Heading for the Stable

(Written December 24) You all know about the “rental” horses that go out for the day and are a bit sluggish and seem fatigued.  Until the rider turns them back towards the barn.  Then they perk up and head home eagerly for their dinner.

Sort of but not quite.  I am now three weeks out.  California is in sight.  At the oddest times, I find myself thinking longingly of clothes dryers, dishwashers, or my stainless steel pots and pans.  The most frequent is the clothes dryer.  I am creative in finding ways to drape wet clothes about the apartment but oh for a dryer!

This year I have decided to take everything back home or store it with a friend.  A family member has medical problems – see previous blog – and I am not sure I will be back in April.  So better safe than sorry.  But that creates an automatic headache.  Stuffing nine months of living into two suitcases?  No.  It’s more like 18 months since I left things from last time – so I gave in and bought another suitcase.  It holds 120L of stuff.  A test run showed that the clothes I just dropped in without good packing were only 33 pounds –  my max is  50.  Of course, the third suitcase will cost me $200.  Better than shipping.

And I am also shipping – but by La Poste and US Mail.  I can send back “American Goods Returning” with no duty implications.  Otherwise, I can only send $200 worth of goods to myself on any one day and $100 in gifts on any one day.  Yup.  It gets complicated.

So my apartment is a mess.  Both literally and figuratively.  Or maybe that’s not right.  Maybe literally in two senses: not clean and everything scattered around.  Sacks full of things for shipping – I pack them in the sack so that I can weigh everything.  And sacks for packing in the suitcases – those are in the bedroom with the three suitcases.  And I haven’t dusted or vacuumed in several weeks.  (Remember the dust bunny blog?  They are back!)  I was too busy then I started the packing process and it seems too much work to clean around everything.  And I am only here 3 more weeks… I can do the final cleaning at the same time!  Well, we’ll see.  I am not sure I will be able to stand so many dust bunnies…

Time of the year for classic videos.  I enjoyed the annual showing of White Christmas last night, with my “Chocolat Chaud Viennois” Hot chocolate with whipped cream!  Sometime soon I will also watch A Christmas Story.  And a French friend introduced me to a new old classic.  It’s called Dinner for One.  You can search it on You Tube.  It was made in 1963 for German TV in English starring a British comic and apparently it has become a holiday classic in – of all places – Norway!  I just watched this morning – short and hysterical!

The horror of the Berlin attack at their Marche has made its way into France.  Many more police and soldiers out and about.  They have really never gone away after last November, but now we are back to the same level as last Christmas.  And there are still repercussions – several marches in Paris did not open this year and Notre Dame does not have the annual Christmas Tree again this year.  I am happy I got a chance to see it in 2009.

I walk through the marches or down the sidewalks and window shop.  I see some beautiful things I would like to purchase but NO.  I have hit my duty limit.  You can bring back $800 to the US.  Anything over will cost you duty.  It’s not a lot.  Last year I declared $1,200.  And was ready to pay the approximately $23.07 dollars.  But after consulting the computer and his calculator for a long time, the customs agent simply waved me through.  $800 is a generous figure when you visit for 2 or 3 weeks.  It hampers your spending when you are here 9 months.  If I stayed here over a year as a “resident,” I would get a break and not have to declare everything.  But no.



Yikes.  I almost spelled that labour.  I must be preparing for my trips to London.  And, an aside…  it’s difficult to translate Yikes into French. (Oh wait, Google Translate says it’s beurk.)

Back to the point.  Labor – any way you spell it – is common in France.  I mean manual labor.  Many people are employed doing manual labor.  Like just now, the water truck goes down the street with two guys on each side manning hoses to wash off the street.  Maybe that’s common in big cities?  I have never seen it in Los Angeles nor in San Francisco or New York but admittedly my time in the last two is always limited.  Maybe my timing was bad and I just missed the street washing days…

Oh, I was wrong.  Today there is only one guy one hose.  I realized that when the truck came back down my street.  So someone calling in sick really does slow the process down – two trips down each street.  And there are many streets in my town.  BTW, they even clean/wash the street when it’s raining…

And then there’s the marches.

Each arrondisement has at least one marche.  http://www.paris.fr/marches

And most are under tarps.  The guys show up the day before or really early because they start at 8 and everyone has to be unloaded and ready by then.  The sidewalks have spots to place the pipes.  Then tarps are placed between the pipes so the market is a bit covered.

And then, of course, it all has to be taken down again and put on the trucks and driven away to storage.

Yes.  This is repeated three times a week.