(the misadventures of an expatriate corporate dropout)

Monday, November 30, 2009

these are the days of my life ...

so then, as fascinating as one petite expat's tales seem to be ... I shall continue to regale you ...

today, a typical week-day (although I confess there are many days I have to stop and concentrate on remembering what day it is ...). I awaken around 6:30 or 7:00 a.m. Not because of an alarm clock, but because that is when I awaken.

I don't rise immediately, I laze abed and regard the internets. with the time difference, mornings and nights are when I can connect stateside if needed.

usually by 8:30 or 9'ish I rouse myself and, if it is to be a solitary day, throw on jeans and a jacket ... grab my bike and head to the boulangerie for my pain au chocolat and demi-baguette. If it is a non-solitary day ... I'll do some level of maquillage and then head to the boulangerie.

I then make my coffee (italian espresso pot) ... a 30 second affair ... and watch Bruno dance at my heels while the coffee finishes. He knows if a morning bike ride occurred, there are bits of pain that await him...

I head back upstairs with coffee in hand (remember, this is that solitary day) and have another look at the 'puter. How the day unfolds is never certain but shall vary according to fate and my calendar! here's what happened today ...

After coffee, I went back downstairs and cleaned up the kitchen. I had 10:30 app't. In the meantime, I went out to the back garden and rummaged around for inspiration to make displays in the shop. Being frugal, I try to salvage first. I want some new and interesting displays for earrings and necklaces ... buying retail displays are expensive and not very interesting.

I gathered some old iron pieces, a meter of chicken wire ... and some other supplies from the shop (paints, stamps, shears) and organized my atelier (cough cough crappy former kitchen room now 1/2 junk room 1/2 work room) for further work. My 10:30 arrived to beg off and reschedule for tomorrow. I bid them farewell and decided to go down to the co-op and see if there were any cheap garden bits that could inspire me to transform them into wondrous displays. While driving there, I also decided to run over to the Controle Technique garage to get them to sign off on my papers (annual inspection which I had done and then had to get a few things fixed before receiving green light). I arrive to find he is closed Monday mornings (I'm sure I knew that) so headed over to the co-op.

A roll of new chicken wire was 12 euros, so I decided to stick with my original plan of cleaning up the old grody piece I found in the garden. A young man who worked there approached me hesitantly (I have the look of a foreigner!!!) and asked if I was "Anglaise". Nope, Americaine. Well, he wanted to invite me to an intercultural dinner next week and I figured what the hell so accepted. 14euros for a 'diner gastronomie' (anything involving canard is labelled such, ha). I then decided to spend the 12euros I saved on a copper bird feeder, a big bag of sunflower seeds and some greasy birdseed balls for my garden.

Hopped back in the car, ran over to the brico store for like inspiration, found none but bought a boxcutter since JY has made off with all of them.

Back to the house where I then got back to display making. Took an old frame, a used piece of styro I had, and used some plain, heavy-weight art paper to wrap the styro. Over that I put a piece of burlap. I cleaned and brushed a section of chicken wire, spray painted it white and wrapped THAT around the burlap covered section. Nailed all of this into the frame securely. Now I have an interesting display piece to hang earrings on. Yay me!

After finishing that, I heated up lunch (leftover veal paupiette, bit of purée and a mache salade). Looked at the clock and realized I had about an hour before my rendez-vous at the medecin (doctor) in Lisle. Decided to google directions, just in case. Also organized my various documents in the event I had to prove who I was, who my insurance mutuelle (top-up) carrier was, vaccination record, residence card, SIRET number ... (I like to be prepared...lol). Gathered my dossier, printed my directions and got on the road at 1:30 for my 2:00. Started stressing a bit as to if I allowed ample time. Cranked up the radio and the gas! ha.

I have recently received welcome into the French health system and as such, I need to select a doctor. I'm going to do a separate post on all of this for those readers interested in learning more about the process from someone who has stumbled her way through it. But suffice for now that I've had the good fortune to find an English speaking couple who are BOTH doctors, a 2 for 1 package of sorts!

Approached the shuttered-up village and parked in the centre place (plaza). Tiny town, figured I could find it. Walked up and down the main part ... hit up the bar and asked them. Yep, just 200 meters or so. Realized how bad I had to pee. in the rain. brrrr. backtracked and found the doctor's office.

door opened into a small waiting room, maybe 6-8 chairs in a tiny room with a little table in the center. On the table, a big package of surgical type masks for the taking (!). Bulletin board with a poster recommending food portion size and amounts from food groups (very familiar looking). Some support group info for cancer patients, people facing hospice. Some exercise groups. A rack of various health-related brochures. One other person is waiting here.

A door opens and Mrs. Medecin emerges and greets the other party. I wait another 15 minutes or so and then it is my turn.

I am so curious as to what is behind the door?! It opens onto a large and airy room, kind of pie-shaped. on one side is a fully-equipped examining area, with table and all the normal cabinetry and accoutrements. The other side accommodates a large desk and chairs, shelving, artwork, large window ... the doctor's office so to speak. I'm asked to sit and we look at each other for a minute...I'm trying to decide whether to speak French or English. She doesn't say anything. She's a youngish (30s) woman, obviously pregnant. Finally I just say, in English, that I'm trying to decide which language to speak. She says, in English, whichever I am more comfortable in. She has a British accent but I'm not certain what nationality she is. And I don't ask. I go on to explain I've just rec'd my carte d'assuré ... I have to select my 'medecin traitante' (primary doctor, so to speak), my neighbor and other friends recommended them so here I am.

