Friday, December 19, 2008

Home is where the Heart is

Alright clever person that coined that phrase, what do you do when your heart is sliced in two? What then? Hmm?

Grégoire and I flew home for the holidays. Home. I suppose it would less politically and emotionally charged to just call it Seattle. Eight months after moving to Paris I catch myself often referring to Seattle as home. Should I be worried that I don't always refer to Paris as my home? Can you have two homes? If you live in one city and call another city home is it considered cheating? How long will it take for me to consider Paris home with a capital H and Seattle a place where I used to live? Do I even want that?

Oh la la. That's quiet enough of that. No more exhausting self-analyzing questions for today. From here on I am officially eliminating home from my vocabulary and using the cities' proper names. There. Problem solved.  

Thursday, December 11, 2008

It's not ALL bad.

In case people feel like we are getting down on the French here I should say that there are a few aspects to this process which are really great. 

1. It's all free. Except for the photocopying, the ID photos and the flight to San Francisco. Obtaining a visa in the US costs over a thousand bucks. 

2. They haven't asked me to fill out a questionnaire about my past. In the US they sent Grégoire a form with questions like: Are you a prostitute? Are you a drug dealer? Are you a communist?

3. They haven't sent me to prison or deported me even though technically they could.

So it's not all bad. France, I know we are going to get through this.  

Wednesday, December 10, 2008


Well that didn't take very long. As noted in my previous entry about immigration one should be wary of lines that move too quickly. It often means that the people in front of you, and thus you, are likely to receive a no.

That is what I got today. A big fat NON.

Looks like I will be making an unexpected detour to the French Consulate in San Francisco. They are lucky that I happen to like that city and that I happen to be going to the states for Christmas anyway. The problem is that I entered France as a tourist. It is impossible to transition from a tourist visa to a resident visa. So I need to go back to the US and visit my closest Consulate (a 2 hour flight from Seattle, thank you very much) and apply for a Visa D Long Sejour, famille ou conjoint d'un Français in person. Once I have that little sticker in my passport I can fly back to France and then I can ask for a resident visa.

"But Mary, what about the 6 months worth of rent receipts they asked you for? What about all the time you wasted waiting for those?!" you say? I know. Believe me, I know. Apparently that only applies to people married in France. If you get married to a Frenchman in France you have to wait 6 months before you apply for the visa to prove that you are not only married but that you survived living together in France for half a year and are therefore surely in love and worthy of a resident visa. Alternatively you can ask for a fiancé visa, which you have to apply for in person at the French Consulate in the States, then fly to France get married and then you can ask for your resident visa right away. 

However, if like me, you were married in the states, you have to have an entry visa in your passport before entering the country, period. Then, and only then, can you ask for a resident visa. Why the workers at the filtering counter of the Prefecture de Police failed to mention that when I first visited them in August? I can't say.

Immigration Offices - Here I come

Lip gloss? Check.
Pearl earrings? Check.
Sexy yet professional sweater? Check.
Husband? Check.
Piles of wildly personal original paperwork with photocopies? Check.

Prefecture de Police, I am ready for you.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Metro Moments - Part II

The list of ways in which Non-Parisians can offend Parisians on the metro is lengthy. Today I am going to focus on two key areas where we tend to make mistakes.

The Pole: The pole is designed to be a shared space that several people can grab on to in order to stabilize themselves while the train is in motion. One should NOT use the pole as an accessory for dancing or twirling. Only sweet little girls under five can occasionally get away with this and even then it is frowned upon. One should also, NEVER, use the pole as a footrest.

Do NOT use both hands or LEAN against the pole thus hogging all the room and possibly smashing someone else's hand. Do NOT use both poles at that same time. Passengers should use ONE hand to hold on to ONE of the poles.

On that same note, do not be a hero, use the pole or other available handles while the train is moving. Your natural sense of balance and soft ski knees are no match for an urban metro driver. If you accidentally fall in to the lap of a passenger while holding on to a pole you might be forgiven. However if you bump in to a fellow rider because you were stupid enough not to hold on to the pole, Lord help you.

The Folding Seats: This can be a real point of tension. Use of the folding seats is a treat only to be enjoyed if the train is relatively empty. As soon as the car starts to fill up you MUST surrender your privileged seats so your knees are not driving in to the crowd in front of you. This creates more space for more people to grab on to the bar (using one hand) and pack in around the door.

Misbehaving on the metro can result in a sharp elbow in the back, an exasperated sigh, a dirty look, an eye roll or a nasty combination of these things. Children and tourists are not given any slack.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Just a minute!

In America we say things like, "Just a minute" or "Hold on a second" or "See you in a sec". In the last example it's apparent that we are so busy and things are moving so quickly in the States that we don't even have time to finish the word second, we shorten it to sec.

Instead of one second or even one minute the French use two minutes. They say things like, "Je reviens dans deux minutes ~ I'll be back in two minutes" or "Ça prend deux minutes pour y aller ~ it takes two minutes to get there" or "La table sera prête dans deux minutes ~ your table will be ready in two minutes". While two minutes may still be a gross underestimation and it may actually take five minutes to get where you are going, it is slightly more realistic than a sec.

The difference in word-choice boils down to more than who is better at guessing how long it takes to do things. More importantly it illustrates the sense of time in France. Everything takes longer here than it does in America. Allow me to point out that two minutes is 120 times longer than a second. Don't even get me started on how much longer it is than a sec.

Based on my experience thus far, things in France take approximately 120 times longer than I want them to. Getting your bill at a restaurant for example, takes forever. Waiting for your internet connection to be set up takes up to 10 weeks, an eternity in my opinion. Trying something on at H&M can take the majority of an afternoon. Obtaining a legal immigration status in France has taken seven months and counting.

Transitioning from a life in Seattle to a life in Paris requires a serious increase in patience. Rushing the post office employee or your hair dresser can result in disaster. The only thing a busy bee American girl can do is surrender and accept life at a slower pace. I am trying. Really I am.

Ommmmm. Ommmm. Namasté.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

How much soufflé is too much soufflé?

In my opinion you realize that you have ordered too much soufflé somewhere between the last bite of your first and the second bite of your second. The knowledge that a third was on it's way was also a factor. 

My sweet husband brought me to a restaurant called Le Soufflé which serves, get ready, a multi-course meal composed uniquely of savory and sweet soufflés. While their soufflés are highly acclaimed and acknowledged as the best in Paris, I suggest limiting your consumption to one per meal. My dining neighbor, who had clearly eaten here before, wisely combined a cheesy mushroomy soufflé as a starter with a meaty main dish. I feel like I learn new things here everyday. One soufflé per meal. Got it.