not in the US and won't be there until two days before the wedding! Wedding planning is a lot of work, but I am trying to take it one step at a time and not overwhelm myself too much.

As if my week wasn't already crazy enough with work, the wedding, and various other little tasks and errands, I woke up yesterday morning to an unpleasant surprise. In typical French fashion, they had come and cut off the water in my building with no warning on a Tuesday morning. So I woke up looking forward to washing my hair (it had been a few days), taking a shower and having some coffee before leaving for my first class. And to my surprise, when I went in the bathroom and tried to turn the water on, nothing came out! Needless to say, this left me in quite an unpleasant mood for the duration of the day. Not only was I not able to wash myself or have coffee, but I was going to my first lesson at Ferragamo, in one of the most chic parts of Paris where everyone is dressed in designer clothing and has tons of money. I had been hoping to make a decent first impression (by presenting myself well despite the fact that I don't have designer clothing), but with no shower I unfortunately failed. I'm sure I didn't look too hot, my hair was greasy, and I just felt disgusting. What a horrible way to start the day! At least we had enough water in a water bottle to be able to brush our teeth! But the real question here is why would the shut the water off in an entire building with no warning in the middle of the week, in the morning, when people need to get ready and go to work? These stupid Frenchies!!! I feel like this would never happen in the US. They would give you ample warning and make every effort to let everyone know if they had to cut the water for a day...sending letters, making phone calls, etc. And they likely wouldn't cut it during the week, in the morning. It would most likely be at night or on a weekend when less people work. Not to mention that they could have done this a few weeks ago when everyone in Paris was gone on vacation! We found out the water was off so they could do some work, and luckily when I got home it was back on, but still...what an inconvenient and horrible way to start the day!

And my week started off poorly as well. I began a class with a new group of students at 8:30 Monday morning. Normally this is fine, just part of the job. However, in this particular group there is a woman who is, well, to put it nicely, a bitch. She was absolutely horrible and made my Monday morning miserable. I thought the hour and a half would never end and I dread having to see here every Monday morning for the next 10 weeks. What a terrible way to start my weeks! She spent the majority of the time critiquing me and what we were doing. She didn't seem to think I was competent enough to teach the English language (which I'm not sure of either, but since all of my other students have had nothing but wonderful things to say about me to my boss, my confidence has been improving). She questioned everything I said and thought it was necessary to tell me exactly how this course should be run, what we should learn and how she wanted everything to be, without even consulting the other two women in her group. When we went over their entrance exams she wanted an in-depth grammatical explanation for every question she got wrong, as if in an hour and a half I would have time to basically teach her the grammar of the English language. And she was mad that she was placed at the "intermediate" level, but considering some of the questions she got wrong on the exam, it didn't surprise me. Then, midway through test corrections she wanted to know why we were even doing this and she felt it necessary to tell me that she hoped that we wouldn't be doing grammar in class because she can learn that on her own and she wants to work on her presentation skills in class. I had to politely explain to her that no, we would not be doing grammar every class, but when necessary, we would do it. Otherwise she could feel free to study it on her own with the book she will be receiving (as if she is EVER going to do that!). I also had to explain to her that we were doing test corrections because that is what my language school told me to do on the first day. And because of her constant complaints, we didn't even have time for the more useful part of the day on basic business vocabulary and presenting a company. Her loss...maybe next time she will shut her mouth! And I was amazed because the other two students just sat their shocked, with their jaws almost to the floor while the crazy woman just went off about anything and everything. Oh what a week! At least tomorrow I get to relax a little at a bar with my meetup group for foreigners married to Frenchies!

Friday, September 4, 2009

Ma vie en France up until now

Ok, to recap my past 11 months living here in France…

October: Moved back to the land of the frogs after a summer in Ohio. Spent the month being tortured by French bureaucracy.

November: Finally reached the end of three months of France’s idea of torture: expensive bureaucratic paperwork hell. Note that this was only round 1 (paperwork for visa and marriage) of my paperwork battle with France. After barely surviving round 1, I got married on November 22. Had a very small wedding at the town hall of the KB. Celebrated Thanksgiving with the Frenchies.

December: Honeymoon in Prague. Began round 2 of the paperwork battle (carte de séjour); discovered it would be postponed for nearly THREE months. Christmas markets, hot wine, yummy treats. Spent Christmas chez moi in the KB with the hubby and the in-laws. Was super sick and barely able to move on Christmas day. Proceeded to get everyone else ill. Spent New Years with friends and passed out early.

