Friday, August 12, 2011

Groundhog Day

Where'm I at? Is it today or last month?

The house was sold almost three weeks ago and things were rolling - we went to England pre-riots and played gigs that all were enjoyable and well-attended. Even the one in Mildenhall Football Club ended up being fun. Got to see Eric's gorgeous granddaughter. Then we went to Paris for the final visa appointment at the US Embassy.

And since then we've been in weird semi-existence with Eric's passport in the ether. You hear about how tough the US is on immigration but I was sure we had everything they'd asked for and Eric had even tested negative for syphilis and chicken pox. No - they still need more. We've been trying to get them the additional paperwork they require, at the same time turning everything around for the US house purchase - all from the French countryside where getting things done is sometimes possible if it isn't Tuesday afternoon, or Monday morning or any time Wednesday or Thursday before 3:30, but not after 5:30. Multiplied by August.

We had to break down and get a French mobile - the final straw was trying to make a call from the only payphone within miles, the one attached to a wooden toilet cabin that serves a small camping area. While I tried navigating the bank voice command system, shouting "PERSONAL", "REPRESENTATIVE!" "NO" and practically screaming my social security number and other pertinent details into the ancient receiver, some poor camper was whimpering, groaning and eventually releasing his bowels on the other side of the wall. "Would you like to make a deposit?" "SOMEBODY ALREADY HAS!"

Later at the library, Eric and I tried to get on the internet to find a Fed Ex place while a safari-suited man across the table kept clacking his dentures. Why was it that the harder I concentrated and the more frustrated I got, the more his clacking intensified?

The only Fed Ex depot around was fifty minutes away - Eric drove us there in thirty.

"What's that burning smell?" I asked.

He took a turn on two wheels, clipped a chicken, roared past an old lady on two crutches and navigated the BUSES ONLY lane. "Somebody's brakes," he answered nonchalantly. Hmm - and I'm vouching for this man.

Still, there have been some lovely dinners and moonlit rambles with our friend Emmanuel - we're staying at his place in a tiny hamlet next to an ancient church. One of our paperwork deliveries showed up by UPS yesterday and we'd stationed ourselves outside the house so the delivery guy could find us. We had wagers going on whether it was the hamlet's first UPS delivery ever - he confirmed that it was.

The new owners of our old house are loving France. They adore the house - we went over for dinner the other night and their stuff looked so cute in the place. The kids have been swimming at the nearby lake every day, playing in the garden, riding the rusty old bikes we left behind.

They had to go away for a little while. And since we already paid for the phone and internet in the house up til the end of August, and canceling the service early to move away outside of France involved sending a registered letter and signing an attestation and packing and mailing the router via Chronopost and probably a trip to the mairie and another embassy somewhere, they said "hey, why don't you just come by and use the phone and internet here, at your old place?"

Which is where I'm sitting now. All the neighbors that we said our tear-filled goodbyes to a few weeks ago have gotten used to seeing us again. Like that old TV commercial "I thought you died." The double-takes have turned back into howdy neighbor waves.

It's like we never left.


David said...

Amy, this is such a wonderful entry that I have to admit that I am only slightly embarrassed to have taken some small bit of pleasure in your immigration snafus, only because they provided exquisite fodder for this beautifully written tale. No doubt your trials and tribulations getting to the states will make your arrival all the sweeter when you do. Cheers to you and Eric.

the sandwich life said...

oh Amy....I'm so sorry for what you're going through....BUT this was a hysterically funny post!


much love to you both!

the fly in the web said...

Friends in the diplomatic service always told me that there were terrible similarities between American and French beaurocracy....and I'm ashamed to say your post had me laughing.
It's the way you tell it!

Neil Storey said...

Excellent stuff... ahh yes, the good old 'attestation' - one of the words that only works when said in French... Its (somehow) like you leave but... you don't really. Bonne route a tous.. N

Jim S said...

I live in fear of the day that other countries start treating US citizens the same way we treat them. It took me all of 2 minutes to enter France this week, and only 2 weeks to get an Angolan work visa, (not that I wouldn't have minded a serious delay on that one).

Good luck - I'm sure it will work out eventually.


alexh said...

Good luck with sorting this out Amy; sorry it has become so tortuous. It sounds like Eric is in th emood to keep driving "'til the wheels..."!

alison overton said...

France's loss is definitely the US's gain. Sorry about all the red-tape crap y'all are going through, but hopefully soon you will be settling in your new place over here. Love to you both. xox

Vanda said...

Hope everything sorts itself out. Your blog made made me want to cry and laugh simultaneously. Looking at moving to Italy (preferably) or Spain at some point before too long - if only on a temporary basis as looking for a lifestyle change pronto.

Amy said...

It does give a whole different perspective on things Vanda. Hope we'll see you in the UK (York in Nov?)

You're right Alison, I'm sure (hope!) this'll all be a memory soon...

Thankfully we got the stolen car back, Alex.

It's so anticlimactic coming into France after that transatlantic flight Jim - if there's anyone there at immigration before 9 AM, they barely look up as you waltz in.

Eric has taken to proclaiming "'What has been joined together in the eyes of God, let NO MAN put asunder!' - their rules, not mine." The UK border patrol has been equally tough on us.

thank you Neil - "attestation" - a word that trips off the tongue so easily after a few years in France, right?

Glad to return the favor Fly, your French toilets post was deeply funny.

Thank you Cynthia - I wish I knew how to make happy jolly things funny - but they just aren't.

I can honestly say the day we get on that plane will be one of the happiest of my life David - don't need any more "challenges" for that to be so!

Andy Boller said...

great posting- thank you for sharing - i am sorry for your travails but it sounds like your sense of humor is intact. Good luck w/ the move, stay safe & well-

Amy said...

Oh we do laugh, Andy! It fills the time...Also wrote and started recording a track, so that's something. thanks and take care.

Anonymous said...

Congratulations on Eric's syphilis test!

Amy said...

Woo hoo - syphilis-free! It's the little things that make life swell.