Friday, April 27, 2018

Not Every Day in Paradise is Perfect

Today was most frustrating throughout. Though we did accomplish a couple of things despite.

First, after a couple years of being on a waiting list for an apartment in a new complex in Switzerland, we received a notice of the unit sizes and prices. There are three that are quite small, though larger than D-L's Nest in Argéles sur Mer, and priced under 1,000 CHF, including parking. Donna-Lane emailed for an appointment on one of the two days they are interviewing, though it will require us to alter our travel plans. They asked her to call, and when she indicated we were two adults and a dog they said no, the units we desired are too small for the three of us. Alas, all the larger units are more than 2,000 CHF, much more than we care to pay.

Next, I was trying to research mobile phone providers. Our bank has a quirky system such that they send an SMS code when I try to make an online purchase. Except the code never gets to me because I have a Swiss phone and their system only takes +33 French country code phones. Therefore, I need a French phone.

Websites kept dropping out on me, or wouldn't come up, because our WiFi has been running incredibly slow since it was restored (after more than a week out of service). Couldn't find an email address or phone number to call for help online - only endless FAQs. Finally, I tweeted and facebooked to SFR Assistance, and amazingly got a response. Even more amazing, the tech tweaked our system twice, and the second time the speeds more than doubled to the approx 12 Mbps we're supposed to be getting. Alas, that's the limit, as there is no fiber optic service in the village yet.

As I was checking the options for SFR mobile phones, the international dialing page suddenly switched from one showing 30 Euros a month to one showing 45 Euros a month. Did they switch prices in the middle of my search? That's something the airlines tend to do.

So we decided to go to the SFR store in Perpignan and deal in person. Long story short, we got two new mobile phones, paid much more for the phones than what I'd expected, but at least we have French phones and will be able to connect with each other if the WiFi is down.

We also managed to get the type of flea/tick/mosquito collar recommended by our vet ... in the next town, as none of the local pharmacies seem to carry that brand. Sherlock is not thrilled. But at least he's safe, especially when he bounces through the long grass along the river.

Monday, April 16, 2018

#FlightFromHell, Part 1

Yes, I do my own stunts
I am not sure what possessed me to throw my suitcase over the rail, then jump after it - from a moving escalator. Maybe I've been reading too many spy and mystery thriller novels. (The phrase, "It seemed like a good idea at the time" comes to mind.)

I was desperately trying to catch a connecting flight at Orly Airport -  Paris' "other" airport - a place I've never been before (and never will again ... they no doubt have me on at least three different videocams). After exiting my arriving flight from Toulouse - which was more than an hour late - I had come to a stairs/escalator choice - going up. Too many people on the escalator, so I hoofed it up the stairs, huffing and puffing from carrying my bag, which was mostly electronics and papers, When I got into Hall 1, another stairs/escalator combination, this time going down. At this point I was not seeing any more "Flight Connections" signs, but I spotted one that read "Transfers." The escalator was relatively empty, so I figured I could both ride and walk down, getting there faster.

To my horror, the escalator was going down 2 levels! I only wanted to go down 1 level to the main concourse area. Realizing the escalator was the wrong choice and would take way too much time to go all the way down then find a way back up, I looked for escape. I had ridden down too far to try to walk back up - against the flow of people coming down the escalator.

That's when I noticed I was nearing the bottom of the adjacent stairs, the concourse level I wanted. Hasty decision time. Hoisted the suitcase over the rail, and it clattered to the floor, startling several people nearby. Then over the rail I followed - in rather ungainly fashion (hey, I'll be 67 this week - not exactly James Bond, or even Jackie Chan). I landed, got up, grabbed the suitcase, and searched for someone who could direct me to Gate 31E.

Getting directions, I raced down the shopping corridor, OJ style, only to be delayed slightly at customs and a security scan checkpoint. Had a heck of a time trying to get my boots back on - they're new and not broken in yet.

