Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Good News Bad News

The good news is that we officially don't have to pay our rent anymore.

The bad news is that our building is slowly sliding down the slopes of Montmartre.

Earlier this week a man knocked on our door. Greg was in the living room wearing just a bath towel so I opened the door. A scruffy looking man in his early sixties was standing in our hall way. He had longish hair and a stubbly beard. I assumed he was a nicely dressed chlochard who had come to knock on our door and ask for money. Bold I thought, as I half listened to his spiel. He asked me if I am a renter or an owner in the building? I told him that we are renters. He then says, "Well I have good news for you ce soir, you can stop paying your rent!". "Well isn't that something" I say smiling, realizing that this man is nuts, shooting glares at Greg hoping he would put pants on and get rid of this guy.

The man goes on to explain why exactly we don't have to pay our rent anymore. It turns out that there is a problem with the foundation of our apartment building and the three other apartment buildings that surround us are also part of the problem. Apparently the individual owners of each of apartment in each of these four buildings have been arguing for the past 10 year about how to fix this problem and this guy has been spear-heading a movement to have our buildings officially declared to be in "a state of peril" so that we can legally stop paying rent in protest.

The unkempt appearance of this man, which I mistook for a life sleeping under bridges, is in fact a popular look for his generation which lived through the infamous protests of May '68. A wave of demonstrations and marches swept across France that spring. University students took over the city, throwing cobble stones and throwing out the capitalist ideals that were starting to creep in to society. Many of the socialistic protections and benefits we enjoy in France today are thanks to the work of these revolutionaries. As the man continued to share the history of the situation with us, I could see embers of his fiery youth reigniting in his eyes as he was explaining to us how we are going exercise our rights and stick it to the man!

He told us that we should keep our eyes out for an official posting from the Prefecture de Police and once we see it we can officially stop paying rent in protest of our landlord renting us a apartment in a building with a cracked foundation.

Sure enough, the very next day a four page document was hung in our entry way declaring that our building is in a perilous state. Due to a structural issue originating from the shared foundation of our building the rich and evil (ok I added that part about rich and evil but that is the tone we are dealing with here) land owners who are renting these slums to innocent workers are no longer allowed to collect rent. As long as the repairs are not done the renters are allowed to live in the building rent free. Based on the fact that it took between 10-15 weeks to set up our internet connection in our apartment I cannot fathom how long it is going to take these land owners to meet, decide, delegate, fund and fix the foundation. I think it could take at least a year.

Now I should say that we live in a beautiful apartment, in a lovely building, in a great part of town. Anyone can see that the people who created this law didn't intend to cover buildings like ours and renters like us. But thanks to our activist neighbor and our apparently negligent landlord we find ourselves in this little legal loop hole that allows us to save 800€ a month! Vive la France!

Friday, September 18, 2009

Indigestion and other French Conversation Starters

The French like to talk about their bodies. They unabashedly discuss, analyze and share their body's functions with the world. They are only too happy to report on the current state of their bowels, talk about their level of water retention that day or how well they slept last night.

If you have dark circles under your eyes or have gained a bit of weight, chances are someone is going to ask you about it. On the flip side, if you have just returned from vacation and you are looking tan and rested, I guarantee you someone will inquire about your bonne mine which translates to your physical glow. In most cases the person is neither criticizing nor complimenting you, they are simply trying to strike up conversation.

When you wake up in the morning in France one of the first things you will talk about is what kind of shape you are in that morning. As soon as you arrive at the breakfast table someone will ask you how you slept last night? At first I thought this was one of those hollow 'How are you? Good. And you?' type of questions but the answer I received when I asked, and you? was a full on report about how they woke up covered in sweat because of the weather or how they had a hard time falling asleep because of the spicy dinner they ate which had given them indigestion. This level of information often leaves me speechless, uncomfortable with the amount of information I have received I am both uninterested in posing follow up questions and uninterested in talking about how much or how little I sweat last night.

That fact that you are unwilling to offer unsolicited updates on a rash that is bothering you or the wart on your toe, does not discourage others from sharing this kind of information with you. During one of my first days at the design agency I greeted one of our account executives and asked how he was doing. His answer was, "Not great, I just ate Chinese food for lunch and am feeling really bloated and gassy. Don't you find greasy food like that impossible to digest? Always gives me the runs!". At this point I did not even know this person's name and I certainly did not need to know this level of detail as to how he was processing his lunch.

As the weeks progressed at work, I got used to hearing this kind of insider information on the physical conditions of my coworkers so I decided to try sharing a few details of my own. Last week I had diarrhea...see...evening typing this to you blog fans makes me feel uncomfortable....so I come in to work and when my coworker asks me how I am doing, I answer à la française and say, "Oh, I am not doing too well. My stomach is feeling a little unsettled." My colleague was disappointed with my vague terminology and genuinely interested in my condition. She replied, "Unsettled? Unsettled how? Did you throw up? Do you have gas? Is it diarrhea, and if so how many times have you pooped today? What do you think caused it?". Woah woah woah. I instantly wished I had never brought it up but since I initiated the conversation I had to finish it, "Yep, unsettled, must have been something I ate, anyway how are you?"

These conversations do not just come up between friends and colleagues. If you missed the story about how bluntly the immigration doctor commented on the gas that showed up on my x-ray be sure to skip back and read it. Turns out his comment is par for the course in France. Not long ago I had a gynecological visit. The doctor was a lovely sophisticated lady in her late 50's. She preformed a traditional ladies exam which in this office includes an ultrasound. She was looking around, showing me on the little screen what my ovaries look like, and then she scrolls over to my bladder and says, "Oh oh oh! Somebody has to go pee pee!". She was right and despite my gut reaction of surprise and horror I reminded myself she is just trying to be chatty so I replied trying to sound french and said something like, "Oh yeah. Isn't coffee the worst? Runs right through me".

At the UW I had a French Professor who presented a theory about this subtle but distinct cultural difference. He says it all comes back to religion. The French are a historically Catholic society while America is traditionally Protestant. When you enter a French Catholic church you see a large cross with a dead or dying Jesus on it. Jesus usually doesn't look that good (understandably so) his head it hanging, his body is limp and blood is dripping from his head, hands and from the slash on his side. When Catholics look to the cross they see a mangled body. Now, when you enter a American Protestant church the cross is usually bare and is often represented in a more abstract way, like a cross shaped window. Professor Collins argued that these two different crosses illustrate the two cultures different philosophies about the human body. Catholics are focused on the flesh in all its glory and sinfulness. Protestants prefer to ignore or suppress the body, hiding or ignoring it's sinful and dirty nature.

