The French Health Care System: Carte Vitale

I’ve been writing recently about the wonderous ease of the French Health Care System, hailing it for the way it functions. Today, the “wonderous wheel” has ground to a halt. I feel like I’ve just woken into yet another bureaucrazy nightmare. I’ve written about several of those on this blog, sad to say.

It all started when several weeks passed, and I had yet to receive a reimbursement for a doctor’s appointment I had in early January. Reimbursements tend to happen fairly quickly, so I was getting concerned. Since I knew my French was not up to the task, I hired someone to help me out. images

You see, when I arrived here, I applied for my Carte Vitale as a dependent of my spouse. That process went fairly (and surprisingly) smoothly. But once I went into business, I was responsible for my own cotisations (taxes paid to healthcare) and no longer a dependent of my spouse. I never used my Carte Vitale that first year. Didn’t need to. I used it for the first time last year in the Fall. Ironically, I was reimbursed by check for a trip to my general doctor with no problem whatsoever. So why now all of the sudden was I not being reimbursed?

When my helper emailed me back saying I needed to apply for a new Carte Vitale, the card that coordinates the coverage, along with a copy of my translated birth certificate, I thought he might be joking. Birth certificate? They already have my birth certificate. That’s how I got the Carte Vitale I have now. But no. There was no joke.

He wrote: I just spoke to someone who works at La RAM. The Carte Vitale that you have worked last year when you used it – even though you had already registered as a micro-entrepreneur – because it takes them a certain amount of time to process the administrative change. They call this period a “temps de mutation”.

Damn mutants! Figures!

Turns out, the Carte Vitale I have now is no longer valid and still tied to my husband, despite the fact that it has my French social security number on it. Supposedly, it hasn’t been valid since opening my own business in January of 2016. Nevermind the fact that it has been OVER A YEAR, and they never mentioned anything to me this whole time. Nevermind that no one asked for anything in the correspondence that said, “Welcome to RAM.” Nevermind that I have an online account with them stating I am covered and that reflects my chosen general doctor. Nevermind that check I cashed with my reimbursement back in November.

No. Forget all that. Now I have to send them a translated birth certificate and my bank details. After some time, they will decide to send me yet another form I have to fill out and send with a copy of my passport with a new photo. After some time, they might process that and send me a new Carte Vitale. Seriously?????

So now, I am required to collect a pile of “feuille de soins” or papers that verify any medical treatments I receive in order to be reimbursed retroactively. Seriously?????

Ah, another day in the life in France.

Common Expat Problem #2367: The Cost of Self-Advocacy

There are incredibly creepy corporations everywhere that feed on the certainties that people have busy lives and limited free time, and that those people’s desire to live in peace outweigh concerns over the pocket. Cable, phone, and insurance companies come to mind. When you are in your home country, battles over billing errors are frustrating but manageable. Most consumers don’t need to hire outside help to get things sorted…although some certainly do.

When you live in a foreign land and lack sufficient grasp of the language, when billing errors and account problems arise, you have no choice but to get help. You might be lucky enough to have a pool of friends to turn, but if not, or if you already feel terrible begging them for help repeatedly, you have to shell out some dosh to get matters under hand. It can be rather expensive.broken-cell-phone

My husband had a contract with #SFRMobile for several years. It had long expired, and we were paying month to month for an old phone we didn’t need anymore, so we cancelled the contract and switched to #Free, which saved us 70%. Cancelling was easy…relatively speaking. I managed to find a template letter en francais, edited it, and sent it recommande to ensure its receipt.

SFR cancelled the account promptly enough, but with no trace, making it impossible to log in and follow-up or even call. “Sorry, no such account exists.” In a letter, they said they would send a box to use to return the phone. They never did. Some time later, a letter came claiming we owed them 80 euros for the phone. My husband absolutely refused pay. In the meantime, we tried finding a place to drop off the phone with no luck.  Mailing it ourselves would have cost us as well, and the point was not to spend what we didn’t owe. Eventually, after several emails from SFR, we got a notice from a collection agency. By this point, we knew we needed help.

We hired someone to call the agency. He explained we were told we’d get a box to return the phone and never did. They agency told him that it was SFR’s fault and that they were forgiving the claim. Of course, none of this was in writing. All we had was an email from our friend and a verbal promise:

I had someone on the phone at [the collection agency].
I explained the case and they agree you should not pay !
They blocked the claim and asked me to call SFR, giving me a trick to bypass the problem of the ID (your number isno longer registered which makes impossible to reach the service). Unfortunately, the trick didn’t work.
I then called back – they are sending themselves the information to SFR, who may soon send you the
prepaid envelope. They said it could take some time, such intern mails being (slowly) treated by sfr.

