Fréjus, France

Fréjus, France
Aqueduc Romain

Monday, July 27, 2009

très occupés

Summer is always busy, even when one is not going through "reentry." Thus, it was another big week. Grandma and Grandpa Browne arrived last Mon. with Maggie and our "new" van. I dropped the parents off at the Medford Airport this morning at 5 am. Maggie, the world traveller, knows she is home and has been very relaxed! The van is making a wonderful painting rig. We actually went to Toyota to see what the deal is with the "Cash for Clunkers" bill that just passed and found out we don't qualify because one has to have had the clunker registered and insured in their name for one year, but the program ends Nov. 1 or when the billion dollars runs out. Oh well, they were all sold out of new Prius' anyway. It appears from the first weekend that this is a tremendously popular program so we hope they'll renew the bill next year.

I felt bad that we weren't better hosts, but my parents knew we were crazy busy between our jobs and moving in to the house. We took them to Roseburg on Tues.
for Music on the Half Shell by Hapa and two other Hawaiian guitarists. The city puts on major acts every Tues. right next to the river all summer...for free! We brought a picnic of wine, cheeses, olives, crackers, fruit, etc., and found a spot quite close to the stage. Lisa even danced a hula.

Thurs. we all went out to Emigrant Lake for some swimming as it has been 100℉ for over a week. Friday night my parents went to the Elizabethan Theatre and saw Much Ado About Nothing after Music Man was sold out. Meanwhile, I went out to the local hippie fair with friend Tony and immersed myself back into the local culture. The music was good, the freaks were a sight, and the place was full of a interesting smells :)

Saturday, besides shopping for cars (kind of), we also shopped for a wood stove for the cabin. Irie's friend Alex had a birthday party at the public pool in the late afternoon, and Lisa and I attended a 40th birthday party for one of her hula friends. Yesterday, we were invited over to our neighbors for a small pool party which was a very nice way to spend a hot afternoon. All in all, it was yet another busy week. Here's our photo gallery.

In between all these events Lisa and I continue to unpack boxes, find missing items, paint, fix things, and hang various decor on the walls. The culture shock is not severe, but constant. Little reminders of differences, things or people we miss, and good and not-so-swell reminders that we are indeed back in the U.S. This week should see a bit more normalcy as the house is without guests, Lisa and I are both working, and Irie is at Le Cirque camp. We will return to Bon Pin en Oregon this weekend which give some relief from the heat and it will be August already.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Settling in...

We seem to be settling back in to our Stateside routines. Lisa finished her first week of work, and while feeling a bit fatigued at the end of the week she was also psyched to put her experiences and development of the past year into practice in her work and noted that it felt good to be earning money again. I amazingly already scored a painting job that will put me to work for the next 2 weeks and give an added boost to the finances. Meanwhile, Irie is happily exploring her old toys, books, and most importantly...friends. I'm not sure how I feel about it, but the reality is that her behavior is vastly improved since we returned home. However, she also now speaks longingly of France and her French friends and indicates she realizes what an experience it was for her. Better late than never!

Friday morning we again headed up to the cabin with a full Prius, but no Maggie, who is due to arrive with my parents tomorrow. The weather has really heated up, evidenced by the helicopters filling their buckets to fight a nearby forest fire (between us and Crater Lake), and by all of us swimming multiple times each day. Irie and I got a closeup flyover of a bald eagle, but I didn't have the camera on hand, and the same was true of a scarlet tanager that landed 10 feet away. Our friend and jack-of-all-trades, Gary, joined us up at Bon Pin for some serious work. He and I completely dismantled the huge fireplace in a 7-hour battle against ants, bats, concrete, volcanic rock, and dust. Amazing but I don't think two men could have been more whipped! Here's a before and after: The cabin feels so open now, and we are excited about the changes that will include a stabilized foundation, new wood stove, new countertop space, a washing machine, new linoleum in the kitchen and bathroom, and a much more open floor plan. Then we'll move outside and see if we can use some of that fireplace rock for a big permanent grill. If only we could eliminate the mosquitos.

For the moment it's back to the real world...both of us working (I know, it's about time :)) The house has started to feel like our home again, though we have not resolved the issues of damages and missing items yet.

Houseguests, the return of our beloved Maggie, a Hapa concert on Tues., hula on Weds., and no cabin this weekend. Lisa wants me to add that hula on Weds. includes me. I too am putting into practice some of the aspects of my personal evolution learned spending a year in France, and that includes joining the kane (men's) hula group. I'm not sure how well I can dance, but I'm willing to find out. We are noticing that while we are surrounded by the old and familiar, we are seeing it with fresh eyes.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Back in the U.S. of A

So it's been about 9 days. Where am I? How do I feel about the vast changes that have occured so very quickly? Or am I just too busy, and at the end of the day too tired, to reflect much about it? Yes and no. It has definitely been a whirlwind. I already wrote about our entry back into Ashland on the 4th of July and moving back into our house the next day. At times I look around our valley, and while loving the views of the surrounding mountains already drying out in the heat of the summer, realize this is certainly not the Mediterranean region of southern France. I drive around in my little Prius surrounded by BIG trucks and SUV's and vanity license plates, reminders of what I have not experienced in a year. I notice new businesses and buildings or old familiar haunts gone out of business in this sputtering economy. We are trying to find our culinary way as we replace French favorites that can't be replicated here. It was a joy to get our first farm box from the farm co-op! The most important of all is seeing friends and acquaintances...and making sure that I stop what I am doing to take the time to really connect with whomever crosses my path. This is something that we take from France that is very important for both Lisa and I - to be here now and treasure each human interaction, to revitalize our role as part of this community with newfound influences from the world, just as when we were in France we never forgot we were representing America and Americans.

