Category: France

The Fatcats Discuss FATCA

The alarm rings. 7 AM. The room is still dark. I inch out of bed and make a morning smoothie. I don’t know what to expect, where I’m going today.

I take the metro to the other side of the river. I know I’ve found my destination by the small gathering of Americans outside. Once we’ve introduced ourselves (and realize that the door is open), we proceeded into the building.

I look up as we enter to see three clotheslines hanging above, all draped with red and pink clothing.

“Someone likes to wear a lot of red,” I said. I’m told it has a special significance.

We sign in and enter a room with a long table, crowded with chairs. I hang up my coat and hat by the door.

The room is filled with Americans. Americans living in Paris and elsewhere who have come to learn more about the issue we all have in common.

Senator Lee and lawyer James Bopp are introduced.

Why were we here? What is so important?

Mmm Bopp (sorry, I couldn't help myself)
Mmm Bopp (sorry, I couldn’t help myself)

You may not be familiar with the plight of the expat, but once you leave the US, you certainly start learning quickly. Did you know that if you reside outside of the US, as a citizen you still must file your tax returns? Even if you didn’t make a dime on US soil. Even if you haven’t set foot there in years. Even if you have never set foot inside the US in your life. If you are a proud holder of a US passport and citizenship – you file. Not only that, but if you earn over a certain amount you will owe taxes on it. Sure, those double taxation treaties are handy – up to a point, and that point is around $99,000. Which is about 80,000€ I believe. Less, in pounds.

Not only that, but you must declare any bank accounts that you have if you hold over $10,000 (all together) in them, plus any assets. I’m sure there’s even more to it that I can’t remember at the moment. But if you don’t file those papers, you could be in for a fine of up to 50% of the highest value in your account.

This is why were here here. Senator Lee shared his thoughts on FATCA (the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act) and the FBAR form (which Mr. Bopp called the FUBAR form), and how they were planning on fighting it for us. The whole thing is just plain unconstitutional. Our own government is picking on a minority of people who don’t even live in the country (so it’s hard for us to fight back, I suppose), and costing not only us but the world more money than they even stand to take in. Americans are being denied bank accounts because of what the US government is demanding from banks. Accounts are being closed. Companies are being urged not to hire Americans. Lives are being destroyed.

I know not many people in America will care, because it’s not happening to them, and perhaps you’ll think it’s in the name of security, or catching tax cheats. OK, so the government is throwing a net into the ocean with the goal of catching one kind of fish, but in that dragnet they are also dragging in many, many other species… animals that they don’t care about, and toss aside. Maybe save them, you can get a little money from them too. Doesn’t matter, we caught our fish, right? (yeah, think about that when you eat fish – it happens).

But what’s next? If they are allowed to get away with destroying the lives of thousands, if not millions, of Americans living abroad… what’s to stop them from getting greedier and applying the same measures to everyone at home? Soon they will also know about where all of your money is, and how much you have. They’ll know everything about you. Although, they probably already do…. but then add to that the cruel and unusual punishment of excessive fines and fees for not “confessing” everything they “need” to know about you.

FATCA, FBAR, and the citizenship-based income tax are all horrible, horrible consequences of being an American who chooses to live in another part of the world. Many Americans are being forced to make the difficult decision to give up their citizenship, for no other reason but that the government is not allowing them to keep what is rightfully theirs – their money, and a reasonable expectation of privacy. FATCA violates not just one of our constitutional rights, but at least 3.

Amendment IV

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

Amendment V

No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a grand jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the militia, when in actual service in time of war or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offense to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.

Amendment VIII

Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.

 

The French people I have talked to about these issues think it is absolutely insane, and they can’t conceive of the notion that a government would be so invasive and greedy, to tax and fine you even if you have never set foot on their soil. Why are we OK with this?

To top it off, bills like this get passed as add-ons to other long, unrelated bills. The Senator told us one bill got passed in the following manner: 1AM on New Year’s Day he received an email with a 150 page attachment of a bill he was to vote on. While printing out page 13, 6 minutes later, they were asked to vote on it. This is how our bills get passed. They don’t even get read. Something is wrong with the way our country is run. Bills aren’t being passed to help you, or me. Our government doesn’t care about us. Last year I earned about $15,000. And if you know what rent is like these days in large cities, you know that over half of what I earned went to rent. The rest to food and debt, basically. And yet, when the accountant tallied up my tax return, I owed the government a whopping $1800. I cried. It was everything I had managed to save. Which was a step better than the year before, when I had to put about the same amount on my credit card. But even that is part of the debt I’m paying off this year. Thank you, America.

But that’s another issue. I just wanted to make you aware of FATCA, and the challenges one faces when venturing out of the US. Those thousands of people who have renounced their citizenship? You know how they’re punished for that? They get a whole month every year to visit the US. One month. Oh, even if you don’t expatriate and you simply live in another country, if you spend over 5 weeks out of the year in the US, you have to have ObamaCare. Yes, you do. Giving up your citizenship also has had a sharp rise in the actual fee, as well. Before this summer, the fee was around $450. Now it’s been raised to nearly $2350 (Forbes). If you are considered “wealthy,” there is also a hefty exit tax. So you basically have to be financially secure enough to afford the $2350 fee, but not too financially secure as to avoid the government deciding to just steal a chunk of your money on the way out. And forget about visiting family or friends for any length of time. Though your foreign spouse can spend several months in the US, if they so desire.