So while books like "Everybody Poops" may help the next generation to more openly and loudly discuss their gas and bodily functions, I guess I am just an old-school American Protestant kind of lady.

Saturday, September 5, 2009


The French rarely miss an opportunity to scold. They appear to relish in it and show no mercy to the young, the old or the foreign.

My dear American friend Michelle was strolling through the Champs de Mars with her sun-screen slathered child sitting in the stroller in front of her. It was a beautiful summer day so she pulled back the cover and let Jackson enjoy the light. A French mother came striding over tisk-tisking Michelle for exposing her child to such a dangerous amount of sun! Michelle starts to explain that Jackson is covered in sunscreen but the woman isn't having it and scolds Michelle unmercifully for being an inattentive mother.

I have identified several situations in my life which tend to provoke an unsolicited tongue lashing and I now avoid them like the plague.

In spite of my efforts, from time to time, I find myself on the wrong end of a wagging finger. This happened just the other day in the metro. Grégoire gave me a beautiful new wallet for Christmas. This pale soft leather portefeuille neatly closes with a hidden magnet to contain my cash, cards and metro tickets. The trouble is that this magnet demagnetizes my about half of my metro tickets every time I put a carnet (10 pack of tickets) in there. When you run a demagnetized ticket through the turnstile there is a loud meeeeeep as the bar locks in to place and a crash and sigh as the people behind you bump in to you not understanding why you have stopped up the system. You then have to make your way through the crowd to the ticket sales desk, explain your situation and hope that they replace your ticket.

I have had less than pleasant experiences with ticket sellers in the past so I stock up on demagnetized tickets and trade them all in at one time when I see a nice looking salesperson. I thought I found such a person last week, a young plump girl with an eyebrow ring. I really felt like we would connect and bond over these silly low tech tickets that are always demagnetizing themselves.

"Bonjour, I believe these tickets are demagnetized." I say as I smile and slide the tickets under the window. Silence. Eye roll. She looks suspiciously at my tickets and asks if I know how it is that my tickets have magically demagnetized themselves? I shrug, unwilling to admit that my wallet is surely the culprit. Admitting fault is a rookie mistake in these kinds of situations. More on that another day. She says, "It's not surprising madame that they are demagnetized given the sate they are in..."Oh God. I picked the wrong person. "...you know these little tickets have value! They should be stored is a specific and safe location." I nod, assuming her little scold was over and assuming that if I seem sorry then it would speed up the reissuing process.

But she continued, "And this one! I can see that you ran it through the machine!" She was in an indirect, yet very clear way, accusing me of laundering metro tickets. Of making false claims of demagnetization in order to get fresh tickets in exchange for my used ones. I suggest she run the ticket through the ticket reader which will tell her if it is used or if it is simply demagnetized. She scoffs at this suggestion and tells me that computers don't know everything and that she can see as plain as day that this ticket has been used. Mid-rant I pull out another demagnetized ticket out of my pocket that I forgot about and hand it to her, I figure I am already in trouble so I might as well get as many tickets traded in as I can. This sent her over the edge. She turns red and squawks at me through the holes in the glass, "Metro tickets must be respected! You can't just stuff them anywhere like kitchen rags!!". Silence. I nod. She hands me 3 fresh tickets and holds the 4th up to the glass, "I am keeping this one to teach you a lesson. Next!"

I walked away from the window 1.18€ poorer and laughing. When this kind of thing would happen when I first arrived I would have surely left in tears assuming I had done something wrong. Now I just shake my head and think what is wrong with these people? They are so crazy! I am looking forward to the next step which will surely be having the courage and the vocabulary of a native Parisian to scold her back for selling such flimsy and delicate tickets to me in the first place!

Saturday, August 29, 2009

The Scarf

A well stocked French wardrobe will contain at least a dozen scarves. Frenchwomen own silk scarves, wool scarves, exotic scarves from Morocco, fringy scarves from Barcelona, wool scarves from England, flimsy lace scarves....and on and on. It is not only a important accessory (allowing you to dress up or dress down an outfit) it is a question of health. Everyone here firmly believes that having your neck skin exposed is a surefire way to get sick.

I have, for the most part, adapted my wardrobe to accomodate this trend. In part, because I happen to love scarves and in part, because I live in fear of being scolded by the French (more on that another time). This trend however went to new heights today when I walked by my local Princess Tam Tam shop. See left.

A bikini and a scarf?! Come on now.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

The French Calendar

I find the French population to be incredibly in sync. If you were take a peek at your average Parisian's ical I have a feeling that it would be almost idendical to their neighbor's ical. This phenomenon is most apparent in the month of August when the entire population in Paris leaves for their summer vacation.

For those unfamiliar with the French annual schedule I will break it down for you.

January: Ski vacations and les Soldes. French merchants are only aloud to put their inventory on sale twice a year, in January and in July.

February: Busy working. Valentine's day is barely recognized.

March: Working.....yes....the French all have a minimum of 5 weeks of paid vacation per year but they do work hard especially in the Springtime.

April: Still working. Somewhere in here their is a school holiday.

May: Working when not enjoying one of the three (THREE!!) national holidays this month. This year was a perfect storm of May holidays, they all landed near the weekend which prompted most people to faire le pont or make the bridge. For example, May 1st is a holiday and were it to land on a Tuesday I can guarantee you that no one will be at work on Monday because they will have 'made the bridge' and turned this one day off in to a 4 day weekend extravaganza.

June: Very busy working because oh la la it is almost vacation season and soon we won't be able to order any more ink, speak to our clients or repair our delivery truck.

July: First wave of Parisians leave the city. Remaining Parisians panic as they try to cram in the last of their work before the tsunami wave of workers leave the city of lights for their country residences or campsites. Second round of Soldes! Summer clothing blow out for those headed on vacation and to make room for the fall collection they will buy when they get back from vacation.

August: Entire population of Paris is replaced by the population of Rome. Most of Paris can be found lined up like sausages along the coastlines of the Hexagon.

September: La rentrée. School beings. Workers begrudgingly return to work.

October: The strike season begins! In September workers are overwhelmed with catch up on projects put on hold by vacation season. By the time October arrives they are lusting after their long summer vacation and have enough free time at work to start organizing les grèves or strikes that block the streets, paralyze the rails and shut down schools.

