Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Lessons Learned

I’m learning that…

1. I took many, many things for granted in the United States.

2. I take great pride in where I come from.

3. Little things, like successfully sending a letter at the post office, are cause for celebration.

4. French pastries are not low fat treats. Dang it!

5. People don’t smile at strangers. 

6. It is so important to try to help others, even if they speak a different language than you!

7. Nothing is easy.

8. Everything is complicated.

9. Shopping for groceries happens every single day.

10. Personal space…well…there is none.

11. Even though the French have a reputation for being rude, most are willing to go above and beyond to help you.  And I need help A LOT.  MERCI BEAUCOUP!

12.  I LOVE when I am on the metro, bus, street, or in a restaurant and I hear others speaking English.  I'm not trying to be rude and eavesdrop, but it certainly is exciting to understand a conversation!

13.  I miss my family and friends more than I could have imagined possible...

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Parrotheads in Paris!

Dustin and I went to see Jimmy Buffett last night.  I was so so so excited to see him in Paris!  Before the concert, I met up with my friend Megan at Harry’s.  It was a really neat bar because over the years, people have hung pennants of their favorite college team all over the walls.  I was pretty pumped when I saw an IU pennant on the wall!

After Harry’s, we wandered around to find something to eat.  We ended up at a place called, “The American Dream.”  We felt like it was an appropriate place to eat before the concert.  Afterall, we needed to eat cheeseburgers!  The place was pretty cheesy (no pun intended), and the menu wasn’t exactly what we would consider to be American, but it was fun nonetheless. 

Finally, it was time to head to the concert!  It was fun to see so many parrotheads out and about in Paris.  I don’t think the French really knew what hit them!  Most of the people we came across were American or British.  I suppose there were a few French people in the crowd, but definitely not many.

The concert was literally the best Buffett show I have ever seen.  The venue only held a couple thousand people, so it had a very intimate feel.  He played for almost 3 hours.  It was neat because he spoke a lot of French during the concert.  The whole thing definitely had a different feel than seeing him in an outside venue like I had seen him before.  Overall, it was a great evening filled with friends and Jimmy!

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Officially a Resident of France

In order to get your residence card (carte de sejour) in France, there is a complicated maze of paperwork and visits to government offices that one must somehow navigate through.  Maybe it is like this for immigrants to the U.S. as well, but I will tell you that it is quite exhausting and pretty much impossible to figure out on your own. 

Fortunately, we have had the help of an immigration specialist.  Dustin's company hired her and she has pretty much saved the day on numerous occasions.  Today was the last step of the process for me (Dustin received his carte de sejour about a month ago).  I won't have to renew the card until July of next year.

Today's step in the process was to get a medical exam.  I had everything that our immigration specialist told me to take.  Paperwork/passport/recepisse (temporary resident permit)/proof of vaccination/and my glasses.  When I arrived, I joined a line of about 100 people who were apparently there for the same reason as me.

I'm starting to understand a bit of French when I hear it (YEAH!), so I knew that the lady who checked my paperwork told me to go straight back to the clinic and have a seat.  I waited for a few minutes until a doctor came and called me back, "MADAME SMITH!"  I feel pretty old when people address me that way. 

I went back into an exam room where several doctors were meeting with patients all at once.  The doctor attempted French, but quickly realized that I didn't quite understand what she was saying.  I was catching bits and pieces, but not everything.  She switched to English and promptly patted my stomach, bent down as if she was looking it in the eye, and shouted, "BABY IN THERE?"  I quickly replied, "NO!" and she checked a box on my paperwork which I assume means 'not pregnant'.  Wow, I've never been asked a question by a doctor quite like that!  She did a quick eye exam, got my weight and height, and sent me back to the waiting room.

After a few more minutes of waiting, another woman shouted my name from behind another door, "MADAME SMITH!"  She showed me to a small changing room and I gathered that I was supposed to undress from the waist up.  NOTE:  there was no robe to put on as there would be at home.  EEK!  She told me to lock the door on one side and someone would open a door on the other side to take me back to the exam room. 

