Thursday, January 28, 2010

You've Got Mail.

I wish I were writing about that cheesy romantic comedy starring Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks, but alas, I'm not that lucky. Instead, I received a terrifying lettre recommandée aka certified mail from the Préfecture yesterday. For those of you who don't already know, the Préfecture is the official headquarters of all bureaucratic migraines, especially if you're not French and exponentially more so if you hail from a country outside of the E.U. It is a place that I will always associate with amoeba-esque lines, conflicting notions of personal space, monotone zombie personnel, incorrect information, B.O., and minimum 3 hour waits. This place is the bane of my French existence. In an effort to help you understand, I've provided a facetiously literal translation of a very nonsensical letter, in hopes that you too will feel my pain:


By the file deposited at the Préfecture on the 29th of September 2009, you have sollicited a change of status in order to exercise a salaried activity.

Under the application of article R5221-17 of the labor code, in order to grant or refuse the work permit requested, the Prefect of the Department takes into consideration the following elements of appreciation notably:

- the situation of the job

- the adequateness between the qualification, the experience and the characteristics of the job to which the foreigner is applying

- the respect by the employer of the legislation relative to work and social protection,

The statistics of the Regional Direction of Labor and Employment and of Professional Training in the Midi-Pyrénées make to appear for the position "trainer", of 101 offers of which 8 are temporary contracts inferior to 1 month out of 402 requests.

And yet, the employer proposes a temporary contract for the duration of one year in addition to occasional overtime but does not indicate what type of mission this is about.

Moreover, the company has confirmed that upon signature of the contract only a temporary contract can be envisaged without further perspective in the coming weeks and without further information on the concluded market that would impose upon this organism of training a specific and occasional recruitment.

As a consequence, given the situation of the company and its way of using temporary contracts and in considering the situation of the position, your change of status is not conceivable. We invite you to approach yourself to the nearest Prefecture in order to submit a new dossier requesting a change of status within the next month.

I pray of you to accept, Miss, the expression of my distiniguished sentiments.

And I pray of you, M. le Préfet, well... nevermind.

Fortunately, my boss and I are going to sit down tomorrow to get to the bottom of this bureaucratic nightmare once and for all. And who knows, maybe she will understand the more sublte nuances of this communicative masterpiece better than I. At any rate, it's high time to figure out what sort of contract and additional information about my "mission" as a "trainer" will be needed to get this file approved before I turn into a pumpkin, I mean, an illegal alien. Now that I think about it, perhaps we should specify that I'm only certified for "foreign langauge training" lest the Prefet think I wish to exercise in the dog or potty training sectors, I would truly hate for there to be any confusion.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Mountain Magic.

So I left out a major moment from the week at the farm, and it was the most memorable one too. Monsieur J proposed! In all honesty, we've gone about this whole idea of marriage in a very roundabout way, especially from an American's standpoint. In the U.S. there are fairly standard rules: boy meets girl; boy and girl fall in love; boy speaks to girl's father; boy buys ring; boy proposes; and wedding planning ensues.

In France, the path to marriage isn't quite so linear. As a result, we ended up taking a twisty windy bi-cultural approach to the whole affair. First we talked about it for a while, then we started mentioning it to our friends and family. We didn't waste too much time before gathering all of the necessary paperwork [birth certificates, sworn affidavits from the consulate to prove that I am a. single and b. not a polygamist, multiple forms of photo ID, etc...]. Somtime in early December he wrote a letter to my dad. Just before Christmas we picked out an engagement ring that Monsieur J was nice enough to let me wear to show friends and family at home before I left to go back to France. In mid-January we handed in the marriage file at city hall and only THEN, 5 days later did he pop the question and manage to surprise me at that! How?

Suffice it to say that when you're covered in mud, pig slop, and who knows what else, you don't necessarily expect your chéri to ask for your hand in marriage. And at the same time, watching the sun set behind the Pyrénées without a soul in sight, I couldn't possibly think of anything I'd prefer. It was pure magic -the setting, the weekend, the promise.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

A week at the farm.

WWOOFing was definitely one of my favorite highlights of 2009, and so it was a wonderful surprise to hear Dominique’s voice on the other end of the line, asking if I’d be available to house-sit, or make that farm-sit, for one week in January while they went on vacation. Yes! I arrived on Monday afternoon and we spent the day going over the morning and evening routine for both plants and animals –straw, hay, water and grain for the rabbits; the logistics of moving the sheep from pen to pasture and back again; protecting the various lettuce plants from frost and rain, etc… That night we made dinner and visited, and then on Tuesday morning off they went, leaving me to tend the farm, read, drink tea, go on walks, cook and keep the fire in the wood-burning stove going strong so as not to freeze, brrrrr!

Monsieur J joined me on Thursday night, which worked out well because he too loves the farm. Come to think of it, I think most people would love the farm, though it does challenge accepted standards of cleanliness. So then again maybe some people couldn’t handle la ferme after all. At any rate, we took advantage of the drizzly Saturday to explore Cyril’s workshop and decided to build a small bench. It will get painted one of these days, a deep pastel blue like so many of the shutters you see in the south of France; that’s what I have in mind. And while it might not be sturdy enough for the two of us to sit on, it should be able to support a few plants.

I had a bench almost like this that I used as a coffee table when I lived in North Carolina and now my mom has it on her porch in Virginia, which makes me happy to know that she is enjoying it. If I ever had the kind of money it would take to ship some furniture to France, this bench would be at the top of my wish list. But since that is completely impractical, why not make one? All it took was one idea, a sketch, a plan, and some sawing, sanding, and nailing. And though we are far from practiced carpenters, I think it's safe to say that this is something we would both enjoy doing again. In the meantime, I am quite happy with our new little bench!