Monday, March 29, 2010

Time to Change

While the U.S.A flew forward a few weeks ago - here in France we decide to jump ahead and join you this weekend.

Tonight while lying in bed I looked up at 8:45 and saw it was just begining to seem dark.

I am so excited for the long never ending days. Cool summer evenings of sitting on cafe terraces, strolling through parks, or relaxing by the seine.

Hip Hip Horray! It's time for a time and season change!

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Living and Loving in the City of Lovin

Living in the city of loooooove- you see it all around (l-o-v-e that is), and as spring comes jumping into action you see all the “lovely” couples just eager to flock back out into the gardens and parks of Paris to savor their love in the warm sunshine. Not to mention the influx of tourists that will appear to take a kissing headshot in every monument around the city. Yes I will stop and take a picture for you. No you will not be in it, if you start making out.

So as the flowers begin to bloom, birds start to sing in the air, what makes people go crazy after one eye gazing stare. What can take a usually normal sane being and after a brief chat, smile across a crowded room, or first date- make people totally lose their minds and wonder what the heck is going to happen next? And while you feel completely bizerk (yes I made this word up) people tell you it’s completely normal. I am pretty sure over analyzing ever single moment, several times, is not “completely” normal. But while you maybe going internally insane between first encounters and first phone calls, you are completely elated once you hear the voice of the anticipated pursuer actually DOES call. And filled with hope of where it will go from here…

Whenever I talk to anyone from home who I haven’t talked to since I pretty much left, one of the first questions they ask is, “So… have you met anyone yet?” (Which to be fair is a fully understandable question, it’s more of the expectation of romance due to Paris I am emphasizing on.) Prior to moving, pretty much every person (minus two people who refuse to let me live here forever) claimed my future as the typical Hollywood blockbuster love story to happen. I am so sorry to disappoint each person thus far on my venture. Cause really, I am pretty sure no one would be more excited than ME ME ME ME ME for that to actually be true.

One friend of mine has gone so far as to take bets with me. I love betting on my love life. It’s quite comical. Anyways… she is 100% certain it’s going to happen. The whole love story: Meet cute , fall in love, married, babies, “Katie a Married Parisian for life.” I am totally not against it. But I do live my reality here – and she lives the hope of the dream for me. I am thankful for that. So, whenever I comment on how I have met a cute guy, passed one on the street, or something to that degree, her quick response, “I knew it! I am going to win this bet!” Whoa… hold on Charlie… Let’s get an actual first date before we set the wedding date.

The funniest part is, this isn’t even just a foretelling from friends from home thing. It’s like in your mid-twenties if it’s not on your mind constantly; then others will put it there with a fresh dose of false hope as a free tote to go with your singleness. Whenever I travel and visit our staff in the Middle East, they tell me of all the people who have gotten married after visiting them. “Stephanie came to visit us, and she got married after wards, this always happens when people stay with us, you will see (wink wink).” “Jeni was great she came, and now she’s married, it’s cause she came to see us.” “Oh Alice, she was with us, and then she went home and quickly married, we are good luck.” Well, I cannot refute these stories are true, Stephanie, Jeni, and Alice are all married. I’ll be sure to take some of your love soil back with me in my carry on and sprinkle it around for good luck each night before I go to bed, or out with friends at night. I will be sure to send you the results once I marry.

I cannot deny. I am a sucker for love and boys. I am happy to be single at this moment. And, I love seeing happy couples all around the city. It reminds me that there is hope for all of us singles out there. Most see couples as annoying or a reminder of their singleness, and at times I will admit to having those thoughts and feelings too. But somehow here in Paris, minus the metro make out scenes, I appreciate people being in love and the reminder that no matter where you are in the world, there is love everywhere.

And hey… if people want to dream the dream for me, I mine as well let them, I’ll take all the wishful thinking people can give me. But – I am not just looking for good wishful thinking; I’ve got to keep a look out for the real deal here. And I mean, who’s to say, maybe someday after the first look, and the first encounter, I’ll have my first set of anxiety before receiving, the first phone call, and even… the first date.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

The Striking Game

The common joke you hear is that Striking is the French National Sport. Like American’s national sport is Baseball, Striking is something perfected by the French. They all rally together and support one another through this bonding experience.

