Browsing Posts published in September, 2012

A New Life Begins—Again

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Well mes amis, here we are: the end of the line. France and I must say au revoir. What a wild and wacky time it has been. I’d have to say that my two years in France have been … weird. A good weird, as in completely different from my life before France, but weird nonetheless. I had no idea what to expect and I’ve learned that there’s no other way for me to roll.

Of course I didn’t do half the things I’d planned on doing. I didn’t see every corner of France. I didn’t eat every delicacy on offer in this mecca of bizarre cuisine. And I didn’t become fluent in French, not even close. But I did meet many extraordinary people and I learned how to offend a lot of them with my well intentioned yet vulgar phrases.

I studied this fascinating culture and I learned many things about this marvelous country. I experienced the incredible French health care system. I trespassed on a few fine estates. I got sweaty with a gaggle of French bodybuilders. I was called out as a vagina owner in a packed pharmacy. I stood in a field of sunflowers taller than me during one of my many moments of existential angst. And I wrote a book. Overall, not bad I’d say.

But all things must end and I’m ready to be existentially anxious in a new place. Come 7 a.m. Monday morning Rusty and I will embark on what may prove to be our toughest transition yet. We have to pack as the movers load, drive 4 hours to the Swiss border, pass a full customs inspection, go over the apartment with a fine tooth comb with the rental agent (the Swiss way is one of rigorous standards in all things) and then begin the set-up. The next day we have to register with the authorities and then tackle the tasks of health insurance, driver’s licences, vehicle importation and full psychiatric assessments, obviously.

I’ll be going offline for a while. Now, don’t look at me like that. Our apartment won’t even have lights (Europeans take EVERYTHING with them when they move) so you can imagine internet service may not be first on our list of priorities. That said, if you don’t hear from me after two weeks, send a few RCMP officers over to the customs office in Vallorbe where I’ll be incarcerated for trying to smuggle in 20 bottles of Miracle Whip.

Anyway, I’ve had a grand time and I hope you have too. I know some of you don’t look too kindly on my abandoning La République, but that’s just because you don’t know my little corner of Switzerland yet. Trust me, you’re going to love it. I don’t know how long this blog will endure (or what to call it now) and I don’t know if there will be another book (tell everyone you know to buy the first one and the chances of a second improve), but for now my plan is to continue telling our story to anyone who cares to listen.

Merci France for hosting us so well and merci beaucoup to all of you for coming along for the ride. See you on the other side.

 

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Are We There Yet?

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Jaysus, Mary and good St. Joseph. Can someone, anyone, tell me what was I thinking when I signed up for this madness? I’m not even started yet and I’m all in. Of course being sick as a dog in the middle of preparing for an international move may have something to do with that. My “cold” morphed into a feverish fluvaganza and I’m only now coming out of it. Just in time to descend into panic.

But in all honesty, I’m still too weak to muster up the appropriate amount of anxiety. In between fits of coughing, I started to think about all the tasks that lay ahead. Naturally, Neil will take care of most of the minutiae. It’s the really important stuff that will fall under my jurisdiction. I’ll have to focus on all kinds of critical projects like finding a new laundry detergent and perhaps the most important thing of all—a new hairstylist. I haven’t had a haircut since April so that’s number one on the list. And it’s a long list that’s growing by the day. Continue reading “Are We There Yet?” »

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The Gift of Healing

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Saturday was my wedding anniversary. Well, not just mine, obviously I didn’t marry myself. Although every evening after 10, looking at the heavy-lidded lump next to me on the couch, it sometimes feels that way. Oh now I’m just kidding. He does often grunt or make some other man noise that lets me know I’m not alone in all this. Six years ago, for reasons now long forgotten, we signed some papers securing his legal obligation to feed me.

Apparently the traditional gifts for year number 6 are candy, okay, I can get into that, and iron, hmm, not sure what to make of that. Not that it really matters for us. We’re far too hip to keep with convention. No cards, no flowers, not even a few smooches as I am still a walking bag of phlegm due to the head cold from hell. Of course I got a splendid meal, bien sûr, but that’s par for the course here at Chez Rusty. Instead we decided that the best gift of all is a new adventure together. This year we gave each other Switzerland. Cripes, it was hard to wrap. Continue reading “The Gift of Healing” »

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Private Eyes

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Oh this wacky Internet is something now isn’t it? It’s difficult to know how to feel about it. On the one hand it connects us all in ways we never dreamed possible, case in point, this blog. And I would have pulled out all my hair long ago if it were not for the ability to find the answer to any burning question the instant it pops into my head.

Of course there’s a price to be paid. Why just the other day a friend of mine in Newfoundland was suffering out a man-cold. How did I know this sitting in France? Because he posted it online. Naturally, I made fun of him, we had a fun virtual chat and the very next morning I woke up choking with a cold. Talk about going viral! Behold the power my friends.

Also, privacy seems to have become a thing of the past. Thanks to the World Wide Web, you can’t make a move these days without the whole wide world knowing about it. I think we all learned that with the Great Duchess Debacle of late, which, by the way, caused barely a ripple of nipple interest here in France. It’s scary how immediate the impact can be once things start travelling along fiber optic cables. It’s a challenge to not descend into paranoia. Maybe someone really is always watching. Given the Dayquil/Nyquil buzz I’ve got going on, I need to be careful how much I think about that today.

True, a world where it is impossible to remain hidden from prying eyes is probably not a good thing. Or maybe it’s all in how we choose to see it. Happy weekend!