Besides the insights and reflections it has been a week mixed with the unpacking of box after box after box and slowly organizing the house (which still has a long way to go), shopping to restock our completely empty kitchen, dealing with the issues surrounding the old tenants and the property management company, major yard work,
getting our car and scooter back and insured,
getting our new phones up and running and in turn making contact with old friends, helping Lisa get her office ready for today - her first day of work in 13 months, and planning for a weekend at our cabin.

I had visited the cabin for about 2 hours on June 10, 2008 with Will who was going to caretake the place and modernize the electrical system, but Lisa and Irie hadn't been up to "Bon Pin" since Oct. of 2007. We were all excited, and it was great to walk out onto our landing and see Mt. Thielsen standing guard across a calm lake, still holding onto a bit of snow. The cabin, like everything else in our repatriated lives, needs lots of work! That's OK, it is with enthusiasm that I see the changes that will occur and make the cabin an even greater place of repose.
We fell back into old habits quickly: coffee on the landing in the warm morning sun, interior cleaning and yard work (there is always wood to be cut and chopped) in spurts throughout the day intermingled with lounging in the sun, paddling around in the tahiti and swimming in a surprisingly not frigid lake. I put up the dock so that maybe soon I can get the boat in the water and go trout fishing. In the evening after grilling, we had a small fire outside in the fire pit and later played games before diving into our cozy beds for the night. Dirty and exhausted, but delighted to be back.

Today begins a new week of more of the same. Lisa is officially back at work and she seems refreshed and excited about it! I am bidding on a paint job, have a new shopping list a mile long after our cabin visit, and a laundry list of other items that need attending to. Our walls are still empty, except for the metalwork we bought in France which is the Frejus city symbol. I wrote about it here last fall. We also want to squeeze in some fun. Tomorrow, I plan on celebrating Bastille Day by going to a concert my friend Alice DiMicele is playing. Weds., we are excited about seeing the new Harry Potter film, and Thurs. we are going to dinner at Jason and Kim's who we are excited to see again! Then it will be off to Bon Pin again.

Have a great week everyone, and Happy Bastille Day to our French friends!!!

Monday, July 6, 2009


UPDATE: 4th of July parade

early hours July 5: That one word describes exactly how I feel right now. Why am I even awake? It's 4:30 in the morning and I have only had about 8 jours of sleep in the last 60+ hours, none of it good sleep as I have too much on my mind. Our journey was long, but not difficult taking 29 hours from leaving our hotel in Nice to arriving at our friends home in Ashland at 4 am on the 4th of July. Aer Lingus was clean, modern, and relaxed. United seemed dumpy and cheap in comparison. But somehow our good karma got al of our bags through (over the limit and over weight) without any charges. Huge thanks to Phaedra who drove to SF and back just to get us!

We awoke after 3 hours of sleep to attend the parade which is always a big event here in out litttle burg.
I didn't feel too bad considering the lack of sleep. What a day to repatriate! Walking down the closed main street, Siskiyou Blvd,, lined on both sides by people waiting for the parade, was like Napoleon making a triumphant return to Paris, I was a on mission to get 2 dozen donuts for our group (not french pastries these, just good ole American fried dough and sugar), but ran into dozens of friends, neighbors, and acquaintances who I knew. Lisa and I walked down to see her hula sisters preparing for their dance entry in the parade and the surprise, the tears, the joy of seeing Lisa was so very evident.
Between the parade, staying at John and Taylor's (who have been so welcoming and generous), going to a picnic in our neighborhood, and a pool party at the Feinberg's we had a glorious and busy first day home!

morning of July 6: Then there's our house. With a few down-time hours in the afternoon before the neighborhood picnic we went to our house for the first time. The cleanliness factor wasn't bad considering our tenants have been out since early May, however, there are some bigger issues here that will be addressed today. We pulled up to see a huge bundle of cables snaking up the front of the house and along the gutters to a satellite dish for which we were never asked permission. Broken kitchen cabinets hinges and entertainment center door. A long florescent-tubed light removed from the ceiling of the garage. Missing shelving units, ironing board, paper towel holder in pieces, and a huge binder of all our appliance warranty info (WHY?). Our yard looks like it was completely ignored all year: yard dead and waist-high, dead plants, automatic drip sprinklers not turned on, no clipping or raking of any kind done. And then we discovered that one of the cabinets in our bedroom to which I had applied strong keyed-locks had been pried apart and the contents stolen! Luckily, they left the other one alone and that was the cabinet that had our iMac and safe in it. Sadly, we haven't even yet figured out what is missing. The property management company seems to have missed all this, but we will be filling them in today.

Yesterday we had great support from so many friends! We essentially emptied our locker of it's contents which are now all filling our house (or Lisa's office). The house feels much better with stuff in it, even if it will be weeks before things are in their proper places.
I hurt from head-to-toe, mostly my back from going so hard on so little sleep, but it sure felt good to be so productive and get so much done yesterday. For a reward we took ourselves and The Nabes out for mexican food and stayed again at their house so we wouldn't be surrounded by the chaos.

Today, Lisa is off to get our phones and internet up and running, and to get her office ready for her return to work one week from today. I want to get our beds put together, get some groceries in the house, and start on the yard. Luckily the 99 degree temps of the 4th and mid -90's yesterday are lowering to about 80 today. We are back in the U.S., and yet I've had very little time to reflect on that yet. Last night I downloaded over 100 photos from the camera and it was a mix of our last couple days in France and our first 2 days here - a very interesting conglomeration of our week. I would like to do more about these last few days: both our goodbyes and our hellos, parade videos, etc., but that will have to wait until the next post when I have more time and internet up and running at home.