Au Revoir Stuff!

Happy Canada Day! Today I have a much-needed break from work so I decided to clean my apartment. The cleaning began with my room and then I realized the overwhelming task ahead of me and the cleaning ended with my room.

When I was cleaning my bedroom I decided to go through my stuff and pick out the things that I definitely want to get rid of before I go. I am sure I will have to do this a few times throughout the next couple of months. Everything that I will end up keeping will go into my parent’s basement until my return, or until forever. I did not pick out everything, just a few key things that I am sure I no longer want in my life. These things include old cameras (3) a huge stack of books that no longer interest me, some cheap jewelery that I could give to others, un-opened bottles of bath and beauty product, DVDs, and CDs.

Now that I have pulled out what I don’t, there is a new unwanted heap on my bedroom floor, exposed. After I completed the task, I look at the pile of unwanteds and thought “Shoot, now it is in the middle of my floor being unwanted rather than tucked away in some cosy space.” Oh well! I decided not to put it back in a closet or hidden space as that may cause me to never, ever get rid of the stuff. As they say, out of sight, out of mind.

Unless I have a super, itsy-bitsy yard sale (consisting of one table or so?) I won’t make any money off of this stuff so I am hoping that people (family and friends) will take what I do not want. The rest will have to go to charity.

With that said, there are definitely a few pieces in my unwanted heap (not physically in the heap but in the heap in my mind) that I can make money from. These include a perfectly good, working colour printer, an Toshiba LCD TV (DVDs included), an awesome, perfect condition acoustic guitar and a drum set. I have a few plans in mind for them. Kijiji and craigslist have been tried and tried again but I never have any takers. But I will try again, along with checking out how ebay works. My only wish is to sell these things to people who will really appreciate them. I have not yet told you the story about my new camera and how I ended up getting the best one possible for almost no money! (Tomorrow’s post, I promise). The man who sold me the camera only wanted to give it to someone who was so appreciative of it and I ended up buying it, as grateful as a person could possibly be! I do believe I have strong attachment to the guitar (16th birthday present) and the drumset (my first “big” purchase that I saved up for two years to buy off of babysitting money). But if I sell these items to someone who really will benefit, than their will be no attachment attached.

My goal for all this stuff: Gone by July 31st, and make money on the drums, guitar, TV and printer.

I am moving to France: The reality is setting in.

When I was in “obtaining visa” mode obtaining the visa is all I though about. I needed to obtain the visa, so as a result my thoughts were not as much on moving to France but on  collecting documents, saving money and learning French. Although I am still focusing on saving money and especially learning French, now that I have this work visa my thoughts have been changing.

Slowly, very slowly actually, the reality is setting in. The initial excitement came when I made the decision, but back then it was still a dream. Now it is not a dream and it is the reality and I am feeling a more dulled version of that excitement. Holy Moly! I really want to go do not get me wrong, it is just that sometimes I am a nervous freakazoid and the reality of the fear that I need to overcome in the next few months is what is causing that dulling effect.

These fears include:

  • The fear of flying
  • The fear of not having enough money
  • The fear of failing while I am there
  • The fear of not being accepted

Basically, when I review this list, these are basic fears a lot of human beings have to deal with.

What makes this situation a little perverse is that I am excited at the same time. And not just excited to go to France, but excited to overcome these fears before I go! I am excited because I am afraid. If you ever watch “How I Met Your Mother” you will know that the infamous character Barney likes to use the phrase “Challenge Accepted!” whenever someone makes a mere mention of a possibly impossible feat. When I look at that list above, I take on that same attitude: Challenge Accepted!

The only action plan so far is to chant and to avoid or brush off any comments suggesting I will fail, or any TV shoes (les emissions) that deal with crashing airplanes (When discover channel’s “Mayday” is on sometimes it seduces me in, but I will stay strong).

I am moving to France! Exciting!!!

Reading Up On France

In continuation with my previous post about reading books about France, I will give you my final review on the ones I read.