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Personal Effects

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Sweet Jaysus it’s just sad, triste as they say in these parts. I’ve started packing and I’m dismayed to see just how much stuff I’ve accumulated. I mean how can a person who sold off all her worldly goods just 2 years ago have so much crap? There’s a pale turquoise vacuum cleaner, an Ikea love seat that I think was once off-white but is now more accurately described as dingy. There are 2 desks, a old dining room table found in a dusty French shop, a wooden étagère that holds stacks of plates and bowls and Rusty’s giant coffee cups. Which leads to a coffee maker and a toaster and a TV and so on and so on.

Naturally, all these things had to be brought into my life in order for me to actually live it. I’m not a total idiot, I do get that. But I can’t help wishing I could sell it all off again, just load up the car and race off, all footloose and fancy free. I know that doing that would come at a cost—money, time and the aggravation of sourcing things in a strange and expensive land (Kitchen Aid mixers sell at over 1000 bucks), but still. Continue reading “Personal Effects” »

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Manual Labour

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It appears that the only thing more painful than immigrating to France is leaving France. Two weeks from today we make our exodus from this land of endless paperwork. Case in point: disconnecting from our technology commitments. I mean how much drama can there possibly be to ending our relationship with a cellphone/internet provider? Turns out quite a bit. Multiple forms and multiple phone calls, misdirection and misinformation and, with the language barrier, misunderstanding. Don’t even get me started on closing out the bank account.

Here in France, everything that could easily be managed with a quick call requires in-person presence, piles of paper and plenty of patience (not to mention perspiration). Moving is so much easier in Canada. Of course I knew all this from the experience of coming in but two years later all had been forgiven and forgotten. Continue reading “Manual Labour” »

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Sweet and Salty

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But seriously, can we please get back to talking about me? Swoon, swoon, I’m over the moon because this week Finding Me In France was reviewed by Chad Pelley, curator of the book blog Salty Ink. He’s a major award winning Canadian writer and a true Renaissance man (songwriter, photographer) when it comes to the arts. His gripping debut novel Away from Everywhere has now been optioned for a film and his next novel Every Little Thing is set to come out next year.

I’m a huge fan of his, so you can imagine my squealy, hand-clappy reaction to his request for an interview. He normally doesn’t focus on non-fiction, but he said my book was “special” and he’d make an exception. He asked great questions (bien sûr) but he also wrote a killer intro and review. Plus he called me lovely. You can read it here if you’re so inclined (meaning you have to and ignore that weird picture of me that I don’t really like). Feel free to comment and discuss the book, that’s why he does it.

I mean after that how can I be expected to go on with business as usual? How can I get through the door with a head the size of the planet? I’m sure Neil will find a solution for that mess right quick. Who cares I say. What’s wrong with accepting a little praise here and there, right? I’ll take whatever I can get with open arms and a grateful heart. Merci Monsieur Chad.

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The House That Steve Built

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Mes amis, you’re in for a treat today. I’m finally getting around to showing you what might be one of the most interesting houses in France, maybe even the world. It is the home of our friend Steve Plant, a transplanted Englishman with a sharp pen (poet, playwright, blogger), a sharp eye (French flea market expert, king of eclectic design) and a sharp mind (quite possibly the wittiest person I’ve ever met).

I have no idea how to describe Steve’s home, so I’ll let Neil’s beautiful photos do the talking.

Continue reading “The House That Steve Built” »

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Full Circle

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It’s true what they say: time flies when you’re having fun. Rusty and I are closing in on the two year mark here in France. Hard to believe especially since I still speak French like a toddler. Our days are numbered and will be filled with the banal tasks associated with my favourite activity: moving (yet another fine example of the dire need for a sarcasm font.)

But our remaining days will also be filled with the task of saying au revoir. This past Sunday was a particular treat, time to reflect on where it all began …

Those of you who have read the book will recognize this holiday rental house owned by the Farmer (Michel) and the Wife (Patricia). Those of you who don’t have the book, for the love of god step away from the computer and get thee to a Chapters store. This silly post will still be here when you get back. Continue reading “Full Circle” »

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Powder Puff

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I wonder if I am the only person on the planet who loves going to the dentist. Easy for me to say because I’ve never had a root canal or anything major done in a dentist’s chair. For me it’s all about the cleaning. I’d say a good descaling is right up there with a massage or even all that crap that goes down behind closed doors at a spa. Keep your mani/pedis I say, bring me freshly polished teeth.

Back in Canada I went as often as my insurance allowed. I endured the full hour of scraping and grinding with my beloved dental hygienist Irene because the end justified the means. My dentist always popped in for a quick looky-loo before I left, a required formality perhaps, although I’m sure he came just to lord his perpetual golf tan over me. Every time I saw him I thought the dentists had it all over us pasty slaves to the hospital system, which is what he was thinking too. Continue reading “Powder Puff” »

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Dear Alice

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People often think psychiatrists are paid to give advice, purveyors of pointers if you will. Not necessarily so. I was trained in assessing, diagnosing, treating and so on. If wise counsel was what you were seeking, you may have been better off with a well-crafted Dear Abby letter than spending an hour with me.

I raise this today because there are people close to me who are navigating very difficult situations just now. So difficult that it’s hard to know what to say or do, especially from such a distance. I’m no advice guru, so thankfully there are others to turn to when the seas get a bit rough.

I’m a sucker for stories of hope and perseverance and triumph over adversity, so here’s Alice—a Czech pianist, former music teacher and, at 108, the oldest living holocaust survivor. She attributes her survival during her darkest days to her son (who was with her in the camp), her love of music and her optimism. She remains committed to her half-full philosophy. So, to those in my life who are struggling (you know who you are), I hope this helps. I think there’s something in here for all of us.

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