We can’t just sit back and allow our government to discriminate against a minority (though 6 million+ is not a small number!) of our citizens because it’s not a problem that we all face. As human beings, we have the right to live and work and enjoy the fruits of our labour, the right to a reasonable expectation of privacy, and the right to not be punished by a government simply because you happened to have been born in a certain part of the world. Nobody can control where they’re born, any more than they can control the colour of their skin, or their sexual orientation (I know we debate that one, stick with me). So why do we allow this? Why do we allow our government to punish people simply because they happened to be born in a place other than where they want to live? You may not believe in God, but I do, and I believe as human beings, we have no borders. Nationalities are just ideas in the minds of men, and we subscribe to it because we were told we had to. There is no America, no France, no Mexico, no Canada. There’s earth. There are people. I don’t belong to a land mass with an invisible (or barbed) fence around it. Nobody has the right to know where my money is, how much I have, what I spend it on, who I talk to, what I’m doing…. anything. And anybody who wants those rights does not have my best interest at heart.

The government does not see us as people, as individuals. Simply other fish caught in the net. We are little ATMs, little money-making machines that they can use and discard. Because they don’t care if we can pay our rent, or eat. They don’t care. And they are going to keep testing the limits, pushing the boundaries, until we say enough, and push back hard enough.

So push back with me. Stand up for our rights. If you’re an American living abroad, look up AARO (The Association of American Residents Overseas) for starters. Look up Senator Mike Lee of Utah. Write to your senators and congressmen. Vote for the ones who support the Constitution, and our rights.

Don’t wait until they come for you…

First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Socialist.

Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.

Talk to Strangers

I think I grew up pretty shy. Or at least my grandma kept telling me I was shy. I was nervous to talk to people, hated making phone calls (still do), and wasn’t all that adventurous. And of course I was given that advice not to talk to strangers.

As I grow older, and travel more, that barrier to interaction with others has been slowly breaking down. I had to do some internal work on some of it, a lot of talking myself into doing things, and a lot of leaping before I had a chance to see if the water was cold or not.

Coming to Paris alone that first time, and then moving here, really helped force me out of my shell. I had to talk to people I didn’t know. I had to make new friends. And once I started doing it more often, the easier it got.

But I still face resistance. Many times I will be walking along and notice something about a person that makes me want to just run up to them and say, “I think you’re beautiful!” But I don’t. That would be weird, right?

Last week, I was walking in the Marais and passed a young man taping some beautiful photographs to a wall. Elephants, people… I slowed to look, but kept walking. Something in my brain said, “stop and tell him you think they’re beautiful!” And immediately another voice cut it off saying, “no, he’ll try to get you to buy something, keep walking.” I let the voices debate for a few more minutes as I walked on auto-pilot. I finally stopped, feigning interest in my phone so I didn’t look like I’d totally left planet earth and forgot to take my body with me.

Then I turned around.

Silly voice, saying “oh, you’re going to look dumb, walking back, and then turning around again to go in the direction you came from.” I thought about crossing the street, or going around the block. I didn’t though.

I approached him and asked if he had taken the pictures. To my relief, he spoke English, and we began chatting about the photography. He and a friend apparently make an annual 6 month trip to India to take photos. He is from Germany, but travels around a bit, and likes to sell his photographs on the street specifically so that he can have more interaction with people.

Another man stopped to talk for a few minutes, discussing photography with the photographer, whose name I now knew was Peter.

I finally decided to go on my way again, but not without first exchanging email addresses. You never know! I love to keep in touch with interesting people. I also took a photo of the photographer and his work to share with you here. He does not currently have a website or any photos online, but if that changes, I will update this post so you can admire and perhaps buy one of his prints.

Peter the Photographer

 

Anyway, I felt really good that I listened to the inner voice telling me to step outside of my comfort zone. There are many times I’m in the street and have the thought to tell someone I think their hair is awesome, or I love their coat, or I like their music, but something always stops me. In L.A., I am more inclined to talk to women on the street (or men even) about what they’re wearing, because we’re speaking my native language and I don’t have that fear of simply speaking. But I clam up here. I can’t just say something in passing, because it takes me too long to even form the sentence. And then good luck understanding any response. I’m also told it’s not common here for strangers to just talk to each other like that. As for artists, I feel bad when I can’t buy something from them, or donate. But then again is the language barrier. I am still extremely shy when it comes to speaking French. I need to make much more of an effort to learn and become comfortable with it.

But I really want to. Whenever I think about these things that I “can’t” do because I feel limited by language, it pushes me to work harder. I want to share encouragement with people, put a smile on their faces, interact and make friends, let someone know they’re appreciated in some way, that they’re not invisible and maybe I think they’re wearing a cool hat. I know I appreciate it when I get nice compliments from men in the street (and yes, most of the time they are pleasant compliments! I’ve gotten several on my hair colour, and some on my hats) and I think we all ought to take note that unexpected compliments or words of encouragement are welcomed by nearly everyone.

