Settling In

I haven’t blogged here in ages, and I’d like to bring things to a sort-of closure. I am writing this from my office in our new house in the Charente. It is hard to believe that just two years ago, my husband and I met and began our whirlwind, international romance. It is sometimes harder to believe we actually persevered and made it through the unbelievable challenges that were thrown at us from all sides. WE DID IT!!!

I’ve been in France officially as a resident since May of 2015. I have my Carte de Sejour now, and just yesterday, received my Carte Vitale in the mail. Today, I even managed to get myself a library card. Of course, that was significantly easier than everything else, let me tell you! I’ve even made great strides in driving the old stick shift!

I’ve been taking French since I arrived, but it is slow going. While I wish I was in school every day, out here in the country, there just aren’t opportunities for that. So I string my French lessons together as I can. I take a couple of hours in the nearest town every week. I also use the internet to study and listen to French radio and TV. I tried joining a choir but ironically, they sang a lot of English songs. I registered at the Pole Emploi, the equivalent of the Department of Labor, and will receive additional weekly lessons through them for free starting in a few months. I just wish it was starting now and happening every day!

In fact, the language barrier is now the single most important obstacle I must learn to overcome. But as long as one has some good translators to call when needed (and can afford to pay them), one can get by. Of course, I can’t wait for the day when I can actually speak and write well enough to handle things myself. It is tough to put so much trust in others who are speaking for me all the time. So much is lost in translation.

But generally, I’m finding that life here isn’t nearly as difficult as I expected it to be. Now that the worst is over, I’m finding it all pretty easy. Maybe I’m fooling myself. Time will tell…

The hardest parts about living here:

1. It is easier to meet and socialize with the English-speaking community than to integrate into French society. In my experience, there is little support to help the English-speaking community to integrate…okay, actually none! Maybe it would be different if we were in a big city like Paris, though.

2. It can be a nightmare to find the answers to important questions. Very often, the answers lead one down a rabbit hole that merely seems to produce even more questions.

3. My life has shrunk considerably in many ways in terms of friends, opportunities, and a sense of control over what happens to me.

The best parts about living here (aside from being with Stuart):

1. The view out my window is phenomenal, and there is plenty of quiet.

2. There are some real angels here and it is a joy to meet and interact with them. France is cultivating my gratitude for the finer things in life (and I don’t mean wine).

3. I’m growing by leaps and bounds and am having to overcome a ton of my fears and resistances, all very good for my personal healing. As I can’t control anything, I have no choice but to just let go and let is all unfold. That is a huge lesson and a huge gift.

Time will tell how difficult it is to make an actual living here doing what I was doing in the States. I may have to be more flexible or go in a completely unexpected direction. I may find it impossible. Who knows?  But that’s the next thing on my plate…making a living.


Bon Courage!



Manifesting a Carte de Sejour

I have been remiss in my blog writing lately. Chalk it up to STRESS!!! I haven’t been able to keep my lips from trilling, let alone write something cognizant. Not that I haven’t started a couple of posts. It’s just that, half way through, I realize I’ve written nothing but incomprehensible dribble with no beginning, middle or end. C’est la vie in transition.

So much has been “up in the air” lately. It’s like we started to juggle several balls which just evaporated over our heads. Now we anxiously await their reappearance. Stuart and I have adopted this fascinating shoulder shrug and blank look that we make several times a day…just to remind ourselves we don’t know WTF is happening, and we just need to accept that we are “squeaky mouse toys” in the rabid teeth of God. It’s been an exercise in sensing. Do we turn left or right here? Do we proceed with x and forsake y or go through with y and hope it doesn’t make x impossible. And what about z? And what really matters? What steers the ship when there are no stars? (We’ve decided the answer is desire. Desire, and trusting our desire, is all we have to go on.)

Despite the cray-cray, I’m starting to feel more at home here. I’m starting to make friends. I’m getting a bit of a routine. I’m sleeping better. More importantly, Stuart and I are laughing more. It’s taken near a couple of months, but I dare say I’ve survived the 1st passage.

Now for the 2nd initiation…becoming official. I’ve been here two months making it time to apply for my Carte de Sejour, or residence permit. We asked a French-speaking friend to help us out with the process (may our rabid-toothed god bless French-speaking friends everywhere). While we waited to hear back from him, we began the mammoth task of gathering our paperwork in triplicate with translations. Guess we waited a bit too long though because my appointment at the prefecture isn’t until the 2nd week in August, a whole week after my visa expires. Hmm…

After our initial freakout over the fact that I’d possibly be “illegal”, we started doing our research. Would I be mercilessly tossed back to the states or would it be best to use my return flight ahead of time? Would I be fined thousands of euros? Would I be forbidden from ever returning to Europe or unable to return for 3 months if I overstayed? Would I get stuck in France unable to leave? You would think the answers would be fairly straight-forward. Wait, did I just say that? If I have learned anything so far, it is that when it comes to bureaucracy, there are no straight-forward answers!

I have one helpful person telling me to seek help at my Mairie (Mayor’s). I have another telling me to ask for an extension at the prefecture. I have other information that says I have rights as the non-EU spouse of an EU citizen and still another perspective offered that tells me to “chill” as this happens all the time, especially in summer. Yet another new friend with a sense of humor says she’ll see me when I get back from the states (tongue -in-cheek) if they let me back.

After a morning of sweating it, we have now decided not to sweat it. It’s too tiring. We have our French-speaking friend who will be on the horn the next time the prefecture is open (a very narrow “two days a week for a few hours” window for residence permits) with our remaining questions. And who knows? Maybe he’ll get some different answers or even a moved-up appointment. We’ve heard that happens depending on who you talk to around here.

We’re still hopeful. My “Carte de Sejour” ball has been tossed into the air. It is now floating invisibly through the Manisphere (that’s the atmosphere where manifestation happens), and we shall wait patiently for it to reappear hoping we don’t get cruelly bonked! Stay tuned…