Back home in the City of Light

While in California, I sent my downstairs neighbor a photo of the Golden Gate Bridge.  I sent it the day after the election.  Being somewhat numb, I couldn’t think what to say so I wrote “Greetings from Oakland” or something banal like that.  When she received it, she texted me “Merci Sara pour la très belle carte du pont de SF qui sera toujours là après les élections….(thank you Sara for the lovely card of SF’s bridge which will still be there after the elections…”)

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I had similar thoughts the morning after I returned.  Sitting at my table, looking out my window on to the Seine and the Pont Neuf, I thought “this scene doesn’t change.  It has survived bad kings, the french revolution, the terror, the commune, World Wars I and II, surely the left can survive four years of the right led by someone who is going to have to take a speed course on the doings of US government.”

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And so my numbness slowly went away.  My jet lag has been relatively mild, just sleeping a lot.  I haven’t turned on the news.  I was hearing horror stories of teens doing very questionable things to non-white teens in their schools.  That was enough.  I’ll get back into my daily life here and sooner or later, things will be very clear on how the wind is blowing in the United States.

I’m told one of the first politicians to call and congratulate Mr. Trump was Marine La Pen, she who would very much like to be the next President of France.  We’ve called her the French Trump because of her stand on immigration.  After Brexit, she was ecstatic and called for a referendum in France.  She wants France to leave the EU.  I don’t think she’ll be called the french Trump anymore, too superstitious.  The French elections are in five months and eyes will be turned this way to see if bad things come in threes.  Ms. La Pen has been building power as immigration becomes the most important issue for almost everyone.  The choices, so far, are not great.

It’s a strange time.  I was born in the aftermath of World War II, grew up in the Kennedy years, became a hippie in my university years and now have watched politics swing as far away from those years as it could possibly get–at least in a democracy.  I’ve been extremely active in politics and I’ve been asleep.  Right now, it seems to me that what is called for is living the best possible life I can lead.  To do random acts of Kindness — because I can.

There is an opinion piece in the New York Times this morning written by Nicolas Kristof titled: A 12 step program for responding to President-Elect Trump.  I thought it inventive and smart.  I pass it on to you:

A bientôt,

Sara

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Wednesday morning, Nov. 9, 2016

Dear Friends,

I went to bed last night not knowing a result but it was pretty clear which way the wind was blowing.  I looked on at the commentators in admiration as the night dragged on and they stayed cool, clear headed and just reported the facts.  I went to bed because I couldn’t stand it anymore.

I woke up this morning to the result I saw coming.  The country has a President-Elect.  It’s not Hillary Clinton. All my city and county results were almost exactly what I wanted.

My friends will think I’m being naive.  I am refusing to say anything with hate in it.  I have not turned the TV on but I know that there are protests happening all over the country. It’s certainly a way of getting anger out!   And there is plenty to be angry about.  One thing you can say about Donald Trump is that he didn’t make false promises.  He did not run on unifying the country.  He has no intention of trying to bring together blue and red.  He also made it very clear that he believes in Revenge.  I suspect that will be his number one priority: to get revenge on all those who weren’t with him.  So if you happen to be a member of the blue group or a man named Paul Ryan, there is definitely difficulty ahead.  The similarities to 1933 Germany are striking.  I am looking forward to reading Op Eds from people much smarter than I am on how to move forward.

09eveningss-slide-1PV8-articleLarge.jpg                    Protests in Oakland, California where I am at the moment.

A friend called me and told me to listen to Hillary’s concession speech.  Which I did.  What a woman!  Although I’m sure she was in shock, her speech was gracious while admitting her pain.  And she urged we give Trump open-mindedness.  No one seems to be listening.    I also listened to Kaine, Obama and then Trump.

But what is on all the airwaves is: how could the media have gotten it so wrong.  I was in the UK, two days before the Brexit vote.  It never occurred to me that Brexit might win.  The cab driver who took me to Exeter airport told me that it would win, “just watch” she said, “The leaders have no comprehension what’s happening in this country”  She voted against but she had her finger on the pulse much more so than the media or the leaders.

Seems it was the same for the US.  The media had given Hillary a 75% chance of a win. I believed the media.  I will be be very interested if a consensus is ever reached about the media.  What I saw last night, when NBC put up the map with the red states and the blue states, was that the country had turned red with blue hot spots.  People are pissed off at everyone, at the government that is always in a stalemate, at anyone who represents the establishment.  It’s not dissimilar to me when I was 20, 21, 22 years old and we didn’t trust anyone over 30 years of age.  We wanted to change the world and we caused quite a disruption.  Our one great coup was forcing the end of the Vietnam war.  What will happen with this war?

So many questions.

