Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Post #2: The Keeper of the Keys

So even though our new apartment technically became available on the day we arrived in France (a Tuesday), in typical French style we were unable to schedule an appointment to actually pick them up until Friday. We were prepared for the mountains of paperwork and documentation. We were unprepared, however, for the 2 1/2 hours it took us to drive all the way across town through rush hour traffic. Yuck! If you come to visit, public transport is definitely the way to go.

On the positive side, the keys themselves were pretty impressive, especially the big brass one. It turns out that you actually need four keys to get into our place--one for the door to the building, and three for the door to our apartment. With so many locks, you'd think that there's no room for a door handle--and you're right! They've stuck it smack dab in the middle of the door. :)

Since there was only one set and given my reputation for losing things, Jason was immediately appointed official Keeper of the Keys.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Post #1: The Happy Family Hotel

Upon arriving in Lyon, we spent the first few days with the wonderful Bize family. They were amazingly generous in allowing us to camp out in a spare bedroom, even when they could have claimed to have no room in the inn. You see, they have already "adopted" several others (two of the people in the photograph live with the Bize family, but aren't immediate family.) Brother Bize recently started a real estate company called Happy Family Homes; we joked that they already have a Happy Family Hotel . On the day that we left, yet another family came to stay the night.

While we were so grateful to have a place to stay, the girls were pretty out of sorts, given the enormous changes, jet lag, and tight quarters. The following picture shows Talia's opinion about the whole situation:

Of course, there were a few moments when I wanted to cry as much as Talia. The all-time low hit when I turned my back for twenty seconds, only to discover that Talia had bitten into the ink cartridge of a fountain pen and was dripping bright blue ink spots all over the white living room carpet. Never in my life have I wanted to escape to a different continent so badly.

Fortunately, the story has a happy ending. For those who don't know, fountain pens in Europe are special. You might say they are filled with disappearing ink, as long as you know the secret. They sell these other special pens that magically erase the writing (and ink stains.) Well, this amazing marker managed to undo the damage remarkably well, leaving the carpet almost as good as new. I wiped my tears and felt comforted when Sister Bize showed me some spots where the carpet had been spray-painted white after her own children had spilled acrylic paint.

Before long, the Bize family hopes to downsize and move into a smaller place a little closer to the city. Perhaps they are somewhat exhausted from running a large "hotel" and would like to switch to a smaller "inn." To tell the truth, I'm kind of glad because I'm not certain that the "disappearing ink" will stay "disappeared" forever.

Thirty for Thirty

At long last, our family is connected to the world once more. Three cheers for a functioning Internet connection! :)

So this past week, I celebrated a milestone birthday of three happy decades. In honor of the event, I hope to post thirty blog posts over the next thirty days. By the end of the blogfest, the Wheeler adventures of settling into life in Lyon will doubtlessly be well-chronicled. Enjoy!

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Still Alive and Kicking

For our first update from France, I'm going to steal the e-mail that Jason sent home because it's such a good description. I hope you enjoy.

Well, we've successfully survived our first two days here in Lyon, not to mention the full day of travel that it took just to get here. You should have seen us getting off of the little 24 seat plane that took us from Frankfurt to our final destination. Bleary-eyed, covered in crumbs from all of the snacks we had been using as pacifiers for Brooklyn and Talia, and smelling like we hadn't had showers for a couple days. Add all of that to us attempting to move two girls, a stroller (which neither girl wanted to sit in), 3 wheeled carry-ons, two backpacks, a camera bag, a diaper bag, and seven pieces of checked luggage, and it would have put stitches in your side. I was laughing too. Way down deep inside. I had to look pretty far to find it, but it was there. It literally took us an hour just to get from the plane to the rental car place, and we didn't even have to go through customs! (Thank Goodness... they probably shut down and ran for home when they saw us coming. Maybe the flight attendant called ahead and warned them.)

**Here's Jason with some of the luggage...

It took us two trips and three hours in our little blue Peugeot to get all of the luggage transfered from the airport to the home of the B*** family. The attendant at Alamo was kind enough to let us leave the pieces we couldn't fit in the car behind their desk between trips. I hate to admit we stopped at McDonalds for dinner, but at least the salad I ordered had several different kinds of very fancy (a.k.a. stinky) French cheeses. It was actually quite good. Brooklyn quickly caught on to the game of hide and go seek being played by a bunch of the kids in the play area. It wasn't long before she was standing in the corner with her eyes closed counting "un, deux, trois, quatre..."