I already wrote about “France, A Love Story“. What a brilliant book! You really get the first hand accounts from everyday people (women in particular) and their personal experiences with the country. You have a lot of positive perspectives about the country and a couple negative reviews. It may not give you specifics about tourist locations, where to dine, how to get around, etc., but it does ignite these feelings and sparks in the pit of your belly and make you itch alllll over to get on a plane and get to France NOW! These woman describe the love, the food, the culture, the scenery, the emotions, and make you feel like you are in France.

Then there is Ernest Hemingway’s “A Moveable Feast“. Criticize me if you must but I really did not enjoy this book. Although he is a nobel prize winner and one of the best writer’s of all time, I found this true account slow. I kept getting distracted, I believe what he was saying (as it’s a true account) but I didn’t believe in it. I didn’t feel the passion of France that I was expecting. Maybe, just maybe, my expectations were too high. This is also slightly a historical account because it takes place in the 1920s. I was never a history buff and therefore some things were slightly meaningless to me. I hate to admit it, but I didn’t finish.

The book I was most excited about was “France for Dummies“. I was just getting into it when the due date came up from the library. The library system has this amazing online feature where you can log on to your account and renew the hold for an extra 3 weeks. That is, if no one else has already placed a hold on the book, which in my case someone did! Oh well, the early bird catched the worm, so they say. From what I did read, it was informative. As in all the Dummies series books, it was all information and it was all useful. It compares to the other tourist books about France. It is also geared to tourists spending just a few weeks in the country, which I am not.

And for all the books I checked out of the library my favourite has to be “Les Petite Folies Du Jeudi“. This is a French children’s book. Kids’s books are very useful in learning basic grammar and vocabulary, and the story is so cute and entertaining. It has nothing to do with France, but as it is simple and I can understand it, it is getting me excited to start speaking l’amour full-time.

I really have to get on more books. My readers have suggested a few so I am sure I will have another book review shortly!

Filling out the long term visa application for France

The title of this post spells out exactly what I will write about today.

As you may know, one of the very first steps I took towards moving to France was researching the types of visas and choosing one. After I chose the youth working holiday visa (2E) I logically printed out the online package (as linked on the right of this blog).

What I am trying to say is that I have had this visa package full of instructions, guidelines and the application forms themselves  for nearly 5 months. I could have filled out the forms months ago but instead I decided to save all the money needed, write my cover letter en francais, get the insurance, the photos, the photocopies, all-in-all, EVERYTHING completed. Yet, until a couple of days ago, these form lay unattended. I had peaked at them 10 or maybe 20 times over these 5 months but never dared touched them.

Why? You may ask. This seems like I pretty basic thing to do. Well, not when you are me! When this has been your dream for 10 plus years! When any mistake on those two pages can hinder your ability to obtain that visa! Ok, breather. I guess it is not that big of a deal. But when I looked at those forms all I could see were the side panels which read “for administration use only” and underneath this column lays two boxes (one to be checked off by the administration) reading “granted” and “not granted”. They will literally choose whether or not to give me the visa, right before my eyes, on that very application form. I better freaking fill it out correctly! On top of the pressure to fill these babies out perfectly, they come with a little glitch: The page attached explaining what goes into each box is wrong. The explanations do not match the boxes on the form so therefore I filled them out how I thought I should and had to disregard the instructions. French consulate, please review that page and fix it!

Finally, on Sunday, I built up enough courage to once and for all tackle these forms. I was as honest as I could have been, was very straight forward in all the boxes and I also have a verbal explanation ready for the boxes I filled out that may be ambiguous to someone trying to figure out what my plans are exactly.

Thankfully I have my boyfriend’s parents in France who are serving as my “home-stay” family just in case anything goes wrong while I am there. I added them into my application and their address as the place I will stay, even though I also wrote I will immediately look for a place in Lille. I am sure this could seem a little confusing to the consulate. “She says she will live in Lille when she arrives but she also says she will stay in Reims.” I tried my best to make the situation very clear to them. But anyway, I am ready with responses to any of their questions.

That box will be checked “granted” I am sure!

My Mini Quebec Adventure (part 1)

I am in Quebec City for a mini French adventure. I left the bustling, busy GTA and began my journey with Mon Homme on Sunday. It was a spur of the moment decision for both of us but the desire to come here had been hanging around for a couple of months. Why not? This is an excellent opportunity for me to practice my French and eat real French (Canadian) baguettes and croissants.

