Thursday, September 25, 2008

Cover Girl Encore Part II

Below is the article published in Les Infos Pays de Redon. Please note it is not translated exactly. And I do not have the strength (I'm totally worn out from translating below!) to translate the other portion of the article; an interview with a male, Independent and ''undecided'', American.

American Elections in November
Words of Americans

McCain? He is worse than Bush!

When I say to the French that I am American, I feel first a hesitation in response. But when they understand that I am not pro-Bush, they give me a lot of kisses, relates Pam Roadknight.
I do not believe the French are anti-Americans. I believe they do not like the politics, the current administration. I don't know if Bush is the worst ever American president. I do know he is the worst one in my lifetime. And you wonder why I live in France

This ''chevalier de la route'' (Roadknight), native of Minnesota stopped her route at St Martin sur Oust three years ago. I have had a vacation house near Rennes for many years. Visiting Brittany led us to living here. I like the lifestyle, the climate, the economy and the education system for my daughter.

Trade chemical dependency counselor, Pam has no intention to return to live in the United States. I enjoy traveling in Brittany and throughout France. I am happy being here. My difficulty is not having family and friends near. Fortunately they visit and we have the internet available to stay in contact. My greatest challenge is learning the French language. I do take courses but I find it difficult. If my French were better, I would find it easier to expand relationships with French people.

Tonight is September 11 2008. In this conversation, her eyes are sad, remembering seven years ago, explaining her morning of September 11 2001. I was in my car driving to work, listening to the radio. As usual, the traffic was heavy. When I heard the news, traffic slowed considerably and I remember looking at other drivers, others looking at me. I remember the expressions of disbelief. Traffic continued to slow down. It was just, clearly, shocking.

The official version of the terrorist attacks is sometimes different. Why? I want to remember how this tragedy united Americans, particularly those living in New York. How others remember it, I can’t explain that. No matter what official versions are, or are not, September 11 was, in a word, horrendous.

On the internet, Pam gets information regarding the presidential elections. She consults the programs of the two presidential candidates, the news, the polls. McCain is worse than Bush! I wonder how one can even consider this candidate in 2008. Haven’t we had enough?

In France, it often is said that the rest of the world does not interest the Americans. True? I think there are, unfortunately, some Americans that have a myopic view of the world. I found that international news was sometimes limited in the media. And although many more Americans are traveling and seeing more of the world today, there are still some that never leave America and/or have little interest in the rest of the world. It’s hard to make a blanket statement about that. I know it’s an impression the world has of Americans and that’s a hard impression to change when it carries a bit of truth.

In the secret of the voting booth, some French voters were able to vote in favor of Nicolas Sarkozy, against Royal Ségolène, because she is a woman. Can one imagine the same happening because of the skin color of Obama? For the undecided voter, in my opinion, yes. For example, if I’m not sure of who to vote for, and I’m not informed about the issues, I will probably vote for what I do know: a white male. I believe that the supporters of both candidates, the strong supporters, will not change their vote in the privacy of that booth.

Will a new president bring change in the world? I think there will be change but what, how and who - we have to wait and see. Every president has brought about some good, and some bad. Although off the top of my head I can’t think of a ''something good'' Bush has done. I hope there will be change. And I hope it will be world-wide good.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Cover Girl Encore

This afternoon I went to the Notaire to have my signature witnessed for my Minnesota drivers license. Hurrah! At long last my drivers license saga is done. (for Minnesota French license is going to take much longer).

Notaire: I saw you in the newspaper today!
Me: oh! May I see it please?
Notaire: Here, voila!

There, on the cover of Les Infos Pays de Redon, I see me. In color. Big. gasp. Article on page three. Another photo appears.
Note to self: I must remember to wear sunglasses.

Me: When did this come out?
Notaire: Today.
Me: How long will it be on newstands?
Notaire: 7 days!

Deep breath. I am translating the article as quickly as possible and will post here either later today or tomorrow...

Sunday, September 21, 2008

54 Nights Later...

...and this is the first evening we have been alone in our house. It's 5:30 pm, an LP - World's Greatest Big Bands -is spinning on a turn table. No, I haven't completely lost my mind, or CD's, we're just enjoying a blast from the past - an LP from 1974! Dear Young Readers, if Mom and Dad don't have a turn table, or any round large black things that we call records, perhaps you can find these items at an antique shop. sigh. ANYWAY. Tonight. I'm reading. Downstairs. In my pj's. I may even leave the dishes until the morning. (probably not but it's an option). Oh, morning! I am definitely getting dressed after breakfast. 54 nights is a long stretch but it is true that we have enjoyed our guests. Now it's time to remember life as we knew it... We're going back in time. Right back to the ''1900s''...and I'm signing off here because going back in time means no internet.......................gah!