I know it’s not always a language thing. We can also be afraid of how the other person will react. Or maybe we don’t even know why we’re afraid to talk to people we don’t know. I mean, it doesn’t seem like there are any real logical reasons not to (unless they look drunk/angry/crazy). But I guess what we should try to do is just be true to ourselves and let other people react how they will. Most likely, you will get a positive response (or maybe none. Several times I’d get an unexpected compliment in passing, and be too confused about it to react, other than turning to look at the person and smile. Yeah, I’m slow. I also have to go through the translation process to figure out if something was a compliment or not).

So…go talk to some strangers! You’ll meet some amazing people, and there will be one less stranger in your world. 🙂

We’re Not in Kansas Anymore, Toto….

Uh-oh, I’m starting to get a little bad at keeping y’all updated here. Sometimes I’m just not sure what to write about. Other travel bloggers give advice and insight, and I don’t always feel like I have that. Others just talk about their journeys… but I always wonder if people really want to hear about everyday life. I started this blog to help me focus on the things I wanted to do… create, learn, and give. To connect with creative minds around the world, to learn about the world, and to give whatever I could, wherever I could. But my financial situation has been frustrating my attempts at this life. I have a lot of exciting ideas, things I want to do, and I pursue them no matter what, but sometimes I have to make sacrifices. Life doesn’t pause for you when you’d like it to! In the back of my mind, I keep thinking I should go live in Thailand where life is cheap, work online, and come back when I have savings.

Instead, I’m back in France, and have been shutting myself in trying to make progress on some creative work and my online work. I’d been looking forward to this time for a while but now that I’m here, I’ve got singers-block or something! Actors-block… everything. I feel so unproductive. I’m still making efforts, but I can’t help but bounce around anxiously from one task to another and wonder what the point of everything is. You know sometimes when you have some big goals but you’re not sure where to start… you start by preoccupying yourself with little goals that make you feel busy? Well, I do. And the past two weeks I’ve preoccupied myself trying to find a specific product for the upkeep of my new hair color.

Lavender blue, dilly dilly...
Lavender blue, dilly dilly…

 

Toner does not seem to exist in France. Here has been the process of trying to find it (and taking my mind off of the other more important things I should be doing). Or you can watch my video cry for help.

1. Locate salon supplies stores (something like Sally’s Beauty Supplies).

2. Visit one called Delorme, purchase blue bleach powder (so there’s no yellow, they tell me!) and developer.

3. Go to another salon supply store after bleaching my roots yellow, in search of toner. I get told I would have to bleach it more but I shouldn’t because it’s damaged. I keep trying to explain I won’t get it white by bleaching it more.

4. Go back to Delorme. Get sold some purple shampoo.

5. Go back to Delorme after the purple shampoo does nothing, and searching again on my own. Found a “blond toning” tube. Figured I’d try that.

6. Go back to Delorme after that doesn’t work and being told by a friend that I need to search for something called an eclaircessant. Salesperson returns with a small jar of purple stuff called “white toner.” OK. So you DO know the word “toner.” Now.

7. Throw up hands in disgust after this toner does nothing as well.

8. Happen to go into a Monoprix where they have a décoloration (whatever) in the hair dye section. Looks like she’s got white hair. I’ll try that.

9. Realize I’ve got a patch of spiky hair on the top of my head after this latest experiment, where I’ve melted my hair off. Clumps of hair like I’ve never seen clog my brush and the shower drain.

10. Brush my bangs back, put in more purple, and call it a day. Finally decide to order toner from the US.

I don’t know how anybody dyes their hair here.

I’m really loving the white and purple though. A real shame that I’ve hurt my hair so much in France trying to keep it up though. I’m slathering on the coconut oil and other hair products, and I think I’ll survive.

So yes. There’s that.

And if you’d like a little slice of French life, I have a story for you (cleaned up from my Yelp review of a certain restaurant…). Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m not always a negative person. It was just out of the ordinary. There are plenty of good things about Paris and the people who live here! 🙂 But I feel obliged to warn people away from places that give bad customer service. I firmly believe in good customer service, and treating everyone kindly!!

So two friends and I went out to enjoy the Fête de la Musique last Saturday evening, and around 11pm snagged a small table at this café from which we intended to order some drinks and fries and enjoy the music in the square. I wasn’t timing our server, but it took at least 15 minutes until we were noticed. That’s OK, we weren’t in a rush, and it was a busy night. When he arrived, he asked if we were eating or drinking, and refused to serve us if we were only drinking. We clarified that we were also getting some fries. This seemed acceptable. He laid out some napkins. He later came back to get our orders. Friend #1 ordered a drink and the 2 orders of fries. Friend #2 wanted a hot drink, but he said they couldn’t serve that, so she continued to look at the menu. I was dying for some water to kill an oncoming dehydration headache, so I asked for a carafe. He yanked away our menus and spouted off a stream of French at us to the effect that he wouldn’t serve us water. We were so shocked we barely knew how to reply, and he walked off. 