November: Working. I try to presuade Parisians to embrace Thanksgiving.

December: Holiday time! Use up remaining 2 weeks of paid leave from work plus a few more recoup days (when you surpass the 35 hour work week limit you get to add up those extra hours and cash them in for vacation time at a later date)! Ski vacations!

Monday, July 13, 2009

Better off alone....

Roaming the streets of Montmartre my friends and I were on the hunt for a good crêperie. Having lived in Bretagne (the birth place the crêpe) and being married to a Breton I have two simple rules that must be respected when selecting a crêperie. 1. No pizza crêpes. I am not saying that the menu must be limited to only the traditional complète (eggs, ham and gruyère cheese) but when you start to bring in mozzarella and the tomato sauce I start to cringe at the outlandish lack of respect for tradition. 2. They must use two different batters, one using blé noir ou buckwheat flour for the galettes or savory crêpes and one using white wheat flour for the sweet crêpes. It's not asking much...really...but you would be surprised at what they try to pass off as a crêpe in this city.

We scanned the menu in the window which passed muster. Seeing several open tables we enter and request a table for six. The gentleman's reply was something like this, "Baahh...sit down if you want but it will be at least 20 minutes before I can even come over to set the table". We take a look around, see that half of the 10 or so tables are full, assume he is bluffing, and sit down. Sure enough 20 minutes roll by and during this time we see him dash from the kitchen to the dining room, back to the kitchen, dart downstairs to the cellar, back to the front door to frighten away other potential diners with long wait times, into the kitchen and finally to our table.

My friend Maxime inquires about the lack of staff. The man laughs and says "Il vaut mieux être seul que mal accompagné" which means it is better to be alone than in poor company. I have heard this expression before in the context of divorce proceedings but never in a business setting. The man, pictured here, runs this 10 table crêperie single handed. He tells us that he had a larger place with a staff and it was a nightmare, someone was always sick or late or pregnant. So a few years ago he jumped ship and bought this little place in which he is the host, cook, waiter, dishwasher and owner.

While clearly he could do more business if he so desired (he successfully managed to scare away the group that came in behind us even though there were enough tables and chairs to seat them) but when we point this out to him, he says, "Why? I earn enough to pay the rent, I can close when I want, if I were to serve more people it would only cause me problems". More money more problems, I hear you guy.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Jumping to Conclusions

I have been speaking French for nearly 10 years now. While my spelling and grammatical skills could still use some work, I have always been proud of my accent. As it turns out, sounding more French than you are can really get you in to trouble.

The problem is, French sounding words come out of my mouth but they sometimes come out in the wrong order or in the incorrect tense. Or at times the words come out correctly but my questions are so silly and basic that the person I am speaking to isn't sure how to respond. For example, the first time I went to the doctor's office here in Paris I had to ask them how to open the door? Or when I went to the pharmacist and asked if she could show me how large a 6cm band-aid is? In these situations, the person I am talking to, looks me up and down, and thinks hmmm...this lady looks sort of French and sounds fairly French (or given her accent she has at least lived here for a while) why is she asking me such a stupid question? And why didn't she use the correct form of the verb to be? In earlier days people would assume that I was a tourist. Their expressions would soften, their speech would slow and they would kindly respond to my question. Unfortunately, nowadays most people conclude that I am an idiot. Or a racist as the case may be.

I first realized this phenomenon when I was buying bread one morning. I walk in to the bakery, greet the sales woman and ask for a baguette. I greet people all the time and have successfully ordered more than a hundred baguettes in my day so these sentences flow easily and accurately from my lips. She replies, "Trad ou Gana?". My brow furrows as I search my list of vocabulary words looking for trad or gana...nothing...I obviously look lost so the saleswoman repeats her question to me, "Trad?! ou Gana!?". The man behind me in line sighs with impatience and the saleswoman glares at me wondering what my problem is. Apparently she decides that I must be an idiot because she pauses and smiles in a pityful and slightly condesending way then in slow motion points to the two baskets of bread and says, "ça ou ça? this or this?". I quickly realize by Trad she means a Baguette de Tradition and by Gana she means a Flute de Gana. Some bakeries buy the rights or special ingredients which permit them to sell a certain kind of bread. There are a handful of these bread brands which I am now familiar with but at the time I only knew of the Tradition which I had never heard being referred to as a Trad. Native French people are familiar with this kind of bakery lingo, tourists rarely pick up on it, and I land somewhere in between. Not familiar enough to understand her abbreviated terminology, but too familiar to get the nice explanation reserved for visitors.

This same issue comes up at work. This week a man named Saïd Rachidi (a name not of French origins but a common North African name that most French people would be familiar with) called in to our offices. I pick up the phone and from my brief greeting he is unable to detect that I am not French. So when I ask him to repeat his name five times and then finally ask him to spell it out for me he is offended and assumes I am ridiculing him because of his non-French name. Little does he know that I make 90% of people who call in at work repeat their names five times then have them spell it. This man leaves our interaction concluding that I am a racist and not a foreigner who honestly could not understand his name.

When I lived in the States and would come to France for vacation or for work, I wanted to appear as French as possible. I used my very best accent, used French hand gestures and put on my most Euro-fabulous clothing. These days I usually to identify myself as non-French right away, especially in situations where I don't know exactly what I am doing or how to explain what I need. Generally speaking the motivation for doing this is practical. However recently I have been feeling simultaneously motivated by feelings of patriotism. These recent feelings of patriotism are still under review and will surely be analyzed further in a future post. All I know is that ever since I moved here I no longer feel the need to minimize my American-ness, it just gets me in to trouble anyway.

Monday, July 6, 2009

A brief intermission...

It know it has been a while since my last posting. I started to feel a little directionless in my blogging and I was concerned that I was being negative and overly critical. 

Today, I am here so say that I am back! I am officially driving my husband nuts with my daily stories and observations and ranting and raving and have concluded that in order to maintain his sanity (and mine) I should continue writing. So, without further ado....my latest thoughts...

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Vocabulary Lesson - Part II

Since we are on the subject of mornings in France and waking up I thought I would do another little vocabulary lesson. Here are a few more words and expressions that no French teacher will ever think to teach you.

J'ai mal aux cheveux... Literal translation: My hair hurts....Meaning: I am hung over.

J'ai la tête dans le cul...Literal translation: My head is in my ass...Meaning: I am having a hard time waking up this morning.

