Composer trente-trois pour la bureaucratie

Winter is coming and there is no Jon Snow to protect me. The leaves have fallen and the first snow barely covered the street today before melting. I wear my gently worn fur hat from the Kilo Shop and pretend I am Anna Karenina walking thru the monuments of Paris. Though rain is not predicted, it comes daily and after the past year, I’m more prepared and understanding. My thin blood bitterly fights the cold air and when I peel off the dozens of layers in the stores and cafes, I smile and admit to being a true California girl.

Winter is still a few weeks away, but the cold came early. Fall seemed to be completely skipped until it snowed. Then I remembered just how cold it can get. Screw PETA, I want a fur coat and despite the French loving to protest, I have yet to see anyone bother over the need to stay warm at all costs.

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The majority of the pools in Paris are indoor and with Juan Marcos having started a new job, I have committed to a pass for the Suzanne Berlioux Piscine located in the center of town at the Forum des Halles. I like it because there is a movie theater as well, and I can easily get to most of my favorite spots quickly from there.

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The history of Les Halles is interesting dating back to at least 1110. It was originally an open-air market for the city and located extremely close to the Cemetery of the Innocents back in the 1700’s. As the city grew, the bones were moved to the well know Catacombes and the market thrived till the 1970’s when it became too crowded in the center of Paris to support such a vast operation. The mall is 4 levels going underground to the Metro and RER stations, and is one of the few places you can shop on Sunday.

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Having settled on a “home pool,” this meant a new scavenger hunt needed to fill in my spare time and I increased efforts to seek out the best hot chocolate in town. My attempts to find good onion soup have stopped since none are particularly good and its really served for tourists since its humble country food.

Time Out is a great online resource that listed their votes for the cities best spots and slowly I have gone thru the list although I have had a few tips along the way. The top 10 on their list have been fun to try and varied in taste and style. Some unsweetened, saving me extra time running off the extra calories. Stand outs for those of you visiting would be the always famous Angelina, which I always recommend for a Louvre afternoon break. The location is ideal for avoiding the long lines of the flagship location across the street.

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I am felt very guilty after over indulging on the famous Ice Cream shop: Berthillion’s Chocolate Affogato. It was presented on a silver tray displaying a variety of petite pitchers for you to make an almost ice cream Sunday indulgence, complete with a cookie and whipped cream. Unlike other spots, you mix your chocolate with the desired amount of milk on top of the ice cream flavor of your choice. Their ice cream is legendary in Paris. Its good, don’t get me wrong, but I cannot go back there without insulin and a bag of potato chips. It was much more of a dessert than a beverage, but a memorable experience and I didn’t mind forfeiting dinner to indulge.

 

I still have a few places to go, but I have found a great fondness for the variety of styles offered here. The French love their chocolate and really honor it. I am a fan and will report back as I discover the real winner of the title.

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In the never-ending quest to better my language comprehension, I have renewed my unlimited movie pass for UGC. There are several chains of theaters in the city like the states. It was a huge relief to find American films here and I didn’t hesitate to get the card. During the year, I saw 96 movies coming to a price of 2.25 per movie.

Safe to say they didn’t make money off me this year and it was also an easy decision to renew for the next year to come. It made it very easy for me to go see French films and not feel ripped off by not understanding them. I did however give up my Disneyland Passport as the prices have increased and my need for something like home has been satisfied by care packages and visitors.

Thanksgiving proved to be a very hard day for me again this year. Not as bad as last year despite the glass of wine with Tyler and Pia. Tyler and I have created a tradition as this is our second year celebrating as sole American friends. He came back from Vienna for the weekend. Surprisingly “Team America.” both had prefecture appointments the following day. Since a Thursday celebration was out, as no one here celebrates, we opted for a Sunday feast. Incredibly enough, though they do not do Thanksgiving here, they do have “Black Friday.”

I went to my favorite butcher and informed him that I would make “A real American Thanksgiving” dinner and needed his help. He was more than excited to set up an account for me and to inform me that there was a minimum size to the bird he could get, but he would do he would find the best bird in Paris. I put a down payment down and set off on seeking out the special ingredients that make my bird the best.

For some odd reason the French don’t do cranberries. Thankfully there is a Thanksgiving store in Paris to satisfy the needs of my fellow Expats. I had visited it once before and found the selection to be small and expensive and heavy on British products. Tyler went for me and got us a can which we forced the French to try, explaining this was part of the feast and not to be missed. I enjoyed it for the rest of the week since they were not impressed by it.

