The getaway

I’ve seen plenty of car accidents. I’ve witnessed a mugging. But today I saw something I’d only ever seen on TV: thieves jumping into a waiting getaway car and speeding away.

I had just enjoyed coffee and conversation with a friend on Capitol Hill in Seattle and was making my way to the grocery store to pick up a few things. It’s not one I normally go to since it’s out of my neighborhood, so I was driving slowly down the narrow side streets; I didn’t want to miss the entrance to the garage. I was just coming up on the turn when two guys came flying down the sidewalk, their arms full of something, but I couldn’t tell what. Something wasn’t right. People don’t run like that without a reason. A moment later, another guy appeared in pursuit.

I stopped.

The guys got to a waiting car parked facing the wrong way just ahead of me and to the right. One threw his package into the passenger side window and fled on foot. The security guard chasing them managed to get the package from the other guy—I think. More on that in a moment. The guy got away from the guard—by going around the car… maybe? Then the car started pulling out—right toward me. The thief got in the car. The car sped by me—on my right—and got away, stopping only to let in the guy who had fled on foot. Meanwhile, the security guard made his way back to the store. I pulled into the garage and did my shopping.

I looked for the security guard while I was in the store, but I didn’t see him. I can’t even be sure the thieves had hit the grocery store, since the building has a number of other retail businesses. I mentioned to the checker what I’d seen, and she didn’t sound terribly surprised, saying something to the effect of, “Yeah, it sucks when that happens.”

It’s strange to witness a fast-moving incident, and I can certainly appreciate why witnesses can offer conflicting accounts. I first noticed the guys come running, then saw the car with the waiting driver, then the security guard. When he caught up to them is a blur as one fled while the other dodged around the car. The motion of all that is especially fuzzy. I think the guard recovered one of the items, but I’m not positive. I think one of the guys dodged around the car and then got in. I think they picked up the guy who fled after they passed me. I can’t even recall what kind of car it was.

While it was happening, I wasn’t sure whether to pull over, drive forward, back up—or just sit still and let whatever was going to happen, happen. I sat still. I kept wondering what the guard was going to do when he caught up to them. On TV he would’ve taken the guys to the ground, there would’ve been a glorious fistfight, people would’ve pulled guns, and cop cars would’ve come screaming in with lights flashing and sirens blaring.

None of that happened. The guard seemed content to get back what he could and get back to the store. I did my shopping. The guys got away.

And now life goes on.

A dream fulfilled

Last Saturday while I was playing tunes at the Australian Embassy with the Doodads (the cover band I’ve been playing with here in Paris–I’ll post about that more soon), Merideth was 5,659 miles away in Temecula, California.

While I was wearing out my fingers on the bass… really workin’ hard… yeah…

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She was leaping over fire!

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It was her second Spartan Race, but this one was a dream come true: running it with her dad.

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Nearly 9 miles and 28 obstacles later, they finished!

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What’s next for her??? Well, there’s a Spartan race in the Paris area coming up in June…

A week of farewells…

Our days left in Seattle are slipping away. Five days till departure! Today is our last Saturday and it’s appropriately overcast and drizzly. Amid lots of final packing and chores it’s been good to see some friends before we go. Yesterday I met with my faithful writing group for the last time in person for the next year. We’re going to give Skype a shot, which I’m looking forward to. Meeting with them over the past two years has definitely made my writing better.

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Last lunch with the writing group.

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One last hike in the Cascades with Paul.

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A visit from friends from Helena. Mt. Rainier didn’t feel like making an appearance, though.

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Evelyn got a surprise going-away party from some friends.

Ten days

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We’re really counting down now–Evelyn, Carolyn, and I leave for Paris on July 30th while Merideth will be coming over in mid-August. So we’re working through packing lists, culling through clothes, and making piles for Goodwill. Figuring out which books and games to take. Getting Skype configured. Running errands. I got new glasses for the first time in years, as well as contacts for the first time since college. Tomorrow Evelyn gets her braces off. We got our records from the dentist so we’ll have them when we find one in Paris.

Over the weekend we saw Merideth’s parents for the last time here in the states. And the girls and I are lining up farewells with other friends over these next days. We’re all doing chores that we don’t always think of, but now that we’re going to be gone for a year, we need to get to. Really exciting things like getting the hedge next to the alley trimmed, the furnace cleaned, and the cat’s vaccines up-to-date. Cleaning out the freezer, the pantry, the store room, etc., etc. I don’t think we’ve ever been so organized!

Visas!

It’s for real, now… we have our visas in hand! We can get on that plane and go to France for a year and a day. We still have plenty of items on our checklist before we go (like getting our phones figured out), but this was the big hurdle.

