(the misadventures of an expatriate corporate dropout)

Friday, October 30, 2009

the many risks of living alone.

I am regularly provided insights into how I shall surrender my mortality.

Living alone is kind that way. in bits here and there, we are given glimpses ... us solitary residents. somehow, it feels like missus earth is feeding us crumbs to prepare us ... so when we are there, dying alone, we will be somewhat more prepared.

I'm a "six feet under" fan. you other gentle viewers will know that each episode commences with a scene of a death. one of their episodes which resonated with me is that of a woman ... I'd guess early 50s, who returns home alone to her small apartment, prepares her microwave-ready dinner, sits down alone at her dining table and proceeds to choke to death ... all alone. (this too reminds me of the helpfullness of a dear friend, who emailed me instructions on self-administration of the Heimlich Maneuver ... and how to self-provide CPR.)

in any event, nary a week passes where I do not experience some sort of near-death miss. whether it is a stairwell slip ... that I either recover from at the last moment ... or somehow less than gracefully manage to break my fall and experience the lesser of 2 evils ... deep and long lasting bruising vs. broken bones or neck.

some of my friends must harbor worries on my behalf...although they won't come clean and actually speak the fateful words, they regularly provide tips and techniques for calamity avoidance.

when my dear friends David and Kathleen were visiting last year, they assisted with the delivery of a huge truckload of logs for my fireplace. we stacked and stacked and then had the opportunity to build a fire on a chilly morning. It was apparent that the wood was still a bit damp and unsuitable for easy burning.

David graciously purchased a log splitter tool with a long handle and very heavy, very sharp head. It is nearly too heavy for me to hoist, but of course I tried...wobbily. David also split a large amount of logs for me, creating kindling pieces to aid in getting my fires going.

When JY observed me attempting to use this tool, a panicked expression filled his brow. "Kim-bear-lay! N'utilisez pas cet outil. c'est trop dangereux. si tu as besoin de bois pour se dédoubler, demandez-moi!!! Serieusement!!!". He was convinced I would cut off a foot.

Okay. fine, I decided this time he might be right. Winter and summer passed. Fall is here and I have the need of more kindling. I thought if I bought a hatchet.... Safer, right? I mean it is a tenth of the size of the splitter. I'm a camper. I can do it.

Well. Somehow I escaped hacking off my left hand. I was using it to steady a small log as I chopped with my right hand. A few misses of the mark, but I pressed on ... and with a stroke aimed, went left and the blade landed squarely between my forefinger and thumb. Not sure how, but it only broke the skin and caused a bleed as opposed to severing my thumb. Now, a few days later, I have a large triangular bruise and much soreness.

I've reflected in the meantime on this close call. A cut next to a large vein in my hand. Alone. of a cold morning. wondering if I'd have the presence of mind to suppress the bleeding, locate the emergency number, get me to a hospital or ambulance.

now wasn't the moment. but for many years now I've suspected a like moment will arise.

I guess there's more than the lack of regular sex to bemoan when one is single. morbidly single.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

in case you noticed ...

I added a paypal donation button in my sidebar. now ... as gauche as some of you might think this is, there IS a somewhat plausible explanation ... *cough cough*

A short while back I told you about a little booklet about my new hometown in France - Brantôme - and also not-so-subtly hinted that if anyone out there in readerland wanted their very own copy, they could purchase one from me and help the old 'no regrets' cause.

rather shockingly, a couple of you inquired. and as we pondered the easiest way to plunk down the 10€ plus shipping costs ... and determined that PayPal was the preferred method.

so, I decided to just add the shortcut to my blog in case anyone else is interested in the book ...

now some of you more cynical readers ( Randal ) might think I have ulterior motives and am planning to get rich off a pyramid scheme involving PayPal and my 12 regular readers.

damn it all to hell, you are smarter than you look.

So yeah. what? you lookin' at me? I did it. I put a donate button on my blog. go ahead. help me live to not regret another day. and if you want one of those books, include your mailing address.

