Good morning! After a lovely evening of answering mail, surfing the internet (oh blessed joy!), and then lying in bed not able to sleep because I gave myself a headache, it's 8 AM and I am up and at 'em. Or not--well not by choice anyway. Our electrician is here to install a new heater in the living room and bathroom (French electricity codes change very often and you have to constantly update your place) and to install a "Radiateur Sêche-Serviettes Électronique" in the bathroom. This is kind of a ladder-looking thing that warms up and you hang towels on it to dry faster. Since we don't have a tumble dryer, it will also help dry other clothes more quickly. Our landlady bought a clothes washer for us to use, which has been very helpful! The washers here do take a lot longer, though (average about 2 hours per load), but I have to say the clothes are VERY clean. No wonder they don't have the multitude of stain-removers at the super-marché! I also bought a retractable clothesline thing to hang up so we can hang clothes to dry more easily. Currently, the practice of draping them over ever hook, doorknob, and piece of furniture we have so far has not been very efficient.
So I am continuing to figure things out here, but it is very different than the US. The first thing is that things don't happen as quickly or efficiently as they should, and people just expect that. For example, we went to the agency Dr. B's fellowship is through to get his first month's pay. Since it was early September (which is the back-to-school time, the "rentrée" and very busy), we had to wait 6 HOURS in the waiting room. We were happy they had couches, but there was nothing to do. No magazines, no books, no TV--zip. We can entertain each other by talking for a while, even a few hours, but 6? A bit excessive. We took two naps each. When we finally got it and got out of there, it was too late to go to the bank to try to open an account, and it was Friday, so we couldn't go until Tuesday (Banks are closed Monday.) Tuesday we got an appointment. For Wednesday. Wednesday (yay!) we got a bank account. But, we had to wait for our RIB (which is a special number they mail you) before we could open a phone account or internet. The RIB came a week later, on Wednesday. So Thursday, I went to set up phone and internet. Got phone done by the next day, but Internet was another story. The salesman forgot to give me my passwords (I went back for them, and then they showed up in the mail the next day, though he had my phone number and could have called me.) Then, I tried the passwords and it still told me it was hooked up wrong. So I went back to the place and said "I don't think this is my fault, I did what it said and he said it would work in 48 hours but it's not working." The other guy working there said "No way, it is 4 or 5 days not 48 hours, he was wrong!" I wish they would get their story straight. You would think a big company like this would have everything figured out, but no. ARGH! At least we have internet, and it is wicked fast.
We do need to finish our visa application process. We went to the préfecture to do the paperwork needed to stay (which the consulate in Chicago told us we needed to do within a week). The lady here in France said "Non, ce n'est pas grave" meaning it's not a big deal to do in a week, and she read the note from the consulate in Chicago and shook her head and threw it away. But, since Mr. B's parents' names are not on our marriage license, we had to get a copy of his birth certificate sent from the US. Plus a list about 12 long of other documents they need. Plus physicals from French doctors, because the physicals we just had last month in the US don't count. Then we try again. So we went to the US consulate for help, and to ask them about insurance. Turns out the US consulate is staffed by a bunch of french people, and we got shuffled from line A to B to C to 1 to 2 to 3 to call this number on this phone who will end up sending you back to line B where they say "no, I have no idea, go see the person in line A" and then you call that number on their phone and they send you upstairs to office 4137 who tells you to go back to line C and eventually we just gave up and left.
So for some reason, I currently do not have health insurance (which most people here say is impossible, that's illegal!) but I don't, so Mr. B is working on that right now. And we don't have our cartes de séjours (the pass that allows us to stay past November) but we are working on it. And no TV yet, but we are working on it. One day at a time...
However, though this stuff is all a headache, other things are absolutely wonderful. We are so close to so many beautiful historical monuments, art museums, and funky little neighborhoods. We can literally walk just about anywhere, and I enjoy getting "lost" with Lucy during our afternoon walk, just to see where we end up. A few nights ago we walked into the Latin Quarter and up the Rue Mouffetard into the university area that has been there since the middle ages. It is called the Latin Quarter because students used to speak in Latin all the time (in the Middle Ages, that is.) It is about a 15 minute walk from our apartment. Little cobblestone streets lined with shops, cafés, bars, sushi places, ethnic food restaurants--just about anything you could think of. The supports were up for the local market, though I am not sure which days that one runs. We have one 2 blocks over from our place that is held on Sundays, Tuesdays and Fridays. It is several blocks long and you can buy everything there. Want a whole octopus? No problem. Need underwear? Yep, got that. How about some tiny, yellow mirabelle plums? By the kilo. A persian rug. Uh huh! Blue jeans? What size, we've got them for infants on up. How about a kilogram of curry powder? You better believe it! Maybe some cheese? We have 47 different kinds of "fromage" at this stand, but if you don't like these, the one a few steps away has another 52! It is unbelievable, but for the french, "c'est normale!"
So if I complain too much, just whack me over the head with a freshly baked, crunchy yet tender, baguette. Mmmm...speaking of which, the bakery across the street is open today...
NOTE from Lucy***
I like this Paris better than the suburb we were staying in before. There are more dogs here, and more big ones, and I have made some friends! There is still not much grass, so I am getting used to pavement, but that's OK because you wouldn't believe how many things there are to smell here! Some people here are still scared of me, but I have also gotten a lot of compliments (one lady said I was "magnifique!") I did get into a scrape with 2 huskies the other night, but Mom said I was just a little scared and really didn't get hurt at all. I shreiked pretty loud though. I have been very good and haven't howled once since we got here, but the french sure need to learn how to make bigger dog cookies. These puny ones just don't cut it. So, if you want to send a care package, I prefer the really big dog cookies--especially peanut butter flavor.
I like to go into the stores and cafés with Mom and Dad. Mom took me on this thing at Italie 2 (it's the big shopping center by our house). She said it was an "escalator" but I just thought it was weird! I put my front paws on, and then they went away from me and I stretched as far as I could but it didn't stop! So Mom pulled my whole body onto the moving stairs and that was pretty freaky, let me tell you. I don't think I like those escalator things. But I enjoy the elevator at our apartment very much, and I like to look at myself in the mirror inside it. The door shuts, and then when it opens we are in a new place!!! Pretty cool magic box, that elevator.
Mom found a store that sells my food, so I am back on the Science Diet. I wasn't too happy about that, because I loved the cheap stuff she got at the supermarché, but she said it wasn't good for me. It tasted really good, but she said "so does candy and Doritos but you can't survive on that for long." OK, so I am eating healthy again. She does slip me a little bit of something yummy off her plate, sometimes. For breakfast today I got a little "jambon" which is french for ham. They eat a lot of ham here! So overall, France is pretty good, but I still miss my yard. I am getting more walks, though, which I like a lot.