(the misadventures of an expatriate corporate dropout)

Thursday, October 30, 2008


We have been hard at work this week on the new kitchen. I decided to move the kitchen during my renovation to a larger downstairs room with more light, a larger fireplace and access to the sunroom and garden.

Included in the move has been the addition of two new windows, facing the garden, which open up the space to more light and better views of the garden.

Thank goodness I have someone who not only knows how to cut windows in 2+ foot thick walls, but also knows how to do so without the upper floor caving in. Jean Yves located ancient beams to support the new window frames. He has also exposed one stone wall and sandblasted the large fireplace to expose the buttery yellow finish of the stone.

New wallboard and electricity has been installed. This week we have directed our attention to the ceiling. The ceiling had box beams in a dark wood. We have sanded and primed the ceiling, and now have begun the color application. The beams are a light grey with touches of ochre yellow which have then been lightly sanded to achieve an aged patina. The result is a ceiling straight out of the Renaissance. J'adore! Once the ceiling is complete, the walls will be next (one grey, one ocher). The remaining 2 walls are stone.

Then the plumbing finished, cupboards built, the floor sanded and varnished and the appliances moved and installed.

I have 'man hands' (covered in various paints, plasters and silicone) as we have worked side by side, ladder by ladder, to complete the work.

Check out the flickr.com link in my sidebar to see more pictures of the process!

Monday, October 27, 2008

sometimes i worry about myself...

yesterday I got up, did my usual morning routine while marvelling at how dark it still is in the morning. went downstairs and built a fire, prepped the coffee, toasted some bread in the oven, and then hung around muttering as I eyed the clock.

9:15 passed. 9:30 came and went. At 9:45 I was thinking that a phone call would be nice. See, JY hadn't yet arrived for the day and I was befuddled.

10:00 and I see the orange v.w. roll by. I had just finished my first coffee and was toasting by the fire. We have our usual morning and he heads on in to begin his day.

I decide to head to the market and the bank. While in the market, I look at my watch and realize it is now 11:30. So no bank (it is in Thiviers and would be closed by the time I arrive).

I return home, and tell JY that I decided it was too late to go to the bank. He says why? what time IS it? I reply 'midi'. He eyes me quizzically... "midi?! mais, non Kim". "Oui, midi".

Then a rapid fire collection of sentences wherein I deduce something about the clock and the season and ... I ask him, "Tu arrive a quelle heure ce matin?" "Neuf heures!!"

Zut. They DO have daylight savings time in France. hahaha~ I have to remember I'm in a different country vs. planet.

Well, that's okay because sometimes I worry about JY too. harumph.

For example, yesterday afternoon I decided to try again for the bank. I wait until 2:00 and bid my farewells, dashing off. I drive to Thiviers and the bank is closed. Wha-a-a-aaaa???

I walk over to Marjo's agency for a visit and an inquiry? Does she know why the bank is closed? is it a holiday?

"No Kim, the banks are closed every Monday!!" "Tous les lundis?", I proclaim. "Oui, tous les lundis". Merde.

I can't wait to get back to the house and give it to JY. "JY, tu ne me dit pas les banques sont fermé TOUS les lundis", I triumphantly remark.

He calmly regards me. "Oui? hmmm. C'est pas grave".

We both crack up.

On with the day.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

a pox on my sattidy evening.

So yesterday I got dolled up ... fixed my fabulous new do, donned a dress (!) with my new belt, black tights and knee high black boots (you know the kind!) ... looking good, my friends, looking good.

Hop in the car with my new French smart card, zip off to the petrol station ... and n'accepté pas!

Blast it all to hell, methinks, I'm risking it. Head off into the deep black night on tiny backroads ... searching for La Rhue, the site of a supposed blues night extravaganza. Over hill, over dale, nervously trying NOT to regard my gas gauge which is hovering maddeningly over the band of red.

Okay I know, I'm an idiot. I was also contemplating just what I might do once stranded, sans gazole, in the middle of nowhere. I took stock of an extra coat in the trunk and determined I could sleep in the car. No, I hadn't yet been drinking!

I stop in the midst of a village and pull out my routier, don my glasses and peer at the miniscule lines on the map. I think I need a new prescription as it was impossible!

I keep going, almost now refusing to back down. I come upon a Salle des Fetes with a party in full swing. I get out of my car and sashay on up to a group of five men engrossed in an animated conversation. "Pardon messieurs ... je suis perdu" well that got their attention. The tallest of the bunch ... also the one who had been dominating the conversation before I interrupted, a grey-haired fellow with a commanding presence, proceeded to give me some directions. Another one to the side kept trying to interject in English ... thinking I didn't understand.

