Monday, August 26, 2013

Ma semaine in highlights

This past week has been pretty crazy, filled both with mostly good news and plenty of things to keep me busy!  So here are just a few updates:

- I FINALLY received my numéro SIRET in the mail along with my Certificat d’immatriculation au Répertoire des Métiers which means my company is officially set up and I am now an auto-entrepreneur!  After all these months and numerous problems I am so thrilled to have this step finally completed.

- Since my company is now official I also signed up to be able to declare my revenue and pay taxes online.  I filled out the online inscription form and sent in the signed paperwork last week so hopefully this too will be ready to go soon!

- I went into La Poste to look into setting up a boîte postale professionnelle for work purposes.  I was shocked to find that the woman who manages post office boxes in my local post office is extremely pleasant and very helpful.  Generally speaking La Poste is my biggest enemy in France, so I was surprised to walk out of there after a very efficient and painless visit.  I have to go back in this week to sign the contract and everything should be good.

- I finally found someone willing to take my fingerprints so I can send them into the FBI to get my casier judiciare for my naturalization file!  After trying the Préfecture and nearly every commissariat de police in the Bordeaux area I was desperate and on Friday I sent Lionel back into our local police station.  Apparently he looked so desperate that the woman at the front desk took pity on him and explained that normally they can’t do that but she went back into the offices and asked all her colleagues.  One person agreed to do it for us but didn’t have time on Friday.  He gave us her phone number and Lionel called to set up an appointment, so we are supposed to go in Wednesday morning at 8:30 so I can be fingerprinted!

- The kitchen.  This past weekend we once again broached the topic of the kitchen with my in-laws, and for the first time we had a very constructive conversation with absolutely no fighting.  I was shocked.  We expressed our very strong desire to really get focused on the kitchen and to make a plan and get organized so we could get it done as soon as possible.  As we were discussing the steps necessary to complete the kitchen we came to the very horrible realization that, in order to replace the floor, we also have to finish all work in the entryway because the same floor will go throughout and it would be easier to do it all at once.  We can’t install a new kitchen without replacing the floor first and we don’t want to have to sand any more plaster or paint in the areas with the new floor for fear of destroying it.  So, I took charge and laid out what I think is a very reasonable plan for accomplishing all of the work that has to be done and getting the kitchen installed by September 8, so in two weeks. I chose this date because my in-laws leave on an 8-day vacation on the 10th and I really don’t want to have to wait until they get back.  I also don’t want to be in the middle of the work, with what little we have of a kitchen (sink and cooker) torn out and unusable for weeks while they are in Spain and Portugal.  So, while they didn’t make any guarantees, they at least promised that we would all try our hardest to get all the work done in that time.  Basically, if we can get the new floor installed next weekend then there shouldn’t be any problems getting the kitchen installed by the 8th.  But, in order to get the floor installed we have to finish filling holes in the entryway, sand the walls, clean up the plaster dust mess, paint all of the baseboards, paint the doorframes (and there are 5 doors off the entryway), choose paint colors for the entry and paint the walls/ceiling, paint the heater pipes, put the rest of the baseboards back up in the kitchen, paint the kitchen baseboards, do one last coat of paint in the kitchen, fix the weird chimney thingy in the kitchen, remove everything from the kitchen, tear up the old floor, choose a new floor and buy it, and install the new floor.  If that all gets completed by the time my in-laws leave at the end of next weekend then we can buy all the kitchen cabinets, the stove and the oven, the counter tops and all necessary accessories and I can spend every evening next week building cabinets so that we can install the kitchen the following weekend before my in-laws go on vacation.  
Gasp!  It makes me exhausted just thinking about it, but I am very, very motivated to get this done and I have every intention of working from the moment I get off work till I go to bed every night and all day over the weekends in order to make this happen.  And I basically threatened Lionel’s life if he doesn’t work all day every day for the next two weeks to get this done.  I’ve laid out my plan of attack for my in-laws and we are going to all try our hardest.  Basically, I’ve turned into a slave-driver, but there is a slight hope that I might have a kitchen in two weeks!!!!!  At the same time we also have to take care of getting our carte grise for our car, go in for my fingerprinting, I have to deal with my boîte postale, I need to declare my revenue so Lionel can hopefully go to the CAF and we have to deal with a little problem Rasteau has created for use (see below).

