Life is Wonderful (Hendaye)

So because of many requests, I’ve decided I should probably get another post in before February comes to an end. The last two weeks have been pretty carefree; the first one was the last week before the holidays. I ended up getting my medical form in the mail so the next day I went to Versailles and (after one hour and 45 minutes of waiting) FINALLY got my carte de sejour, yay! I am now an official resident of France…until mid-July that is. Adriana and I spent the last days before the holidays spending a lot of time and money in cafés and restaurants, comparing chocolate mousse before I left for vacation.

I was lucky enough to easily glide through Valentine’s Day without a trip to Paris and then Sunday morning, the family and I took the long trip to Hendaye, in the most southwest part of France possible. The train ride probably took around 7 hours but it was totally worth it. Hendaye is situated in Le Pays Basque and the Basque country is a small portion of France and a larger portion of Spain put together. They have their own language called Euskara, as well as their own flag, and they’ve been fighting for independence for quite some time. We stayed in Anne’s parents’ summerhouse and from the window, you could see the Mediterranean to the west and the mountains of Spain to the south. It was absolutely amazing!

The weather was quite nice there, averaging in the high teens for most of the week but I’m sure it would be even better in the summer. I got most afternoons off so for my first one, I introduced myself to one of the popular foods: txurros (or churros), which are basically sugared french fries. They were probably not the healthiest choice but they were still really good as I strolled along the beach and the port. The next day, I took a long walk downtown, which isn’t really a downtown at all but it was nice seeing more of the town. And Wednesday was my day that I went to Spain! Yes, I paid 1.60 Euro to take a 10-minute boat ride to Spain. It was so amazing how everything changed in so little time. No one I talked to spoke French, the roads were tinier, and everything was totally different. I don’t know a word of Spanish (sorry, the Dora the Explorer here teaches English) so it was difficult for me to communicate. Also, nothing was open from 1-4:30 so my first hour and a half of Spain, I didn’t really have a lot to do. I made my way to a café later in the day and ordered myself a hot chocolate, which was delectable! I swear it was just melted chocolate; it was so thick and didn’t have a hint of milk or cream. I’ve now officially been in Spain for a total of three hours! On Thursday, I went to Saint Jean-de-Luz, which is a small little town about ten minutes away from Hendaye by train. It had such good shopping (although unaffordable) and I was so excited to finally see some real ice cream (usually here, there’s only Drumsticks and popsicles). I ordered myself some banana chocolate and some pomme d’amour, so good! Friday and Saturday, I went hiking on one of the well-known trails, which was really enjoyable. Sunday, I cleaned the house and then we left early, early Monday morning. On Tuesday, I got the afternoon off so I went to the theatre and watched He’s Just Not That Into You with my Ben and Jerry’s ice cream (so good!). Wednesday, I went to Paris to do some shopping and today, I’m hoping to just relax.

You might have realized that I’m giving up Facebook and msn for Lent so I won’t be on for another 39 days but you can still reach me through email. I hope everyone has enjoyed their holidays if they had them and starts off their month of March amazingly well. Love always
Life is Wonderful – Jason Mraz

Sooner or Later

My week started off with not going to school and instead going for coffee with a couple of friends so that I could have something to eat. Because I was supposed to have my scan at 4:30, I wasn’t allowed to eat or drink anything after I had breakfast (which was superdifficult). By about 1:30, my hunger started getting to me so I left at 2 to make the long trip to the hospital. On my way there, I was just thinking, “Can’t I just have one Ikea cookie?” “An orange is healthy, that should be okay to eat…” but I ended up making it all the way through. Finally I got into the scan room, which is a bed in the middle of a huge room and a big circular machine at the foot of the bed. Not only that but there’s a huge window as one of the walls of the room with about four doctors sitting on the other side. Not intimidating at all… The doctor came in, asked where I was from and then he went on about how out of all the places in the world, Canada is the one place he wants to go to. Once he finished talking (which I’m sure was just some big plan of his), he asked me what arm I wanted him to use. I literally thought he was talking about taking my blood pressure or something, which I thought was really weird since I didn’t think it really mattered which arm they used. After I told him I was left handed so probably the right, he told me that I had really small veins. And that’s when I froze, “Why would he be looking at my veins, didn’t I sign up for a SCAN, not a needle?” I of course didn’t want to cause a huge scene in front of all the doctors on the other side of the window so I calmly just did as he asked, as he inserted an IV type thing, which put liquid into my arm during the length of the scan. And that’s all I thought about the entire time, like freaking out. After it was done I was so hot, you would have thought I just walked out of a sauna. My phobia of needles doesn’t really work to my advantage. Anyway, he told me the results wouldn’t be ready for a while and I made an appointment to come back the following week.

