Monday, July 23, 2012
I am in the process of moving to France for work. I was offered the opportunity a few months ago...with no specific position named at the time but a promise of one to be found...and since I work for a French company an international posting, to France in particular, is a major coup. Few Americans get that opportunity and I'd have been short-sighted to say the least not to take advantage of it.
So we started the process and in the interim I had about 3 different potential positions until the final decision, which ended up being a promotion to the position I had expected last year. Bonus! So since June I've been going back & forth, starting my new position & closing out my old one, waiting for my work permit & Visa to be approved so I can make the final move.
Needless to say it is somewhat stressful. In addition to not speaking the language (yet) the culture and environment can be a bit different than Americans are used to. Fortunately I've been to France several times for work so it's not a completely new experience but somehow it just seems different from a short term visit.
For my fellow Americans, some of the differences I've experienced so far (outside of the obvious language & metric system ones):
*toilets are in a separate room from the sink/shower/tub in homes & hotels
*shower heads are typically the hand-held kind with a hook or something attached to the wall to hold them
*no shower curtains, just a short glass/plastic rectangle that is maybe 2-3 feet wide (so needless to say one gets water everywhere until figuring things out!)
*no window screens (and no mosquitoes!)
*occasionally see men urinating on the street (which is technically illegal but happens anyway)
*opening a bank account is a big deal - I had to provide proof of residence, a letter from my employer, pay stubs, my contract, and an utility bill.
*not that I will do this but the bank made very sure I am aware that bouncing a check is a major deal - if it happens, no more bank account...anywhere...ever...in addition to the legal penalties
*renting a home or apartment is also a big deal - I had to provide all of the same documents as above but also my current property tax bill and my income has to be a minimum of 3 times the rent
*homes are much smaller than we are used to in the US, and more expensive (than my area in MI anyway)...the house I am trying to rent is just under 1300 square feet and the rent will be as much as my mortgage in the US for a 2400 sq.ft. home
*yards are also much smaller (at least as compared to my neighbourhood, which is old though so the yards are much larger than the norm today for new housing)
*yards are typically completely fenced in around the entire property, front & back
*real estate agencies are all independent and there is no master on-line data base of all the houses/apartments for sale/rent in the region...so unlike the US where you can go to any agency and see everything regardless of which agency lists it, here you have to go to each individual agency to see only what the agency is listing. This really slows down the process
*at work one is expected to greet & shake hands (or kiss) all coworkers every morning...this is probably one of the hardest things to get used to
*no tipping in the restaurants, this is already included in the bill...another thing difficult for us to get used to
*there ARE "real" grocery stores and people DO shop for more than a day or two at a time...unlike what we are led to believe
*no peanut butter or Keurig coffee makers/k-cups...Nutella is just not the same and the Keurig equivalent is Tassimo
*air conditioning is not a divine right
*cars tend to be stick shifts and use diesel, not gasoline
*malls are not the norm, most stores are in street store fronts
*stores/banks/offices tend to be closed during the lunch hours, and close by 6-7 at night; they are also generally closed on Sundays, and some on Mondays as well; my bank, for example is open from Tuesday-Friday, from 8:45-12:30 and 2:00-5:15, and on Saturday from 8:45-12:00
*closing time does not mean you come in at 11:55 am when they close at noon and still expect to take care of your business; closing time means the time all business is finished.
*there are coins for 1 and 2 euros, not bills
I will be located in or near to a city called Compiegne, which is about 45-60 minutes northeast of Paris. Here is the wiki link if you are interested: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Compi%C3%A8gne
The house I found last week is in a tiny village (population 556) called Guiraumont, about 5 miles away from the Compiegne city center & about the same from my company. I'm still waiting to find out if I can rent it. Here are some pictures of the front & back of the house:
We (me, my daughter, Stupid Dog, and 3 of my 5 cats) will be here in France for 3 years. There may be a possibility to extend my contract for another year or two, but it's impossible to say what will happen 3 years from now. We have to go to the French consulate in Chicago on 8/6 to submit our Visa applications and the lady in immigration thinks we should be approved by mid- to late- August, at which time we will make the official move.
In the meantime my Dad is coming to MI for a week (from SC) to hang the last 3 interior doors and put in all the new trim & door mouldings in the house. I had thought about letting my son stay there when I move, since he is staying in the US to go to school. He will be 17...but I don't think he is quite mature enough to be allowed to stay on his own. He would survive but I don't think my house would fare well. So he will go live with his Dad which means he will have to go to a different school than the one he planned, and find a different job, since his Dad lives about 45 minutes away from us.
My daughter will be going to the regular French public schools. She just finished 9th grade in the US but will be repeating it in France since she is not fluent in French and is also "behind" in math - in MI our schools teach geometry in 10th grade but apparently in France the students have already learned it. So for her first year (anywhere from 3-9 months) she will be in the "special" French school to get caught up in her subjects (French & math) and when she is fluent enough in French she will transfer to the regular public school.
And in the meantime I am racking up the frequent flyer miles going back & forth!
