Friday, July 27, 2012

Feeling summertime with cows and Paris parks

Again, it has been a while.  Last weekend though, we finally went somewhere interesting.  Previous to that, not much was really blog-worthy.  I studied constantly for my French Driving Theory test (aka the code) and crammed in the "required" driving lessons, bringing me to my devastating failure during my actual driving test.

The saddest thing about failing the driving test was that I wouldn't have failed had I understood more this bizarre intersection which confused me and therefore drove through a red line automatically disqualifying me.  There were about four stoplights visible at an intersection, using you go up to the front of the road rule and stop.  I kept going to go to the intersection.  I had every intention of stopping at the red light, but apparently didn't do it at the right one.  To be clear, there was no road between these two places to stop.  I still feel cheated in a way and the anger directed at myself was relentless for several days afterward.

Now, we are looking at HOW I will take the test again and when and where.  It is a very expensive, time consuming process from start to finish in any case and when you fail either parts of the test - there is only more time and money being spent.  Two of Hicham's good friends took THREE years to get their license.  Incredible.

Now, you would not be surprised to learn that there is such a thing as "license tourism" where French people go to other countries to get their license and then return to France and exchange it for a French one.  There are 14 US states which allow the exchange, NC was not one of them.  But anyway, driving here is so completely different and imo dangerous, that I would not have dared drive without knowing the rules anyway.  Not to say that I think spending hours upon hours studying FOR A TEST is really learning... but eventually some of it does soak in so I guess knowledge is transferred somehow.  But it is not a driving class as you might imagine.  Literally, you go to class and take practice tests over and over and over and over and over.  There are some explanations if you plead for the instructor to clarify, but the process is one where you WILL be made fun of for asking such a stupid question. 

Well, anyhoot, I also used the practive dvd tests everynight for hours and could barely sleep because I could only think about driving.  Well, the next step I take will be explored here next time, but I really have already reached my limit in discussing this topic at the moment. 

So, we finally had a weekend of fun last weekend.  I wanted to blog about it before this weekend started - and today is already Friday.

The Grignon Farm: The Positive Farm!
 On Saturday we went to an experimental, ecological dairy farm.  We were the only ones there until we left - when suddenly many cars arrived so that was really interesting.  And surprisingly, even though I am from Minnesota, I have never actually seen a cow being milked for real.  I have also never seen a dog herding a bunch of cows.  It reminded me of current day politics really.  The cows outnumbered the dog by many and could easily have crushed the barking furball with one step backwards, but they just kept with the herd with a nervous look in their eyes.

Note the herding dog moving um on out.
We bought some unpasteurized products for Hicham and Sabine to enjoy.  They are not recommended for pregnant women, though most French women do not heed this.  So, it probably isn't a big deal.  But well, anyway, I don't really care.  I miss booze more to be honest. 

They are actually free range cows, but they come in to be milked.

Well, that was Saturday.  Sunday we went to an outdoor jazz festival at the enormous Parc Floral of Paris.  It was my first time ever going there, now I ask myself why?  I have visited practically every single park, green space and forest in and around Paris.  This one turned out to be the best one yet!  Though I do love Bagatelle by our apt. 

Anyhoot, it was quite a discovery - both the friendliness of it, the variety of things to do, the easy-going vibe, the funky clothing, the energy of the place and well, the trees were huge and plentiful.  It was so great as well to hear such incredible percussion focused music and another funky jazz music group. 

Here are some of the highlights of the day.  The day included two firsts for Sabine too.

Xavier Desandre Navarre: a one man percussion wonder!

Sabine's first puppet show - a French childhood tradition.  It was a bit violent for my liking, so we left after about 10 minutes.  I mean, why on earth would the puppets need to assault each other? 
A drumming class for families in the trees.  Love that!

Perfect weather too.  Under that large awning was the incredibly diverse group Mulatu Astatke (below)

Eight wonderful musicians made up this band who rocked the park!
A zen garden and near by a bonsai house.

Sabine's first ice cream cone.  I only thought to take the picture as she was finishing it.  Ah well, I was enjoying my cone too:)

What people lounging on the grass?  And the grass remained green anyway?  Incredible discoveries here.

After leaving this delightful park, we walked back to the car.  I was in the picture taking mood so, here ya go:

I do enjoy Paris's tree lined streets.     