And when I say perfected- I mean… they have learned to work the system amazingly. See when I first arrived, there weren’t too many strikes and then suddenly there were strikes all of the time. Then they stopped. Well this week there is a strike once again on the metro lines. And I figured out the genius-ness of the Frenchies striking system. They may have fooled me the first year, but I figured out the catalyst for their striking season.

Now while, most would say that they are striking over bad pay, change in political leadership, you know… common reasons to strike. I would argue the Frenchies are really striking subconsciously to get out into the sunshine.

You see we have recently had a change in weather making lots of nice “no need to wear a coat,” sunny days; after a very long and cold winter. In the winter, I never heard of strikes taking place. Because seriously who wants to stand outside when is raining, snowing, or just gosh darn cold. No one. Exactly. They would rather stay contently inside, suffering whatever it is they will strike once the sun comes out.

So yes, I would now agree that like Baseball is to Americans, Striking is too the French. Because when the warm weather comes around, they all meet together outside to enjoy the warm sunshine, play some games, and enjoy the beautiful day. So to help the Frenchies up a notch making their striking a bit more like the American sport I have made them their very own rendition to “Take me out to the Ball Game”
You know… for when they take their 7th hour Kir, Stretch.

Take me out to the sunshine
Take me out to the signs
Buy me some cheese and some good baguettes
I don’t care if I ever go back
Cause it’s root root root for the sunshine
If the clouds come back it’s a shame
Cause it’s Une, Deux, Trois STRIKES till your tan
At the Old Striking Game!

Friday, March 19, 2010

Battle of the Dishes

Last night after dinner, Madamoiselle Facebook did her job of taking our two bowls and placing them in the dishwasher. Bravo! I was quite impressed by her initiative training of chores even while her parents are away.

However... In the sink were three coffee mugs. Her three coffee mugs that had been left in my car the last few days. I did her the favor of carrying them into the house, but then placed them in the sink knowing she would be loading the dishwasher later. (yes as a test- shame. on. me.)

After the tough work or loading the two bowls into the automated cleaner, I saw the cups in three cups still sitting perched standing in the sink- calling out to be cleaned. Here is what went down...

Nagging Adult (me)- So! Do you think those cups can go in the dishwasher?

Madamoiselle Facebook- (very puzzled look on her face) ummmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm ummm ummmmmm.

Nagging Adult- I think it will be okay...

Madamoiselle Facebook: ummmm ummmm ummmmmm

Nagging Adult- Try it. I promise all the things left in the sink at the end of the day will be okay to put in the dishwasher. Let's see what happens when we try.

Madamoiselle Facebook: Uh... shruggs. Okay.

I think we are making progress! What do you think ?

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

The Facebook Generation

I have a 14 year old girl staying with me for the next two weeks. This should be interesting. I have always known she had a particular love for being on Facebook, but today's conversation gave me a whole new insight.

Setting: Leaving a Saint Patrick's Gouter (Cookies, cake, coffee)

Me (aka- an offical Adult now): Are you sure you want to leave, we can stay a bit longer so you can hangout with Jenny and Annie?

Mademoiselle Facebook: (shruggs her shoulders) Nah, I need to get back to my social life.

Offical Adult: (Puzzled) But... that's why I was offering for you to stay and hangout with them.

Mademoiselle Facebook: I mean facebook.

Official Adult: Oh... gotcha.

Mademoiselle Facebook: They are real people on there. I don't get why my parents, I mean adults (looks at me) don't understand that Facebook is full of real people.

Official Adult: No... I know their real, just not live.

Mademoiselle Facebook: Sure they are- we instant chat.

And the winner is:

Monday, March 15, 2010

Baby Boom!

I love my life right now. So why is it, that everytime I open my facebook the panic of the ticking clock begins to set in. Tic Tic Toc goes the clock. Like the rabbit from Alice and Wonderland I am left running in a panicking hurry looking at my watch and not at my beautiful scenery screaming “I’m late! I’m late! I’m Late!” Well… I am not as late as some… which just might be the problem.