For the next 20 minutes or so he ignored us, except when debating with my friends (whose French is much better than mine), one of whom is familiar with the law (having been a lawyer) who told him it’s against the law to refuse water. In the midst of this debate, I watched him wipe snot from his mustache with his bare finger, and go on to hand plates to the table next to us. He got within inches of my friend’s face at one point as she sat in her chair, and she held up her hands telling him to back off. When friend #1 went to find the manager, he took her chair and folded it up, putting it to the side. Friend #2 promptly went to rescue it, and then took her turn at finding management.

The owner of the restaurant brushed her aside several times, and another waitress appeared from behind the counter (at this point we were inside the restaurant, having given up the idea of staying there) to yell in my friend’s face. I was honestly concerned that she was going to get violent. My friend is a lovely, tiny girl, and for our massive server and this other waitress to get so physically threatening towards her was just shocking.

So, after being refused service in this manner, around midnight we left. A whole hour had passed in which he could have served us and everyone would have been content. Our table was as good as empty for that hour. So I could not see the logic in refusing to serve us.

And what is this place called? La Terrasse Sainte Catherine, in the Marais. You’ll know them by their servers wearing overalls.

La Terrasse of No Service
La Terrasse of No Service

 

I would just say don’t go there.

Let’s see, let’s see…. Well, I think this post is long enough for now. I’ll save something for next time! Though I have one more thing for you. I should have waited until I dyed my hair to do this one… But it just came to me one day while I was in LA, and I decided to record it right then and there! I’m really surprised I don’t have more views, Frozen parodies are just huuuuuuge right now! Share it if you like it.

 

My New Hobby

Last year, somehow I stumbled upon a website called ScoopThePoop.net and contacted the owner about perhaps creating some French pooh flags. Which he did. But between my trip to L.A., making a short film, and moving around way too much, I forgot about printing them up and flagging pooh.

Until now.

Knowing the end of my time in Paris is near (at least for now. I just don’t know what my plan is and will spend time sorting that out in L.A.) I had to do something. I couldn’t leave without taking action against a few of the things Parisians need to work on, because I want to make the world a better place. So I am letting certain irresponsible dog-owners know that we DO notice the crap they leave behind, and we are not OK with it.

And this is how.

Pooh to you!
Pooh to you!

Paris is well-known for the crap on the sidewalks and if I could just get the ball rolling on this public shaming, perhaps others will want to join me and continue the mission once I’m gone. But to do that, they will need the flags! So you will find the downloadable and printable PDFs in French and in English at the end of this post.

This new hobby has really changed my mood while out walking and stumbling upon (or narrowly avoiding) dog poop. As I walk my own dog, or as I’m walking to the store, or to class, or wherever I’m going…. instead of seeing a pile of stinking poop and silently going “AAAAAGGGGGH!” I reach into my pocket and pull out a flag, taking a bit of delight in the thought that this doggy’s owner most likely will pass by again and see what those of us who buy (biodegradable) doggy bags think. If you can’t read it, it says “Mon maître est un gros dégueulasse” which loosely translated means “My master is an inconsiderate jerk.” Or at least that’s what the English version says. I did ask one friend if it made sense to him, and he said yes, sooooo…. there you go.

I’ve already flagged almost a dozen poop piles, it’s about time to print out some more flags. I have only taken photos of two, because really, it just feels weird to photograph poop.

If you’re interested in shaming irresponsible dog owners in your English or French speaking city, please feel free to download these printable flags! Also feel free to print them on colourful paper. 🙂

English Pooh Flags

French Pooh Flags

And…. that’s not the only disgusting habit I’m going to try to get people to quit.

If you’ve spent any length of time in Paris, you’ve probably seen some grown man pissing in public, right? When there are cafés and bars and even free public toilets practically everywhere you look, there he stands in broad daylight, peeing on a wall.

Well. That drives me nuts, and I wish it hadn’t taken me until a trip to Barcelona to find a way to show them that it’s not appreciated.

Kiss Kiss Squirt Squirt
Kiss Kiss Squirt Squirt

Sold in packs of 6 for about 5€, I found pocket-sized water guns. Parfait. If you’re going to behave like a dog, I’ll treat you like a dog.

I haven’t had a chance to use it yet. The only two opportunities I’ve had recently were 1. when I forgot to pack my gun and 2. when there were three drunk teenagers in a park and I was walking to the metro in heels and a corset (what, I was at the Paris Burlesque Festival). Not the best time to exact punishment. I hope I get to do it at least once before I leave, but if not… I will definitely be packing them in my suitcase on my way back. And girls, I have 5 extra if you’d like to join my gang.

I’m Alive!

Sorry for the radio silence. That’s the term, right?

