Jean. Please step forward.

(actual photo from an online listing of a house for sale)

I’ve been looking for a house for no more than a year and one day.  I say this as a year in France has come to an end as of yesterday.  It’s been a gradual process.  At first, I saw houses … perhaps it’s time for a quick aside on buying a house in France even though I’ve not purchased one yet.  I say I saw houses and if you’re American, you think of an agent taking you around on weekends looking at all he houses s/he has lined up for you.  She picks you up in a comfy S.U.V. with a smile holding a latte and a perky attitude as though we’re going to knock this out of the park.  Kick some house hunting ass.  But this is not the picture I will paint.  The truth can be painfully realized  (or realised for the British audience ) walking through a typical conversation had in French by my super French speaking husband and an agent that happens to have a house we’re interested in.

Another beautiful Thursday morning in SouthWest France …
Brent: Hey! How are you? Great.  I saw this house that you’re selling.  Love to have a look.
Agent: Hello.
Brent: So … can I view it?  How about this weekend?  We’re flexible.
Agent: I need to call the sellers.  I’ll call you back.
[ after a cheap Rhone, some amazing pork, a little cheese and Valentine yogurt we skip to Friday afternoon.  Brent, understanding that 12-2 is lunchtime, calls the agent after lunch as he has yet to get back to us ]
Brent: Hey Madame! May I speak with Monsieur <insert agent name here>?
Madame: He’s not back from lunch [read as left for the day].
Brent: Oh.  I want to see a house this weekend, can he get back to me?
Madame: He’ll be back in the office on Monday [read as Monday late afternoon]
Brent: uh. Okay.

Et voila.  Rinse and repeat.  It is uncertain as to pin this crazy behavior (behaviour, love ya brits! mean it!) on The French or Southwest France or This Crazy Economy with Mortgages Going Bust and Buyers Few and Far Between, but DUDE, what’s a girl with money to buy a house gotta do around here to buy something!?
That said (hate that expression, promise never to use again), I’m glad it took so long because while I was trying to shove my Seattle living life into a quaint farmhouse in country France but with a better stove, I realized (sigh, realised … okay  done with this cute tactic … bugger that) maybe I want something different.     While waiting patiently for agents with houses to sell to get back to me, I figured out that what I really want is not the farmhouse, but the farm.  And so after much searching, an offer has been made.  A great farm that I want to buy.  Sounds simple.  Great.  Cut to America where you say, “cool.  I’ll take it.”  And Ms. Perky gets all done-deal on you and you find yourself nose high in papers to sign with the whole weekend ahead of you.  Wrong.  There is no Ms. Perky.  There is no done deal.  You’ve entered phase two of buying a house in France, which throws you into the front row, sweating but excited while you await the Randy Jackson and fellow Dawgs of France to see if you’ve made to the next round.  Three to six weeks of waiting while a technical committee decides if you buying that house is good for France.  Wow.  My project is good for France.  Here’s to hoping that I remember all the lyrics and that adding another farmer to France is a good thing.  And by definition, a YOUNG farmer at that!!! So we sit and wait while working on plan B.

(I think a rug will tie this room together)

It’s coming up to a year in France and it wasn’t all Peter Mayle like.

( photo by Brent Curtis )

I’ve never moved out of country before. For some, this is no big deal. For me, it’s a new adventure. The brie is always more ripe on the other side. You have grand ideas and hopes and new plans for your life “over there.” It’ll be different. It’ll be better. It’ll be fun and exciting. Then, when you get there you see what it’s really like. I can’t believe it’s been a year. When we headed out to France we said we’d rent for a year and figure out where to buy a house. So far, we’re still renting and not signed on a house. Though we’re excited about a house that will suit us to a tee. Nothing is set yet, but if it all works out, we can close this move-to-France chapter and begin our life as farmers.

But what the hell did I expect for a year in France and what actually happened? The biggest shortcoming I see is my French. You’d think that living a year in France would improve your French. Well let me say right here and now, if you have a Visa card, you do not need to learn French to live in France. My comprehension is impressive, buy my recall is atrocious. My lack of language is not mirrored my lack of motivation. I want to speak French. I want to speak French well. I hope to woo people with my cute outfits and fancy French so that they will buy my meat and proudly serve it in their restaurant. And so, I’ve taken a more guerilla approach to my studies because whatever it was I was doing before was not working. In the last two weeks, my approach has been working.

What else … I thought a year in France would be a long time. It’s not. I can’t imagine uprooting my family and moving them out here for only a year. If I moved back today, I’d spend most of my time recreating the things I love about France into my everyday life. This poses a huge problem living in America, as Americans are work-aholics. You see this most clearly in their inability to sit the fuck down for a minute and drink a coffee. In Southwest France, there are no to-go cups. No one walks around with a latte in hand on the way to work. They sit at the bar and knock back an espresso if in a hurry; otherwise they sit down at a table and enjoy a coffee. It doesn’t take long. In fact, I know I’ve waited in line in America for my to-go latte longer than it took me to sit down and have an espresso here in France. I do love America, but I wish they would take a minute to have a good lunch or drink a coffee. This spoken as a former latte lugging, commuting yuppie with too much pointless unread email who has decided to step into the 00’s and live life.

The internets reduce isolation. I’m connected to everyone. I’m sure that but a few years ago, I would be writing different words about my experience. The internet has had a HUGE impact on my feeling great about the big move. I talk weekly face to face(ish) with my Mom on Skype. I can read that a cat was stuck up a tree or that a strong wind is headed to Seattle in the morning headlines. Or that Riri wore (or dare I say whore) a crazy outfit to the Grammys. I can watch video of my friend’s dance performance. In some ways, being out here is no different than living in Seattle (except you can buy foie gras). I have a few friends that believe this is all a ruse. I’m still in Seattle, living in my crazy craftsman house pretending that I’ve actually taken the family to France. But I have. I did move. And everyday as I drive the winding road to I think to myself, “holy shit. I love it here!” No joke. But please read that with “holy shit. I love it here” accompanied by Fun Radio playing Lady Gaga’s latest Poker Face moment. France is okay. I think I’ll stay some more.