Je suis dans le pâté....Literal translation: I am in the pâté...Meaning: I am moving so slowly this morning that it feels like I am wading through meatloaf.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Petite House in Seattle for Rent

We have a 1917 Columbia City house available for rent starting June 1st. The house has been lovingly restored and features a floor to ceiling river rock fireplace, a claw foot tub, original fir flooring and a brand new kitchen. The house is 800 square feet with one large living room, a kitchen/dining room, a full bathroom and one bedroom.

The home is furnished with the basics including a queen-sized bed, a brown leather couch, two velvet wing chairs, a large desk and a dining room table with chairs. More or less furnishings can be negotiated.

We have big yard with lots of potential, great for someone who likes to garden. There is a driveway in the back of the house off of the alley and lots of street parking out front.

Our house is located on S Lucile St, just off Rainier Ave South. We are a 5 minute walk to Columbia City’s row of hip restaurants, an artsy movie theater and a great Farmer’s Market. Walking in the other direction, we are 7 minutes from the Seward Park PCC and 15 minutes from the entrance of Seward Park featuring a great jogging trail, tennis courts, a boat launch and BBQ pit.

From our house you can quickly get downtown, it’s a 6 mile commute. You also have easy access to I-90 and I-5. Columbia City will be one of the major stops on the new light rail system that is opening this summer. So soon you will be able to whiz to the airport or downtown in no time.

Grégoire and I currently live in Paris, but in this high tech world we are available and attentive landlords. We are hoping to find a responsible, self sufficient tenant. We are asking $1,300 a month with a 12 month lease. Water, sewage and garbage are included.

Interested parties can contact me at maryineurope@gmail.com

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Thursday at 4 o'clock

Getting things done in Paris isn't easy. If you have an important errand to run or someone specific you need to talk to, like your banker or your hairstylist, I have determined that the best time to get these things accomplished is at 4 o'clock on a Thursday.

Due to the restricted work week and the French respect for days of rest, the shop, restaurant or business you are looking to get a hold of could be closed any day between Friday and Tuesday. If they are open Friday and Saturday then they are surely closed Sunday and Monday. However some places are open Saturday and Sunday which means they could be closed Friday an Monday or worse, Monday and Tuesday. These days off are unapologetically scheduled and are hard to predict. Therefore essentially 5 out of 7 days in a week you can easily spend time going someplace only to arrive and have it be closed and all you can say is of course, it's Tuesday. Wednesday can also be problematic. Many young school children have half days on Wednesdays so parents sometimes work from home those days or close up early. So then you are down to one day, Thursday. 

The timing of your call or visit is also very important. The average French work day starts around 10 o'clock. You show up at work, open your computer, have a coffee and a cigarette, visit, then eventually head to your desk for a couple of hours of work. Before you know it it's 1 o'clock and time for lunch. Lunch can last as little as 45 minutes and as much as 120 minutes so no use calling or dropping by during those hours, even if ironically that's when you have time because you are on your lunch break. By 3 o'clock everyone is settled back in to work, shops are open and people are picking up their phones. This window of time lasts until roughly 7 o'clock but after a year of trial and error I am telling you 4 o'clock on Thursdays is the only sure bet. 

Thursday, March 19, 2009


I now am a card-carrying member of French society. My Day of Welcome was a success and aside from a slight misunderstanding involving €300 I would say it was even easy.

I arrived early to my appointment and found the very same crowd at the door that I saw on google map's street view, I suspect their door is permanently surrounded with people. I stood with a group of 40 or so immigrants outside the agency, which was closed for lunch. Everyone had the same appointment time, one o'clock, and everyone had to stay for the entire half day session so I found it baffling that everyone was banging on the door and pushing and shoving their way in. I was seriously concerned about being crushed so I stepped back, watched and waited for the craziess to subside. It occurred to me that maybe these people were emigrating from countries where you have to push and shout and shove to get your way.

Once we were all inside we waited in a more orderly line, handed in our paperwork and then filed in to a kind of classroom. At one end of the room there was a large flat screen television and the bust of Marianne (a symbol of French freedom, sort of like our eagle, but topless and a woman). A Franco-Chinese woman welcomed us to our Day of Welcome and switched on the video. We watched a 20 minute presentation about the traditional pillars of French society, Liberté (Liberty), Égalité (Equality), Fraternité (Brotherhood) and they threw in the additional pillar of Laïcité (Separation of Church and State). There was a long portion dedicated to women's rights. Explaining to the women in the room that in France they have the right to circulate, work, marry, divorce and get an abortion without their families or husbands consent.

The video focused on the importance of learning the French language and embracing French cultural values. The film featured loads of long beautiful shots of French châteaux, vineyards and the eiffel tower. The image that was presented of France, was of a unified and clearly defined monoculture. The message was clear, we are welcome to join the French in being French if we like but that subsitutions, modifications or additions to this culture are not encouraged or appreciated.

After the video we were called up one by one for an individual interview. I met with an immigration adviser who was pleasant and efficient. We chitchatted about my work and why I moved France. As we talked she was evaluating my French and after filling out a quick vocabulary test (ie. matching the word stamps to the sentence saying "At the post office you buy BLANK to mail your letters") she gave me a waver for the state run language lessons and since I already have a job she also gave me a waver for the day of learning how to get a job in France. The only day that I did not get out of is the day of civic rights and obligations. This is a full 8 hour session which includes a free lunch, where all of my new freedoms and duties will be explained to me. From how to sign my future children up for school to how to get medical help should I break my arm. I actually think it sounds pretty interesting.

Then it was on to the medical portion of my Day of Welcome. I stood in a cattle call type line up and was weighed and measured. Then I was escorted into a small booth with two doors. The woman said to lock the door behind me and get fully undressed from the waist up. I glanced around the phone-booth sized room, there was no paper gown, no robe, just a hook to hang my top and bra on and large poster explaining in several languages that you should get undressed.

So I stand, tatas in the air, waiting to see what happens next. The door on the opposite side of the stall opens and a woman asks me to enter the x-ray room. She pins me against the wall of the giant x-ray machine and tells me to stay still as they take an x-ray of my lungs. I ask her why we need to get a lung x-ray and she answers, "Because it is the law." "Right" I say, "Of course Madame. But what are you looking for exactly?" She points to the changing room and says to me "Tuberculosis, now get dressed and go back to the waiting room."