I’m alive. And I really do want to get back to talking about Ghana, but this month has also been quite an experience and I feel I should write about it as it’s happening…. There are a lot of things I can’t say, or rather just choose not to say… I made a decision to not be public about my relationships and I’m trying to stick to that. I think it’s a good decision, because sometimes we can get quite upset at someone and it’s probably not a good idea to vent it to the whole world. 🙂

So let’s seeeeee. Last week, I went to my friend’s place, and stayed there for several days. It was really enjoyable. We stayed up late and talked about everything and anything, from relationships to movies. We watched movies, too. He gave me his couch-bed and slept on a thin roll-out mattress on the floor for the whole week. Awwwww. I did offer to switch with him if he needed a break from it. Luckily, he got a break on Sunday, when I went to check out guests at the Vacant Apartment. This week I started painting the walls of the V.A. It always looks like an easy, quick job, but somehow it does take time. You plaster some holes, wait for that to dry, sand it, put tape around the things you don’t want to paint, then you paint with the brush, then with the roller…. then you let it dry while you watch an episode of Drop Dead Diva, or The Daily Show…. then you apply the second coat. Voilà! One wall down. How many to go? How about that one back in the corner near the washer, that one looks ugly. Yes, so I’ll just move these things off the – dammit, nooooo! Detergent on the floor. Must pull out cabinets and the washer, and try to mop it up…. washer is attached to wall by hose…. that’s not happening….

On to the next wall. Well, the next day. I’m doing a wall a day. Why, you ask? Because I have a life. A life that involves taking the metro to my storage place every morning to tote back more potential items to either come with me, get mailed to me, or stay behind. I’m sorting. And I have until the 24th to empty that thing. I figure I have 6 more trips to make if I’m doing it on my own. Potentially less if I can get a friend with a car. Which I may have for this weekend, or may have had….

This weekend is the Paris Burlesque Festival. A friend and I have volunteered, and I’m very excited about it. Nervous too, since I rarely volunteer for this sort of thing. I get nervous having such responsibility. Oh, and potentially having to converse in and understand French. But I want to meet people in the burlesque world, and see some shows (which otherwise are not free)! And have an excuse to wear a corset. I’m still unsure of my costume.

I almost had a plan to ease my storage woes this weekend, as well. Someone from out of town, with a car, would stay over on Saturday and help me with the trip on Sunday. All my things need to be out of storage by the 24th, and it’s been a pain going back and forth and figuring out what has to come with me and what has to stay. My new storage is another friend’s cave. That’s like an underground storage area.

And then things start to change. I’m told I may have to finish up the walls tomorrow and figure out how to shove everything I could possibly need access to before the 27th into a small closet in the hallway so that a guest can check in. Can I stop here and say, yes, I know this friend seems a little selfish right now, and if you knew the extent of the relationship, you would just say, “what an @sshole,” as others have. It has not been an easy year for me. Every year in France seems to get more difficult. Like running on a hamster wheel that won’t stop. And that’s why I’m getting off for a moment, and taking a breather in L.A. I need to examine this wheel and figure out a survival strategy now that I know what I’m in for. But at the moment, things have gone what I would call, “wrong,” and I’m temporarily without a home of my own. And does anyone see the irony of the homeless girl managing an apartment rental? Yeah…

It’s been an interesting time for me. I am observing which friends reach out and offer help, and which ones could, but don’t. Which friends are always there when I need help (even when I tell them “you’ve done so much for me already, I don’t want to ask you for help again!”) and which ones say (well not out loud) “OK, I’ve given enough, I don’t care if you have to sleep on the street with your dog.”

I’m not perfect. There have been times where I couldn’t respond to a request for help. But I’ve taken in cats, I’ve nursed a cat with cancer, I’ve picked up and dropped off friends at the airport (one time in the middle of the night, too), I’ve loaned money (and sometimes it doesn’t get paid back…. thanks, guys), I’ve loaned my car, I’ve taken in friends who had no place to go, I even shared a tiny studio with a friend for months and slept on a mattress on the floor. I want to help. I love it when I can be there for someone when they need it. I actually am enjoying painting the walls here, because it’s something that I can give.

But to know that the place was vacant for the entire 6 weeks I was gone, because I was the only person he thought he could trust in all of Paris to manage it…. and now that I’m back with this major issue of homelessness he desperately needs to rent it, and I have to be the one to do it…. Over the summer I dealt with a water heater that wouldn’t heat, a washer/dryer that wouldn’t dry (and I was up all night for an 8AM check-in trying to do laundry. Then vacuuming, which woke the downstairs neighbour. And she let me know of her displeasure.), a clogged kitchen sink, a wobbly faucet, hair in the shower drain, stained sheets, ripped sheets, putting up curtain rods for curtains I still can’t figure out…. need I continue? But when I am in serious need of help and a place to stay, and this place is not being lived in… I need to prepare it for someone else who’s got the money to go live wherever they want. I’m seriously reconsidering my relationship with this person.

So on Friday I may have to shove everything into a closet and pack my backpack… forget about more musical contests because my guitar will be locked inside an apartment… and now figure out what I’m going to do about my dog while me and my friend (who has been helping to watch her when I can’t) both are volunteering at the festival. Oh yeah, and I can no longer host the friend who was going to save the day with his car on Sunday. So there goes that, and I have no idea how I’m going to get these things over to the new storage place.

OK, on a more positive note… I listened to the audio book version of The Four Agreements, which I highly recommend. I will probably listen to it again soon. I need to drill it into my head.