I really have no health complaints other than my recently presenting trigger finger and the need for a new pair of eyeglasses. We discuss those 2 needs. She explains a bit more about the system... asks me about some of the normal female testing. I discover that I don't have to select a gyno, that in France once can use their GP. She tells me most French women use a gyno because they prefer a woman and most GPs are men. But I'm lucky in that with my package deal (Mr & Mrs Medecin) I can have her do it if I like. Which I do. I can already see I will like her, she is straightforward, matter-of-fact.

She tells me that many tests are automatically arranged in France based on preset norms. For example, I shall expect letters concerning mammography exams etc because they are considered necessary exams and are arranged for you. But she says, there are not a lot of these ... because the French health culture is different here and while preventive to a point, there are no mandated annual exams and few tests unless a health condition or symptom warrants it. We chat about my hand (I decide to wait until after January) ... and then she fills out my claim form (once I receive my plastic Carte Vitale, I won't need form, I'll just swipe my card and receive my reimbursement directly into my account.) She also fills out my selection form for the 'medecin traitante' and sends me on my way.

So, just imagine. A real, regular, everyday doctor. Private. Independent. their own little office. Seeing and caring for patients. Visiting in their home when needed. Spent a half hour with me and no exam was needed. Made the appointment last week. Can ring up anytime. My very own doctor. She didn't have to call anyone for approval on anything. fanfuckingtastic, my friends (americans in particular, can you even imagine???!!!) 22 euros. I have to mail a form for reimbursement but hey ... in the future, no.

I return home, brew another coffee and decide to sit down and fill out my forms. I get out the letter that accompanied my paper carte vitale (temporary) and decide to do a better translation of it. Upon doing this, I realize that the woman at Mati-Camons has requested my bank info along with the selection form. This is something else I just learned that, in my opinion, France has made more efficient. My insurance agent showed me this. You know how in the states if you want to get something either paid automatically or deposited automatically you have to give a voided check? and fill out a form? well here, along with the checks in your checkbook and the deposit slips there are some preprinted forms that you can just give out to the companies who want to set you up on autopay (Relevé d'identité bancaire). Very handy. Anyway, she had asked me for that and I hadn't really paid attention nor did I recognize the name of what she requested until reading it again, after my newfound knowledge from my insurance man. So, I organized the forms, made copies and wrote a cover letter (in French). Got that all printed out, in the envelopes, etc.

I decided to walk to the post office but before going decided I would also go to the perception and pay my tax d'habitation. I grabbed a copy of my lease for my recalcitrant tenant (another story) to prove that I had one and that HE should pay his portion (which is the norm ... tenants pay their own 'living' tax). I go to the post office and post my mail and then on to the tax office. She tells me I have to declare my unit in Perigueux first. So I go ahead and pay ALL of the tax and save that for another day. While there, I run into an English woman I kind of know ... she made a stab at running a brocante near me for about 4-6 weeks ... she asks about my coming Christmas fair and if she can bring some of her things to sell. So we arrange to meet prior, I give her my card and head back home.

I go out in the garden and install my bird feeders. Instantly, 4-6 birds appear and begin devouring sunflower seeds! smile. I get online and sort out some messages on Etsy. Pay for a few items. Write a blog post for Mignonne. Check some things on Craigslist and leboncoin. Read the news.

Decided to cook a quick meal. Made Jamie Oliver's terrific chicken breasts. Do you know these? literally 10 minutes to succulent deliciousness. Do try them, 'fast food' at its finest! Accompanied that with some of my homegrown carrots and a mache salad along with a glass of beaujolais.

After dinner, had a nice telephone visit with my daughter. she's just moved to a darling cottage, her life is going so well and I'm delighted for her. She works hard and is an inspiration.

Then decided to sit down and share a day in the life of this particular expat.

Tomorrow is another day.


Michelle said...

Phew, just read your whole day before even waking up enough to get out of bed.

Now, coffee.

softinthehead said...

Kim thanks for sharing - it sounds like you have made a wonderful life for yourself there. I am very envious.

The Pliers said...

Fantastic and interesting post about such a wide variety of things that add up to integrating and acculturating into French life, language, and culture.

Congratulations, Kim!

I love your idea for the jewelry display.

Randal Graves said...

The frog health system, unlike ours, is obviously a complete failure. Once you open the door to any sort of personal service, you'll expect that all the time in all fields. Lucky we have insurance companies to tell us what we need/don't need. Whew.

Non Je Ne Regrette Rien said...

michelle~ thanks for listening! isn't coffee the best? btw, your blog is on the downlow now? all okay?

sith~ well thanks! I need to remind myself of that from time to time...

ms. pliers~ sounds like Mexico is breathtaking, it is I who envies you !

RG~ yep you wacky 'mericans are so damn ... lucky, yeah that's the word I was looking for, unh hunh. :P

jadie said...

isn't it true how having events scheduled makes life somehow more engaged and interesting? life IS little things, i think. glad to know about your experience with the doctor, and to contrast it with visiting an american doctor!

Anonymous said...
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Rosie said...

couldnt agree more about the joys of the french health system. it is supposed to be the best in the world...you just have to master the paperwork and...result!

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