The kids were really not that fun to be with for the first part of the week. I think it had something to do with their mom coming back so they were both trying to fight for her attention, meaning they weren’t great to me. Throughout the week, it got better. On Thursday, there was a strike so most of the teachers didn’t work. That night, we got the piano set up and I was able to play again! It’s going to be so nice to be able to have something to clear my mind whenever I need to. On Friday, I was asked to teach Alice a bit of piano. “Sure, no problem,” I thought. And then I realized I don’t even know what a quarter note or half note is in French. Not only that, but the French use the Do, Re, Mi system and not C, D, E, etc. I tried the best I could and that night, I looked up a French-English music dictionary so in case you were all wondering, a quarter note is une noire and a half note is une blanche – makes sense, easy enough. Alice is so keen on learning though; she wants to play all the time and always asks, “When can we turn the page to learn the next song?”

On Saturday, Adriana and I went into Paris to go to the Chinese Parade, which was kind of dull BUT our lunch made up for it, which was of course Chinese. On Sunday, I went into Paris and did nothing in particular except take the metro from one side of Paris to the other numerous times (it was freezing cold out so there was no way I was going to walk around). That night, Adriana, Caitlin and I went out for dinner to the Taj Mahal, which was also very good. Monday morning, I went to BACK to Paris to check out the results from my scan. Turns out when I was young, I had the first part of tuberculosis and it scarred my lungs. No one knew I had it or anything so it was quite interesting. Now I have about thirty pictures of my lungs to take home with me. I was thinking of cutting them out and sending them to all of you so that you can post it on your fridges and tell everyone that it’s me in Paris but I later changed my mind. That afternoon, I went to Versailles to pick up my carte de séjour (finally!). I would like to say that I’ve grown to strongly dislike the French administration because every time I go to Versailles to the prefecture, something seems to go wrong. This time, I went up to the counter and the lady there was just so mean, “Oh, we’re closed.” “But it says RIGHT here that you’re open.” “Well, today’s an exception.” I was so mad and went back home. The next day, Adriana and I went together because she had to go as well. First, we stopped at an amazing restaurant with the most delicious chocolate mousse I’ve had in a long time. We then went to the prefecture where we both waited for an hour and a half until we finally got to go up to the counter. Adriana went first and got her carte de séjour (thank goodness) and then it was my turn. I gave them everything it said I needed on the sheet and then he asked for my stamp (yes, I have a teeny-tiny stamp worth 55 Euro that I carry around with me. You do realize that’s nearly a 90 dollar stamp right??), which wasn’t on the sheet but I gave it to him anyway. And then he asked for my medical form which ALSO wasn’t on the sheet and which I didn’t have because they still had it since they wouldn’t give it to me until I had my scan. I told him I didn’t have it and he told me he couldn’t give me my carte de séjour UNTIL I have that medical form (and he was saying this as he was waving around my carte de séjour in his hand). So, I have to wait for the scan people to write the medical clinic, who will send me my medical form and THEN I can go back to Versailles. And let’s just hope this all happens before February 28th, because that’s when my other thing expires. I will literally be getting on the plane to go back home in July and they will finally be ready to give me my green card. Ugh, French administration…

Anyway, the rest of the week I just kind of did whatever. I started cross-stitching and I’ve gotten so into it, I don’t really do anything else. I put up a picture of what I’ve done so far so you should hopefully be able to tell what it is; you should even be able to tell what it is without looking at the picture if you really know me. Friday was my official HALFWAY POINT! Now, I have less than 150 days left so that’s something to look forward to. On Sunday, I FINALLY went to church again (after 4 weeks!). It was so great to be back there again, with the pastor jumping up and down on the stage during the songs, as if it’s a normal thing to do at all churches. After church, I took one last advantage of the Winter Sale because now they’re putting out their spring stuff. This week is the last week before “holidays” (well, for everyone BUT me). I will be spending “holidays” going on a “vacation” with the family in southern France starting this Sunday and continuing for the next 8 days, meaning I will not be able to write in my blog until I get back. I hope everyone enjoys their holidays and I will write again as soon as I can. Hi Alyssa! Bisous!
Sooner or Later – Michael Tolcher