Everyone is pregnant! And those who aren’t - probably just had a baby, or don’t yet know that they really are prego. I am overjoyed at each announcement I receive from a friend that they are getting married or having a baby. Individually I think they are absolutely fantastic, the best thing to happen for my friends, and ecstatic for their blessings in life.

But… when I open my facebook and each picture staring back at me is a photo of a new born baby, wedding gown pictures, or a status update of cute baby Jill- the panic button is pressed. How is it, that I can be so easily manipulated into forgetting all the great things I have going on in my life at this moment; and obnoxiously believe that I am fully missing out- and running out of time to ever have, what they already do?

I logically fully know and acutely aware that I am no where prepared or wanting to have a bun in this oven. I am happy that it’s my friends having the babies and me who gets to celebrate with them, and not be in the room pushing. But what makes me feel pushed to be headed towards mommyville?

I think part of it, is because I am so far away from that even being an option in my life. I mean heck- I am a missionary living in France. It’s not like I am going out of fabulous dates every Friday and Saturday night. The closest I ever get to a boy here- is the boy who sells me my produce on Sundays. But my how I do look forward to my weekly Market Boy.

It’s funny- being in the most romantic city in the world all alone. I don’t actually every feel it- the city itself inspires all the love one can feel in life. It’s the Page Six of my Facebook that tells me I am behind in the life schedule of all my other friends that makes the uneasiness settle in.

So… when the panic arrives, I just have to take a look at my surroundings and remember how unbelievably blessed I am. And the fortunate life that I get to live. That just because love and family is not happening for me at this moment, doesn’t mean it won’t ever be. And to enjoy this moment, cause it’s the one I’ve been given, and who’s to say what else will come in the road up ahead. This time isn’t forever- it’s a special time, a time for me. And one day someday sooner than I probably realize- I will have a slobbering baby profile pic too.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010


The common plea around the American’s I work with is there is a KFC and a Pizzahut the two sister companies of Taco Bell- but why No TACO BELL in France??? Nous Voulons taco bell. It is a mystery to us all and one that leaves are stomachs always longing for those gooey Chessey Gordia Crunches. After writing that- maybe it’s the fake cheese the Frenchies are against, but oh how I love that cheese piled on my Nachos bell grande- with a fountain Pepsi. Ahhh there’s really nothing else like it.

As much as I would love a Taco Bell here in France, I have to admit- though delicious, I applaud France for not taking on Taco Bell (but really it’s their loss). I came to this conclusion after my last travel in the Middle East. Neither Lebanon nor Jordan had a Taco Bell but their selection of “American” restaurants was far far far greater than what you would find here in France.

There were the common exported restaurants such as McDonalds, KFC, Dominos, and my personal favorite, Starbucks!

But then there were many more that I felt oddly strange to see in the Middle East: Apple Bee’s? TGIFridays? And most eye popping was Fudruckers! What the Fudruckers? Are you kidding me? This is my Dad’s favorite restaurant, and Fudruckers isn’t even all too common where I live, and here it sits- in Amman Jordan.

The tragedy of this, is there is such great food to be found in the Middle East. And LOTS of it. Every meal our hosts stuffed us to the brim. At one point there were 35 plates of food on the table. Our first night as appetizers were being served, I thought, “this sure does put the appetizer platter at AppleBee’s and TGIFridays to shame!”

While in the Middle East I greatly enjoyed the idea I could just go and grab a Crispy Crème, or any other American fave of mine- I just couldn’t make it fit in my mind that it was okay to go for a Whopper rather than a Schwarma.

Me in front of Reem the rated #1 Schwarma stand in the Middle East via the NY Times.

Oh wait! This is actually Reem. The Red Stand, two stands down from the Blue one. I Can't believe I did read the sign.

I greatly appreciate that France is an advocate for fighting against the McDonaldization of their food preferences. While I may miss my Taco Bell- I know that when I return my Taco’s will still be waiting but that while I am in France, Jordan, or Lebanon- I want to enjoy the food of that place and what fresh seasonings and ingredients have to offer. Though many would disagree and would like their American options- I am happy I don’t have them- but have the fun of exploring what the Frenchies have to provide. For now, I am perfectly content with thinking within the Baguette!

