(the misadventures of an expatriate corporate dropout)

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

J'Arrive!

After I sat down at the gate, and breathed a bit, I called my friend Marcus back. He had called around 5:30 am while I was in the midst of madness. I was amazed that he would arise at such an hour just to call me.

He said he was in the middle of texting me since he missed me on the phone. It was to be a text of vast proportions and meaning, an ode to fulfilling dreams and such.

As always, Marcus got me to laughing quickly … poor man had to listen to a Kim rant at such an ungodly hour. He was patient and kind… full of humor. It felt good to unburden myself of the last 3 hours and I hung up, thankful for such dear friendship and ready to board the plane to a new future.

I nervously peered out of my window, attempting to see the dogs getting loaded. I had let the flight attendant know I had dogs flying with me and she assured me she would bring the little cards to me as soon as she received them.

Soon, the announcement came that the airplane doors had been closed and yet I had not received a card. I summoned the attendant and she phoned “Operations”. Yes she confirmed, the dogs were on board.

I was disappointed that the orange cards hadn’t been delivered and we had to call. Another customer service let-down, a missed expectation. I gazed out the window and watched as a man drove some sort of automatic ladder thing up near the plane and climbed up to check on something. He descended and pulled away. Take-off was beginning.

I dropped asleep nearly immediately. I awoke as breakfast was being served. There, on the tray in front of me, lay two orange cards.

The attendant saw me awaken and approached.

“Those cards were handed to the pilot through the window after the doors closed. They wanted to make sure you had them.”

I smiled, my confidence in United restored. I retract my retraction of the Bomb Diggity.

The rest of the flight was uneventful. I confess I did try to picture what the dog compartment area looked like, and what they were doing down there. Barking? whining? sleeping? who knows.

I made my transfer in Dulles. Flying over Washington, D.C. surrounds, I was reminded of the beauty and diversity of our landscape. Too bad such a load of dunderheads were in charge … and most likely will be for the foreseeable future. God, what would the founding fathers think? they must be rolling around in their graves.

Not only did I score first class seats to France, I scored one of those massive planes where First Class means basically your own bedroom! I had a seat (more like a pod) that made into a bed … I needed instructions to figure out all of the various gadgets.

Dinner was tasty. Hors d’ouevres to dessert. I couldn’t begin to attempt the full breakfast. It amazed me how everyone could stuff themselves, sleep for 2-3 hours, wake up and do it again! wow.

I did the 2 cart shuffle again through Charles de Gaulle. I was told to collect my dogs ‘aprés baggage’. I loaded my luggage and exited, expecting to find them. I wandered around, finally going to an information booth. I was told I would have to go back past security and customs, the dogs would be over there!

Drat! I expected an American hassle. Picture what we put folks through to get back through International Customs, if you will. I expected some sort of security check, full body pat down or something. I stood outside of the automatic doors, waiting for them to open. I spied a group of guards collected just on the other side and caught the attention of one. I quickly explained the situation and she just waved me in with a smile. Wha’??? A SMILE??? yay France!

Ha. So I walked the entire Terminal 1 arrival area, looking high and low. Finally I spied an airport employee and asked her … and finally determined there was NO special doggy delivery area. I was pointed back to Baggage Area 6 and there my fellas sat, 2 crates loaded on cart … no one in sight. They began sniffling and whining once they knew it was me. They were absolutely fine, perfect in fact.

Two elevator rides later, I pushed-me/pulled-me our way to the rental car desk, gathered our keys, and did the 2 elevator shuffle back to our rental auto.

About 2 hours after landing, we were finally on our way.

I had promised Miss Mancha that I would phone her once we were en route. I turned on my mobile to find that the battery was dead. Boo! but in retrospect, it was still not the time to call her.

Friends and readers, I confess that for the first several hours, I was still having some sort of weird misgivings. I’m sure my passport experience didn’t help. Speeding through the countryside, navigating the well marked roadways and eyeing the landscape…my inner voices emerged.

Much of what I saw didn’t seem vastly different than where I had just departed. From the roadway, you see fields and businesses and community developments. A few signs.

Frequently placed l’aires (similar to our rest areas) and better planned service areas with stores, gas, restaurants all grouped together for an efficient pitstop.

Doubting Kim emerged: “What was I doing here? was this where I needed to be? or was it just some dream that was better as fantasy than reality? is the American way true … defer one’s dreams as a carrot to more and more work. They are never quite what they seemed in any event…”?

