Monday, March 26, 2012

Market day in Paris

The vegetables at the market this Sunday on Rue Monge were so pretty I wanted to applaud.

And then I wanted to devour. With a lot of butter. Finger-lickin' good.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Exit Strategy Lesson 1: Declutter

How did I manage to quit my job, fling myself to foreign lands, and find love in Paris?

Good question. And in my Exit Strategy series, I'm going to tell you how I did it. Oh yes I am. You're welcome.

Today's first lesson, boys and girls, is about decluttering. Chucking, sorting and deleting somehow pushes us faster toward our new lives. I'm not sure how this magic works, but it's one of those strange mysteries of the universe. Like gravity and Fluff.


Perhaps letting go of the old invites the new. Or perhaps sweeping away the nest of papers leads to a clearer mind. And when we have a clearer mind, insight from God-knows-where (exactly), can pop into our noggins more easily. That's why we say things like, "Why didn't I think of this before?" Because we were thinking, "Sheesh, I've got 14,000 emails in my inbox. That's not a good thing."

And yet, we put off editing the inbox because we're too busy harvesting the crop of emails that grows in said inbox overnight. 

Recently (an hour ago), I did a clean sweep of my inbox and got those 14,000 emails down to 4,000. Not bad. I will be whittling it further over the next few days. It was an interesting trip down memory lane. Except this time I was wielding a machete named Delete.

Did I need the Twitter emails from two years ago telling me who was following me? Lurkers.

Or the Yahoo Group Digests from before Facebook became MegaMegopolis?

Or the notification from Skype telling me I had a new voice mail? I got the message.

Should I have sponsored you for a run you did two years ago? Ya, I finally opened it. Oops. Sorry you didn't meet your goal.

Or the fifteen back and forth emails about making plans for dinner (two years ago). We should have just accepted we weren't that into each other.

Library notification that my Rick Steve's Europe and Learning Italian DVDs were due. And that Vegan cookbook... hahahahaha! I won't be needing that now that I live with a butcher.

Any and all emails from Seth Godin, who gets my blood boiling. Look Seth, I know what you're saying about ebook publishing. I get it. But why do you always give the e-finger to traditional publishers?

Light requests. Done.

Air Canada Websaver emails. I'm an Air France girl now.

Anything from Google +.

Facebook birthday wishes from three years ago for a great year ahead. Who would have known that year would get worse before it got worse. Thanks anyway.

You liked my link? That's nice. It was nice, wasn't it.

LinkedIn pending requests. Ya ya. For about a year I forgot my password. You know how it goes.

Status Notification Failure... and I thought you were lying about not getting my email.

Yes, Netflix. My Modern Family disc arrived, I mailed Summer of Love 437 days ago. And thanks for letting me know that you received Semi-Pro.

Sure Oprah, I'd love to watch your Lifeclass, but I France won't let me. They are not so much into spiritual advancement. They're more into maintaining the status quo. Whaddayagonnado?

Do people use Evite anymore?

I kept all my poems from Bentlily

And posts from Parcel Post.

But the Borders Rewards emails had to go.

And the back and forth emails from that guy on Craigslist who never did come to pick up the TV.

After I deleted my iTunes Purchase Confirmation emails, I wondered why Amazon Purchase Confirmation emails were nowhere to be found. A short Sherlock moment revealed that my emails were going to my old work address. Boy oh boy those IT guys must have LOVED seeing THOSE titles. Can't call me into HR from Paris, though. Jokes on you!

Clear out the fluff. I double dog dare you. What could happen?

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Mesmerizing cassette tape art

I could have watched this all day.

Centre Pompidou, Paris

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Visa update OR Getting nudie in the closet

Another average walk home from my day. Paris is stranger than fiction. You just can't make this up, folks.

A few months ago, before I arrived in Paris, I was in Toronto to get my visa so I could be in France for more than three months. When the lady at the embassy gave me my visa, she also gave me a form with some signatures and stamps. "Send this in as soon as you get to France," she said. And she said it in English because it was important.