I had barely started to undress when the door popped open and an annoyed radiologist glared at me.  Apparently I did not undress quickly enough.  She literally took the straps of my bra and tank top and yanked everything down to my waist.  OK!  So much for modesty! 

Once inside the room, she took an xray of my lungs and then sent me on my way.  Yet again, I found myself in the waiting room.  And yet again I heard, "MADAME SMITH!"  This time I went into what appeared to be a doctor's personal office.  This doctor was WONDERFUL and KIND and EVERYTHING I needed right then.  She took my blood pressure, read my xray, and asked a few general questions about my health.  She stamped my paperwork, meaning that I was in good health, and sent me back to the waiting room.

Finally, I was called up to the reception desk.  All my paperwork from the clinic was finished.  The receptionist told me in French that I was finished in the clinic.  Now I needed to go to the third door on the left outside of the clinic and give them my papers.  Hmm...I had no idea what this was about.  I had been told by our immigration specialist that once I was done in the clinic I would just need to send her a copy of the paperwork and then I would get my carte de sejour in 2-3 weeks.  She said nothing about going to another office once the exam was over.

Well, when I arrived at the 3rd door on the left, I realized that it was a prefecture office (this is the office that handles the carte de sejour).  I handed the lady my health paperwork, my passport, and my recepisse.  She immediately started getting angry, although I could not figure out why.  So, I took my things back from her and walked out.  I didn't know what else to do!

And that is when an amazing gift was given to me.  One of the women who works for our immigration specialist was in the hall with another client!  PRAISE GOD!  I nearly ran up to her (and would have thrown my arms around her had I known her better) and asked her if she remembered me.  "OF COURSE, MADAME SMITH!"  So, thank goodness for Janes.  She marched me back into the prefecture office and asked the annoyed lady what was going on.  Apparently,my carte de sejour had already arrived and they needed 12 stamps (totalling 340 euros...yes, you read that right) to process my paperwork. 

Janes sent me down the street to a Tabac, where I purchased the stamps.  As soon as I arrived back at the prefecture, Janes was waiting for me and helped me actually pick up my carte de sejour.  I really don't know what I would have done if she wasn't there.  Isn't it awesome how God helps you cross paths with people RIGHT when you need them? 

Now that I have my carte de sejour, I am an official resident of France.  I am also allowed to travel outside of the country now.  So watch out, Europe, here I come!

Friday, September 17, 2010

First Shopping Trip

Today I set out on my first real attempt at purchasing clothing. Mostly, I just needed a pair of black dressy boots….but I was not against other purchases if the opportunity presented itself.  :)

To tell you the truth, I was terrified of shopping by myself. My French is still pretty nonexistent. I can say, “May I try this on?” and “I would like to pay by credit card” and “No thanks, I’m just looking”. But, if someone says something in return to me, I am at a loss.

I had to give myself a sort of pep talk before I left. It went something like: Alright Jody, what is the worst thing that can happen? Someone tells you to leave their store? You aren’t able to purchase any boots? You have to tell someone you can’t speak French? Really, none of those things are the end of the world. What are you so afraid of? Get over it and get your booty out there.

This is me after my pep talk:

I decided that it was best to start my first Parisian shopping trip with something that felt familiar.  What could feel more familiar than a mall?!  So, I headed to Les Forum Des Halles, pictured below.

It is a bit creepy because it is all underground. I don’t really suggest it to those of you who come and just spend a few days in Paris. It has some nice stores, and some bargain prices, but I can see how it could become seedy at night. Dustin’s coworkers assured me that it was safe to go to during the day. I agree…but wouldn’t push my luck at night.

Anyway, I started by going into a couple of shoe stores, but I didn’t really see anything like what I was looking for. And then I saw it. H&M. OK, I know what you are thinking. Why would you go to H&M? We have those at home! But when you find yourself in a place where you can’t speak the language, a store you’ve been in before is quite comforting. So, in I went.

After browsing a bit, I had collected a pair of black boots (score!), a purse, and a top. I got all three for a total of 70€. Not a bad deal! I didn’t even have to say more than, “Bonjour!”. This may sound silly, but I was feeling quite accomplished as I left the store.

