Ming the Mechanic:
A day in the life

The NewsLog of Flemming Funch
 A day in the life2003-09-11 07:22
picture by Flemming Funch

Oops, I forgot to blog for a whole week. No particular reason, other than that I've gotten into a daily routine, and there were plenty of other things going on each day, which took more of my attention.

And I still don't have DSL, so I'm still not as plugged into the rest of the blog world as I used to be. My phone line somehow registers as being not suitable for DSL, even though those of my neighbors are perfectly suitable. So, the person who signed me up had some technicians look at it, and decided that of course it should work for me too. But when other people in the same company then look at it, they've forgotten that, and the line just comes up as being unavailable. So I have to work through that maze. Oh, it isn't particularly harder than in the U.S. I had similar problems when I first got DSL in Van Nuys, and it also took more than a month. The language just makes it slightly harder to negotiate myself through things.

Part of the trick here, to pretty much anything, is that you know somebody. There is such a drastic contrast between the cold bureaucracy you often meet first, and the personal service of somebody who knows you. They don't have to be your pals from highschool or anything; I'm just talking about that they've met you a couple of times and recognize you. Like, at the France Telecom office, I asked for the same lady I had talked with a couple of weeks before. And she recognized me right away and came over and shook my hand and apologized that she had to finish up with some other people first, and she brought me a glass of water. And then, when she heard that I had taken the bus to their office, which is a little outside of town, and I had to walk a bit to get there, she said that, oh, I shouldn't have to walk back in that heat. So she got one of the other employees to drive me to town in his car. I would like to point out that nobody at the phone company in L.A. has ever driven me home, let alone recognized me and come out to greet me.

My older kids, Marie and Zachery, go to French classes at Alliance Francaise every day. Which has already made a huge difference, and they come home chatting away in French. Already after 3 days, Marie, who a week before insisted that French was just impossible to learn, was suddenly answering phone calls in French, and having a great time with it. The class is 3 1/2 hours every day, and lots of extra activities too, and chances to hang out with other people who've come here from all over the world.

Not much change in my work or money situation, so our life is still very modest. I.e. we can pay the rent and eat cheaply and ride the metro, and that is about it. Not that that is horrible in any way. I just prefer a little more abundance and freedom of movement. I got a couple of small new contracts, but I'm still looking for more significant business opportunties.

I'm still looking for some opening into getting a French social security card, while I'm waiting for paperwork I need for my Carte de Sejour (residence permit) card. Like, I need (I believe) fresh copies of birth certificates, with nice looking stamps on them, and in the proper language. I've gotten somewhat conflicting information about that, but I'll try to be as prepared as possible. The local Danish consul (who didn't speak any Danish, and not much English), and the Danish embassy in Paris, were very friendly and helpful in providing information, and in translating birth certificates to French. The local U.S. consulate, and the U.S. embassy in Paris, however, seem rather rude and uncooperative by comparison. Whereas the Danish Consul was somebody I just come by and visit, who spent quite some time with me, trying to help me as best he could, the U.S. consulate can only be contacted through an answering machine, asking for an appointment, which will only be available on Wednesdays. It took them about a week to call back. And then they insisted on sending me some papers I'd need to ask for birth certificates (which I probably already have), after which I have to call again to get an appointment to see the Consul. And I haven't received anything from them after about a week. And really, all I needed was a notary public to notarize a signature on a form that I could fax to the U.S. and I'd have the birth certificates I needed in a week or so.

My wife Birgit finally found a library that she could borrow books at. That took about four tries. The local library we first found was closed for the summer at first. And the English library that seems to exist at the university is not going to be open before the end of the month.

And little Nadia has found kids to play with at the playground. So life is pretty good for all of us.

Oh, we'd really kind of like to receive our stuff from the U.S. soon. We still have just the clothes we carried in our suitcases. Somehow the shipping thing turned out to be a bigger hassle than expected. First of all it was shipped a couple of weeks late, because they couldn't get a ship for it for some reason. And for some strange reason, they shipped it to England instead of to Marseille. And apparently it takes a while to clear customs and everything, and then they need to look for a truck that drives this way. Hopefully within a week. Not that we've been missing terribly much, but there's a few items that could come in handy.

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11 Sep 2003 @ 07:44 by jstarrs : Great to have your news, Ming...
...& I hope to call by soon - I'm in the process of moving to Joilment.
btw, you may need to have your birth certificate translated by an 'authorized' translator, i.e. one that the authorities concerned will recommend.  

11 Sep 2003 @ 07:57 by ming : Jolimont
Jolimont seems very nice, with a view over the city. I got on the Metro there after a guided tour of the cemetary. Which wasn't as dull as it sounds. Let us know if you need help moving.

According to the Danish embassy, and other advice I've heard, their translation is the accepted one for Danish birth certificates. But, according to the U.S. embassy, their translation is not accepted, and indeed I'd need an official translator from what the Prefecture will recommend. And according to a lady at the social security administration, there are new rules altogether, and French authorities should start accepting documents directly in any of the languages of the EU. So, I'm still not clear on what I'll encounter when I actually try to file for the Carte de Sejour.  

11 Sep 2003 @ 08:22 by Jon @ : Setlling In, Having Fun
Thanks for updating us on your adventure. It sounds like it's starting to be fun.

I enjoed hearing your story re: French people remembering you, and that has been my experience there as well. And it's so different than in many parts of North America, where you can keep going in to places and people almost seem to pretend they haven't got a reason to open up to each other - there's more suspicion, distrust, "what do you want from ME, or what are you going to do to ME". I really like French people generally (Italian, Spanish, Dutch, Belgian, etc..), and find Europe more "effective" at the human level.

I think the phone company person getting someone to drive you home would be a great TV ad story re: customer service/relations for an increasingly technological age. Not only that, but it's government-run as well (France Telecom)

And re: your kids - I'll bet that in a year or two, they'll revolt if you want to move back to LA.  

25 Sep 2003 @ 03:10 by David @ : Stumbled upon you
Hi, was looking at sites re synchronicity and stumbled upon yours. A good read. Made me think that England (where I live) is becomming far too close to the States (where I'm from), at least in social and domestic terms. You can find a more European England, a Rural England but it is getting harder. France here I come.


Other stories in
2012-05-03 00:04: An evolving path
2012-01-02 13:52: 2011 Accomplishments and 2012 Aims
2011-11-17 02:20: Your inner piece
2011-02-01 00:05: Slow Mo Flow
2011-01-22 18:40: Recognition
2010-08-23 00:36: Where's Ming?
2010-07-20 14:24: Getting other people to do stuff
2010-06-22 00:27: Inventory
2010-06-19 23:10: Conversations
2009-10-28 12:31: Then a miracle occurs

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