Saturday, October 25, 2008

New Country, New Title

By the way, you may have noticed that the name of the blog has changed. Noelle is no longer in Barcelona, and my IESE ended a year and a half ago (though we all continue to drag it out as long as possible), but I am indeed a stranger in a strange land. I think I'll still feel that way even if I finally go back to the US.

So it was time for a change.

Speaking of change... a few weeks ago I started to get really stressed out over the fact that I hadn't received an absentee ballot and indeed wasn't even sure where such a thing would have been or should have been sent.

Fortunately (or not) for me, I had added my email address to two different lists in support of Barack Obama. Meaning that I get Obamaspam on a daily or even hourly basis. (Funnily enough, I'm not the only one, as I found when I happened across this article yesterday.) Anyway, in this case it was fortunate because the spam I received just two days after worrying I wouldn't get to vote informed me that I could indeed register still and even cast a write-in ballot by just going to Shakespeare & Co. bookstore, one of the most famous expat destinations in Paris.

So off we went, Frenchy and I. There were two volunteers working there, sitting outside in the sunny and yet not particularly warm afternoon, registering a hoard of people, some of whom had even weirder stories than mine. All of which needed explaining of course. The woman in front of me explained (moments after her young daughter announced to everyone, "Mom, you have the softest, smushiest butt for hugging!") that she was from Ohio and was worried that her ballot may have been sent there, in which case ... was she completely out of luck??? Another girl carried a US passport because her mom is from Kansas, but had never set foot in the States in her life.

So finally it was my turn, and Frenchy started laughing before I even got the first words out. I explained that I was registered in New York, but that I'd always voted absentee in California. The guy told me this was impossible, that I must have voted in NYC. Try as I might to explain to him it wasn't the case, he insisted otherwise. Finally I just said, "look I don't care where I vote, I just want to VOTE!" Since my last residence before Spain (and France) was New York, he started to look up the deadline for New York state, further explaining, "See it's all about the last place you were a resident in the US and the last place you paid taxes."


In that case, my last residence was actually Boston, where I lived for two months last year. Frenchy burst out laughing. And all the other people in line let out an "oooooh" of respect. Indeed my story was crazier than anyone else's. And the volunteer guy said excitedly, "EVEN BETTER! Massachusetts allows you to register right up to Nov 4 so you can vote via write in today and you may also receive an absentee ballot here in time!" Cool, so I can vote twice!

Trying my best to understand the write-in/absentee/re-registration process.

An hour and a half later, I was registered, ready to send off my ballot, and excruciatingly hungry. We ended up in one of the most touristy areas possible (hey, we were starving and near Notre Dame) and nearly got ripped off by an overly happy Greek restaurant owner. But at least I had voted...

Friday, October 24, 2008

A Month In the Merde

Actually, it has only been three weeks, but these three weeks have been absolutely merde-erific!

The good points: I've gotten to travel a lot, have seen plenty of friends, and our apartment is feeling downright livable thanks to the amazing Frenchy!

The bad points: I've had to travel a lot, rain and scooters really don't go well together, and I don't know where anything is in the apartment. (Frenchy's plan to make me absolutely dependent upon him, clearly.)

Main lesson learned from the first three weeks of this Frangoli adventure? If you are American, I advise against working for a French company on a Spanish payroll. Imagine the bureaucracy inherent in just ONE of those three, and put them all together... let's just say an unreasonable portion of my time and energy is devoted to figuring out how to get paid, what happens if I get sick, filing expenses that no one can account for... I will stop now because job griping is something from which I generally refrain, particularly in this frigid economic clime.

I'm just looking for a good excuse as to why I hadn't posted, and if that ain't enough for ya, then come over here and try it out for a week yourself! ;)

Friday, October 03, 2008


This morning Frenchy and I got up at 5am to get ready to head to the airport for our last flight out of Barcelona. Last night after the movers left, all we had was an air mattress, two laptops and wifi that (thankfully!!!!) won´t be disconnected until mid-October. It was kind of fun, in a way. Especially because we had Wednesday´s episode of America´s Next Top Model to catch up on.

So this morning when the alarm went off it was still dark outside and I was definitely sleeping on the hard wood floor. Air mattresses don´t really hold their air very long, do they? We packed up what was left of our belongings (not much - a few towels and a sheet and blanket to hold us over until our stuff arrives in Paris tomorrow) and headed out.

We got to the airport in plenty of time since no one is on the road at that hour and so you can imagine our surprise when we were told the flight was overbooked and we were thus on standby. Now, those of you who have read this blog for some time will know that I consistently have airline troubles and so this probably shouldn´t faze me. But something about the fact that I had to get to the office in Paris, Frenchy had interviews in the afternoon, we had to get to Paris to MOVE INTO OUR FLAT, ... just everything. It was too much. And I lost my cool, just a little bit, and might have sort of used my non-indoor voice for some good old American obscenities. Ricky Ricardo style, but in reverse.

The supervisor politely explained to us in Spanish that it was an ordinary overbooking, which happens all the time. Frenchy responded, "ES UNA PUTADA" To which the supervisor replied with a nod and said, "It´s a completely legal overbooking," and to which Frenchy replied in turn, "ES UNA PUTADA LEGAL!!"

At or around this time I decided to march to the Air France desk in a huff, only to have a now calm Frenchy suddenly become rational and say, "Wait, maybe we should check the bags at least and TRY to get on the flight." Hmph. Fine. So we had to go back to that supervisor and ask him to check our bags, which he did with surprising zeal and pleasantness. And sure enough, when we got to the gate, they informed us that all standbys would be given seats on the plane.

I like to think it´s all that yelling and huffing we did in multiple languages that got us on board... And let me tell you, if you don´t want to feel sad about leaving a place, just get screwed over by the national airline on the way out the door. You won´t regret a thing!

Anyway, now I´m in Paris. Again. But this time it´s for real. Tonight Frenchy and I will go to our new flat with almost no furniture and welcome our very first houseguest... Marco! A mini Calatrava reunion in gay Pareee! What a perfect way to kick off the next adventure.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Last Day in Barcelona

So I'm sitting in my apartment on Diagonal, surrounded by boxes. I got back from nearly two weeks in the US (a pitch that went incredibly well, followed by a weekend in Oregon for David & Lyndsey's wedding - more about those later) on Tuesday afternoon and went straight to see a lawyer about my work permit renewal.

It's amazing how fast things can go when you know who to talk to and you take things into your own hands. After waiting nearly five months to hear about how our relocation would work (how, when, etc.) and about my work permit being renewed, I decided finally to just deal with it myself and ask the right people directly rather than waiting for someone in HR to "handle" it. And it worked!

My work permit will be ready in two months. I dropped off my passport and work visa on Tuesday afternoon after getting off the plane and picked them up 24 hours later. Incredible. No lines, no forms, no nada. Just a really awesome lawyer who took care of everything. And this morning the movers arrived at our apartment. Frenchy had dealt with finding the right moving company and getting the quotes and booking the dates (because he is the best guy on the planet) and all we had to do yesterday as a result was pack up EVERYTHING into boxes.

And you know what? While we do have quite a lot of stuff (more than I had at Calatrava because this flat wasn't furnished), it's a lot less than I expected to have after three years. And the best part is... come Sunday afternoon, I'll have my scooter in Paris as well. The movers are sending it in the truck today!