So upon my arrival in Paris, I sent in the form and figured life moved on.

Oh no. No no non.

I received papers in the mail stating that I was to show up for my next visa appointment. But this time, I was to pay 340 Euro online beforehand and print out the receipt.

What the?

Now, it is unpleasant when I know the bill is coming, but it is really unpleasant when it sneaks up on me. Not quite as unpleasant as showing off my ta-tas at the visa office, but we'll get to that.

In addition to the proof-of-payment receipt, I'm to show up at the visa appointment with a whole slew of other paperwork.

So that was February. 

At the appointed time, I am herded into the the visa office with the rest of the crowd, who I soon learn has the same appointment time as myself. There is an American girl in front of me, a New Zealand girl behind me and a bilingual guy from Montreal behind her. Together, we form our French Visa Office Alliance.

I would have been so good on Survivor.

In the first room, a lady looks at our paperwork and tells us that our 340 Euro fee has increased 9 Euro so we must now go to the Tabac shop around the corner and purchase a 9 Euro stamp.

If this sounds confusing and inefficient, you're following. It IS confusing and inefficient.

Lucky for me and my new alliance, I did some reconnaissance work beforehand and knew that the Tabac shop was indeed where we were to buy said stamps. So off we went. Ten minutes later, we returned to the lady who ushered us into yellow chairs along with the rest of the parade of stamp holders.

One by one, we are called into the room of blue chairs where we sit and wait. And once that happens, one person at a time is called into Blue Door #1 and comes out of Blue Door #2 a few minutes later and is ushered into Door #3. This person soon comes out of Door #3 to wait until a nurse comes out of Door #4 with an envelope and hands it to the doctor who ushers you through Blue Door #5. From there, we are taken back to the blue chairs to wait until we are called back to the original yellow chairs to wait until we are called through White Door #1.

Confused? Good. You're keeping up. 

No one knows what is going on behind any of those doors because no one is told and if they were told, they'd be told in French and 95% of us don't speak French because we all just arrived in Paris. Luckily I have the bilingual Montreal dude in my alliance and ask him questions whenever he is released from a door. Then I convey his information to one of the girls who come out of another door, who passes it onto the next girl if I am behind one of the blue doors.

The whole room has ears perked on our little alliance of English-speaking smarty pantses. 

This sounds like grade five antics but we were all afraid of fucking up our visas just because we don't know enough French. And when it comes to visas, everyone gets a little tense.

So if you, dear reader, ever want to live in Paris for more than three months, you'll need a visa and will have to go through the musical chairs exercise. And when you do, this is what happens...

Yellow chair: This is where you sit when they see that you've paid your 349 Euros. You've already won once you're seated here, but they don't tell you that, do they. They call you one by one into the next room of blue chairs. This room is surrounded by blue doors.

Blue Door #1: Behind this door is a nurse who looks at your chart and says, "MacLeod, like the Highlander." Oui, oui. Then she measures your height and weighs you. Thank God I don't know how to judge myself in kilos.
Blue Door #2 is the back door from Blue Door #1 to...
Blue Door #3, which is a little closet where you are told to take off all your jewelry and clothes from the waist up. My conversation with the nurse goes like this after she tells me to get nudie:

Me: Tout? 
Nurse: Oui. Tout.
Me: Zero ici. (Me swirling my hands over my boob area)
Nurse: Zero ici (Her swirling her hands over my boob area)
Me: (In English) Nothing.
Nurse: (In English) Nothing.
Me: Vraiment? (Really?)
Nurse: Vraiment. (Really.)
Me: Oui?
Nurse: Oui.

So I get nudie in the closet. Then on the other side of the closet is another door that another nurse opens whether you're ready or not.

