Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Why I'm still waiting for the Ch-Ch-Ch-Changes

On the occasion of my first weekend in France, I wanted to do something really special, something unforgettable, something deeply and typically French. Which is why I found myself in front of these hallowed gates come Friday night:

I mean, what's more French than Disneyland Paris? Led by my lovely and ever-accommodating hostess here, Marie-Eve, we made our way to Billy Bob's Country Western Saloon for a night of dinner, drinks, and...David Bowie?

Yes, a David Bowie tribute band was on stage that night, captivating a small handful of delighted, twirling, and over-excited children, who were the only members of the audience with enough temerity to enter the dance floor, much to the singer's chagrin. But first we chowed down on the evening's specials. I had a baked potato covered with chili, complete with a tub of fake cheese and a plastic-wrapped brownie. It was reminiscent of something you might order at Wendy's. Marie-Eve had some french fries and wan-looking chicken nuggets. (We might have been better off going to Wendy's, in fact).

But then came the music, and the reason for our being there. At first it was hard to know what to make of it all, as the guy next to us seemed to fancy himself a drummer of sorts, and was pounding on the table with an empty water bottle as if his life depended on it. "Rebel, rebel, you've thwap thwap thwap. Rebel, rebel, thwapthwapthwapthwapthwap!" We made our way downstairs where we were able to get a better view of the show, and I watched in quiet consternation, intially not quite sure what to think. Was it good? Was it unintentionally and subtlely hilarious? It quickly became clear that it was the latter. Everything about the singer was white, from his shiny polyester suit to his exuberant and arm-throwing dance moves. Do you remember back when Dana Carvey used to do impressions of George Bush (Sr.)? Well, this was a lot like that. Actually, it was like Dana Carvey doing George Bush doing David Bowie. And it was fantastic. I swear to you, he looked just like this:

I almost wanted to request "Chopping Broccoli."

But, like a couple of more prudent Cinderellas, and not wanting to be caught without our shoes on, we were out of there well before the stroke of midnight, headed back to our coach and our castle. And while it may not have been Paris, exactly, now I know where to go when I need a little taste of home (and a good laugh).

Friday, September 26, 2008

Why I should receive corporate sponsorship for this

I am here! Je suis arrivée! Please excuse the silence, I hope you haven't been worried. (I even forgot the obligatory I'm here and I'm still alive parental phone call, until my mother sent me an e-mail the other day to check in, mentioning at the end, please let me know you've arrived, just an e-mail will do, thanks). And it's not that I haven't been online, because I have, and it's not that I haven't had time, because I've had plenty of that too. I suppose it's that my priorities at the moment are more geared towards finding a place to shelter myself come October 1st, which is proving much more difficult and expensive and complicated than even I, the queen of pessimism and worrier supreme, had anticipated. Plus I haven't really had anything all that exciting to write about, but I've sort of been storing up tidbits in my head to share with you, which I might as well tell you about before they get replaced by more useful information, such as the conversion of dollars to Euros, my new phone number, and the fact that though it may be labeled as such, a beignet will never be a donut and a crêpe will (happily) never be a pancake.

Corporate Entities I am Loving at the Moment:

Air India
. Thank you for providing me with a direct flight, extra legroom, lamb curry, and free wine, all for the lowest fare on the internet. (Free alcohol on flights- who does that anymore? For that, Air India, I would like to kiss you [politely, on each cheek]). Also, I would like to commend the extremely laid-back flight attendant and the generally laissez-faire attitude of the entire flight staff for the most relaxed and enjoyable flight I have ever experienced. Though I wasn't instructed to remove my headphones and turn off my electronic device during takeoff, I did so anyway, out of habit. As we waited in line for our turn to taxi down the runway, and then waited some more, with nothing to listen to, my boredom and impatience grew. Though I thought I already knew what the answer would be, I decided to risk asking anyway. "Excuse me," I gestured to the flight attendant. "Is it ok if I listen to this?"

"What is it?" she asked.

"Music. Mp3?"

And though she was wearing a sari and was not, in fact, even the slightest bit French, from what I could tell, she still managed the most impressive gallic shrug I have ever seen. "As long as it's not a mobile," she said.

"Really?" I said. "Awesome!"