Friday, September 19, 2008

In My Humble Opinion

With La Maison Rouge around the corner, I think it makes sense that Robin and Jane name their new home *La Maison Blanche. Stay with me here...white window treatments, white sofas, white cushions, white furniture and could those be (nearly) white chips in a white bowl?... I say, La Maison Blanche! Now, Jane, I do like that you refer to your home as, quote, ''My Home'', but I think this is confusing Robin. Or not. Come to think of it, he also says, ''My Home''. hmmmm.

What do you think....My Home or La Maison Blanche? Or maybe My Home La Maison Blanche? The winning name will be announced here!

Welcome to the 'hood Robin and Jane !

*blanc/blanche correction per my French teacher and American-speaking-French-fluently friend...merci !

Wednesday, September 17, 2008



I must say it felt odd to cast my vote via the postal service. There was no standing in line on a November morning. Although I did stand in line at the post office. Still, the weather today is nothing like a Minnesota morning in November. There was no checking in at the voter registration desk. I ticked that box myself. There was no glancing through a line of voters for people I may recognize or shoot the breeze with while waiting my turn. There is no media today to announce the Voting Day news. Just the ticking of our clocks in the solitude of my home with a simple ballot form and a black pen.

More importantly, much more importantly, I voted. And I voted as an expat. More than ever, my vote does count and today, it becomes much more meaningful both personally and publicly.

On a personal level, my view of this election is much more global. Literally. How am I, an American living in France, impacted by this election, the issues, American politicians? That also becomes a public matter. Within my French community, which includes a sizeable number of Brits as well, I am the only American. Political questions, comments and opinions flow between us...sometimes we disagree, most of the time we agree. That doesn't matter so much. What does seem to matter is the one thing we all agree on...the change that could, rather needs, to happen in America, will impact the entire world.

I know that France is watching. All of Europe is watching. I believe the world is earnestly watching America right now. I hope you believe in your ability to bring change to America. for change...our world is counting on it.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Performance Review: Sort Of

I was just thinking that I do not miss those annual employee performance reviews. Most of them, most of the time, were a joke. Of course the outstanding reviews I earned were completely *cough* accurate.

And then, today, as I sauntered through the village it occured to me that I have a performance review nearly every day. Each time I go ''out there'' I encounter a French person or two that I know.

Standing in line at the bakery, I conversed with the mayor. At the grocery shop, I conversed with an acquaintance. I always say bonjour to others walking by me.

I have moved from quick eye contact and a cheesy smile to a simple (but enthusiastic!) bonjour to struggling through some resemblance of a conversation. It's not much, certainly not outstanding, but the scrap of progress gives me a shot of gusto to keep going, keep trying.

Tonight we begin hosting a weekly intermediate French lesson group. Tony is participating but I'm not quite at that level, not yet. Meanwhile, I have another review at the hair salon soon and there's always the butcher, the baker....and, hey, où est le fabricant de baton de bougie ?

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Token American?

This evening a newspaper reporter came to my home and interviewed me: Token American. Are there no other Americans in this 'hood? Apparently not. Or, unknown. Word has, apparently, gone around that I am here. hmmmm.
The interview lasted nearly two hours. I was questioned about American politicians and, of course, The Election.
The article will be printed in two weeks. Below are a few interview questions. The answers may or may not be actual responses. You will have to wait for the published article to find out! Until then, I give you this:
Q: Who do you think will be the next President?
A: Do I look like a Fortune Teller?
Q: In France, at the last election, many people stated they would vote for Ségolène Royal but changed their mind at the last moment and voted for Nicolas Sarkozy. Do you think Americans will do the same thing - Obama supporters going to McCain or vice versa?
A: Are you serious?
Q: Is Bush truly stupid?
A: You have to ask?
Let's hope my photo is good............................

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Moving a Paper Mountain

Sometimes I wish moving to France from America was as easy as boarding an airplane with a one-way ticket. Those times occur each year when we have to renew our carte de sejour for long-stay visitors. Admittedly, the first time we applied for the carte de sejour was the most tedious and challenging. We knew of a few Americans who had moved to France to work, or to study, or who had French partners, but no one that had simply relocated from America.

We relied on the internet and the French Embassy in Chicago to lead us through the application process. We also relied on an empty room in our house that quickly became the Carte de Sejour Room; filled with wobbly stacks of paperwork that all too often tumbled across the floor, a fax machine that only occasionally functioned and a computer with French Embassy as the homepage.

We completed forms in triplicate and in both English and French. I will always remember the enormous help from our French teacher and friend, Ann Wolff, for not only her translation work, but also her support along the way. I will also remember that at the time we were requesting police records, someone in my family got a speeding ticket. I’m not saying who got this traffic violation, but, Elsie is too young to drive and it wasn’t me.

Later on I needed my employer to complete a letter stating details of my employment and, most importantly, that I was currently employed. Can you imagine the conversation I had with my boss over that one? It was then that my two week notice became a nine month notice. A promise to my boss for a France vacation chez nous and voila, said letter written.

