April 1-3, 2009:
This week has been rather low-key, hence my lack of blogs the past few days. Ella was home sick on Tuesday and Thursday with an earache and a mighty cough which meant little by way of uncommon or crazy adventures. She still has an awful cough, but I think it sounds worse than she feels. Grace and Mia are doing well, no ills to speak of at this time.
Ella attended her first birthday party for a classmate on Wednesday afternoon. Not sure if I should have let her go since she was sick, but I felt awful telling her she couldn't go to her first big party in France. She begged, so I said OK. When I dropped her off at the party, many of her classmates came over and gave her a hug and immediately started pulling her into games, so that was very relieving to see that friendships are being built. When I picked her up from the party, she said she had a great time. She was extremely excited about the magic her classmate's father had done. The next few days at home entailed asking if Andrew and I knew any magic tricks. Andrew and I were pulling anything we could think of from the back of our brains to "wow" Ella, Grace and Mia. We came up with a few, and we cut the mustard for these youngsters, but you would not have been impressed!
On Friday morning Andrew and I had appointments for physicals which are a mandatory step before you can receive your French Visa. Our appointments were in Caen and began at 8:30 a.m. I had to walk the girls to school so I told Andrew to go ahead and be on time and I would be there shortly after. It was my brisk walk to the medical facility from the school that proved to me that I finally am learning my way around Caen. My past experiences would indicate getting lost many times and heavy frustration. But I actually arrived within 10 minutes of leaving the school, cutting through allies and using William the Conqueror's castle as my landmark, just like I used to use Lake Michigan in Chicago for my compass.
Upon arrival, I wasn't sure what to expect or if I would see Andrew. I was directed to a waiting room. Within 5 minutes a man asked me to follow him and then instructed me to enter a very small room. This teeny-tiny room with a coat hook and a mirror had two doors. I knew where I came from but did not know where the other door led. So when I heard him ask me in French to take off my coat and then many other words I didn't understand, I wasn't sure what to do. Did he ask me to take off my coat...and my scarf? Did he ask me to take off my coat... and my scarf and my shirt? Did he ask me to take of my coat...and everything else I had on - get naked? I had no idea! What was on the other side of door #2? 1 doctor? 2 nurses? 80 people in a waiting room? The hospital cafeteria? This was a risky situation that could cause me to die of complete embarrassment. I decided to take off my coat and scarf and hang up my purse but I was not doing anything else until I knew what was the dealio.
Finally the door opened and a female nurse was there, staring at me and clearly annoyed at my clothed body. Still, I didn't understand what exactly was being asked of me, but I knew it had to do with disrobing. So I took one piece of clothing off at a time and then looked to see if she nodded or halted me on my progress when I would grab for the next layer. I felt like I was playing strip poker or something with a stranger - except this was not fun in any way. The end result was a naked top-half. And only a female nurse in the room. It was a huge room with a monster x-ray machine. She asked me to stand with my chest against a huge wall and arms spread out, I took a big breath, the x-ray was taken, and then it was all over. This had been a very awkward situation. I couldn't figure out for the life of me what they had just been x-raying. Was I going to leave this physical with them declaring that I had cancer or heart disease? It turns out, after speaking with a friend who has had this same physical, that they were screening for tuberculosis. I still don't get it....Anyway, from there I was taken to another waiting room along with 6 other people.
Moments after the second waiting room, I saw Andrew come out of a door, shaking a doctor's hand. Good sign. He must be done and stamped with approval. And he can give me the scoop on my next event. He tells me that next is a physical where I get fully unclothed (ugh!) and the doctor does some very simple tests like blood pressure, height, weight and medical history questions. When it was my turn to go in, Andrew gratefully volunteered to come in with me. It didn't end up being all that bad. I showed the doctor (who spoke English, by the way!) my vaccination documentation, told him my medical info and then he did a very basic physical. Shortly after that, we were shaking the doctor's hand and leaving with my stamp of medical approval - and an x-ray of my chest.
From the physical, we quickly went to the Prefecture - the office the handles the paperwork and processing for our Visa - and gave him our stamps of approval. He then asked us if we had the 600 Euros needed to finalize our Visa processing. We did not. I won't bore you with the details, but in the end we ended up withdrawing 600 Euros from the bank machine, going to another building, buying STAMPS from a man in denominations of 15 Euro and 55 Euro, bringing them back to the Prefecture, where they then licked the stamps and placed them in our Visa file. We are hopeful this has concluded our Visa obstacle course and that they will be ready to pick up in a few weeks. Cross your fingers...
Friday night, I was invited to a new friends house for dinner with a few other women. She lives in a lovely village called Thaon, just 15 minutes from our apartment. The three other women have lived in the Caen area for many years, so they are old friends with lots of information. I was happy to leave with some potential babysitter information, some pediatrician and generalist doctor information, and hints on other places to go with the kids for outings. It was a really fun night. I am extremely lucky to have met these nice people. I also left with an invitation to go see a concert the following night that was going to have tribute bands for Kiss, AC/DC, Led Zeppelin and someone else. I gladly deferred this to Andrew, right up his alley....
Pictured above: Ella - she doesn't look too sick, right?; Just for fun, my tuberculosis-free chest x-ray.