- And on the bad news front from this week, Rasteau officially has fleas.  I’ve been afraid of this and then a few weeks ago we noticed he was starting to scratch himself an awful lot.  So we went to Animalis and picked up a flea treatment and applied it as soon as we got home that day.  After about 3 weeks we noticed it hadn’t made a difference at all so last week we applied another pipette.  Still nothing.  I guess that is what you get for buying a product “made in France”…  Anyway, since it didn’t seem to be working we decided to get serious and buy some hopefully more powerful and effective products, though we have to wait until the end of the week to be able to try them out on him. In the mean time, we’ve started to find fleas in other locations in the house, meaning we are infested. Fabulous.  So now, once we treat Rasteau later this week we then also have to wash all the linens and fabrics in the house and treat and spray the entire house.  Thanks Rasteau, just what we needed!  We have now taken to lovingly call him “sac à puces.

Well, that pretty much sums up my week.  Time to get some renovations done!

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

The two sides of Rasteau

I find that our precious little Kitty has two very distinct sides. On the one hand he is an adorable little ball of fur who rubs against our legs, wakes us up in the morning with cuddles and purring, always wants to play (especially cache-cache with Lionel) and loves to be brushed constantly.

cute and cuddly Rasteau resting on a blanket in the closet
Rasteau being adorable between naps
On the other hand he is evil and sadistic, killing and torturing every mouse and lizard that comes his way like some sort of demented little serial killer. The other morning, instead of being woken up by the sweet and loving Rasteau, we were unexpectedly awoken by his malevolent evil twin.  Rasteau came running into our bedroom, meowing until we woke up, and then dropped his surprise right next to the bed...a mouse he had just killed.  One of the many, many mice that he has killed since we arrived in France.  He is a murderer and he's not ashamed!  But perhaps I'm just reading too much into this and he actually just wanted to bring us breakfast in bed.  And then, seeing that we weren't jumping at the chance to enjoy the meal, he didn't want to let it go to waste, so he proceeded to scarf the mouse down right in front of us while we were still trying to wake up.  Not exactly the best way to start the morning!

Rasteau and the mouse he brought us in bed
Then, not even an hour after the mouse incident, the wicked little furball comes running into the kitchen with a baby lizard in his mouth.  It was still alive and he dropped it on the floor. It was clear from the glint in his eyes that he wanted to continue his vicious games and torture the poor thing until it was nearly dead, finishing it off by crunching on it's still twitching body, as he has done with countless other unfortunate lizards since we got here.  Luckily Lionel and I caught the little villain in the act and I grabbed the cat while Lionel rescued the terrified little lizard and set him free.  Though chances are the evil Rasteau will get him again another day!
Poor baby lizard trying to climb the door frame and get away from my nefarious kitty 
I must admit, while I adore the loving and sweet Rasteau, his evil, murderous side sure do make things interesting around here!  I just wish he enjoyed killing spiders and insects as much as he likes to kill mice and lizards!

Thursday, August 15, 2013

What's new chez moi

Just some random updates and little tidbits on things that are going on around here:
- We bought a car Tuesday!  A 2009 Renault Twingo.  She’s everything we wanted in our new car and more:  not too old, low gas mileage, a small citadine but feels relatively spacious on the inside, a decent sized trunk, great gas consumption, keyless entry, power windows, AC, a CD player with an auxiliary hookup for my MP3 player (our old car was cassette…how annoying!), room for four. Overall we can’t complain and we even managed to stay right on budget!

Lionel and our new wheels
- Last Monday (is it too late to mention this on my blog, with everything that’s been going on around here I just haven’t had the time) I had the opportunity to meet up with this wonderful blogger.  She just moved back to Bordeaux after spending the first half of the year in Denmark.  We met downtown and she showed me around a bit and then we grabbed dinner and drinks.  Good times were had and all in all it was a successful meet up which we hope to repeat when she gets back from some travels!