January: Wasted away in my apartment with no money and no job. Michelle and Lindsay visited. Left for a trip to Eastern Europe. Visited Hungary, Romania, Austria and Slovakia.

February: Returned from Eastern Europe. Continued round 2 of the paperwork battle - went to the sous-préfecture, suffered hours of waiting in line and applied for the carte de séjour (finally). Received my récépisse. Began the torture of looking for a job. The in-laws visited.

March: Turned 26. Continued looking for a job. Suffered the worst interview ever with the crazy American bitch. Wasted away in my apartment in front of my computer writing cover letters and sending out resumes.

April: My parents visited. Went to the south so they could meet my in-laws. Spent 4 days at their house in La Teste. Continued looking for a job. Suffered a series of unsuccessful interviews. Began round 3 of the paperwork battle: la sécu (social security)

May: Continued looking for a job. Continued wasting away at my apartment. More unsuccessful interviews. The sister-in-law visited from Thailand. Went to the sous-préfecture. Suffered hours of lines and received a new récépisse. Dreamt of moving. Dreamt of a trip to the States. Dreamt of having a job. Finally found a job (humiliating under-the-table misery). Worked two days and was fired because I had to go to a wedding. Went to the wedding in Bretagne. Drank FAR too much. Contemplated bleak, career-less future.

June: Continued looking for a job. FINALLY had my medical visit for my carte de séjour. Said goodbye to MB for the summer. Received my postcard informing me that my carte de séjour was ready and would cost me 300 euros (a very expensive end to round 2 of the paperwork battle). FINALLY found a job teaching business English. Had hope of eventually moving. Started working at the end of the month. Wasted away bored at home until the end of the month. My aunt and uncle visited. Did the tourists sites in Paris with them.

July: Worked. Finally. Had a little money so hung out with friends. Saw some movies. Actually got out of the apartment. Went to the sous-préfecture and suffered hours of lines. Payed 300 euros (ridiculously expensive considering all the misery they put you through!!!) and got my carte de séjour. Began round 4 of the paperwork battle: the driver’s license exchange. Started planning wedding number 2 American style.

August: Left on vacation. Went to La Teste and stayed with the in-laws for two weeks. Enjoyed the beach, canoeing, biking through the forest, the lake, the boat, the port, the festivals, the food, the wine. Saw some good movies. Visited St. Emilion. Visited Lionel’s grandfather. Met Lionel’s aunt and uncle. Reluctantly returned from vacation and started back at work. Continued planning wedding number two. Set a date for the wedding – Dec. 19 in Ohio! Possibility of moving becoming more and more likely, perhaps before the end of 2009!

And there you have it. The extremely exciting past 11 months of my life in France: boredom, misery, very little money and very little hope. But things are finally looking up and it can only get better from here! I have steady employment, a great Frenchie in my life, hope for the future and things to look forward to!

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

The simple act of going to the coiffeur...

I had originally intended to write a bit about my life in France since I moved back to get married in October, to cover the ups and downs of the past 11 months. However, after my trip to the hairdresser today, the recap will have to wait until next time.

After contemplating a haircut for some weeks, I finally got motivated to go last week. Since it was my first trip to the coiffeur in France, I decided to research the topic in advance...polling my French friends about the necessary vocabulary to get the cut I wanted, and the appropriate protocol (with or without appointment, places to go, tipping). Finally feeling prepared, last Thursday I decided to go to a salon at la Defense after my morning class. I walked up to the counter feeling confident and looking forward to walking out with lighter, healthier hair. But as usual, things could never be that simple in France and I ended up walking out 2 minutes later with the same old long, unhappy, unhealthy hair. What I thought was a reasonable price for a wash, cut and dry was in fact the cost for short hair and as my hair was long (having not been cut for a year), it was going to cost me 10 euros more than expected to be able to walk out with washed and cut, but not dried hair. I don't even want to mention the price should I have decided to have my haired dried as well...

So, feeling dejected, I resigned myself to the inevitability that I would have to wait until my trip to Ohio in December to get my hair cut. I could not agree to pay those prices and could not tolerate the thought of paying more just because my hair was longer. I also could not imagine getting my haircut in one of the scary little mom-and-pop "salons" (and I use the word VERY loosely) generally equipped with poor equipment and questionable hairdressers, with not a client in sight. Alas, today I was standing in the elevator in one of the businesses where I teach and I noticed the elevator had a mirror. I thought this would be the perfect opportunity to check my hair and make-up after my dash through the metro. However, what I saw was painful: a long, scraggly, unkempt mess atop my head, obviously way past the need for a cut. I realized the haircut was unavoidable; there was no way I could continue like this until December. And so I resolved to make another attempt after my classes today. As I still could not imagine paying an obscene amount of money, I decided to risk it in one of the little "salons" in the KB. The female version of the one Lionel uses (at least they have the same name followed by either "homme" or "femme" respectively, therefore I imagine they are run by the same people). His hair had not yet been mutilated, so I thought it would be safe.