And, being that I was in the emergency exit row, I stowed my bag in the overhead compartment out of habit, knowing from experience that nothing is allowed on the floor during takeoff, since there are no seats ahead to stow it under. However, during landing I didn't move it, and you know what? No one said a thing.

So for that, Air India, and for arriving on schedule, and for not losing or even temporarily misplacing my bags, thank you. In a world where prices are increasing and customer service is decreasing, thank you for not compromising your integrity. Don't ever change.

Couchsurfing.com. Through what seems like a miracle, but what is in fact a fairly common practice among travelers and backpackers, I had, and still have, actually, a free place to stay upon my arrival, keeping me from being effectively homeless in France. Not only has my hostess, the lovely Marie-Eve, let me stay rent-free on her futon as I try and fail to find my own housing, but she cooks dinner for me, buys me pain au chocolat for breakfast, serves me tea, and won't let me lift a finger to help. She essentially forbade me from doing dishes, an order that normally I would ignore, but she all but implied that she would in fact freak out, like really freak out, for real, if I were to do this. Apparently she has "horreur" of other people doing her dishes. I didn't mention that I have a similar "horreur" of being in close proximity to a sink full of dirty dishes. The dishes and I had a good stare down the other day while she was at work, but so far I've been too afraid of what might happen to try anything. In short, Marie-Eve has been the ideal hostess, tour guide, advice-giver, and friend, and asks nothing in return. I keep thinking that it's all too good to be true, that no one can be that nice, and I keep waiting for the catch, but there is none. Couchsurfing is, simply enough, a good website for good people, and if you're on a budget or just want to meet new people while you're traveling, I highly recommend you check it out. You don't even necessarily have to stay with someone; you can also just meet up for a drink or coffee when you're traveling through a town where you might not know anyone. Or, if you're feeling up for it, sign up and volunteer your own couch! It's really not as scary as it sounds, and you can meet some really great and interesting people. This was my first experience couchsurfing, and it turned out so well I will definitely continue to use it in my future travels. (Check out my profile! And then make one of your own!)

I have lots more to tell, including how I spent my first Friday night in France at the very un-French Disney Village, but that will have to be a story for another day, as I need to get my travel-weary body back on some sort of schedule. Bonne nuit, everyone. May your wine glass never be empty, and may all your kisses be French.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Why I'm glad that's over

Well the ten year reunion has come and gone, and I guess it was pretty much what you would expect out of a ten year reunion: a roomful of people not talking to the same people they didn't talk to in high school, only now the majority of them had to go home at the end of the night to pay the baby-sitter. I suppose overall it was a success, going by the amount of wine I consumed, which I measured not in glasses but rather by my overall decibel level, as in retrospect I remember becoming Very Loud towards the end of the evening. (Apologies to anyone I may have yelled and/or talked very loudly at). Other than that last glass of wine, and that shot, for that matter, my only regret was my shoes, but at $11 I guess you get what you pay for. However, I think next time I'll spring for a pair with room to accommodate all ten toes.

Highlights of the evening include accompanying Jason to the men's room and carrying on a steady stream (pun intended) of conversation as he used the urinal next to me, and surprising the heck out of someone's poor husband who walked in (followed by Alan, who was surprised not at all), as well as re-visiting a blast from the past via this conversational gem:

"Hey Jas, look, there's a picture of your brother on my camera."

"Oh, is that from the night you made out with him?"

"Shut up, that was so long ago! No. This is my sister's camera, I borrowed it."

"Oh, so is that from the night she made out with him?"

"I hate you."

And now, the class of 1998 ten year high school reunion in very brief pictorial review, as cameras plus wine are a bit much to handle simultaneously, even for the best of us:

The spunkiest of all talking cupcakes, Tal, and the intrepid and occasional guest blogger, Erin.

Me and Jas. (I seem to have lost an upper lip. If anyone has seen it please contact diaryofwhy at gmail dot com). (Or, as Jarvis Cocker would say, I seem to have left an important part of my face...somewhere...in a restaurant in Frederick, alright. [That one's for you, Tal]).

Definitely not drunk.

There was a picnic/reunion part deux the next day, which was pretty much more of the same, minus alcohol, plus kids, so I'll leave you to do the math on that. I include a picture of me and Molly from the event as evidence that I can occasionally look somewhat like a normal person (assuming normal people also look slightly hungover and tend to lose their top lip from time to time).


