We began our day today meeting our neighbors of St. Jean de Duras in the Salle de Fete (local village meeting place) by attending the "Ceremonie des Voeux" or New Year's wishes given by the Maire and his Conseil Municipal. Going in, we knew it would be somewhat awkward with the language barrier, but it really wasn't that bad and most everyone was extremely pleasant and introduced themselves to us. If we could have only understood what the speeches were about, it probably would have meant a little more, but I did manage to pull a word out here and there (and just hope it wasn't evident in the form of a goofy look on my face every time one of my synapses would connect the translation) and think I applauded at the appropriate times. And other than awkwardly accept a class of wine being offered by our Maire, Jean-Luc, and then proceeding to spill it in the middle of the room as I tried to multitask and write down a phone number of a kind British woman I was speaking with, I think everything went relatively well.
Last week was sort of a 'spendy' week as the Soldes began (bi-annual sales) and boy did we shop. We bought a washer AND a dryer which I know is fairly indulgent as the electricity in France is tres cher (super expensive), but it was my little indulgence as I plan to spend the next year living without most of my basic comforts (have you seen a picture of our bathroom yet? Our WC is just a step up from an exterior outhouse) So, I'm using the dryer tonight, knowing that our bill could be astronomical and perhaps I will learn my lesson in the future, but right now, we will have fluffy towels and sheets....a little bit of heaven in the midst of living in near squalor. But our "squalor" is still somewhat cozy with us down sizing to sharing just two rooms of the house all together. Our dining room has been converted into our bedrooms and living room and our kitchen is equipped with a large table that serves as our dining room, office and beauty salon (Caleigh dyed my roots recently and I think has a future calling in hair color). There is a wonderful fireplace that we huddle around at night and sometimes Hank tries something silly like attempting to cook (i.e. burn) a pizza over the flame because he forgets that we don't have a working oven. But all in all, we have been relatively comfortable this first week at Petit Clos thanks to the milder weather and I just wish that this would not be changing so soon when Hank begins demo on the kitchen next week and our existing one moves out into the cold hallway for at least a month or so.
Our home phone was activated as was our internet this week, so we are thankfully connected with wifi (or wee-fee as they say here). The best news is, calls to the U.S. and much of the world are gratuit (free) which amazes me. The downside is calling from fixed phone to mobile phone and visa versa which is not so reasonable. Also, because we missed something critical in the description of our new mobile plan, we didn't understand exactly what we ended up signing up for so we spent 3-4 ineffectual visits back to the Orange store (French Telecom) and finally ended up with their English helpline that helped sort the details out for us. We are still currently trouble shooting how to get the tv up and running which probably entails a satellite dish, but we'll have to tackle that challenge in the next week.
We've been conversing in our limited French at almost every turn and I've got to believe (hope) that it is improving. Many of the locals we meet assume that we will not even attempt the language but "a contraire," we boast and proceed to completely mutilate their mother tongue until I think they are forced to recall the limited english that they learned in school in order for us to stop. All in all, we have been treated with a combination of kindness and curiosity as in, "what would make an American family leave the comfort of California to live in an old drafty french farmhouse?"
Caleigh is doing well in school and never complains about how difficult it is. She had two very high scores in math and french last week, so I think her confidence is increasing, so much in fact, that she corrects my pronunciation and style on a regular basis. I don't mind. She's in the trenches every day and hears how real people really talk, so what she is learning is invaluable.
This week we have to find a car and finish up the massive paperwork in order to obtain our health care (carte vitale). Then, we prep for renovations to begin next week. I think I'll also begin to put the word out about my availability to freelance now that all communication technology is up and running. A little income would definitely be welcome about now as we begin our descent into imitating "Monsieur Petterson Builds his Dream Home."
Until next week...