(the misadventures of an expatriate corporate dropout)

Sunday, April 12, 2009


I'm dissatisfied with the recently whiny direction of my blog. I've thumbed (figuratively) through my archives and I used to be a lot more interesting. AND entertaining. what's to come of me? harumph!

Well, instead of whining about my whininess, I'm just going to forge ahead with another activity update. Last week was spent in continuation of the café. Not as much progress was witnessed but if you check out the flickr account, you'll see we did finish retexturing one wall with a golden plaster, including the fireplace. The stones on this west wall were smaller and not very pretty, although two larger pieces were left uncovered. JY also fashioned a new window sill.

I helped with the mortaring, which led to some problems. In fact, I don't think there was a day last week that didn't behold a Kim misstep (le sigh, oops! more whining) but I AM a novice and couple that with I am a novice who isn't fully fluent in the language.

Case in point, JY gave instructions on mixing the plaster in a big cement mixer. Now I could fit inside this thing and tumble, and it has this big mixer thing spinning inside (technical term) which makes it kind of scary.

Standing side by side, he demonstrated the formula. "First three sand" (he shovels 3 spadefuls of damp, coarse sand into a bucket, skims the top like he is measuring flour, and heaves it in the whirring mixer. "Then two cement", he dumps white cement powder into a separate bucket, "wait and add some water, let it mix and then five more sand". He hands me the shovel and grabs the powdered tint, a bright ochre ... and measures some in as I shovel the cement. I toss that in and start shovelling sand as he comes back. The bucket of sand is HEAVY and hard for me to lift, let alone empty into the mixer. But I'm determined to do it. He continues shovelling and I watch, noticing that this time he is not putting just 3 spadefuls. I realize that he meant 3 buckets-ful not spades-ful and I have to tell him I've gotten it wrong. A storm gathers on his brow but quickly passes as he corrects the amount in the mixer, shrugs and says he isn't sure if it will be okay. I of course am devastated at my failure. But now I have it right and the first mixerful is depleted and we are on to the second. This time I'm shovelling and he adds the color. By the third round, I'm on my own. I've got the three buckets sand in, the two buckets cement, the water ... feeling pretty frisky and then I realize JY wasn't there to add color. I get it in and add more sand...but it doesn't mix thoroughly and the next day will show what Kim's handiwork produced ... two lighter streaks as the wall dried.

Sigh. but its done and now as I look since they are kind of symmetrically showing on either side of the fireplace...maybe it won't be awful.

The plaster continues its way out the door to the garden and eventually the sun room will have all new walls. For now, just the wall the clients will pass is rebuilt and looking swell.

Also completed this week was a BricoDepot run for electrical and plumbing supplies. Because JY was sidelined with a sick child, the shopping was done by me, which meant sorting out the list with JY and then braving the world of bricolage (DIY) in French. I survived. Feeling accomplished, I decided to tackle the Chambre de Commerce on my own and see about getting a vendor's license for the markets/brocante. I am now enrolled (hopefully) as an auto-entrepreneur and will be able to pay tax into the system which should result in qualifying for a carte vitale (health card)! We will go through a similar process together when we complete the paperwork for the café later in the month ... but I'm now going to be official...this week or next.

Friday JY tilled a huge space on the property and we began our potager. The soil is good but it hadn't been turned in some time and the tilling was difficult at first. I followed behind, hauling big armfuls of weeds and matted overgrowth into the wheelbarrow, creating a big pile in the back corner which will house the compost pile. The second and third passes were easier. We (well mostly he ... I was rather scoffed at, I mean instructed from afar :/ ) planted rows of carrots, radishes, mache, and haricots. I rather deserved scoffing at, I inquired about watering the seeds and ran off to get my homemade watering can, an old plastic milk bottle with holes gouged in the top. JY looked askance at this American city girl and rolled his eyes. When he later stood for 15 minutes or so and soaked with the hose, I was rather embarrassed. Secretly satisfied later though, when it rained into the night (and all day today). Harumph, guess he doesn't know EVERYTHING! ha!

I'm on the look-out for tomato plants to embellish the starts underway in my kitchen. I've got all the seeds ready and the small bed prepared for the herb garden which will be right outside the sun room. And two window boxes of flowers are now sprouting, indoors still. Oh and my new climbing rose to plant. Tomorrow I may hit the trocante (thrift store) in search of a used mower. And there's a brocante/vide-grenier (flea market) I'm considering. And coffee with a new friend.

Next week, no partner here as it is spring school holidays and JY is taking his son to the beach. for some kind of 3 wheeled beach sailing? he sketched it for me and I'm sure it happens in the states too, seems like I've seen such out in the desert. but anyway. I'm going to be continuing on preparing things for the jewelry stand. and working in the garden. and trying not to be too lonely but instead busy; not too whiny but instead more reflective.

Look at this picture of a potager until I take some of my own tomorrow. There were lots of photos of pretty potagers, but this one is more like mine at the moment. I even have the makings of that little fence you see, if I decide to do so. We were in a hurry to get things in, no plan was developed. I've still a lot of open space so maybe I'll look into that (a plan) too next week.


Randal Graves said...

What is a blog but an outlet? Whining or not, it's not as if it's rooted in a six-year-old bitching about not getting another cookie.

Just keep us updated. Plus you've made me feel better about the impending oral presentation because you did something truly frightening, going into a French store, buying and interacting, and exiting triumphant. Très difficle to this Yank.

And don't forget photos, especially of the funky sand. ;-)

a quasi French woman said...

Bravo, Madame! It sounds like soooo much work and such huge accomplishments. You are a poster child for the reinvention of the self from the ground to the grenier!

Congratulations on all your amazing accomplishments in the midst of acculturating!

Utah Savage said...

What they said, my dear. We are sharing in your learning. Now I know the correct measurements for the cement mixer.

Felicity said...

Love your cement mixer tale. Husband and I laid a concrete base for a new store and I was shown and left lifting buckets of stuff into the mixer. They are sooooo heavy. Did a lot of 'how many was that' oh f*** it. How is it possible to forget how many between 1 and 3 :( Very proud of it now though

Non Je Ne Regrette Rien said...

rg-a wailing wall?! lately, anyways... grrr... but thanks for the encouragement and you'll do fine on your paper, you'll see.

LaF/quasi~thanks for your email too and the interesting read, I think I've got a combo deal going...

U.S.~well, don't ask me about the cement cos i screwed it up!!

Felicity~ OMG those buckets were deceiving, damp cement is a bear!! and with all that whirring and whooshing and hypnotic motion, it was easy to lose count! :P

Felicity said...

Meant that I lost count between 1 and 3, not complaining that you did! I keep getting sent to the DIY sheds with a list............who knew that there were so many choices when you got there. Thankfully the guys serving are really helpful and sweet without a hint of impatience. (Unlike the response when I get back with the wrong thing :))

PS You are working so hard and achieving so much. Well done you.

Non Je Ne Regrette Rien said...

Felicity~that is just how I took it, I was commiserating with you ... at least there are cute fellas at the DIY store (shhh! don't let the secret out!) thanks for the kind encouragement - :-)