Friday, February 26, 2010

Weather update.....

We interrupt our previously scheduled event for an important weather announcement...

It FINALLY snowed in Vermont!

Yeah ha... let's go play!

Thursday, February 25, 2010

In learning a language, talking comes first. It’s how babies learn.  Soon, though you feel foolish being a forty-something baby and you want grow up a little.  One turns to trying to read French.

Tom’s choice was to dive into murder mysteries by Simenon (the famous Maigret series of nearly one hundred books) and Fred Vargas. Susan dipped her toes into The Petit Nicolas and Martine. Both of these book series are tales of young  French children. Our fledgling conversations with our french friends were certainly quite humorous. Tom carried on about unsavory characters, sex and intrigue. 

Then at one point Tom was reading some 18th century French and no one in our century understood him. 

Susan veered towards the barn yard, forest animals and seaside vacations. She managed to use in conversation the name of an animal very few (if any) French people have ever seen-- “wapiti”-- “moose”.  And that is not even a French word-- its American Indian. 

Adventuring into worlds that we were interested in gave us the foundation to venture into harder literature.  All the while keeping our French friends utterly confused.

Monday, February 22, 2010

French Lessons

F un to laugh at oneself
R oll those rrs
E ars full of rocks
N ouns with a sex
"C an o’ beer" La Canebiere
H umbling tenses
L ovely, patient Anne Marie
E legance of a french voice
S ongs of love and Harley Davidsons
S ounds a southern tongue has never made
Ok, that subjunctive is simply a pain
N otice the nuances
S peak your heart and others will figure it out

Friday, February 19, 2010

We now have complete sympathy for President Obama and his turmoil with health care/insurance. (I can never figure out which is the topic or the problem.) But, I am very clear on what the problem is if one wants to leave the USA for France. France will only give us an extended stay visa if we have health insurance. That insurance must be from a source outside of their system. The medical care will come from them, just not the payment. Fair enough, we have done nothing to pay into their system. The problem is how does one choose from the multitude of ExPat insurance companies? Everyone of them has a different cost, different coverage, different things listed to be covered, different things left off..... and what about the quality of their web-sites? Does presentation count for anything? And what the hey is ‘URC’. The small print says ‘Usual, Reasonable and Customary’. Can you just imagine that language being used in a document put before the Congress or Senate. My idea of ‘reasonable’ is certainly very different from an awful lot of my friends and family. But how far out on the limb do we crawl before even our ‘usual’ tolerance is proven naive? So President Obama, we too are going to have to take a crap shoot and hope we have made the right choices that will keep us in our ‘customary’ state of health.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

We each have categories to focus on for this move. I have visa, insurance, house sale, airline tickets, scheduling family visits. Do you really want me to go on.....

Tom has the cargo container.   

The container that Tom seems to have settled on will be 40 feet long. That is 4 feet longer than our house here. Since no furniture is going into this container you wonder what could be in there?
Here is a list of what is planned for it so far:
a Kubota tractor with a back hoe attachment
several lawnmowers
two Harley Davidson motorcycles
one Vespa
a wood stove
a self composting toilet
several boxes of clothes
maybe six press back chairs
an Orient and Flume vase we bought as an engagement present to each other
Have I mentioned that we do not have a yard in France? 
Our Vermont yard sale will be August 20th, so come on by.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Overlapping Experiences

This weekend my dear friend and great connector Jennifer introduced me to a woman that moved to Paris three years ago. We embraced this connection instantly and spent a morning’s walk comparing experiences and stories. After my friends headed out the driveway I found myself reflecting on how what seems to be such a unique experience is actually just the continuation of an old story. One that has many overlapping chapters, just with small differences in twists, turns and colors of emotion. 
"Don't look now, Honey, but I think there might be other ex-pats here."

The story that I have begun to spin for you has a personal nature, but also many things in common with any one else that has ever headed to a foreign country. I will wait hours in line for a visa, where you waited hours in line for a bank account. I might choose a home too quiet and off the beaten path, you unsuspectingly choose one too close to the noisy daily market. I hope our paths cross often and we can laugh and cry over the twists of our creation and how it fits just us. 

Friday, February 12, 2010

The Best Compromise

They call us Flatlanders.  We are people not born in Vermont and one never lives here long enough to change this status.  With few exceptions we arrived thinking that we would stroll in, buy an old farm with a beautiful barn and 10 - 20 pastured and forested acres. All of this would be along a rolling brook, sweeping views across the valleys to the mountains just beyond, and everything would be in great shape. Very few of us found this dream homestead. And those that did often found leaking window sills, rotten timbers, barking dogs and a road passing the doorstep. So, many of us chose to settle for being closer to civilization and a modified version of our neo-hippy dreams. 

