I have officially got the cold that has been going around this house. My head is full of fluid, I'm constantly blowing my nose and my throat hurts from having to breath through my mouth all the time. I know, I know more information than anyone needed.
We ar moving out of Daniel and Tammy's today. We have asked to have DSL at our apartment, but it could take two weeks before we get it. They didn't have a modem at the telephone company so they are shipping it to us. So my blog may be empty for a little while.
Speaking of dsl…The phone company has a place in the mall of all places so we went to get our phone connected yesterday. They only have two people working there and it was pretty busy. When we finally got waited on we had quite a bit to do (get our phone connected, get set up with dsl and then our friend Ivica needed to get a Sim card for his cell phone. So we took a long time much to the chagrin of the people standing behind us. Well something happened and the lady helping us went to the back so the other lady come over to us and helped us out. When our first lady came back she stood behind the second lady which was at first ladies station (got it? good). So some angry lady waiting behind us comes over to our first lady and starts to ask for help, our first lady said she couldn't because she had to work at her station. A few minutes of arguing and our lady #2 moved away and let our lady #1 help us. As soon as lady #2 starts to help angry lady, angry man jumps in saying he needs help. So then our lady #2 starts to argue that angry lady was first. Several minutes of heated argument between angry lady, angry man and our lady #2 pass and then angry man gets up and leaves. It was quite a scene. Especially since I couldn't understand a word they were saying, but could figure out a lot just by expressions, gestures and tone of voice.
I am hoping to write blog thoughts manually while we are wihtout DSL so that I can add them to the real blog once we are online. So look for some dry spell followed by a gigantic posting a little later
Tomorrow we will move into the new apartment. We got the phone set up and tomorrow we will put the electric in our name (it has electricity, but it is in the old renters name). We spend part of the afternoon unpacking most of our bags. I think it will be an ok place to live. Except that it is amazingly hot. They do not have air conditioners in north France because it generally doesn't get that hot. So they say. Even though it is in the low 50's outside it was close to 75-80 degrees in the aparment. Its amazing how quickly buying a fan has turned into the highest priority.
Daniel's land lady is at it again. She sent them a nasty letter basically stating she wants them to plant a whole bunch of flowers and trees that supposedly they have taken out of the property and she wants it done now. I guess Daniel has trimmed a couple of smaller trees because their limbs were dying. They also removed a flower garden that was more weed than flower. He says they have put several hundred dollars worth of landscaping and it really does look nice. But without a visit she writes a nasty letter demanding they make it like it was. So the rest of the afternoon has been devoted to planting.
We had church Wednesday night at the girls (two girl members of the mission team) apartment. We don't sing anything Wednesday night because the neighbors will complain. We had a study and talked at a normal level. When we left Daniels children were a little boisterous and probably got a little loud but it was only about 2 minutes worth. Well the girls neighbor came over and chewed them out saying they were trying to sleep! It was 8 pm! Tammy told me their neighbor used to come over and complain about everything. Yelled at her girls for swinging on the swing set in the middle of the afternoon. Complained that their gate squeeked. Complained when the telephone would ring at night. They have church in their house, and Tammy said this neighbor would stand in her yard with friends listening to them sing songs and laughing about it and carrying on like it was some kind of cult. You could say it is a difficult work here.
Daniel and Tammys landlady is coming over today. Apparently she is a living terror. She is coming over because one of the neighbors told her Daniel tore out one of the trees, which is totally not true. But now we have to clean the whole house because if she comes over and sees anything out of place she will go nuts.
Yesterday I had my second french lesson. We learned occupations and such. I think once I get settled I am going to ask the teacher for some private lessons. Two hours a week just doesn't seem like enought to allow me to learn much. I might have a genral speaking knowledge by the time I leave, but I would much prefer to be speaking fairly well in a few months.