- I got a letter in the mail yesterday from the CFE de la CMA regarding my micro-entreprise.  My company is officially registered with the Répertoire des Métiers though I still don’t have my numéro SIRET.  Apparently that comes from another organization and I fear I could still be waiting awhile.  But at least things seem to be advancing finally!

- The word “kitchen” was spoken this weekend in reference to our renovations.  While there is still no actual date for purchasing/installing said kitchen, at least it hasn’t been forgotten.  My mother-in-law even acknowledged the fact that she realizes it has certainly been hard for us to live without a real kitchen for so long.  So maybe, just maybe, there is hope that I will have a kitchen by the end of September (fingers crossed).

- We went to Ikea last week and got a bookcase so I was finally able to organize and put away all of our important documents and files.  In addition we picked up some decorative items (cushions and the like) so at least our living room is starting to feel a tiny bit more like a home rather than a chaotic mess.  We also found an armoire for Lionel on leboncoin last week and cleaned out the entryway closet so we could hang our coats/scarves etc.  All of this means that we only have one suitcase and a few boxes that still haven’t been unpacked!  Three months after moving we are finally almost unpacked and all that is left is bathroom and kitchen stuff.

- I am still working on my naturalization file.  I should have my birth certificate and apostille as well as my parents’ birth certificates and apostilles before the end of the month.  Most of the other documents I need are French papers that should be pretty easy to get.  My only current hang up is my casier judiciare from the FBI.  I really regret not having looked into the naturalization thing before leaving the US because then I could have just stopped by my local police station and gotten my blank criminal record.  But I didn’t even think of it amid all the other stress and craziness and now I am paying the price.  I still haven’t found anywhere in the Bordeaux area to get my fingerprints taken to send to the FBI.  I really wish the US Embassy provided this service so that I could just go into the American Presence Post in Bordeaux and have it done.  I’m half tempted to take them myself, but I fear they will just be rejected.  My casier judiciare is really the only document causing me any issues and all because of this whole fingerprinting thing.  Every time we speak to a commissariat de police in the Bordeaux area they get really confused and then try to find a way to get rid of us.  Lionel called the préfecture de police in Bordeaux and the guy he spoke to took our number and said he would call us right back.  When he called back he claimed to have called his colleagues who process naturalization requests and that they assured him that I didn’t even need my casier judiciare. Supposedly they said I could submit my file without it and then France would take care of contacting the US regarding my criminal record.  I find that extremely hard to believe since normally it costs $18 to get your record from the FBI and I really don’t feel comfortable with the idea of going in with an incomplete file.  Why would they ask for it if they don’t expect you to show up with it?  I'm sure it's all lies and the guy just didn't want to deal with us.  Lionel, however, completely believes this nonsense and thinks we don’t even need to worry about it.  Such a foolish, foolish French man!  So if anyone has any suggestions on where I can get fingerprinted I would greatly appreciate it!

I think that is about it around here for the moment.  We have a busy weekend coming up and not much will get done on the renovations front.  Saturday afternoon we have some friends and their children coming over for a barbeque so Friday night I will be busy with preparations and then on Sunday we are going to Lionel’s cousin’s house for a birthday celebration for my father-in-law.  It should be a good weekend but at the same time I feel guilty because it will be another weekend where not much work will get done on the house…

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Long weekend in the Alps

After a very stressful week and literally losing it on Thursday (as evidenced by my last blog post) I was very much looking forward to a 5-day weekend in the Alps. We planned to stay with friends at their family house in Valbonnais and spend a long, relaxing weekend enjoying the fresh mountain air, hiking, relaxing at the lake and enjoying the company of good friends.

And as if that wasn't enough to make for a great weekend, I also had plans to FINALLY meet up with Crystal of Crystal Goes to Europe fame.  We have been following one another's blogs for years and since I was going to be staying near where she lives we quickly made plans to meet up and she kindly invited me to come visit her in her small town, meet her bébés and see her recently renovated apartment.  We seem to have a lot in common and I've been wanting to meet her face to face for years.  As much as I like Lionel's friends, for me, meeting up with Crystal was going to be the highlight of the trip. 

