Saturday, October 10, 2009

en France...

It's been nearly 2 weeks in France. An overwhelming experience that I hope to soon get over.
Steve and I arrived in Nice via Frankfurt after what seems like the most hectic month of all time. I couldn't get excited to move to France, I didn't have the time.
Alas, we made it here - and through the German airport security. (our cameras and Xbox were thoroughly tested.)
After being in the Nice airport for about 5 minutes, we realized our French is horrible.
Steve's is worse.
Week one was filled with an unending list of things to do. The program I'm working with likes to take you about halfway with the information you need - and then ditch you to fend for yourself. All of my training has been in French. 2 days worth of speakers gliding over my head. Thank goodness for the kindhearted assistants Lucy and Katie, who were fabulous enough to translate for me and write notes back and forth in class! Even so, by the end of the day there's a headache even stronger than the dumbfounded look on my face.
I have a new-found respect for anyone who has ever left the bubble of their own country to start anew in a foreign place. Nothing about it is easy.
& perhaps that sentiment is amplified by the attitude of the French. Efficiency does not translate here. Businesses can be closed over 2 hours midday for lunch. Why fill out one form when you can fill out 4? Submit this, but only after you've received that, which requires this.
It's kind of incredible.
And then, there's also the feeling of being absolutely broke. Steve and I had modest amounts in our savings accounts, to sustain us for the first bit, and pay for a few mini vacations in the area.
However, the exchange rate is downright rude, and we encountered the worst surprise I've ever encountered. Agent's fees.
Here's the scoop. My cousin Jocelyn lives in Nice and found our apartment for us. It's in a great location, quiet, nice light. 600/month. Ok, it's more than the 450 we had wanted but we won't be tied to the location and can look once we get here. Now comes the meeting to get our keys. We meet who we had thought was the landlord at the apartment to sign the lease. All is fine until she wants the money, and says, ok you owe me 1350. (on top of 400 we had sent in advance) !&^*((*!*#!!! what? Apparently, it is normal here - on top of the first and last - to pay the agent who handles things between you and the landlord. Her fee: a month's rent.
I burst into tears. It can't be true. We ask again and again in our broken French and the agents 3 words of English... we weren't warned about this. We can't get in touch with Jocelyn.
She says pay it or leave it.
We pay it.
And we saw our savings accounts buckle at the knees and keel over.
End rant.
More of our misadventures to come. I know it will get better, it has a little already. Thankfully the weather is still beautiful, and we are able to spend some time enjoying this:

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