Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Santa Came!

To: You
From: Us

Ho HO......OHHHHH!
Merry Christmas All, from Paris

Monday, December 17, 2012

December in a Flash

Hello all. Yes, December has been tugging a bit at us, so the writing's been sparse. Time, though, to bring you an update before we head back to the states for the holidays.

Ok, where to begin?!

The amazing bejeweled christmas tree looming over the mall's make-up department
With visa worries out of the way, it has been time to start thinking of christmas. To add some holiday cheer, two girlfriends and I battled our way through the crowds to ooh and awe at the amazing decorations at Galleries LaFayette. This photo is a shot of the central dome of the mall.

In addition, to add to the madness, I recently started my own meet up in Paris designed around urban sketching. We just had our second session last night, and so far, I think it's been a success. The group consists of a huge range of experience with quite an array of people from all over the world. It's been really cool meeting such diverse people and hopefully motivating them to really capture Paris on paper. Check out So Sketch to see what we've been up to!

First So Sketch group, warming up in a cafe after a cold day outside.

This past friday, Adam and I were invited as reviewers to Catholic University's final presentations. We had met the director, Stanley, of this Paris-based program the previous year at UofI's own reviews, and were happily invited back to witness some really fun work based on fashion design. Stanley loves to invited a huge gamut of professionals for reviews, so we had a great mix of comments coming from architects, engineers, fashion designers, history profs, etc. etc. I think a rep from Vogue was there that night as well, and rumor has it that there's an article in the works for Vogue Magazine about the student's work. Ooh la la.

 Closing statements after a night of presenting, reviewing, wine, and cheese

This program really stress sketching as well. Here is an 
example of their history projects. Amazing work!

The following day, the activities continued. Weeks ago, I had signed up to meet a group of expats down at the Saint Michel fountain to sing Christmas Carols. I volunteered Adam as well...of course ; ) I thought, hell, why not, tis the season, right? and I can't even remember the last time I went caroling, let alone sang in public. So we both met the group, and as we were getting settled, a news team came up to interview us on the tragedy in Connecticut. Fortunately (or rather very unfortunately) we had discovered the news through Facebook late late late the night before, so we at least knew what had actually happened. The French news crew were doing a story on the situation how us Americans abroad had found out, and what we thought. I think it was more or less a discussion on gun control.

I had the chance to be personally interviewed, (thankfully in English), and emphasized that this was so so horrible, it's just unthinkable that someone could even ponder doing such a thing! The lady then asked me if these situations become less shocking for Americans each time they happen, and I said no. Definitely not! These tragic things don't feel less horrible because we're used to them, they feel worse because they keep happening. "So, do you think this will start a debate on gun control?", she asked. I said, "oh man, there's already such a huge debate on that one back at home." So she continued to ask, "so isn't this proof that people should not be able to carry guns, that this should just not be allowed at all?" I looked at her, assuming she'd hate my answer, and truthfully told her that laws or no laws on guns, crazy people like this who want to kill children will find a way to get a gun. Putting a ban on weapons will stop a few, but it will most likely negatively affect those people who actually use guns responsibly or for sport. If anything, I said, there needs to be stricter regulation on who can get a gun and what kind of gun that can be, so if the weapon is used irresponsibly, then these people can be severely punished. Getting rid of guns altogether isn't going to solve the problem. Getting rid of the crazy people might. Ok, I didn't tell her that last sentence, but she looked at me as if I was out of my mind, or just an idiot. Or maybe she was just that type of french person who permanently wears a scowl. I thought, well, there goes my chances for making the news.

Turns out, I DID in fact make the cut. They only had about 3 seconds of my entire interview, so god knows how they twisted it (the french was so fast on the news I couldn't pick out how they translated my stuff). But hopefully it got the point across that yes, we as a nation truly do care about what happened, but that we're all not crazy liberals thinking that banning guns completely will solve the issue. (I tried to find the clip, but unfortunately, they didn't post that segment on line)

The film crew also took some other footage of us singing for the children and those families in mourning back home. As we all gathered and sang Silent Night, I almost lost it thinking of all the sadness. It makes my teary just writing about it again. Unfortunately, they only got about a 2 second clip of our actual singing. (hopefully the link works!)

After some intense singing, and a mix of both crazy looks and smiles from the passerby's, we headed home to get ready for our first dinner at a french friend's home. Yes, we had finally broke though a bit of the French barrier! French or not french, though, it still felt nice to be able to have friends to share some of the holiday fun with. It really is amazing how fast a 5 hour dinner can go and how great it was to be introduced to some new foods and wines that were so traditional to someone else's customs. Cecile, if you're reading this, thank you so much!

Today is Monday. Adam and I are thankfully able to fit a little Christmas in of our own before our mad dash of packing up shop here. I have some wine mulling, our one string of christmas lights blinking, some good-ole internet christmas radio playing, and plans for a fun night out. Watch out Hobbit, here we come.

Hope everyone is also surviving their own Christmas madness. More to come....

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

It's Visa Time Again

Wow, so we've been really bad keeping up with life around here with you all. A lot has happened in these past three weeks including a trip to Bristol for Thanksgiving, but we'll get back to that in the next post. For now, let's relive the 'fun' of renewing my visa which happened only yesterday....

Remember back when when I actually made the appointment to get this? Yeah, it was last July upon returning to France for the summer and the earliest date they had available was December 4th. My visa was to expire the end of September, and I'm thinking, how in the world could their system be this backed-up? Oh wait, because it's France, and remember, Adam STILL does not have his official visa yet EITHER. So anyways, I don't know how many hours I spent going over and over and over the required documents I had to bring to make sure everything was accounted for. (oh yeah, and they want all your documents translated into French as well, fun).

And here I am only a visitor (probably the easiest visa to get) and yet I'm still panicking. I had all my ducks in a row, but I did not have my original birth certificate (really? who carries that with them?), and I didn't have it officially translated (again, seriously?). Visa offices are notorious for simply sending you away to come back at some other inconvenient time because you were missing one thing, or they decided to ask for a totally random item. Uh, it makes me nervous just thinking about all this again.

This is a bit of a stretch, but not too far from the truth. And yes, 
I even brought my mini stapler JUST in case.

Luckily, Adam took the afternoon off to come with me to the Prefecture, and I was glad to have the moral support. Entering though an unassuming door from a quiet hallway, we were blasted with the heat of too many people in one waiting room. Yep, we were going to be here awhile.

As we waited in line to check in, we watched those before us to pick up on clues as of what to do. One guy stood at the desk asking god knows what, and all we could hear the receptionist say was (in french) "where do you live? what arrondissement do you live in? what - arrondissement - do - you - live - in???!!! " The man looked so confused, and said he only knew spanish (doh!). The lady replied simply, "and I don't speak spanish!." The man left the desk looking frustrated, and I felt so bad for him. But really? You can't even pick up on the word arrondissement (meaning neighborhood...the thing that defines your address in Paris)? The next guy stepped up and apparently didn't have any photocopies of his documents. Again, seriously? Besides showing up in person, that's one of the main requirements. God you've got to have some patience to work in an environment like this. I'm still trying to decide if the heat in the room was from all the tension of those waiting or from the boiling annoyance from the staff.

Ok these people were making me feel better about myself, but somehow, I was still shaking as I approached the desk to check in. Things actually went pretty smoothly, because, yeah, I guess I actually had my shit together and I knew a little french. bonus. I was given a number and had to go wait with the rest of the sheep just hoping the actual meeting would go smoothly.

And hour later, I was finally called, and Adam and I went to the desk of the lady reviewing my paperwork. And that's when the birth certificate issue arose. "What? you don't have this translated? You know this needs to be translated" I felt like saying, I can translate every bit of this for you right now. It's not that difficult to see that there's my name, there's the hospital, and there's the date. Look, the date even matches my passport. Magic! No instead I had to play dumb and simply say I forgot this time. At least I knew how to say that in french. She left her desk with my copy and my heart began to sink. We had asked a friend who in the world translates birth certificates, and she told us of a guy through the embassy, but when she tried, it took over a month. Again, really?! The woman returned and said she'd let it slide this time, but for next time (haha, there won't BE a next time) I had to have ALL things translated. She went to pull up my file on the computer and then said, "Oh, I can't find your file, go back and wait in the reception, and I'll call you up later" Again, I was thinking, what?! How do you not have me on file. I couldn't even have made an appointment if I wasn't on file. Again, expecting the worst, I went back to the waiting room, hoping to dear god I didn't have to reapply (wait, that's what I was there for THIS TIME) or god knows what.

Luckily, she called me back shortly after and had a recépicé (the paper that says they're working on your papers) that counts as a temporary resident's permit along with another rendezvous scheduled for the beginning of February, a whole 4 months before I move back. Wow, isn't this all so efficient? All things considered, things went fairly smoothly minus a few misunderstandings in which Adam stepped in and helped out. I thought I'd be walking out with and updated visa, but who am I kidding? None of this crap happens in only one step. At least now Adam and I are both 'legal' again with some scary mug shot docs to prove it.

Yes, having official foreign appointments like this makes me more nervous than anything in the world. Why? Who knows. I guess I just get worked up on that possibility of not understanding in a moment that's so critical to understanding. And in getting worked up, I tend to blank out. Yes, ALL of this is in French, and I'm no genius at it yet. And we're not talking about knowing how to say stupid things like "I would like a coffee please" or "where is the nearest metro". No, this is a real deal interviewing situation that determines if you remain legal or not. I'm and American and only a visitor, so thank god I have it easy. I can only imagine what foreigners have to go through in the US to do the same.