It took nearly a year to reach our goal to purchase those one way airline tickets. The first part of the carte de sejour application was merely to gain authorization to enter France. Upon our arrival, we had medical exams and immunizations, paid the timbre fiscal and our paperwork trail continued. Our determination heightened (as did our blood pressure) until we had our carte de sejour in hand several weeks later. Our relief could only last for the next 10 months or so, when the dreaded time to renew arrived.

Basically, France needed reassurance that we were not criminals, that we would not take employment from a French citizen and that we would not seek financial support from the French government. And they need this reassurance every year for five years. In 2010, we will be eligible to apply for French passports. No matter how absurd the hoops are to leap through or the red tape is to untangle, I intend to stay here for that passport.

If you are an expatriate in France, and from the EU, considerez-vous chanceux. If you are an American wanting to reside in France, I hope you have a sizeable space for your Carte de Sejour Room, a spouse that drives within the speed limit and a boss that dreams of a vacation in France. Bonne chance!

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Coffee Breaks Are The Best

I went to work today. Well, not exactly work work. It may be more accurate to say I went to a place of work.
Our main computer has been taken away (I'm still in a state of trauma from that) for clean up and whatever they have to do to make it all okay....technical stuff. I'm left with internet connection but even that remains questionable and this laptop is just barely functioning. Be still my heart!
Meanwhile I have an article to write and a deadline is staring at me. What to do? I did the logical thing (is that a surprise?) and went to the magazine office to write my piece.
I arrived around 10 am. I believe all work should start around that time. I discussed my assignment with the editor and guess what happened after that....hurrah! coffee break time! (this of course supports my rationale for starting work around 10 am: just in time for the 10:30 break)
After our break, we situated ourselves at computers and quietly went about our business. It was really really really quiet in that office. I wanted to clear my throat or cough or something like that but I didn't dare. (said noise might have scared the staff, or me)
Luckily I forgot about the quiet rather quickly and got into writing. I did, however, feel a sort of pressure bubbling up around me as the realization that I was sitting in an office, a place of work, took hold of my thoughts. Has it not been an eternity since I sat in an office? I was just starting to think about the strangeness of it all and YAY, coffee break! Never mind that I was already feeling a wee bit too much caffeine in my system...workers need their coffee breaks and who am I to not join in on that?
Okay, after that break, I definitely needed to focus. And I did. I was feeling great about my progress, nearly done, just a bit more and OOPS. I lost the article. Lost. Deleted. Wiped Out. Gone gone gone. Words flew freely from me that I didn't even know I knew. Not very lady like words. So much for the quiet. I kicked up a storm and when it blew over I tossed it around some more. Everyone else kept working. My request for a coffee break broke their silence and off we went for another coffee break.
I ended up staying for lunch. Something I hadn't planned on but I also hadn't planned on losing my document. Oh, lunch at work...we had a 3 course meal and a glass of wine. Coffee and dessert followed that. Much better than the sandwich I would have had at home. I felt guilty for awhile about having such a fine lunch knowing that Tony, Brian and Rosemary were at home probably picking at sandwiches. (I wonder if a minute counts as ''awhile'')
Fortified from such a fine lunch - and the glass of wine might have helped too - I was able to complete my article fairly swiftly after lunch. I took care of the necessary (but only two!) corrections from the editor, joined everyone in a coffee break, and called it a day.
Driving home from the office today, I concluded that I do not miss going to work, or even being at work. An occasional work day is good and coffee breaks are without a doubt the best. When I do have work days, I will always start around 10am and end around 3pm and I will always enjoy a 90 minute 3 course lunch. I will remember to press Save every two seconds. And next time I will most definitely positively for sure maybe remember to drink decaf.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Good Stuff

The Hedgehog House gave us a wonderful alarm clocks or church bells and nothing To Do except Enjoy!
Elsie and Michelle picked over 2 kilos of blackberries, which, by the way, turns itself into 6 Bonne Maman jars of the most delicious jam! We watched Michelle with great awe as she spun those plump juicy berries into a thick smooth jam. I even had the pleasure of taste testing through the process. It was easy to slip back into the childhood years; licking spoons and bowls and leaning into the counter for optimum viewing. Actually, I used to sit on the counter but with age, weight and gravity, leaning has become the better choice.
We went to Rennes one day to do a food and school supply shop. Much to my delight we ended up buying a tumble dryer. (I slipped that in on the Food List...heh-heh) I have been without a dryer for three years. THREE YEARS! Hurrah for moi et vous aussi because no more schlepping to the laundromat when the B&B is heaving with piles of sheets and towels and we will always have soft fluffy towels from this day forward. Amen.
Note to Min: We played an intense game of Monopoly and Momma won! YAY! The Shoe was my piece, coincidence? I say no. The Shoe is clearly the winner. I must claim it, Min. Really. Let it go...xoxo
So. I have 6 jars of homemade jam, a shiny new tumble dryer and a recent win at Monopoly. Could life get any better? YES! We came home to a cleaner-than-I-left-it house and an awesome evening meal done and prepared by DIY B&B guests. I'm telling you, this DIY B&B business is fantastic. Who knew?
Good people and good bells and all.