A few minutes later a doctor in is late sixties calls my name and asks me to follow him. He has my x-ray in hand. We go in to a more traditional looking doctors office and he puts my x-ray on the light board. "Ooooh! Is that me?!" I say. He looks at my seriously and says, "Non". I can plainly see my name at the bottom on the x-ray and in seeing my confused face he takes my hand and says, "This (my hand) is you. This is just a distant image of you. This. This is you.". He looked like a cooky old philosophy professor so I smile and nod and try my best to humor him.

He says that my x-ray looks good. Although he can see that there are some gas bubbles in my upper intestinal track. He asks my nationality, I say American. He nods knowingly and says, "I imagine you drink lots of soda then? Coke probably?" "No, no I don't" I say, turns out I don't like the stuff. "Oh, do you drink a lot of alcohol then?" he says, "Alcohol? Oui" I say. "The gas must be caused by all the beer you drink then" he concludes. I assured him that I am more of a red wine kind of gal and he just shakes his head and shrugs in an I am not sure why you (an American who doesn't love beer and soda) has gas then. I paused here to make a mental note to write a separate blog entry about the French and their affinity for discussing and analyzing bodily functions.... which has since been written here.

I was tuberculosis free so all he needed to do was take my blood pressure and listen to my heart. I had put my shirt back on so he asked me to pull it up and he tucked his stethoscope AND his hand inside my bra....not sure if everyone gets this kind of warm welcome...and then sits down and tells me he thinks I am beautiful. He says, "I know that your country and my country don't always agree but I want you to know that I know how to differentiate between a beautiful young American like you and the choices that her government makes. After Obama got elected all I want to do is give the Americans I see a hug and thank them for having the courage to make such a bold decision." At that point I was fairly sure he was coming in for a hug so I pulled my shirt back down, stood up and said, "Great, are we done here then?". He escorted me back to the waiting room without hugging me.

Medical visit done, language test complete and video screened. I was ready to pick up my visa. I am called up and they pull my file and ask for my temporary visa and 300 euros in fiscal stamps. "Excusez-moi? What €300 are we talking about here? And what is a fiscal stamp?". I was sure that this whole process was free. No one during this whole ordeal ever mentioned anything about any kind of fees. I had twenty euros in my pocket, a 300 US Dollar daily limit on my American ATM card and no French checkbook or card because you need a Visa in order to have one of those. Grégoire was in NYC on a business trip and he is the only person that can withdrawal from our checking account (side note the bank is happy to put my pay checks IN I am just not allowed to take any money OUT unless Greg is there) so I tell the guy that I don't have the money. He says it is no problem and that I can just come back later. Later. Ugh.

Greg returned from New York on Wednesday and with €300 in hand we walked down to the local Tabac (shops that sell cigarettes, magazines, lottery tickets and fiscal stamps) to buy our stamps. I am still trying to wrap my mind around the concept of fiscal stamps, they look like postage stamps and are sold in varying amounts (€5, €15, €35 and €55) and used to pay for parking tickets, license renewals and visas. They are like money orders for government fees. Why they are sold at privately owed cigarette shops? I don't know. We went back to the immigration offices, handed over the stamps and in turn was handed my carte de séjour!!

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Batten Down the Hatches

Spring should be showing up any day now but for now it is still fr-fr-freezing in Paris. It's hard to say if it is colder here than in Seattle or if it just seems colder since I now spend more time in the elements. Growing up in Seattle, one of the rainiest places around, I never owned an umbrella and owned a few warm coats but never needed to use them on a daily basis. The 10 steps it took to get from my front porch to my car, then my car to my office and back again could be done with a light weight jacket. However in Paris, you are constantly exposed to the elements! A 10 minute walk to the metro, a 20 minute jaunt to work or to the shop, then outdoors again at the market, not to mention the daily 5 minute walk to the wine shop. All this adds up and all of this requires a warm jacket, a hat, gloves, and a scarf.
Parisians have adapted well to the winter weather season. They break out their furs, start mulling wine and wrap their necks up tight with never-ending layers of scarf. During the winter Parisians are willing to give up some of thier habits, like sitting along the banks of the Seiene or playing chess in the park but they are not willing to abandon the sidewalk café. The cafe owners prepare their terraces for the season by rolling down flaps made from tarp, revving up the heaters and handing out thick blankets to its clientele. Not quite inside and not quite outside these toasty little café campsites are warm and welcoming. Hauled up in one of these little tents I am happy to watch the world go by through the wavy tarp flaps and wait for spring.

Monday, March 16, 2009

My Day of Welcome

Today is the BIG day. My day of Welcome. Today is the day that I will undergo a medical exam, be tested on my langueage skills and view a film about how to intergrate in to French society. At the end of this little event I should receive my Titre de Séjour which means I can live here in totally legality for a year.

In preparation for today I googled the address and when I clicked on the street view this is what I saw...
Note to self, be early to avoid this line.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Mr Stephan Justtellhimthat

My life as a receptionist vacillates between being a comedy and tragedy. One moment we are all laughing and the next moment I want to crawl under my desk and hide.

When I speak French I prefer to do so face to face, so I can look at your lips and read your facial expression and use hand gestures when my words fail. Of course, all of these methods are unavailable when speaking on the phone.

Unfortunately the vast majority of my job is answering the phone. I have to find out who it is, where they are calling from and who they would like to speak to. Then I make sure so and so is available then I transfer the call or take a message as the case maybe. We have no answering machines so all messages are hand written by moi. If speaking French over the phone is the hardest part, then the second hardest part is having to write in French and a close third is having to listen to someone spell out a word or give you a phone number in French. In French i sounds like e and e sounds like i and g sounds like j and j sounds like g and é sounds like a. If that isn't challenging enough, the French failed to come up with a word for seventy and ninety. So if your phone number is 01 93 88 75 60, it would sound like this "zero one, eighty plus thirteen, eighty eight, sixty plus fifteen, sixty" by the second plus 15 my brain has turned to mashed potatoes and that person better hope their number is already in this person's rolodex.

Most callers enjoy my accent; I think I am even starting to have a small following of people who save their calls until the afternoon just so they can speak to me. People have told me that they feel like they are traveling to some exotic land when they have to call us now. Others are less entertained, and several are flat out rude, assuming that I am either hard of hearing or stupid as opposed to foreign and fun.

In the hip design world of Paris lots of English words are used. This trend both helps and hurts my cause. Our company has an English name so when picking up the phone I muster up my most clear and American accent while saying our name, then move in to a smooth and sultry bonjour in hopes of announcing my American origins but communicating to the person that I do speak French well. However, on the other end of things, I have a terrible time understanding Frenchafied English words and am often left at a complete loss.

Last week a couple of young guys came in the agency for a meeting with the boss. I ask for his name and where he works before I call down the boss. He tells me something that sounds like Starrr Tracks....knowing that we work with tv shows and movie stars I think ok this guy is an agent or a pr person for some actor so Star Track seems like a legitimate name. Before I call the boss I wanted to be tippy sure so I repeat is back to him and he says, "Non non c'est StarTrek". "Ohhhhh" I say, "of course you said Star Treck! With the stars and the rockets and Spock!" assuming he worked in special effects, I say "Great company name. Love it.". Since he was standing in front of me I supplement my new understanding with pantomime, as I pointed to the stars and transformed my ear in to Spock's pointy lobe with my fingers. I am laughing and having fun and he looks lost and a little disturbed. I stop. "What? Quoi?" I say as I lower my arms. "No no no", he says while grabbing a post-it he wrote down the name of his company, "Start Rec. You know like on your VCR remote?". Wow. I would have never guessed that, not in a million years and not with all the hand gestures in the world.

Another recent incident involved a phone conversation. A man calls asking to speak to François. I ask for his name, he replies Stephan, I then ask for him for his full name. He is in a hurry, I can tell because he is talking so quickly, and he says, "It's Stephan Justtellhimthat" or for my francophone it sounded like this "C'est Stephan de Louisa". I say, "Ok Stephan Justtellhimthat, I'll see if François is available." Stephan then bursts out laughing, he is laughing so hard he can barely speak. After a few seconds he says, "Oh la la, no no no sweetheart, I said my name is Stephan just tell him that!". Terribly embarrassed, I laugh a little with him and quickly transfer the call. A few seconds later I hear a burst of laughter coming from the editing department where François sits as I am sure he is getting the full story from Stephan.

Lordy. There will without a doubt be more stories like this share with you all soon.

Monday, March 9, 2009

I have been Bamboozeled!

I have been bamboozeled this week, not once, not twice but three times!! When I was working as a tour guide I had a standard speech I gave to clients about pickpockets. I taught women how to hold their purses in the urban underarm clutch, I warned men to move their wallets from their back pocket to the front and I scolded kids for leting their ipod ear-buds dangle out of their pockets. I delivered this lecture with gusto but having never been pick pocketed myself, it admittedly had a smug, only silly or careless people get pickpocketed undertone.

Well I take it back. I was totally blindsided this week and got a debit card stolen from right under my nose. My best friend Katie was in town visiting last week. This was her first trip to Paris and so as we rode in to town from the airport on the RER I gave her a quick speech about pickpockets which was followed by a philosophical conversation about frequent non-violent crime which abounds in Europe verses infrequent but disturbingly violent crime in the US.

The very next day we were looking for an ATM machine to pull out cash for Katie. The bank closest to my house didn’t work so we walked a little father a field and found another bank. This bank is in Barbès on a corner that is frequented by young Parisians with for the most part North African origins. On this particular corner you almost always see large groups of young men just hanging out. Sometimes they will try to sell you fake packs of Marlboros or faux Dolce & Gabana belts but generally speaking they leave passersby alone. With that said, there was no motivation other than race or age discrimination not to use this bank, so being the open-minded urbanite that I am, Katie and I marched on in.
The ATM machines were housed inside a bank but the bank was closed because it was Sunday, so we were in a little room off of the sidewalk but not in the bank either. A few seconds after we entered a young man came in and stood right behind us. I think, “what a nut, there are 5 other machines in this place why does he want to use this one?”. I turn around and he says to me, “Mademoiselle, these machines are broken! Your friend isn’t typing in her request the right way!”. I assume he is trying to help us poor tourists figure out how to use the machines in hopes for a tip. So I say to him in French, “Thank you, but I speak French and know how to use a cash machine.” He starts beebopping around saying, “ No no the cash machine is broken. She needs to push the buttons harder. Etc etc.” I say, “No really, we are fine so get out of here”. He jostles us and I push him away and in a flash he pushes back, reaches over my arm and touches the screen. I give him a shove and backs away looking surprised and saying, “Wow well I can see I am scaring you, so if you are scared then I’ll just leave”. His tone was indignant, implying that I was either racist or ungrateful for his help or both.

I turn to Katie, who doesn’t speak French and wasn’t sure exactly what was going on but knew it wasn’t good, to see if she still had everything. She says, “Yep. I hit cancel button and am just waiting for my card to pop back out.” I look at the screen and read Welcome to BPN, please insert your card. At that point it dawned on us that he had hit the cancel button, grabbed the card and ran. All without us seeing a thing!
At that very moment his crony comes in, overhears us cursing the machine and the situation and he says, “Hey ladies, I think these machines are broken so it’s not surprising that it ate your card.” This sneaky Pete was hoping to buy some time by convincing us the bank had our card and that we should just wait until the bank opened back up on Monday to ask for our card back. While I was royally fooled by the first guy this second one did not win me over.

So Katie and I walk back home to call her bank to cancel the card. In the 10 minutes it took us to get home the guy had already withdrawn 200 euros. He must have seen Katie enter her pin number so he was able to withdraw at will. Katie, luckily lives in a land where the customer is king so her bank canceled her card and will reimburse her for the fraudulent charges.

As Katie's visit cotinued, so did the bamboolzing. That week we were twice tailed in the metro by nerdowells. The first incident culminated in a man's hand sliding delicately into my pocket. Unfortunately for him, all he got was a used tissue and a very dirty look from me. The second incident began just like the first, a young man was following us far too closely in the metro, except this time I turned to him and told him to pass us if he is in such a hurry. He looked surprised and said he wasn’t in a hurry, and since he spent the next 15 minutes hitting on us and following us half way home I suppose he was telling the truth.

Traveling around Paris on my own or with Greg or French friends I seem blend in to the Parisian backdrop farily. Maybe it is because of my clothing, or my manner of walking or the fact that I am usually reading a French newspaper, but typically people leave me alone. Moving around the city with my beautiful friend Katie, taking pictures, giggling and talking at an American volume level we suddenly became highly prized targets. The difference was shocking.