Friday, October 23, 2009

not so trigger happy.

so I did some research and apparently I have acquired trigger finger. yep, in both of my so called 'ring' fingers ... so called cos it has been nearly 30 years since anyone put a ring on it. but I digress.

trigger finger is when one or more fingers 'locks' at the joint ... sort of stays in position and snaps or clicks when you try to straighten it. with some people, they cannot unlock it ... thankfully that hasn't happened. but to compound matters, on my left hand it is now apparently combined with more severe symptoms, maybe arthritis? just ask me, dr. kim ... as long as my 9 other digits can enter words in the google box, I'll give a diagnosis.

I should probably amble down to le medecin ... I've determined that a shot of cortisone might aid the situation. It is somewhat painful, particularly in the morning when I can barely bend my finger. Conversely....how often is a ring finger put into action? kind of reminds me of that old joke ...

man goes to a doctor and says, "Doc, it really hurts when I do this ... ".

Doc, "well then, don't do that ... !"

ba da bing, ba da boom.

the change in weather has also seemed to exacerbate it.

I've been holding out for receipt of my Carte Vitale (health card) which supposedly will ease the whole Doctor's visit process ... it should be coming any day ... or week ... now.

is this what aging feels like? pfffffffft.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

still trying to figure it all out. alfie.

a respite from the this happened today-garden-variety post. maybe the change in seasons makes us more contemplative ... dunno.

today I'm appreciating the flowers my monsieur, Jean-Yves, spontaneously bought me yesterday. and relishing our continued relationship ...

if anyone would have told me a couple of years ago that I would be living a french life, I would have scoffed. and yet here I am. and now that I am here, I am trying to determine just what this life should be ... or more about what it means and where it is headed. for while I am doing so much better at living in the moment, I also want to understand what the moments add up to.

I've got some new friends and a new, decrepit house. I am in love and yet still alone. I don't have to mount the corporate treadmill daily and yet am afraid if it returns to that. I live in a beautiful country, a beautiful region and am learning a beautiful new language. My health has improved with this move and despite my age. In so many ways, I feel better about myself than ever before. Some days I think I know where my compass points and others, not so sure.

I have launched new pursuits and am contemplating others. But I've sacrificed some perceived securities for these endeavors and am uncertain how the coming years will support me.

I find that most days I am the cheerleader. For me. for those I love. and for new friends. I've discovered that more things are the same than are different here. But those differences are huge and lean more towards my esprit de corps than in the U.S.

in some ways, my adventure is shared. in many ways, it is unveiled in solitude.

well. life is but the search. the longing for. the gnawing in our center that spurs us on towards the undiscovered.

just keep showing up, Kim ...

Monday, October 12, 2009

snail good!

had a fun week-end. friday, sat'day, sunday ... social outings neach day!

friday night I was invited to my neighbor's house (french) for a gal's night. It was me and four french women ... daunting, to say the least.

I still don't seem to have mastered etiquette for the various french affairs. this was more than aperitif ... and I was asked to bring wine. I picked a couple of bottles of red from my own stock ... and crossed my fingers. a couple of hours before the event, a knock at my door and neighbor's daughter inquired if I had any cheese I could bring as well. I searched the fridge and came up with some feta and some goat cheese with herbs.

later on I arrived with 2 more kinds of cheese I found, and my wine. my feta cubes were on offer with aperitif wine, so that seemed to be okay. my wine was quickly reviewed and put up on the shelf in favor of others ... I get the impression that everyone here knows more about the french wine than I ... and that I rarely hit upon the best match for the occasion.

the other guests began to arrive and the conversation began. one gal was belgian and I confess if I understood 10-15 percent of what she had to say that night, I am being generous. the first to arrive was also Perigordine ... and spoke rapid fire ... but I still understood more.

when any of them engaged me 1:1, I did better. but when you are in a setting like that, everyone is conversing. can I also say that much of the time they spoke at the same time! exhausting! ha, but at the same time good for me. I lasted until midnight and by then was just over it in terms of trying to keep up with what was being discussed. I started to zone out and so bid my adeus. When I returned home and let the dogs out, I could hear them all still laughing in the garden. over digestifs. more than anything, I was thankful to have been included ... :P

another entertaining fact about the evening occurred when we all went outside for a smoke on the terrasse. Nicole flipped the light on and there were probably about 8-12 snails slithering about. one of the guests oohed and ahhed and immediately began collecting them. she then asked for a torch (flashlight) and a container and proceeded to search further about the garden, delighted to be retrieving so many escargots! that's right, she filled up the equivalent of an ice cream container, snapped on the lid and put them aside to be taken home for 'cuisiner!' ...

won't see THAT in the good ol' you ess of ay!

