Each week that goes by we are promised the next step, we wait, we call and another technical team shows up and "oops" it's the wrong team. They can't do what needs to be done and will contact France Telecom to get the right team here....and we wait, we call and repeat. That is the short version of our technology problem - bottom line here is that a trench of about 4 meters needs to be dug from the base of our driveway (our connection) to the utility pole and then a new cable needs to be placed and attached to our connection. (I won't go into the story of why this needs to be done, or how long and how many technicians it took to figure this out!) Not rocket science here - but my goodness, one would think we live in a 3rd world country as we wait for this to get done. Each week we are given a little hope and then it's dashed. After the Christmas holidays, I began calling Orange/France Telecom and was actually connected to an English speaking help line (this is actually a good thing!) - and I keep calling. Their customer service reps are wonderful on the English line and don't understand why the technician teams can't get it right....
This whole experience gets me thinking about the Pros and cons of living here in France. It's not always a bed of roses or the romantic, beautiful place that people dream it to be. I often hear - oh, how wonderful - I would love to live in France. It's actually rained here for the past 5-6 weeks non-stop and has been gray. The field next to our house has been flooded for almost a month now, and our septic system constantly needs to be pumped out....This involves turning on a separate pump that we can only leave on for 20-30 minutes or it will burn out. But this needs to be done several times a day...or the downstairs toilet doesn't flush well, the shower in our downstairs bedroom will begin to smell of sewage and even our kitchen sick will easily back up. No, life here is full of little challenges that we are not use to.....
It seems everything here is full of bureaucracy and its overly complicated. Like a couple of weeks ago, when I went to the Prefecture in Bordeaux (France's equivalent of immigration, DMV and governmental offices rolled into one..). I had received a letter that I needed to present myself there to pay for my renewed VISA. I needed to show up at 8:30 am - which I did - (along with the 200 other foreigners who needed to do something regarding their resident status) I waited in a long line for 2.5 hours to get to the window and present my letter and payment - only to be told here's your number - please go wait over there. Luckily, it wasn't too much longer of a wait - but I loved the news that my VISA can not be completely renewed until I have my mandated medical appointment - my temporary VISA is good for 2 months...but it may take 3 months to get my medical appointment - if this is the case, I have to go back to the Prefecture and renew again - this is automatic but I would still need to wait in that line again...now, come people, you think the 2 can be coordinated to save time...but not in France! Lots of expats have many, many stories about their Visas and how frustrating the system is.
Then there is on-going strikes that will effect the trams, the buses and even the traffic. French employees love to strike - it's how they air their grievances - how they show they are unhappy. (They seem to be unhappy quite a bit!). Never fails, a day I need to go downtown on the tram, there is some kind of strike happening...trams can spread out more, run late or even just stop and not run in certain areas. Buses and trains can be effected just as much. I'm sure many of you from time to time have heard when there is a strike going on at the airports or trains in France - that always seems to make the news.
And don't forget about the bus and cafeteria assistants - they love to strike too. This means that on that particular day, one needs to go pick up their children at lunch-time and bring them home to eat and then return back to school 2 hours later. That was today - a National strike - affecting most all schools. For me, it meant rearranging my day to shuttle kids back and forth. For families who have 2- parents working, this means readjusting schedules or relying on a grandparent or friend to take care of the kids at lunch time. So at 11:20 this morning - I drove to the Maternelle to pick up my daughter and friend and then fought all the traffic in town and headed like everyone else over to the elementary school - and picked up my 3rd grader (CE2).
Life is life no matter where you live....I know when we lived in New York - we both worked full time. I know it was a constant challenge to juggle kid sick days, parent/teacher conference days off and conference days where we had to work, but the kids didn't have school. We had the challenges of trying to fit everything in and both of us working 50 hour plus work weeks. Families have the same challenges here - work, kids & activities and then when certain events interrupt the normal flow, we all have to adjust.
However, I have come to appreciate quiet Sunday afternoons when everything here is closed. Evenings together and not rushing around and feeling you have to do the last minute errand at 10 pm....stores close here in general by 7 pm! I love how the French love to enjoy good meal with good wine. I love all the choices of cheese! I love how the French people love to have coffee together and chat easily for an hour over a small cup of espresso. I love walking around with such history around me...I still feel an awe when I shop in downtown Bordeaux. The beauty of all the buildings. I love how we only live 45 minutes from the ocean. I love also that I can drive 20 minutes and walk through a medieval village.
So life here, like anywhere has it's ups and downs - it's frustrations, its adjustments - but overall I would not trade this experience for anything. My kids are now bilingual, my French has improved, we have met some wonderful people, and we have all learned to look at things differently. The last few months without WiFi and television has meant more family games, family dance parties and DVD's on my laptop. It is nice to have quality family time. Look forward to postings about my daughters' birthdays, my recent trip to Vienna and hopefully good news that we have returned to the 21st century!