Friday, October 14, 2011

Just keepin' truckin' along...

Let the lessons begin! R&C started French lessons this week. A great Burlingame mom is teaching them so it should be good. I ordered the Fluenz French software for myself. Decided Rosetta Stone's immersion method isn't really my style - I'm much too analytical and like to know the rules behind things. Just got the box but haven't tried it out yet. I sure hope it's good after what I paid! When we get to France I'll be hiring a private tutor as I want to move as quickly as possible in my language skills. The 2 years I took in high school (waaaaay too long ago!) isn't very helpful!

I've been trying to read some books and blogs about people moving to France to try to get an idea of what I'm in for. You can see a list of blogs listed to the side of mine. Here are some of the book titles:
Friend or Foe - very interesting look at cultural differences and the thinking behind them
60 million Frenchmen can't be wrong - didn't get to read much of this one. Might need to check it out again.
Almost French - a woman falls in love with a Frenchman & moves to France. In the book she talks about her experiences acclimating to the French ways.
Paris with Kids - an American woman moves with her husband to Paris for his job. This wasn't a very well-written book, but still interesting in it's way.
These books have been very helpful in giving me some insight into why the French are the way they are. And how different Americans and French are! Hopefully some of this knowledge will help me from making major gaffes - though I'm sure there are plenty in my future.

I also bought a French cookbook that was highly recommended - "Around My French Table". Full of recipes for French home meals - I thought I might find these useful for when cooking at home. As you may know I love cooking, and am terrified about not knowing what ingredients are, how to use them, etc. But it should be fun learning!

No other real updates yet - still waiting. E&Y finished my Letter of Motivation, they are trying to get the proof of insurance taken care of by NXP, and also trying to come up with a list of what documents we will need to provide - I hope it's the ones we have! They are going to "present" all these things to the French Consulate here in San Francisco very soon hopefully. S has a call with E&Y and HR tomorrow, and he's going to try to get them to give us a timeline. They say they are shooting for December, but what does that mean? If the girls are to start school January 3rd, we need to get over there by around December 28th so they have a chance to get over jet lag. And that means somehow moving around Christmas which presents all sorts of problems. Plus we need to have a house over there to move to! So we need to make sure everyone is on board with the fact that we need to move ahead on some items before the Visa is finalized.

Good new is that HR mentioned a family house-hunting trip again today. I checked the calendar & the kids have conference week in November where they get out at noon every day & have Friday off. So that would be a good week to pull them out of school since they won't miss as much. I'm hoping S can get the ok for that trip so we can get a move on with the house stuff. When we find a house (& the town we want to live in), I'll have a better idea as I look around our house here of what we will ship over.

We are also hoping to visit the girls' school while we are over there. It would be great to see it, meet their teachers and fellow classmates, etc. I have been so impressed with everything about the school so far and am so excited for the opportunity for the girls to go there. The administrators and teachers I've talked to so far have been so welcoming, helpful and kind. It is an American School (ASP) so it is taught in English and the adjustment shouldn't be too tough on R&C. They are very nervous, sad and excited by the opportunity - as we all are I think!

ASP has a ski week in February and there is an organized ski trip sponsored by the school for 3-5th graders to go to the Swiss Alps! Nice. Both R&C have actually said that they want to go. So that means S & I will be able to take a vacation without kids in February! Got to start thinking about where we want to many choices...

No bites on the car yet as far I know. Come on, doesn't someone out there want to buy this beauty? We need to sell this one so that we can pay off the Prius so we can ship it over...

OK - off to enjoy dinner & drinks with a girl friend,


Thursday, October 6, 2011

Checking things off the list

Today was a busy, though successful day in terms of getting things done.

First was taking the dogs to have a temperament screening at a dog hiking and boarding place. With S away living in Eindhoven I need some back-up with the dogs. So we needed to check out the place and they needed to check out the dogs to see of it would be a good match. Seems good, so that's nice. The dogs will get picked up at my house and be taken on an all-day hike - good exercise for them. I just can't get to them every day of the week so this will be fun for them. In addition I will board the dogs there when I need to go out of town and my regular dog/house sitter is unavailable. Whew! Take that stress off and give me more freedom & flexibility - yay!

Next was going to an auto broker to sell the first of our 3 cars. The fun, hardly driven 3rd car is the first to go - the Porsche Boxster. So sad to say goodbye...what a great, fun car. So worth it to have them sell it for us since it's not an insignificant amount of $$ that has to be dealt with. We can effectively cross that To Do off the list. Keep your fingers crossed that it will sell quickly.

