Fréjus, France

Fréjus, France
Aqueduc Romain

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Update on our lives in Fréjus

Rick: We now have internet/email at home, as well as a landline phone and a cell phone. We are with Orange for the first three and Bouygues for the cell. If you don't have those numbers and would like them, email me. Getting services in France is a slow untimely process, but thanks to Lisa's patience and french skills we are now "connected" to the rest of the world again. Once connected, however, the wifi service is fantastic.

Irie is doing much better in school! The American friend helps immensely, and she only lives 3 blocks away so they see each other a lot, but she is also (slowly) making other friends too. It's more difficult, obviously, because of the language barrier, but she comes out at lunch and after school often holding hands with another little girl, and she is starting to learn their names. The big barrier now is Friday lunch - lunch is from 11:30-1:30 every day and we pick her up, walk the one block home and have lunch and down time together. We signed her up to stay at school on Friday and have lunch there (in hopes of getting some social time in french with the other kids), but she doesn't want to do it. The lunch is good, but she says she gets bored after eating as the playground has nothing to do. She is right, the playgrounds here SUCK! No jungle gym-type stuff, not even swings, just a big asphalt space with a couple of basketball hoops and soccer goals with no nets in either. We told her to try it for Sept. and then we'd decide what to do, but she just doesn't want to go. Otherwise, it's going well, she is into her homework, has really comprehended the french numbers, and seems excited to go each day. Plus, the schedule is nice here with no school on Weds., so she says it's like having two weekends every week, though she is going to begin piano lessons on Weds. with a teacher who will come to our apartment. We are so close to the school that as I type this I can hear the kids on the "playground." Oh yes, and she already had school pics, here's what she choose to wear:

We're already planning our first "vacation" when she has a 12-day break in late Oct-early Nov. We are looking into booking a peniche or barge/houseboat to sail the Canal du Midi for a week. This canal was ordered built by Louis XIV to create a shortcut between the Mediterranean and the Atlantic. It opened in 1681 and has 103 locks, but never became the great shipping lane envisioned. It is busier now with the peniche vacation business than it ever was before. We are looking at cruising a southern section of the Canal, between Lattes and Argens, that would cover 16 of the locks. We estimate the peniche to be the size of the 5th wheel! Different digs than the Queen Mary 2!

We are enjoying life without a car. Sure, it would be more convenient at times, especially when wanting to buy "big items" such as going to the Jardinerie to start an herb garden - how does one transport plants, pots, and dirt home on a bike? Luckily, Irie's American friend's mom has a small car that I was able to borrow for that occasion. Otherwise, we have taken the bus to the city center which takes all of 7 minutes (we have also walked it), and I scored each of us used bikes in the past week. New bikes are pricey, so I scoured the Vide Greniers (literally: "empty attic", ie. collective rummage sales) and found Lisa's bike first for 30€ (plus 15€ for brake repairs), then my bike for 50€, and finally Irie's bike for 5€. A bike is perfect (at least in this weather) for getting anywhere nearby that we need to go including the two neighboring cities of St. Raphael and St. Aygulf.

The weather has been wonderful! When we arrived it was HOT...about 30℃ (about 86℉) during the day, and staying above 20℃ at night so we've had all the windows (which are really french doors) open all the time. Lately, it has been in the 24-25℃ range during the day, with nights in the high teens. One night we actually closed all the doors as it got to about 12℃ (54℉), which felt cold, but when the sun comes up, it doesn't take long to warm up. We go to the beach about 5 days a week, not counting our daily forays to the Blvd. d'Alger which is what I call the Beach Blvd or Boardwalk and where we go for the bakery, etc. It is a beautiful Mediterranean setting with sandy beaches, palm trees and water that is still in the low 20's℃. Ideally, it is great to walk down in the morning when the water is like glass and take a swim (with all the senior citizens), pick up a loaf of bread, then head home before getting Irie for lunch. By afternoon, often the wind picks up and the water gets choppy, but then all the windsurfers, small sailboats, and kite-surfers (of which I plan to be included very soon) come out to take advantage of it.

We applied for our CDS (carte de sejours) this Monday. When staying in the Euro zone for more than 3 months, one is required to apply for a visa (a lengthy process we went through this past spring). Normally upon arrival in that country one is then required to show up at your local prefecture (like a County Seat only for the national government) to apply for the CDS. We explained at our visa appointment in San Francisco that we wouldn't actually be arriving in our "home" town of Fréjus for about 8 weeks because we would be traveling so they wrote an exemption on our visa that is glued into our passports. So on Monday, we applied at the Prefecture and everything went very smoothly. The two women who helped us separately were very friendly and humorous. We were told it would be about 5 months until we received them which I find kind of funny as we'll only have about 5 months left before coming home. I joked with Lisa that for 275€ each (Irie doesn't need a CDS) we should just skip picking them as we have the stamped paper that says we have applied for the CDS, if asked.