Is Quebec City real a francophone city?

Yes! I actually could not believe this myself. Quebec is the only francophone province in Canada (with the exception of a part of New Brunswick), but even so, the number of anglophone inhabitants is enormous. I was expecting to arrive here and have trouble finding people (such as restaurant servers, hotel concierges, tourist guides and so on) to speak French with. I have traveled to the province of Quebec before, stayed in Montreal and also Quebec City itself (eons ago). When I had attempted to speak French then, and the people realized I was anglophone, they would automatically switch over to English.

Well this trip is slightly different. I have my French Homme with me and I have asked him to only speak French. When people approach us or we need to speak with them, they will automatically begin the conversation in French and this time, instead of me using my broken French to try to communicate, Mon Homme steps in and voila, the francophone conversation is sparked. I stand there, absorbing as much information as possible and add in a “oui” (yes) or ‘merci” (thank you) here and there. The thing I find most fascinating about all this is that I can actually understand! And answer and ask questions back! The waitress asks me, in French, what I would like to order, and I asked back in French, “Do you have fruit?” (Est-ce que vous avez des fruits?). She answers back with a “Non, bla bla bla bla bla bla petite dejeuner” (No, ……….breakfast) I didn’t catch the whole sentence. But I definitely know that it means we only serve it at breakfast and I proceed to order the French onion soup. Awesome, I mastered my first French conversation! My months and money investing into private French lessons is completely paying off, and this confidence was well needed. Thank you Quebec City!

If you want to travel to Quebec City and do not know French, do not worry, most people will speak to you in English. Try to know a few phrases though because it seems obvious to my bf and I, that when we speak in French, all the Quebecois’ faces light up and we are treated better.

Is the food in Quebec divine?

The food in Quebec City is divine! Most of it is authentically French and from what we have had, it is all just simply wonderful. There are not chain restaurants in the old city and when you sit down at a French restaurant, expect the freshest food!

I guess, because this is a very large tourist hot spot, the prices are quite high. We have yet to find a cheap French restaurant alternative. With little or no alcohol, the average bill for a lunch or dinner we have had it $35-$40. But this is generally choosing the lower costing items on the menu.

Before I go on I must tell you about the latte from heaven that I had (Cafe au lait en francais). Starbucks lattes go from around $3.20 and up. What is the outcome of paying that price? The same boring drink, every single time, mass produced, a long line up, a headache from the smells of over processed foods being grilled and an average taste. For the same price here in Quebec, I had a latte, plus grande (bigger), made with the richest espresso I have ever tasted, served with the flare of adding latte art to top the drink off, and what tasted like the freshest milk ever. We ended up ordering two! Starbucks has lost my business.

Corner convenience stores also sell baguettes and cheese and wine and everything divine. To save some money today we will grocery shop for breakfast and lunch.

Accommodations

We are staying in a two star hotel, I found for an extremely great price on Expedia.ca. I honestly was not expecting much. The pictures online were not that awesome, although the place did look clean and the location was extremely ideal. Seeing that the reviews were mainly good, I decided to book. My main focus, of course, is getting to France, so I simply do not want to splurge on a last-minute four-day trip.

We walked in, Mon Homme spoke French and the woman we dealt with was wonderful. She signed us in, gave us the key and even listened to our conversation and provided us with the internet password without us even asking. On top of this, before we headed up stairs, she asked us if we knew the city or had a map. We didn’t, so she gave us an awesome map and directions on how to get to the old city (less than 10 minute walk away!). So far, so good!

We unlock the door to our room and to our delight, it was and still is, charming, way more than we could have asked for. The room in spotless, it comes with a fridge and cable TV (with every channel). The bathroom is spotless and well equipped. The bed is comfy and has a giant, bright white duvet to add to the awesomeness. Well worth the price (which was not much).

Getting around the city on a budget

The first thing we decided to do was go shopping. There are plenty of cute shops and we had to check them out. Upon exiting the first show store, I already had a new pair of shoes in hand (or on my feet this time!). I simply couldn’t resist the French flare the shoes had. They were perfect for style and comfort! A girl has got to invest in a pair every so often to keep her sanity!