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Visa time

The girls have one more day of school and then we head to San Francisco to apply for our visas. Getting everything together for this has been one of the most demanding and anxiety-inducing application experiences ever. I’m pretty sure applying for college was a breeze by comparison! I truly have to keep telling myself it’s all going to work out.

The French consulate requires a ton of paperwork–our passports, birth certificates, marriage certificate, proof of income, a notarized letter saying I won’t try to get a job (and so deprive a French person of employment), documentation of our apartment rental, plane tickets (that’s right–we had to get the apartment rented and plane tickets before getting a visa to actually live there!), proof of medical insurance, and more. Oh–and the actual application forms duly filled out. I’ve gone through it all, double and triple and quadruple checking things. Our appointment is Thursday morning; I’ll be glad when we can hand all of this over!

Here are our mug shots for the application. (Merideth doesn’t need one, since she won’t be in France for more than three months at a time.)

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A table full of application documents.

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Tickets and visas

I haven’t posted in here a whole lot since I started this blog… mostly because we’re not in France yet! But we’re getting closer. We now have plane tickets for our flight to Paris on July 30. Next step: visas. Today I booked our appointments with the French Consulate to get our visas to stay in France for a year. We have to appear in person with a whole pile of paperwork. And no, the office in Seattle does not handle visas. They do not want to even talk to you about visas. If you need a visa and live in Washington (or one of nine other western states), get yourself to the French Consulate in San Francisco!

So that’s what we’ll be doing when school gets out. Hopefully I’ll remember to bring all the right paperwork!

Seattle vs. Paris

Seattle and Paris are two very different cities. Seattle is, in fact, just over twice the size of Paris in terms of area. But Paris has 1.6 million more people packed inside its borders. If Seattle had that kind of population density, it would mean 4,684,558 people would live in the Emerald City.

Let’s look at the numbers:

Stats Seattle Paris
Population 652,405 2,273,305
Land area (square miles) 83.87 40.7
Pop. density (people per square mile) 7,779 55,855

And here’s a cool representation, overlaying the outline of the Seattle city limits over Paris:

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All of this is from this cool site: https://www.sparefoot.com/Seattle-WA-Self-Storage/How-Big-is-Seattle.html

Of course, numbers are only the beginning of the differences between the two cities. I can think of all sorts of ways the cities differ: how the streets are laid out… the architecture… the Paris Metro (a subway) vs. Seattle Metro (busses)… cathedrals, art museums, and big river (Paris) vs. stadiums, marinas, and a large university campus (Seattle)… the Eiffel Tower vs. the Space Needle… and on and on and on. But we won’t really know how living in Paris is different from living in Seattle until we get there and start living. Which is the whole point.

Step Two: a place to stay

The next step after getting the girls into school was to find a place to live. The main criteria: someplace near the school, hopefully close enough for the girls to walk. While we’re there we’ll be getting around on the Metro and the busses. I have zero interest in driving… have you seen the traffic around the Arc de Triomphe? Well, in case you haven’t, here’s a look:

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Yeah, that doesn’t look fun at all. So, no car. Which is fine—the Paris Metro is great. Still, ideally we’d find a place to live that’s pretty close to the school. And we have, just a couple blocks away on Rue Raynouard.

We walked much of the neighborhood when we visited the school to get an idea of what the streets are like. Rue Raynouard is fairly quiet, but just a block away from Rue de Passy, which has more shops. A fifteen minute walk leads to the Marmottan museum which features a boatload of Monets. Even closer is the Trocadero and a great weekly market just beyond.

Here’s a look inside the apartment:

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The place is fully furnished, and yes, that’s some sort of gramophone thing (although I have no idea if it works). It also doesn’t have a dishwasher, so the girls will be getting used to a new set of chores!

Picking a school

Going to school in Paris sounds great, but which school? Public? Private? French? English? British (yes, we considered one of those)? We decided even before we toured any of them that French public school was not the way to go. While Evelyn is taking French at school now, Carolyn hasn’t had any. So a school that had classes taught in English while including French language learning was the way to go for us.

Last November we toured three schools: the American School, a short distance out of town in a sleepy suburb west of Paris; a British school on the south side of the city; and the International School of Paris, located in the the 16th arrondissement, right across the Seine from the Eiffel Tower. It’s housed in three buildings on a quiet street named Rue Beethoven (how great is that?). You can guess which one we all agreed was the best–the International School of Paris (ISP).

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We all were impressed by their studios for art and drama. And the girls liked the idea of smaller class sizes (each grade consisting of 60-80 students). I liked the idea that the girls will probably be able to walk to school and not have to worry about the Metro every day.

While we were there, we saw some of the students from the ISP enjoying lunch in the gardens between the school and the Trocadero (the plaza across the river from the Tower). Of course we had to get a photo of the Tower as well.

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