Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Headed West

Finally getting around to posting about our road trip through a small portion of the US (of course I have to do this using my cell phone as a wifi hotspot as we still don't have internet and don't seem to be getting any closer to having it).

Anyway, our road trip was incredible.  We had a fantastic time and saw more amazing things that I can possibly write about.  Honestly I don't even know where to start.  The weather was incredible and I think we got really lucky in that respect.  Sun every day, no rain, not too hot during the day, though a bit nippy some of the nights we spent camping in the desert.  The two nights we were camping at the Grand Canyon actually got down to below zero, which was not in the forecast, and being the extremely cheap people that we are, we didn't invest in any good camping gear for this trip, so we ended up spending those two nights sleeping in the car.  But other than that it was great, and it turns out the Ford Fiesta is actually quite comfortable to sleep in and I almost regret having spent the money on a cheap tent and air mattress for our three nights of camping in Utah.

Everywhere we went was incredible and I have a hard time picking favorites in general, but I guess if I had to have a preference it would either be for Canyonlands National Park or Petrified Forest National Park, though I highly recommend every place we went.  The only real downside was, when planning this trip, I don't know what we were thinking.  We went to a lot of places with high elevations and cliffs (Canyonlands and the Grand Canyon where you are essentially exploring giant holes in the ground, Mesa Verde which is primarily for visiting cliff dwellings, etc) and Lionel has an extreme case of acrophobia mixed with vertigo.  This of course meant that in the end he spent a few days freaking out, for example when we were supposed to do our 11 mile hike in Canyonlands and only got to do 6 miles of it because one section had you walk along a ledge, hugging a wall with a huge drop off right next to you and his fear of heights caused him to freak out and have a near panic attack.  As a result, he didn't really visit any of Mesa Verde and I had to go on all the visits of the cliff dwellings alone.  He only really got to see the parts on top of the mesa.  And the hike I had planned on the South Kaibab trail at the Grand Canyon, to go part of the way down the canyon, yeah, well I got to do that alone too because he couldn't even handle getting closer than 3 meters from the edge of the canyon, let alone going over the edge.

But other than that slight misstep in planning, we were amazed with everything we saw, we had a great time on the trip and we are definitely hoping to go back out west on one of our next trips to the US.  And now for the pictures:

Lionel and I hiking a small canyon in Arches National Park

exploring the Windows Arches in Arches National Park

view from a hike up a slick rock in Arches National Park

Delicate Arch

Lionel and I in Canyonlands National Park

view over Canyonlands National Park

hike out to Upheaval Dome in Canyonlands

more hiking in Canyonlands

visiting Canyonlands

the beginning of the fateful 11-mile hike in Canyonlands

hiking in Canyonlands

our first view of the Grand Canyon

the Grand Canyon

at the Grand Canyon, the closest picture I could get Lionel to take

Lionel staying far from the edge of the Grand Canyon

me and the Grand Canyon

hiking into the Grand Canyon alone

part of the South Kaibab Trail into the Grand Canyon

Mesa Verde National Park

The Spruce Tree House cliff dwelling in Mesa Verde

visiting a cliff dwelling

The Cliff Palace cliff dwelling in Mesa Verde

Monument Valley

Monument Valley

visiting Monument Valley, a picture of us taken by a nice French family we met there

me with some huge petrified logs in Petrified Forest National Park

Petrified Forest National Park and part of the Painted Desert

Petrified Forest National Park

The Blue Mesa, part of the Blue Badlands section of Petrified Forest National Park

the Painted Desert

where historic Route 66 used to cross Petrified Forest National Park, if you look
closely on the left side of the photo you can see the old electric poles that used to follow Route 66 

the Painted Desert

the cathedral in Santa Fe, New Mexico

Santa Fe

a shop in Santa Fe

meeting up with Karin of An Alien Parisienne and Do-Overs in Denver

following the route of the historic Route 66

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Les bonnes nouvelles du boulot

In usual French fashion, we still do not have internet at the house. But on the bright side I at least now have a cell phone with unlimited everything, including calls to the US! So thank you Freemobile for allowing me to stay connected to the outside world for only 15.99 euros a month and damn you Freebox for taking so long!

Finally having access to my smartphone again means that I can now blog a bit more regularly (if I find the time!) but at the same time I can't post any photos of our road trip yet because they are all on my computer and it would take years to post that many pics from my phone. So, since there seemed to be some interest I figured I'd post about the exciting work news I alluded to in my last post...