Everybody here in Lyon has been so incredibly nice and helpful. They are all very patient with my broken English, and the B*** family has been so kind to take us in and help us out. We are not in our apartment yet, but have an appointment arranged for tomorrow evening at 5:30 to sign the contract, have the inspection, and get the keys. We're looking forward to starting to set up our own place.

Kara has had to jump into work with both feet: Yesterday they had a training meeting for a couple of hours, and today she had to help administer a test similar to the TOEFL to the incoming students. So while she was off winning the bread, Brooklyn, Talia, and I braved Lyon's public transit system, which incidentally is absolutely incredible, and went to the Parc de la Tete d'Or where we got to play at a playground and hang out with some giraffes and some African alligators. We had a nice time, but I think the girls were pretty tired of walking by the time we made it back to the bus. I'm not sure what would give me that idea, except maybe that I had one slung over the shoulder and was practically dragging the other through the grass.

Lyon appears to be a very nice city. It is in a picturesque location at the edge of a mountain range to the west and a plain to the east. It is a fairly large city, but not as big as Chicago or New York. So far the weather has been very nice, though I guess it is supposed to rain tomorrow. We haven't really had the chance to take any pictures yet, but we'll try to do so and get them posted on the blog.

We certainly miss everybody. We've had some wonderful moments these past couple days, but it has also been a big adjustment, and not always very easy. Brooklyn asked me yesterday when we were going to go back to Illinois, and if it weren't for having to do the plane flight all over again, I might have said "tomorrow". But we're really excited to be here and anticipate that things will get easier as we get into a regular routine. And for those who are able, we hope to have the chance to host you and show you around our new home sometime during the coming year.

A brief update: We're still not into our new home yet, but we are hopeful that we will get the keys after the final inspection today. We'll be without internet for a bit after that, but look forward to posting more once we're connected again.

"It's actually packed tighter than it looks"

So before departing for France, we had to survive what is commonly termed "THE MOVE." Now anyone who has recently transferred all of their belongings from one location to another knows that this is a stressful period of time where the amount of work remaining to be done somehow compounds exponentially the farther you get into the process. (The amount of items you own also seems to multiply as well.) For us, this meant that our storage unit was filled to the gills. It took incredible spatial reasoning talent and skills to load up our big box. Kudos and THANKS to my wonderful father and amazing hubby.

Here's what the storage unit looked like when we finally pulled away and headed for the airport:

Once we were loaded in the car, my father turned to me and said, "It's actually packed tighter than it looks."


Sunday, September 07, 2008

We're Leaving for France!

It's late, and I need to get a good night's sleep tonight, but I wanted to let everyone know our good news--we're leaving for France tomorrow!

The story of how our visas worked out at the last moment was really miraculous. After much sweat and a few tears, the essential document finally arrived at the consulate. We went up to Chicago on Thursday, and they processed all of our visas without hassle on the spot. Even more significantly, they didn't ask for Jason's FBI background check--a huge blessing since it didn't arrive in time. So even though it took a while for our prayers to be answered, we feel as if Heavenly Father has really been watching over our family.

So now, after a week of hard labor, we are all packed and ready to go. We're not exactly traveling light--seven checked bags (six at 50 pounds plus one at 22 pounds for Talia), three rolled duffels, two backpacks, a camera bag, a diaper bag, and a new double stroller. Oh, and lets not forget the toddler and preschooler. This will definitely be an adventure! All the rest of our belongings are packed away in a storage shed. We are SO grateful for the help we've had from friends and especially loving family in helping us make this adventuresome move. We never could have done it alone.

As everyone knows, moving is hard work. I expected it to be hard. I expected it to be challenging. What I didn't expect was to spend two hours this weekend fishing the change out of the car CD player that Talia deposited into her "piggy bank." All in all, we recovered 38 cents. :) It's a good thing she's got such a cute smile that rights all wrongs.

Wish us luck in France! I think we'll need it...