I submitted my mercis and get back in my car. Basically I was retracing much of my original trip ... having missed a turn. Well on the way back I still never found that turn.

Now I was faced with a decision. At 10:00 p.m., did I dare risk a further venture out to Chalus where I knew Eric and Amy were performing? Would my luck stretch that far and all the way back to Brantôme?

I was discouraged. I decided to return home. Obviously my gazole amount got me here.

But I am pissed. Music nights in the winter aren't occurring every week-end.

And DAMN I looked cute.

Friday, October 24, 2008

my newly reignited love affair with belts.

kids, is there anything more loverly than reclaiming a waist and considering adorning it again? For someone who hasn't made the acquaintance of her waist in nigh on to 15 years ... I cry "Non"!

All these long years la waist has sat lonely and unnoticed. Primarily because le stomach has captured all of the attention. Throughout this time, Madame has lavished attention on le stomach, carefully shopping for and selecting all and sundry types of flowy garments to drape le stomach in (hopefully) artful deception.

Now that I'm a mere shadow, I have a sudden new interest in belts! Belts high to create an empire look, belts at waist for emphasis, belts slung on hip ...

I brought a few belts with me. They, by necessity, have mostly become the hip slinging variety. I've been looking for the best instrument to punch some new holes.

And while in Spain, I bought the little number in the picture ... a new black belt. Of the cinch it high for an empire look. To go with a cute dress my daughter made me buy. I'm going to don that dress and belt and knee high black boots tonight and go listen to some music. And indulge in some belts of a different variety.

(I would like to add that there is an endless array of utilitarian and not-so-utilitarian uses for belts ... now if I could just find the right unsuspecting victim to demonstrate, my life would be complete!)

Thursday, October 23, 2008


When my friends Kathleen and David were here, Kathleen wanted to visit Oradour-sur-Glane. She read a bit about it to me from the Guide Verte ... we never made it there, so yesterday I decided to play tourist a bit and make the trip.

It is hard to express much about Oradour-sur-Glane. A small, unprepossessing village outside of Limoges ... one really wouldn't have thought much about it. It did have a little tram which ran to and from Limoges, which deposited city visitors on the week-end for a short trip to the countryside. The town had a reputation for a peaceful life ... and offered picnicking spots, fishing in the Glane and many restaurants and cafés which were pleasant to visit outside of the city of Limoges. The town also had 3 schools, a boys' school, a girls' school and an infants' school (like our kindergarten).

For many speculated-upon reasons, Oradour-sur-Glane became a target of Nazi destruction on June 10th, 1944. But at about 2:00 p.m. that day, the Nazis rolled in to Oradour-sur-Glane. Most agree that what was to follow was retribution for acts of Resistance by the French. None of these acts were directly tied to Oradour citizens, but they would pay the price. By 7:30 p.m. the village and all of its inhabitants, save six, were destroyed. In all, 642 people were murdered, including 193 children.

The townsfolk were herded into a public square where they were told they would undergo a routine check of their papers. During the course of the day, men were separated from women and children, and then groups of men were taken to various barns in the town. The five surviving men were all from the same barn. In their account, they relay that machine guns were volleyed at all of the men in the barn, and then the barn was locked and set afire. Five men ( I read the account of one, a 19 year old at the time) found their way out, injured but alive.

The women and children were taken to the cathedral. The same story exists, first they were shot and the buildings were then set on fire, those trying to escape were shot dead. One woman managed to hide behind an altar, then get herself up to a window where she leapt 10 feet to the ground. She helped another woman and baby out, they were all shot ... the woman and baby died. This one woman crawled to the garden, where she lay among rows of peas until the next day when someone arrived to find her.

After killing all of the inhabitants, the SS soldiers looted the village and set the entire thing ablaze. Apparently, they returned the next day to dig two huge pits and tried to conceal the remains. Later, the inquiry into this atrocity uncovered the truth.

When de Gaulle came to visit the town, he ordered it left as it was, that the ruins be preserved so future generations might not forget. He also decreed that a new village of Oradour should be built, near the ruins. It took 9 years for this village to be inaugurated. When it was, the village was required to wear mourning, no color was allowed, walls and shutters were painted grey. It was a solemn time.

Some of the SS Commanders responsible for the massacre were brought to trial and convicted, but an act of amnesty (in the interest of national unity) gave a free pardon to all those accused or convicted. This included sentences of death, hard labour and prison for the massacre at Oradour.