I set off with resolve after finishing my last lesson, excited to take care of my unruly mop. And then I walked in...I was greeted by stares from the 4 clients (4 clients!) and 2 hairdressers. I stood awkwardly in the middle of the room waiting to be addressed to confirm that it would indeed be possible for them to fit me in without an appointment. Finally after nearly 5 minutes of discomfort, rude glares and being ignored, one of the women asked me if they could help. I stated I was there for a haircut and they told me to sit down. No questions, no quote for the length of the wait, nothing. I started to read, but was quickly distracted by the interesting parade of people coming in and out of the "salon," all of whom seemed to be friends of the hairdressers and there just to say bonjour, or to chat, or to tweeze their eyebrows or fix their hair using the "salon" as their own personal beauty parlor. Odd, I thought, but I was there and I was not leaving without a cut. I gave up reading and began to study the room. Nothing like any salon I had ever seen in the US. Desk chairs instead of the fun pump chairs normally found in a hair salon. Almost no hair products at all - a bottle of shampoo, a can of hair spray and a bottle of some sort of gel. Almost no hair care tools - a blow dryer, a few round brushes, a pair of scissors and a few combs. I started to worry. And then my turn came. While my hair was being washed (but not conditioned) I overheard the conversation the hairdressers were having with their friends. Complementing each other on their mastery of the Arab language, speaking sometimes in French, sometimes in Arabic, laughing a lot and looking at me oddly. I started feeling very uncomfortable because at this point I was the only real client in the place. But it was started and I couldn't go back.

They finally asked what I wanted to have done and I pulled out all that hair vocabulary I had so diligently researched and tried to explain what I wanted. Then they heard my accent...the conversation went a little like this (in French of course)...

Hairdresser: Oh, you're not parisian are you?
Me: Oh, no. *giggle*
HD: Where are you from?
Me: I'm American.
HD: OH! WOW! An American!!!! How did you hear about us?
Me: I live around the corner and my husband gets his haircut next door.
HD: Wow, I can't believe it's an American! You know, I'm going to America in September!
Me: Oh really. Where?
HD: Miami and New York, to go shopping.
Me: Oh, that sounds nice.
HD: (turning to her friends, colleague and the client who just walked in) Hey girls, you're never going to believe this! She's American! She's an AMERICAN!!!
Me: *fake smile while nodding head and cringing*
Everyone: American?!?!

The rest of the visit consisted of me feeling uncomfortable, them cutting my hair shorter than I wanted, with shorter layers than I wanted while they kept talking in Arabic and then saying in French, oh, let's ask the American! And they would never ask me anything. The hair dresser then made an attempt at drying and styling my hair with just a blow dryer and a round brush, something which has not worked since I was in high school. However, I must give her credit...she did a better job than I ever would have thought, but it took her half an hour to complete the drying job. All the while she kept commenting to herself that I had soooo much hair, and she had really screwed herself by trying to style my hair like this and how much different sections of my hair were annoying her because they wouldn't do what she wanted despite numerous tries. I already knew that! Should have just asked me! Why do you think I use a straightner set to 450's the only thing that works! However, I am happy. My hair is cut, and once I take a straightner to it, I'm sure it will look fine. It may be a little shorter than I wanted, but that just means I can wait a little longer before attempting my next foray into les coiffeurs. And on the bright side, I am now the star of the KB, France...that American girl!

And how much did this set me back you might ask? Still a whopping 25 euros because of my long hair...

Welcome to my blog

After months of following other ex-pat blogs while sitting in the comforts of my studio apartment in the KB, France, I have finally decided to start my own blog. Those months of reading the blogs of other English speakers living in France gave me hope and helped me get through the torture of French bureaucracy, the misery of having no job, and all the ups and downs of being a newly-wed American in France. Now I'm here to give my own personal perspective on life in France - living in franglais, fighting the French system, surviving among the Frenchies, starting a career (or at least trying to find one to start) and all the other adventures in between. Enjoy!