So months later, we got another letter from the same agency again requesting we settle the amount we don’t actually owe to SFR. My husband, in his procrastination, had put off dealing with it, day after day, until we received a notice that the claim had escalated. Brilliant.

By this point, hubby just wanted to pay the frickin’ 80 euros and be done with it. In the end, we gave in, because who has several hours and 100+ euros to throw at an 80 euro problem? That’s my point. That’s what they count on. I suspect that companies like SFR are so bloody tenacious because they KNOW people will just up and give in. They must make most of their profit that way! It is nothing short of criminal.

I know this problem isn’t just ours. Recently on a popular expat forum, several of us were getting into the trials and tribulations we’ve suffered at the mismanaging hands of SFR. Even a quick visit to their Facebook page reveals disgruntled comments. Ridiculous!

I hope this is the end of our story, at least, but there is a tiny little niggling something inside that says it still might not be. For example, how long does it take, once they get the check, to go through and cancel all the bogus claims and processes against us? Pain in the…

I’ll take a problem in my own language over one in a foreign language any day!!!

 

Bureaucratic Nutters

Stick ShiftI’ve been holding onto this post for quite a while. I was waiting for the dust to settle. Today, it has. I have picked up my French driver’s license! This all started back in early March of 2016. Here’s the story…

Recently, driving home from our local prefecture on a license exchange issue, my husband exclaimed, “There’s nothing scarier than a nutter with power”. He was referring to a woman at the prefecture who has been hell-bent on making my life miserable.

You see, certain US states have an agreement with France for license exchange. My state, Florida, is one of them. So, according to the Service-Publique France website, I can exchange my Florida license for a French one if I apply within one year of the date of my carte de sejour. So, I drove up to the prefecture to meet a friend and translator to make my application several days before the deadline.

Knowing from past experience just how French bureaucracy works, I made sure I was over-prepared. I had every single document listed on Service-Publique, in triplicate, translated when necessary, in addition to one or two other things I thought might come in handy.

Here’s how it went:

First, the woman to whose window I was called had to check that Florida was in the US (I’m not kidding). Then she claimed she couldn’t read the license (hence I pulled out my certified translation). Then she said it was too new (2013) and that the best they could do was give me a provisional license reducing me to a new driver despite 30+ years of experience and a spanking clean record. So then I explained I previously has a NC license which I exchanged for this FL one when I moved in the US. She said there was no note of that on the license and shook her head (at which point I pulled out a certified translated drivers record that said exactly that!) Then she said she had no history for my former license in NC (which I produced). Then she said, “We don’t have an exchange policy with NC.” No shit, Sherlock. But my license is from FLORIDA! She couldn’t have cared less.

She said all she could do (as it was out of her hands completely…forget the fact that the previous year this same woman somehow found the courage to make an executive decision and issue my husband’s license on the spot) was take half my application, tearing up the required form to request the exchange claiming it was unnecessary. Then she told me to return the following week if I didn’t receive a letter beforehand denying my request.

This did, regrettably, ruin my day. I was despondent. But after a night of very little sleep tossing and turning over whether or not to roll over and play dead over this or to go back and face her royal highness, I chose to go back. For one thing, it donned on me I had failed to ask for a recipisse or receipt for my dossier, something that the Service-Publique website clearly stated should have been issued. It took all my faith and courage but I was determined that A) this woman not determine my destiny and B) that I do something productive and healing with the toxic feelings in me.

I called upon my French teacher at the time who met me at the prefecture and filled her in. I went with the intent of asking for a receipt for my visit the day before because I didn’t get one, and if possible, to plead my case to someone else. No such luck.

Madame bore her usual sour expression, at first scolding my friend for skipping line (we hadn’t) and then rudely refusing a receipt when my friend requested it. That’s when Madame noticed my phone. It was like a light went off in her head. Yes, I was recording everything! Suddenly she smiled brightly. She said it wasn’t a problem that there was blue ink on my application (which yesterday she claimed was an issue), and she helpfully asked if I had with me a record that she refused to take yesterday. Imagine!! She still wouldn’t take my required form saying it wasn’t important “yet” and that I’d still have to go back next week…yes, with the very form she wouldn’t take.