For an alternate and much less one-sided perspective of the event, visit Tal's top ten post.
(Number 4 makes me laugh out loud and curse the gods of wine and small bladders for causing me to miss seeing that).

Ticket to ten year reunion: $75
Dress: $34
Being asked where I'm living now, and answering, "Actually, I'm moving to France on Monday": PRICELESS!

A bientôt!

Friday, September 19, 2008

Why it took me eight years to discover The Beta Band, and a second to love them

It's been a while since I've had something to rave about, but I'm back in the groove, babies, and boy howdy do I have something for you. Let me tell you a story about how I have owned a copy of The Beta Band's The Three E.P.'s for almost a decade and have only now realized, holy shit, this stuff is good! You see, somewhere around the summer of 2000 I managed to score tickets to see my ultimate, end-all be-all, once-in-a-lifetime, absolute favorite (or at least when Pulp wasn't in town) band: Radiohead. (I know it's cliché to say your favorite band is Radiohead now, but this was back in 2000 when they were still fairly cutting edge, so cut me some slack). I recruited two of my best friends and we made the long trek down to middle-of-nowheresville, Virginia for the outdoor show. After waiting in the longest security line ever to get in, I ran around in manic enthusiasm, gleeful with the certainty that today was the day that I would finally be in the hallowed presence of Thom Yorke (and the very sexy presence of Ed O'Brien). I was there long enough to buy a t-shirt and an over-priced order of chicken fingers and pick up a free copy of the Beta Band cd, the band apparently slated to open for Radiohead. And then the skies turned ominous. Rumbling overhead was followed by lightning, and soon we could see smoke rising up from small fires in the field across the road. Finally, the skies buckled, and it rained. It rained like I had never seen before, and soon announcements were made over loudspeakers for everyone to return to their cars, and wait. And so thousands of people, soaked within seconds, slipped and slided their way through the mud to the parking lot, and we waited. We waited for hours, soaking the upholstery, drawing pictures in the steam on the windows, and turning the radio on occasionally, listening for updates on the show. WHFS played Radiohead. "High and Dry?" my friend Julia fumed. "High and Dry??? Those bastards." Finally, hours later the announcement came: the show was canceled. We all had to go home. And so, all around cars were started, inched forward, and stopped. And we all sat in one giant traffic jam clusterfuck for another two hours. I knew without a doubt it was the worst day of my life.

A few days later the sting was still there, but I was trying to get on with my life. "Hey, did you listen to your Beta Band cd?" Julia said. "It's pretty good, right?" I believe my exact reaction was, I can't believe I didn't get to see Radiohead and all I got was this stupid cd!!!!!! In other words, I may not have given it a fair shot. And then I put it away and forgot about it for the next eight years.

Until two days ago when I needed some packing music, and came across The Three E.P.'s in my iTunes. Meh, why not, I thought. And holy shit, guys! It's good! This album, it just grooves. I mean, check this song out:

Dry the Rain

I love a song that starts out chill, and then builds, and then builds some more. But if you want to know how completely the Beta Band was not on my radar, apparently I even managed to gloss over that part in High Fidelity where they put this song on, and all the music store doofs stand around nodding their heads.

Now this song...this song I love. This song gets stuck in my head. Check it out:

She's the One

It just grooves and builds, grooves and builds. And this is why I could never be a music critic; apparently I have a musical vocabulary of two words. Three, if you count awesome! (I do).

In conclusion: The Beta Band. Who knew? (Other than their legions of fans, all of these amazon.com reviewers, and anyone who ever saw the movie High Fidelity). So, where have I been for the last ten years? In a cave, apparently. But man, does it feel good to be back outside in the sunshine.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Why now I'm really ready to go

It came! It came! And on the last possible day it could have in order for me to keep my appointment at the embassy tomorrow morning. And after quietly freaking out for the last few weeks here, it appears that my papers are finally in order, my ducks in a row, chickens pre-emptively counted and now safely hatched. It looks like I'm really going to France! And soon!

I guess I'd better get packing. (Gulp).

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Why I'm just going to tell people I invented the Post-it note

Countdown to 10-year high school reunion: T-6 days and counting.

Mission Perfect Reunion Outfit, aka Eat Your Heart Out, Class of 1998: Accomplished.

