Saturday, August 28, 2010

The 95th day of Life in Sceaux

This has been a relatively uneventful week: get up, run or goof off, clean up, go to work, come home, look for someone I know on Google Talk, AIM, Skype, or Facebook, fix dinner, clean-up, watch a little of a DVD, go to bed, reset.

But you are in Paris, France!  Yes, I am, or at least within 5 miles of it, which translate to roughly 45-minutes to an hour by public transportation.  Oh yes, you must know that the lines you take, especially the bus ones, do not stay open all night for you -- after 9:30 PM your transportation options become limited.  It is not practical to go into Paris often, and when one does via public transportation, one needs to plan both ends of the traverse in advance.  Oh?  Yes, this is a lesson learned via experience.

But today is a beautiful day in Sceaux, there are some clouds, but mostly sunny with a gentle breeze.  Fortunately, I will not have to fight the other shoppers at Monoprix or the market, as I seem to be well-stocked for the coming week (Pam thinks it is very American of me to limit my excursions for grocery shopping to once a week).  I might bike into Paris today, if it does not rain, and do what?  Hmmm, bicycle thieves are real pros here, lurking about in vans with an ample selection of cable cutters.  Wherever I go, the bike and I must stay close together...

I decided I need to be more disciplined on my weekends (hence, this time of productive activity), so I have done laundry and studied an hour of French.  I have a suite of guitar DVDs through which I want to work (I think I left off just as I was about to learn "La Grange", but it was too close to bedtime to do it justice), and that is productive time.  I just hope the neighbors do not complain, because I might not be able to explain the nature of that song...

That is all for now, I hope your weekend is a good one; love on your family, talk with a friend, play with the dog...

a bientot,


Saturday, August 21, 2010

Day 88 from Sceaux

Whew!  It has been an eventful week!

On Monday, as I noted on FB, I finally had enough "meubles de cuisine" (kitchen "furniture") to move everything out of boxes and hallways and into what would be considered a civilized storage space.  The last of the moving cartons went to trash.  This occurred 109 days after our furniture was packed and moved, and on the 82nd day of being in the apartment.  Of course, the move would have been completed weeks ago had it not been for the fact that all you get with a kitchen in France is the sink -- you must furnish everything else.

I have one more cabinet coming, just to add a little needed capacity and counter space, then I will post pictures.  None of the cabinets hang on the wall, as the walls are concrete and I would have had to hire someone, which would have no doubt delayed the completion until December.  But with the last cabinet in particular (it will allow me to move the microwave OFF the washer/dryer top), it will be enough for me.

I have hung all the pictures we brought, but there is room for a few more.  I think I will get with my admin at work and locate someone who can take some of my Hole in the Wall photos and mount them, especially the panorama shots I have put together.

The sun is shining today, the 2nd day in the last two weeks to be have sun.  It has been cool and rainy, and this is unusual for me in August (to quote Kenny Downer, "We have two seasons in Houston, Summer and August").  I am told that this part of Europe can go a whole summer without much sunshine (this probably explains the mad vacation rush to the south each August), but that September is perfect.  We'll see.

I did my first global webcast this week, and the technology actually worked.  Of course, I applied the KISS principle, which does not always guarantee success, but it does reduce the number of elements that could fail.  The bad thing about these things is it is impossible to get significant instant feedback (though there are controls for feedback, it is just, as a speaker, you cannot be watching the controls, reacting to them, and giving a coherent presentation at the same time), so it is hard to judge how it went.  The number of participants held throughout the presentation, but people could have had their phones on mute and playing video games for all I know.  Those that asked questions, asked very good questions, and their comments were quite good as well.

Today, I guess because of missing some sleep this week, I missed my running window.  I had thought about riding into Paris today (on my bike), but I don't know.  Need to make a trip into market today, then I think I'll...

Friday, August 13, 2010

Day 80 from Sceaux

OK, some days you will get a chronolog, like yesterday's, and other days you will get the reflective and pensive, which I think you are about to get now.