I didn’t know what would happen next, but I was hopeful Madame would think twice about yanking this yank’s chain again. Camera-phones rock! She may not have given me a receipt, but I left with one all the same! It’s unfortunate. Miserable people spread misery. They can’t contain all that agony themselves. In believing in their powerlessness, they fail to see their true power lies in helping people overcome their difficulties, not in creating more for them.

Anyway, after three more appointments (one to turn in that form, one to pay for my license, and one to pick it up, in addition to the two already mentioned, for a grand total of 5 trips), I finally have my license in hand, and it only cost me just under 300 euros factoring in translations, administrative help, all that gas, and the actual cost of the license! I’m not complaining. I’m really one of the lucky ones not having to take French driver’s lessons! Do I hear angels singing???

Business in France – A Whole New Kind of Logic

I don’t know whether to laugh, be disgusted, or terribly afraid. In January, I registered in France to start business as an auto-entrepreneur…er…scratch that…as of 2016, it’s now called micro-entreprise. Whatever it’s called, I have one…or became one.

My husband, on the other hand, has had his own micro-entreprise here for many years. Only he’s always been called a micro-entreprise because he started business before “auto-entrepreneur” even existed. Now, though, all auto-entepreneurs are called micro-entreprises. (Oh wait! I shouldn’t be using hyphens in those terms! The French just did away with hyphens…and the oignon which is now ognon but as far as I can tell, still a vegetable….which incidentally the French call legumes. But I digress.)

sarky
Art by Stuart Davies

Confused yet?

Perusing my Expat Facebook forums this morning, I read of yet another panicked businesswoman who has received notice of owing CIPAV, an agency responsible for retirement, a whopping sum of over €50,000. Sadly enough, this is an all too common experience here. French and foreigners alike doing business in this country are frequently driven to harakiri over such tribulations.

My fellow Americans, imagine if the IRS sent you a letter that said, “We’ve made a mistake. We are so very sorry. However, because we failed to collect from you the appropriate amount in social security contributions over the last several years, you now owe us $50,000 payable immediately. Have a nice day.”

It brings to mind memories of last year at this time, when my husband and I were dealing with a very similar issue. We discovered that he owed some €6000 to this same organization and were having some other very stressy troubles around money. We lived through that time, but we’re always waiting for the other shoe to drop because that seems to be what happens here. It’s almost as if these business agencies just make up things as they go along. And according to inside sources, this isn’t just the perception of expats but natives as well.

It just seems like if you don’t set aside at least 60% of your income here, eventually someone somewhere is going to claim that all that money you spent on food and rent was actually supposed to have gone to them. The problem is that nobody seems to know what the $#*& is going on in this country…EVER.

When I was preparing my business, I went through a program for the unemployed. It was very helpful, actually. My counselor was wonderful and even spoke English fairly well. She alerted me of my rights to join an organization called ACCRE which would result in a reduction of “taxes” or “cotisations” that I paid in the first three years of my business. What new business doesn’t need that? Of course, I affiliated myself…or at least, I tried to. At first, the registering agency claimed they had not received my application, so I had to resend everything, including a copy of a signed receipt that says they actually did receive my first application. I’m still waiting to hear back.

Yet again this morning, I read another panicked Facebook post from a businesswoman affiliated with ACCRE who is now being charged €3000 in back pay for going over some kind of income threshold. It threw several of us into a panic because it was a mysterious threshold that none of us had heard of!  Eventually, someone was able to cut through the underbrush and clearly explain the facts, but more often, the explanations sound something like this:

It’s because cotisations are regularized by a percentage of your expected income for the first three years plus the amount you didn’t make when you weren’t in business at all multiplied by the number of cats and dogs in your household. This is only reported in January, and only if you fill out form 8067 which you can only do online between December 13th and 31st of the prior year, but which is actually due Dec. 1st, and only if the website is working at the time. So really, everything is just as it should be. Simple!

Case in point. My husband recently hit his own threshold and was required to start collecting TVA (VAT)…sales tax…on his invoices. So, being dutiful, he registered for a tax number and proceeded to collect sales tax. Several months later, a business associate in the UK relayed to him that they shouldn’t be paying this tax due to some agreement between countries. Even our French accountant said, at first anyway, that this was not true; he did have to collect tax. Eventually, the accountant discovered that he indeed did not need to collect the sales tax after all, meaning he now had to reimburse this UK business several thousand euros in taxes. Thank God he hadn’t paid it to the tax department yet. I shudder to think of the chaos that would have induced.