Tuesday, July 10, 2012
For a few days anyway, after an 8.5 hour flight with a crying toddler in front of me who finally fell asleep 10 minutes before landing.
I left the airport by 2; by 2:50 pm I pulled into my driveway and saw this:
My earlier assumption was wrong. Instead of 20 feet of blue spruce in the yard a good 30 feet of the tree had snapped of, taking a large limb of the maple tree with it. Inside the house I had an estimate for cutting everything up, cutting down the remaining 15 feet of tree and removing the stump for the "deal" price of $800. Which is not too much more than I was expecting.
So by 3 pm I was back in the car and up to Lowe's to buy myself a chainsaw. $95 and 4 hours later this is what I'm left with:
I think I'll just leave it there for now, see if it survives, instead of having it cut now and de-stumped. At least I no longer have to worry about it falling onto the house.
Sunday, July 08, 2012
I know I've been MIA lately. So much going on, not enough time to do it all. You all know the story.
Had black belt pre-testing last Saturday. I was to chicken to read the results until today. You know how it is when you take any sort of test...you keep reliving and magnifying all of the mistakes you made. And while I am confident on the outside there is still that nasty little voice inside convinced I failed. And then I had a dream this morning that I finally looked at my results and they had a big red line through them, meaning I had failed and would not be allowed to test next month. Since I didn't like that dream at all I woke up and got out of bed to make sure I wouldn't continue with it, instead of sleeping in today like I had planned. But nothing for it now but to bite the bullet and finally look at the results.
I passed the areas of the pre-test! I have areas to work on, and we didn't test everything, but I get to test in a few weeks and have a pretty good shot at it.
Please don't tell me you expected nothing else, I can't afford to get over-confident right now. I need the worry to push me to try that much harder.
I've been in France for work this last week, no real exercise at all during this time for various reasons. Unlike home which has been going through a major heat wave here in Compiegne it has been cool, overcast and rainy. At least my nutrition has been OK. I couldn't get an affordable flight home on the weekend so I'm sill in France today and fly home Monday morning. All flight options seemed to have me connecting to a Royal Dutch Airlines flight...which had a "sudden" price increase of over $6000 as soon as I clicked on the flight option (for a coach seat mind you, not even Business Class). Even if I'm not the one paying for it...I don't think so. If my ticket is going to cost over $7000 it had damned well better NOT be in coach. So I go home tomorrow.
And get to see the damage. On Tuesday there was a huge storm and the top 20 feet of the blue spruce in front of my house came crashing to the ground. Fortunately it was to the ground and not on my house or the neighbour's house/car. I still haven't seen a picture to know how bad it really is but I can imagine. Getting rid of it is going to be an expensive pain, my insurance would only cover it if the tree had hit a building or vehicle. I'm OK with that b/c if it had hit the house it would have taken out the 2nd floor...not to mention landing squarely on my bed! But it's still going to be an expensive pain to get rid of, and I get back on the plane to France Saturday night so coordination is not going to be fun.
Yesterday I spent the day at the palace and grounds of Versailles. I almost didn't go but as with exercise and other times I forced myself out of my comfort zone, I'm glad I went. I have pictures, which I will post in another blog b/c they are on my camera and data roaming charges are too astronomical to send them until I get home. I had lunch at a little cafe stand in the gardens there and was joined by several of the cats that apparently live in the gardens. They ate all the chicken from my pizza and were reasonably polite about it. One of them even ate a slice of tomato someone gave her and two of my mushrooms. I've never seen a cat eat veggies before.
This was initially meant to be just a quick check in to let you all know that I'm still alive so I will end here and go take the nap I promised myself.
Friday, June 29, 2012
As you may remember for I few months I did. Push-up challenge with some other Spark members, which ended sometime in June. The challenge was for consistency, not quantity and the goal was to do a minimum of 4 sets of pushups 6 days per week for several months.
Honesty, however, compels me to admit that is only because GETSTRONGRR missed a day due to some travel misadventures. Further honesty compels me to admit that the actual challenge was really a tie since I also missed one day in May when I was feeling contrary and just did not do them.
But I still won.
A few weeks ago Sensei B announced that the black belt candidates would have to do a pre-test to make sure we were ready for the real test on August 4. The pre-test is tomorrow. So last night I went to the early class to assist and during the classes' warmup said "Mr. M, come over here and count Rebekah's pushups and situps, she has two minutes to complete 50 of each.". And these are military style pushups, not girly ones.
Nothing like being on the spot unexpectedly!
But thanks to my daily pushups challenge from the past few months I finished 60 of them in less than the 2 minutes.
So then I asked Sensei B "Since I did the pushups/situps tonight I don't have to do them on Saturday, right?"
I knew the probable answer but had to ask anyway since one just never knows what the answer will actually be. I might have gotten lucky.
His answer was "If you couldn't do them tonight you wouldn't BE testing Saturday, I don't want to waste my time if you can't meet the basic fitness requirements. And you will do them again on Saturday."
Right. Just what I expected but I had to try
But I wonder how the other 3 candidates "knew" to miss class last night?
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