Please feel free to leave your comments and predictions.  But please no hate statements.     Thank you,

A bientôt,

Sara

The Bad and the Good

Somewhere I heard a saying “Make plans, God laughs” or something to that effect.  After having written my post on Monday and looking forward to my flight to San Francisco on Tuesday, everything changed.  I woke up at 4:15 and treated myself to a taxi since it was a bank holiday in France and I wasn’t sure of the trains.  I arrived a little before 6am to learn that my flight was ‘delayed’ 11 hours.  Would I like to reschedule?  After hearing my options, I told the woman at the check-in desk that I’d rather wait for a direct flight at 7pm.  I’d just go back into Paris.   Weeeelllll, she really did draw that word out, it might be safer if I rescheduled another flight.  She clearly already knew what she couldn’t tell me–that the flight would be cancelled 20 minutes later.

It seemed my only option was to wait at Charles de Gaulle for 5 hours then fly to Washington D.C.  I would go through passport control and customs in Washington then go to a domestic terminal after checking my luggage back in.  I’d get a flight to SFO about 2 hours later.  And even though I had upgraded to Business Class with miles, “we are so sorry, Madame, there are no business class seats left, so you’ll fly economy”

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First, I’m not good with change.  It throws me.  I’m not very good at waiting.  However I managed to sit in the United Lounge for my requisite hours, e-mailing people that I wouldn’t be where I was supposed to be and boarded the plane to Washington.  I’ve been very lucky, as it turns out.  Both Paris and San Francisco are very lenient with flights coming from both cities about getting through customs.  Not so in Washington D.C.  I was walking down the walkway when a cute looking beagle walked right up to my suitcase smiling away.  The beagles handler asked me if I had fruit etc in the suitcase and I said yes, and waved my Drs letter.  She gave me an orange sticker and pointed me in the direction of  a new conveyor belt.  Between fatigue, disappointment over all the changes and some basic unfounded fear, I had myself a temper tantrum.  The little woman in charge of investigating criminals bringing one apple into the US was tearing open all my presents I had bought in tax-free while waiting at CDG.  She found my apple and gleefully raised it with an ah ha, gotcha you.  I tried some 10 year old manipulation tactics that never worked when I was 10 years old so not sure why I thought they’d work now.  Yes, I made a scene and in so doing, turned what was already an uncomfortable day into a bit of a nightmare for myself.

 

CBPDulles_800_1.JPG                                                                     My cute little beagle at Dulles International!!

Sans apple, I rechecked my luggage and made my way to the second leg of my flight. I got to my home in Oakland, California about 9 hours after I was rescheduled to arrive.  I didn’t have to stay awake until this time zone’s night time, I went right to bed and got a good night’s sleep.  But it took me another day to stop blaming customs in Washington DC for my “nightmare” trip and own up to the fact that I brought quite a bit of it on myself.

My willingness to be a little more generous may have had a lot to do with the fact that I got to see my first baseball game Wednesday evening since last April.  For a baseball fan, that is quite a drought.  And what a game!  Game 7 between two evenly matched teams that were both in search of an illusive World Series Championship.  For the Chicago Cubs, it had been 108 years.  I was rooting for them just because of that history.

And what a nail biter of a game.  Trying to explain baseball to a french person is somewhat like trying to teach Chinese in a day.  The french are Futbol fans.  Futbol is fast and lively.  People who don’t understand baseball say it is like watching paint dry!  So I go without baseball in Paris.

 

IMG_5283.JPGThe game was so unpredictable, so closely matched and, in my opinion, so overly managed by Joe Maddon, that the Chicago Cubs won in spite of him.  Not that this is news to anyone.  Everyone in the world must know that “Wait till next year” came this year.  The Chicago Cubs are 2016 World Champions–although the word world is a bit euphemistic.  It was thrilling, it was worse than a horror film.  At one point, I changed the channel, I thought my stomach would never survive the back and forth of scores between the two teams.  But the Cubs had God on their side Wednesday.  There was a seventeen minute rain delay and in that time, the Cubs held a team meeting without any of the coaches and boosted themselves back on board as winners.

 

360-worldseries-largeHorizontal375.jpgExcitement and joy are contagious.  I’ve been to Wrigley Field once in my life.  But I had no trouble jumping on the bandwagon of exhilaration and felt so grateful that these moments allowed me to forget my trip and appreciate that I got to watch the game.  And what a game!!!!!

http://m.cubs.mlb.com/news/article/208017164/cubs-to-have-world-series-parade-on-friday/

Going on a Trip

I am leaving Paris for two weeks.  I’m going to California where I lived for most of my adult life.  It is a beautiful day today.  The sky is blue, the Seine is peaceful, sparkling and the Bateaux Mouches have begun their daily trips up and down the river showing tourists the sights along the banks.