And then I decided, about an hour away, to get off the highway. I followed the signs toward my destination, watching the landscape change again and feeling my doubts and fears lift. I began to recognize the hills and villages that make the Dordogne the Dordogne.

Yep, there it was, the sign announcing I had entered the departement of the Dordogne. Almost immediately, I felt my excitement growing and general outlook improve. With each curve in the roadway, bucolic scenes presented themselves. More pictures and discussion on that topic will be saved for another post.

If I were a person who actually believed in such a thing, I would swear that I had lived here in another time or place. For every time I arrive, I feel as if I have come home.

I couldn’t stop and view my house on this day, as it was getting late and I was bone tired. But I could drive through the outskirts of the village. It was a warm afternoon and the town was filled with people lazing in the park by the river. Dressed for supper, couples walked hand in hand along the cliffs and caves. A girl in a canoe dawdled under the bridge.

Yes… this is the place for me. My adventure awaits me. My excitement, my contentment, my joy bubbled up inside of me.

Although I arrived at the hotel depleted of energy and much worse for the wear, I arrived GLAD to be here. I am exactly where I am supposed to be.

I skipped dinner, had a cup of tea and biscuit from my kind English hostess and collapsed into bed.

I slept through most of the fireworks (sorry, La Framericaine), awaking only briefly for the final big bangs and then went back to sleep … not awaking again until morning.

I awoke refreshed, exhilirated, and ready to see my new dwelling.

à la prochaine!

10 comments:

Stacey said...

congrats!

Our Juicy Life said...

kim - i'm so happy that you all arrived safe and sound. Ah, the beautiful perigod...i can picture the river, your village which I love, your new home. so...did anyone check any of your paperwork you had for the dogs? Sounds like you just walked out of CDG. Anxiously awaiting to hear more.

Je ne regrette rien said...

Stacey-merci!

OJL-I was just laughing and telling someone that not one French person gave a first look at any of the paperwork. I imagine if I didn't have it, it would have been different. It may be that they scanned their chips before they brought them out. I can only highly recommend United and their service during the flight. They were truly supportive and provided a great experience. Thanks, and it is great to be here. I'm relieved to be saying that and truly feeling it.

Utah Savage said...

First class broad, gets first class treatment--just as it should be. I'm so glad to hear your there and that you're still posting here. Can't wait to hear more. Now I have to find your place on a map. Pictures please?

Cheryl said...

YEAH!!!!! You're there! I'm so glad you and the boys made it...safe and sound... no more misadventures after the terminal experience! I miss you and anxiously await further details of your new journey. I love you gobs!!

Randal Graves said...

Well played, terrorist sympathizer. You sure fooled those frogs!

I believe that in time, your reservations will start to dissipate and you'll realize that 'wow, this was the right thing to do.' :)

francetales.com said...

Kim
Welcome, I am the official welcome party. We are going to be in the Perigord a bit this summer, we'll have to meet up. I have friends in Le Buisson de Cadouin and Perigeux. Let's have a coffee and complain about how bad the dollar sucks.

Diane said...

Woot! Glad to hear you made it safely with the boys intact!

Misgivings, I know those ;-) But we are strong women making bold choices and living our lives to the fullest. Go Us!

I'm back to Scotland on the 28th arriving in Stornoway late on the 29th. As soon as I get my cell topped up I'll give you a call and we can catch up more.

Missing our chats!

Big Hugs,

Diane

La Framéricaine said...

OK. I am beside myself with delight that you are well and truly arrived. However, one big huge gigantic admonition--do NOT speed, or even go 1km over the posted speed, when in doubt go slow. The entire Hexagon is mined with radar/cameras to catch speeders. It is the singular thing that concerns me long-term. Everyone in my large French family has had points taken on or off (I never recall what they do with points, add or subtract them) his or her driver's license. Another friend came home from France only to have his daughter call him from the South and tell him that he had 12 tickets!!! I shit you not. Drive with great respect for the speed limit. Another blog guy in France got a ticket for 3km above the posted limit.

By the way, I am positive that I lived the life of an old French man in the 20s in Paris so, if the foo shits...

Amitiés,

Je ne regrette rien said...

U.S.- I love it when a broad calls me a broad. A few village pics posted today, more of the house soon.

Cher-thanks, me too!

RG-yes they already dissipate ... the more I interact with folks like me, the more 'at home' I feel.

FT-I'll email you my digits. It would be lovely to share a coffee or wine and compare notes! I am honored to have an offficial welcome! I feel like we are soldiers-in-arms!

Di-absolutely! look forward to chatting!

LF-I prefer to gently roll through life vs. speed. Don't want to miss the view!