Real estate

A friend is selling his apartment. Sounds simple.
Wait. It’s France
I asked how it was coming since he had told about it 2 months ago.
So far they have had one appt with a salesman. I was surprised. He could tell I thought it would have been sold or in negotiations by now. He set me straight to the French time line. Once they find a buyer and they sign papers – then they wait 3 months. By law.
I told him how my mom made an offer on a place January 2 and was living there on February 7.
We didn’t discuss it any further. So perhaps there is a logical reason to wait so long. Or, as someone said, WTF means Welcome To France…

Addendum to Mind Games

Someone commented to me that my “little men” reminded them of the movie Inside Out and suggested I see it.  Actually, I have seen it.  But here is France it is called Vice Versa.  (Language note – Latin is not pronounced the same everywhere.  We say Vice… well, you know how to say Vice.  The French say Vee-se.  So when I first said I had seen Vice Versa, no one here knew what I meant.)

So yes, I did think that those Pixar people had been visiting in my brain.  And I should have mentioned Inside Out as I did the Minions.  But there is a difference.  My little men are in more of a Myers Briggs’ Thinker’s control center.  You’d find all those Feelings over in the MBTI Feeler’s brain.

OK OK OK.  I am NOT denying Feelings – just trying to be funny here!  (MBTI coach sense of humor…)

And today I finally found a French term that means to laugh a lot… to have a good time.  Se marrer.  So now I am feeling better about the French having fun.

From an article by Adam Jacot de Boinod:

Cultural vocabularies:  how many words do the Inuits have for snow?  The Inuits are not alone in having many words to describe a thing that preoccupies them, patterns occur in the vocabularies of many cultures.

It is informative to look at where the preponderance of words fall within a language. We all know about the somewhat apocryphal plethora of Inuit words for snow (many of which describe the varying stages of the melting process) but it is undoubtedly true that the Hawaiians have 65 words alone for describing fishing nets, 108 for sweet potato, 42 for sugarcane and 47 for bananas (the basic food stuffs). Scotland goes into extraordinary distinctions for foul weather, Somali have a huge number of words for camels (many of which depict their different basic feeding and sexual practices) and likewise the Greeks have a range of expressions for face slapping and the Baniwa tribe of Brazil 29 words for ants and their edible varieties.

I really want to see more words that allow the French to express having fun.  (don’t want to delve into why Greeks have so many expressions for face slapping….).   For a start, I am showing everyone Snoopy’s Happy Dance.

Coping with technology outside of your comfort zone

Well, outside of MY comfort zone.  Actually, I am quite a bit of a techie.  When I started out in HR (Personnel) in the bank years ago, the IT people wanted me to take the IT test and then wanted me to transfer there.  I said no.  Wonder where I would have been if I had said yes – but it doesn’t matter because I love where I am now.

So back to the techie issues.  Yes. I can set up and manage many things – like laptops, tablets, printers, and routers.  And cable TV connections.  And the new phone connections.  And troubleshoot my sister’s IPad from Paris.

But try doing that in a foreign language.  Not so easy.

The apartment comes with cable tv, phone with free calls to landlines in the US, and wifi.  The wifi has been progressively deteriorating.  It started with poor connectivity in the bedroom.  What?  The ether is blocked by a wall?  There’s a connecting door – leaving that ajar didn’t help.  I did determine that holding the phone in a certain spot did result in a quick reconnection.  The kitchen is also a dead spot.  And that extends to the phone.  When I got here, however, the phone was working satisfactorily. The only issue was the phone itself which would not hold a charge for any period of time.  One call and it had to go back on the base for juice.

The TV cable does work but, of course, there is a remote for the Sony TV and a remote for the cable.  And how to make the two work their magic together is always a challenge.  Fortunately, I don’t watch that much TV.  (While trying to figure out how to make closed captioning/subtitles appear – because wouldn’t that be cool! – I did figure out that I can make an English program come through in the original English, not in the dubbed French.  But that doesn’t help me with my language skills…)

The internet has been dropping much more frequently.  I realized last week that the wireless printer problem was because the wifi would drop for a moment and then it had to reconnect.  At least I think that’s the issue.  And then the phone started not working.  This is the new phone that 2015-10-21 20.07.41does hold a charge.  But it is just dead.  From time to time.  Except now the time is extended to all the time.  So I have to use Skype or FaceTime for calls to the States… and yes, the dropping of the wifi makes those problematic.  (see the weird phone connection plugs?)