I had been led to believe that Air France would "hold" the JFK flight for me (and perhaps others on the flight from Toulouse). I was misled. When I arrived at 31E, out of breath and parched, the gate attendant matter of factly told me the boarding was closed. Couldn't get on. Her sympathy was underwhelming. When I told her they indicated, on my incoming flight, that they would hold the JFK connection, she acted like I must be nuts to even think such a thing.

Resisting the urge to swear at the top of my lungs and throw a tantrum that would get me arrested, I went in search of someone who could get me re-booked quickly on another flight to the States.

Long story short, Air France has only one flight a day to JFK (or anywhere in the States, for that matter) and flights from the alternative, Charles de Gaulle, were all overbooked, in part because of the rolling strikes this spring by disgruntled AF employees. My only option was to stay overnight in Paris and take the next flight from Orly to JFK - the same one I missed, only a day later.

Oh, they lost my bag too.

 

Sunday, April 8, 2018

How old was he?

Why is it that when you mention the news that a famous person, or even a not-so-famous person, has died, the most common response is, "How old was he?" Or she?

Maybe that's just the response of seniors like me and many of my friends. Are we silently comparing the longevity of the just-deceased with our own? Oh, he was only 62; I've already outlived him. Hmm, he died at 67; I'm going to be 67 later this month. Or, he was 77; I've got a good 10 years before then.

We also compare our current age with the age at which our parents died. My dad was 90. My mother is nearly 95 and still going strong. Those are encouraging numbers.

When we hear of someone who has lived to be 100 or more, it inspires hope. We think that maybe, maybe we'll live that long. Of course, it's also a question of quality of life in those later years. One of my favorite lines is from French Smith's character in the alien sitcom "Third Rock from the Sun"; told that smoking would take 10 years off his life, he responded, "Yeah, but those are lousy years anyway."

A huge factor in quality of life is the people in your life. Without certain of them, the quality severely diminishes.

Health and mentally stimulating interests are factors too. People who become couch potatoes when they retire tend to die sooner than those who remain active.

I admire people who live full lives right up to the day they die. I admire people like our friend who went to India just for the experience, even though doctors told her not to fly so soon after a major operation. I also think about our friend Barbara, whom I was privileged to know for a little while, who told a joke to her doctor then died instantly where she sat - we'd all like to go that quickly and painlessly, I think.

I don't know how many years, or days, I have left. Or which of our loved ones and friends will precede us. No one does. 

The chart suggests, as a non-smoker, I should live another 17 years. D-L another 14. But actuaries are averages, not forecasts. They don't take into account genetics or lifestyle (such as my plans to do a parachute jump) or even the will to keep living. Will alone won't keep you alive, but if it did I plan to be around for a long time.

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Balls

Dueling blog: D-L's view can be found at: http://theexpatwriter.blogspot.fr/2018/04/castration.html
Nutz. Bollocks. Testicules.

Whatever they're called, Sherlock's are gone.

Our male puppy is now a eunuch.

Part of the contract with the rescue centre where we got him in December is that we would have him neutered. Donna-Lane didn't want to do it to him. When the rescue vet told her it was obligatoire, her instinct was to grab the dog and run. Would they come after us? After all, they know where we live.

Certainly there was no point in breeding him. He's a melange, a mix, a mutt. One of a kind. And they certainly don't need more dogs at the rescue centre; there are far too many who cannot find a home and just end up being put to sleep.

He was pretty groggy when we picked him up after the operation. His expression said, "What the hell did you do to me?"

He's been paying us back by peeing in the house ... rather frequently.

Going into the operation, I had two concerns. One is that he will chew his stitches. So we bought one of those plastic cones to go around his head. Except it's too big and he pulls it off rather easily. My other worry was that something would go wrong with the operation and he'd never wake up from the anesthetic. That's not something you voice in advance, but it is a possibility whenever a living thing goes under the surgeon's knife.

After being home for a day, he has been steadily gaining energy and appetite. I'm hoping the castration will dampen his aggression/enthusiasm a bit, especially when he encounters other dogs or children.

Next week we expect to start sessions with a trainer who goes by the name "Psychodog." Despite the name, I don't expect Sherlock to go nuts.  Those are gone for good.