Tuesday, September 18, 2018

AARO - Living Overseas and U.S. Elections


If you are a U.S. citizen living overseas, you CAN and SHOULD vote. It's a little different from voting when you live in the U.S.
  • The law allows you to vote in FEDERAL elections. Of course, that includes mid-terms, because all of the House and 1/3 of the Senate seats are up for election.
  • You have to send in your ballot request EVERY YEAR. Why? Because, I think, you have to keep your election board apprised of your living abroad every year. And because you never know when there might be a special election because someone resigned or died.
  • There are two websites for overseas voters that I recommend:
TWO - Find out who your candidates are.
THREE - Connect to your candidates!

AARO is running a "Connect to your Overseas Constituents" campaign: https://www.aaro.org/election-2018-candidate-statements-for-expat-americans  We are asking three questions pertaining to U.S. citizens living overseas to all the candidates in the general election.
  • If you live in one of the states AARO is highlighting, check the responses from your state and then go to: https://www.aaro.org/advocacy/voting/729-help-connecting-to-the-candidates  to see our recommendations for contacting your candidates.
  • Even if you do not live in one of these states, you can contact your candidates, just to let them know you exist and what some of your issues are as U.S. citizens in a foreign country.
 For those who are not familiar with my involvement with AARO, I am a former board member and still active volunteer. AARO is the Association of Americans Resident Overseas. www.aaro.org

Sunday, September 2, 2018

The Internet is chronophage

In France, the term for time-consuming and time-wasting is "chronophage". Its a good word. I like it. It is useful.
If you start your day looking at what emails came in during the night and trashing most of them and then proceed to Facebook to see what notifications came in, you know what I mean. You look over the notifications -- most of mine, nowadays, are from Girls High classmates, groups of Americans living abroad (generally) and in France, or Paris (specifically), and many machine knitting groups. Then, on to the "home" icon to see what's new. By the time I'm finished, it's time to check the email, again. A whole day can go by like this!
The machine knitting groups are the most chronophage. There are so many of them! There might be a new video showing a technique I'm not familiar with, or something I do know but want to see how this other person does it. There might be a question that I can help with, but I have to read all the replies to see if what I want to say has already been said. (I hate reading a long list of replies that merely repeat what someone else has said without adding any new insight! I do sometimes fall into that trap, though.)
I've dropped a few of the Americans abroad groups. They got too depressing. They also became too virulent, with some participants insulting others for daring to disagree or not taking what they considered appropriate action. I also decided to participate less in the groups I'm still following. It's quite a relief. It doesn't mean I've become disinterested. I've just decided to detach myself from the divisiveness.
My classmates are a different story. I love seeing what they are up to. They have their own passions and I continue to be educated by them.  We have our 50th reunion coming up in October and I've got my plane and hotel reservations, and even a reservation to see a comedy show where one of them is performing. I'm excited.  I'm extending the stay for family visits to Pittsburgh and San Diego.
I'll be returning to the U.S. in December, with my son and his family. A Florida vacation at Christmas, like the days our family would go down to Key West. And that'll be it, for a long while, I think.
Today looks like it's going to be a nice day. I'm finishing up my first task - this post and I'm turning off the computer as soon as I post it. I'm going to go for a walk after lunch and find time to redo that sweater that Au. started.