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Driving in the Middle East

In English this sign says Stop - but I am positive in Arabic it must say , “Just Kidding. GO Speed Racer! GO!”

Driving in the Middle East is like an experience of no other, and I hope to have no other experiences with it.

I can handle a bit of disorder in my driving. Driving here in France is a bit chaotic to the outsider but when you are in the midst of it, it really does ebb and flow majestically together like a ballet. But… in the Jordan and especially Lebanon, you really get the most use out of those “Oh No” grips on the top side of the passenger doors.

I don’t think there were more than 5 stop signs or stop lights that we actually stopped at in a week’s time. And even then, I believe it was just because the intersection was full, not due to adherence of the sign. Even during the times, where cars were coming from the direction with the green light, our drivers would continue through the intersection confidently- while my eyes bulged out of my head staring at the car approaching my door- praying I would not meet the end of my life in the next two seconds.

While driving down the freeway at about 80 mph the two lanes have become roughly 3-4. Dotted lines mean squat.

Seatbelts aren’t even optional- they just don’t exist. A few cars did have the luxury of a seatbelt and I don’t think I ever clasped one across my waist in such haste.

What I found most interesting were the different forms of communications drivers have here compared to other places I have been exposed to their driving habits. Here the horn is essential. I once read a statistic that the average person honks their horn like 7,000 times in their life. I thought that was crazy cause I hardly ever honk- and usually it’s to say hi or bye. I now realize this can be an accurate average because people in the Middle East (especially taxi’s) honk about 500 times a day. No joking. Beep. beep. Beep. Beep. All across the streets.

Interestingly enough, I learned that Parisians too, used to be honking addicts until the 1930’s when the Frenchies outlawed the tooting of the horn. Love the Frenchies for this! Paris sounds so much more beautiful with the silence of the horns.

Going back to the honking signals of Lebanon- while flying down the freeway- if someone was entering into your lane and you weren’t happy about it, what do you do? Slow down? Psh! Never. You slam on your horn until they hear you and submit. If that doesn’t work, and it is night time, you can feverously flash your lights to get their attention.

One night driving home in Beirut- our car was flying down a hill into a cross intersection where I could see there were no stop signs. As we approached, our driver flashed his lights to warn our entering into the intersection. Within a second we passed through. After surviving I asked the driver, “How do you know who has the right away? What if someone flashed their lights back?” His reply, “Whoever gets there first.” So comforting.

When I was in Spain, a friend living in Afghanistan said, “You know, you really do have a greater chance dying in a car crash in the Middle East then ever dying from a terrorist attack there.” At the time I found it an interesting comment. Now having been on the roads, I have to say my friend is 100% correct- if you can survive the driving- life is good! So if you find yourself being driven around the Middle East, I leave you with some advice from the French, “Courage! Courage!”

Monday, March 1, 2010

No Smile???

When it comes to pictures I love to flash my pearly whites that are from living here are quickly becomes tinted with tea. But regardless... if you are used to seeing pictures with my smile flashed and wonder why... I have the Frenchie smug across my face...

It's because it's mandatory.

When you go to take your picture for the Carte Sejour there are very specific instructions. One of them being that you are not allowed to show your teeth. My friend Emily actually got called back to retake her picture before they would issue her, her Carte Sejour.

Other rules that are required when taking your mug shot, but not limited too:
1. No teeth showing
2. Must be able to see your ears. (why no teeth, but mandatory ears??? It's beyond me.)
3. No scarfs or other items around your neck
4. Must be looking at the camera without a head tilt (also a really hard thing for me- classic picture pose.)

That's all I can recall from the mug shot I had to take a year ago. But I do remember thinking I looked like I was being committed, and that the rules were quite silly.

When a friend was visiting the picked up a few spare I had lying around and said, "you look like a Frenchie." So though the rules might be silly... at least the help me look the part of a Frenchie for one moment of my time existing here.

Officially, Official.

As of 10:41 am this morning I am officially official to be here in France.

Now, after being here over a year you would think I have been official… but no. It’s complicated. And now it’s a saga for me to share.

Jan 9, 2009- Plane landed (phew), Passport stamped. Welcome to France! Whoo hoo!