I also listened to an interview with the author of Conversations With God (which I haven’t read yet but would now like to). I took a few notes, one of which was to

“Be the source of God’s presence in the life of another.”

Other notes were:

Be grateful for every condition and circumstance in life.

Ask myself how I would be able to express who I am (in the form of being kind, caring, loving, forgiving…) without conditions in which to become that.

To say,”Thank you God, for this one more chance to announce and declare, to express and to fulfill, to become and to demonstrate, who I really am.”

Good stuff, especially when going through trials. But that first note makes me think, a lot. He said when we look at what it is we think we lack, and then instead of trying to find it, seek to give it to others…. it will find us. It’s a little tricky when what you lack is a place for you and your dog to sleep, but maybe I can come up with something else.

One time I stopped and gave money to an older woman who was in the metro station with her cart of belongings. She told me to wait a moment, and then pulled out a pack of gum, which she handed to me. I thought it was so sweet, so special that this woman who had almost nothing would find something to give to me. She didn’t have to. I wasn’t expecting anything in return. But she gave. I kept that pack of gum. In fact, maybe I’ll even bring it back to L.A. with me….

Oh yes, I mentioned musical contests…. so if you wouldn’t mind…

CLICK HERE

and check me out….

 

 

One Day At A Time

Monday, October 7, about 4:00 PM

For the past two years in Paris, I’ve been trying to settle in, despite my decreasing income and frustrations learning French. My plan was to be creative, all the time… make that webseries! Learn French and act in French! Act in English! Do background work, like in L.A., when I needed extra cash! Have a cozy place to live! But it’s been a struggle. Looking back, of course I can say, “well maybe I should have looked for a job right away so I would learn French quicker, and have a little more income….” but I was really optimistic. And then after the optimism came the time in The Suburbs, when commuting for any reason was a pain, and culture shock and homesickness set in big time. I left that place and tossed everything in storage, all the furniture to be sold again over the summer for much less than I paid to furnish my cozy house…. I returned my cat to his natural habitat (California) and decided that I would join him again in 3 months time.

The financial situation continued to get worse, and when I returned from Los Angeles I could only manage to afford a tiny studio in Belleville, on the 7th floor, for about the same price you’d get a decent studio with a toilet, shower, maybe even a tub, and a kitchen in Los Angeles. I intended to buy my ticket home at the end of July so I could go back to doing background work, be with my cat, and just recover for a while in a real apartment. Or house. Well, the Prefecture messed up those plans with an appointment in September, so I had to stick around. Knowing how time-consuming the search for a place in Paris would be, and how expensive a decent place to live would be, I opted to go traveling. When I returned to Paris, I thought I had two options. The apartment I help to rent out on airbnb (in between guests) and someone who said they had a spare room I could stay in. Well, the second option fell through. Which left me a couple days here and there in option #1. One sweet friend came to my rescue, and hosted me for over a week, until another friend of his came to visit from out of town, and I had to find a place to rest my head in the next 24 hours. My dog would stay behind for the time being. The next day, another friend came to my rescue, for one night. I even got to sleep in a bed! But the next day I was back on the search for another bed. And now I find myself, for the first time ever, I believe, stuck with no place to go and no place to be. I’ve got a backpack and a bag of bananas and left over veggies. My first thought was to head to Eastside Burgers, where they have vegan (junk) food, free wifi, and a restroom. When I arrived, they were closed. Yay for Mondays. Do Parisiens fast on Mondays? I sat for a few minutes trying to figure out where I could go next. “Home” wasn’t an option. I turned the corner and found a public toilet. Yay! At least I could do that. So I wiped down the seat (come ON, people) and did so. Then I walked along the street, through a bit of a park. I sat and watched the water, and pigeons, and smelled the flowers. A homeless man slept on a bench across from me, on the other side of the fountains. I wished I could sleep.

I’d been texting and FBing for some help since yesterday, and by now at least knew where I would have a bed for the night, though I was told it would be 10pm before he arrived home from work.

I moved on after lightening my bag by two bananas. I thought perhaps I could get a haircut. It’s about time for that. My fringe is in my eyes. I knew my regular place was closed on Mondays (seriously!!!) and the one place nearby wanted over 40€…. no thanks. No haircut today. Now where? I looked up Subway. They’d be open, for sure. And have veggie options. So I walked to Subway. As luck would have it, I sat down next to an outlet. So I gained 20% on my phone while I slowly ate half of a sandwich, saving the other half for dinner, because who knows where I’d be. I felt like I should be on my way, but… to where? Then I remembered some letters I had to mail. La Poste! I mailed my letters. Now what? I walked around the block and thought of a park I’d been to. I looked on my map, and I found it. All four benches were claimed. I mean seriously claimed, by one or two people sitting smack in the middle of all of them. I sat on some stairs until one pair left. And this is where I find myself now.

My lovely host has informed me that it will now only be 7pm before I have a place to come “home” to for the night, which makes me very happy and relieved. I may eat the rest of my sandwich early, to celebrate.