Because the government took this decision, the Village of Oradour broke off all relations with the state for 17 years. It returned the Legion of Honour that had been bestowed upon the village. The families refused to place the ashes of the victims in the memorial raised by the state. Instead, it financed its own monument, erected in the cemetery. During the time of this rupture, little aid was provided to the citizens of Oradour, making their lives even more difficult.

What occurred that summer day is truly unfathomable. The slide show below shows you the ruins I walked through. It was a sobering experience and gave pause to consider man's inhumanity to man. The cemetery was heartbreaking, whole families wiped out, faces of little children looking up from the memorials. The new Oradour shares this cemetery with the old, and with the memorial. Near the statue erected in memory of the massacre are two glass coffins, housing the bones and ashes of the dead.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

zut alors!

I had a completely different post in mind for today, sharing with all of you a trip up north I took and my reaction to it. BUT...

on my return home, I had a brief call with my friend Marjo, and she casually stated, "I heard a restaurant in Brantôme burned today ... !! a grill of some sort, I don't know the name."

When I left today, the main road had a deviation and there was a fire truck ... but I couldn't see around the bend in the road and honestly thought it was just some city activity.

All the way home, I wondered if it was my favorite little spot, Ben and Babette's. I have taken every visitor I've hosted to Ben and Babette's. A restaurant that looks perpetually closed (and unusually, they don't serve lunch), from the outside it is quite unassuming and on the inside, very rustic.

In possession of an old open wood grill and equally old iron oven, they serve up delicious and generous servings of grilled meats with seasonal accompaniments. In the winter, big pots of homemade soup may surprise you tableside for no extra charge. Monsieur Ben is often seen bicycling through Brantôme.

Je suis desolée! I am most sorry to tell you that yes, it was this very same restaurant and not only did the restaurant suffer complete destruction but apparently the upper 2 floors as well, which is where I believe the owners and family resided.

That's a picture of the fire department removing debris, two large containers of charred beams and other items so far.

I was unable to find out if Monsieur and Madame and family escaped unharmed. What an upsetting turn of events and I wish them all the best. Quelle dommage!

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

today I feel French ...

For some reason, today was a day where I really felt like I am living here. Like, hey people I AM ALL LIVING IN FRANCE AND SHIT!


I went to the Prefecture in Périgueux for the 4th time with my last, previously missing document (recovered this week-end). It was basically a form letter with pictures at the bottom of 5 taxation stamps. Apparently, monsieur has to affix my 5 'timbres', purchased for the princely sum of 55euros each, to these pictures and then send my file to Paris. Even better news than finding the previously missing document is today his opinion was that I wouldn't have to get an extension. But keep an eye on the dates just in case. I was so pleased I jumped up and, after a few mercis!, ran out and forgot to ask him my questions about getting papers in order to run my own business.

I'll just look forward to another trip to Périgueux. Which actually is true, the little city is beginning to grow on me. I headed off back to the parking lot and then decided, what the hell ... why not stroll around the city? It was around 11:00 and what else was going on? We've paused this week on my house (another story) so ...

I headed up one of the tiny streets in a shopping district I unearthed the last time I came here. I just took a deep breath and let myself enjoy strolling along with others, pausing to window shop at boutiques, the fromagerie, the patisserie, etc. I discovered a coffee bean vendor and ducked in and bought a bag of beans. I continued strolling and came across a hair salon. I looked inside at several attractive stylists and smartly-dressed patrons. There was a 'avant and aprés' display in their window, with many clients looking better for the visit. I completed my internal debate and went for it. Lo and behold, they had time to take me and the lovely and well-coiffed Celine did my hair. I actually ended up loving it! I left the length and added soft layers all over. She took the time to show me how to replicate her style. I have some of those adorable, super-short bangs (just a few) that I've always wanted but never got. It was the first time in years I have sat in that chair and not looked at myself with distaste, internally disparaging my fat chipmunk cheeks!

I left feeling like a million bucks ... I moved on to lunch in a little spot discovered last trip. The one with the 10 euro Plat du Jour that was so delicious. It was slightly rainy today so everyone was inside. I entered to discover the entire restaurant (small, actually only 24 seats) was filled with women! I felt right at home and today the Plat du Jour was only 8.50 euros! I got out with wine and coffee for less than 12 euros. I mosied along to Monoprix and bought some hair stuff for my new do. On the way back, I popped in to a candy shop I had spied earlier and bought Etienne (J-Y's son) a little Halloween treat.

