Apartment hunting sucks

I hate hunting for apartments. I’ve hated searching for a place to live even in the states, why would I like it here in France? Back at home, I would use craig’s list and e-mail a bunch of ads and only visit the ones that respond. I don’t like telephone interactions so e-mail is my choice of communication. But here, I’m using leboncoin.fr and most people don’t respond to e-mails! I struggle already with the language and it’s much easier for me to read and ask questions via e-mail, but so far, only one person has responded to my queries. I visited the place and it was alright, except the place had a shared bathroom, and I didn’t want to pay the amount he was requesting for a place like that.

Yesterday was depressing too. I called three places that I had selected which I really liked on paper. It has private bathrooms and well furnished rooms that were close to the city center and I was looking forward to visiting them. The first two I called didn’t pick up so I left a message and the third one was already rented out. I waited the day out to see if the two would call back and they never did. What the heck?

A few new postings went up but they all were not ready until November and I really need a place now. If it’s this hard for me to find a place in Clermont-Ferrand, I’m so glad I didn’t get placed in Paris where the housing situation is crazy. Thank goodness for that.

Finally in Clermont-Ferrand

I’m finally in France! I arrived over a week ago in Paris and it’s been a hectic week figuring stuff out and getting around. A lot of things to talk about but my internet connection is a bit grumpy here in my hotel, and it kept denying me access to wordpress. Actually I’ve found out for some strange reason that Firefox works but Safari and Chrome can’t find the correct internet addresses… strange.

I’ve been trying to find an apartment by using leboncoinf.fr for the past few days now and it’s been tough. I’m trying to get over my anxiety issues about making phone calls in French, but it scares the crap out of me to make phone calls. I can manage to understand people in a direct face-to-face conversation, but over the phone, it’s just so much harder. My friend from Japan was having trouble when she was in the US and I totally, 100%, understand her difficulties, cause I’m having the same issues now. Kinda depressing when a conversation doesn’t go well and I just don’t understand what’s going on 😦

I still have some logistical things I need to finish up that I didn’t do before I left, such as my birth certificate translation. Fortunately, I met one of the assistants here in the region and she was able to help me out a lot by showing the city to me and also giving me the contact information for a certified translator. That being squared away, I really just need to get an apartment so that I can have an actual address to start opening bank accounts and such! Ugh. So much to do!

Letters and 5955

Letter writing in French (even if it’s an email) gets me so nervous! I guess I’m still lacking confidence with my French skills and I can’t be parted with a dictionary. How will I ever be able to survive without a smartphone! I’ve had a few correspondence with my responsible teacher in France, mostly to answer my questions on some lodging and what expectations are there, so it’s simple French, but still.

I’m leaving for France in a week. It’s so surreal, I still can’t believe I’m headed out there to live and work in a foreign country. I’m going to really need to adapt to a whole new climate, environment, social life, and language. I’m excited and also scared. I learned that there’s a new rock climbing gym in Clermont-Ferrand and I’m super excited to meet some fantastic people and get some amazing outdoor rock climbs. I want to find a great place to live that’ll give me access to a lot of places but still feel like home. And so 5955 is the first of many numbers that’ll be associated with Clermont-Ferrand for me. 5955 is the SNCF train number I’m taking from Paris, and I just finished booking it. This is way exciting and I don’t even know how to express it all. Hence, let me end with an inspiring quote by Mark Twain:

Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.

3 more weeks!

It’s starting to sink in *real* bad. I leave for France in 3 weeks. 2 more weeks of work, and I feel like I have senioritis. You know that feeling you get in your senior year in high school, everyone around you is ready to get out, eager for the next step in life, and you just stop caring about school… I’m sitting here in my office with my to-do lists. Yes, that’s plural — one is for my work transition, the other is for my expatriate adventure to France. I honestly don’t feel like doing work anymore. I want to get busy with planning for my move to France and getting things together.

So here’s a list of logistical things I (still) need to get done:

  • Birth certificate translation and verification
  • Find housing
  • Have my Jury Summons postponed/cancelled (I have it scheduled for 10-15)
  • Figure out health insurance
  • Banking details
  • Taxes (US and French)

Last Class at AF-Pasadena

I chose Alliance-Française de Pasadena almost on a whim. It was close to my apartment in Pasadena and I used to see the French flag when I walked by old town, so it felt legitimate enough for me to try. But I have to say that it’s grown to be so much more than I ever thought it could be. What made it so great were all the people I met through the school. The teachers, the students, and even the admin, they all were very kind and caring people!

The other week was my last class at AF. We decided to end the class early and celebrate the end of a year of studies as well as a petit farewell party for me. We headed to a local creperie in Old Town Pasadena and just relaxed over drinks and food. I wish I took a picture of the group which totally slipped my mind, but I had a great time with these people. Such unique students, and a very passionate teacher, and the instruction method just worked for me. A lot of people dislike the Alter Ego study books, and they do get dreary, but working on the listening and actually talking in class was so helpful. I am forever grateful to have taken the classes and I highly recommend anyone to at least try a class out.

There’s an open house on August 31st, so if you’re curious, definitely check them out!


Visa Application Appointment

The Visa application process was extremely…. easy for me! Maybe it’s just my obsessive-compulsive nature but I was probably only at the consulate for 15 minutes! It’s great that I live just 10 minutes away from the LA consulate office and I used that as an excuse to get out of work for a full day! But the actual fiasco was with my appointment date, not the actual process. Allow me to explain.

My original Visa application appointment was on July 26, which I made back when I first decided to accept the TAPIF program. I figured end of July would give me enough time for the arrêté to arrive and some time for me to prepare all the documents. But on July 15th, I panicked when my arrêté hadn’t arrived, and when I re-checked the Visa rescheduling, it pushed me all the way out to the end of August! At that instant I thought crap! I can’t wait until I get the arrêté to make an appointment for it’ll definitely push me out to a September appointment date. So I re-scheduled to August 26th, cursing myself for not thinking about rescheduling earlier.

And then the arrêté arrived the next day on July 16th. Are you kidding me!? I just friggin’ changed the appointment date! I probably had too many cursory words flying out of my office that day. I tried calling the consulate to reschedule my appointment but they tell me it’s only through the online system. I go online but the earliest date is still August 28th. I mean, it’s not a bad date, but I get anxious and I hate waiting on things. So this is where it gets desperate…

I noticed that the consulate’s online system doesn’t really show dates until 1 month after your current date, and it got me wondering (and also worried) how the reservation system works. I started digging through the javascript code to verify that the system does really look for all dates (and doesn’t automatically add 1 month to your current date). It was actually having fun reading through code written in French. I’ve never seen variable names like “iMois” and “iAn” or function names like “afficherCalendrier”… (yes I am an engineer after all). In the end I found that it does search all dates so what I did for the next hour was to keep refreshing the page every 10 minute or so, looking for new dates to show up. What I got was 9:45AM on July 17th.  I was probably abusing their servers and putting up a red flag but I didn’t care. I got my visa appointment, got all my documents ready and headed out.

My visa was done the following week, went to pick it up, and now I’m ready to depart for France!

TAPIF Placement

I got my Arrêté de Nomination! I will be sharing my time between Lycée La Fayette in Clermont-Ferrand proper and Collège Anatole France in Gerzat, which is like 15 minutes away from the city center. I tried to visit their websites but the whole Auvergne district servers are in maintenance until Friday. Boo.

I was a bit confused when my arrêté arrived because it didn’t look like the example shown on the TAPIF guidebook. It was sent to my parents house so I asked them to scan and email me so that I can see it, but then it didn’t have a stamp by the DIRECCTE nor the DDTEFP as the guidebook says, which worried me. But upon closer inspection on this faded stamp, it was marked by the Ministère du Travail, so I’m pretty sure it’s the official one now. Visa application next!

The Liebster Award

I got a nomination for the Liebster Award by eyelean the other day! I was totally blown away by the very nice gesture and it makes me proud that my blog has actually continued for over a year (that’s a record for me). I hope this means there will be more to come, specially during my TAPIF experience in France!


So the award is really to promote blogs (those will less than 200 followers) so that more people can find out about cool blogs that people are interested in. I’m following Je Parle Américain‘s “best practices” of the Liebster Award, which constitutes of 5 part as below:

  1. Post 11 facts of yourself.
  2. Answer the 11 questions posed by your nominator.
  3. Nominate 5 new bloggers.
  4. Pose 11 questions to the nominees.
  5. Notify the nominees.

Alors, on y va!

Partie I: 11 Facts of myself

  1. I’m not tall, but I’m not short – right in the middle between 5′ and 6′.
  2. I’m from Southern California – i.e., I was born in LA, went to college in the OC, work in Pasadena, and live in the west side.
  3. My parents wanted to name me Momoko (Japanese name meaning “peach girl”) when the doctors thought I was a girl on the ultrascan. Coincidently, my initials are sans the vowels (or is it a coincidence?)
  4. I’ve studied a few languages in the past – Japanese, Spanish, German, and Chinese, but I’ve settled to learn French.
  5. I self proclaim myself as the lazy geek that doesn’t want to put in additional effort, so I stick to using Apple products instead of a PC.
  6. I used to play the flute and was once in the university orchestra as 2nd chair. Also plays the piccolo.
  7. My favorite composer is Sergei Rachmaninov, but I listen to almost anything.
  8. I suck at hearing lyrics. I somehow tune out the words and only hear the melodic motifs.
  9. I can remember many useless things, but I wish it would help with my vocab skills.
  10. I get sick every time I travel, but I’m always planning for that next trip when I probably should be researching homeopathic preventative methods to keep myself from getting sick in the first place.
  11. I have stuff up on Mars. One is an x-ray fluorescence (XRF) instrument, and another blew up after it completed its job of landing the Mars rover (yes… it was supposed to blow up).

Partie II: Response to the Nominator’s Questions

  1. What’s your favorite travel destination, of any of the places you’ve ever been to?
    I have yet to travel to many places and I hope to achieve more travelling in the future, but within those places that I have visited, I have to say that my favorite is Japan. Although I’m Japanese by blood, Japan is still foreign to me, but at the same time, it’s home to me too. It’s difficult to explain but I suppose it’s the combination of the culture, the language, and the people.
  2. Do you have a favorite quote?
    Yes. I actually learned it from a blog response by Ray when he quoted Paolo Coelho: “When we least expect it, life sets us a challenge to test our courage and willingness to change; at such a moment, there is no point in pretending that nothing has happened or in saying that we are not yet ready. The challenge will not wait.” I’ve been going though a lot of things lately (work, personal life, romance, career, my future), and I came across this quote which really set in my mind that doing the TAPIF program is the right thing for me now.
  3. Why do you keep a blog?
    I started this blog when I felt that I need a change in my life and I decided to pursue living abroad for a while. At first I started this as a portal to share my language-learning experiences and my progress towards moving and living in France. I plan to continue with this blog during my stay in France, and hopefully there will be more than just the TAPIF program.
  4. What’s the best movie you’ve seen recently?
    The King’s Speech comes to mind. Craigslist Joe actually made me feel like there’s still hope in this world that people do care about other people and that social media and the Internet isn’t everything. Martin Sheen’s The Way makes me want to go hike the Santiago de Compostela.
  5. How do you most like to spend your time when you’re not working/fulfilling some other obligation?
    Spending quality time with friends over coffee or drinks. I’m usually trying to find the time to get some French studies in, but it’s been hard lately with work and getting ready for France.
  6. What foreign language(s) do you speak and how did you come to learn them?
    I speak Japanese fluently thanks to my parents. Although I never liked going to two schools while I was growing up, now I can appreciate the capability of speaking a second language. I’ve been studying French since high school, but I was never a good student and I always had Cs. It’s not until recent that I started studying French more seriously.
  7. What is one of your favorite songs?
    I can’t name songs, sorry. See explanation above. My favorite piece is Piano Concerto No. 2 by Rachmaminov.
  8. What’s the worst job you’ve ever had?
    I don’t think I’ve ever had a job I disliked. Let’s see, I used to work as a pharmacy delivery boy, mechanic assistant, proctor, tutor, teaching assistant, electronic component engineer, and now an RF engineer. Worst could be the delivery job, but I got some good tip money on the side, so I couldn’t complain.
  9. The best?
    I shouldn’t complain about my current job, as it’s very secure, technically challenging, thought provoking, and I mean, how many people get to say they’re exploring the final frontier – outer space! But it does come with a high level of stress with governmental bureaucracy and dumb procedures and processes.
  10. What job did you want to do when you were little?
    I wanted to be an ophthalmologist. I remember visiting the eye doctor and was so fascinated with the drawer full of lenses and optical tools and my parents were really happy to hear that. I think I dropped that idea when I learned that most eye doctors need to deal with surgery of the eye and I squirm just thinking about it, so no.
  11. If you won the lottery, what would you do first?
    I’m pretty practical with money, so I would set up a way to keep the income rolling while I go around the world to travel.

Partie III: My Nominations

  1. AngloFrench Adventures
  2. Ça plane pour moi
  3. Je suis Mimsy
  4. LittleMissFrenchified
  5. Nika Likes Maps

Partie IV: My 11 Questions for the Nominees

  1. Where is the most bizarre place you have ever traveled to?
  2. What languages interest you (other than French)?
  3. What is the first thing you notice/look at when you meet someone?
  4. What is your pet peeve?
  5. Where do you plan to be in five years from now?
  6. What is your favorite beverage? (juice, soda, wine, liquor, you name it).
  7. What was the most happiest moment in your life?
  8. Do you have a favorite word?
  9. Who do you find inspirational?
  10. What was the craziest thing you did during your childhood that resulted in a punishment?
  11. Cat or dog?

Alright, the nominees are notified. Hopefully this sparks some interesting posts down the line 🙂

New “Original” Birth Certificate

So I’m hesitant to bring my original birth certificate into France, so I decided that I should get a certified new original through vitalcheck.com like the assistant handbook recommends. I was putting it off for a bit, but I finally sat myself down and started filling in the information it asked. Everything went well until after I hit the pay button and submit my order.

It turns out that the LA County Registrar/Recorder requires more information – namely, a notarized Identity Verification Form! I glanced at the site a few weeks back and it didn’t look like I needed extra steps so that was my primary reason for putting it off, but now I have to go print out this form and get it notarized.

Just a warning for those needed birth certificates: vitalcheck.com requires a notarized identity verification form at the end!! The easiest way I’ve found to get a document notarized is to goto a UPS store. They typically have a notary public at the store.

I still need to get it translated and get an apostille after all this…