All in all, it was going to be a perfect weekend away from the stress of our renovations, the CFE, work and various other stresses.

So, for those of you who have not already read Crystal's blog post on the subject, I present you with my fabulous weekend away in pictures:

Lionel hanging out in our Citroen AX at a rest area in Dordogne about 2 hours into our drive.  This is where our car broke down.  We got to spend a good 3 hours visiting this little rest area, next to a toll booth, waiting for Lionel's parents to arrive with his cousin, the mechanic.  And as if I'm not lucky enough, it was one of those fabulous French rest areas that don't even have real toilets, just holes in the ground for women to squat over (hope you enjoy that mental image).  I was so happy to pay for a full tank of gas and 17 euros in tolls to visit this gem of a tourist site in the middle of nowhere France.
Our precious, little, nearly 20-year-old AX being towed to the nearest garage after Lionel's family showed up and confirmed our suspicions that the transmission was completely shot.  Now, I don't know much about cars, but when it would no longer allow us to even shift gears and kept making a horrible, squeaky groan and then stalling out right when we tried to put it into first, I knew all hope of a wonderful weekend in the Alps was lost.
So, needless to say, we never made it to the Alps.  In fact, we didn't even make it close.  I must say, this was not exactly the relaxing, refreshing and fun weekend away that I had planned.  Once the car was towed and we made arrangements with the garage we headed off with Lionel's family to his aunt and uncle's house in Dordogne for dinner.  Luckily for us, his parent's had been at his aunt and uncle's house visiting when our car broke down, so they were already in Dordogne and it wasn't too far for them to come and pick us up.  The only other bright side to this rather unfortunate weekend was I got to meet Lionel's cousins who live in Strasbourg for the first time, and they had been disappointed when they found out we were going to be out of town this past weekend.
But really, I knew this would happen.  About a month and a half ago, just a couple of days after I wrote this post mentioning how our little car was still going strong, she started making some really strange noises on a trip to IKEA with my mother-in-law.  When we got back and popped the hood we made the unfortunate discovery that two of the screws holding the motor in place had rusted through and snapped in half causing the motor to drop and hang diagonally in the car.  Lionel's dad managed to fix it, but I kept telling Lionel we should just bite the bullet and start looking for a new car, especially as we knew we intended to drive to the Alps at some point in August.  Lionel, being a man, didn't listen to my logic and wanted to wait so we could put off spending the money on a new car for as long as possible.  And so, as a result, our much-anticipated trip to the Alps was ruined.  I really should have just bought a car without him.
So, to sum it all up, instead of spending a delightful weekend in the mountains, we spent the weekend at home, with my in-laws, renovations happening all around us, scouring the internet for a decent used car.  And instead of having Monday and Tuesday off, I am now working because I couldn't justify losing money to sit around at home when we now have to buy a car.  The pressure is on to find a car ASAP because once my in-laws leave not only will we have no way to get to the store but we also won't have any way to go look at cars until they come back the next time.  I have to admit, I'm already sick and tired of researching cars and looking for good deals on used cars online!  My head is swimming with makes and models, prices and mileage, features, options and technical details!  And the stress of car shopping added to all the other stresses in our lives is causing me to lose precious sleep.
Anyway, we are hoping to have a new car in the next day or two and then we are going to try to reschedule our trip to the Alps for September, though we won't be able to go to Valbonnais and will have to content ourselves with staying with our friends in Grenoble instead.  Even though that might make for a less relaxing weekend than being far from the city, at least it shouldn't prevent me from meeting up with Crystal.  I certainly hope everyone else had a better weekend than I did!

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Someone please tell me this is all one big blague

I think I’m about to flip a lid.  I’m currently sitting in front of my computer literally shaking from uncontrollable anger and I don’t know how to calm myself down.  I generally don’t have anger issues, but right now I am so incredibly frustrated and pissed off that the need to scream at someone and perhaps punch them in the face is overwhelming.