Life in Sceaux is way more laid back than Paris.  Or at least it seems this way.  Maybe it is because it is so green out here, maybe it is because it is so quiet.  It is probably both.  I leave the windows open, all four of them, most of the time when I am home.  All I hear, for the overwhelming majority of the time, are natural outdoor sounds.  There is no air-conditioning, and the flow of air keeps the apartment feeling fresh, as though I was already outdoors.  I like that.  It is relaxing.  Adding the balcony furniture gave me another 56 square feet of living area, which pushed the apartment area to slightly over 900 square feet.  The balcony just feels like another room, because the air feels and smells the same -- and it is nicely protected from the rain.  Despite the small size of the apartment, the windows and balcony give a much larger sense of space.  Those who know me well also know this is important for my psyche.

I got lamps this past weekend.  I did not realize how much more cheerful the place is with them.  I had to depend on natural light for the living spaces, and as an early riser, I did a lot of things in the dark -- not that, silly, it is only me!  Like eating breakfast (no room in the kitchen for table and chairs, though it has a light), and getting dressed.  It made the apartment feel very utilitarian when there was little or no sunlight.  Now, with the lamps, the place is downright enjoyable throughout the day, but much more so in the morning and evening.  I still use the natural light whenever I can, because it is cheaper than the alternative.

This next week, I should get two more kitchen counter/cabinets, and perhaps the etagere, which will complete the storage suite for the kitchen, and the last remnants of "I am not really moved in" will be a thing of the past. Speaking of which, have you any idea how many power strips and plug adapters and other such things you have collected over the years?  I have!  It seemed I was always running out to get such things, because with both different voltages and plug types here versus the USA, I had to start from scratch to get all the e-toys connected.  I was fortunate enough to find a step-down transformer to run my USA DVD player (their DVD players will not play USA DVDs).  So now the new 40" LCD TV can do more than play pictures from my trips; I can actually watch my favorite movies.

On Facebook, my friend Kim mentioned the challenge of language.  Every encounter, even the simplest one, is a challenge for me, even as I study the language.  My vocabulary cannot grow fast enough, and my ear can not tune quickly enough.  The French in Sceaux have been patient and helpful (after all, they are not Parisians, just ask them), and I read what I can to build vocabulary, but the ear training happens on the fly, and it is tough to decipher what they are saying.

I am excited about my job, though it is very challenging and I would be lying to say I had my hands around it. I love having the Coulee Verte adjacent to the apartment -- it makes for pleasant runs (which are improving) and adventurous, but safe, bicycling.  I have lost weight since I have been here; I needed to do so, and I intend to lose a lot more because of smarter eating and a lot more activity.  I miss my family and friends, and most of my human contact is with co-workers -- once I get back to Sceaux it is all quiet.  And green. And open.  I like that.

a bientot,


Thursday, August 12, 2010

Day 79 from Sceaux

Wow!  I have been bad!  Forty days without a blog here?!?!??!

Things have been busy in here in Sceaux, of the province of Ile-de-France, the regions of Hauts-de-Seine, outside of Paris, in France.  Last time I posted here was July 3rd.  We had some of our French neighbors over that night for a traditional "4th of July meal": BBQ pork sandwiches, potato salad, watermelon, and chocolate cake (Pam made all of the above, except the watermelon, but she did cut it).  I had a slideshow of our "Great Western Vacation", which Pam and I took in 2007, playing on the 32" TV.  It was good for conversation, and a good time had by all.  On July 4th, Pam and I saw the Statue of Liberty -- the one here in France on the Seine, and think by the 9th bridge (they are numbered).  This is the same one, you recall, which was referenced in "National Treasure 2".  I arranged a very nice dinner cruise on the Seine for us to enjoy the 4th and her being here for nearly a month at that time.  The 4th also represented the last full day of the rental furniture, for on Monday the 5th, they hauled it away leaving the apartment quite bare (our stuff was in-country going through customs).

