Monday, September 27, 2010

Reward Points

Monday Memories today. An article from this same time last year. As I read this article, it was fun to compare my hopes last year to this year's reality. I spent the weekend with my girls in the Camargue this weekend. I DID discuss the nuances of a recipe with the man who made our fabulous seafood dinner. I DID make plans for the next outing with my 3 friends, and I DID understand one joke. One out of ten ain't bad! Next year, I will tell one. And I'm signing my lease for a second year this week. If I can get the damned landlord to actually put down his Pastis long enough to install a heater.

I move to my new apartment tomorrow. I am restless, and anxious. …and so excited that I am turning circles. It’s a big apartment, about 645 square feet, it has a kitchen with a regular sized refrigerator, a real oven, and even a dishwasher. It’s completely furnished and the furniture is …well…let’s just say it’s not my old down and leather furniture but it's one step up from college student furniture. It has 2 windows in the bedroom, 1 in the kitchen and 1 in the living room. The apartment itself is on the 3rd floor but it’s a duplex, which means it’s situated on 2 floors, which puts my bedroom and ….ta da…. my terrace…. on the top floor of the building.

Having a private terrace on the top floor might possibly make me the luckiest woman in Aix en Provence. Okay, I know another woman with the same feature (and far larger) but she is paying a whole lot more for her bliss. I can't even imagine how much because I'm paying a fortune.

The new place is great but what excites me the most, and makes me the happiest and the most tranquil, is that this is my place for at least a year. I’ve signed a lease, bought the insurance that is necessary, negotiated the contract and for the first time in 3 years, I have a permanent place to live. A place to unpack my few belongings. A space that I have no immediate plans to leave. An apartment that I cannot be removed from at a moment’s notice. A nest.

My friends were a little astounded (or maybe not) that I had signed for a year. The original plan was that I would come to France for a year, get it out of my system, and return to the U.S. and start a new life in a new city. What that life was going to be, I had no idea. But that was the plan. Well, plans change. I mean really, what person in their right mind would actually leave the Mediterranean and return to Minnesota in the middle of January!

So I’m here…. indefinitely.

Yesterday my young, British friend, Simon and I were having a conversation about our first days in France and how one proceeds through the often desperately lonely and very frustrating obstacle course of acclimating yourself to a foreign country. We were having this conversation while he was here attempting to teach me the proper pronunciation of French phonemes. We discussed the reasons why we have both spent so much time in the dark, not understanding conversation or culture and how often we asked ourselves “what the hell am I doing here?” The reasons are a story unto themselves but the fact is, he has done it, and I’m in the process.

And as Simon said, you spend the first years learning what you need to know, going through the work and the pain of becoming a part of a new, strange place, and when you’ve finally reached the comfort zone you do what? Go home???

That’s like losing 50 pounds and never buying fabulous clothes to show off your new body. It’s like spending a day cooking your favorite meal and throwing it in the garbage before you eat it. It’s like giving all your Christmas presents back before you open them... working a new job for a year and then leaving before you receive your bonus check... accumulating credit card reward points and never using them.

I cannot leave France before I cash in my points. And I imagine what I will receive with those points. I envision a lovely long dinner with friends, in the French fashion. It will be a beautiful, early-September evening and the arbor under which we are sitting will be laden  with dark, ripe grapes.  We will begin with aperitifs and I will ask my hostess how her son is doing in Paris and where she found that beautiful antique desk I spotted in her living room. She will tell me a funny story about finding it in an alley next to the garbage in a little village near Toulouse and I will laugh because I too am a garbage digger and we’ll make plans to go on a furniture finding mission.

Then we’ll all sit down to dinner, toast each other’s health with a lovely bottle of white wine and begin the seafood appetizer. One man will tell a hysterical joke and I will not only understand the words, but I will comprehend the nuances of french humor enough to know why the others find it so funny. And I will genuinely laugh.

The main course will begin with a new bottle, a nice, round, red this time, and we’ll dig into our pasta with a fabulous sauce that I know I must try to make. I will ask for the recipe and the hostess will tell me it’s so simple and will rattle off the recipe by heart. I will understand everything, and write the recipe (in French) in my little notebook. The conversation will remind me of a joke I heard last week and I will actually recount the joke and the others will laugh uproariously.

By the time the cheese course arrives, I’ll be telling a story about my first days in France and how I sat through so many similar parties but couldn’t participate. They will tell similar stories and we will commiserate and complain, and laugh some more.

Three or four hours later, while we are drinking our tiny cups of dark, rich coffee 3 other women and I will make plans for a trip to the beach next Saturday…with a little shopping thrown in on the way there.

Finally, at 1 AM, we will all kiss goodnight, I will invite a few people to my house for lunch next month, and we will all go our separate ways. And I will know that I’ve finally gotten my new clothes…. I’m finally opening my gifts.

That will be the reward. The work is good, when you can get it…. and I have!  But the bonus check...the reward points...are going to rock!



  1. Congratulations on your new place. Can't wait to read more about it. Please don't forget to show off where you live. Here is your fan waiting paitiently.(smile)

    Julie xx

  2. I love how you use the points idea. It's true - starting something new can be so difficult. Sticking to it so hard.

    I'm glad you did. I hope you're feeling more settled, more a part of France.

  3. A private terrance and large refrigerator IN Aix!!! I am very jealous and you are one lucky lady! Congrats on your second year lease :-)

  4. I hope my comments go up. I've been having problems responding!

    Julie- it's lovely but frustrating at the same time. I LOVE to decorate and collect and paint, and redo...not an option in a furnished apartment. Oh...if they'd just let me have a paintbrush!

    Lisa- heck yeah! I was walking down the street Saturday morning and ran into 4 or 5 people that I know. Felt really good.

    Sara Louise- I know, it's a miracle! Thank you. And congrats on your Franciversary (I had to go back and look up how you spelled that!) Do you ever give a hint as to WHICH village it is that you live in?

    Okay...I'm going to push the button now. We'll see if anything happens.....

  5. You must be nearing your "lovely long dinner with friends, ..": or, at least, after this semester in language school you WILL be there. You will leave me far behind in the dust!
    Your comments are coming through fine..

  6. ah, and so much work it is!!!! But what rewards, n'est pas???

  7. LibbY- yes...I'm getting closer and closer. I've gotten the dinners....just not the jokes!

    Holly-Oui, c'est vrai! Yesterday I had to pay a visit to the office of securtie sociale! Here we go again!

  8. Dear Delana,

    You are such a wonderful writer!

    You are now at home! I wonder if sometimes when we are born we land some place that is not right for us. We must then get us to a place that does feel like home, and you have.

  9. What a wonderful picture you paint - I was actually imagining myself to be there at that dinner - I could almost taste the coffee and smell the cheese! I've only just discovered your fabulous blog and read your profile and I am SO impressed with what you have done. It sounds so exciting and inspirational and above all SO RIGHT! Congratulations and good luck on entering your second year - may it bring you equal and increasing, happiness. I look forward to reading more xx


Talk to me!