Thursday, September 25, 2008

My ability to turn the banalities of my existence in France into long-winded blog posts has not ceased to amaze me. It's too bad I haven't done anything amazing to regale you with, but there is still time for that, I suppose.

I have contacted the internet company, and due to the French's laissez-faire (can you even say that if it's actually about the French?) concerning work, it is going to take about 25 days to get the connection set up. I move in 6 days from now, leaving 19 or so sans connectivity. I am keeping my fingers crossed for a stray unsecured network near my flat, as the other option is a public internet cafe. And really, the French don't need to see me crying while using Skype at 6a.m.

Speaking of that healthy French work ethic, Amanda pointed out to me in an email that perhaps all of these delays in service are due to the 30 hour work weeks, the month-long vacations, and the constant striking that goes on here. Perhaps if people worked longer and went on strike less it wouldn't take a month to give a girl a little bit of internet. I was thinking of this today as I waited to apply for my temporary French residency card at the Prefecture de Police. The Prefecture is open Monday and Tuesday from 9 am until 3 pm (but they take a lunch from 1:30 to 2), and on Wednesday and Thurday from 9 am until 12 pm. To be seen at the Prefecture, Celine and I had to arrive at 8 am to stand in a line outside the locked doors. At 9, they let 30 people in--no more, no less. More are let in as those inside finish, of course. Once inside, you must take a ticket and sit down to wait your turn. People with children with them get priority, even if they didn't arrive at 8 am. I am fairly certain that I saw a woman discover this and then leave to call her husband. He arrived shortly after with a small child, and they were seen immediately afterward. I was seen at 11:30 am, one half hour before the doors closed, and only because the two people who had been ahead of me left before their numbers were called. After meeting with the woman at the window (who replied to me in English when I spoke to her in French...hmpf...), I was given a sheet of paper (unavailable online) listing the items I will need the next time I come repeat the same process again.

Now this could be due to understaffing at the Prefecture, or due to the few hours the employees are required and allowed to work. It could be due to the French work ethic. But while sitting in a hard plastic chair, glancing up from my book every few minutes to see those red numbers taunting me with "304" (so very, very far away from 312), I was reminded of an experience distinctly American, in my mind. Just as terrible, just as much waiting, and just as few employees. All I could think of, sitting in this beautiful building in the heart of Perpignan's historic district, surrounded by the French language, steps away from a bakery selling loaves upon loaves of crusty bread, was the Washington state Department of Licensing office. When it comes down to it, when it comes down to the bureaucracy and the waiting, and the offices, and the red tape, France is not much different from the States afterall.

After leaving the Prefecture with my list of required documents, I went out to one of the city squares to wait for Celine (she had left to teach a class). I sat on a bench in the sun, enjoying the 70 some degrees of weather that those in the Pacific Northwest just are not having right now. It was lunchtime, and stereotypically enough, I was passed by several people carrying loaves of French bread wrapped in paper. I had my camera with me, and was tempted to take pictures (encouraged and given strength by the tourists nearby snapping photos...But I didn't. I will, I will, I promise that I will, but just not yet. Anyway, in the square is this really cool structure that Celine says is the only monument in Perpignan (although I expect she is comparing Perpignan to Paris, and not to, say, monument-less Bellingham). It is from the 14th century, and is called Le Castillet. A portion of the building was destroyed during a seige by Louis XIII in 1642. Here is a picture that I didn't take of Le Castillet:

It was really cool to see such an old building, and to see the city center of Perpignan. Seeing the city center, and the outdoor cafes, and the narrow street walkways, and the bread, and the cool little shops, actually made me kind of excited to be here again...I am hoping to go exploring soon, once I get into my studio and out of Cabestany.


Chelsea said...

Personally, your ability to spin any banal event into a long-winded post pretty much makes my LIFE. You've totally jumped to the top of my favorite blogs...although I'd give up the blog if you were here to make soup with me today. I didn't watch Heroes either, because you couldn't watch it*. See what I do for you?

*Also, because I never liked it that much anyways.

Joe said...

The problem with organizations like that is that of course they are going to provide poor service, because they have no motivation not. What are they going to do, start losing business to their competition? No matter how little oxygen I am given by standard air, I need to keep breathing it, and I can't just choose to switch to a more oxygenated atmosphere.

B-Gabbard Fam said...

PS~How is the H2O in France? Love and miss you! Mess