Sunday, August 26, 2018

More of those two months

Ready for lunch
After the long week in Blagnac and the region, we drove up to Najac and settled in at the Belle Rive hotel, our headquarters when we visit Em&G. Nothing new to report from there. We relaxed. A few days later, Cl arrived with the children and Al, her mother-in-law. They were staying in a gîte on the Viaur river, just upstream from where it joins the Aveyron in Laguépie. We saw them briefly when they arrived, but it was late, so we left them to get settled and eat something. The next day, we met up at a restaurant in Najac - our first really bad restaurant experience -- ignoring us for more than half an hour, then slow service and then serving the wrong things. After this very, very long and unpleasant lunch (we were among the first to arrive and the last to leave!), we went back to the hotel for a swim. G arrived on his motorcycle - straight to the hotel, where they all stayed for dinner and then left while there was still a little light to guide Ge to the gîte. By the time they got to the road that was just a gutted out path, though, there was no light left and it was a rough ride on the heavy motorcycle.
They spent their days visiting sites with Al, who was unfamiliar with this region and then we all met up at Em&G's a few times. A flew back to England and we drove back to Nogent for a few days recuperation before Cl&Ge came to Nogent for another 10 days. Actually, Ge went back to England after a couple of days, so it was just Cl with Au and Co.
A live show - a medley of Disney musical comedies -- Excellent!
An moved into her new apartment! And since she is also on vacation, she was able to spend lots of time with Cl and the girls. I think they all appreciated it. I know I loved having them here. They went to to Giverny one day and also spent some time with L and his kids in Paris. (L, still on vacation while Gw returned to work. Just last Wednesday, though, Gw had the day off and we all (except P) went to Disneyland Paris. It was hot and sunny, but not as hot as during the heat wave. The kids, I think, loved it. I love seeing the kids getting all excited. There was a bit of panic at the end of the day when a couple of phone batteries ran down and because we had split, there was a moment of not knowing where the others were. But we all were found. The kids were exhausted. The park's closing finale, a light show on the castle with fireworks, was beautiful and everyone managed to get back to the cars and back home, safe and sound. Cl drove back to England the next day.
The house is back in order. The sweater that Au and I started to knit is almost finished. I'll deliver it at the end of September. The summer top I made myself and wore in July, I took apart and reknit, smaller and better fitting. With the left over yarn, I was able to make a smaller version for Co!

Two months just flew by!