 

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I have been grumbling about the weather most of the Fall.  It seemed that we went from summer to winter without passing Autumn.  In fact, we have had a couple of beautiful Indian Summer days and this seems to be turning into one of them.  I’ve turned the heat off in the apartment and I’m looking forward to a walk.  My iPhone says that the next week will be sunny and much much warmer than it has been.

 

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However, I’m leaving for Charles de Gaulle airport before the sun comes up tomorrow morning.  And like most of my “last days before the trip” Paris seems lovelier.  I seem to see it all much more clearly.  I look around my apartment as if I will never see it again.  I held Bijou, the cat, so close trying to make a physical memory of her furriness, her sweetness, the way she will suddenly look up at me with loving eyes that completely melt my heart.  I don’t feel this way about going anywhere else in Europe.  But California and another life seems worlds away from Paris and this life.

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Last January, when I took my trip to California, terrorists had just bombed the Brussels airport.  We had heard, though it hadn’t been confirmed, that the Brussels airport was second choice to Paris.  I had no idea what to expect.  I felt very matter of fact about it.  I called my lawyer and asked if I wrote out a makeshift will in pencil about all my belongings in Paris, would it be considered legal.  He said yes then added to please not worry, nothing was going to happen to me.  He couldn’t possibly know. The truth is, a place where terrorists have just hit is probably one of the safest places in the world.

I’m not worrying about terrorists.  I look forward to these long flights to California (but not to the jet lag). Once I get to the airport, get my bags checked, get through border control, I’m in No Man’s Land.  Soon my phone won’t ring at all, I won’t be able to receive any texts.  No one can bother me or demand anything of me.  I can watch five movies in a row and not feel guilty or lazy. I can daydream or read a book or write.

But that’s tomorrow.  Today, I’m walking around looking at everything as if it’s the first time and the last time.  I don’t feel anxious.  I don’t have a word for it.  It’s a feeling I’m sure everyone gets at some time or another.  Of wanting to imprint something in my memory that is stronger than just a memory.  I want to be able to touch it, feel it, take it with me.  When I’m sitting in my living room in Oakland, I don’t want Paris to feel so incredibly far away.  The memory I always default to is sitting in my armchair that I have facing the window.  The window that looks out on Quai des Grands Augustins, the Pont Neuf and the river Seine.  It’s an amazing view of one of the most beautiful parts of Paris that I look at every day.

 

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A bientôt,

Sara

I, Daniel Blake

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If you have ever walked by a homeless person and thought “There but for the Grace of God, go I”, go see I, Daniel Blake.

If you have ever listened to some of our well known politicians talk with utter contempt about the people using state systems to nefarious ends, go see I, Daniel Blake.

If you have ever felt complete powerlessness and building rage listening to Donald Trump talking about ‘those thieves and ingrates’ taking food out of his mouth, go see I, Daniel Blake.

Go see I, Daniel Blake

When I lived in the Bay Area, at Christmas time, I would get about thirty dollars in one dollar bills and give them out to homeless people until I ran out.  I stopped doing it here in Paris.  I was warned that many kids, big and small, were run by Russians and Slave gangs and it was all a con.  Many of the homeless are very aggressive and can be scary.  Many seem to have their “spots” where they sit every day.  These spots are won by the strongest and the fittest.  There is a man with a german shepherd who sits in front of the Monoprix every day unless it is pouring rain.  I rationalized my lack of compassion by saying that I saw an SDF (Sans Domicile Fixe) pull out an expensive iPhone.  I didn’t stop to ask myself if I, even with my iPhone, would ever sit on the sidewalk all day, summer and winter, hoping that some kind soul would put money in my paper cup.

 

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There is a moment in the film when Dave Johns, who plays Daniel Blake, says “all I want is my self-respect”

Ken Loach, the director, is 80 years old.  I, Daniel Blake won the Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival this past summer.  It was his second Palme d’Or.  It is a film that will touch your soul.  Daniel Blake is a 59 year old carpenter who cannot work as he is healing from a heart attack.  He is fighting to keep his benefits.  He is treated like a dog by state agencies and the  people who work for them.  He is uneducated and never had the need to learn to use a computer.  He is told over and over that he can find the information he needs on the Internet.  He befriends a young woman (Haley Squires) whom he tries to help in one of these state agencies.  The friendship of two souls trying to work within the system, starving and slowly being humiliated is touching and real.  Everyone in the movie could be someone we know.  There is no flash, no extremes.

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This is political filming at its best.  I challenge you to leave the theatre with dry eyes and unaffected.