In the end, I am sorry for the hassle it caused Katie and for the tainted view of Paris she now may have. I also feel sorry for the youths who are drawn (or pushed?) into a life of crime by the society which surrounds them but doesnt always accept them. Looking back on it I see it as a highly educational, albeit disturbing, experience.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Salad Dreams

Restaurants in the US will sometimes attempt to gussy up their menus by tossing in some French vocabulary, an A la mode here and en croute there. They may take it so far as to change the name of the place from Bob's Grill to Chez Robert for example. By adding a French word or two you instantly add a certain je ne sais quoi to an otherwise passé eatery. Parisian Restaurateurs play these same games with English! Although the use of English here doesn't conjure up images of haut cuisine or gourmet dining, rather they imply that the food will be fast, cheap and efficient. Here are a few funny examples I have seen around town.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Working Girl

Oh France. Just when I think I have you pegged, you turn around and prove me wrong. I was preparing myself for a massive uphill battle. I translated and tweaked my resume, purchased stamps and nice paper, highlighted want ads and ironed my shirt. I needed a well paid short term job that started ASAP to help keep us in the black while I waited for my dream job (everyone still has their fingers crossed, right?!) to start this summer and I was ready to fight for it. 

The first shot was fired in January. On a Monday and Tuesday in mid January I sent out a stack of letters and a bunch of emails. On Wednesday morning I dropped off a resume in person at an advertising agency in our neighborhood that needed a part time receptionist.  On Wednesday afternoon I met with the my new unemployment counselor who went over my resume with me and set me up with another counselor to meet with later that month. However, just as I was signing all the paperwork saying that I am unemployed and will need all the classes and help I can get because I am sure this is going to be really hard...the advertising agency called and asked if I could come in for an interview. 

By Thursday I had the job and on Friday I came in for a day of training! My new title is chargée d'acceuil or person in charge of welcoming people. The office is full of hip kids with tattoos, three day beards and flea-market chic sweaters. The massive steel and raw wood desks are stacked with Macs and the smell of felt-pens and spray-mount is in the air. Ahhh! It was a delight! My mother, two brothers, sister in law and both cousins are all in advertising so I know I thing or two about these kind of people. This job was exactly what I was looking for and it only took three days to get it! I will take some pictures and post them soon. 

Friday, February 13, 2009

French Fashion

This particular posting has been in the works for several weeks, months even. I was waiting to collect the perfect photographic examples which I believe I have now finally acquired. 

As I packed my bags for Paris last year I was worried about my wardrobe. Did I have enough chic clothing? Should I buy a few outfits here before leaving? Should I wait until I get to Paris? I decided it was best to wait until I got to Paris to be sure to buy the latest local fashion...in retrospect I should have bought more clothes in Seattle while I still had a paycheck and a husband with a job...but never mind that. 

When I arrived, I kept my eyes peeled for fashion trends. My mother soon came in to town and we put our heads together to figure out what women in Paris were wearing these days. I was feeling a little lost but mom, as usual, nailed the trend "It seems to me that in Paris you can wear whatever you want, you just have to own it!" Not own it as in it is in your closet but own it, as in hold your head up high and rock it. 

I wasn't so sure, can you really wear whatever you want? Boots, braids, pink jeans, ray-bans, floppy hats and suede boots... potentially all in one outfit? That answer apparently is yes. Yes you can. All you need to do is tilt your head up, walk with purpose and paint an half smile on your face that communicates, "That's right, I know you are jealous but stop staring" or "Oh, you haven't heard that blue fur and army boots are the new must have, well you will and then you'll feel silly".

Exhibit A: Platinum blonde buzz cut, black leather pants with a raised design on the back pockets, a deconstructed metallic down jacket and boots with four in heels before noon. I crossed this same extraordinary woman the following day at the supermarket, she was wearing exactly the same outfit except she choose her orange purse that day. 

Exhibit B: Fur lined shiny black down jacket, perfectly bleached jeans, playboy bunny sculpted in hair and sunglasses despite the fact that he is indoors and it was December. 

 Exhibit C: Fur, fur and a little mohair. 

Exhibit D: Blond lighter-than-air bouffant, wool coat with blue fox fur cuffs, pointy high heel boots with a blue military motif at well over 65 years of age. 

In Paris you can wear whatever suits your fancy. Seriously. I have already tested the theory. My first test was to wear a dress, heels and lipstick to a morning coffee date. No one batted an eyelash. No one asked me why I was so dressed up, unlike in Seattle. I then pushed things a little further. I have a black knit hat with a pompom the size of a grapefruit, would that be too much for these Parisians if I paired it with a giant 8 foot long wooly black scarf? No. It was a hit. Then this week I wore a controversial pink sweater that has a high ruffled collar similar to the styles of the kings and queens of England....it was a huge success. I had a few stares, a few smiles, and a few compliments. My friend Emilie told me she really liked it, I thanked her and said that I know it's a little different but that I enjoy wearing it. She said, "As you should Mary. It's Paris, anything goes!".

Case closed. 

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Vocabulary Lesson - Part I

This month I learned a few new vocabulary words that no French teacher ever thought to teach me. I thought I would share them with you.

Frottis = Pap Smear

Agraffeuse = Stapler

Femme au Foyer = Housewife

Un Pâté de Maisons = A city block

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Tea Leaves

After months of non stop travel the tour season ended in October. I found myself with an abundance of time on my hands. Hauled up in my apartment, wrapped up in my new Italian robe and slippers I sipped tea and contemplated my next move. By November the tea leaves in the bottom of my cup clearly spelled disaster.

The dark winter weather forecasts matched the tour sales forecast for 2009. Being one of the newest guides in the France program I knew I was the last in line for work and by the time they got to me there might be nothing left. I needed a new plan.

Touring kept me away from my handsome husband, far from my new french friendships and biensûr away from the blog. I wanted to find a job in Paris. My favorite parts of being a tour guide were always the parts that had to do with food. From organizing an oyster tasting in Cancale to teaching my young tour members how the French eat their soup, every time food was involved I was particularly involved. So I decided that I would like to transition from food lover to full time food professional.

So I began to beat the drums of social networking. Soon wonderful suggestions, connections and phone numbers started to pour in. My girls from Mrs Cooks (www.mrscooks.com) hooked me up with Monsieur Jacques Henry (fifth generation owner of Emile Henry ceramics). The ever inspirational AmyP put me in touch with Theirry Rautureau (www.rovers-seattle.com). My old bosses Tom Douglas and Jackie Cross (www.tomdouglas.com) introduced me to the talented duo who run Hidden Kitchen (www.hkmenus.com) who in turn encouraged me to contact Daniel Rose of Spring Restaurant (www.springparis.blogspot.com). My long time fellow food loving friend Kristin from Hawaii also sent me an article about this same young chef from Chicago, so I decided to introduce myself.