Met with the relocation company that will be handling our move. Went through every room and had to say what was being shipped over and what was being moved to storage. Not a small job! I'm starting to feel overwhelmed at the prospect. Though I know I have it way easier than most as this company will pack everything and the company is paying for it. Still, we have a s***load of stuff and we really should go through it all first! Exactly what we ship will of course depend on the house we get in France - which we probably won't know for awhile. Depends on how big it is, if it comes with any furnishings, will any of the bedrooms be big enough for our King bed, etc. We would love to have 4 different shipments: 1 sea shipment that happens sooner, 1 air shipment that happens right before we move, 1 sea shipment right before and 1 car shipment. The car thing is tricky as the EU requires that you own a car for at least 6 months before it can be brought in. We don't technically own the Prius at all - the bank does! Hey - they offered 0% financing. How can you beat that! But it looks like we should pay the whole thing off. If we ship it over, the sooner we pay it off, the less time it will sit in storage in France waiting. If we don't ship it we still need to sell it & that would be easier to do if we own it outright. to dig up that much $ somewhere...:-)

OK 3 big things off my list today. Pretty good. A little at a time and it will all get done. Right? S has an update call with Ernst & Young tomorrow - hope they are making headway on their end on getting those Visitor Visas for the girls & I. Still haven't gotten the apostilles for R&C's birth certificates yet. Any day now...

Time to take a break and enjoy a night out with S and our friends. I'm thinking something within walking (stumbling) distance to home. Probably brewery. Since I ripped my temporary crown off this morning and had to go back to the dentist to get it fixed (in between all these other things), I deserve a TALL beer! Though I'll have to sip it through a straw to avoid my tooth. :-)

Happy Thursday all...


Looking Like Paris!

It seems that S's company got a verbal "YES" from a Senior French Official about the girls and I being able to move to Paris! Yahoo! We  have moved from 70% chance of France being the winner, to over 90% chance. Now we need to go through the bureaucracy of getting residence permits for myself, R & C. S will just be on a tourist visa every time he comes to see us. There will still be plenty of hoops to jump through but it's looking good that we will get our 1st choice of living just outside of Paris!

Steps we have to take:
  1. Apply to the French Consulate in San Francisco for Visitor Visas.
  2. To apply, we need the following
    • Provide copies of bank statements showing I have sufficient means to live in France
    • Proof that I have private medical insurance for us
    • Proof that I have accommodation in my name in France
    • Proof that the children are registered for school in France
    • A "Letter of Motivation" from me written in French
    • Original marriage certificates and birth certificates with Apostilles on each
  3. Once we get our Visitor Visas we will then request a French residence permit
    • This process isn't entirely clear yet. My current understanding is that we can move to France when we have the Visitor Visa and then apply for the permit there.
    • Need to get a French bank account in my name.
Luckily for me, Ernst & Young's people are helping me with the whole process. I have given them the bank statements and the acceptance letters from the American School in Paris for R&C. NXP needs to provide the proof of insurance since we will be covered under S's insurance with them. We are not currently enrolled in his insurance as we are still in the US - we are doing Cobra here. So they need to enroll us. NXP also has to provide a letter about housing as we can't really rent a place there until we know for sure we are going & when! E&Y will be writing my Letter of Motivation - hope they make me sound great!
The apostille situation has been frustrating but we are almost there. First we found out that we were never officially married! Somehow the paperwork was lost. So we had to go to the County Recorder's office with 2 witnesses and our checkbook and swear that we were indeed married many moons ago. We then got our official marriage certificate. I sent that off to the Secretary of State of California along with my original birth certificate and the girls' to request an apostille for each document. About a week later they all got sent back to me because I had forgotten to include my payment of $20 each document. Dumb me! So I sent them all off again - with the $. Another week goes by and I get my birth and marriage certificates back with the attached apostilles, but apparently they couldn't verify the signatures on R&C's birth certificates, so those got returned to us with a promise that they would refund the $40 fee for those. We then had to go to the County Recorder's office again to request new "more official" copies of their birth certificates. Sent those off with another check for $40 - hopefully will receive good news in the mail any day now. S's birth certificate had to be sent to Massachusetts with only a $6 fee, and that came back fine.

OK, got to go off to get some sleep now. Update on the monumental task of moving soon...