So what could possibly be causing these feelings of rage?  The chaotic renovations?  My arch-nemesis La Poste?  Immigration woes?  No, none of those, though it does, naturally, have to do with French administration (no surprise there).  But let me first preface this post by mentioning the fact that the contents will not be suitable for children or for those who are easily offended by inappropriate language.

Last night I was sitting in front of my computer thinking that I really needed to post about something…but what?  Nothing came to mind.  The renovations are pretty much at a standstill, my administrative woes seemed for the most part under control and other than a blogger meet-up on Monday and another potential meet-up this weekend, nothing exciting has happened this week.  So naturally, French administration decided to kindly provide me with fodder for another angry blog post.

Two days ago I got an email from the CFE informing me that my auto-entrepreneur file had FINALLY been processed and I would be receiving my récépissé de déclaration in the mail, which I took to mean I would be receiving my numéro SIRET and confirmation that I was finally an auto-entrepreneur and chef d’entreprise.  This morning I went out to check the mail and saw I had a letter from the CFE.  “This is it!” I thought and hurriedly ripped it open, excited that this saga was finally over.  Well…famous last words.

Here I am, with this damn letter in my hands, and quite literally the only thing I can think is “Vous vous foutez de ma gueule?!?”  It has to be some sort of fucking joke.  Or it’s because it’s summer and they just want to be on vacation so they are dragging the entire process out so no one actually has to do any real work (I probably hit the nail on the head with that one!).  Now please, keep in mind that I sent off this SECOND (or third depending on how you look at it really) déclaration d’activités on July 5 to the CFE de la Chambre de Métiers et de l’Artisanat, so over a month ago, after the entire fiasco of my first déclaration d’activités with the incompetent morons who work at l’URSSAF (which I posted about here and here).

So, what exactly does this letter say?  Well, I think you’ve guessed by now that it is not informing me of my numéro SIRET and of the creation of my micro-entreprise.  No, no.  That would be too easy.  It is informing me that my dossier is incomplete!  Really, REALLY!?!?!  I am just utterly shocked.  I would say speechless, but clearly this post proves that is not the case.  I’ve got plenty to say about the entire process…none of it nice.  It took the CFE a MONTH to “process” my file (which clearly must just mean to look at it for the first time) and to tell me that my file is incomplete.  Even the idiots at URSSAF were able to contact me within two weeks to let me know there was a problem, and the CFE de la Chambre de commerce et d’industrie managed to contact me within a couple of days.  What the hell am I doing wrong!?!  Why is this so ridiculously complicated!?!  I’ve been working on trying to get my company set up for THREE MONTHS now!!!

Well, I bet you are all just dying to know what exactly is missing from my file, because clearly it would seem that if my file is incomplete, some of the blame must be placed at my feet for failing to provide all the necessary documents.  Well, the fucking list of documents I need to send them in order to “complete” my file is what really has me scratching my head and thinking this must be some sort of fucking joke.

  1. Copie de quittance de loyer, électricité, gaz ou téléphone
  2. Copie de carte de séjour ou de résident OR copie de la carte nationale d’identité
  3. Intercalaire spécifique aux activités artisanales ISAA
  4. Déclaration sur l’honneur de non condamnation pénale
Ok, so what I fail to understand is first of all, I already sent them a copy of my passport and a copy of my visa valid for one year and stating that I have the right to work (which now serves as the carte de séjour for the first year since they changed the process a few years back).  Also, if they needed a damn justificatif de domicile, why the hell didn’t they ask for one in the first place!?!  I could have easily sent that in online along with my form and justificatifs d’identité but they NEVER FUCKING ASKED FOR ONE!!!  Also, why the hell have I been checking the status of my file for AN ENTIRE FUCKING MONTH on their website only to see that the status (which never changed for an entire month until two days ago when it said “traité”) was that my file had been “accepted with all necessary justificatifs” if I apparently didn’t have all the necessary justificatifs?  Also, why are they asking me to fill out the “intercalaire spécifique aux activités artisanales” when I was redirected from URSSAF’s auto-entrepreneur site directly to the CFE de la CMA’s site to declare my activities specifically because their online form includes the damn intercalaire, meaning I was already forced to fill the damn thing out when I completed my déclaration online!  Why do they need another one!?!?!?!  Did they lose my file???  And of course this stupid intercalaire asks you to justify your qualifications to perform your activité artisanale, either through appropriate diplomas/certifications or experience.  I had just checked the box for professional experience online, but now I’m preparing myself for a damn battle over my qualifications as well…sure hope one of my many different diplomas and certificates will work for them (all that schooling has to be good for something!!!) or that they will just leave me alone about it!  Not to mention the fact that I don’t even understand why the hell my activity is artisanale in the first place!  If “services administratifs combinés de bureau” wasn’t mysteriously considered artisanale (and I really don’t think it should be) I wouldn’t even need this damn form.  And finally, the “déclaration sur l’honneur de non condamnation pénale.”  Ok, fine, but once again, why couldn’t I have been asked for this from the beginning if it was necessary?