The weather here this week is terrible so indoors has been the theme. We checked out some awesome art galleries, featuring Inuit sculpted art and another gallery with abstract painting. This of course, was free (gratuit).

We were hiding out, from the cold in the bottom level of the Chateau Frontenac where there is a strip of stores to be seen. After following the corridor (and checking out the stores) we arrived at a crowded area with a woman in costume at a desk. Castle tours were happening! We had to check it out and for $20 for two people, we would be entertained for an hour. Three words for you: DON’T DO IT! It was boring, we were led through a couple of hallways and given the boring (yes boring!) historical facts. We didn’t get to see the awesome suites, the swimming pool or anything that would, as Mon Homme says, “Make us dream”.

We then proceeded to the tourist information office across the street to see where the nightlife is in the city. Not only where we told where the nightlife is (too tired to check it out yesterday), but the kind gentleman also told us all the free museums we could attend and how to take the local bus to get to the waterfalls. Awesome! Today, we have a busy (low-cost) day ahead of us!

With all this said and done, if you have the chance, GO! This city is fun, funky and quite easy to navigate, I might add. My eagerness to hop on the airplane to arrive at my real destination has and is growing with every step on these Quebec streets. Now I know for sure, I MUST go to France! The real deal lays across the ocean, no anglophones chiming into the French conversation, no choice but to order my food in France, espresso and baguettes and food that I can only imagine, and a zest that I’m sure cannot be compared to this small Canadian city. My confidence is up and I cannot wait.

Until I write again, thanks for reading!

Useful links:  for travel to Quebec City check out these two websites: Quebec Region and Bonjour Quebec

A French in Canada

Soon I will be a Canadian in France. I will have to face the challenges of speaking the language and getting a job, supporting myself, and integrating into a new culture. I will be making new friends, finding my new fav places to shop and eat and starting with only two suitcases of my stuff.

My boyfriend, being a French in Canad, shows me how some of these challenges may play out when I am in France. As he, himself, has had to go through this process when he stepped off the plane (his English was already pretty fluent though!).

He needs to obtain a internship work permit here in Canada.  He already has a job offer and yet has to wait up to 44 days for the permit to be approved! How stressful this is to wait to work for a job that has already been offered!

My lesson learned, expect to wait in France and be financially and mentally prepared for this. I will also apply as early as possible.

Liability Insurance

Ok, so I have hit another obstacle. I do not own a car or a house and therefore I do not have an insurance broker. What does this mean? I am finding it extremely difficult to find liability insurance.

Here is the liability insurance journey so far:

  • I researched where to find this type of insurance and found out that one could obtain it from the same insurance broker that you have with a car or home
  • As I do not have a car or house, I decided to ask around
  • I had a lead: Tenant’s insurance with liability. I had heard that this would probably be my only option
  • I called up a well recommended insurance company and told them the situation. They told me it would probably be no problem and to call them back when I was ready to obtain it.
  • With my appointment one month away, I decided to get this insurance set up. I called the insurance company. The gentleman asked me to give him a week to do some research and he would get back to me.
  • A week and a half went by and I heard nothing, so I called him and had to leave a message.
  • I received a message in my inbox saying that he could not provide me this insurance and as far as his research went (which sounded pretty far), no one else was willing to provide me with this insurance either.

And now here I am…

The application gives you the option of signing an affidavit stating that I will obtain liability insurance upon arrival in France. The insurance broker did recommend I do this. My only worry about this is that I would have absolutely no idea how or where to get the insurance in France. What if I ran into the same problem that I have run into here? I will email the consulate asap and tell you how it goes. Even thinking about this gets my tummy flipping a little with nervousness.

The other option is to get my aunt to call her insurance company and add me into her plan with liability (I live with my aunt). I will do this asap as well.

I hope I will shortly have this problem sorted out.

If you know anything about this topic, or have been through the same situation, please let me know!

Thanks!

