vendredi 18 avril 2008

We finally got our new windows from K par K installed. (old ones shown on left, new ones on the right)

After much confusion over what they could and could not do esthetically due to the appearance of the rest of the windows in the building, they finally delivered this, which is not at all what I was expecting.
I was expecting the bottom quarter to not be see-through. Now I feel quite exposed because people can see in from the street, especially at night. I insisted that we buy curtains.
They are the highest sound protection offered- 42 dB. Our previous windows were 27 dB or so and were installed about 15 years ago. We tried to sell the old ones, but had no luck. The only people who could have reasonably used them were the others in our building, since they are custom-sized. We put up a For Sale sign in the hallway and I listed them on Ebay, but had no takers. These new window/doors plus the window in our bedroom cost us 4000€. Yikes. At least installation was included. Also, I think we will get 1300€ back from the government because of the upgrade in thermal insulation.
My biggest worry was whether they would be worth it- is there enough of a difference that we don't hear the street noise? The answer is yes. We still hear honks and motorcycles revving, but not the regular noise of cars whizzing past. I was actually able to sleep last night without earplugs. Actually, I can sleep quite well in the afternoon on the couch with the street noise and at nights with a movie playing, but once I get in bed and it is the designated time to sleep, I can't sleep without earplugs.
So I guess overall it was worth it. Now I am just waiting for our neighbor to, well, be elsewhere.
The day after they were installed we went to Castorama, Carrefour, and finally Ikea. After lengthy discussions about colors and what kind of rods to buy, we finally settled on two black rods. The one in front will have curlique things at the end.
As for the curtains, we finally decided on thin white ones for the inner layer (when you want light to get through but not for people to see in) and dark brown for the outer layer.
Installing the rods was interesting. We have, soldered into our walls, unattractive metal holders, each with two little grey sticks pointing up. We had to cut our 2.5 m bars, then drill holes in the rods to place them on the holder.

As for hemming the 3 m curtains, it is becoming a rather lengthy process. First I washed them so that they would shrink and get nice and wrinkly. Then hung them up, tried to measure the correct length, pinned them, used hemming sticky tape, and got rather uneven lines. Still haven't worked up the energy to do the brown ones yet, so one is hanging up with the pins, the other is draped over a chair. Why rush it when it will just be crooked anyway? (One of those things that you realize afterwards you should have just paid a tailor to do it for 15€. At least then if they were crooked you would have someone else to blame.)
lundi 7 avril 2008
Last Friday it was time for my trimesterly Prefecture Happy Happy Joy Joy visit. I still have not received my carte de sejour (which expired Sept 30th 2007, we sent the dossier in in August, so now it has been nine months) so I have to go back every three months to get my temporary Recipisée de carte de sejour renewed. I thought that my Recipisée expried April 4th (Friday) but in fact it expired April 2nd. So I was illegally in France for two whole days! Ahh!! I suppose I am lucky I didn't get stopped because I am sure some policeman would make a big deal out of the card being expired for one day. Well, how about you talk to the Prefecture about that, because I would really like to get my carte de sejour for this year before it expires again in Sept. 08.

The process is (relatively) painless I suppose- I go there, hand in my old one and a photo at the door, go upstairs and wait. And wait. And wait. The waiting room is always packed, so I sat on the floor for an hour or two until I got nice and sore in the rear, then managed to secure a spot on a bench. You get to the point after you have been waiting a few hours where you start to think "I don't care if you are elderly, handicapped AND pregnant, I did my time, I got this seat, and I am NOT giving it up. Someone else can give up their seat."
Surely if I was elderly, handicapped, and/or pregnant I would feel differently.

I brought along my Suduko advanced book, and spent a few hours staring at numbers and listening to the names being called by someone who sounds like she trained under the teacher from Charlie Brown. Did she say my name? I can't tell.
Finally got called in to the office around 11.30. I was prepared for a fight- I want information darnit. When will I get my real card? It has been nine months now. Who can I talk to?
The woman was nice and didn't know anything, so I didn't get very far. Apparently, all the files are taking an exceptionally long time at this moment. Well, maybe that is because you, the French Government, have made it harder on yourselves to process files and cards. No wonder there is a backup. Instead of just issuing a card and then putting a new stamp on it good for one more year, they have to fabricate a whole new card for all of the people are renewing their cards each year, plus all the new cases.

Left the Bureau des Etrangers, and went over to the Car Registration area. Took a number, realized it would be about two more hours of waiting. Why couldn't I have combined my wait times, and waited for my car registration (we have to change the address, because apparently if you get pulled over, you can get an extra fine for the address not being correct) then gone up and waited for my Recipisée? Oh yeah- because you never know how long it will take in the Bureau des Etrangers- it could be half an hour or four hours, and you don't want to not be there when they mumble out your name.
I decided to go to one of the sub-offices near our apartment. Waited for them to open at 12:45, went in (no line- yay!) and was informed that Monsieur had to sign the paper as well as Madame, so no luck. Was so fed up with French Administration that I came home, plotched on the couch, watched Gilmore Girls and ate gummy bears.

So the way I figure it, I have to wait about one hour for every month of being able to stay in France. So, why couldn't I just take a week off from work, go to the Prefecture every day and sit in the corner with my Ipod, a good book, and take out from McDonalds, and at the end of the week get a five year card? That would suit me just fine.

