22 January 2007

An Alternative Look at French Bureaucracy

To date, our journey through the maze of French bureaucracy to reach the golden prize of a Carte de Sejour (residency card) has been long and twisty. Suffice it to say that we have lived here over a year and a half and still have never seen this carte.

Today it took a very surprising turn. I was sent a letter...called a convocation in French...requesting that I present myself at the offices of ANEIM...basically the medical office for foreigners...at 1:30 pm with a recent chest x-ray, vaccination records, medical records and my eye glasses. With much trepidation for a day of pure bureaucratic insanity, I arrived with only the first and last items and hopes that I could bedazzle my way through the missing middle bits. I was armed with a thick magazine, my latest knitting project and lots of anticipation. The receptionist at ANEIM was a master of keeping the flow moving. She was amazing. She knew every person in the waiting room and who they were waiting for. She kept telling all of us the status of our wait. At one point, a doctor had to leave to an emergency and she told us that we may have to come back on Wednesday. Then when another doctor arrived, she announced that we would definitely make it through the system today. Every time a nurse came out to take another person, she made sure that they were taking them in the correct order so that we all were seen as we had arrived. Her energy and friendliness were incredible.

First I met with a nurse who weighed and measured me, tested my blood sugar and eye sight and ran me through a battery of questions. Mostly we talked about the fact that she had lived in San Jose, California for a time when her husband worked for IBM. She was so sweet. She advised me on all the health issues that women in their 40s should be aware of and which doctors I should go see regarding these issues.

I then met with a doctor who examined my chest x-ray for TB and ran through a family history series. After a few questions, she took to explaining how the French health insurance system works. She emphasized that since I was here on a visitor's visa, I would have no insurance from an employer. Therefore, I needed to go to the Social Security office and ask to be put on the national health insurance and then I should cancel any insurance that we had paid for. She wrote down a list of the abbreviations of the type of coverage that I should ask for. She then reviewed the process where you pick a doctor and then they send you to the dentist, eye doctor, ob/gyn, etc...all of which are covered by this FREE insurance. I was flabbergasted. There had never been a mention that when you receive a visitor's carte de sejour, you win the insurance lottery.

The receptionist then gave me a thoroughly stamped paper to take to the mayor's office. Within three weeks he told me I would be the owner of my carte de sejour. On my way out of this truly wonderful experience that ended up taking all of one hour, all of the bureaucrats wished me a bonne journee et bon continuation with cheerful waves. Ah French bureaucracy...

13 January 2007

The Big 4-0

Mike is so enjoying joining the over-the-hill gang that he has decided to celebrate it on two continents! We thank you all for helping him to mark this occasion! The hat is just so Mike!!

09 January 2007

Happy 40th Birthday, Mike!!

Today was one of those days that remind me how very lucky we are to live in the south of France! It was incredibly sunny with a sky so blue it hurt your eyes. The sun felt so warm, I had to remind myself that it is January not April. We dropped Nathan and Celia off at school and went over to the driving range at the golf course next to the school. After hacking through a couple of buckets of golf balls and putting for an hour or two, we went out to lunch to celebrate Mike's birthday (really the 11th). There is a fairly new restaurant just outside our village that is just so wonderful. We ranted and raved our way through a chickpea salad with spinach sprouts and sauteed foie gras and figs and volaille that had been slow cooked to melt in your mouth and seiche (mediterranean cuttlefish) slices a la plancha...grilled to golden perfection. This was accompanied by a chilled light local rose wine. To top it off, the chef had made a special dessert for Mike's birthday that was a piece of chocolate heaven. Mike has proclaimed it the BEST dessert ever!!

Mike worked off his lunch cleaning out all of the built up weeds and leaves in the front yard. After picking up the kids from school, Jazzy took me for an easy run in the vineyards...after that lunch, I could hardly breathe much less run! The hills were glowing with the setting sun and the rows of bare grape vines cast long shadows. It is always such a social affair to go out in the vineyards. It is a beautiful and peaceful setting, but we always meet up with others out there...grandparents pushing babies in strollers, dogs and their owners stretching their muscles, bike riders whizzing up and down the hills, runners, walkers, horseback riders...everyone in our village and the neighboring St Drezery love to wander through the old road in the vines.

01 January 2007

Bonnes Fetes!

We had a wonderfully calm Christmas week. After enjoying Christmas Eve mass at our village church, we snuggled in our cozy beds and dreamed of truffles and foie gras...just kidding. The kids enjoyed their Christmas haul. Nathan got a driver and putter and golf lessons at the course next to his school. Celia got a writing desk and lots of quill pens to practice her calligraphy. She especially liked her chaps and gloves for horse back riding. Mary got golf clubs so that Mike maybe will get a chance to take the dust covers off of his. Mike added to his fine wine collection and is now well outfitted to race all those French bicyclists.

We even took on Boeuf en Croute (Beef Wellington) as a new cooking challenge for our Christmas dinner. Between Mike's incredible duxelle paste, Mary's perfect puff pastry and the local butcher's heavenly filet de boeuf, it was a culinary masterpiece!! Followed with a delicious Buche de Noel...the traditional French Christmas dessert...it was a beautiful ending to a beautiful day.

After we recuperated from the indulgences, we drove down to Barcelona for three days. It was so warm and beautiful and crowded. We had a great time wandering through the streets, strolling La Rambla, salivating in the incredible Boqueria market and munching on tapas and paella. It is amazing how many people were out strolling from early in the day and well into the night. Even the busiest days in Paris are never this full of people. It was truly amazing. I found it interesting how Catalan really is the language of Barcelona. It is a living language unlike the local language of Occitane here in Languedoc. Occitane is now a language of the past with only minor influences on the language spoken today whereas Catalan is spoken everywhere in Barcelona.

Bonne annee a tous!!