I Dream Of Consulate Appointments

I would love to have the “I dream of Jeannie” theme song for you to begin this post, but I am yet to be that computer savvy (I am sure it will come with time). Here is the written version: Do do, do do-do do do, do do, do-do do do do, do do, do-do do do do, DO! I am sure that will be difficult to understand if you have never seen that TV show!

Last night I dreamt of my appointment at the consulate. I remember the dream very clearly as it was the last dream I had before I woke up. Here is what happened: I am called to the desk by an older gentleman. I walk up to the desk, dressed casually with my folder in hand with all the documents. I remember having a gut feeling that I was not prepared enough and would not be granted the visa (of course my worse fears would be played out in the dream). The man begins to speak to me IN FRENCH! And I speak back in French, a very slow, broken French. I remember speaking, and saying things that made sense but at this point, I have no clue what was actually said. He decides to switch my case over to a younger woman. She spoke in English. She was going through the documents and I realized that I had forgotten to provide the necessary photocopies and I had not typed up the documents. The letter, for example, was hand written, in pencil, on lined paper (worst case scenario!!). I realized what I had done wrong and decided, on a whim, to ask her straight up, “So, can I have the visa?” She of course said that they would not provide the visa. Well, me being myself, decided to tell her that even though they would not grant it today, I had booked another appointment a couple of days later. I remember trying to reach the humanity in this lady and said, “Please, as a friend, since I will be back anyway, tell me what I can do to obtain the visa in a couple of days.” She looked at me, pitifully, and sighed. Then, she proceeded to tell me that I needed to type out my documents, provide the necessary photocopies (obviously!), dress professionally and use Aveda skin lotion on my face.

You heard me right! I needed to use Aveda skin lotion on my face! How this would help me obtain the visa, only my subconscious mind will know.

Even though this is a dream, it really brought me some insight. I need to take this seriously. My broken French cannot save me if I am not fully prepared. And because of this dream, I will dress professionally for my appointment!

I am now also seriously debating buying some Aveda skin lotion for good luck!

I woke up right after the dream. Mon homme lay beside me sound asleep, but not for long. I tapped him, calling his name, “Max! Max! Max!” He answered with a muffled yes. “Today, can we go over the letter to the consulate again?” he answered with another muffled yes and we both fell back asleep.

And with that I leave you with this: If you want this visa, use Aveda!

Thanks for reading!

The Plane Ticket

I am finally writing again after a very long (busy) break.

The bridal shower that I have been going on about is coming up in just a few short days and I am procrastinating everything until the last possible second. Downfall: The longer I procrastinate the more time I spend worrying about the shower, so I end up wasting time just thinking! Tomorrow, I have a day off of work, so I will powerhouse through the shower “to-do” list.

Also, I BOUGHT MY PLANE TICKET!!!! YAY!!! I think that is so awesome. I will give you the details in a second, but first let me rejoice!

I am so excited! Another huge step (and deficit in my bank account) and I am that much closer to being in France. I will arrive in France on the 16th of this coming September at 8:30 am! Wooooohooooo! The ticket even tells me the type of airplane I will be flying in, a 77W (the ones with a trillion seats)(ignore the exaggeration). I looked this aircraft up on Wikipedia to see how safe it would be. I know, I know, that may seem ridiculous. This is all necessary in getting over the fear, I need to know what I am getting myself into, prep myself, face it square in the face. But later posts in this topic. There were a few incidents with the craft but since the time of these incidents, corrections and improvements have been made. Good to know!

The Price

Total cost of plane ticket: $1389.92. Way more than I expected. (This is from Toronto-Paris with a stay of longer than 6 months). Just a note: The embassy will ask you for the plane ticket OR $1000 (from the Toronto region) or $1500 (from the Vancouver region). This is clearly NOT accurate! My plane ticket was $400 more than I had expected based on their estimation and I am booking way ahead of time. Generally, plane tickets get more expensive the closer you get to the date (unless you fly last-minute which may not be the brightest idea in obtaining a visa).

On being prepared for the consulate appointment

Based on what I have heard, and read, and researched, when you book your appointment with the consulate, you must be completely prepared. I would rather go to the consulate with a plane ticket in hand rather than the proof of the funds. I want to show them that I am ready and I do not want to take the risk of being rejected.