Surprise Blue Door #3B is where you are ushered to the x-ray machine so they can take an x-ray of your chest. This is also where they take away the cardigan you've been carrying in front of your ta-tas. Chin up, arms out, stop giggling nervously, take a breath, snap, grab cardigan, go back to Blue Door #3 to re-cover your ta-tas, then go back out to the...

Blue chair to recover the rest of you. And to whisper what just happened to the chick from New Zealand.

Blue Door #4 opens with a nurse carrying your fresh x-ray to the doctor who brings you through...

Blue Door #5 for an interview. My doctor first asks "Fume?" And I said, "Yes, I'm female." Duh. He laughs and suggests we talk in English because this is important. He starts again. Smoker? Ahhh. No. Whew. He looks at my x-ray and tells me my chest looks great. If I had a dime... He also says I have no scarring from that bout of pneumonia from when I was a kid, which now releases me from the phantom death grip I've carried for 30 years. He listens to my chest and says I sound stressed. "Ya, this revolving door visa experience is stressful." He prescribes leaving as soon as I have my new visa stamp. Later, I prescribed myself a glass of wine just to make sure the stressed flushes out of my system. After the interview with the doctor, I'm handed a prescription for a booster shot and it is back to the...

Blue chair to wait for permission to sit in the original

Yellow chair to wait more for the call through the

White door where a lady takes my pile of paperwork that is more or less pretty much sort of good enough but only because it is Friday and she is in a good mood. And from there, she slaps a new fancy sticker in my passport and tells me I can now go through the next door....


Yield: 4 weeks of anxiety, 3 hours of stress, 2 glasses of wine, 1 prescription for a booster shot, 1 valid visa.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Red tape

I'm off to the visa office today. Again. I thought having an actual valid travel visa placed inside my passport by the French authorities was enough. Apparently, no. There is to be an appointment, an x-ray, a wad of cash and a pile of paperwork. And an interview IN FRENCH.

Mon Dieu! 

You know the French flag? The red, white and blue stripes? That red stripe is tape.

And it became the inspiration for this week's photos.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Canadian Living Magazine fame for letter writing!

I just finished up my Letter of the Month for March. Those joy-filed envelopes are now happily flying their way on the angel-winged miracle that is the postal service. Soon they will arrive in mailboxes around the world to turn frowns upside down.

Once such envelope made it's way all the way to Canadian Living Magazine and has been featured here. Joy of joys! Click, forward, comment, share, tweet, etc. if you please.

I like to imagine me from my prior life as a subscriber to the Letter of the Month. Back when I lived in Los Angeles and worked in an advertising agency. I arrive at the mailbox at the end of the day. I am tired and hungry. I have a heavy computer bag slung over my shoulder. I have a box of Chinese food in one hand, my mailbox key in the other.

I take a big sigh, knowing the visa bill is due to arrive. I open the mailbox and yank out the pile. I toss the flyers, some of which were actually created in my advertising agency. I exclaim, "They went with that stupid headline again?" I think back to writing alternate headlines for this piece. Evidently an exercise in futility since my headlines were so clearly ignored. I shake my head as I toss the flyers in recycling. I chuck the Chico's catalog, too, and wonder how I ever got on their mailing list.

And then I see the Letter of the Month. "Mmmmmm" I say. It's here. 

I walk my load up to my apartment, drop everything inside the door except the letter. I collapse onto the couch and open it.

I am transported to a life in Paris, where I meander down cobblestone streets and duck into bakeries. Where I sip wine with friends at caf├ęs as we nibble our way through a cheese tray. Where I say things like, Bonjour and Ca va? And people reply back in kind. Oui! Ca va.

As I lay on the couch, I decide that it's time to do this thing. Time to take the plunge. Time to start living the dreams. It's time to let myself go. I whip out my notebook and start jotting down the steps it will take to get there.

The Chinese food grows cold. 

If you would like to transport to the City of Lights every month, subscribe here. Or you can purchase gift subscriptions for friends and turn their frowns upside down.
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