January 28, 2010

...one week later

I landed in Paris a week ago already but I've been so busy trying to become a real person here that for me it feels like I've been here a month already! Things are slowly coming together – I try to do one “big thing” every day to chip away at my to-do list. Yesterday I was able to do a few major things like pick up my debit card from the bank (perfect timing – it had just been delivered 2 minutes before I walked in the door), set up time to see a potential apartment, and finallllly I got my phone so I can stop going crazy over not having internet or the ability to text people (and by people I mean my one friend Libby). My list is becoming much more manageable every day...instead of “open bank account” things like “buy kleenex” are starting to show up – although I've been sick for a few days now so the kleenex is semi-urgent. Things are getting easier, my French is sucking less every day...life is good.

I'm usually out doing things during the day, but I do eat breakfast and dinner with Marie usually. Meals are weird and entertaining just as they were a few years ago when I was living here. Breakfast is usually at least an hour so I have to take that into account when planning my day out. It isn't a huge production like dinner, but Marie is easily distracted so it takes a while. She always has the tv on and then provides commentary on whatever we're watching – no specific show, usually whatever channel is on from the night before. I don't know why, but Days of Our Lives dubbed over in French (called Nos Jours et Nos Vies = Our Days and Our Lives...I could have come up with a better translation than that) is on every morning after the news and we always catch the first half. I don't so much enjoy the show, but Marie's comments make it fun. She watches everything (including commercials) like it's the most interesting thing she's ever seen and interjects her own commentary...“what a catastrophe...that girl is way too big for her pants, doesn't that guy talking there seem a little feminine?, Did she not run a comb through her hair this morning?”, etc....). She's very critical for a 75 year old French woman, but entertaining.

Dinner is a lot like breakfast but a lot longer (last night was 2.5 hours) and a lot more food. I won't get into all of the weird things I've been eating – good of course – but sometimes I wonder. She made a whole chicken the other night and gave me something from the inside and I didn't know what it was. I sucked it up and ate it and decided to ask what it was after I finished eating it...well when I did she was said “Oh you like it? Here, here take the rest”. So I don't ask questions anymore about what I'm eating – as for the mystery from inside of the chicken, I never learned what it was, but I ate a lot of it. We always have an appetizer with an aperitif, the main course with wine, followed by bread and a lot of cheese, and then dessert with coffee. Here's a couple of pictures from dinners this past week – a very fresh appetizer (with it's eyes in tact) and a delicious dessert. Finding an apartment where I can make my own meals will be good news for my caloric intake.

Also, a few people have asked about the drawing on my blog...my good friend Brian made this for me before I left – he's an amazing artist - you can check out his blog here and his stuff for sale here!

January 25, 2010

So far, Paris is gray(t)

The first few days in the city of lights have been (not surprisingly) very gray and damp but really great so far. No complaints yet...ok a few complaints but I'll get to that later.

I've been very busy since I landed on Thursday, accomplishing more than I had planned to in the first few days. I was originally going to wait until this week to be productive but was forced into it earlier when I ventured out Friday morning to buy a French plan for my cell phone. You wouldn't think that going to the phone store would be the catalyst for a chain of ridiculous hurdles to jump through, but it was.

So I'm at the phone store where it's always so busy you have to take a number and wait for at least 20 minutes. I figure out what I need for my phone plan when the girl helping me asked for my French banking information. Well, I definitely didn't have that and didn't think I would need that but apparently it's a must. I figured I had time and energy so I went and opened up my French bank account which I would have needed eventually but didn't plan on doing this on the first day. To make a very long story short, I opened my account and thought that I was set. I had my account number, the debit card would be ready in a few days and I would have personal checks in a week. I was exhausted after the bank because I was running back and forth between the bank and Marie's apartment to get all of the required documents for a foreigner to open an account - which is a lot of random things that you wouldn't normally have on you – but I wanted my phone! The obsession with having a phone stems from Marie not having internet at her apartment. Or a computer. She's 75 so I'm not shocked, but it does drive me nuts. If I have a phone with internet I'll be a happy camper.

At this point I thought I had everything to get the phone so I went back for the second time that day and showed them that I had my bank account now. The people at this phone store only give me information as needed so finding out what I need is like putting together a puzzle. From opening up my bank account, I had Marie's ID card and an electric bill with her name on it. I understand the bank needing this information (somewhat) but never thought the phone place would need it. Well, they did. And they needed a letter from Marie stating I was living with her at the moment. I'm sure if I had a first born they probably would have asked for that, too...and I probably would have given it to them because I want a phone that bad. So I walk the couple of miles back to Marie's and she writes a letter for me to bring to the phone store again. I walk in for the third time that day...take a number...wait...wait...and then I'm told I need a voided check or my debit card to prove that the account information I have matches up with the debit card and checks that I should have but won't have for a week. I'll try again in a couple of days – fourth time's a charm, right? Until then, I'll keep stealing internet from McDonald's until they kick me out. But in my defense, McDonald's should not have a stellar internet connection if they don't want people to use it.

I have a feeling this is how most things will play out for the first couple of months here. I was warned by Jaime (my sister living in Germany) that everything abroad is ten times harder than it needs to be but Germans are super strict so I was hoping it was country specific...not so much! My next adventure is apartment searching which is already more difficult and complicated than I thought it would be, but like everything else it will all work out in the end.

When I'm not making circles around the city trying to get a phone, I've been hanging out with my friend Libby from Minnesota who has been teaching English in Paris since September. I met Libby while studying abroad in 2006 and it's so nice to have her here while I'm getting settled. When she left in the fall, I told her to find us friends to hang out with and she did a fine job! Everyone is super welcoming and fun – the perfect escape when the city wears me out.

Ok, time to go apartment searching again!