Nothing ever really adds up in France, at least not in my experience so far. What good is an estimate if it’s off by thousands of euros or a schedule of fees if they are just guidelines? And the worst part is, there is ZERO protection, it seems. (If I’m wrong, someone enlighten me.) Banks, agencies, bureaus…they all seem to be able to make up things as they go along and never inform anybody…let alone each other! Talk to one person, get one answer. Talk to another and get another answer. Choose the answer you like best, but be prepared to pay heavily for it in two or three years when someone just back from vacation decides they don’t like the answer you’ve chosen!

This is one crazy Matrix, here.

Believe it or not, it’s been good for me. It’s forced me to let go of my high ideals of efficiency and organization. It has also given me excellent practice in reigning in my total freak-outs to find that the sky hasn’t actually fallen and that the sun still rises in the East. Of course, the Sun is one of the last remaining free enterprises!

 

Merde! My Trip to the French Embassy in Washington

WHAT HAPPENENED:

Well, today was a complete waste of time. The French Embassy refused to even look at my visa application because Stuart is in the EU.

I almost left completely defeated, but then I went back thinking “ask a different person and get a different answer”. It didn’t work. I left completely defeated anyway. I tried to explain that I wasn’t looking to establish residency in France. I just wanted to be with my husband for longer than the three months allowed on a Schengen while his US immigration went through. That didn’t make any difference, apparently.

I swear to GOD! Why TF does the embassy’s US website say…and I cut and paste here directly (bold for emphasis):

Visa for the spouse of a French national or European Union citizen

Visa for establishment in France

The foreign spouse of a French citizen (with exception to members of the European Union, of European Economic Space, of Switzerland, of Monaco, of St. Martin and of Algeria) [WELL I’M NONE OF THOSE; I’M A US CITIZEN!!! I REALIZE IN HINDSIGHT THIS MIGHT BE A CASE OF A POORLY CONSTRUCTED SENTENCE THAT THEY MEANT THE EXCEPTION TO APPLY TO THE FRENCH CITIZEN AND NOT THE SPOUSE] must obtain a long stay visa, valid as a resident card, in order to spend more than 90 days per semester in France. If granted, this visa is also a resident card at the same time, valid for as long as a year. You will only need to register at the local branch of the OFII (Office Français de l’Immigration et de l’Intégration) upon two first months of arrival in France.

If you stay more than a year in France, you will then need to apply for a Resident Card (“Carte de Séjour”)

This visa applies to all nationalities but Algerian or EU spouses of French nationals, for whom different agreements exists. [AGAIN, I’M NOT THE EU SPOUSE. I’M A US SPOUSE. CLEAR AS MUD! WHY THE HELL DOESN’T IT SAY “US SPOUSES OF EU CITIZENS”? THEN I WOULD HAVE KNOWN THEY WERE TALKING TO ME!]

[IT GOES ON TO SAY…]

If you would like to settle in France, the following documents must be presented:

You have to apply with all the required documents in original and one copy. The visa section does not make any copies.

PERSONNAL [NOT MY TYPO] APPEARANCE IS MANDATORY : you cannot apply by mail.

– passport valid for three months after the last day of stay in the Schengen States. Please make sure the passport holds at least two spare pages for the consulate to affix the visa. Your passport should also be in good condition to be accepted.

– copies of the 5 first pages of your passport.

– 2 long stay application forms (only ONE for US citizens) [SOUNDS TO ME LIKE THIS BEING A VISA TO FRANCE WHICH IS IN THE EU MEANS ONE CAN ASSUME THE FACT THAT THEY MENTION US CITIZENS WITHIN PARENTHESES MEANS US CITIZENS OF EU SPOUSES CAN APPLY. IS THERE NOT A PROBLEM HERE?] filled out and clearly readable. Please use black ink. Make sure your cell phone number and e-mail address are also added upon the forms,

– 2 photographs (more information about the photograph) (only ONE for US citizens) [AND AGAIN – I MEAN, IF US CITIZENS OF EU MEMBERS CAN’T EVEN TAKE THIS ROUTE, WHY THE HELL DO THEY EVEN MENTION US CITIZENS?]. All photos must be recent, identical, passport size – 1,4″ x 1,7″ (3,5cm x 4,5cm) and showing face front the forehead hairline and ears on a white background, the face must take up 70-80% of the photograph.