After escalating complaints (she said the French are used to ‘dropped wifi’ but did admit my issues are more serious), the landlady ordered a new box.  I think it will be just one; right now I have two.  So I will be delighted to see if that helps.  Fingers crossed.

BUT.   After the delight of a potential solution, the reality of how this will be installed is starting to hit me.  It’s being delivered here – which will be interesting in and of itself as there is no “gardien” (super) to accept it and how will I be sure to be here.  I get to box up the old boxes to trade with the UPS guy.

And then I guess I get to unbox the new equipment.

And then?  I will be without an internet to be able to check online for instructions – oh I can use my French Iphone…. But still…

It can’t be all that difficult, can it?  Phone line to phone line…  TV line to TV line…  Some cable into the wall…  Even if it is in French?

I long for the day when it will be connected and wifi, tv and phone all work as they should.

2015-10-21 16.26.26And apropos of nothing… Today this gentleman was just walking down the street playing his trumpet. I looked out at the sound and took a photo.  When he noticed me taking his picture, he held up his little money cup and shook it.  OK, I was entertained so I got a euro and tossed it down to him.  He saluted me!2015-10-21 16.27.08-1



And more apropos of nothing else, I love this red chair in the office across the street…2015-10-21 20.04.17

Mind Games

I love metaphors.  The following is a description of a metaphor – you don’t have to send me to counseling…

I can’t recall when they moved in but I have always believed I have small beings living in my mind.  They are really genderless, but I have always called them the little men.  (I wonder if the creators of the Minions were spying in my brain because the Minions might be the closest to my little men.)  There are one or two who handle the control room – computers before they really existed.  The most important, however, are the creative guys who live in a padded room – well, I imagine it padded, I have never seen it actually.  When there’s a problem I need solved, the control room guys walk it down to that room, open the door and toss it in.  They only open the door a tiny bit and slam it shut immediately.

And then we go about our business.  And suddenly, there is a big commotion when the creative little guys come running down to the control room exalting “EUREKA.”  And then they go back to their little room and wait for the next time.

And now that I am in France, I have discovered another wing in my brain (“wing” as in extension to a mansion, not the part of the bird!).  It’s the Language Hall.  I guess it always existed but I never really had to be concerned about it.  It’s like a library, complete with Librarian.  OK, she’s a gal.  Fine, my brain has stereotypes…   And she loves vocabulary.  I guess she studies dictionaries and passes the info on to me.  It has always been automatic so I didn’t realize she was there.  I actually discovered her when I met the French librarian up there.  Yup.  She’s very traditional chic Parisienne.  And until now she has been bored to death.  But suddenly she is excited to have some real work.  And thank god for her.  I think that’s why words can suddenly appear in my brain as I speaking more and more fluently.  She actually introduced me to the English language librarian.  Apparently there is a conference room between the two libraries and they meet there to confer about the technicalities of the language and the nuances of definitions.

And they both deserve medals!  Earlier this week I had a conversation in French about the California drought and El Nino and the need for snowpack.  My friend thought the rain and snow was for the ground water.  I had to explain snowpack and how it melts, replenishing reservoirs over the summer in a good year.  And the French word for “fill up” just appeared in my brain without any effort.   The guys in the control room and the creative guys were all watching on a monitor and wanted to break out in a Happy Dance – but that had to be put on hold until the conversation finished.

happy dance best blueSpeaking of Happy Dance, so far none of my French friends are familiar with that concept.  I show them the famous Snoopy cartoon and they immediately understand.  My goal is to increase French awareness of Happy Dances.  One friend told me that the difference between French and Americans was obvious to her when a Katrina survivor was interviewed and talked about rebuilding – that “can do it” attitude.  She said a French person would have complained about their problems…

I suppose it gets old, in the blog, to hear me go on and on about my French-speaking milestones – but it is so exciting to me.  Sorry.  Happy Dance time!

Bacon Conditioning

It’s Saturday morning and I start my breakfast.  Oatmeal (I finally found oatmeal here!!!!!  What I was given at a French home in Tours that was called oatmeal was not! It is foreign to the French.)  And bacon.

And as I was putting the two strips of bacon in the pan, I stopped and thought, wait it’s Saturday!  Time for more bacon!   A Saturday treat!

What conditioning!  From a small age, I had pancakes only on Saturdays or Sundays – makes sense.  The weekend when my working dad had time to spend with the kids.  (His Swedish pancakes were to die for!)  And then I went off to university.  And classes were Monday through Friday and again weekends were the treat time!  Sleep in!  Brunch!

And then I went to work…  sigh… and once again a Monday through Friday schedule.