As I continued back to the car, again doing my best to be fully present in the moments, I really felt a sense of belonging.

Tonight, I finally attended the yoga course I discovered about a month ago but haven't enrolled in because of visitors. It is in Brantome, taught by an older French woman. Seven students, 6 French and me! It was a little unnerving, especially when Madame asked me (I think!) to introduce myself to the class. Of course, after I said a few sentences and laid down, I spent about 15 minutes wondering if that REALLY was what she asked me or if I just made a damn fool of myself! ha! But everyone was kind and welcoming, especially since I arrived sans mat. A couple of the women loaned me their extra blankets and I made do.

My journey progresses and it was all in all, a good day.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

blog fatigue.

well, I wouldn't exactly call it that ... but I've noticed a lull in my inspiration. Not to mention that whole self-editing thing which means some of what has been happening in Francy-pants is just not publishable.

I had a really strange week. I was sick for 2 days with a bad cold that felled me. I was in bed for 2 days. Then I had a couple of really late nights, and a visitor for 3 days. In the middle of it all, I had several unproductive trips to my prefecture in Perigueux, attempting to wrap up my Carte de Sejour. It seems I had lost an important paper, which I thought was just for instruction but is apparently required. By Friday I was exhausted, frustrated and somewhat emotional.

Saturday, after depositing my visitor at the Gare Perigueux, I returned home. I decided to bring order to my room (my bedroom is my haven, the one finished room in the house). It was in turmoil after 4 plus straight weeks of guests. I folded clothes, organized stuff, etc. I placed a huge pile of papers and folders on my bed, climbed in and began sorting. After several hours, I found the paper I needed stuck in a random folder. Zut.

Following said discovery, I remained in bed. I slept 12 hours plus, and have now awakened.

I wish I felt refreshed but I don't. I have a rendez-vous today for lunch with a woman I met in French class. I think that is a good thing as I'm feeling a bit blue still.

No visitors next week means I hope to revive my more regular posting schedule. my fingers are crossed.

Friday, October 17, 2008

small divergence from regular programming. just had to share this fact check.

Fact check: Plumber Joe's taxes

"McCain has entrepreneurs spooked about tax hikes, but fewer than 2% of small business owners would pay more under Obama's plan."

Link to rest of article...

"The bottom line: McCain's claim only works by using an overly broad definition of what counts as a "small business" - and even with that definition, fewer than 2% of business owners would be hit by Obama's proposed rate increase. For those who are affected, the increase would be levied only on a part of their earnings, not all of them. "

Just sayin'....

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

speaking of kindnesses.

I mentioned my friends Kathleen and David were here for a week. I've had trepidations about hosting visitors in my "under construction" home ... yet not only did they make sure their stay was hassle-free, they actually came with work clothes and did projects! gasp!

Kathleen arrived and scrubbed my makeshift kitchen from head to toe, organized some of the cookware and the fridge! David dug a hole in the garden where the petite solarium will be extended, removing dirt and a huge concrete foundation block from a space about 2 feet deep and 4 x 4 feet wide! They both resituated an old metal arch to the smaller garden, securing it so it now supports the ancient grapevine that Jean-Yves redirected from the rooftop of the solarium.

While they were here, my wood was delivered. The wood was dumped in a huge pile by my atelier entrance. The four of us quickly and systematically stacked three lines of wood (not sure but I do believe it exceeds a cord or 2). Further, David went and bought a huge woodsplitter ... (it scares me) and split at least half a cord of logs into pieces that will burn better. My wood was kind of wet and thus smoky.

Kathleen and David pitched in on shoveling wheelbarrows full of sand from the stone-cleaning process in my new kitchen, hauling it out into the garden to a spot where someday a wood deck will emerge.

And this doesn't begin to cover the free life-coaching sessions from Kathleen, listening to me natter on about my insecurities and frailties during this life upheaval.

I'm sure I've missed loads of things - oh yeah, here's another one: David cleaned out (as in bailed water and ooky gook and mosquito larvae) from a huge old washing sink in the garden, some sort of stone and then found corrugated metal that just happened to fit perfectly as a cover. They are worried about me getting malaria, I think!

I, in turn, carelessly tried to torment them by planting nail polish remover next to what appeared to be make-up removing pads and Kathleen almost blinded herself .... and David grabbed a bottle of what he thought was water but was watered down Windex and took a huge mouthful ... but thankfully didn't swallow much. I joked with them that on the next visit I would have to kid-proof the house.