I have not heard of a word for interlopers into villages in France. In Bourdeilles, they call us "the other Americans", because there were two here before us. All of us foreign adventurers start by looking at the property listings for country farms. In the Dordogne these farms are in the middle of nowhere. But the houses often come with an attached house that belongs to your neighbor.  The one with the constantly barking dogs. Or, "What a quaint sawmill across the lane." Can you hear the saws going all day? (Tom actually wanted to buy one of these!) And then there are the gypsies. People you don’t even know warn you that the gypsies will empty the house within the first week. 

With a little of the deja vu feeling of moving to Vermont, one’s eye starts to scan the listings for more urbane houses. Wouldn’t that be the prudent thing to do if one is not here 6 months of the year? Wouldn’t we get to meet more people? Wouldn’t it save Susan lots of time in keeping Tom supplied in bread? And so we ended up with the cutest house right smack dab in the middle of the cutest village in all of France. Lots of neighbors to keep an eye on things and lots of characters to get to know. Best compromise we ever made.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Small things we look forward to in Bourdeilles:
Being forced out of bed by the crazy bells.

Watching the swallows dip and dive along the river under the tower of the chateau.
Having the entire village watch us every time we cross the bridge for anything.
Trying to speak French. 
Our evening walks along the ridge.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Here is a small list of what we will miss from 3838 South Road. The gardens. The sunshine that streams into the windows on a below zero day. Walking out the door and going up to Ginger’s Pond and Moose Mountain. Amazing neighbors. Coyotes yipping in the night.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Everyone is afraid to come right out and ask, but you can hear it in their questions. How can you do this? 
Maybe we are too contained in our own little bubble world. Selfish? Lucky? Whatever, the best thing seems to keep taking advantage of it. Even we are not sure what ‘it’ is-- joie de vivre, escapism, adventure, lack of attachments.....
Once an idea takes hold in our imaginations it can get pretty darn big. Look at Tom’s art work. Look at the gardens. We’re not afraid to work, we’re not afraid to try new things. This time our dreams are leading us a bit further off the beaten path.

We can envision a happy life wherever we are. We can adjust to new routines.  We can tolerate being a bit lost - well maybe a lot lost. We can enjoy each others company. 

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Anyone that lives in Williston knows Tom and his truck. Her name is Rosie and she is very popular. This is probably because she is handy for friends to get things to the dump. But Rosie might also be popular because there is a bottomless supply of really unhealthy snacks Tom stuffs into the cab space behind the seats. If you are brave enough to eat anything that has been in that truck it is entirely at your discretion. And don’t think of cleaning it up as a favor to Tom. Think boys dorm rooms that have not been cleaned out for 10 years. For indeed Rosie is 10. And that is 10 Vermont Vieth years. (Double the real years for Vermont winters, double it again for the way Tom uses a truck.) But she is a very proud girl, a 2000  black Nissan pickup. Before her was another black Nissan Pickup, also named Rosie. When Tom got ‘new’ Rosie he only paid $500 dollars more for her than he had for the ‘old’ Rosie. He is so proud of that fact. Old Rosie’s tailgate was falling off and the garage simply could not pass her for inspection without it being way too obvious that they were cutting Tom way too much slack.  Now ‘new’ Rosie is listing to one side, she handles like a sled, and you don’t go into intersections too fast. Maybe because of the shocks, maybe it's the springs, goodness knows about the brakes. One’s teeth bounce together with the frost heaves* this time of year as there is no buffer between passengers and the axels. Rosie's tailgate fell off as a friend returned her and I’m sure she will not pass the next inspection. So what does one do? We decided to move to France before the cops could ticket the poor old girl.

**(Frost Heaves, for our southern friends think of a choppy day out on the ocean in a very small, fast speedboat and make that your daily drive around town. The frost heaves do go away sometime the end of April, if we’re lucky.)

Tom's transportation in Bourdeilles.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Getting the Images

To our friends on the east coast. Think about your thoughts as you realized you had to go to the mailbox, out to get milk, or any thing outside this past weekend. Now think about Tom running his paintings outside to photograph them so that I can place them on his web-site and here on our hatchling forum. Its been cold in Louisville, in Richmond, and in Baltimore - make it colder for Vermont. We were at 0 degrees for most of Thursday, Friday and Saturday. The great thing about these bitter cold days is that they are always accompanied with brilliant sunshine. Brilliant sunshine is what Tom must have for taking his images. If it was up to me I would display new images only when the thermometer reads 30 or warmer. Tom has a very different ethic and so here he is out at 5 degrees being sure his web-master will be busy and his clients up to date.

There is quite a contrast between the weather for making watercolors and the weather for taking images of them.
p.s.: all you southerners quit hogging the snow - we need some!