Meanwhile, I am desperately looking for someone willing to teach beginner's french. You'd think it would be easy to France...yet it has been much easier to find french for Lisa's level. So it seems they expect anyone crazy enough to move to France must have some language skills. I actually do have some skills, but it doesn't show if I'm required to speak. My reading and listening skills have definitely improved, but speaking always comes along last. Then again, going off alone I have been able to barter for bikes, go to the bike store for repairs, handle the Jardinerie shopping, and buy all kinds of market, bakery and grocery items. So I can manage here, still finding a french teacher/class has been the slowest thing to fall into place. It's what I need most, but am finding least. Update: I found a tutor! Irie gets pulled from class a couple times/week to work with a specialized french teacher who is now going to come here to the apartment on Weds. to teach me for an hour. I'd still like to find a class, but that's a start.

I will let Lisa speak to her own experiences of the past week with regard to friends, french, and hula.

Lisa: The shift into a foreign country (oh so many weeks ago) was challenging. We went from being completely taken care of on the Queen Mary to having to navigate in French ourselves. This started quickly with getting the electricity fixed that was blown at our first apartment in Normandy. Paris seemed like a piece of cake with regard to transportation, internet, phone etc. The biggest challenge seemed to be finding Maggie at Charles de Gaulle and managing Irie's moods as she felt lonely from her friends. But we were like tourists in Paris, gobbling up the culture as well as the food. We continued to be tourists as we squeezed out the last week of August in Alsace before return to school. Then reality and culture shock hit again when we landed here. Were we tourists? Residents? We live here but know no one. The phone didn't work on arrival, we had no cell phone, no internet, and though I taped our names to the mailbox we got no mail. We started to become "official" when we showed up to the main school offices the day before La Rentrée. The place was a madhouse as parents were dealing with last minute registrations. Somehow I had the correct paperwork for Irie, and while I was prepared to argue why she didn't have a TB vaccine not one word was said about it. Pop! Out came a fiche with all her info and she was all set to start school. We owe a lot to our landlady Christine. We met she and her husband Marc weeks ago in Paris and they were thrilled to welcome us and help us in numerous ways. Christine made the initial contacts with the school offices. She also came down and spent several hours with us getting the phone and internet set up, going shopping, and dealing with the washing machine door that I broke. They are generous and available.

In downtown Fréjus we found the Office de Tourisme and the Mairie, where we gathered up a bunch of information. Between us and Michelle (our American friend) we share all the information we get. We found out about a welcoming organization "Fréjus Vous Accueille", which is a funny name for it because they want the membership to keep on coming, not just to be for newbies. It seems geared for retirees (I think this area is France's version of Fort Myers, Fla). We found our way there, learned about what they offer and I met Nathalie, my new French friend. She is our age, has 2 teen kids (possible baby-sitters!) and volunteers for this organization. She gave me her personal phone number and offered to show us whatever we needed. We've already met up for coffee and now there are 4 of us who are going to meet regularly to form a speaking group--2 French, 2 American. When I mentioned I dance and teach Hula she jumped at that, and I have met with the president of the organization and will be starting Hula classes next week. So far I have 3 students!

With regard to speaking French, my self evaluation of this varies. Sometimes I feel like a complete idiot, other times sharp. The French people I'm with don't correct me too much, so I too am looking for a class, something with some structure that will serve as scaffolding for my speaking out and about. Sometimes the sentences and expressions just flow out of me, sometimes I am busy translating in my head. As I speak daily that need to translate should be less and less, but my goal is to be able to express the complex stuff--opinions, feelings, psychological processes, analysis, metaphor--with ease.

It is very encouraging to see Irie picking it up already, without thinking too much about it. She will tell me something, or know a word, and when I ask her how she knows it she'll just look at me funny and say "I don't know, I just do." Right on!

1 comment:

Athena said...


Is there anything I can bring or send that would make recess more interesting? I'm thinking even chalk would be cool to make four square or hop scotch? Let me know-hope you got your package by now. I love you and can't wait to see you. You mentioned your mom's b-day. Why don't you help me think of something cool that we could get her-ok? Kisses on both eyes, on your forehead, and a huge (but soft) squeeze.