I think that next week I am going to go to the Sous-Prefecture in Aix. Supposedly you can only go to the Prefecture where you live but I don't trust anything that the officials tell me anymore. It would make my life so much easier- less waiting, faster turn-around time. Or else just move out of Marseille. At the very least, I hope I can get some clear information about the whole process- when can I apply for French nationality? when can I get a ten-year card?
dimanche 6 avril 2008
Last Sunday, March 30th, we went to Toulon for Manon's baptism. The whole P. clan arrived in two cars around 11:20 am at Lucie and Nicolas's. I met Nicolas's parents and sister for the first time. At around noon, we went over to the church, which was finishing Sunday morning mass. I am surprised sometimes to find that some French people actually still go to church on a regular basis.

Alain and I had had a difficult time deciding what to buy Manon for a baptism present. The traditional gifts- gold chain, cross, medallion, pendant, didn't really appeal to us. We spent a half a Saturday at the end of February going to about ten different jewelry stores, trying to decide what to buy. We finally saw some amber jewelry that we liked (Alain really likes amber). There were some pretty small pendant necklaces with different colored amber- I didn't even know there were different colors of amber, but apparently it can be yellow and green as well. The prices for jewelry are quite high in France, so I suggested we look on the internet. I found a white pearl necklace/bracelet/earring set on Ebay from China. I love pearls and thought it would be a good gift. We ordered it, and they said it would take 10-20 days to arrive. Well, the day before it still hadn't arrived, so we went back to the store and bought the amber flower-shaped pendant. The pearls arrived two days after. I guess we will keep them and give them to her later. They aren't the best quality- some defects. Ah well.
We waited for mass to end and for the beggars to disperse- that really annoys me when they are in the church at the back. We trooped in, only to be told that the ceremony begins outside the church. We went back out, the priest gave the introduction, then we followed him back in. The ceremony was relatively short- about 30 minutes I guess. I have never (to my knowledge) been to a baptism before, so it was interesting. Alain, the godfather or parrain held a candle. Manon got held over the basin and the water was poured on her- not just a little bit either- her head was quite soaked.

Afterwards we went back to Lucie and Nicolas's for appetizers and a piece montee. The piece montee, like we had at our wedding, was wonderful. Only this time I was able to appreciate it more and had four small choux- cream filled caramel balls. At the end of the night of our wedding I was so exhausted I couldn't even eat the dessert.

Champagne was drunk and good times were had.
samedi 5 avril 2008

Every weekday morning, when I arrive at my office around 7:30 am, I spend about ten minutes walking around and opening up all the shutters. Across from one of the windows is a small niche in the side of the building across the street. There is a small window, which I am guessing is for a bathroom or at the top of the stairs or something. It seems to be the

Permanent Protected Perfect Pigeon Perch Place

because every time I look, there is at least one pigeon there. They seem to have made a nest, which will be an unpleasant surprise if someone ever opens the window and hits a pigeon on it's rear- tons of feathers, Pigeon Poop, and who knows what else will come cascading in.
jeudi 3 avril 2008

There is a small, enticing shop a few blocks from where I work in Aix en Provence. The show window is filled with teapots, and behind the counter are jars and jars of tea in bulk with wonderful names like "Pomme d'amor" and "Pain d'épice". They also sell small metal canisters in 100g, 50g, and 25g sizes, to be filled with loose tea leaves. The canisters are from 2.50 to 6€, and are various colors, patterns, etc.

The first time I went to this store, another couple followed me in. I wanted a few minutes to just look around before making my selection, so I told them they could go ahead. Big mistake. Apparently it was necessary to smell EVERY SINGLE TEA before making a selection. Good grief. After about ten minutes I was starting to get anxious (I do need to get back to work sometime before my lunch break ends) but finally they made their selections, and left. I bought two, the Pomme d'amor and Pain d'épice in 100 grams each with two canisters- total 19€. I am going to make it my monthly habit and buy a new one each month. Then, at the end of the year, perhaps I will fill them all up again and give as Christmas presents.

Oh- and the teapots- cute but way out of price range.
Tried to find the website again, but could not for the life of me find it.
mercredi 2 avril 2008
Easter was rather quiet this year. Alain was away in the US, Pepe wasn't able to come because he was feeling poorly (bad back), and Lucie, Nicolas, and Manon celebrated with his parents and sister.

The week before I bought the 39€ pink basket from Jeff de Bruges with chocolate to bring to the dinner. It was rather deceptive because there was just one layer of chocolate on top, the rest was just paper grass.

I arrived around 10:30 because I remembered from previous years that there were huge traffic jams around 11 am- everyone going out to see their family in the country I guess.

Jacques and Josée were finishing getting ready- Josée was making small "meals in a glass" which is, I guess, the culinary rage at the moment. They were quite good- one was eggplant with couscous and tomatos on top, the other was guacamole with tomatos and salmon on top.

Lydia, Jerome, and Meme arrived around 1 and we started eating. I should have written this post sooner so that I could have remembered exactly how the meal went, but it was less than previous years. Let me see- I guess we started with egg, tomato, and bread with foie gras, followed by the two small glass meals, then lamb, followed by a rhum cake that Lydia brought, and finally chocolate. I am sure I am forgetting something. I should call Josée to ask exactly what she served. I left around 6 so that I wouldn't get back to Marseille too late- can never find a parking spot if you get back too late. The next day was Easter Monday, so I putzed around all morning, then went to pick Alain up at the airport around noon. We went to his parent's for lunch, which was mainly leftovers from Easter. It was a nice, relaxing weekend. I am lucky to have in-laws that I can spend time with without needing Alain as a buffer and who, I think, have accepted me. This whole adventure of living in another country would be a whole lot harder if we didn't like each other.
cherry tree in bloom:

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