[AND THEN ON TO SAY…]

– for the spouse of a citizen of the European Union : – a copy of the French translation of your marriage certificate, – as well as a proof of European nationality. [WHY EVEN SAY THIS IF IT ISN’T EVEN POSSIBLE TO APPLY AS THE US SPOUSE OF A EUROPEAN CITIZEN??? IT’S NOT LIKE THE WEBSITE WAS RUSSIAN. IT’S THE US WEBSITE, FOR CHRIST’S SAKE. WHY NOT JUST SAY IN PLAIN ENGLISH (or even plain French): IF YOU ARE AN AMERICAN MARRIED TO A EUROPEAN, DO NOT WASTE YOUR TIME FILLING IN THE APPLICATION, COMPILING DOCUMENTS, SPENDING $20 ON A RETURN ENVELOPE, AND DRIVING 30 MINUTES INTO THE CITY. DO NOT APPLY!]

So that’s what happened today. All those caps, hells, and other expletives might be a giveaway of how overjoyed I was to experience this today. Lesson: DO NOT GET HOPES UP!

MY OVERBLOWN REACTION BASED ON A YEAR’S WORTH OF CUMULATIVE CRAP:

“That’s it. It’s over. I want a divorce! I can’t do this anymore. I’m sick and tired of banging my  head against a wall. This is just too hard. It just isn’t worth it anymore. It’s killing me. I’m starting to associate my love for Stuart with nothing but suffering. I’m a wreck. I think I have PTSD. I’ve had dark circles under my eyes for a year. I can’t think. I can’t do that whole “request residency” at the prefecture again making a million copies of every document known to man. I’ve already been through that chapter.  We had tried to play by these rules during my 1st visit to France. We had called within one month of my arriving to make an appointment which we couldn’t get until two months later plus a week after my visa would have expired. Then I would have been waiting around for God knows how long for them to process it all, unable to leave the country without having to start all over again.”

Were they fucking yanking my chain? Pardon the French. I left the embassy in tears. My poor brother-in-law having driven me must have been quite uncomfortable.

MY FANTASY RESPONSE:

Okay, this isn’t the end of the world. It sucks. Yes. Okay. But you can do it. It’s just one more “giant but illusory” obstacle meant to make you stronger. Heck, you could probably make the appointment at the prefecture NOW and get a head start. You don’t even have to bring a complete application. Who cares if they say it is incomplete and send you away with a recipisse (a receipt proving that I applied)? At least you’ll be able to stay longer than three months. If that’s the game, play it. But don’t let this steal your heart and soul away. Don’t let this be the end of the world. Don’t give up NOW! And don’t bark at your family like it’s their fault. Let it all just roll off your back like marbles. Forgive even this.

I’m working on it.

Seriously, is this process for real? I mean, how many people have to go through this garbage? How many stories are out there besides mine? I’m sure there are much worse. This system is obviously designed to completely destroy what would otherwise have been perfectly delightful relationships. I tell you what. If I had my own country, I would completely annihilate this type of BS.

As it is, I just have to learn to accept it. I really am doing my best.

One-Woman Exodus

Back to the story. So it’s July 31st. I’ve just been informed by email I’ll owe money at the closing for my house happening later that day. Due to a six hour time difference, there’s no way I can get hold of my realtor. My five bags (six counting my backpack) are packed, and we’re ready to head to the airport an hour away. Stuart and I are both feeling extremely meh. We’re numb with sadness over what must be done…the very thing I was for some reason trying so hard to avoid…life in the states.

We arrive. I get in the ticket line. I am then informed I missed my flight which actually left two hours ago.

“Say what?”

The airline employee pointed to the customer service desk. We made our way over.  They couldn’t get me out again until August 6th at the earliest. Did I want that ticket?

Now, my visa was expiring August 4th. What would happen if I overstayed two days? Anything? Would I get grilled leaving Amsterdam? Have to pay a fine? Be forbidden to return? So we held off on reserving that ticket and went home to sort things out.

As soon as we were outside, Stuart and I looked at one another and burst out laughing. I don’t think I’d ever felt so much relief in all my life. So, we rolled my enormous luggage back to the car and went home. How did this happen? How did I mess up? Was I sabotaging myself?