They pretty much bought all of my meals out AND drinks. We cooked together often, sharing lunches al fresco in the garden, the 4 of us workers taking a break.

I've never had such amazing houseguests ... and it isn't like they were repaying Ritz-level accomodations, either. They have left their mark on this experience and there will always be a "room at the Inn" chez Mancha ... just for them.

Merci beaucoup and bises to my dear friends!

(you can check out the flickr stream for more pics, link in my sidebar...)

Sunday, October 12, 2008

learning to accept kindness.

One of the lessons I've been (albeit) slowly learning from this experience is to accept kindness. For my entire adult life, it seems to me that I have had to be ... no that I have insisted upon being fiercely independent. To the point of being found hard. Or angry. Or a bitch. Or all three, ha.

But being plopped into the middle of a country where you know virtually no one and don't really speak the language is a humbling experience. I had a small taste of it when I moved to Portland and found one or two dear friends who extended kindnesses to me. Maybe that helped pave the way on a small scale.

My friends Kathleen and David just left, and one of the observations that Kathleen made was how gratifying it was to see me reflect vulnerability. That apparently is an unusual state for me. (like I was unaware).

It is very difficult for me to ask for help. Or to accept it when offered. Typically when someone offers to do something for me, I attempt to pay them for it. I've found that can be deemed insulting in these here parts. So many kindnesses have been placed my way that, even if I could get acceptance, I probably couldn't afford to repay them.

I also seem to have lost touch with what are normal extensions of human goodness. Had I isolated myself so completely that day to day gentilities were unrecognizable by me? so it seems.

One would think that in my present state, I would be even more isolated than previously but no. This brings me to a point of reflection (ergghh, I hate reflection.) How did I get to be so insular? better question yet, how can I bring more balance back?

My mind is in a constant whirrrr! of analysis. What did he/she mean by that? Did I understand her/him to say thus or am I lost in translation? Am I mistaking business for love(like)? (Like)love for business? (Ben Harper fans will connect this last). One might think that it wouldn't be so difficult but it is. Especially in another language. and culture.

Are these kindnesses politeness? or true demonstrations of heartfelt feelings? And let's not even GET into the male/female dynamic and is it the same with French as American (which of course I know it isn't 100% due to culture, but surely we are male and female before we are French and American?)

I think that last bit is a good spin off for a post all its own.

Well before I digress into a completely different direction, let me say that a 3rd party observer has verified that I am learning to accept kindness without repayment, but as a natural extension of the human condition. No matter how undeserving I believe myself to be.

I hope that is a good thing and it doesn't come back to bite me in the ass. (looks over her shoulder just in case).

Friday, October 10, 2008

I'm it.

aha, during my Evelyn Woods-style catch up scanning, I've discovered that not only did Monsieur one-L NOT go see Amy Rigby, after she and Wreckless Eric spent hard-earned cash to come perform for him ... but now he has gone and TAGGED me. again.

grrrr. self-revelation. shudder. but this one is pretty tame so I'll give'er'a'go.

1. Clothes shop. hmmmm. Well, currently it is a little boutique up the lane in Brantome. When I came here I swore I wasn't going to buy any new clothes for one year. After going through the massive downsizing ... sorting, selling, tossing of crap that included excess clothing, I felt I could go at least a year with what was left. However, my body is in a state of flux ... a state of reduction ... and my pants were literally falling off of my ass. And belted was just NOT a pretty sight. So my first idea was to have Johnelle bring me 2 pairs of jeans from my old standby, Ann Taylor. The only store where previously I could walk in, grab off the racks and pay ... none of that horrendous, demoralizing, debilitating trying on in a cube lined with mirrors and fluorescent lighting for me.

She brought the 2 pairs, one was one size smaller, one was two sizes smaller ... as requested ... and they were both too big! So I had to break down and go on in to town. Wish I could tell you the name of the boutique but alas I don't remember ... but my beautiful black jeans with delicious waxy denim are unforgettable.

Oh and I also kind of like Zara. Dropped a little coin there in Spain because I had to have more than one pair of pants that fit me. Now I have 4. yay me!

2. Furniture shop. Mignonne Décor, of course. We find the absolute best vintage pieces and my daughter refinishes and refurbishes by hand. We also carry cool new pieces too like stuff from Kartell.

I really am not a big fan of purchasing new furniture. I feel like there is enough stuff in the world, let's all just reuse it. I do like browsing furniture catalogues for ideas though. I have an eclectic design approach and love a melange of epochs, styles and colors.