(At this point I should mention that if you are of the male persuasion, you may just want to skip over this post altogether. I mean, there's no mention of feminine products or anything, but I just don't see how what I am about to talk about would be of any interest to anyone with a Y-chromosome. You have been warned).

And Internet, I know it's totally uncouth to talk about how much you paid for something, but we're all friends here, are we not? And if you know me even a little bit by now, you know that I am not the type that can pass up a bargain. And if you've spent even a little bit of time with me, then you know that once a bargain has been attained, I will not stop talking it. Just try to make me stop talking about it, you can't. Friends and acquaintances are all, yes, you're cheap, we get it already. I'm like a one-woman T.J. Maxx commercial. (None of my recent purchases were actually made at T.J. Maxx). But that's what happens after two years of being a grad student followed by three months of unemployment, I suppose. I may not have received a paycheck since mid-June, but a girl's still gotta dress, ya know?

On that note I invite you to Look at Some Pretty Things and Gape Incredulously at How Little I Paid For Them. Case in point:

One 10-year reunion dress, purchased at Minimarket in Brooklyn, NY. On sale for $34.
Rest assured, it is short. It is indeed quite thigh-baringly short.

Moving on...one pair of off-white wedge heels from the Banana Republic Outlet store, on sale for...wait for it...


To all those old-fashionistas out there who think you can't wear white shoes after Labor Day, thus reducing my awesome find to a truly bargain basement price...thank you. (Stacy and Clinton say wearing white after Labor Day rocks! So there!) And oh, they're patent leather. Oh yes. Also, I know it's hard to tell in the photo, but these shoes sport a near-4" wedge heel. Which, given that I measure in at 5'9 1/2" on a slouchy day, are not entirely necessary, and in fact may very well carry me right on into freak mode. But do I care? I do not. What with the short short nature of the dress and the tall tall nature of the shoes, we create an effect I like to call All Leg. I call it my "I May Have Been a Nerd in High School But Look at Me Now" outfit.

One off-white (faux) leather clutch from Target, $20. I'm not entirely sure about this one though, because with the shoes I'm afraid it's a little matchy-matchy. Although at the same time, it's about two shades darker than the shoes, so on the other hand I'm afraid it's not matchy enough. So yes, I am simultaneously worried that it is too matchy-matchy and yet not matchy enough. Thoughts?

My mom has been taunting me with talk of a gold clutch she supposedly owns, and then, unsurprisingly, has not actually been able to produce. My mom has been rocking the mom jeans and patriotically-themed t-shirt look for well on 28 years now, so what is surprising to me is not that somewhere she still has a 30-some year-old gold clutch (and given her penchant for hoarding, that's not actually surprising at all), but rather that at one point she actually had occasion to use a gold clutch. At what point do the mom jeans come into play, anyway? Is it right after giving birth, or does it take a few years to kick in?

Also, does anyone else get the heebie-jeebies from the very idea of fuzzy toilet seat covers? Does anyone else think that they just scream germs! and bacteria!? Does anyone else have no freakin' idea why these things even exist? Just in case you ever decide to sit on the can with the lid down, your bottom will be warm and cushioned? I'll tell you who does not agree with my Campaign Against the Unsanitary Nature and Otherwise Complete Uselessness of Fuzzy Toilet Seat Covers: my mother. I can't tell you the number of times I've disappeared this thing. It comes back every time.

And lastly, one gold bracelet from Saks Fifth Avenue Off 5th Outlet, on sale for $20. A bit of a splurge, admittedly, but I got such a great deal on the shoes!

(Dress from Zara, on sale, $35).

10-year high school reunion, here I come! (In T-6 days and counting).

Today's post and shopping extravaganza sponsored by my mother, and the fine folks at Discover. (Who did not actually sponsor today's post or shopping extravaganza, just to be clear. Though they have always been my family's card of choice. (5% cashback!) Although...maybe next time, huh, Discover people? Who loves ya, baby?) And in spite of my occasional tendency to become annoyed by my mother's hoarding habits and fuzzy toilet seat cover fixation, it turns out that she can actually be pretty nice to me, sometimes. (I can't speak for the Discover people). ((Yet)).