With no furniture and therefore no place to sleep, we went into Paris to the Royale Phare Hotel, right across from the Metro stop Ecole Militaire, and the place we stayed when we celebrated our 20th anniversary in 1999.  It is a typical French, as opposed to international business, hotel.  Small rooms and no air-conditioning.  In 1999, we came in late March so the A/C was not an issue.  In July of 2010, we needed the windows open, and got to enjoy the sounds of the City of Lights -- all night long.  There was a lull at 3AM, but it started again at 5AM with garbage and delivery trucks making their appointed rounds.  Pam got to do a bit sight-seeing and lots of shopping, and I got to schlep over an hour to work on the fabled public transportation systems -- oh yeah, I was only going 7 miles.  Our three nights in Paris were enough, and we were anxious to return to Sceaux (where the only thing you hear in the morning other than my snoring is the singing of birds).

Our furniture arrived and we learned two things: one, the names of all the rooms in the apartment in French (the movers helped us learn so we could tell them where to put the boxes, and two, we had to assemble all the new stuff we purchased in the States for the apartment, because movers do not assemble new stuff.  The latter one was particularly painful for me, as I did not have access to the suite of tools normally at my disposal.  Nonetheless, the balcony furniture, dining room table, and bedroom furniture put together by day's end (although there was not enough room for both nightstands; one became the living room TV stand).

What was missing after the move-in?  TV, DVD player, a kitchen (you only get a kitchen sink, the rest you have to supply yourself).  I went to Darty for the TV, and they were very helpful, even calling a taxi for me (I went there by bus).  The kitchen stuff we ordered from Auchan, and after many shenanigans, the appliances were delivered the day before we returned to Houston -- sans counter-cabinets.  I was in Houston a little over two weeks, all business, but grateful for the family time we did enjoy together, including my grandsons's birthday party -- he's two now.

I returned to France on August 3rd, only to find that my business travel for August had fallen victim to a rather austere cost-cutting edict.  The sun is setting sooner now, so I noticed also that I need lamps -- only the kitchen, bathroom, and hallway have lights.  Surprisingly, considering all the trouble we have had getting stuff ordered and delivered, my 5 new lamps (four of them standing lamps, or "lampadaires") arrived within a week, delivered to the door of my apartment.  Contrast this to the delivery of ONE cabinet by Auchan (two others are STILL waiting to be delivered, as well as a kitchen etagere).  The one cabinet weighs 65 pounds, and  the guy did not even want to bring it from the street (over 50 meters from my apartment); I mean, c'mon, don't you ALWAYS have a hand truck on a delivery vehicle?  I picked it up and pressed it overhead and walked back to the apartment.  I am sure it was a good resistance exercise, but it was clumsy to boot -- and unassembled.  The assembly actually went better than expected, and I was able to get somethings off the floor and into proper storage.  The two coming cabinets and the etagere should empty the last box (mostly dishes), and get the canned goods out of the hallway, completing the move-in -- approximately 7 months from date of official transfer.

I have continued my running regime along the Coulee Verte (it can be found on Wikipedia), and I even bicycled into the Montparnasse area of Paris (beginning of the Coulee Verte) last Saturday.  I did this right after lunch, and had run that morning.  I had to climb over 100 feet elevation at one point before heading downhill into Paris.  Needless to say, coming home was uphill all the way.  I got nothing else done the rest of the day.

Pam has decided not to make the move; there are a lot of complicated factors in that decision which I do not question.  As an American, she come here for 90 days at a time whenever she wants, so she can take care of Hickory Mill Court, the dogs, help Michelle as her #2 is on the way, and keep her job and continue to build toward her retirement (and with the job situations these days...).  We talk almost daily by video, and she doesn't have to put up with my guitar music, snoring, or general loudness I bring along wherever I go.

I will keep you posted as I share this adventure with you, thanks for dropping by, and the "chambre-amis" (guest room) is ready and available...

A bientot,