Tomorrow I will go to French class, comme habitude, and then check those guests out of option #1. Although there’s an inquiry open for people to check in only hours later, it hasn’t been confirmed and I’m crossing my fingers, holding my breath and praying that they’ve found another place to stay, because my friends don’t seem to have any spare sleeping surfaces for me this week.

The rest of the month looks a bit scary to me. I have to save everything I can to afford to fly my dog, my luggage, and me (I borrowed money, for the first time ever, at least when we’re talking more than $20) back to L.A. and then have enough money to pay for November’s rent there. But when I start getting scared, I remind myself that as long as I have what I need for today, I am taken care of. We pray “give us this day our daily bread…” Not tomorrow’s, not next week’s… one day at a time. Each day has enough worry of it’s own, without adding to it the worry for tomorrow.

 

Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? Or, What shall we drink? Or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed? (for after all these things do the Gentiles seek:) for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things. But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you. Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.

Matt 6:31-34

It’s something I should pay more attention to, instead of getting distracted in survival mode. It’s hard. I think we all like security, we want to know that we’ll have food and shelter when we need it. This month is becoming a real test of where my focus lays, and how much faith I have in God to provide what I need, when I need it…. no sooner, no later….

I am glad to know that there will be an end to it on October 31. That I will have a place to rest, and that this is only temporary. Because even though I’m learning how to trust God day to day, I also feel very frustrated with the time I waste just moving from one place to another, every few days, when I could be focusing on being productive or having fun. I will be learning how to be productive and have fun through it all, though. A good lesson, since when is there ever a “perfect” time to do anything? Though there’s really something to be said for having a home you love to come back to and know you can come back to for as long as you want, to lift that burden of concern from your shoulders and free you to truly focus on your creative pursuits.

I am grateful to every friend who has been able to take me in and save me from hostels, or whatever my alternatives are, and to any and all of my friends I say if you’re ever in this position, my bed, my couch, my floor, whatever I have that you’re willing to sleep on, is yours. And some of you know that already from experience.

OK! So here I go, I’m going to eat the rest of my sandwich, signifying my faith that God will provide. 🙂

Perpetual Motion

OK, I swear after this one I’ll have something useful or deep to share! lol. I just know I haven’t been writing much and I wanted to touch base. Hello.

Today I was on a Skype call with someone discussing the latest thing I’m trying to accomplish (it’s early, I’ll share about that later, I promise) and once again got to the point of conversation where I get asked:

“So how long have you been in France?”

And I have to answer:

“About 2 years.”

And at that moment, every time, the whole thing flashes by and I wonder what on earth I’ve been doing. And then I always realize that so much of my time is just spend moving or preparing to move. Looking for a place, packing things, buying things, unpacking things… and moving again. In my current place of residence, I have become very unhappy, but I stick it out because it was only for 3 months, and the search for a new apartment is all-consuming. I want to use my time more wisely. But I did just consider leaving after the first month or two. For anywhere. A couch. Whatever. What was making it a bit more bearable was that halfway through this month, I thought I would have 2 weeks to spend in another apartment. It’s an apartment that I help manage, and between guests I go and make use of the shower, toilet, freezer, internet, washing machine, stove, and bed that does not require a ladder. At that point, I thought “yay! I can spend time with my dog!” so I got her from her baby-sitter, who is on her way to Sweden for a week. And then the place got rented. I mean just yesterday got the email. So after dragging all of my living supplies, all of my food, over there…. I was packing it up again and walking up 7 flights of stairs with a Yorkie. Who promptly needed to go outside again. We’re both exhausted.

Pooped

But the point of this story is…. I’ve spent a lot of time moving around. I love to travel, yes, but I have no real home base, and it’s exhausting now. So much of my physical and mental energy is spent just trying to secure a place for me and my things. I have most of my things in storage right now, and the rest of it will join at the end of the month. By the way, does anyone want a mattress, a juicer, a dehydrator, or a toaster?

It’s frustrating to think that this basic necessity of having a home, somewhere of your own, somewhere to depart from and return to, has evaded me for so long. And it’s kept me distracted from the more creative and productive things I want to be doing. And I’ll only be doing more moving around for the rest of the year. Yes, to some places I want to go (still hoping for India!) but with nowhere to call home. It’s like being lifted off the ground by a balloon, it can be a fun ride, but I have to hold on tight until there’s some solid ground again.

It’s different if the goal is to be traveling around, always moving, but my goal was to set up home in Paris, and make little trips out, while learning French and working on my creative pursuits. Not hopping around, living in 5 different locations within Paris and the suburbs within 2 years! That’s just insane! Insane… so yeah, no wonder I feel like I haven’t gotten much done. My average in L.A. was a move every year, until the last few years… my last place of residence lasted 3.

I need to resolve this, but I’m not sure how. It definitely means leaving Paris. I can’t afford a decent place to live here, and my cat is now in L.A., where he can be happy going outside. But I don’t want to leave forever. I want to come back and continue working on things. I don’t know. I don’t know how I will figure it out. I’m sure I will, but it may be as exhausting as the past 2 years have been.