I wandered through a few other shops and found a black coat for 29€. Why not? I’m supposed to be wearing black if I want to fit in, so I figured it was a good purchase to make. Besides, I felt a bit out of place this week when I travelled to class in my turquoise coat. I stuck out like a sore thumb. It was like I had a sign on my forehead saying, “AMERICAN COMING THROUGH!”

After I made my purchases (Yes, everything I bought was black or gray), I wandered out of the mall and decided to check out what was around the mall. I stumbled across this church and sat outside of it for a bit. It was a nice end to a successful afternoon of shopping.

Here are some pictures of my purchases. Can you believe I got everything for under 100€? I may not look as good as these slender, long-legged French women, but my bank account and my husband are happy!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Places in Our Neighborhood

In my French class yesterday, my professeur gave us the assignment to take pictures of our neighborhood.  I thought it could be fun to share them here on my blog.  All of the following pictures are within a ten minute walk from our apartment.  Remember that Sesame Street song, "Places in Our Neighborhood"?  Well, here is my version:

(sing this part!)  So these are the places in my neighborhood, my neighborhood, my neighborhood.  Yes, these are the places in my neighborhood.  The places where we meet each day!
The American Church of Paris - it is on the same street as our apartment!

This is the view of the Seine at the end of our street.

Fire Station

Neighborhood Starbucks!  I haven't visited yet....it just doesn't seem right.

Neighborhood School

Neighborhood Catholic Church.  The bells at this church ring all the time and we can hear them in our apartment. 

A fruit stand on the famous Rue Cler.  It is just a few steps from our apartment. 

Neighborhood Flower Shop
The Post Office

View on the street by our apartment....Love it!

Neighborhood Cheese Shop 
Neighborhood Pharmacy

Gelato...oh man, it is bad to have this so close.  

Neighborhood bread and pastry shop...also quite dangerous. 

And of course the neighborhood Pizza Hut....which just so happens to be directly across the street from our apartment.  HA!

So these are the places in my neighborhood, my neighborhood, my neighborhood.  Yes, these are the places in my neighborhood.  The places where we meet each day!

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Getting Settled In!

Dustin and I have filled our last few weeks with getting settled in and pretending to be tourists in Paris. A few pictures from our new city:

inside Saint Chapelle

Our things from the US finally arrived last Monday. It was my first day of French classes, so Dustin had to take care of the move all by himself. Based on these pictures, I am pretty glad that I wasn’t there…
This is the ladder/elevator that was used to get our things to the 7th floor.

Raising up the ladder...

Here comes our stuff!

Now that we are all settled in, here are a few pictures of the apartment:

Other updates: My work permit did not arrive in time for me to take the afternoon teaching position that I was offered. I was pretty disappointed. However, the school runs an afternoon English program on Wednesdays for non-anglophone students. The program doesn’t start until the end of September. I am meeting with someone on Friday about taking a position in that program. I will keep you posted!

French classes are going pretty well, although I’m not sure how some of the people in my class can be considered “complete beginners”. My teacher, Veronique, is wonderful. She explains everything over and over until we get it. There is absolutely no English spoken, so sometimes it takes me awhile to understand what is going on. There are people from all over the world in my class: Iran, Iceland, Argentina, Thailand, Sri Lanka, and probably a few places I am forgetting. It is pretty amazing. The problem is that I can’t communicate with them. Really, the only language we all have in common is French (unless they know a bit of English). I’m dying to ask them all about life in their respective countries, but I don’t have the vocabulary to do so (nor do they have the vocabulary to respond).

We just celebrated Dustin’s 30th birthday yesterday. I made enchiladas (I have been craving good Mexican food) and we watched the Eiffel Tower sparkle from our balcony. Believe it or not, I did find most of the ingredients I normally use for the enchiladas. The supermarkets here sell the Old El Paso brand – it totally cracks me up! The only major thing I had to substitute for was sour cream. They definitely don’t sell it here.

Overall, it feels good to be settling in. I’m looking forward to getting into a bit of a routine and doing some more travelling. Next on our list: Versailles!