Friday, August 23, 2013

September Resolutions

When I was asked by French tv about my September resolution, I didn't exactly tell the truth.  I had made a September resolution: to leave Paris on September 1st.  I felt if I didn't, I probably never would.  I couldn't explain this in French to the television crew, and I doubt at the time I connected the two thoughts as such. Counterfactual memories are my specialty.

This morning I carried out my September resolution, and purchased a bus ticket to Brussels on September 1st.  I have never been to Belgium, so I am excited to visit the the hallowed ground that is the birthplace to Jean-Claude Van Dam.  I know a few others who would be jealous for such pilgrimages to the birthplace of "The Muscles from Brussels" like Kay, and Mike Hallquist- a leading scholar on the Jean-Claude Van Dam Hardpower Theory of IR.

I am also excited to visit this Capital of Europe, and I will check out Bruges, Ghent and Antwerp before I head north to the Netherlands.

I had considered getting off Facebook before I left on my sabbatical.  Came close too.  I had penned my goodbye post so that I could enjoy the peaceful solitude of a social media-free world after years of being paid to be on such biz.  But then I got a FB message from my friend Phillippe in Antwerp, letting me know that he had opened an Argentine empanada bar in his hometown.  I had traveled with Phillippe in Malaysia and Thailand, and he subsequently went on South America, where he fell in love with Buenos Aires.  He had been a chef to a Belgian diplomat prior (a culinary diplomatist, if ever there was one), and so decided to try his hand at creating an Argentine culinary outpost in Antwerp.  Che Felipe and Bar Buenos Aires, where the empanadas are hot, and the fernet & coke is cold; I feel a gastrodiplomacy article coming on Argentine edible nationbranding.

I am off to Belgium to, among other things, crash on Phillipe's couch and bar, and this is all a round-about way of explaining why I did not get off Zuck's info-gathering project: because it helps with the most random connections.  Phillippe's message reminded me I wanted to stay on this useful connecting tool; I am ultimately quite glad I didn't get off FB because I have had friends pop out of the woodwork in Paris, when I thought I knew nary a soul in this celestial city.

But back to the present.  I had my landlady Frederique stop by yesterday.  She had some new tenants coming from Roastbeeflandia (The Brits call the French "frogs"; the French call the Brits "Roast beef"), and also was coming to see me about some problems we were having with the rent. I had found the studio through a third-party site.  For the second month, we decided to cut out the middleman and just handle it directly to cut out the service fees tacked on.

Good idea in theory, but slightly more difficult to execute in hand-off since she lives in Breton.  First it looked like her husband was coming to Paris around the beginning of the month, but that fell through, so she asked if I could send a mandat cash, the French equivalent of a money order.  Easy in theory, but nothing is ever completely easy.  It took three trips to the Postale to get it right (need a passport; credit card didn't work in their machine, needed fistful of euros).  And while Frederique had made it sound like something that would be wired, instead I had to mail the form to her hubby Yasser.  So I bought an envelope and sent off the mandat cash.  And waited for a confirmed receipt.

About a week later, Frederique emailed me that they hadn't received the mandat cash.  I got a little worried, given that 650 euros were now somewhat missing.  We waited for postal Godot, but he never came.  So she visited yesterday and we were going to stop at the postale to see about getting the mandat cash reissued.  I was a tad worried given a fat chunk of change was missing, and I knew nothing of the process of cancelling or reissuing such biz and could ill-afford to pay another month's rent if the money was indeed gone.

But just before we left the building, she jokingly said that we should check the mailbox to see if it had been delivered to the apartment's mail slot.  And what was sitting in the mailbox: the envelope!  Such a relief.  The amazing thing is that the mail slot had her husband's name on it, yet the letter's return address was addressed to me at the building.  Somehow, while the postale couldn't find Yasser's addy in Breton, it could figure out that this was an address for him, even though the return addy had my name on it.  So, they connect the name on the front with the address on the back.  A tad bizarre, but I was relieved.

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