So, once again, I feel like I am fucking right back where I fucking started and absolutely nothing has been fucking accomplished.  Once I send in these documents am I going to have to wait another fucking MONTH before I hear anything again!?!  When does it end!?!  Can’t they get their shit together and process these files a little bit faster!?!  At the rate this is going I’ll be lucky if I am finally declared an auto-entrepreneur by the end of the year!  I mean, honestly, is it really that fucking hard to ask for EVERYTHING you fucking need right from the fucking beginning instead of dragging the process out?  This is just getting absolutely ridiculous.  Can’t they get their shit together and process one small file with any sort of speed and efficiency!?  And is it really that fucking hard to pick up a fucking telephone and call someone to sort out the fucking problem!?!  Why do I even need to provide my fucking phone number if they aren’t ever fucking going to use it!!!

Ok...stop…breathe…breathe again…and again…I’m going to try to be a little more calm about the whole situation.  I feel a tiny bit better after all of that ranting and cursing (sorry if I offended anyone but it’s my blog and I’ll curse if I want/need to).  Tomorrow morning Lionel and I are going to go in person to the CFE de la CMA to try to get some answers and to try to understand why this is such a problem.  I’m bringing in my entire life in paper form…all my diplomas, certificates, ID, justificatif de domicile, passport, birth certificate, basically everything that I already had in a folder for my immigration meeting along with everything I’ve added since then as I work on preparing my naturalization file plus a few extra documents.  If that isn’t enough then I give up, I’ll just travailler au black!  At the very least, maybe I will feel a little better if I get to speak to an actual human, face to face, rather than sending off electronic files and receiving stupid letters.  Though, depending on how it goes, Lionel might have to do most of the talking because if I get too frustrated I won’t be able to keep my anger in check and we all know that won’t help my situation, it will only get my file buried at the bottom of a gigantic stack, never to be seen again.

So, has anyone else had this many problems trying to become an auto-entrepreneur?  Or am I just the lucky one?  Anyone have any tips on what I might be doing wrong?  Is there anything else I can do to make this go faster as I really, really need my numéro SIRET, and quite honestly I needed it like two months ago (we currently have no rights to health care since we were out of the country for so long, Lionel can’t get CAF at the moment because they need to know my status to complete his file and I am currently status-less, I need to set up a professional boîte postale with my enemy La Poste so I can actually do ALL of my job)?  Any help, advice or even just stories of having been in a similar situation (so I know it’s not just me) would be greatly appreciated!

And as if this wasn’t enough to make for a really shit day after the excitement from two days ago of thinking I was finally an auto-entrepreneur, I just got some really bad news (while finishing off this post) concerning a very good friend of mine in the US.  He was in a horrible car accident yesterday and they really didn’t think he was going to make it, but since he has miraculously managed to survive the night he has a chance to pull through.  My thoughts are with him and his family right now and I honestly don’t even feel like dealing with this administrative crap at this point.  Thankfully we leave on a short vacation to the Alps tomorrow which I think is desperately needed!