Thankfulness

In these past weeks I’ve come face to face with how much I have to be thankful for–especially people who have helped me in ways big and small. Here are just a few:

For my new French teacher who helped me fill out a non-intuitive form I had to submit to the government so we can stay in the country.

For the sales staff at the phone store who, between their rudimentary English and my even more rudimentary French, helped me get all of our cell phones set up. (Let me tell you, buying groceries where you can point and nod is far easier than picking out phone plans in a foreign language.)

For the concierge of our apartment building and her daughter who helped me get my phone plan recharged when the time came (another simple thing that is far more difficult when you can’t speak the language). 

For the extremely friendly Frenchman at our church who helped me read my paperwork on preparing for my surgery (which was entirely in French, of course).

For my light-hearted anesthesiologist:
Him (swabbing my arm for the IV): Do you like needles?
Me: No—I can’t even watch.
Him: Okay then, on three… Three! (jab)
Me: I knew you were going to do that.
Him: Yes, I have lots of tricks.

For nurses at the clinic who patiently explained things to me, even using their phones to find the translations of things I needed to know.

For new friends from the girls’ school who met me after the surgery, walked me home, and gave me a wonderful quiche along with a carrot salad.

For new friends from Poland, Egypt, Finland, South Korea, France and other places (even America) who have been so welcoming.

For the girls’ new trapeze coach and the other students who have welcomed them right into the program. One has offered to carpool with us so we don’t have to take the train as long and another has invited us to go rock climbing!

For all the people who have been praying for me and sending me encouraging messages during these past few weeks—it’s made a huge difference.

For the welcoming people at Trinity International Church where we’ve gone the last few Sundays—being greeted and invited to join in seems like such a simple thing, but it transforms a nice service into something to look forward to.

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Learning things about France I never expected I’d need to learn–like how to go in for surgery

It’s been quite some time since I last posted—mostly because I had to get the hard drive on my computer replaced, which was an unexpected adventure… and one that took three weeks! Then, when I got it back, the operating system was set up in French (of course). I’ve got it mostly into English now (although it still has a few quirks).

During that time, it’s been easier to post pictures on Facebook and I’ve focused on the fun and interesting things we’ve been seeing and experiencing. But at the same time, I’ve been learning things about living in France that I wasn’t anticipating—like getting to know the French health system up close and personal as I prepare for a minor (I hope) surgery on Monday.

A few weeks ago, we visited Barcelona and I discovered I’d developed a hernia. No heavy lifting, no horrible incident, but there was no doubt about it. I’d seen a doctor years ago in Helena who essentially told me it was only a matter of time. Well, the time had come.

In the past few weeks I’ve been so far out of my comfort zone, I’ve forgotten what my comfort zone looks like. When my computer’s hard drive failed I had to deal with French and then British tech support and finally a repair shop where the people spoke minimal English. Talk about jumping into the deep end! But now I’m figuring out health care in a foreign country. Thankfully I started with a British general practitioner recommended by my insurance company, so communication wasn’t a problem. But already I was learning that things are much different than in the States.

How so? Let me count the ways… Doctors’ offices aren’t in professional buildings; they’re scattered among apartments (there’s one in our building). Sometimes it’s hard to figure out how to even get in, since most such entrances require a code—and in one case they didn’t bother to tell me what the code was! They often don’t have nurses or receptionists. You meet the doctor in an office and the examination room is attached. Then pay in cash. In ways there’s a lot less paperwork than in America, but then other things are more complicated. I had a blood test this morning and at the end of the day I had to go to another facility in a different part of town to pick up the results that I’m expected to bring to the surgery so they’ll know my blood type! Pharmacists do way more than we’re used to in the States—and fairly quickly. Walk in, hand over the prescription, they hand you the drugs (so now I’m loaded up with pain-killers), and you’re out the door in just a few minutes.

The hardest part of the process has been dealing with my surgeon’s receptionists; it’s been more than a little stressful trying to communicate with them about what my insurance company wants. They’re not used to dealing with that, since most everyone is on the national French plan–show a membership card and you’re good to go. And my French might be better than their English–and my French isn’t good at all! I’ve discovered that most waiters and shopkeepers speak better English than many of the medical professionals I’ve had to deal with.

I’m grateful for connections I’ve made at the girls’ school. It’s been encouraging to meet other parents who know what the learning curve is like in adjusting to a new culture–and have lived through it. And I’m especially grateful for new friends that are going to help me get home after the surgery, since Merideth is back in Seattle right now. The clinic where I’m going is literally a seven minute walk from where we live, which is especially convenient. And my new French teacher has assured me it’s a great facility–it’s where the former French President’s wife chose to deliver her child!