Wow, that went fast! I thought I was going to write a post after our trip to the Toulouse area, but I wanted to sort out the pictures, first. That's where I made a mistake. I still haven't sorted them out.
After the July 14 parade, during which the planes seemed to be flying even lower as they went over our house, we left on Monday in order to arrive in Blagnac early enough on Tuesday to pick up the first of the Americans we spent a week with. We spent that Monday night in Brives-la-Gaillarde, a busy town, even on a Monday, when most shops are closed. There are not as many empty shops as we've become used to seeing in town centers. There were plenty of people in the streets and at the cafés.
On Tuesday morning, we arrived at the gîte in Blagnac where we stayed last year for the big family reunion. You might recognize the hens. They no longer lay eggs, but still peck around the yard.
First off, who was on this trip. As usual, I will not mention full names, which I know is annoying to some, but the other participants deserve their privacy. P -- my husband, K&S -- K is my cousin from LA and S, his wife. R&J -- from New York, R is a high school friend of K's and J, his wife. JT -- our Nogent neighbor who sent his elder son to K&S's house about 30 years ago to improve his English and has been a friend of K&S since then. Both R and JT are psychiatrists and have been friends since K&S introduced them. Seven people, two cars (ours and JT's).
K&S arrived at the airport, just 5 minutes from the house, in the morning. They had time to get settled in and we went to lunch across the street at a pizzeria, the first of the excellent restaurants on the street. Finished lunch and went back to the airport for R&J. That first day, we didn't budge from Blagnac. We went for a walk late in the afternoon, but everyone was just a ready for a relaxing day before we hit the tourist road.
France was in a heat wave. Toulouse is already very hot in summer, but in this heat wave, it was unbearably hot, but we survived. We started at Saint Sernin, from there walked to the Jacobins, where P finished high school, to the Garonne waterside for some refreshing drinks and more and more walking. We enjoyed a nice lunch on a terrace and then had to get back to the cars at Saint Sernin. The one thing missing was a swimming pool and we were just too tired to walk over to the Blagnac public pool.
Next on our to-do list was a drive down to Saint-Bertrand de Comminges in the foothills of the Pyrenees. This is a pilgrimage site on the way to Santiago de Compostela. It's a beautiful site. There aren't too many tourists, so you can actually see what you are visiting. However, it's become such an attraction that you have to park in a field at the bottom of the hill and there's a little train to take you up. They don't really indicate where you are supposed to get on the train. There was a a little bus/train stop looking place at the far end of the parking lot and we thought that was it. It wasn't. Once we did get to the train and saw there were three stops on the hill, we asked where we should get off. The driver just said it didn't matter. I had to be very specific in my question, where should we get off where we had the least walking to do. (K had a back ache and none of us really wanted to do a lot of uphill climbing in the heat, anyway.) Visiting the cathedral is free, but the cloisters visit is not. From the cloisters there's a gorgeous view of the valley and the cloisters are pleasant to just walk around. We got a combined ticket so that we could visit the basilica Saint-Just, just in the plain below Saint-Bertrand. We went there after lunch. Lunch was excellent -- on the terrace under a linden tree -- but very, very long. I prefer Saint-Just. It's a simple Romanesque church built with recycled stones, many of which seem to have been from Roman Empire times. While waiting for the others to finish up their visit, P and I had a nice chat with the woman at the ticket booth. She's from La Réunion and wants to visit Paris. We had hoped to drive up into the Pyrenees, so close, but lunch had taken up so much time, we just went back to Blagnac after Saint-Just. That happened to us, again, the very next day.
When we got back to Blagnac, we found, as expected, Em.&G, and a friend of G's from Switzerland. He had just flown in and they were going to spend the night in Blagnac with us and then go into Toulouse on Friday for art supplies. We had an excellent dinner at Le Temps Moderne, on the main street of Blagnac.
MoissacWe spent a morning at Moissac, visiting the gigantic Saint-Pierre church, part of the old abbey. Again, this is on one of the trails to Santiago de Compostela. The stone carvings are fascinating and there are beautiful, colored wood sculptures in the church. Both JT and P had insisted we visit, here, and they were right. But enough of churches!
We took them to Saint-Antonin-Noble-Val for lunch at l'Auberge des Sens. We got there a little later than expected and after lunch spent quite a while walking around the town. It's so pleasant when it's not a market day, although, it seemed the lack of tourists is a problem this year. By the time we were ready to leave, it was deemed too late to drive the short distance up to Em&G's place and spend an hour. That's really a shame, but we thought we'd go up on Monday for even a longer visit.
Saturday, some went back into Toulouse, P and I stayed in Blagnac. Sunday, we all went to Albi. I love how they've restored the interior of the cathedral. We've been there several times in the past few years. It's one of my favorite places to visit in France. The cathedral takes a long time to visit, especially if you want to take in the choeur and the treasury. And after the cathedral, there's the Toulouse-Lautrec museum, with a little stop at the garden on the side. Lunch and a longer visit to the garden before finding the cars and heading back "home". JT flew back to Paris for a funeral and came back on Monday evening.
Monday, everyone was tired of the long drives, so instead of going up to Em&G's place, we went back into Toulouse. We split up with a meeting point for lunch and later meeting point for the river/canal cruise -- not recommended. During the split up time, P and I went for a long walk to the garden and then to the canal, to where he used to live. We had lunch with K&S. and then joined the others at 2. We even managed to get on an earlier cruise than we'd reserved, but really, the cruise is avoidable. For us, it was an opportunity to be seated and in the shade.
The week was coming to an end. On Tuesday morning, we visited the Airbus 380 facility. It's a shame the plane has not been the success it was expected to be. They will have to shut down production. We then spent another hour, or so, in the museum. We thought we'd have lunch on site and got to the restaurant at 11:45, but they couldn't seat us, even though it was empty, because it was all reserved. My own feeling is that when there is only one food outlet at a tourist attraction, they should maintain a percentage of the seating for walk-ins, first come-first served. The rest of the day was just relaxing and packing. Wednesday, off to the airport and we drove up to Najac and JT went the opposite direction to continue his vacation with friends.