3. Sweet. hmmm. well, I am more of a savory lover ... but Valhrona chocolate IS the bomb. Okay? Also, I will tell you that the absofuckinglutely BEST dessert on the planet, consumed by me, resides at the Blue Hour in Portland, Oregon. It is a chocolate pot-de-creme that is better than sex. Yes, I said. ME. better than sex. Well okay maybe not better than that one time on Stinson Beach in the 90s or that one OTHER time .... but I digress. Generally speaking, better than most sex. the average sex average Americans have....

If you ever find yourself in Portland and pass up the opportunity to indulge, you are just plain crazy.

4. City. ummm. derrr!!!!! PARIS. mais oui, bien sur. (eyeroll). Duhhh!!! Can you say, Place des Vosges? la Seine? Montmartre? le Marais? Luxembourg Gardens? Tour Eiffel? Isle de St. Louis? bah, oui!

5. Drink? slurp. A Figoun cocktail from À Côté in Oakland, California is delish. A French 75 from the Heathman Hotel in Portland is divine. A Hendricks Gin and Tonic with lime mixed by moi is heavenly. And my latest favorite, le rum punch by Monsieur Jean-Yves suits me to a T. (rum, sugar cane syrup and fresh squeezed lime warms all the way down).

Oh wait a sec. this WASN'T about alcohol? bummer. Okay then Pellegrino with fresh lime is my stand-by. Even here. In Evian and Badoit land.

6. Music? God. Who on earth could pick just one favorite musician? C'est impossible! truly. I love Django and Edith, Miles and the Bird and Coltrane, I love Aretha and Rev Al, the Beatles and the Stones ... gimme some Loretta Lynn or Patsy Cline ... Teddy Pendergrass back in the day, got by with some O'Jays (can you hum Desire Me?) ... or then there is The Bird and the Bee, The Jets, Van Morrison, Leonard Cohen, Ella and Nina and Sarah and Billie ... what about Louis Armstrong? ... Joao Gilberto? Sanseverino? Ben Harper? Stevie? Bob Marley? Donny Hathaway?

Merde. C'est impossible. My list is never ending.

7. TV Series? hmmm. The Office. Six Feet Under. Sex And the City. Deadwood. Sopranos.

8. Film. Another impossibility. But currently, La Mome springs to mind.

9. Workout?! LMAO. that's right, I'm currently using the laughing my ass off regime for health and well being.

10. Pastries. again, not really my domain. I'll have to go with fresh croissants from my local boulangerie. Or the Elvis Presley cupcake from St. Cupcake in Portland.

11. Coffee. Major Dickason's beans from Peets. Brewed by me in my Italian Espresso Pot.

Now comes the part that is difficult. passing it on. Utah Savage, Notre Vie Juteuse, La Framericaine, and In an old house in Paris.

october is visitors month.

Somehow all of my visitors have managed to schedule for October and, while I truly love the company, it is messing with my blogging routine!

I owe my readers an apology ... so much is going on and that, coupled with some ongoing internet access issues, has made my posting sporadic.

I considered blaming it all on Randal with one L ... after all, he was a no show after Wreckless Eric & Amy Rigby came all the way to Cleveland to perform for him.  I'm sure that there is some kind of connection there ... je réfléchi ~

I've had my daughter for 3 plus weeks, then a brief but fun visit from a work colleague, followed by a week with my dear friends Kathleen and David (here now).  Tuesday another guest arrives for 4 days ... then a break and my son will be here the end of the month.

I haven't had a lot of time for reflection ... reading blogs ... coming up with the smart-ass wisecracks or philosophical balderdash that I'm normally spouting.  But I am gathering loads of material, so when I do have time ... the volcano will erupt once more.


Wednesday, October 8, 2008

ma fille, l'artiste ...

Johnelle has returned home, but she has left her mark. 

During her stay, she was able to reconnect a bit with her artiste soul and completed a painting on canvas and a painting on the door to my bedroom that is not only beautiful but incredibly symbolic to me.

Jean-Yves made a great suggestion to her when learning she wanted to paint something in the house for me ... a mural on the ceiling was first considered but the time it would take to prep the ceiling would not leave room for the actual painting.

Not only did he suggest a great alternative ... the door ... but also recommended including a 'souvenir' from the United States as well as something from here.

We had some good laughs over what that souvenir should be ... because I don't have a whole lot of positive 'souvenirs' from my former life.  What should it be?  a picture of my office and desk? a computer and telephone?  some freeways?  these were some of the funnier ones.  I'll leave the morbid ones to your collective imaginations.

