Fréjus, France

Fréjus, France
Aqueduc Romain

Friday, April 3, 2009


French bureaucracy is legend. I've already written about our adventures with the Préfet and obtaining les cartes de séjour. After 7 months in Fréjus and 9 months in France I've become used to waiting. It's not a bad thing. Waiting can be maddening. For example if you're blindfolded in the back of a car, motion sick, waiting for your spouse to become unlost. Or if you're in line at the grocery store and you have 5 minutes to get to school to pick up the kid and the check out lady is blabbering away with the guy in front of you who is taking way too long to bag his wine and cat food. Waiting can also be humbling--in certain situations there is nothing you can do because someone else is in control of what you are trying to do

The washing machine. We moved into our apartment on August 30th and by the time the owner came down (a week later) I had already broken the door of the washing machine. I tried to force open the door when the cycle was not done. With good humor Christine, the landlady, began the process of ordering the part, instructed me how to pick it up and mentioned something about how we could install it ourselves. After 3 more re-orders because the part had been sent back (1), the order had been lost (2), and the wrong part came (3), we finally got the right part (a door handle) in mid March. I looked at the door and figured we could install it ourselves. Then I removed said door, figured my way into the section to attach the handle and realized after I removed the springy thing that if I couldn't do this it would be a real pain to haul the clothes off to a laundromat while I waited for a tech to install the thing. The broken door was working just fine. A flat end screwdriver opened the door, no problem. But my pride was at stake, I really wanted to install this handle. No Gary (our fix-everything friend back home), just our two sets of hands and our meager apartment tools. We did it and it was a proud moment. Now on to the gate opener thingy.

The post office. I've learned to bring a book, or the iPod, or both. I now look forward to those minutes to myself. One time I was about 10th in line and I was lucky enough to catch an argument. A lady in line had had enough and started complaining loudly about how the post office was running things. Though she was thoroughly annoyed to see workers behind the desk but not actually working the desk, it all was really good natured. She looked around enough times to gather some murmurs of support and the guy at the desk who was working skillfully paried with her. Front row seats to French theatrics!

Transportation. A year without a car presents challenges, but owning a car has many challenges too. It's refreshing not having to pay car insurance and replace tires but we have to stop and consider things we previously took for granted, like running to the grocery store. Walking, biking or bus time is now built into the schedule. Michelle has been very generous with her car. Nathalie and Laurent as well have taken us many places, including home after a late night. But we don't assume we will have a car for the vast majority of situations. This week Irie went to a birthday party. When I finally figured out how far away the house was neither Michelle nor Nathalie could get back to me in time for a ride. So I figured out the bus system. A 20" car ride became a 80" adventure--walk to bus stop, wait for bus, get on bus, realize I should ask if this is the right bus, learn it's the wrong bus, thankfully get on the right bus just in time, figure out the stop at the other end, find the house.
We were on time. This was not a party I was going to hang around at, I wasn't friends with the parents, so I left, assuming I'd catch another bus home. Luckily I only had to wait 5" and it was the same driver who dropped us off. I was the only one on the bus so we chatted. Once we got into town the driver must have assumed we were good friends by now because she did some very unusual bus driver behavior. She circled the same block 3 times, talking on her cell phone, then explained to me that she had to pick up a friend. She had to tap a button so that her bus would read "out of service" so that waiting riders wouldn't be mad she wasn't stopping. She finally found her and apparently friends don't have to pay a fare. I never did see her tap the button again to put her bus back into service.

Friends. Joëlle, my French teacher in Ashland, counseled us that Irie would be silent for 3 months, then like a computer she would "click on" and French would stream from her mouth. That hasn't happened, though her French is arriving slowly and surely. What we are seeing now, however, is a real interest in her. Taking Irie to school everyday we see the same parents over and over. Some barely notice us, others look curiously, others are friendly, smile and say bonjour. Irie's first lunch date with Laly opened the door to more invitations, as her friends want to be invited over and Irie urges us to talk to the parents to make it happen.
Our network of who we know has exploded in the last month. And we face going home in 3 months. Zut.


Ken said...

Great job repairing the washing machine!

The bus ride sounded interesting. A few years ago I was in Canada and took the bus from the rural town I was staying in to the train station in another town. I had a great conversation with the bus driver who give me a history lesson as well as provided some excellent insight to a couple of out of the way places that only locals would go to.

This included a pub that had a bike race on the television. You'd never get that in the States.

I see that Barack and Michelle have been received well in France (according to the media). The statement he made about France and America working together and resolving world conflicts will hopefully put us on a path towards increased global stability.

Rick said...

It was nice to see BarackO here in France, and his town hall was so well done! It is so very refreshing to have someone intelligent out there representing us. Wow, diplomacy, what a concept.