March 2009- French consulate: “I’m sorry, you need to go to Los Angeles to pick up your Visa. We can’t send it to you, like we said we could before. So please board a 16 hour flight and come stand in line for 5 minutes to receive your visa.”

April 2009- Please stand in line for 2 hours to hand in your paperwork.

July 2009- Please stand in line for 2 hours to receive your recipice. (Recipice is an in-between document until you receive your official Carte Sejour (residency card.) )

October 2009- Please stand in line for 2 hours to extend the expiration date of your recipice.

January 4 2010- Whoo hooo you have received the request for your medical exam. Please go to medical exam and then wait for your Carte Sejour (residency card).

Jan 23,2010 9:00 a.m.- Recipice about to expire AGAIN. Wait in line for two hours AGAIN to extend the expiration date.

But to my surprise they are going to give me my Carte Sejour!!! Doing the happy dance at the ease this is going to be. Should have waited all they need is 300 Euros (450 dollars). Problem. I don’t have 300 euros or an ATM card because this is also the week my wallet went MIA.
Here’s the conversation:

Me: Okay so if I come back with 300 Euros you will give me my Carte Sejour.

Man: Yes of course.

Me: You promise?

Man: Yes strange girl- why wouldn’t I give it to you.

Me: You Promise? Cause I know you might change your mind.

Man: No no no, all you need is the 300 Euros.

Me: Okay, I’ll be back.

Jan 29, 2010 2:00 p.m. (a few hours later- but the key is, there is a different person!) Stand in line for 2 hours for second time in this day.

Me: I am back. I am here to turn in my 300 Euros to get my Carte Sejour.

Woman (new person!): I am sorry you need to go to the medical exam.

Me: I have already gone to the medical exam. You have the paper with the date stamp in your hand.

Woman: No…. we need a different piece of paper.

Me: But the man PROMISED me earlier today he would give it to me if I had my 300 euros. I just want my Carte Sejour.

Woman: I am sorry. Not my fault. Here is your extended reciepce.

Me: Merci…

Feb 17 2010-
Walk in- strangely there is no two hour line. In fact there is no one. Very odd. Walk down a strange hall and find all the people. Woman at the counter directs me to walk a bit further down the hallway where someone can assist me.

Wait to get a window. Smile brightly. I know it’s going to work this time. Cross my fingers, smile brightly, I give the man all my papers, the right medical form, the 300 Euros of stamps- the carte Sejour is going to be mine. I just know it.

Man- you need 300 Euros

Me: You have the 300 Euros in your hand.

Man: Baa no.

Me: Baaa yes, look.

After 5 minutes he uses his calculator and realizes that yes ,there is 300 euros of stamps in front of him. But then tells me I am at the wrong counter. I need to go back to the front. Apparently the front office is closed today. And the next day. And then I am out of the country for a week. So… time to leave once again- without my residency card.

Today! March 1, 2010- a day to mark in history.

Arrive early and break all the rules (okay just the one about not taking pictures). I Make it through the stampede line. Wait in the sitting room where it’s stuffed full of people waiting for their turn at the windows. My number gets skipped.( Obviously). So I walked to the counter and showed the woman my ticket and ensured I would get some attention. I again smile brightly, give her the 300 euros of stamps, the right medical form, and pray she will not care that I have traveled over the last year. Let alone last week.

I know your jealous you haven't spent a full 16 hours of your life in this waiting room.

One of the rules with having a recipice and not a Carte Sejour is you are not supposed to travel. Having traveled just last week- my still fresh stamps might make it a bit obvious. However… To my lovely French administration…. I respect that you don’t want people to travel while waiting for their residency cards. But I have waited “Officially” for 11 months. On my beautiful Carte Sejour it says my date of entry was April 4, 2009. Today is March 1, 2010! I am not on parole running from the law. (though the picture on my Carte Sejour looks like I am). So please, if you make such rules, please make it practical to follow. But thank you for not noticing today how much I have exhaustively traveled while waiting for my residency card. Cause I really do like France, and am really glad I can stay.

My Mug Shot

So hip hip hooray! Today I can officially stay!

Until August when it expires and I get to begin the process all over again!