(here's a link to preparation methods, if you have a bunch and are so inclined ...)

Sunday, October 11, 2009

trippy dippy.

(this is a drawing Nate did during our wanders 'round Bordeaux) ...

In addition to my cousin and daughter as visitors, I hosted a half-young couple ... Isabelle and Toby. Isabelle has been a best friend of my daughter since they were 5 years old. I have memories of them playing with My Little Ponies in our little 2 room apartment in the hinterlands of San Pablo, California. I remember going to dinner at her mom's house for my first encounter with phö ... delicious savory soup. Johnelle and "Izzy" have stayed close through the years, attending the same school until high school, working for Whole Foods and swapping tales and now, living in the same apartment building.

Isabelle is engaged to Toby, a very colorful character...he's a musician and sometimes victim of arrested development. He reminds me of a cross between Keith Richards and Steve Carrell's character "Michael" from The Office.

It was kind of funny, our day trip to Bordeaux. Between my cousin Nate's bohemian bearded artist look and Toby's glazed rocker dude appearance (complete with light make-up) ... accompanied by two beautiful young women ... we made quite the five-some strolling the passageways of old Bordeaux.

We set up camp at a cool bar/restaurant and were treated to a round of digestif after our big lunch and 2 bottles of wine. The host/bartender didn't quite know what to make of our group, but he had fun trying. I had visions of sightseeing and such, they had visions of drinking and such. Needless to say, I was outnumbered ...

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

surprise outing...number 1

so, Jean-Yves and I have had less time together since August ... he has been working on a project he took on (renovation) in Perigueux and I have been manning the store ... it hasn't been easy since his companionship is so agreeable and we have so much fun together on our various projects... I soldier on and try not to complain too much.

it was a treat when he arrived one morning recently and asked me to go to a home renovation fair being held in Perigueux. I had driven by it and wasn't sure exactly what was happening there, from the outside all that could be seen was a big slide and some tents ... was it a carnival? or ??

so, I hastily got my act together and jumped in the car ... we were off! I did my usual 15 minutes of continuous blah blah blah, catching him up (painfully) in french on various events. we wandered through the fair ... which was not very different from similar events you'll see in the US. Big halls with various vendors displaying the latest in paving, windows, siding, stone, solar and other heating, kitchen design etc etc etc and there were also garden displays and pools and camping cars and etc etc etc

consumerism and the push for the 'latest' improvement are insidiously making their way here...I hope the crise kills them in their tracks ...

we agreed we preferred a boat with hammocks to escape with.

from there we went in to Bourdeilles for a nice walk about and lunch. after lunch, unbeknownst to me Jean-Yves had spied a small sign for a secret garden. we followed the trail to a 'calabasas garden' ... which was a lovely spot filled with all sorts of exotic gourds ... small trails, interesting garden art and designs. we wandered around, oohing and ahhing and appreciating nature's beauty. afterwards, we entered the studio where the owner 'transformed' gourds into less than appealing chatchkas and sold them. There were various containers fashioned from gourds, with lids cut and flowers painted on. there were sugar and creamer bowls and pencil pots and lamps.

what appealed to us was the high shelf surrounding the ceiling, where untouched gourds were laid in different stages of drying ... awaiting their transformation fate. one in particular caught mon monsieur's eye. he caressed its shape and admired its spotted design ... where rains had played upon the skin and colored it.

we returned home, content with a day in each other's company. I do miss him so.