After our road trip I planned to continue working for another week and one day to help my company out and train my replacement. So I was planning to work Friday,  May 2 and then the full next week, practically killing myself by working up until the weekend before the move and essentially giving myself almost no time to pack, say goodbyes, etc. I was very anxious going back in that Friday and curious to see who my replacement was (I had helped them interview candidates). Lo and behold I find out Friday morning that they hadn't hired anyone to replace me, and that, in fact, while I was gone they had checked with a lawyer to investigate keeping me and having me work from France!

So there you have it, things are actually falling into place for me for once! I have a job already, I don't have to go through the hell of looking for work AGAIN, and I'm not teaching English! It's great and a very nice change from my usual lack of luck on the professional front!

The only downside is the additional stress this has put on the entire move. What was decided was that in order to keep me I have to work as a contractor for them and I will bill them for my hours, expenses, etc. Since I'm no longer an official employee of the company I no longer get any paid vacation or holidays or social benefits whatsoever, so I managed to negotiate myself a handsome raise to make up for it. Here in France I have to declare myself as an auto-entrepreneur and essentially create my own company. I then pay my own cotisations into la Sécu and everything based on how much I earn. The added stress in the moving process has been a result of the fact that they told me they wanted to keep me at the very last minute (less than 2 weeks before our departure!) and I had very little time to look into the process of becoming an auto-entrepreneur and setting up shop here in France. I had really been hoping to figure it all out before leaving and then get the paperwork done here this past week but it turns out I won't even have a meeting with someone here about the process until this Thursday!  Not to mention the fact that I'm supposed to start working Tuesday the 28th, from home, and I still don't have internet!  In fact, le mec de France Telecom isn't even coming out for the construction de notre ligne until Tuesday! And the rush to get a work phone, which still hasn't arrived, and office supplies and a good printer/scanner/copier which I thankfully do have now thanks to Fnac and their great promo on shipping at the moment, and all this while trying to do standard administrative tasks in France and trying to renovate an old house so we have more than just a bedroom, torn apart bathroom and pieced-together kitchen to live in!

So I will be spending the week at my in-laws, working from their house, while Lionel stays at our house and sands plaster, fixes walls and paints. Once we have internet (which I really hope will be soon but I fear could still be another couple of weeks), and a functional room in which to install myself, I will be setting up a home office and working from home, which should be interesting.  I just hope it all goes well because this is a great opportunity for me and I'm very lucky to have the chance to continue in my position! Not to mention how flattered I feel that it turns out they like and appreciate me that much! Talk about a huge boost to my self esteem as well as a good career opportunity!

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Check in

Thought I would write a quick post while I had the chance to let everyone know that I haven't forgotten about my blog and that Lionel, Rasteau and I have all safely arrived in France.  Lionel and I had an amazing time on our road trip and I'll post tons of pictures as soon as we manage to get internet.

Since our road trip things have been extremely busy what with dealing with the sale of both our cars, packing all our belongings for the move to France, dealing with various paperwork in the US (car insurance, cell phones, bank stuff, etc), visiting with friends and family in the US, shopping, two very long and stressful trips to France (more on that later), work and some very exciting work related news that I got the day I came back from the road trip, but which has added a lot of stress to the entire moving process.  Suffice it to say that we are exhausted and stressed right now, but happy to be in Bordeaux!

Since our arrival in France we've been very busy dealing with paperwork (I had forgotten just how much I hate the words "justificatif de domicile," and I now have a new enemy, the Certicode) and the house.  Let's just say I hadn't really realized just how much work there was going to be to do upon arrival.  We are living in a veritable chantier, and I feel like there is no end in sight!  We can't even really unpack or set anything up as the only really functional rooms in the house at the moment are two of the bedrooms, and unfortunately the one not being used is the one we are eventually going to use as our bedroom, not to mention all the shopping I need to do to get us comfortable.  Add to that the stress of my unexpected work news and I'm practically going crazy!

Anyway, we are fighting our way through the misery of French bureaucracy and I'm hoping (praying really) that we will have internet next Tuesday.  My fingers are also crossed that we will manage to have at least one cell phone by the end of this week.

Once things are more settled I will post not only a blog about our road trip but also some more details of our move and current situation as well as the house renovations.  Until then, I'm off to bed because I have a long day of painting and sanding plaster ahead of me tomorrow!