But now!  As I was throwing in the extra slices of bacon (yes, slices!), I thought, you know, you can have extra bacon any day of the week now.  You are retired, pretty much – I am not stopping my coaching business but it is on hold as I work on the French.  And you can sleep in, based on the French conversation appointments.  Bacon Freedom is there for the taking!

But it doesn’t taste as good on a weekday.

The Lost Days… Les Jours Perdus

Where does time go? My life was totally disrupted for 5 weeks with two visitors.  Not at the same time in this 400 sq foot apartment in France, thank god.  LB arrived and went to England with me and the Niece (one of four nieces… 5! Including the great niece… but this is the Traveling Niece) arrived in London as LB was going home. We hung about and came back via the Eurostar.  Then she was here an additional 2 weeks.  I love my friend, I love my niece.  And I love my solitude.

Except.  Be careful what you ask for – you might get it!  Now I miss the noise and excitement.  I will create a separate blog entry on highlights of September for those who like the travelogue.  And to spare those that do not.

Suffice it to say, I am trying to return to my daily existence in Paris.  My employment here (ok, it’s not a paying job!  I had to swear to the French government that I wouldn’t “work” in France for my visa) is to improve my French.  So Niece gets on the bus for the airport at 7 am on Thursday and at 9 I am meeting with Albert.  And after him, Veronica.  And Friday Denise and Elizabeth.  Whew.  The strange thing – after not doing much in French for 5 weeks, I seemed to jump right in and actually improved!  All asked if I had been studying hard.  Nope.  If you let the brain have some rest, apparently it is happy to recall all it previously forgot!  I was feeling quite proud of myself.  Until Tuesday this week when Denise chewed me out for my pronunciation.  Sigh.  I don’t doubt that she is right – I couldn’t get around the room in the second grade with the phonetics cards.  I have no clue about sound.

One trip here, I was looking for the train station St Lazare.  I mean really simple – where is the train station???  I knew how to say it.  Ou est le gare St Lazare?  I asked.  I received bewildered responses.  From everyone!  I was getting frustrated and close to angry.  Did they need me to write it?   I found the station on my own using the map a few minutes later.  It was a month later, when I was home in California, that I suddenly realized – and I don’t know how – the thought just appeared in my brain – that I was pronouncing a different word.  Sure, I had GARE in my brain, but I was saying GUERRE.  Which means…. War.  So, yup, I was asking all these Parisiens with increasing frustration – WHERE IS THE WAR???

That sums up my pronunciation skills.

After my visitors left, I crashed.  Slept for hours.  Tidied the place – they were both very neat but you know how things have to move to accommodate suitcases and bathroom stuff.  So everything is now in its place.

And next week is shaping up to be a doozy.  CE on Sunday afternoon, one on Monday, 3 on Tuesday, a guided visit of the Opera House IN FRENCH Wednesday, Thursday a trip to St Denis and Friday one CE and a museum visit.  My over cultured bilingual brain may explode.

My French friends ask if I don’t like London more than Paris.  Mais non.  Of course not.  London seemed too frenetic to me.  Which is probably not true – but it just felt that way.  Even with our forays into picturesque and calm St James Park.

Although Paris has those Greves!  And Manifestations!  Today as I was on bus 73 on my way to the Musee D’Orsay for a CE, I noticed 10 police vans parked around Porte Maillot round-about.  I forgot all about it until I was returning home at 1700.  The bus basically follows the same route – Place de la Concorde then up the Champs Elysees.  But once we got on the Champs, we were slower than molasses in January (or October as it is very chilly here now).  We inched along. And then ten police vans zip up the middle of the boulevard, sirens going, lights flashing.  Through the Iphone I discovered that the VTC (Voiture de Tourisme avec Chauffeur) was protesting their salaries.  It was confusing – the article referenced Uber – but they don’t work for Uber.  My French failed me…  So I finally ditched the bus and jumped on the metro.  Only to stand there and wait 5 minutes.  We get to the next station and the same thing.  I was thinking I should have stayed on the bus – except when I got to my stop, the bus sign said bus 73 was not serving that stop – it was on a “deviation.”  So I wouldn’t have made it home anyway.  And when I exit at Porte Maillot, I expect to see tons of police and maybe burning tires…  Nothing.  Nada.  Rien.   Well, ok, there was one police car.  But the traffic was moving quickly so I clearly missed the action – or whatever was causing the lack of action and traffic.   There’s nothing about it on TV.  Can’t find an update on the VTC on the web.  C’est la vie en Paris.