And finally, we haven't taken a group shot in a while.  So, this one is taken in front of the Vincennes Castle as we were almost to the car. 

It really was one of the best weekends we have had in over a month.  Finally!

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Midwife found! Code Test Results! Me, 7 months pregnant.

Well, Alright!  Hot damn!  The last few weeks have been a hazy stressful blur of dealing with the Frenchness of it all, but seems some hurdles have been overcome!  Sooo, since I last blogged, progress on the important stuff:

   We found a midwife!  At long last we have met a woman whom is cool and speaks English.  Sadly, she is not yet comfortable doing homebirths - which I am incredibly bummed about but I think it will still be fine.  Her name is Anne and she is new to the Groupe Naissance, the same people - who requested that I have the "debriefing" before being allowed to reuse their services.  Whatev.  I jumped through the hoop and after calling every single person mentioned to me from ANPA and other referrals through more phone calls and lots of dead ends, another midwife told me about Anne, who just happened to be at GN.  So, it turns out I was right to go to that meeting.

   I like her.  And that is all.

The French love medicine.
Oh, well of course not.  She seemed to like me too, which you might be astonished to learn that that feeling of being liked (appreciated, interested in) does not usually come across very well from folks in the health field.  You generally are made to feel like you are wasting their precious time and how dare you attempt to dig deeper and gain sacred information regarding your own health.  Just take the pill and shut the hell up - cuz they know things that you don't.  And they really, really don't like being questioned.

This contrasts the American experience, where you are advised to bring a list of questions to your medical checkups.  Of course, the caring and relationship based American experience can (and often does) put a person into financial crisis and can also result in many tests than are really needed.

So, the trick here is to keep up the search for someone you like and ALWAYS go back to them even if it takes a while to get an appointment.  We have a really cool family doctor guy who offers walk-ins several times a week (along with appointments and yes, house calls!) 

You can't let desperation guide health care provider decisions in France.  And so, I called as many midwives as I heard about, no matter what.  And finally, found Anne and *bonus* she is an ostheopath so that is really a great combo for me personally.  Another piece of great news is that the place where Sabine was born has closed (went bankrupt) and now the Groupe will be delivering babies in a different clinic (named Joan of Arc) which offers the same resources (bath tub, balls, etc). 

AND... we have started taking Hypnobirthing classes, with just about one of the loveliest humans I have even had the good fortune of meeting.  We already had one session with her and it was incredibly productive and interesting.  It also brought this pregnancy a bit more on our mental and emotional forefront.  As most of the pregnancy related attention has gone to logistics, this is a great step in the right direction.  Hey better late than never, right?  Anyway, we have our second session with Elizabeth on Tuesday.  I will provide more about that afterwards.

And for the horrific driving code (French driving theory and rules), which practically consumed my soul as I studied harder for it than any test in my life, I PASSED!!!!  Sadly, the school I went through are trying to sweep me away for a couple more months as they have overbooked themselves regarding on-road driving lessons (8 hours mandatory) which leads to the driving test itself.  They are expecting me to WAIT until Sept.  Now, I get it, I really do - they have no concept of what my life will be like in Sept.  Either: a) about to give birth or b) just having given birth and ergo being a on-demand feeding machine for several months.  I don't care.  So, we don't care about each other and I am going in on Monday to demand action.  I will keep you abreast with my progress (ha ha, punster!).
NOT Hicham on the left.

In the meantime, I am driving with Hicham to get more comfortable driving on the French roads.  This isn't going very well because he is constantly nagging  and stresses me out more than he should.  "Blinker!" "Watch out!" "You scraped the tire!" "Shift!" "You're sticking out too far!" Blah blah blah!  The reality is that French roads - or at least - Parisian roads have traffic coming from all directions all the time and so it is stressful enough without his yelling at me.  That, and with motorcycles zooming around you, the oddly placed stoplights, etc etc etc - driving here takes some getting used to.  Well, that is all it is, getting used to it.  Just more practice and handling of the merging lanes, rude drivers, small roads, etc. all will be well. 

And finally, per your request, here are some photos of me.  We took these yesterday, so they are current.  We also took them under the influence of Madonna.  Sabine and I were dancing and having some fun and I took the photos with my computer.  So, without further adieu, me seven months pregnant: