Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Laughter echoes in your eyes

Another glorious day in the Sun!

It has been a busy couple of weeks, work being what it is and having some fun along the way.

Last week we had an inspection on one of the planes that caused it to be grounded for a few days. Problem was, it was needed to fly the next day. So we did an emergency role conversion on the other one into passenger mode so that we had it for a mission to fly some big wig around someplace. Made for a bit of a busy week.

Saturday, Pedro, Bo and myself went out to Paul Ricard's Hight Tech Test Track and Karting Test Track to play on the go-karts there. Well the other guys did, I haven't had a chance to play in the low horsepower karts yet to see how I do to be allowed to advance up to the bigger ones. That and my arm is hurting quite badly and I didn't want to make it worse. Still, it was fun being there. It is more or less and "invite only" place, making it more exclusive than most. That and all the Ferrari's screaming around the place showing off made it trés bonne!

This week has been slow, the air traffic controllers over here are on strike (first the taxi's, then the grocery store, taxi's again and now ATC!) over something that I don't know. Going on strike is a French national pastime, almost as important as coffee breaks. But with ATC on strike, we had a couple of days where there are no flights, so it was mostly walking around, kicking the tires and that was about it.

Today Gus, Mary and myself went down to one of the government agencies that does the medical portion of our visa applications. Mary and I were both due to get x-rayed and examined so that we can get a little card saying that we can stay in the country. The building was in Marseilles, and the directions that we had were a bit foggy, so of course we got lost. There really isn't any order to streets in these old cities, they kind of just go everywhere in any direction. Also, street signs are either not there or they are nailed to the corner of buildings, 10 metres from the street so that you cannot see them as you are driving. We ended up going the wrong direction twice, until Mary recognized one street and guided us to where we needed to go.

Once we were there, then the waiting started. We checked in and were told to sit down and wait. We waited there, then when we were called, we went to another room to wait some more. Next, a little room to remove our shirts for x-rays, waited there, then we got to hug the x-ray machine, back into the little room then outside to wait some more. Once we had our x-rays (I have an x-ray of my chest which I get to keep forever! lol), then we were off to another room to wait for a doctor to see us. Of course, all these rooms were full, and the temperature was way to warm for me. Finally, after another fairly long wait, I got to see the doctor. She was mostly checking for Tuberculosis and other major diseases that I could be bringing into the country. Which leads me to ask, "Why don't we get a medical BEFORE we enter the country?" Wouldn't that make more sense, so that if I did have TB, I could stay out of France and not spread it around? Never will get an answer I guess.

Anyway, I am healthy other than my sore arm. Now I wait for that agency to send my file over to the Prefecture to do the rest of the work. This could take another 6 months I have been told. It took Gus 10 months to get his card, and then one month later he had to re-apply for next years visa! You did notice that I said that they will send my is a paper copy. NOTHING is done with a central computer system here. Everything needs to go through about six or seven agencies, lawyers, etc. and it all gets sent as paper. I was given a bunch of copies of things that I need to give to a bunch of different people here there and everywhere, but some need to be the original, some copies of the original only. The hoops people need to jump through just to get a visa here!

Since I was up early dealing with this crap, I got the afternoon off from work (getting the visa stuff done is considered work.) So I took a nice walk into Aix to go to a couple of book stores and to get myself a banana-Nutella crepe. =) I am trying to work on my French, but it is hard without a good French-English dictionary, so I bought one of those. I also bought a graphic novel (one of the Hellboy series) written in French so that I can practise reading French as well. I was also thinking of asking Mary if she wants to maybe help me with my French once or twice a week, so she can make a couple of euro's and to give her something to do (she tried to get a job before, but no one would take her, and so this time she just got a visitor visa.)

Next weekend, I am taking off to Denmark to visit with Megan, Hans and the newest member of the family, Camden. I have been looking forward to seeing them for some time, since I missed them at Christmas. It is always nice to be in Denmark, a lot more green than here, and with the grey skies, rain and cold weather, it will be like I am at home. =)

Saturday, February 02, 2008

All around me golden sunflakes settle on the ground

I think that I have fallen in love with the Sun again. It is out most days, and if we have a cloudy day, it is usually gone the next. It is still chilly, but only light jacket chilly most of the time. Well, for me anyway; the French are all wearing heavy coats, scarves, and mitts. Must be my Canadian blood keeping me warm. =)

I haven't been up to much lately, work has been slow most of the time, except a trip to Hyères to fix one of the planes so that we could get it home. We had changed a component on one of the engines, and it was bad from overhaul, which made it difficult for the propeller to go into reverse for braking. It is not needed, but when you don't expect it to fail, the trip down the runway becomes a bit less of a straight line.

I was going to go up to the mountain today (still might) and take some photos of the sunset. Originally I was going to go ride my bike up the mountain, but the wind is blowing really good, and it is a bit too chilly to be wearing shorts and no jacket on a bicycle. Also, Pedro asked to use the van to go help a friend move a new TV. It was a bit too big to fit in her car (50" screen, ya a bit to big!) and Pedro is a bit smitten by Chloe so he said he would help her.

I a thinking of taking a trip to Nimes tomorrow for a photo trip. Nimes is another ancient town that was built by the Roman Empire about 2AD. There is a famous old coliseum (that is still used for concerts!)and also a Roman Temple that has been used for many things, including once as a stable for horses! I am sure that it would be more beautiful in the spring, but now there will be less people there now. There is supposedly some beautiful fountains and of course the old architecture that is famous in these old Roman towns.

In a couple of weeks, I am hoping to take a quick trip to Denmark for a weekend to see Meggie, Hans and Camden. It is hard to sit here in Aix all the time, knowing that you are always on call. Being up in Denmark gives me just a little bit of freedom, which is good for the mind. I have also been asking when would be a good time to come home for a visit over the next few months. I was hoping in April, but it looks like Gus has that booked off. Might be end of March or maybe May.

Of course, there still needs to be a trip to Paris for a weekend. I might wait till April for that one so that the weather is a bit nice.

My arm is still sore, all this working without resting it is not helping. Even a weekend away from work doesn't help. Typing, writing, shaking hands (things that I need to do way too often) aggravate it a lot, and even with the brace that I bought and constant ice packs, I am not getting better. I am hoping that I can make it home and see my doctor for his opinion (I know what it will be already). Maybe he could prescribe me some anti-inflammatory to help with the pain for day to day activities.

We will have to wait and see.