Go see I, Daniel Blake

https://www.theguardian.com/film/2016/oct/25/i-daniel-blake-ken-loach-uk-box-office-trolls-top-spot2318.jpg

 

Going to the movies

Living in Paris is movie heaven! The Parisians LOVE movies. Shows start as early as 9am and the last show will often be at 10:45/11pm.  A matinée is a morning movie.  I made the mistake of asking for a matinée ticket for a specific movie at a Festival:                                       “Je suis desolé, Madame.  On n’a pas une matinée pour ce film”                                                              I pointed at the time and, quite nicely, he told me:                                                                               “Mais Madame, ce film montrera l’après-midi.  Il n’y a pas une matinée”                                         Lesson learned.

From my building front door, there are at least 50 screens within 10 minutes walking or 5 min by metro.  Some are current first-run movies, some are Indies and quite a few are old classics on the big screen.  Two of the companies, UGC and Mk2, have a Carte Illimitée.  For 21euros a month, I can go to any film at any hour at those two Theatres anywhere in France!!

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There are no dubbed movies.  That would be sacrilege.  A movie that has VF (Version Français) below the title is in French. One that says VO (Version Originale) or VOSTF (Version Originale sous-titres français) is in the original language with French sub-titles.  Children’s movies are dubbed until 5:30pm.  After that, original language with sub-titles.  Maybe they think, if you are old enough to go to the movies after 5:30pm, you are old enough to read.!

If I tell a french friend s/he should see a certain film, I won’t be asked who is starring in it. They want to know who directed it.  Even information on the TV about American shows gives the director of each episode.

This week, I saw Captain Fantastic with Viggo Mortenson–you see how American I am!  Name of movie plus the star!!!  The French would tell you “J’ai vue Captain Fantastic realisé par Matt Ross”  Ross’ name will be above actor credits.   I also saw Brooklyn Village.  The movie had started rolling the credits when I realized the English language name was Little Men.  After the movie was over, I thought it was too bad they changed the name as it had a double meaning for me.  So I asked a French friend if Little Men translated would have a similar meaning.  Les Petits Hommes means short men–far from the meaning for this film.  Un grand homme, however, can mean a tall man OR a very important man.  I now could understand the name change.

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Tomorrow morning, I will hop on M4, go 5 minutes to Les Halles where there are 30 screens and see another film.

 

 

 

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A bientôt,

Sara

The privilege of living in Paris

Periodically, a visitor will ask “Sara, How do you stay here in Paris?”                                           “Do you have to get a Visa?  Is it hard?”

If you want to stay longer than three months, yes you have to get a Visa.  Is it hard?  That depends.  Students can get a student Visa, workers get a worker’s Visa. Then there’s me! I’m retired and I just wanted to come live here.  So among other things, the French want to be very sure I could support myself.  They wanted to know I had my own health insurance and I had to prove I had an address to come to.  No sleeping rough!

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Since I lived in the Bay Area, I made an appointment at my closest French Consulate: San Francisco.  On the website was a long list of things I needed to bring to the appointment with me…..in duplicate.  I was warned to do exactly as it said.  The French like to dot their Is and cross their Ts.

It went very smoothly.  A week later, My Visa arrived in the mail.  Along with a piece of paper telling me to send it in to a Paris address within three months of arriving in Paris. That led me to the Immigration Office (which I described last week) for a physical and tuberculous test.  Passing that, I was good until my year finished.

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However, I realized after being here awhile that I loved living here and I wanted to stay. That meant I had to apply for a Titre de Sejour (a residency card).  At first the process was the same, make an appointment at the Prefecture (police) and bring in the list of things that were required…..in duplicate and translated into French.  By a certified French translator.  Everyone I knew said it was really hard.  I got terribly anxious.  I also got a lot of help.  I found a wonderful translator.  My appointment fell after the Visa had actually terminated.  I had visions of being thrown out of France.  Or not being allowed back in.

 

illus_demarches_459x305.pngMy day of the appointment arrived. It was hard.  The woman who looked at my documents looked at everything very closely over and over.  Then she finally wrote a list of things she wanted me to bring back for another appointment in about seven weeks.  Meanwhile she gave me a temporary card.  When that appointment came, she didn’t look at any of the documents she had asked for.  She told me to come back in two months to get my Titre de Sejour.  It turned out that almost every American I know was asked to return for a second appointment.  Maybe it’s a test of some sort

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Recently I went to the Prefecture to renew my Titre de Sejour.  I came uber prepared but I still expected them to send me back for some reason.  They didn’t!  I was in and out in 45 minutes. And I get to stay in Paris another year!

My understanding is that the card must be renewed two more times if I decide to stay here. Then I can apply for a 10 year Titre de Sejour.

http://ielanguages.com/cds.html

Photos are of actually docs but none are mine.