I returned a few days later and begged the owner to sell me that one special gourd. when I first arrived, he was pleased when I told him I came back to by a surprise for my companion. when I pointed up to the gourd he shook his head adamantly. Non, those were meant to be transformed. I could buy any of the after-gourds on display. I pouted and equally shook my head. non, mon copain aimer cette gourd, naturelle. we went back and forth a bit and then I made my regrets and turned to leave.

he relented and the pretty gourd was mine for a song. coincidentally, that same day, JY phoned to ask the name of the hamlet where the garden was. bussac. later on he learned it was that day I ventured off for his surprise.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

saw them in September ...

it was a month for visiting ... and juggling ... cousin nate arrived first. drove up to Angoulême to retrieve him ... he's an artist in a variety of genres (drawing, painting, comics, photography, web design) who lives in Chicago and has had a very interesting, mostly non-mainstream life. I feel like I've known him mostly as a kid, so this visit really provided the opportunity for me to get to know Nathan the man. He's over 30 now and a very cool, laid-back fellow. I've always admired his ability to blaze his own path ... and he has even served as somewhat of an inspiration to me. a little bit of a fear abater (hell, he has gone a non-traditional route and hasn't turned into a pillar of salt!!).

anyhoo, he and I had nearly a week together before Johnelle arrived. I don't think I was much of a hit in the entertainment department (not counting his 2nd night here, which I'll describe shortly) ... I didn't have a hits-packed list of sites and tours and visits to provide. But he seemed to enjoy just sitting in my garden, drawing ... or wandering down to the village to people watch and draw some more. We did venture off to Perigueux a couple of times, he patiently followed me around in my treasure hunts in charity shops ... and we stopped off at the Roman ruins which were judged most interesting and photo-worthy.

another day we drove south ... I hoped we'd have lunch in Tremolat, a little hamlet with a good restaurant that was, naturally (!), closed. just about the time we discovered this fact we also discovered I was low on gas. now Nathan, if he was here, would interject that I had stated that rather optimistically. fact was, it was an impossibility that the car continued to run as it had been on red for some time. I however will interject that the gas light was not yet illuminated so it wasn't on fumes yet, just dribbles. to complicate matters, along with many shops and restaurants ... apparently fuel stations also close on Mondays. we were in territory where there is MAYBE one fuel station in a village ... and the next village may be 20 kms away, so if the one you wanted was closed you MAY have an issue.

this of course was our scenario. I accosted an unsuspecting victim in the village who patiently pointed me to the fuel station. I told him it was closed and I had an urgent situation. He asked me if the fuel light was on (!). No? okay, you just might make it to Lalinde, a slightly larger village with 2 or more stations. Nate was no longer chuckling at my laissez-faire attitude as we wound around tiny roads in the middle of what appeared to be nowhere but cow country.

We found Lalinde. We found the first fuel station, closed. We inquired, again, about where the hypermarché was. Not TOO far, we found it and fuel. And then we ventured into the hypermarché to profit from their air conditioning and to stock up on beer. and a bottle of whisky for good measure. See Nate, I told you the gas light wasn't on yet! After that, we passed a brocante that I recognized as the very first brocante I ever visited when in France. I had to back up and go there. I found some good stuff and so did nate. but he didn't want to spend the 4 or 5 euros on the cool old mags he found there. heh heh. he didn't need more 'stuff'. of course, later he had massive regrets. I'ma gonna try and get back down there this week or next and pick some up for him. in spite of himself!

okay. nate's 2nd night here, I over imbibed. I confess. I hadn't eaten anything but a bowl of warmed up rice all day. it was a Friday night and Jean Yves stopped by with a friend, to do a few 'honey-do' items on the shop. Those were wrapped up by 7:30 and we decided to have an apero. ha. we'd all already had a beer (or 2). We brought out the rum and had rum and lime cocktails. the music got cranked up. I had the pleasure of dancing with all of them at one point or another, sometimes at the same time!

all I know is that by 9pm they were leaving, an entire bottle of rum was missing and the room was starting to spin. later in the week Nathan told me that he heard me snoring in the bathroom.

that's as much as I'll divulge about that fateful night. I guess I'm not the only one who saw a new side of their cousin during September!

(the pic is me & nate bein' silly in the store)

more on visitors from america ... next time...