Friday, September 12, 2008

Why I'm not at the beach

I should be at the beach. I want to be at the beach. But I am not at the beach. You see, my sister invited me to the beach this weekend. Her boyfriend has an event there, and I could come along. She touted all the beachy, sisterly fun we could have: Jeep on the beach! Assateague Island! Ponies! She had me at ponies, but I tried to remain level-headed and slightly suspicious, as is my way. Are you sure? I asked. Come with you and your boyfriend? Where would I stay? Are you sure??? The boyfriend assented. Come along! It will be great, no problem at all. And so I kicked my heels up in glee and frolicked like the ponies I imagined I would soon be seeing, and started planning my beach packing list.

Checking the beach forecast a couple days later, it didn't look good.

Weather's not looking so great, I frowny-faced.

Do you still want to come? she replied. We might not leave until Thurs now.

Umm, yup. I said. Still want to come. Thursday's fine.

But things quickly went downhill. According to the sis, it was mostly "a matter of timing and sleeping arrangements." After a few back and forths and failed guilt trips on my part it quickly became clear that I was going to be left behind on this excursion. I wish you had never invited me at aaallllll! I attempted to wail pitiably via text message. But the recipient, apparently lacking in angst-receptors, had her own problems, and no sympathy to give. I gave up and resigned myself to fourteen more days of boredom and isolation at the parental abode.

The next day I received another text: U home? I'm bringing u a puppy.

Since I was in the middle of a 12-mile bike ride, and it didn't sound as if a last-minute re-invitation was being extended, I didn't rush back. So apparently not only was I not invited, but now I was dog-sitting as well. Lovely. When I arrived home a couple hours later, there was a dog, and no sister. I reached for my phone and politely outlined to my sister the depths of her suckitude. She confirmed her love for me as well, and then said: U can come u know. And i'd like u to. To which I of course replied, bwwaaahhhh?? A quick phone call to clear up the confusion, and she said, "I never said you weren't invited. You should come."

But the power of the texted word speaks louder than the passive-agressive verbal un-vitation. Readers, do any of these sound as if I am warmly invited to the beach?

I dunno if the beach is gonna work out. Me n bobby are talking about it now

There's really no room and its a house full of bikers

I don't even know if I'm going. Bobby's being a [redacted].

And now to find out that not only was I not not invited, but she wishes I would come? (Talk about hot then cold. There must be something in the water at that house). "Wait, let me get this straight," I said. "Now that you already told me it wasn't going to work out and then left without me, now you want me to come?"

"Mom said she left you the car," she said.

"So now you want me to drive four hours to Ocean City by myself, because you left without me???"

"You're giving me a headache," she said.

"Bye," I said.

And that, dear readers, is why I'm not at the beach.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Why if your name was John I'd write you a letter

Dear Jerk,

I realize that hooking up with one's sister's roommate comes with potential complications. But up until now it's worked out pretty well. From the first moment of eye contact to our slowly warming barstool conversation to our alcohol-fueled makeout session on the roof deck overlooking the city of Baltimore, ultimately leading to you generously sharing your bed with me, it's all been pretty nice. As a token of my appreciation I didn't even hold you to your gentlemanly offer to not "take advantage." And so far the fact of you being my sister's roommate seemed more practical than not; I came back the next weekend to see my sister, and you just happened to be there, too. No plans had to be made, no awkward position statements or state of the union addresses, no premature jumps into forced pseudo-relationships. It was all breezy smiles, watching movies holding hands on the couch when no one was looking. You made me tea. When I left you told me to call you. Knowing I wouldn't, I told you that you could call me, too, if you wanted. For a while no one called anyone, and that was ok. It was more than ok. I knew all I had to do was show up, and you would be there. It was the perfect non-relationship. No phone calls, no obligations; just casual, no-strings-attached sex. You'd think it would be every guy's wet dream.

Which is why it was all the more surprising when I showed up last night and you remained cloistered in your room, typing away on your laptop. "Getting some work done?" I asked, poking my head in. "Yup," you replied. "That's the way it goes..." You didn't offer any more information, and so I left you to it, hoping you would drift downstairs and join us. When you didn't, I went up to the roof deck, hoping you would find me there, like you had before, when we sat on a bench and talked and talked, and I tucked my toes under your leg for warmth. While I waited I did yoga and then lay on my back in sivasana, staring at the stars, definitely not not thinking, for all my good intentions. And still you didn't come. I came back down and your door was closed. And the next time I passed by, your light was off.