But no, I decided upon poppies to represent my Californian roots ( I do still adore my dear state of California ... ); a sparrow to tie into my love of the strength and music of La Mome, (Edith Piaf) ... and the phrase 'Je Ne Regrette Rien' ... my life motto as I move forward into my adventure.

If you click on the picture, you can view it for yourself.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

on being warm.

I wish I could say it is because I had a man in my bed, but saying I have some heat will have to do.

For weeks, I've been (at first) gently chided by friends regarding my heating situation ... my house has a radiator system and 3 fireplaces so I've responded with my usual harumphs and eyerolls.

I've been repeatedly warned about the fast and unyielding change in temperature that accompanies the move into autumn.  

"Je sais, je sais! Les Etats-Units ont les saisons aussi! C'etait froid en Oregon!"  his turn to harumph and eyeroll.

Then my daughter arrived.  Complaining from day one about the cold.  I told her to put on a sweater.  

I was hounded to order wood.  I didn't know where to get wood.  Then at dinner one night at Marjo's, Johnelle regalled the table with stories of the climate in our house.  She pronounced me to be half bear!

Peals of laughter ensued.  One nice thing about being in France is the entertainment factor I provide to all of my new friends...

So, last week was colder by the day.  The weather right now is glorious sunny skies during the day, even inching up to warmish.  At night the thermostat plummets.  Well it would if I had a thermostat.

Samedi soir (Saturday night) was the climax.  The reverse climax, I guess.  And not the kind I've been longing for.  I slept in pyjamas, a pullover sweater, my huge winter robe, socks, a down comforter and an extra blanket.  It was painful to don my pyjamas because it meant removing my warm layer of clothing and putting on freezing cold articles of clothing and then climbing in to a freezing bed.  I tried to get the fire going in my bedroom but it would kick in and I was too cold to keep trying so I just got into bed.  I don't think I really got even close to comfortable..all night.

The even more pathetic part is that Saturday, after taking Johnelle to the gare, I drove straight to BricoDepot and bought a portable petrol (kerosene) heater.  and a huge (maybe 5 liters?) container of petrol.

But it was the last heater in stock, out of box and with no instructions.  So I didn't know how to use it.  So I froze in my frigid house with a heater sitting in the hallway.

Sunday morning I called Jean-Yves and left a message.  On Monday, can you please bring that electric radiator you found? (slight chuckle) d'accord J-Y.  Tu es vrais.

Fifteen minutes later my phone rings.  Laughter on the other end.  "Oh Keem, were you cold last night?" more laughter.

I can't really get mad ... especially since he came over later in the day and put together the kerosene heater and showed me how to work it AND installed the electric radiator in the other bedroom so my freshly arrived houseguests (more on that and their crazy selves later) don't become human popsicles.

So here I am, early Monday morning, basking in the glow of my first night's sleep with a heater in my room.  I swear it was almost too warm!  no, not really.

Wish I could say I slept like a baby, but was another rather fitful night.  a warm one though.  very very very warm.  and warm is good.  

spanish lullaby.

Upon boarding the train and exchanging a little conversation, we realize that the absentmindedness continues with the failure to bring along any of our guidebooks for Spain AND the name/number of the Pension we reserved at.

Being expert at Plan de B's, I suggest that upon arrival, we seek out an internet café.  Johnelle agrees.  Of COURSE we will recognize the spot we booked.  cough.

We nap fitfully.  At one point, we move to a smaller car with only 16 seats, thinking it will be quiet.  Little did we know that 12 of the seats were occupied by the only rowdy French in civilisation, en route to a brief vacance sur la mer.  They acted as if it were their own private party car, breaking out a 2 course lunch and wandering through the car, laughing, talking and jostling each other.

Meanwhile, we attempted naps.

Finally, we arrived in San Sebastian.  We headed for the centre, determined to find an internet café.  After extended wandering, we poked our heads into a little five and dime and asked about the closest internet spot.  THIS is an internet spot, we were informed.  We googled pensions and Johnelle chose ours.  We trudged many blocks there...walked upstairs and were informed that this could not possibly be our spot.  We continued our quest until Johnelle ultimately spotted a nondescript sign that turned out to be our Pension.  Success at last.

So, despite guidebooks, maps, phone numbers, actual pension names ... well virtually ANYTHING that would indicate our resting spot, we located said place and collapsed with loud sighs.