Today we go see the potential landlord of the apartment we hope to get. Daniel acts like it is never a sure thing here. Where in the states if you have money and your credit isn't horrible they will take you, here they want lots of paperwork and proof that you won't skip out. Luckily the lady who is actually renting the apartment (we are subletting) has had the place for awhile and has been a very good renter. Last summer she kept up the rent by herself even though she did not live there. I hope we get it and are able to move in soon. Even though I will miss living here and visiting with Daniel and Tammy, it will do us good to have our own place. So far I have felt like a visitor in France and our own aparmtent will drive home that I am living here for a good while.
The missionaries we are staying with have church services in their house. Service does not begin until 2 in the afternoon, so we were able to sleep in quite a bit. Church lasts anywhere from 2-3 hours. After church everyone stays for desserts and then sits around and talks. There were literally people here until 8 pm last night. I don't see how Daniel and Tammy do it each week. I told them when Amy and I move out and come to church we will not be staying that long!
Today (Monday) we have virtually nothing to do. I have French class for an hour in the afternoon, but other than that we are free. Tomorrow we have to talk to the landlord and hopefully will sublet the apartment. If all goes well we will move in on Wednesday. It has been really nice living with Daniel and Tammy. The new place will be quite lonely for awhile. But I am sure Daniel will not let us stay alone for long. He will find different things for us to do.
Yesterday was a pretty lazy day. We lounged around the house most of the morning and afternoon. In the late afternoon Daniel took everyone to Germany for ice cream. It seems kind of funny to go to another country for ice cream for really, it was only about a 10 minute drive, which is shorter than if we had try to drive through the city. To order the ice cream we had to just point at the picture of the scoop we wanted since we don't speak a lick of German. I got the one with walnuts, but unfortunately it had some coffee tasting sauce and I didn't like it too much.
The ice cream was located in the downtown section of the German city. It was a very pleasant strip that held lots of little shops and cafes. In the middle of the strip was a little playground that was surrounded by these giant chicken statues all painted different colors. It was quite hilarious.
When we went walking around we ran into this rock band playing in the street. It was quite funny because they were playing American classic rock mainly. So there we were in the middle of some German city listening to songs like "Smoke on the Water" "Let It Be" and "Hotel California" played by a very German rock band, surrounded by a crowd of grooving Germans. The only song any of the crowd lip synched to was Let it Be. My favorite moment was when they broke into a cover of the early 90's alt hit "What's UP" by 4 Non Blondes. That was a very surreal moment.
If we accomplish two things in a day we feel we have done well. Daniel and Tammy live in Otswald which is kind of a suburb of Strasbourg. Strasbourg is actually made up of a lot of little cities that are as a whole considered Strausborg. Anyway, Amy's university is located on the other side of the city(ies). Since we don't have a car it takes us about 45 minutes to reach the university by bus and tram. So our day is taken up mostly in travel time.
Yesterday we had to go to the university to get some paperwork Amy needed for her Residency permit. Then we travelled back to Daniel's and waited on him to take us to the place in Otswald where Amy applied for her residency permit. She didn't actually get it yet, but they gave her a piece of paper saying she had applied. It could take two months to actually get it and she has to have it to get paid! There goes some more savings! After that we went with some of the AIMers and passed out their pamphlets. Essentially the way the mission is set up here is they distribute pamphlets in mailboxes inviting everyone to study English through a Bible course. Anyone interested can call or write and set up a study. Some of them do it through correspondence, others actually meet in person. Then I had my first French lesson in the evening. It was a little daunting since I have not had a class of any kind in years. There were four students all together. Two of them have had an intensive French course before so are way ahead of me. It went fairly well, though, and I am anxious to learn the language.
This morning we went to the prefecture to apply for Amy's carte de sejour. Essentially she has to have a residency permit and a work permit before the university can pay her. Daniel had written her a letter stating that we were living with him and gave us some bills proving he lived where the letter said he did. This was wonderful except that he lives in a suburb of Strasbourg and the Strasbourg people said we had to go to the suburb folks to get the permit. They also added we needed some more paperwork. French life is all about paperwork. One of the documents she needs is a letter from the university inviting her to work. Now she has a contract stating she is working there, but this won't do she needs to be invited to work first. I don't know how the French do anything but fill out paperwork.