Buying a ticket for a date over a year in the future

Just a note when wanting to travel for the year: The consulate asks you for a return flight ticket. Air Canada and I am assuming many other airlines, do not have the schedules for the year ahead. So how does one book a return flight ticket? This was my initial excuse when wanting to provide the proof of funds rather than the actual ticket to the consulate. Well, call the airline, tell them your plan. Air Canada does not even give out open return date tickets so I let them know that I wanted a ticket but I needed to return on August 30, 2012. The rep on the phone booked me for the last possible date she could book me and wrote a note on the ticket to say my actual return date is Aug 30, 2012 and that when flights become available for that date, I can change it, free of charge! There, a great solution!

I printed the ticket out and had them send it to me by mail!

Plane ticket…Check!

Just a note on the supplementary travel health insurance

Five minutes after I purchased the plane ticket, I called Blue Cross and asked them for some travel health insurance for the year. You must call them if your travels are for a long period of time, and you must let them know that you have an extension with the provincial health insurance (which I received a month ago).

Cost of the supplementary health insurance: $701.

What an expensive day. Oh, but I am so excited!

Travel Anxiety Turns Into Excitement

Traveling can bring on great anxiety. This can be true for any trip, even if the trip will only last one week long.

I remember very clearly the stress my parents would always have a week before going on vacation. By the end of that week, they really proved the need for the vacation! I, myself, have traveled too and I always have that pre-trip anxiety. My mind jumps to all of the worse case scenarios: What if I forget something, what if I get stopped at the border, I don’t want to be late for the flight, did I print all the right documents? What if the airplane has a problem, what if I hate the place I am going…and more. Each thought glimpses through my mind for a few split seconds before I get distracted by another fleeting thought. Now imagine planning to go away for an entire year! This trip has the potential of bringing me great anxiety.

Tangent: Manifestation

I am choosing to go on a little tangent now, I want to talk about my little obsession with manifestation. New age pop culture has infested my mind with the idea of manifestation. I looked this word up to explain it to my FB (French boyfriend) but the dictionary definition proved unsatisfactory.

The dictionary says, “Manifest (verb): 1) to make clear or evident to the eye or the understanding; show plainly: He manifested his approval with a hearty laugh. 2) to prove; put beyond doubt or question: The evidence manifests the guilt of the defendant. 3) to record in a ship’s manifest. (Thank you dictionary.com)

I am clearly not talking about recording a ship’s manifest. Making something clear and evident to the eye seems more accurate. I am talking about physically manifesting a situation. Thinking and feeling something so often that it comes true (literally making something evident). Creating from nothing! In the negative terms, this can be a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Shakespeare's version of self-fulfilling prophecy in Macbeth

So, on top of all the normal anxiety I was having for the trip, I was also worried about being worried, afraid that I could physically manifest all of my worries. Until my FB said something that really changed my thinking. “If you are afraid of manifesting, why don’t you just manifest what you want instead, like a great flight and an easy travel.” It is so true! If  (and that is a strong if) I can manifest scenarios with my thoughts and feelings, than I might as well manifest good things. Positive thinking, in simpler words.

Anxiety is the same as excitement!

I have struggled with anxiety for a while and what really changed my perspective on the anxiety is when I was told that anxiety and excitement are located in the same part of the brain (do not quote me on this, I have no clue if it is true). The body’s physical response to these two feelings is identical: sweating, fast heart rate, etc. And what is so great about this little fact tidbit is that when I simply choose to switch that one negative traveling thought into a happier one, my body’s reaction is instantaneous. I feel excited!

I love feeling excited!

The idea of having to go through this challenge is now starting to really excite me. The idea of flying 30,000 feet over the Earth’s surface (going so fast!) is kind of cool. And going through the whole experience of settling for a year in a new country seems like it will be satisfying not impossible!

If my thoughts can really manifest something from nothing, than I will have a flight on the clearest day of the year, with no turbulence, arriving an hour early. I will have a job within the first two months in France, the French will love me, the visa will be handed to me no problem and all will be well.