I marched down to Spring, which is conveniently located a few blocks from my apartment, shook Daniel's hand and told him why I think he should hire me.

Here's a snippet from the letter I wrote to him...

Mr Rose, 

Please allow me to introduce myself. My name is Mary. I read cookbooks like romance novels, I visit foreign grocery stores like art galleries and I make my own jam. In short, I am a gastronome who is trying hard to transition from food lover to food professional.

After three years in the tourism industry working as a tour guide and travel writer, I realized that my favorite part of the job was always the part that had to do with eating. So I have decided to cut the fat and find a job that focus exclusively on food.

I have been scouring the city looking for a dynamic young chef who may need some assistance in the form of a personal assistant. I can help with marketing, communications, event planning and other back of the house logistics....

He was sold. Next month the restaurant is moving from its current location in favor of a slightly larger, more centralized, spot near the Louvre. If all goes according to plan (fingers crossed) I'll be Spring's new event/marketing/communications/office person later this summer. This solves the long term question of where I would like my career to go but it presents a short term issue of finding a little job to keep us afloat this spring. Armed with my Carte de Séjour I am ready to attack the French Unemployment system. Stay tuned. 

Friday, January 30, 2009

Metro Moments - Part III

People say that the French are very romantic. This may be due to their affinity for public affection. They also have a reputation for being a very intellectual people. I believe this theory was formed due to the high frequency of public reading.

The Metro is packed full of people reading! Pocket novels, essays, poetry, tabloids, newspapers, some trashy, some classy but all nourishing for the mind. Just one more reason to vote for public transportation funding in the US, if you ask me. I am sure there is a direct correlation between a population's IQ and the availability of well lit public transportation.

Monday, January 26, 2009


I am legal!!

Despite my use of bold letters, when I received the news that I was indeed a legal resident of France I wasn't that excited. I was feeling so beaten down by the negativity and the weight of bureaucracy I could hardly breathe, let alone boldly celebrate.

We had our appointment at the Prefecture de Police and showed up on time. We pulled a number from the machine and waited our turn. We walked up to the counter and sat face to face with a sour looking woman in her mid-fifties. Smiling, we chirped in unison, "Bonjour Madame!". The already prominent frown lines around her mouth deepened as she grunted, "passport.". Didn't she know this was my special day?

She then asked for a series of documents which were on the list and a few which were not on the list. We had come prepared and pulled out page after page from our fat file. She tried to stump us by throwing a few curve balls our way, like asking for originals in addition to photocopies, but we hit each one out of the park.

Then she started to smile. I hoped this was a welcome to France smile. My gut told me it was not. As it turns out this was a I just found an error in your file and now I don't have to deal with you two anymore smile. In addition to our wedding certificate, the official translation of that certificate, the livret de famille, a recent gas bill proving we are currently living together and a rent check from last year showing that we have been living together for sometime now, according to her we had not proved that we share a life together. A shared life is demonstrated by showing bank statements from a joint bank account or claims from a shared an insurance policy. Ironically joint French bank accounts and insurance policies are not available to illegal residents like moi so we didn't have any of those. I tried to point out that we have been married for one and a half years and living together in the States for three years prior to moving to France so of course we share a life, how can something like that be quantified or proved? Should we have brought our wedding album? Should we have starting kissing and holding hands in front of her?

A lecture ensued. A mean spirited, condescending, lecture that included jabs like "don't you know how to read?" and "why did you bother coming today if you weren't prepared?". Near tears, I turned to Greg who was looking rather pale himself. We sat there in silence and let her rant, we didn't know what else to do. After threatening to give us an appointment three months from now, which according to her would give us enough time to sort our selves out, she let us slide and said if we could bring in a copy of our joint American bank account that same day she would consider approving my application.

She scribbled on our entry pass that we had permission to reenter the police station later that morning. Grégoire asked if we need to speak with her when we return, she snaped, "I just wrote that on this piece of paper" which is Greg's defense she had not yet handed to us.

We ran home, grabbed our American files, and dashed back to the Prefecture de Police. We went back through security, entered our assigned room and waited for our lady to call us back up. As we waited we saw her deal with another applicant. She was a woman in her forties from Russia who already lived in France and wanted her elderly mother to join her. The Russian women had failed to prove that her mother had her own health insurance. The lady from the Prefecture gave her a lecture then paused to lean over to her co-worker and say that she thought the Russian was doing this on purpose and that she was too cheap to buy insurance for her mother....horrified I wanted to shout, "Hello?! She is standing right there, she speaks fairly good French and probably just understood what you said....what is the matter with you?!".

However, since this lady held my future in the palm of her hands I said nothing. The Russians left, defeated, and we were called up. We presented our paperwork and apparently she was satisfied because she sent us away with another form to bulding F, desk 14, to make an appointment for my Journée d'Accueil, the Day of Welcome. Relieved to be leaving this women's presence we moved on to building F. There we are met with a nicer looking lady. We told her that we needed an appointment for my Day of Welcome and before I could finish the word Welcome she said, "Did you verify that all the information on your form is correct?". I though that was an odd question given that the form only had two lines of information on it, one being my name and the other that I was asking for a visa because I was married to a French person. I examined the page again and told her, "yes". Her eyes tightened as she said, "Paper has two sides". This was not said in a nice or informative tone, like gee ma'am as it turns out this form is two sided so you might want to check the back side too. Oh no, it was said to me like I was some kind of illiterate monkey who didn't know that paper had two sides. Greg's mouth dropped open and I stuttered, "uh uh ok, well let me look then.". Blinded by frustration I could hardly read the trembling page. I handed it in and said, "Yep, looks good.". "March 16th, one o'clock" she barked, this was obviously not up for discussion so I marked it in my agenda and we walked back to building E to turn in our appointment time. They made a photo copy of my appointment time and told us good bye.

On our way out we read the note which was crudely stapled to my temporary cart de séjour. It said that I was now a legal resident of France and that I would receive my French ID card on March 16th after my Journée d'Accueil. There. I was legal. There were no fireworks, no trumpets, no smiling, not even a simple welcome to France madame.