When we got back, I checked my email. Sure enough, it stated that my departure time was 10AM, just as I had thought. This wasn’t my screw-up. Apparently, the airline had changed the flight time, but somehow, I missed the notification.

Stuart said, “You’ve got to call and ask for a refund!”

So, I called. But I wasn’t offered a refund. Instead I was offered the same flight out, August 6th. I wanted to grab it, but there was this visa issue that needed to be resolved first. I explained that and said I’d call back.  Stuart and I were both over the moon that we would have another week together.

We then began the “investigation” about my visa. The first thing I did was call my friend who happened to be in France and happened to be French. I asked if she’s help translate our situation at the police station. We needed to ask if I could get some kind of visa extension by explaining my situation. We drove into town with my friend on stand-by, pressed the buzzer outside the police station and were bruskly told to drive to the next town another fifteen minutes away. It was lunch time after all.

Fortunately for us, we spotted a gendarme on the street a block away speaking to someone. We parked the car, made our phone call to our translator, handed the phone to the officer, and waited to hear his response. He was very helpful (I’m not being sarcastic) and suggested we go to the airport to speak to the police there. We weren’t really up for another hour drive, so we went home again. On the way, we had a now familiar conversation about how challenging life was proving to be for us in France. Even with speaking better French, situations like this were so complicated, we’d still have to rely on translators.

Once home, I called the airline again, and that’s when I was told they had a flight out “tomorrow”.  “What about the 6th?” I asked. No longer an option. They had a seat tomorrow. It was the only one they were offering. Did I want it? Ug! All that sweet relief and joyous irony suddenly turned sour. I had minutes to make a decision. All my bags were packed. It was either go now or stay in France and go through the residency procedure there, which once started would have meant I couldn’t leave until I got my carte several months later, or it was pay $2000 for another plane ticket, or leave Stuart the very next day, going through the whole airport drive and luggage thing all over again. And remember, there was the question of whether or not my house would indeed close without a hitch. I didn’t like any of my choices. With the pressure on, I surrendered and took the flight.

The following day, we packed the car and off we went to the airport. It was one car ride I never wanted to end. I kept hoping the car would break down or something, but of course, we got there with no problems. We got in line and when I approached the desk, I was informed that I was flying to Washington. Thinking she meant Reagan Airport, I explained to the desk agent that I was flying to Dulles. No, she said, Washington. But my original flight was for Dulles! I have a hotel reservation a block from Dulles! She checked her screen.

The only flight is to Washington.

But…but…

So, Stuart and I were back at the same customer service desk where we had an identical conversation with two more desk agents. By this point, I was shaking and quite broken down. Reagan and Dulles were at least an hour apart, maybe more. I was already arriving at midnight. I was sleep-deprived from the week’s other stresses. Not only was I flying to the wrong airport, I was flying through Atlanta instead of direct. That meant I’d have to claim my massive luggage in Atlanta and recheck it. Did I mention I’d hurt both my right knee and left toe several weeks before and was having to limp? Now I’d have to take a costly taxi to my hotel too? I could not do this. I didn’t have the strength anymore. Over several months, I had been burned to a nervous frazzle.

Stuart and I roamed the airport pushing my mountain of suitcases around trying to pull an answer down, “Does this mean I stay or does this mean I  go?” I was so confused. I was beyond confused. I was angry. I was sick to my stomach. Everything inside said that I wanted more time in France…just a little more time. I had given up so much to be there…everything! Now I was leaving? I felt like a complete failure and a total idiot. Why was everything such a mess? And where was I going? I didn’t even know. My guts were wrenched. I was beyond decision-making ability; so was Stuart. With the clock ticking, always ticking, we just looked at each other with blank faces, not knowing what to do. I got in line again, then got out again. More time passed as I sat on the cold airport floor unable to move. Finally, five minutes to boarding, some energy flooded me and took over. If I didn’t know what to do, then I’d do something. I’d get in line. If I was meant to be on that plane, I would be. With nails clawing the walls of the airport, I made it to my gate, the last one to board, eyes full of tears. But I have to admit, I felt some relief just to have made a decision.

France is indeed a beautiful country. Exquisite, in fact. I love the way time moves more slowly there and how soft the light is. It’s a great place…to visit. And visit I will. Living, on the other hand, was proving to be quite a challenge. At least, it was for me. Maybe in different circumstances, at another time…

…as it stood, I had bitten off way more than I could chew.

Stay tuned for my arrival story featuring “Crabby Cabby”.