San Sebastian ultimately provided us with many distractions ... film festival paparrazi, tapas bars, trip to Guggenheim in Bilbao, beaucoup de shopping for pants that fit and knee high leather boots. promenades on a beautiful bay gazing upon the generations of Spanish doing the same.

Also, a mom/ daughter evening of card playing and trading clothes...the same evening where I discovered i fit into a 27 jean...that's right, ladies, a TWENTY-SEVEN!!!!   oh, snap!

the weather was phenomenal, the people incredibly kind, the food mediocre.  All in all, we managed to have an absolutely lovely time.

Friday, October 3, 2008

on how we arrived in Spain.

I awoke with a start. Looking at the alarm clock, I shrieked, "Wake UP! Johnelle, it is 7:39 a.m.!" "Whaaaaa? what about the alarm?".

"I don't know. Shit. I still feel ........ erm. TIPSY." "MOM! (laughing) you mean drunk?"

"NO. I mean like I just had a glass of rum. 2 hours ago!!! Now get up and help me figure this out!".

From which we call the taxi driver. Who had been waiting 10 minutes for us at the gare in Thiviers. To take us TO Perigueux.

Now we call and plead with him to drive to Brantome. And deliver us to Perigueux. Which he agreed to. Even though we had no chance in HELL of making an 8:25 a.m. departure. Since I am 29km from Perigueux.

In the meantime we grabbed baggage and began throwing shit (I mean clothing and other necessary articles) randomly into the suitcases.

He arrived in record time (Thiviers is 25 km from Brantome). We leap into the taxi. He appears to depart at a snail's pace and continue at such.

Until we arrive in Perigueux. Wherein he begins to run red lights and accelerate!

Now. I'm sure you will not be surprised at the fact that on top of not awaking on time, we had zero cash. So of course, it was necessary to make a pitstop at an ATM. After the time our train was set to depart.

It was then our driver shared with me that after receiving our phone call, he called a friend in Thiviers who told him the train for Perigueux had STILL not arrived. So there was an ever so small chance that we could still make our train. Except of course for the fact that we ALSO had to make a stop for cash. cough.

We squeal up to the gare, he tosses our bags at us and barks at us to "RUN! VIT!"  while we are running into the station, he whistles across 2 tracks to the idling train, with conductors at the door. He yells at them to wait while we run down a set of stairs, through an underground tunnel, up a set of stairs and leap onto the waiting train. We tip him well, beaucoup de mercis; and we collapse into our seats.

I kid you not. It was better than a scene from a movie. I was there. I know.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

ay yi yi yi.

It is time to regale you with tales of what I have been up to the past week.  Johnelle and I had promised J-Y a mexican dinner ... and so last Friday we arrived at his apartment laden with bags of ingredients.  Johnelle planned the menu ... mojitos, homemade tortillas, ceviche, 2 kinds of small tacos, refried beans, rice, guacamole, pico de gallo, and fried bananas.

We thought another couple was coming and so we really put it down in the food buying department.  When we got there we learned, it would be just us, J-Y and his son.  So the amount of food we had was a bit absurd (we always buy generously anyway!)... 

We started with J-Y's special rum cocktail and Johnelle's mojitos.  Jean-Yves and I were assigned to sous-chef prep work.  Armed with very sharp knives, we minced onion and cilantro, diced cucumbers and tomatoes, scooped avocado.  Fish and chicken were washed.  I then set to frying the beans.  

In the meanwhile, J-Y's son was famished! Johnelle made him a special quesadilla and earned a special smile.  

We cranked up some Aretha Franklin and shimmied our way through lots of laughs, drinks and good eats.  The corn flour here is not great, but we managed to get it to work itself into some tortillas, small ones.  All the little soft tacos were delish ... I don't think we put a dent in J-Y's rice.  There was so much food it was ridiculous ... and I'm sure the leftovers lasted the entire week-end.

I'm proud to say we did all of our dishes ... like all single men I know, dishwashing is a much detested chore so at least we didn't leave that unwelcome mark.

Following dinner (we arrived at 8:00 ish so it was an extended meal ...) we continued the laughing, talking, and goofing around.  Libations continued to flow and when I caught a glimpse of the clock at 2:00 a.m. I began making time to leave murmurs.  Which continued until 3:00 a.m. when we finally deposited ourselves in the car and slowly, ever slowly made our way home. We had 8:25 a.m. train tickets to San Sebastian! We had to leave our house at 7:00 a.m.!

Which paves the way for the next story.  Which starts with the line, "I awoke with a start.  Looking at the alarm clock, I shrieked Wake UP! Johnelle, it is 7:39 a.m.!"