Bonjour! Well, you can tell my French classes are working out very well. I am progressing slowly. We have been told by some native English-speaking people who are used to speaking fluent French, that even after 10 years, it is still a struggle to speak in French and think in English. Most of them have plans to retire in a country where English is the native language. They are just plain tired of translating everything. (Especially the jokes!)
Last Friday, we drove 5 hours to Paris so that I could meet with the French Immigration office to complete my Visa Application. We need Visas because we are going to stay in France for over 90 days. I took a medical exam and passed except they said I was too fat. Then, I took an eye exam and they said that I needed glasses, but they didn’t ask me if I wore contacts! I did pass the eye examination. At the end of the day, they asked for my passport photo and proof of accommodations to prove that I have been living in France. They rejected my passport photo even though it is the one in my passport and the identical one accepted by the French Consulate in Chicago when I applied for my Visa. Apparently, they have official photo “cabines” called “Photomation” in France and that is the only photo they will accept. They are similar to our photo booth. In addition, my proof of accommodation was in English and they wanted it to be in French. So, it was rejected also. They rescheduled me for another appointment on July 18th to bring them a new passport photo and proof of accommodation. We spent one night in Paris and drove home the next day dejected for being rejected!
The French Immigration office also finally found Rita’s paperwork this week. They had lost it for over 6 weeks. Technically, she did not exist and was not in France according to their records. But, they could kick her out of France after 90 days if she did not get their approval to be here! Her records were paper clipped to my records and surfaced when I had my meeting with them. So, Rita has to complete her Visa requirements on July 9th. Assuming we both pass this time, it will have taken us three trips to Paris to get approval. It is frustrating to experience all this bureaucracy, but I understand that the US is even worse!
We at least took a few pictures after dinner!
We have had two exciting events this week.
First, Rita’s family from Lille in the north of France, came to visit on Saturday and are staying until Friday. We have Isabelle, her daughter Jasmine (4), her mother Lina and their cousin Yoran (12) in our home. We have been swimming, playing cards, visiting castles, specifically Chateau Puymartin and Chateau Milandes, and enjoying touring small beautiful villages.
The Chateau Puymartin has a roof of stone. The stones cost 700 Euros ($955.00) per square meter and each square meter weighs over a ton. They are laid by hand and are not held in by mortar or cement, but merely by laying one stone against another. It was built in the 12th century. The roof was repaired once with cement in between the stones and it had to be re-done as it did not allow for ventilation and was not good. The owner of the castle caught his wife in an affair and locked her in a tower for 15 years. She never left the tower before she died. He even buried her in this room behind a eucre colored block, which you can see in our pictures. You can rent a room here at this castle as a bed and breakfast place, but they say that if you do, you will see a lady in white, Madamme Blanc…. She comes out only at night. Later, in the 18th century, there was a 40-year fight over the ownership of the castle between a brother and sister and eventually the sister won out. The property is still owned by the original descendant’s.
The other castle, Chateau Milandes was the home of Josphine Baker, an American black woman, who went to Paris in 1925 and became a showgirl, singer, dancer, and a comedic star at the Folies Bergere (being topless probably didn’t hurt her career!) She was the only woman to march beside Martin Luther King at the March on Washington and to give a speech. She was a great humanitarian, got involved with the Red Cross, set up an organized resistance network where she hid arms in the cellar and installed a radio for communications and she carried secret information on sheet music that had been inserted with invisible ink!! She also traveled with Captain Abtey as part of the counter-intelligence services to Marrakesh, Africa, Maghreb, Libya, Egypt, Beirut, Syria, Palestine and Lebanon to spread the word of Free France. She was awarded a second lieutenant in the Women’s Auxiliary of the French Air Force, a Medal of Resistance, and was given the Legion of Honour award and the Croix de Guerre as she had worked risking her life for 5 years during World War II.
We received our cooking lessons this week from Lina. She is a really good French cook. We had wonderful salad dressing, polenta with gruyere cheese, rice salad and a vegetable tarte and a tuna/broccoli tarte; All of which we will be making again, soon. Hope they turn out!
Secondly, our neighbors had a baby!!! We were all awakened by our neighbor’s cows that live next door by loud, continuous mooing. Rita thought that I had gotten up and went out side to talk to them, as I do everyday by mooing to them. After an hour of this annoying mooing, we decided to check it out and we learned that one of my cows that I say Bonjour to every day her had a baby calf “en plain air” as the owner/farmer told me in French. Now we know why this particular cow had a purple hair band on, we thought it was the hippie of the group! It was really funny because the birth was met with such excitement by the entire village of 400 residents and day visitors. They would line up across the street from our Maison to take photos of the new calf. Rita was surprised that the calf was standing and walking within a few hours of birth. “Neither Stephanie nor Missy did that” she said! But, then she was also surprised that the birthing mother went about her normal daily routine of walking and grazing immediately after giving birth with the little calf nursing on her as she walked and grazed.
Well, I think I have caught you up on most of the things that have been going on at Green Acres in France. We are having fun. Experiencing the language, food and culture. So, all in all, it is a good trip. Check out our photos to see the things discussed above.