I spent the week cooking batches of food that could easily be frozen and not loose flavor or quality after defrosting and felt very festive and happy. My first dinner where it would be my friends, not Claude’s family. I invited a few family members, I love them, but for once, this was me entertaining the network I had come to love and need.

Yuwei from Singapore came with her French husband Cyril, they brought champagne to make the meal a bit French. Tyler and his French PACs Alyce brought the cranberries and a hot spinach dip hors d’oeuvres. Marcos brought beer, Raul and Crystal brought wine. Antonia from Cypress and her French boyfriend and “baby daddy,” unveiled their new bump and a wonderful Tarte.

All 11 of us huddled tightly in the living room eating off paper plates and drinking from plastic cups speaking several languages making my cheeks hurt. The meal was a success and they were touched to have had their first Thanksgiving. No one as touched as me, though in my heart I still missed special people who know who they are. Living outside the city makes it hard for visitors making it even more memorable. I went to bed with a full belly and enough leftovers to make some of the standard turkey leftover dishes for the reminder of the week.

Sleep was hard to get with the Prefecture appointment looming over me and it was good that the entertaining distracted me as much as it did. We arrived on time and after a slight scare, we were called to the desk where the employee announced that she recalled us (American in Creteil = Rare) and fairly quickly and easily issued me a new Carte de Séjour that is not attached to my Visa.

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I provided signatures and photos and believe a real card will follow. Though it seems like a victory compared to Tyler’s unsuccessful meeting having missed a document forcing him to return in February. I was forced; again,  to sign a declaration that I would not engage in employment…Great.

Funny how you want something when you can’t have it. Who would ever say…” No, I want to work!” Like the one that got away, I am Captain Ahab and Moby Dick is out there, I need to get him. I want work more than ever before! I returned home to cancel interviews, hearing that “if they catch you, it is even worse!” Not to mention, it is clearly printed on my document ,“Pas Travailler.” Thanks France.

We already discussed the next plan of attach. French citizenship. Actually dual citizenship again so many variations to documents, so the correct one would be called: Citizenship Par Marriage. The advocate recommended this as well, prefacing that it will take a minimum of 6 months to achieve when paperwork is submitted. Since it took 6 months to get the Carte de Séjour, I have nothing to lose. On the bright side, I am legal now. Or at least until the spring when I am to request an extension. Juan Marcos and Yuewi had to go once a month to have theirs updated, So i consider myself lucky having until the spring.

Your waiting, right? What it the hitch, there is always a downside or I would have already submitted the paperwork to become a Citizen, right? The answer is simple of course…the language. For those of you paying along at home, you know Yuwei and I took the exam and while she passed, I unfortunately did not leaving me unable to apply yet.

I know I am better than i was when i took the test 6 weeks ago. I know I’ll be even better by the next exam in January.  I will need to get the books, It will take an additional 6 weeks for results after the next exam putting us at March. An additional 6 months for them to review my case and torture me the way that only the French Government knows how. So with Holidays we are looking at October. Stay tuned.

Besides, working out, drinking hot chocolate and studying, I have continued to search out exhibits that are free to compensate for the ones that are not. I was able to see the Cite de L’Architecure 10th anniversary exhibit where I argued with security who wanted to rush me out before the closing time. Although I didn’t win the battle, I was expressive in my use of limited vocabulary. The real treat was the Louis Vuitton Foundation Pop Art MoMa Exhibition.

Despite the complaints, I know my issues are getting better. It could be worse. Last summer we went to visit Comillas. Claude wanted to see his Uncle Claudine who has been dying for a short time now. We entered the house and the joyful smile that shown in his eyes at seeing; the first of the grandchildren of the family, was unforgettable.

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We sat at the table and listened to the women talk about the health care and family and the sadness came back to the fisherman who rather be on a boat. I asked for a string and asked him to show me some knots. There is a shadow box frame in each of the children’s homes displaying the various knots the fishermen use. For a short time, Claudine was happy. We couldn’t communicate at all, and I certainly couldn’t tie half the knots he took the time to show me. Remember I don’t learn fast.  For a short time, he didn’t need to hear about his death approaching, he was able to tie knots and watch my surprise when he made them slip thru each other back into a straight un knotted string.

Claudine died this week and it reminds me that there are much worse things than the French Government. I have friends that don’t have to dial +33 to get ahold of me. I have created a small little support network here, thankfully. Hard to see the progress until I look back. Each day gets a bit better, and sometimes worse. I am fearlessly seeking out the next obstacles. I am committed to success in this country that wants badly to wear me out. Someday I’ll laugh? Or maybe write a book debunking the mythology of the allure of the city has over the world. We’ll always have Paris?

 

 

 

 


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