Any other travelers out there with any advice? I know one thing that would help would be to earn more money. The less I have, the more stuck I am. I’m working on it, I’m working on it. But these things take time…. I don’t want to bounce around, I want a home base for me and my pets. But I don’t want to give up travel, either.

Whine whine whine, from the girl in Paris.

Speaking of travel, did I tell you I’m going to Barcelona at the end of the month?! I think I did. I’m excited. Here, watch some fireworks:

Comic Con!

So I went to a Comic Con for the very first time. I couldn’t help but stare at the elaborate and creative costumes around me. Oh my gosh how I miss dressing up in costumes!

Press pass!

I had followed the team of Le Visiteur du Futur on Friday to make an English-language introduction to the series, and enjoyed hanging out so much that I decided to return on Sunday. This time bringing food. The food situation there isn’t the greatest, especially for a busy team running back and forth from autograph signings. Sunday was a madhouse! I was overwhelmed trying to make my way through the crowds, but luckily, Le Visiteur was part of the Ankama area, which had a large sign hanging from the ceiling that I could follow if I wasn’t too far away to see it.

The team was quite popular, and to get through the crowd and to their signing station quickly, sometimes disguises were used.

 

Batman?
Batman?

Here's looking at you

When is a Dorin like a writing desk?
When is a Dorin like a writing desk?

On Friday, I was kind of walking around in a daze, recovering from a bit of a cold (but I don’t want to call it a cold! It was my fault for staying up Saturday night fighting with the washing machine!), a purse full of tissues. On Sunday, it was François’ turn. I hope he didn’t get it from me. But some drugs and a little nap in the VIP room later, and he was as good as new! Sadly, he missed a bit of autograph signing, and I felt a little bad for the fans who would have liked to meet him.

It was quite a long weekend for everyone, I can’t imagine signing autographs for hours each day. Oh, and unlike the Buffy Reunion folks – for free. I’m disappointed with the example that our American actors set. Your fans are why you’re even here!! Anyway, that’s beside the point.

I met several nice people that I hope to work with in the future, and had a lot of fun just spending time with a great group of creative French people. I was a bit embarrassed that my French is still so poor that it is still near impossible for me to follow or join in a conversation, but everyone was sweet about it. And I’m not giving up!

I took a little video, though I am no filmmaker… I hope you enjoy a little backstage peek at Comic Con/Japan Expo 2013 🙂

And by the way, I turned into an elf.

Photo bomb.
Photo bomb.

 

How Can You Afford To Travel?

It’s asked. It’s thought. And sometimes my answer is “I can’t.” At the moment I’m in a space where I just have to have faith that if I keep working hard and smart that I will get out of this hole and back to a bit of stability. But the answer to the question of “how can you afford to travel?” right now is…. “How can I afford not to?”

I’m realizing that I can’t afford to stay in Paris, at least not comfortably. But I have to stick around for a few more months for some classes, meetings, and to get to India in November with a shorter and cheaper flight (and vaccinations). My solution to the “I can’t afford to live here anymore” situation? Travel. Yeah. That thing you think you do only when you have money.

But I can explain. I took the leap and bought a round trip ticket to Barcelona, and another roundtrip from there to Ghana. In total, this cost me less than 900€ and will take me from July 31 to September 19. To couchsurf or rent a room in Spain will end up costing me maybe 200-300€. And I can easily couchsurf the rest of September in Paris. So right there is about 1200€, or 600€ a month, which is equal to or less than what I would pay for a room or studio in Paris. BUT I get a grand new adventure out of it, in places where everything else is cheaper. So I’ll be lowering my living costs. Yes, for the moment, I had to put the tickets on a credit card because I don’t get paid that far in advance and am squeezing every last dime (er…. centime?) but I think it was worth it.

I think traveling can frequently be cheaper than staying in one place, especially if you use couchsurfing.org or helpx.net for your accommodations. Yes, airfare can be a big cost, but if you plan carefully, you still could be saving more money than you’d spend at home on rent and food (and gas, etc….). If you have a mileage card, that can help you out. I don’t have one, but maybe I’ll get one in the next year if they’ll approve me!

So that said… yes, surprise! My summer plans are to go to Barcelona and Ghana. While in Barcelona I want to make a music video for an original song (still being composed, and still seeking a musician to help me record it!) and while in Ghana I will be filming at my friend’s computer school.

In other news… I’ve made a little video about the past 2 weeks, since I’ve been doing some kind of interesting things! Filming a short starring my dog, pretending to be military, going to the White Dinner, dancing along the Seine….. It’s summertime. My favourite time in Paris. Well… if it would stop freaking raining.

And now…

Oh My Gosh It Was Yesterday!

If that phrase is familiar to you… then you know the panic I am feeling right now.

Back in October, I managed to miss a required civics course. I then was lucky enough to have someone reply to my emails and tell me when the next one would be. February. Well, I wouldn’t be there. So… June. 15. At 8am. Which for SOME reason I put in my calendar on June 16. How on earth did this happen? Because it was in there for several months. And I got a paper in the mail with June 15 on it. And I look at my calendar frequently. And I found and looked at the paper just the other day. How did it not register?

double-facepalm1

 

Until this morning at 6:30am.

But wait, there’s more!