wow, gentle readers, it has been so long I am flummoxed. by what, you inquire? well, I sit staring at the screen and wonder what to say or maybe where to begin or ...
My return has been surreal. I still haven't had a full night's sleep since arriving. I am suffering from jet lag, a freezing house, and middle of the night phone calls ... all which have conspired to turn me into a zombie. I may have unpacked my bags ... but the ones under my eyes are full and steadily growing.
My first night home the weather was still hovering below zero. Well, let me back up a bit.
My journey took me from Portland (they had dug themselves out of record snows, but storms were chasing in as I was trying to leave)... as luck would have it, the flight I booked with miles aeons ago transferred in Chicago. I at least had allowed for plenty of time between each step. So of course it was snowing in Chicago, with all flights delayed and many cancelled. We arrived about 90 minutes late, but I still had time to grab a quick bite. There of course was nothing offered on the plane except $6 crap wine and $6 non-real-food snack boxes (read packaged and processed everything ... basically dressed-up cheese whiz and old crackers). I had in my carry-on a delicious container of pot roast that my friend Kathleen had bestowed upon me. Of course, the plane had no spoons or forks to offer me. So I munched on the apple I had purchased before boarding.
In Chicago, I made my way to a food court and snitched a plastic fork! I also bought a toasted cheese sandwich and a diet coke (first one of those I've consumed in about 7 months!). The pot roast, even though room temperature, was sensational! (merci bien, Kathleen).
They herded us sheep onto the plane and then held us hostage for an hour and a half while they performed a heretofore unnoticed (oops!) oil maintenance that we could not fly without. Then, most thankfully, a thorough wing de-icing and we were off. I spent the wait watching the snow fall and growing anxious. Not so much anxious about flying in the snow, but anxious that somehow I would not be able to depart!
Guess what they served for dinner?! Pot roast! Kathleen, you must give them your recipe as there was absolutely no comparison! Another $6 for mediocre wine. I raided my Alma Chocolate secret stash to further numb the pain (each and EVERY one of you should check out the link to this tiny chocolate shop and the heavenly, incomparable treats that await). Sarah Hart, the owner of Alma Chocolate (140 NE 28th Avenue), recently won the "Rising Star" award at the Next Generation Chocolatier Awards in NYC. Described on Alma's website as the "Pulitzer of the artisan chocolate world," the award is given to a chocolatier who is doing the most interesting things with chocolate and showing the most amount of promise. It's awarded every two years. It doesn't hurt that Sarah is a delight, as well!
The best thing I can tell you about the flight from Chicago to Paris was the one film I watched, Sharkwater. It is a grim tale about the demise of the planet's shark population and the potential impact to our fragile ecology. It left me feeling a bit powerless, but was extremely informative and perhaps if more people are enlightened on the subject, change can emerge.
I landed at CDG about an hour late, but again I had allowed for potential mishaps and had about 3-1/2 hours until my train departed. In that time I collected my bags (came with 2 suitcases, returned with three plus my backpack and a substantial carry-on tote ... stupid, stupid me). It was reminiscent of my push-me, pull-me trip to France in July when I was carting 2 large bags plus 2 dog kennels. sigh.
I had to navigate a tram from Terminal 1 to Terminal 2 (not terrible) and then into the gare to collect my ticket and figure out where to go. After all of this, I still had about an hour and a half to wait. The terminal was large and bright and I'm sure perfect in the summer. However, the marble slab floors combined with a 2 story wall of glass with lined with automatic doors meant the lobby was the same temperature inside as out. And outside, the landscape was carpeted with snow. Inside, we all exhaled plumes of "smoke" with each breath. I had on leather boots and my feet quickly became icicles. I found a perch and propped my feet up off of the floor, rewrapped my scarf to cover my nose and bemoaned my lack of a hat.
I watched the minutes slowly tick by and finally the display board informed me of which platform to board upon. I made my way down (to my chagrin, I almost got a group of us stuck in the elevator as I tried unsuccessfully to unload my bags. An irritated monsieur harumphed and muttered his way past me and I confess I had a few choice words for reply. blush.). Believe it or not, it was actually a tad warmer on the platform as I found a small spot of sunshine to stand in. Several kind passengers helped me toss my bags into the train. These trains do not wait around, let me tell you. One must be efficient and prepared for boarding. I found room in the bicycle storage for my many bags and then found my seat.
While all of this was going on, my phone was ringing and I was trying to relay my arrival time. I'm sorry to say, as usual, I got mixed-up on seize vs. dix-sept and had to frantically sort out a follow-up text with the correct time. zut!
The ride to Angouleme was miles and miles of fields with varying degrees of snow-covering. It did lessen the further south I got. But upon arriving in Brantome, the house was like a refrigerator. No, scratch that, it was like a freezer!
There had been no luck with the furnace, in fact it seems that it was irreparable. On Sunday, my bedroom had the electric radiator, a petrol furnace and a fire in the fireplace and I could still see my breath! Monday, JY brought ANOTHER petrol heater so Monday night I had both of the petrol heaters lit and finally, around 8:00 p.m. a semblance of warmth was achieved.
All during these evenings I received calls from America at around midnight. Following which, I was wide awake until around 4 a.m. or later.
Come Tuesday, JY on a whim tried to switch on the furnace. And it slowly tried to rumble into operation. The day was spent with a variety of tinkering, a drive to Perigueux for a new electric switch box, more tinkering and radiator flushing and by night fall, the radiators were putting forth heat!!! They kept on until about 1:00 a.m. and then gave up the ghost. Right about the time another phone call came through.
Wednesday, after another review, it was determined we needed a specialist. So Wednesday afternoon, a capable duo arrived and spent a few hours determining that the boiler needed to be replaced. Another freezing night. Another phone call, and thus no sleep.
Today, I would pass an audition for Night of the Living Dead. or some other infamous zombie flick. The specialists arrived promptly this morning, stayed until 1:00 p.m. and left me with heat. and a fully cleaned system. and about the equivalent of $800 lighter. that, plus the $300 for the electric switching box and I now have heat.
Compared to the 5,000 plus euros it would be to install an entirely new system, I cannot complain. I shall not complain.
Tonight I shall have a hot bath. I shall turn off my phone. I shall have heat and I shall sleep.
Even with all of this, I am so happy to be home. And it is just another step to a cozier existence as I embark upon the new year and what awaits.
On a side note, I have observed that many of my fellow bloggers have taken the opportunity to post reflections upon 2008. This seems to be a very good idea and perhaps will lead me back to what this thing called blogging should be about.
For while I know I am primarily a diarist, I'd also like to be able to shed some light upon something. lessons learned. trails blazed. paths least discovered. etcetera, etcetera.
I'll ponder some and give it a go. So good to be back, and thanks for hanging in!
(the misadventures of an expatriate corporate dropout)