I gathered that you had to get up early this morning, not because you told me, but because I heard you as I tossed in fitful sleep on the couch, after a restless night of overhead lights flipped brutally on as other roommates rummaged for cigarettes at 1 a.m., and I tried and failed to find a comfortable position on the narrow expanse of Italian leather. I was awake as you tip-toed past me at 7 a.m. and quietly slid your shoes on, eased the front door closed. But you never even glanced at me, and so you didn't see my parted eyelids silently following your movements. Ironic that my morning-after regret was palpably stronger for the deed undone than it ever has been for my most lascivious of nocturnal activities, fait accompli.

And here is where unleash my virtual torrent of very real anger. I know it has been a long time since we have seen each other, over a month. Life gets in the way sometimes, you know that. But do you remember when we talked on the phone all those weeks ago, and we matched up schedules, and we agreed that I would come visit "my sister" not the next weekend, and not the weekend after but the weekend after that? Well this was that weekend. And I'm sorry I couldn't make it until Sunday night; I'm sorry that my grandfather died and I'm sorry I had to go to his funeral. And, since we have this whole unspoken/unsaid thing going that invariably leads to confusion, let me just state for the record: I had already spent the entire weekend with my sister. I came to see you.

You see, I thought I had this thing in the bag. I was riding high above the currents of doubt and confusion, secure in my blasé attitude, sure that this time, at least, I wouldn't get hurt. I'm leaving the country in two weeks, but I thought we could have some fun in the meantime. I guess I didn't realize that with no strings comes the possibility of no sex.

So, thanks for being a jerk and contributing to the spectacular failure of my first and only attempt to act, think, and date more like a guy. I should have known that mind always wins out over matter, especially when the matter has spent the past five weeks hungering for a male touch, and the mind is of the sensitive female persuasion and prone to crises of confidence and self-doubt, crumbling into bitter despair at even the merest whiff of male rejection. So much for easy, breezy and light.

And so the Great No-Strings Dating Experiment of Summer 2008 comes to a close. Notes have been copiously recorded, the sordid details logged, and once shiny and bright hypotheses have been scribbled through with a heavy hand, scratched out until the paper ripped into jagged scars. (It appears someone may have scrawled Fuck you!!! in the margin and then thought better of it, erasing all, until only the indentation remained). I've learned my lesson. Boys will be boys and girls will be girls, and even the most sophisticated of technologies still haven't found a way to facilitate interstellar communications between Venus and Mars. We're back to tin cans and string here, and is it really a wonder that an anyone can't find a someone, given what we have to work with? I'll stick to my cave drawings and hand signals and sending out desperate, primal grunts, and hope that in return maybe someday, echoing low and guttural across the plains, will be the sound of my someone, grunting back.

Just a Girl, After All

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Why I'm ready to go

Internet, I've been a bad, bad blogger. And while a summer in New York City may sound very glamorous and prone to lending itself to many a bloggable adventure, sadly it just isn't so. My experience being penniless and unemployed in New York City has involved a lot of couch sitting, too much tv watching, constant NPR listening, a bit of park reading, and hours and hours of futon sleeping, and while I've tried and tried to get a blog entry out of it, I just haven't been able to. (Until now. Ha!) And now that Talia is back at school every day, it harkens back to those bad old days of a month ago when I was rattling around her empty apartment all alone, waiting for her to get back from her European vacation. And yet, six months ago in the thick of my final stress-filled, non-stop semester as a grad student, this is probably exactly the kind of laid-back, do-nothing summer I would have chosen for myself. Huh. The grass is always greener, I guess.

But there is hope, folks, since as of yesterday I am the proud purchasor of an electronic plane ticket direct to France, la belle France, the City of Lights, and the country I love. I leave September 22 at 9:05 p.m. And while my bags are not packed, and I have neither visa nor the required paperwork to obtain one (hello, government, get on that, would ya?), I am still oh so ready to go. And oh, it's a one-way ticket, because I am cheap, and also hopeful. (Don't worry, I'll write). Though my contract ends April 30, if I have my way I'll stay there forever. (But you know what they say about counting your poussins...)

A bientôt, chéris. Think good, Frenchy thoughts for me, and if you know anyone at the French consulate who could help me get my arrêté de nomination, like, stat, or alternatively, if you have advice for packing eight months worth of apparel, accessories and accoutrements in only two bags, that would be ever so helpful. Cheers!