This evening one of Daniel and Tammy's friends came by for supper. He was visiting here from Detroit on business. It was an odd setting for Amy and I since we do not know him, yet felt it appropriate to spend the evening with him as well since we are staying here with Daniel and Tammy. So the visit was a little long to me because a lot of it was catching up between the two parties.
My French lessons begin tomorrow. I am a little nervous because I don't believe I will be much of a student anymore. It has been so long since I learned in any normal classroom setting that I don't know how well I will do. One thing I have learned about French culture is they do not admit any weakness or ignorance. I am very self deprecating and I wonder what the instructor will think of me if I continue to put myself down while trying to learn. In this new culture I am very timid about everything not wanting to be out of place or considered rude. Today, though, we spend a lot of time with one of the students here and he did a number of things against French culture. Like he barged into a store and asked for directions, a definite no no in France, especially with poor French language skills. But his attitude was of indifference because he felt it was better to get the directions and be sneered at than wander around for an hour. I think I like that attitude.
We made it to France finally. It was about 13 hours of travel in total over 3 plane rides. The over the ocean flight was not as bad as I expected. They had little tvs in each seat with several options of movies, television, and games to go through. I watched the Stepford Wives, some french film and about half of Duplex, with an episode of Frazier thrown in for good measure.
We nearly missed out flight in Paris. After getting off the plane we had to take a shuttle bus to our connecting terminal. Our terminal was "C". Well we take one bus to get on another. The second bus went from terminal A to B to D to E to F, but not C. Then we realized that you had to get off of B and walk to C. So we had to take the bus around for a loop, all while the clock is ticking and our plane is ready to leave. We finally got off and sprinted through the airport and just barely made it before they left us.
We are staying with the missionary and his wive and two children. They are very nice and extremely helpful. It is interesting because he is the head missionary here and has command over several AIMers (Americans In Missions, I think) who are all 18-20 years of age. So he is used to taking charge of them and telling them exactly what to do. So I see him doing that a little with Amy and me, but catching himself a little realizing that we are not here as missionaries and that we are not so young. But he has definitely helped to cut through the French red tape.
From what I am learning the French have a lot of red tape. Even in getting a bank account you have to see the right person at the bank and if they don't feel like seeing you they won't. Unlike Americans, where everyone does everything to help a customer, the French have their little systems and they may not help you at all if they don't feel like it.
Yesterday to of the AIM girls to us around town and allowed Amy to meet with her University fellows. Then later that evening we went out with several people in the department. They were very nice for the most part. It is interesting because we are in France, but this was the English department and some of the lectures (like Amy) were Brittish. So there was an interesting mix of French, American, and Brittish conversation going on.
Today Daniel helped us get a bank account. Later we will contact the girl who is going to sublease her apartment. Apparently this is also an ordeal. You have to have all these papers for the landlord to look at before he will let you have the place. We will see how it goes.
I'll first get into the Visa story since I left it hanging last time. Amy got hers without a problem. They have to send mine to France proper and it could take 4 months to process! They did give me my passport back so I will use it to get into the country, and then just country jump until I can either make it back to the states or we go home.
We're spending the weekend in Oklahoma with my folks. Had a big shin dig tonight with everyone. It's funny because everyone asks all the same questions and I give the same answers. This process can get a little dull, but I know everyone means well and it's nice to get the attention.
One week from today we leave. I am getting most nervous. I try to break it down into little pieces. We will get everything packed properly. If one bag weighs too much we will either pay the extra cost or lose some things. Customs will let us through easily, or they will hassle us and we may have to get another flight a little later, but we will get there. France will be difficult for a little while but each day will pass. Actually this is how I have gotten through a lot of life. I like to break things down into little chunks until they seem manageable and they pass.
It still seems funny to write this stuff and have no one read it. If I do let anyone read it then this will be a weird beginning since its all in the past. My plan is to eventually let everyone in so they can see exactly what we are up to. I have no idea if that will come to pass. i guess if it does then you will be reading this…