31 December 2008

gParis, gWhat?

My Paris stories are lengthy, mostly because all my stories are lengthy...so I'm going to put them into several posts, according to topic...and although you might not think that my topics seem to relate, they actually do somewhat, so read on...

On my way to Paris, the train passed an apartment building where I saw the most random something hanging over the edge of a third-floor balcony - a rather large, colorful garden gnome, trussed up like a return to Texas and the Old West, or even Mississippi in the '50s. Someone had clearly taken matters into their own hands with the poor little guy. I wonder which was the last straw for his owners - the fact that he had grown too large to properly fulfill his gnomish duties (however those might be defined), or the idea that Santa might not visit a place with other gnomes in residence. (Someone clearly made compare between their statures and now this poor gnome is dead, dead as a doornail. *That line is for Mel...she should laugh quite hard...I just managed to skew bits of Dickens and Shakespeare, all in one fell swoop.*) I'm thinking, however, that lynching someone of the same species as Santa might not have been the most clever way to extend a welcome. The only other possible scenerio here is that the children of the household didn't recieve what they wished for this year and promptly exacted bits of revenge. But if that is the case, then these are clearly bad children anyway, and Santa made the right choice...and if those kids think that was a good way to get on Santa's list for next year...hmm... Still, a gnome had to suffer, and for that reason alone, I grieve.

Paris has a lot of gypsies. I know...some of them consistently told me I was beautiful, and others of them robbed me at the metro on what should have been my last day in the city. Contemptible little buggers, they are. Still, I have to admit that the ones in the shop next to my hostel cooked a mean breakfast...

Getting a new passport after I had my old one stolen was a long process. I didn't even know anything was missing until I got off the metro at the Gare de Lyon and went searching in my bag for my train ticket back to Geneva. After the tears subsided (of which there weren't many because I'm not a girl who cries much unless it's really the end of my known world, and then the tears just won't stop), I made my way to the police office in the train station to file a report. I then spoke to the duty officer at the American Embassy and found out how to go about once again becoming an identifiable US citizen. The American Aid Society was wonderful - they paid for my hostel that night and also gave me twenty euro for food. As long as you're patient, the passport process in Europe is actually easier than the passport process in America. It took me almost six hours the next day to obtain my new passport, but other than taking an extra day from my life, it was a completely survivable experience. (Although it would have been a lot less survivable had I not had a novel in my bag - Black Order by James Rollins. But when do I not have a novel in my bag?)

The only thing that was at all difficult was trying to talk my way into the Embassy gate house after hours the night my passport was stolen. Of course none of the military men there spoke a single word of English, so I was left finding out how good my French actually was by trying to explain that I was robbed and that the duty officer had told me to go straight to the Embassy. These were words I hadn't learned in French class. The conversation went something like this:

Me: Je dois aller à l'Ambassade. (I must go to the Embassy.)

Police: Désolé, l'Ambassade est fermée. (Sorry. The Embassy is closed.)

Me: Je sais, mais je suis américaine. Et regardez...(I know, but I am American. And look...)

I hand him my police report, because I have no idea how to say words like "stolen" or "robbed"...and he could read the bloody thing...I couldn't even do that. There is a brief pause while he reads.

Police: Oui, oui, mais l'Ambassade est fermée. Vous revenez demain, d'accord? (Yes, yes, but the Embassy is closed. You come back tomorrow, alright?)

Clearly this man is not very sympathetic.

Me: Non, J'ai appelé l'Ambassade déjà from the Gare de Lyon, and the duty officer says....oops...Désolé, parlez-vous anglais? (No, I have called the Embassy already - here I lapse into English - ....sorry, do you speak English?)

Police: Non.

Me: Ah, mon francais n'est pas bon. (Ah, my French is not good.)

Police: Mais oui! Je vous compends! (But yes! I understand you!)

Me: D'accord, merci. J'ai appelé l'Ambassade déjà et l'homme dit venir ici ce soir. (Alright, thank you. I have called the Embassy already and the man says to come here tonight.)

At this point I'm getting really frustrated and my verb tenses begin to go bad.

Police: Un moment. (One moment.)

The police officer goes to get a superior. I repeat my request to the new officer - I must go to the Embassy. The man in the gate house is waiting for me.

New Police: Désolé, Mlle, l'Ambassade est fermée ce soir. (I'm sorry, Miss, the Embassy is closed tonight.)


And again, I'm so frustrated that my French is beginning not to make sense. But hey, I understand ESL speakers when they screw up sentences. And apparently these guys understood me too.

This was when two other officers decided they needed to come on over. Now there were four of them and one of me. They all read my police report and I ended up repeating myself about four more times before they decided to ask the guy in the gate house...the guy who was actually waiting for me...if I was legit. And I was, so they let me in. The whole process took about twenty minutes. But at least now I know that I can explain myself well enough to get into an Embassy after hours if I need to. But I hope my passport never gets stolen in Spain.

None the worse for wear (unlike that gnome),
That girl in Switzerland

1 comment:

  1. I'm glad you were able to get into the Embassy. Sounds like a VERY frustrating evening. If my getting around depended on my french I'd be up a creek w/o a paddle...:)

    Oh, and I feel badly for the Gnome too...

    Looking forward to your next post. Love ya Cuz! Take care...and look out for gypsies. :D